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Modern Written Arabic

Modern Written Arabic: A Comprehensive Grammar by Elsaid Badawi, M.G. Carter, and Adrian Gully

Primary Use: Reference guide for Modern Written Arabic
Format:12 chapters each divided into sub-sections
Meant For:Intermediate to advanced


This book is meant not just as a reference guide for Modern Arabic but also as a basic examination of how the Arabic language is written from 1990 until the present. The examples throughout the book are taken from writing samples anywhere from street signs and parking tickets to high literature. Poetry is excluded as being "artificial and often archaic" (p 2). This book might be particularly helpful to those Arabists specializing in linguistics.

The authors are careful to make a distinction between Modern Standard Arabic and what they term Modern Written Arabic, the former being too ill-defined for their tastes. They also stress the fact that a selection of material was drawn from all over the Arab world, and although care was taken to ensure that colloquialisms did not creep into the text, certain stylistic differences may be recognized. The selection of writing included was not meant to be exhaustive and the data was collected randomly; thus, this reference should not be looked at as a corpus based work.

This book uses modern English grammatical terminology and it thankfully includes a glossary of these grammatical terms. It does not always include the Arabic grammatical equivalent.

The chapters are divided in the table of contents, and the chapters themselves are sub-divided into more specific topics. An example of this is 3.22 "Verbs of Beginning and Continuing" subdivided into 3.22.1 أخذ "to take" or "begin," 3.22.2 بدأ "to begin," and so on.

This book is divided into the following sections and chapters:


  1. Chapter 1: Forms
  2. Chapter 2: Noun Phrase Structure
  3. Chapter 3: The Basic Sentence
  4. Chapter 4: Negatives
  5. Chapter 5: Adjectival and Relative Clauses
  6. Chapter 6: Coordinated Sentences
  7. Chapter 7: Subordination
  8. Chapter 8: Conditionals
  9. Chapter 9: Exceptives
  10. Chapter 10: Interrogatives, Indirect Speech
  11. Chapter 11: Hypersentence and Discourse
  12. Chapter 12: Lexicon
Arabic Index
English Index

How to Use It

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

  1. Arabic script
  2. order of the Arabic alphabet
  3. knowledge of English grammar (helpful)

It is not recommended that anyone read this book through from cover to cover. It is best used as a reference guide, and then only for modern Arabic. For classical Arabic it is best to consult a different reference guide such as Wright's Grammar.

The table of contents does a good job of giving an idea of where general topics are located. For a specific topic however, the indexes are more helpful. The indexes don't give a specific page number but rather give the section in a chapter as to where the specific item is located.

The Arabic index is rather unforgiving, as it lists words and items only in Arabic. The English index not only includes English grammatical terms and where to find them, but also transliterated Arabic words. For instance, one could look up the word ما either in the Arabic index under "ما" or in the English index under "ma."

Occasionally one might see in parenthesis a triangle pointing to something like C3:79 or C2:58. These are references to V. Cantarino's book Syntax of Modern Arabic Prose.


Badawi, Elsiad, M.G. Carter, and Adrian Gully. Modern Written Arabic: A Comprehensive Grammar. London: Routledge, 2004.