Arabic Headline Analysis #5


root: ن-ق-ل / noun / plural: نِقابات / definition: syndicate, union

It’s been a while since the last instalment in the Arabic Headline Analysis series, so we’re back today with another headline from the Project Syndicate website to analyse. (Take a look at this post to find out why this news website is great for language learners!)

Here’s the headline of this article:

ـ 11 ديسمبر / كانون الأول 2020

هل يجب علينا أن نجازف بتدمير المحيط لإنقاذ الكوكب؟

And here’s the word-by-word breakdown:


هَل is a particle that turns a statement into a yes/no question

so, it can be translated as “do”, “is”, “will”, etc. depending on the sentence


root: و-ج-ب

form I verb

يَجِبُ is a present tense verb in the masculine, singular conjugation

this verb is often found in this “fixed” conjugation, because the subject here is the clause beginning with أَنْ (which we’ll come to later)

أن is grammatically masculine and singular by default—hence the verb conjugation

وَجَبَ / يَجِبُ = “to be necessary”

it’s frequently followed by على, which indicates who it is necessary for

e.g. يَجِبُ عَلَيهِ = “it is necessary for him” or “he must”

so يَجِبُ can be translated as “necessary” or “must” or “have/has to”—we’ll see which translation sounds best when we put it all together


components: عَلى + نا

على is a preposition—as mentioned, when it follows the verb يَجِبُ, it indicates who must do something

the نا suffix is the first person, plural attached object pronoun meaning “us”

so هَل يَجِبُ عَلَينا = “is it necessary for us…?” or “do we have to…?”


أَنْ is a particle that introduces a verbal clause—i.e. it’s going to be followed by a verb

when we have أن plus a verb, it often translates into the infinitive form, e.g. “to do” or “to speak”

the verb it’s followed by must always be in the subjunctive mood, المضارع المنصوب


root: ج-ز-ف

form III verb, present tense, first person plural conjugation

جازَفَ / يُجازِفُ = “to risk”, when the object of the verb is preceded by بِـ

so, for example, يُجازِفُ بِنَفسِهِ means “he risks his life”

the verb نُجازِف here ends in a fatha (نُجازِفَ) because—due to the أن—it is المضارع المنصوب

together, أن نُجازِفَ means “to risk”, when referring to the subject “we”


components: بِـ + تَدْمير

as we said, the preposition بِـ after the verb جازف / يجازف simply introduces the verb’s object which is…


root: د-م-ر

form II verbal noun (مصدر)

تَدمير, derived from the form II verb دَمَّرَ / يُدَمِّرُ, means “destroying/ruining” or “destruction”

its case would be مجرور because it comes immediately after a preposition (بِـ)—so it would end in a kasra: تَدميرِ

although this word doesn’t have الـ, it is definite because it’s in a definite إضافة (possessive construction) with the next noun


root: ح-و-ط


مُحيط = “ocean”

the prefix الـ is the definite marker—المحيط = “the ocean”

the derivation of this word is interesting: it’s actually the active participle (اسم فاعل) of the form IV verb أحاطَ / يُحيطُ meaning “to surround”

so the literal meaning of مُحيط = “that which surrounds”—a beautifully metaphorical way to view the ocean, I think

المحيط would be مجرور too, because it’s a non-initial word in an إضافة

تدمير المحيطِ means “the destruction of the ocean” or “destroying the ocean”


components: لِـ + إنقاذ

لِـ is a preposition that can carry many different meanings, here it means “for (the sake of)” or “(in order) to”

as for إنقاذ…

root: ن-ق-ذ

form IV verbal noun

إنقاذ = “to save/rescue” or “saving/rescuing”

here, it will be مجرور due to the preceding preposition, لِـ

إنقاذ is in an إضافة with the next word


root: ك-و-ك-ب


كَوْكَب = “planet”

الكَوْكَب = “the planet”

again, it would be مجرور because it’s a non-initial word in an إضافة

together, لِإنقاذ الكَوكَبِ means “to save the planet”

Time to put all of that together for the initial translation!

هل يجب علينا أن نجازف بتدمير المحيط لإنقاذ الكوكب؟

Is it necessary for us to risk the destruction of the ocean to save the planet?

My first thought? It’s a bit wordy for a headline.

Let’s neaten it up:

Do we have to risk destroying the ocean to save the planet?

Do you find these word-by-word breakdowns of news headlines and literature extracts useful? Let me know!

Make sure to check last week’s post for the different ways to say “one of” in Arabic, too. I’ll catch you on my next post.

!مع السلامة

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