The Arabic definite article (ال)


Al -defintions

Notes of The Arabic definite article (ال)

  • In Arabic, indefinite use of nouns—whether in the singular or plural—is very straightforward and follows one general rule: first mention of a specific entity or entities in the discourse, such as:(ثعلب) a fox (غابة) a forest, (شجرة) a tree (صوت عظيم) great sound”.
  • Once nouns are re-introduced into the discourse, they become defined as old or already known information. Therefore, when such nouns are re-introduced, they exhibit definite use, such as the three nouns used again (الشجرة) The tree (الثعلب) a fox.
  • By the same token, nouns that involve shared knowledge among speakers (i.e., nounsthat are easily/uniquely identifiable by speakers and hearer or writer and reader)exhibit definite use within a certain context. Such nouns include (المنزل) The House  (المبنى) the building (الجامعه) university.

The above rule does not apply to unique nouns such as :

  • ( الريح) the wind Such nouns are instead used with the definite article even if they are introduced for the first time in the discourse. Similar nouns include:(الشمس) the sun (القمر) the moon (الشتاء) the winter ,
  • Other nouns include: days of the (الخميس) Thursday”),
  • ordinal numbers (السادس عشر) the sixteenth
  • time and hour (الساعة) the hour  (الثامنة) the eighth hour
  • and time period (الظهر) the noon.

Similarly, Nouns:

Similarly, nouns (whether concrete or abstract and whether singular or plural) having a generic meaning/reference (i.e., not referring to any specific entity/entities but rather to all members of the class/set or category of such entities in general) are expressed in the definite. For example, consider the following examples:

أحب السباحة – I like [the] swimming.”

أحب اللحم – I like [the] meat.”

where “swimming” (which is a verbal noun مصدر ) and “meat” are used with the definite article, since both are used to refer to “swimming” and to “meat” in general. Hence, (اللحم) the meat.

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To avoid confusion:

To avoid confusion, in part due to the complexity with which the concept is expressed in English, consider the following four sentences expressing a general statement about foxes (i.e., with no particular reference to any particular fox or foxes) being smart animals, where only the first two are grammatical (the ungrammatical sentences are marked by an asterisk):


he last two sentences are ungrammatical, since a statement is made about all foxes in general, but “fox” and “foxes” are used in the indefinite. (Note, in addition, MSA does not allow indefinite subjects.) On the other hand, consider the following four sentences expressing the same general statements about foxes, but only the first three are grammatical, and the fourth is not, since definiteness use in English is not as transparent and straightforward:

the fox is a smart animal.
A fox is a smart animal.
Foxes are smart animals.
The foxes are smart animals.

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Finally, titles occur with the definite article, as (الدكتور) the professor/the doctor.


( ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِلْمُتَّقِينَ )

يُرِيدُ اللهُ أَنْ يُخَفِّفَ عَنْكُمْ وَخُلِقَ الإِنْسَانُ ضَعِيفًا﴾ [النساء: ٢٨] )

(وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ)

( اللهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ الزُّجَاجَةُ )