root: ض-ي-ف / verbal noun of form IV / definition: addition, genitive construction
So we all know the إضافة, right? It’s a construction where nouns are put together, with certain rules, to indicate possession. Well… Did you know we can actually use adjectives inside إضافة constructions?
I know this probably sounds contradictory to everything your enthusiastic—and sometimes frustrated—teachers drilled into your head about the إضافة (“adjectives go outside the إضافة! Nouns only!), but hear me out:
There’s a construction referred to as الإضافة غير الحقيقية—often called the false or adjective إضافة—in which the first term of the إضافة is an adjective.
الإضافة غير الحقيقية is used to describe certain qualities of people or things, and is often translated into English as hyphenated phrases, such as kind-hearted or short-tempered.
Now, some of the grammar rules for this construction are the same as for a regular noun-only إضافة, but the way definiteness is shown is slightly different.
Let’s start with an example, using the phrase meaning “short-tempered”:
This literally translates to “fast of anger” (i.e. someone who gets angry quickly). You can see the first term is an adjective (سريع) and the second is a noun referring to a certain property (غضب).
Note that, like in a regular إضافة, the second word is مجرور (in genitive case).
However—unlike a regular, indefinite إضافة such as حقيبةُ يدٍ (“a handbag”)—the second/final term in an إضافة غير حقيقية always starts with الـ.
Not only that, but the first word in an adjective إضافة can have الـ too!
When you have an إضافة غير حقيقية which is indefinite, the الـ is only on the second term. The first term (the adjective) doesn’t have الـ nor tanween.
But when الإضافة غير الحقيقية is definite, the الـ is on both words—the adjective and noun.
So to use our previous example in context:
صَديقتُها سَريعَةُ الغَضَبِ
her friend is short-tempered
So here, سريعة الغضب is indefinite: it’s the خبر (predicate) describing the مبتدأ (subject) in a جملة اسمية.
Also notice that سريعة, the adjective, has to agree in gender with the subject (صديقتها). Like in a regular إضافة, we have to pronounce the ة here too!
صَديقتُها السَّريعَةُ الغَضَبِ ذَكيّة
her short-tempered friend is smart
Here, السريعة الغضب has to be definite because the إضافة غير حقيقية is essentially acting like an adjective modifying the noun صديقتها.
So—as the usual noun-adjective agreement rules go—the adjective (or the adjective phrase/إضافة غير حقيقية here) must match the noun in definiteness.
Need some more examples? Take a look at these:
نَحتاجُ إلى حُلولٍ طَويلةِ الأَمَدِ
we need long-term solutions
الرَّجُلُ القَصيرُ القامةِ تَكَلَّمَ كَثيراً
the short man spoke a lot
Note: قامة means “stature”—but the word is redundant in translation, so we can just translate القصير القامة as “short”.
كانوا عَديمي المَسؤُوليّةِ
they were irresponsible
Note: عديم means “lacking”, and the plural is either عديمون or عديمين, depending on the grammatical position. In this context, it’s the latter as it’s منصوب (seeing as it’s the خبر of كانوا).
Like in a regular إضافة, masculine plurals (and duals) lose their final ن if they’re the non-final word in the construction—which is why we have عديمي here instead of عديمين.
Seeing things in context is a great way to become more familiar with structures. So why not try searching for examples of the false/adjective إضافة in the next poem, book, or article you read? Have fun!
If you’d like to receive email notifications whenever a new post is published on The Arabic Pages, enter your email below and click “Subscribe”: