Understanding Arabic Pronouns
Arabic Pronouns are a bit different from English. In Arabic, we have 14 pronouns (based on gender and numbers). It might sound like a lot, but let me break them down for you, to make it easier. We should never get intimidated by numbers; once you understand the fundamentals clearly you have nothing to worry about. Once the foundation is strong, you can keep on building on it without any fear of the building collapsing.
I have broken them down into 3 categories:
- 3rd person: when you are talking about someone who is absent (He/She, They)
- 2nd person: when you are talking directly to someone (You)
- 1st person: when you are one who is doing the talking (I/We)
Within each category you have to keep in mind, further two factors: gender and number of persons.
Arabic Pronouns also have duality which they don’t have in English. So Plurals in Arabic are usually reserved for 3 or more persons.
In the chart below, you will see all the pronouns used in the Arabic language. Please memorise them, learn them and use them as often as possible. These pronouns are absolute essentials to progress your Arabic language learning.
Using Arabic Pronouns
Now that you have got an idea of what the pronouns are, you need to learn how to use them. Pronouns can be used in three different ways depending on their position in the sentence. Pronouns can appear in three main positions as explained below.
- Subject: when it begins the sentence
- Possessive: when you are referring to possession
- After verb/preposition: when it appears after a verb or a preposition
1. Using Arabic Pronouns: Subject
Pronouns are usually the subject when they begin the sentence. In this case, they’re used in their original form as shown in the first chart (Understanding Arabic Pronouns).
For example, He is tall would be هُو طَوِيلٌ. Here, هُو begins the sentence and is the subject of the sentence.
Similarly, we can use all the pronouns in their original form when they begin the sentence.
2. Using Arabic Pronouns: Possessive
When pronouns are used as possessives, they take a slightly different form. Take some time to get familiar with them because you will see them a lot everywhere!
For example, my pen would be قَلَمي. Here, ي is used to indicate my. Below chart has all the possessive pronouns you will come across.
3. Using Arabic Pronouns: After a verb or a preposition
In the third case, Arabic Pronouns are used similar to their possessive forms, except for a slight variation with verbs.
a) after a verb
An example for a pronoun after a verb would be, Can you help me? ie. هَل تَسْتَطيع اَن تُساعِدني؟. Here, the pronoun appears after the verb and me is indicated by ـني. This is the only exception where you add a ن before the ي to indicate me.
b) after a preposition
An example for a pronoun after a preposition is: Muhammad is with him, which would be مُحمَدٌ مَعَهُ. Here, the pronoun is after a preposition (with: مَعَ).
It is important to know these three different positions of the Arabic pronouns and how they are formed. This will help us identify them in their proper positions and also use them correctly. Try and memorise these pronouns as they can be used in many different ways. Make flash cards and go through them regularly. See our post Tinycards on how to use flash cards effectively.
PS: You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned any Arabic pronoun for “it”. This is because, in Arabic, everything is either a male or a female. So when referring to something as “it,” you would have to use he/she/they and so on.