Arabic Cases: Mansúb **منصوب** (a.k.a. Accusative).
I was thinking what to write about lately, and I got this idea to write about one of the 3 major cases in Arabic grammar. This case is mostly called Accusative in book teaching Arabic for non-Arabs, but I have to say (and I had a lot of arguments from people here) that the case, which in Arabic is called An-Nacb (النّصب) does not solely and absolutely refer to the accusative (Arabic: مفعول به) only. Such title or status is attributed as well to the adverbs (Arabic: حال) and to other nouns placement, or even to present tense verbs when preceded by specific articles (e.g. لن lan which negates to the future). I doubt anyone would claim that a present tense verb is to be accusative. Anyway for simplicity's sake, I will call the status of An-Nacb النصب as Accusative just for this post. Because I'm going to discuss nouns only.
So, what is exactly the accusative and how it works? Well, I think everyone knows that the accusative is a case where a noun becomes an object for a verb (i.e. received the action to the verb, or in other words the action is applied to it). In Arabic, the accusative is called مفعول به (maf3úlun bihi, or simply maf3úl bih). I do remember when I had to answer some questions that usually and typically I would describe the effect of such status on the noun is that it takes -a vowel to its end (instead of the normal, nominative, ending of -u). However, this is for simple cases or simple nouns. Things get a bit complicated (well, not much if you have a good memory I guess) when the nouns is in dual or plural format. And this is what I would like to talk about here. In order to organize the work, I'll be discussing the accusative for various cases of nouns depending on their number: singular, dual, and plural. Each to its details.
As you may know by now, nouns in Arabic can be either masculine or feminine (and there is no neuter). One may say that feminine words end usually in Ta-Marbúta ة but this is not really a rule (e.g. شمس šams meaning sun, is feminine).
When singular, the noun under the accusative influence gets fatħa to its end (i.e. -a), and when the noun is indefinite, then fatħa becomes Tanwin fatHa (i.e. -an):
- I see the teacher: أَرى المُعَلِّمَ (ará al-mu3allima).
- I see the teacher/f: أَرى المُعَلِّمَةَ (ará al-mu3allimata).
- I see a teacher: أَرى مُعَلِّماً (ará mu3alliman).
- I see a teacher/f: أَرى مُعَلِّمَةً (ará mu3allimatan).
Notice that I've been adding the last vowels in the sentence on purpose to show the difference (usually the vowels at the end of the sentence are dropped, typically). Where a noun if followed by /f it means that it is the feminine version of the word. Notice also how Ta-Marbúta does not accept the addition of Alif when Tanwin Fatħa is applied.
Worth noting that some group of nouns, including some proper names, are of special classes that do not accept Tanwin to their ends. In such cases, fatħa is enough. Such nouns are said to be indeclinable ممنوعة من الصرف (mamnú3atun min-ac-carf).
In this case, which is supposed to have been around in ancient languages as well but disappeared in time, the noun signifies a quantity of two of a specific noun or item. The typical ending of the dual in the nominative (normal) case is typically -án ـان (don't mistaken that for Tanwin; the vowel here is longer). In case that the original noun ends with Ta-Marbúta, then the dual of that word would typically end in -tán ـتان, where we can say that the Ta-marbúta (whose name means tied Ta) is untied to allow the attachment of the duality suffix -án, and this is why it becomes -tán. Following on the steps of the previous examples, the word for two teachers then becomes مُعَلِّمان, and for two teachers/f would be مُعَلِّمَتان. In cases of duality, and in Arabic grammar books, the noun is typically said to be nominative by Alif مرفوع بالألف (Raised by Alif). This means, the noun's sign of being nominative is the Alif, because of its dual nature. Another way to say that in Arabic: مرفوع، وعلامة رفعه الألف. Anyway, never mind with these titles and definition, let's jump to the examples:
- I see the two teachers: أَرى المُعَلِّمَيْن (ará al-mu3allimayn).
- I see the two teachers/f: أَرى المُعَلِّمَتَيْن (ará al-mu3allimatayn).
- I see two teachers: أَرى مُعَلِّمَيْن (ará mu3allimayn).
- I see two teachers/f: أَرى مُعَلِّمَتَيْن (ará mu3allimatayn).
So, we have a number of things to notice here when it comes to the accusative case with dual nouns:
- The Alif changes to Yá' ـين (-ayn) or ـتين (-tayn). In Arabic we would say منصوب وعلامة نصبه الياء (Mansúb and the sign for its Nasb is Yá). Again, never mind the definitions here. I'm just stating these in case the reader wants to move onward to more advanced books in Arabic later on.
- In the dual case, being definite or indefinite does not change a thing. No Tanwin is involved here as the case with singular nouns. All the difference is made by the presence of the definite article "AL" and its absence.
Plurals in Arabic is probably a source of hardships, even for natives themselves at times. Plurals in Arabic majorly belong to 3 classes:
- Masculine Regular Plural: جمع مذكر سالم (jam3 moðakkar sálim). What the name in Arabic really means masculine safe plural. Such plural typically ends in ـون (-ún) suffix. it is called safe or regular because the build of the original word does not change; All what there is to do is just add the suffix to make the noun into plural. Unfortunately though this is not the case with all masculine nouns. This is just one type!
Feminine Regular Plural: جمع مؤنث سالم (jam3 mu'annaþ sálim). Like its masculine counterpart, the name in Arabic means feminine safe plural, and it is called so because the build of the original word does not change, except for removing the feminine ending ة (i.e. Ta-marbúta) and then adding the plural suffix for feminine words: -át ـات. Some feminine words ending with Alif-Maqcúra ـى will get the same ending in the plural after changing this Alif to Ya' ـي (and this is one of the reasons that such words are written with Alif Maqcúra instead of a regular Alif), and thus the plural suffix becomes -yát.
Feminine nouns ending with Hamza, such as سَماء (samá': a sky) do exhibit a feminine regular plural (sometimes) as well, where Hamza is removed and -wát is added: سَماوات (samáwát). However, this is not a general rule. If my memory serves me right at the moment, most of these feminine nouns ending with Hamza do exhibit broken plurals scheme as explained below.
Broken Plurals: جمع تكسير (jam3 taksír). I can call these also irregular plurals but I preferred the word broken to mimic the Arabic name of this class. These are words that their plurals change the main build of the word (e.g. خُلُقْ [xoloq: manner] becomes أَخْلاقْ [axláq: manners]). Such words also can undergo a change in gender. In the previous example, خُلُق is masculine singular, while أَخْلاق is a feminine plural.
Beside these 3 main categories, it is worth noting that some words in Arabic do exhibit more than one plural; Sometimes being both of the same type (usually broken plurals) or sometimes being once as a broken plural (BP) and the other being regular (MRP or FRP). For example, the word شَجَرَة (šajarah: a tree), can be made into a plural using أَشْجار (ašjár: trees/BP) or شَجَرات (šajarát: trees/FRP). Both are deemed correct, but sometimes in literature you might notice one word being used often more than the other and it is more common between people. In the case of the trees, أشجار is more common than شجرات. Those who study the Arabic literature in depth further, might mark some plurals to be used for a specific number of the said item, while another one is used for general or more than a specific number.
Just an example of this: شَهْر (šahr: a month) can be made into a plural using أَشْهُر (ašhur: months) and شُهور (šuhúr: months). It is said that the former plural is used when it is meant to be for 3-6 months, while the latter is for general plural, or anywhere beyond 6 months in number.
Among this mess, there is one matter worth the addition here is the fact that some times, a word in plural is made into plural again as a mode of magnification (تفخيم: tafxím). Probably the most famous for such attitude is the word for pyramids. While pyramids is أهرام (ahrám) in Arabic, and it is already in plural format, yet it is magnified specifically when speaking about the Pyramids of Egypt, by adding -át to it: أَهْرامات (ahrámát). As a way of saying the grand pyramids. Such plurals look similar to FRP but it is not one.
Anyway, no need to worry about all these "specific" types (which even natives don't know much about). Such delicate differences are more dedicated to those who study literature and poetry, as well as Quran. Here, I will stick to the basic and the formal. So, after listing the basic 3 plural types, let's see how the accusative affects such plurals.
Masculine Regular Plurals
Just as the case with the dual case, the presence and absence of the definite article "AL" does not affect the ending here, so I will be short with my examples here and just list those without the definite article:
- I see teachers: أَرى مُعَلِّمين (ará mu3allimín).
As we can see, the accusative sign here is to change the -ún suffix in the regular plural, into -ín. In writing, the suffix might look similar to the dual accusative case but notice the vowels and you will see the difference. Don't worry about us natives, we can read it without diacritics or Harakat :)
Feminine Regular Plurals
Unlike the masculine counterpart, the presence and absence of these plural do make a change just like in the singular case. These words would use -u and -un to their endings in the nominative (normal) case, just like singular nouns do. However, instead of Fatħa like in the singular, they take Kasrah (-i) at the end:
- I see the teachers/f: أَرى المُعَلِّماتِ (ará al-mu3allimáti).
- I see teachers/f: أَرى مُعَلِّماتٍ (ará mu3allimátin).
And just like in the case of the singular, when the word is indefinite, the Tanwin is used instead of the regular vowel, and that it becomes -in; or should I say -tin since it ends T already.
In cases of broken plurals, the word is treated as it is a singular case. For the sake of giving examples here, I will change from teacher to man (رَجُل: rajul), which has the irregular plural رِجال (rijál).
- I see the men: أَرى الرِّجالً (ará ar-rijála).
- I see men: أَرى رِجالاً (ará rijálan).
As I've stated above, when dealing with these plurals, the accusative is applied on them as if they were singular. There might be some exceptions that don't come to my mind right now, but this is the general aspect for the accusative with these irregular plurals.
I hope this acts as a brief for this case. I've confined my explanation here to the accusative case where the noun receives the act of the verb. But truth is, there are many cases in Arabic where all the regulations mentioned above do apply other than the usual accusative. For this reason, I've always emphasized the fact that the word منصوب (mansúb) in Arabic is a word that describes the type of ending of the word and not necessarily the accusative case of the noun like in other languages (European ones specifically). As I've stated in the introduction, there are adverbs that are said to be منصوب and even verbs when preceded with specific articles. Anyway, probably the most obvious and the best one to explain how the Mansúb status work is by using the Accusative. So, hope the idea is delivered well and sound.