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The causative descrip­tion in Arabic: السّيارَةُ الْجميلُ لونُها – Is there a mistake?

The causative description (na’at sababy النَّعْت السَّبَبِيّ) in Arabic is pretty tricky and often misunderstood. Let’s see why.

Last updated: February 20, 2022

First of all, to answer our question: No, there isn’t a mistake! If you thought that the word الْجَمِيل should be written with a ة, you might have misunderstood the meaning of the sentence.

The second part of the sentence is a so-called causative descrip­tion (نَعْت سَبَبِيّ). The sentence …السيارةُ الجميلُ لونُها means: The car whose color is beautiful. Or: The car with the beautiful color.

Watch out! The sentence doesn’t mean: The color of the nice car

Let us make the difference clear:

نَعْت حَقِيقِيّThe successful student.الطَّالِبُ النَّاجِحُ
نَعْت سَبَبِيّThe student whose sister is successful.الطَّالِبُ النَّاجِحةُ أُخْتُهُ

Let us check the different parts of the النَّعْت السَّبَبِيّ.

نَعْت مُؤَنَّثAlthough it is a نَعْت, it doesn’t describe what precedes, but what comes after it. The word sister (أُخْت) is the thing being de­scribed (مَوْصُوف) because it is not the (male) student, who is successful.النَّاجِحةُ
فاعِلSubject; the thing which is being described.أُخْتُهُ
In order to understand the exact meaning of the نَعْت سَّبَبِيّ you could rewrite the sen­tence with a relative clause اِسمْ إشارة –>الطَّالِبُ الذي نَجَحَتْ أُخْتُهُ

The rules for the النَّعْت السَّبَبِيّ

  1. The النَّعْت السَّبَبِيّ is always singular and comes before the subject of the sentence (فاعِل) which is a اِسْم مَرْفُوع
  2. It agrees with the preceding اِسْم in: * definite/indefinite form (تَعْريف/تَنْكِير) AND * إِعْراب
  3. It agrees with the following اِسْم – which is the فاعِل – in: * gender (masculine/feminine) (تَنْكِير/ تَأْنِيث)
  4. The noun after it (فاعِل) takes the pronoun which refers to the first subject in the sentence! Notice: the فاعِل is always مَرْفُوع

Let us have a look at some examples to understand the rules:

The man whose brother is honorable came.جاءَ الرَّجُلُ الْفاضِلُ أَخُوهُ
The man whose two brothers are honorable came.جاءَ الرَّجُلُ الْفاضِلُ أَخَواهُ
Two men whose two brothers are honorable came.جاءَ رَجُلانِ فاضِلٌ أَخَواهُما
The two men whose sisters are honorable came.جاءَ الرَّجُلانِ الْفاضِلةُ أَخَواتُهُما
Ladies whose sisters are honorable came.جاءَتْ سَيِّداتٌ فاضِلةٌ أَخَواتُهُنَّ

A summary:

  • The النَّعْت الْحَقِيقِيّ always comes after the noun which it describes. It follows the noun in gender, negated/not negated, case and singular/dual/plural.
  • The النَّعْت السَّبَبِيّ always comes before the thing which it de­scribes. It is always singular!

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Interesting stuff:

picture credit: pixabay (Toby Parsons)

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