The Absolute Negation in Arabic

نَفْي

root: ن-ف-ي / verbal noun of form I / definition: negation


Do you remember the phrase لا داعِيَ from Wehr Wednesdays #32? Did you wonder why the word داعي ends in a fatha here?

It’s all down to the “لا of absolute negation”…

The لا of absolute negation is essentially like saying “…لا يوجد” or “…ليس هناك”—i.e. you’re categorically denying that something exists.

This لا is followed by an indefinite noun, with only a fatha (not fathatayn!).


Here are some examples we’ve seen in the Wehr Wednesdays series:


#32

كانَ العُنْفُ الَّذي لا داعِيَ لَهُ قَد سَبَّبَ عَدْمَ الاِسْتِقْرارِ الإقْليمي

the needless violence had resulted in regional instability

(literally: the violence that there is no need for)


#74

لا جَرَمَ أَنَّهُ جُزْءٌ مُهِمّ

there’s no doubt that it’s an important part


#8

قَد يُؤَدّي تَغَيُّر المَناخ بِشَكْل غَير مُباشِر إلى مَشاكِل صِحّيّة مُتَنَوِّعة، لا سِيّما في الدُوَل النامِية

climate change may indirectly lead to various health problems, especially in developing countries

Okay, so I think لا سِيَّما is actually an example of this too (correct me if I’m wrong!).

سِيّ comes from the root س-و-ي and means “equal” or “alike”, so the لا seems to be negating that similarity in order to give the meaning of “especially”.


Other common examples include:

لا شَكَّ

there’s no doubt


لا مُبَرِّرَ لِـ

there’s no excuse for


لا شُكرَ على واجِب

don’t mention it / you’re welcome

(literally: there’s no thanking for a necessity)


And there we have it!

This is one of those grammar rules which, if you don’t know it, will definitely have you questioning what you know about grammatical cases. Check out these other posts that may bring you back from the edge of a grammatical crisis too!

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See you on my next post, إلى اللقاء!



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