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What is a logical subject in Arabic?

In Arabic, there is the grammatical subject and the “logical subject” which is used with quantifiers. You need to decide which one you use for the verb.

Last updated: May 2, 2021

Last week, Katarzyna sent me a question:

“I always had a problem with the form “العديد من”. For example, when I have a sentence: Many devices support program Windows. So is the subject of this sentence: “Many” or “devices“, and should the sentence be:

Katarzyna, a reader
  1. …يدعم العديد من الأجهزة برنامج or
  2. … تدعم العديد من الأجهزةبرنامج

…I asked many native Arabs, and they are contradicting each other… I guess this issue is worth investigating…” – end quote.

Okay, let’s try. This is all about the correct form of the verb: Does the verb refer to العديد – which means it should be يدعم. Or does it refer to الأجهزة – which means it should be تدعم.

This is indeed an interesting topic. It has to do with the so called “logical subject”: First of all, I guess there is no right or wrong on this issue. I also asked a senior grammar expert about his opinion.

The problem with quantifiers is whether they should be treated like real (masculine singular) nouns or ignored in verbal agreement. In English you ignore quantifiers: You say “some / a lot of people are here” not “is here“.

However, in Arabic they are true nouns (اِسم) and form idaafa’s (إضافة) with the following noun, so they should be treated as the main noun.

But since semantically they are not the salient part, people often make the verb agree with the following word.

In short, classically you should write يدعم, since the word عديد is technically a masculine noun and serves as the subject (it is marked by a ضَمّة).

However, you can use the “logical subject” as well for agreement. The verb is تدعم then. This is similar to كل. The word كل is a masculine singular noun; verbs and adjectives may (should) agree in the masculine singular.

But it is also common for the verb or adjective (صِفة / نَعت) to agree with the gender and number of the word governed by كل – i.e. the so called “logical subject“.

Let us have a look at both possibilities:

  1. Verbs and adjectives agree in the masculine singular as كُلّ is a masculine singular noun: For example: They are all silent – كُلُّهُم صامِتٌ
  2. The adjective or verb agrees with the gender and number of the logical subject (=2nd part of the Idafa). For example We will all go – كُلُّنا سَنَذْهَبُ

The same is true for the word جَمِيعٌ. When it is the first part of an Idafa (إضافة), the agreement is usually with the number and gender of the logical subject (=2nd part of the Idafa).

I am happy to hear your opinion about this topic!


That’s not all about grammar, of course…

Picture credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Any thoughts or ideas about this? Leave a comment!

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