Comparing بعض and بضع


root: ح-د-د / verbal noun of form II / definition: specifying

The specifiers بَعْض and بِضْع are another example of the “same root letters, different sequence” phenomenon, as they have shared meanings. However, there’s some key differences between the meanings and grammar of these two words that we should know.

Starting with the definitions: both بعض and بضع can mean “some” or “a few”.

The difference is that بَعض can refer to any number or even an uncountable portion of something, whereas بِضع refers specifically to a number between 3 and 9.

For example:

  • بَعض الشركاتِ = “some companies” (could be any number, just not all companies)
  • بَعض الوقتِ = “some of the time” (this doesn’t refer to a number, it just refers to a portion of the thing mentioned, الوقت)
  • بِضع شركاتٍ = “some companies” (between 3 and 9 companies)
  • بِضع دقائقَ = “a few minutes” (between 3 and 9 minutes)

As for the grammar, both بعض and بضع form an إضافة (possessive/genitive) construction with the following noun, which—therefore—will be مجرور.

But, بَعض is followed by a definite noun (plural or singular), whereas بِضع is followed by an indefinite plural.

Another thing to note is that بَعض is invariable, it doesn’t change.

بِضع, on the other hand, takes reverse gender agreement with the following noun.

This means that when we use a plural noun whose singular form is masculine, we use بِضعة. And when the plural noun’s singular form is feminine, we use بِضع.

(Note: this reverse gender agreement only applies in MSA and not Classical Arabic!)

Take a look at these examples of the reverse gender agreement of بِضع:

بِضع كلماتٍ

some words

The singular form of كلمات is كلمة, which is feminine—so we use the masculine بِضع.

بِضع سنواتٍ

a few years

Again, the singular form of the noun is feminine, سنة—so we use the masculine بِضع.

بِضعة أيامٍ

a few days

Here, the singular form of أيام is يوم, which is masculine—so we use the feminine form of the specifier, بِضعة.

بِضعة رجالٍ

some men

The singular form of the noun is the masculine word رجل, so we use the feminine بِضعة.

So in summary:

  • بعض can refer to any number or portion of something, and is followed by a definite noun in an إضافة.
  • بضع refers to a number between 3 and 9 of something, is followed by an indefinite plural in an إضافة, and follows reverse gender agreement with the noun.

Note that the grammar rules of بضع, including the reverse agreement, are the rules that the numbers 3-10 follow ordinarily!

For example: ثلاث مرّاتٍ = “three times”, and ثلاثة أشهرٍ = “three months”

If you love Arabic grammar like I do and can’t wait to absorb more knowledge, make sure to check out these posts—there’s enough to keep you busy for a while!

And for Arabic students who are soon going to do a dissertation, don’t miss out on last week’s post, you might find some inspiration there.

So I guess I’ll see you soon, إلى اللقاء!

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