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Quranic Grammar - The Possessive Construction (إضافَة)


The iḍāfa (إضافَة) construction of traditional Arabic grammar is a possessive construction (also known as a genitive construction) which relates two nouns. The second noun will come after and depend on the the first noun, so that the second noun is the dependent and the first noun is the head. In an iḍāfa relation the second noun will always be found in the genitive case majrūr (مجرور). iḍāfa is also possible between two morphological segments of the same word, such as between a noun stem and a pronoun suffix. In this construction the attached suffixed pronoun will still be considered to be in the genitive case. There are three constraints that must be satisfied when forming a possessive construction:

  1. The head noun must not have the definite article marker (l-).
  2. The head noun must not have the indefinite marker of tanwīn (تنوين).
  3. The dependent noun must be in the genitive case majrūr (مجرور).

There is no restriction on the grammatical case of the head noun and this should be determined by the syntactic role of the possessive construction within the sentence. Verse (88:1) below has a possessive construction formed from words (88:1:3) and (88:1:4), with the dependent word in the genitive case majrūr (مجرور). The head word is nominative marfūʿ  (مرفوع) because it is the subject of a verb:

(of) the Overwhelming?
(the) news
(there) come to you

Fig 1. Possessive construction in verse (88:1).

See Also

Language Research Group
University of Leeds