November 6, 2019 0

Arabic Grammar: Forming Superlative Adjectives in Arabic أفعل التفضيل

Arabic Grammar: Forming Superlative Adjectives in Arabic أفعل التفضيل


Marhaban! Right now, we’re going to talk
about superlatives in Arabic, or what we call أفعل التفضيل. And if you
listen to this pattern, you’ll perhaps recognize that kind of rhythmic stress,
that vowel pattern. You may have encountered a couple of words with
superlative meanings already in Arabic, perhaps أحسن, meaning ‘best,’ or أكبر, meaning ‘biggest.’ So if you say those
words to yourself, أحسن أكبر أفعل, you’ll hear that they share a certain
commonality of vowels, right? We have two syllables with ‘fatha’ and we have that
‘alif’ at the beginning. And we can use that أفعل pattern to turn a lot of
simple adjectives into superlatives, right? We could take an adjective like
جميل, ‘pretty or beautiful,’ and we could turn it into أجمل. We have to identify that
three-letter root, ‘jiim-miim-laam,’ and then we pop those letters out and we
apply that new vowel pattern onto them. So for example, if we wanted to say ‘I’m
the youngest boy in the family,’ right, we would take ‘young,’ the word for young
which in Arabic is صغير, identify that three-letter root, and we know that we
have that ‘yaa’ in a lot of words, right, طويل جميل صغير, so that ‘yaa’
isn’t part of the root. So we could take these three letters, and turn them into a
superlative. I could say أنا أصغر ولد في العائلة. Or if we
wanted to say that ‘winter is the coldest season of the year,’ we could take that
adjective for cold, بارد, identify the root, again, if there’s a long vowel, chances
are, all other things being equal, it’s not part of the root, so we have ‘baa, raa, daa,’ that we can apply it to that أفعل pattern, and get أبرد. So we could
say الشتاء أبرد فصل في السنة. ‘Winter is
the coldest season of the year.’ Notice that this أفعل pattern, when we’re
describing a noun, always comes before the noun. It’s kind
of an exception to the rule that adjectives always follow nouns, right? And
also notice that the nouns we’re describing, the ولد, this فصل, are
definite in meaning, but we do not make them definite with ‘alif-laam,’ right? When
we use this superlative أفعل pattern, it’s implied that that noun is definite.
‘The very coldest season.’ ‘The very youngest kid,’ ولد. So even though it’s functionally definite, we’re not going to make things definite with ‘alif-laam.’ That’s a very strict rule. One other little exception that you
should be aware of: أحسن, that word meaning ‘best,’ doesn’t exactly correspond
to the most common words that we hear for ‘good,’ even in فصحى, but also in
dialects, right? If you, if you’re learning Shaami, you might have been taught to
say منيح, if you’re learning Egyptian you might have been taught to say كويّس, or
even in فصحى, we usually hear a word like جيّد, for example to talk about
something being ‘good.’ But we’re not going to apply this pattern to any of those
words, we’re going to use أحسن, it’s very fixed, to mean ‘best.’ And it does in fact
come from a فصحى word, حسن, meaning ‘well,’ or ‘good,’ that this pattern is applied to, so it’s a little exception to to the rules. But: أحسن, ‘best.

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