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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Nora here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Arabic questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What is the structure of Modern Standard Arabic sentences?
In this lesson, we’re going to give you an overview of how sentences are structured in Modern Standard Arabic. Language structure is usually described by the order of 3 main elements in a basic sentence:
Verb, Subject, and Object.
For instance, English is an SVO language, meaning that the subject comes first, then the verb, and lastly the object. You can see this in any sentence, like “John plays tennis.”
For Modern Standard Arabic, this looks a bit different. Modern Standard Arabic has 2 possible sentence structures, namely "verbal sentences" and "nominal sentences."
First, let's take a look at "verbal sentences." As you can tell from its name, verbal sentences start with a verb, then we have our subject, and lastly the object. The following sentence is a VSO sentence:
شَرِبَ رامي العَصير.
shariba rami alasiir.
“Rami drank the juice.”
Next, we have the nominal sentence, which starts with the subject, then the verb, and lastly the object. This one has an SVO structure, just like English.
رامي شَرِبَ العَصير.
Rami shariba al-asiir.
“Rami drank the juice.”
Note that in Modern Standard Arabic, when there’s a verb in the sentence, verbal sentences are prefered.
This will look different for sentences with the verb “to be” in English, because there’s no verb for “to be” in Arabic. Observe the following sentence: "Rami is tall."
Because there’s no verb “to be” in Arabic, this is going to be a nominal sentence, consisting of only a Subject and an adjective. This is how the sentence is going to look like:
رامي طَويل.
Rami tawiil.
“Rami is tall”
Now let's see the second point in sentence structure, which is Noun-Adjective order.
Let's observe the following phrase: "big house."
In English, the adjective "big" comes first, followed by the noun "house." In Arabic, this is the other way around. Observe the following phrase:
بَيْتٌ كَبير
baytun kabiir.
“Big house”
Here, we have the noun first, baytun, meaning “house.” Then, we have the adjective kabiir, meaning “big.”
The last point we’ll touch on is where prepositions are located in a sentence. In this aspect, Arabic is quite similar to English. Observe the following sentence: "Rami is in the house."
In English, prepositions precede nouns. The same applies to Arabic:
رامي في البَيْت.
Rami fi al-bayt.
“Rami is in the house.”
Again, note how there is no verb to be in the Arabic sentence, because it is implied from the context.


If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
Bye! إلى اللقاء(ʾilā al-liqaāʾ)