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Quranic Grammar - Coordinating Conjunctions (عطف)


A coordinating conjunction (حرف عطف) is a particle which connects two words, phrases or clauses together. The most common conjunction is the prefixed particle wa, usually translated as "and". The three independent coordinating conjunctions which are not prefixes are shown in Figure 1 below:

Coordinating Conjunction Arabic Translation*
thumma ثُمَّ then
aw أَوْ or
am أَمْ or

Fig 1. Independent coordinating conjunctions.
* precise meaning depends on context (see translation accuracy).

In a syntactic dependency graph, the node which represents the coordinating conjunction is neither the head nor the dependent node in a conjunction relation. The conjunction will instead introduce a dependency (معطوف) between the words before and after the conjunction. If two nouns are related through conjunction then they will both have the same case ending (grammatical case). Similarly, two verbs related through conjunction will be found in the same mood. The first verse of sūrat ʿabasa (80:1) contains a conjunction dependency between two verbs which are both in the indicative mood (مرفوع):

and turned away,
He frowned

Fig 2. Coordinating conjunction between two verbs in verse (80:1).

In verse (92:3) below the two nouns (92:3:3) and (92:3:4) are related through conjunction. The first noun is in the accusative case manṣūb (منصوب) because it is the object of a verb. The second noun is also in the accusative case because of conjunction:

and the female,
the male
And He Who

Fig 3. Coordinating conjunction between two nouns in verse (92:3).

Phrasal nodes may also be related through conjunction, as in verse (80:32) shown below. The noun at the start of the verse (80:32:1) is in the accusative case manṣūb (منصوب) due to an accusative of purpose. The following two prepositions phrases (PP) are in conjunction:

and for your cattle.
for you
(As) a provision

Fig 4. Coordinating conjunction between preposition phrases in verse (80:32).

See Also

Language Research Group
University of Leeds