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What does‎ لا سِيَّما‎ mean?

لا سيما means above all, specially, in particular, mainly. If you use it, you should know some grammar rules.

Last updated: July 14, 2022

The expression لا سِيَّما‎ is quite common in Modern Stan­dard Arabic. You might also encounter the extended version لا سِيَّما وَأَنَّ which means especially for the reason that…, particularly be­cause…

When is لا سِيَّما‎ used?

The ex­pression لا سِيَّما‎ is used when you mention two related things in a sentence and prefer the latter. What comes last in the sentence has more power (قُدْرةٌ) than the things mentioned earlier.

I love books, especially literature books.أُحِبُّ الْكُتُبَ وَلا سِيَّما كُتُب الْأَدَبِ

Components of the expression

لا سِيَّما‎ consists of three words and means (liter­ally): there is not the equal or like of.

  1. لا: absolute negation (النَّافِيةُ لِلْجِنْسِ)
  2. سِيَّ: This is the اِسْمُ لا. It expresses equal, simi­lar, alike (for mascu­line & femi­nine). Syn­onyms are: مِثْلُكَ or هُوَ سِيُّكَ or نَظيرُكَ.
  3. ما: This is a ما الْمُتَّصِلةُ. This ما can be redundant/extra with no sepa­rate meaning (زائِدةٌ) or a relative pronoun (اِسْمٌ مَوْصُولٌ) expressing الَّذِي or an indefinite, vague word (نَكِرةٌ مُبْهَمةٌ).
  • Watch out: It is quite common to use the word سِيَّ in the dual form: سِيّ + سِيّ = سِيَّانِ.
  • The predicate (خَبَرُ لا) is always deleted (مَحْذُوفٌ دائِمًا) in such constructions. Its assumed, underlying meaning is مَوْجُودٌ.

Case endings of the word after لا سِيَّما

Now comes the exciting part. Which case should you use for the word after لا ?سِيَّما

In other words, what’s the grammatical function and position of the noun (اِسْمٌ) after لا سِيَّما? There are three ap­proaches.

Option 1: nominative case (الرَّفْعُ)

وَلا سِيَّما كُتُبُ الْأَدَبِ…

Option 2: accusative case (النَّصْبُ)

وَلا سِيَّما كُتُبَ الْأَدَبِ…

Option 3: genitive case (الْجَرُّ)

…وَلا سِيَّما كُتُبِ الْأَدَبِ

Grammatical analysis

First let’s see what all three have in common:

Particle of resumption (لِلْاِسْتِئْنافِ); doesn’t have a place in إِعْرابٌ.و
Particle of the absolute negation (النَّافِيةُ لِلْجِنْسِ).لا
This is the second (or even third) part of the إِضافةٌ‎ (مُضافٌ إِلَيْهِ) and therefore takes the genitive case (مَجْرُورٌ بِالْكَسْرةِ الظّاهِرةِ).الْأَدَبِ

If the word after لا سِيَّما is indefinite (اِسْمٌ نَكِرةٌ):

nominativeالرَّفْعُpredicate of the deleted subject
accusativeالنَّصْبُspecification
genitiveالْجَرُّsecond part of the إِضافةٌ

If the word after لا سِيَّما is definite (اِسْمٌ مَعْرِفةٌ):

nominativeالرَّفْعُpredicate of the deleted subject
genitiveالْجَرُّsecond part of the إِضافةٌ

The accusative is only possible with a trick. If we interpreted لا سِيَّما as I specify (أَخُصُّ), then it would work.

accusativeالنَّصْبُdirect object of the deleted verb

The underlying grammar of each of the three options is quite sophisticated and complex but also fascinating. If you are interested, in Arabic for Nerds 2, I analyze and explain it in all the details.

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Picture credit: Brett Sayles

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