Comparing the Grammar of Arabic Comparison Particles

مُقارَنة

root: ق-ر-ن / verbal noun of form III / plural: مُقارَنات / definition: comparison


A while back, on The Arabic Pages‘ Instagram page, I received a brilliant idea for a post: to explain the differences between several comparison words which include كَ.

It’s not something that I’d given too much thought to before, but I’ve since realised how confusing these words may seem—so I guess this post is much needed!


There are six particles that we’re going to go through, one-by-one, explaining their grammar, meaning, and demonstrating how they are used in context:

كَـ

كَما

كَأَنَّ

كَأَنَّما

كَذلِكَ

هـٰكَذا

… and we’ll also touch on another comparison particle: مِثْلَ!


Note: some of the examples I’ll be using in this post are from the amazing grammar book A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic by Karin C. Ryding, which I mentioned in my post Arabic Books on my Bookshelf. If you’re serious about studying Arabic, I wholeheartedly recommend it!


Let’s begin with our core particle:

كَـ

components: كَـ

definition: as, like

followed by: noun or demonstrative pronoun


The particle كـ simply means as or like, and it makes the following noun مجرور (i.e. in genitive case). It can also be followed by a demonstrative pronoun (i.e. هذا, ذلك, etc).

For example:

.عَمِلتُ في المَدرَسَة كَمُدَرِّسٍ

I worked in the school as a teacher.


.يَستَخدِم الماء كَمَصدَرٍ لِلطاقة

It uses water as a source of energy.


.الأمرُ لَيسَ كَذلكَ على الإطلاق

The situation is not like that at all.

Note: we’ll come back to كذلك later in this post, with its other meanings too.


It’s important to know that كـ can’t have a pronoun suffix.

This is where the word مِثلَ comes in.

مِثلَ can similarly mean as or like, and it can often be used interchangeably with the particle كـ. (Plus, it also causes the following noun to be مجرور!)

The biggest difference is that—unlike the كـ particle—مِثلَ can take pronoun suffixes, so we can say things like:

.لَيسَ هُناك مُمَثِّلونَ مِثلَهُم هذه الأيّام

There are no actors like them these days.

or

.أُريد زَوجاً مِثلَهُ

I want a husband like him.


The other difference between كـ and مثل is that مثل is used exclusively for comparison.

For instance, if I said I worked as a teacher (like in the first example), I’m not actually making a comparison here. So we would use كـ in this context.

However, if I said my job was like a dream, I’d be comparing one thing to another—so we’d have the choice between using كـ or مثل.




كَما

components: كَـ + ما

definition: as, like, as well as, likewise

followed by: verb (usually!)


As we mentioned, the كـ prefix can only be attached to a noun or demonstrative pronoun.

If we want the option of following it with a verb, we add ما to the كـ prefix to give us كما.

كما can be translated in a few ways: as, like, as well as, or likewise, depending on the context. Take a look at the examples below:

…كما تَعرِفون

As you know…


.يَتَصَرَّفونَ الآن كَما تَصَرَّفوا العام الماضي

They are behaving now like they behaved last year.


.كَما يَستَطيعُ أن يَقرَأ الرِوايات بالتركية بِسُهولة

Likewise, he can read novels in Turkish with ease.


.نَستَخدِم وَسائِل التَّواصْل الاِجتِماعي لِلتَّرويج كَما نَستَخدِم وَسائِط الإعلام التَّقليديّة

We use social media for promotion, as well as using traditional media.


Although كما is usually followed by a verb, we can also find it contexts like the one below:

.كَما هُوَ الحال في الدُوَل الأوروبية…

…as is the case in European countries.

(You might see كما followed by pronouns in contexts like this because this is essentially a way of sidestepping the issue of not being able to add a pronoun suffix to كـ.)


We can also follow كما with أنّ to mean just as:

.لا يُحِبُّ الأساتِذةُ التَّدريس، كما أنَّ الطُلّابَ لا يَهتَمّون بالدِّراسة

The lecturers don’t like teaching, just as the students don’t care about studying.


And just as the ما suffix can be added to كـ, the same can occur with مثل, giving us مِثلَما.

Like كما, the word مثلما: is a conjunction, is followed by a verb, and can mean as or like:

…مِثلَما يَقولُ أَهلي

As my family says…




كَأَنَّ

components: كَـ + أَنَّ

definition: as though, as if

followed by: nominal clause


كأَنَّ, meaning as if or as though, is followed by a nominal clause (جملة اسمية)—i.e. a sentence that begins with either a noun or pronoun suffix.

Note that the subject of the clause following كأَنَّ will be منصوب (in accusative case), because أنّ (the second component of كأنّ) is one of the “sisters” of إنّ.

(The subject (مبتدأ) of a clause following إنّ or one of its “sisters” will always be منصوب.)

For example:

.بَدا كَأَنَّ العالَمَ قَد تَغَيَّرَ في تِلكَ اللَحظة

It appeared as if the world had changed in that moment.


كأنّها تهمُّ بالشروق

as though verging on a new dawn

(This example is taken from the poem we analysed in the post Step-by-Step Arabic Literature Translation #3)


صرخت، وكأنني مُمثل هزلي يصيح في مسرح

I cried out as though I was a comical actor screaming in a theatre

(And this example is from the novel extract we explored in Step-by-Step Arabic Literature Translation #2)




كَأَنَّما

components: كَـ + أَنَّ + ما

definition: as if, as though

followed by: verbal clause


As we’ve established by now, the ما suffix on this type of word simply allows us to follow it with a verb.

So, كَأَنَّما has the same meaning as كأَنَّ—as if, as though—except that it is followed by a verbal clause (جملة فعلية) instead of one beginning with a noun or pronoun suffix.

Take a look at these examples:

!جَلَسَ عَلى العَرْشِ كَأَنَّما يَمتَلِكُ القَصر

He sat on the throne as if he owns the palace!


.اِبتَسَمَت بَعدَ ذلك، كَأَنَّما اِتَّفَقنا على كُلّ شَيء

She smiled after that, as though we had agreed on everything.




كَذلك

components: كَـ + ذلك

definition: likewise, as well, also


Although I mentioned the components of كذلك are كَـ + ذلك, actually the word ذلك itself is split into other components: ذا + لِـ + ك.

It’s like how we have هُنا (“here”), هُناك (“there”) and هُنالِكَ (a more distant, or metaphorical, “there”).

(Anyway, that’s not relevant to this topic—although it is interesting and I feel the sudden urge to look into it more.)

Regardless, كذلك can mean like that, as we mentioned in the كـ section. And it can also mean likewise, as well, also. The grammatical context is pretty flexible with this one.

For instance, we can say:

.يَستَعِدُّ كذلِكَ لِتَصوير فيلم

He is also preparing to shoot a film.


.ويُمكِن كذلك أن نُؤَجِّلَ الخِطاب

Likewise, it is possible to delay the speech.


.كان رَئيساً وكاتِباً كذلك

He was a president as well as a writer.




هـٰكَذا

components: ها + كَـ + ذا

definition: thus, so, in this way


This one is fairly simple. هكذا has implications of both comparison and consequence.

It’s usually translated as something along the lines of thus, so, or in this way.

For example:

.هكذا كانت تَتَنَقَّلُ بَينَ مَراكِز الشّام واليَمَن

Thus it moved between the centres of Syria and Yemen.


.هكذا يُدافِعونَ عن حُقوقِهِم

This is how they defend their rights.



And that’s it! This was definitely a longer post than I expected, but I hope I managed to get everything across with at least some degree of clarity.

As always, if you do have any questions, comments, or suggestions for new posts, please do leave them below.

!إلى اللقاء



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