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Arabic Grammar: A Reference Guide

Arabic Grammar: A Reference Guide by John Mace

Primary Use: Reference grammar of Modern Standard Arabic
Format:18 chapters each subdivided into specific topics
Meant For:Beginner to advanced


This book is designed to be a reference grammar to supplement any classroom at nearly any level. It uses examples drawn from “professional practice; from the office, the public institute, the departmental meeting, the worksite, and so on” (p xi). The book assumes that the student already knows the alphabet and only talks about special cases of letters. It also discusses handwritten Arabic, which is a nice addition not commonly found in grammatical texts.

This book focuses on Modern Standard Arabic, eschewing Classical Arabic and materials that are of solely academic or historic interest. It also avoids terminology used only by grammarians and chooses words the average English speaking student of Arabic is likely to know.

The book includes copious examples and doesn’t often use transliteration, preferring to use voweled text. Tables are employed where appropriate. Translations of examples are also included in the text.

This book contains some curious errors. One is that the title on the front page is Arabic Grammar: A Reference Guide but on the inside it states it as Arabic Grammar: A Revision Guide. The former seems more likely. Furthermore, pages are referenced in the index all the way up to page 230; however, the book only goes up to page 217.

The book is divided into the following sections and chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. Writing
  3. Pronunciation
  4. Verbs – General
  5. Sound Verbs
  6. Hamzated Verbs
  7. Doubled Verbs
  8. Assimilated Verbs
  9. Hollow Verbs
  10. Defective Verbs
  11. Doubly Weak Verbs
  12. Nouns and Adjectives
  13. Pronouns
  14. Prepositions
  15. Adverbs
  16. Syntax
  17. Numbers
  18. Wishes and Exclamations
Arabic Index
Grammatical Index
Glossary of Grammatical Terms

How to Use It

In order to use this book to the fullest extent, one must already know the following:

  1. The Arabic script
  2. Order of the Arabic alphabet
  3. A basic Arabic vocabulary (helpful)
  4. A basic knowledge of English grammar (helpful)

As with most reference books, this book is not recommended to read from cover to cover. It is better used as a reference guide.

This is not an easy book to use. The table of contents, though very through, is long and it is difficult to locate a particular topic contained in it.

There are two indexes, one in Arabic and one in English. The Arabic index is a little vague and contains eleven different page numbers for the word ما without hinting at how the entries might differ from one another. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the indexes refer to pages all the way up to p. 230 even though the book only goes up to p. 217.

The English grammatical index is similarly vague, in that it gives 35 separate entries under the heading ‘gender’ with no indication as to the differences between the entries. It also includes the occasional transliterated Arabic word, such as hamzat al-qat. Although the index attempts to cross-reference itself, directing anyone looking up the word ‘question’ to ‘interrogative,’ it is not fully cross-referenced. Anyone wishing to look up ‘past tense’ must look first under ‘verb’ and then under ‘perfect’ (which then has 29 different entries).


Mace, John. Arabic Grammar: A Reference Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.