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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Arabic.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Yafa.
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Arabic grammar.
Word Order
"Word Order" refers to the order in which words are structured to form a sentence in a given language.
Consider the English sentence "I ate an apple." But first, let's remove the article "an" here for simplicity, so we're just left with "I ate apple."
The basic Word Order for English is subject, verb, object, or SVO for short.
If we break down the English sentence "I ate apple", we can see that the subject "I" is presented first, followed by the verb "ate", and then finally the object "apple" is positioned last.
This is the basic word order for sentences in English.
Now let's compare that same sentence, "I ate an apple.", in Arabic.
أكلت انا تفاحة
Akal-tu ana tufaaha
If we break down the Arabic sentence, we get the verb أكلت, which means "he ate", followed by the subject انا meaning "I", and finally we have the object تفاحة meaning "apple".
Akal-tu .. Ana .. Tufaaha
Arabic is actually written and read from left to right, we'll cover this aspect more in the next episode on writing. The word order for Arabic then, is verb, subject, object, or VSO for short.
The same sentence in Arabic then, is essentially “ate I apple” – verb first, then subject, and object last.
Okay, let’s move on to the next section.
Subject Prominent vs Null-Subject Language
English is what is called a "subject-prominent" language. This simply means that the subject is slightly more important than other components in the sentence. It's the key piece of information other components in the sentence relate to.
"Who" is doing the action, is slightly more important than what is being done or which object it's been done to, in English.
Arabic on the other hand, is defined as a 'null-subject language'. That essentially means that the subject isn't valued as much in Arabic as it is in English. In fact, Arabic speakers would likely omit the subject from a sentence altogether wherever they can.
You can omit the subject from an Arabic sentence if the subject is obvious, such as when the subject was about you, the speaker, or if the subject has already been established and you're just continuing the conversation.
Let's take a look at this phenomenon of 'null-subject' in a bit more detail.
Omission of the Subject in Arabic
More often than not, if you wanted to say "I ate an apple." in Arabic, you would not say...
أكلت انا تفاحة
Akal-tu ana tufaaha
instead, you would more likely say "ate apple" in Arabic...
أكلت تفاحة
Akal-tu tufaaha
where you omit the subject "I". Most Arabic sentences are constructed and spoken like this in real life.
أكلت تفاحة
Akal-tu tufaaha
In most situations, such as a one-on-one conversation, it's clear that the person who's speaking is the subject. In cases where it's obvious who or what the subject is, it's almost guaranteed that the subject will be omitted. And so you're left with...
أكلت تفاحة
Akal-tu tufaaha
On the other hand, when it's unclear who or what the subject is, or if you wanted to place emphasis on the subject, like if you wanted to declare from a group of people that it was you who ate the apple, then you would include the subject.
أكلت انا تفاحة
Akal-tu ana tufaaha
But more often than not, most sentences spoken in daily Arabic conversation can be spoken without including the subject at all, particularly if that subject is you.
فتحت الصندوق ((I) opened the box)
عدت إلى المنزل بالقطار ((I) went back home by train)
Fatah-tu al-sonduq
‘aod-tu ela al-manzel bel-qetar
Knowing this, we can easily express any simple action in Arabic using just the object and the verb.
Try to create the sentence "I ate a hot dog." from this set of words:
هوت دوج
Hot dog
OK. Got it?
So we know the verb order of Arabic is VSO.
The verb goes first... so let's put "ate" here.
Next, would come the subject, but as we learned earlier, we can afford to ignore the subject since the speaker is the same person taking action.
Finally we can add the object "hot dog" at the end there.
And that's it!
أكلت هوت دوج
Akal-tu hot dog
You just learned how to say "I ate a hot dog" in Arabic! Well done!
أكلت هوت دوج
Akal-tu hot dog
You can create any basic sentence like this in Arabic if you simply know the word for the verb and the object in Arabic.
Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what you've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that Arabic sentences are formed using a verb, subject, object, or "VSO" word order.
Most sentences spoken in Arabic will not actually contain a subject, especially if that subject is obvious, like when it's you yourself, the speaker.
And lastly, you can create basic sentences in Arabic by putting the verb first, and the object last!
We've covered only the very basics of Arabic grammar. If you're interested in learning more, check out our "Arabic in 3 minutes" video series. In that course, we teach you useful phrases while covering the fundamentals of Arabic grammar and each lesson is only 3 minutes long!
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Arabic writing.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!