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A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic by Karin C. Ryding

Primary Use: Reference grammar Modern Standard Arabic
Format:39 chapters
Meant For:Beginner to advanced


Unlike many reference grammars, this book assumes very little and includes the alphabet in its various forms as well as transliteration throughout. It also uses modern terminology for English grammar, such as ‘past’ instead of ‘perfect,’ making this book extremely easy to understand. It nevertheless includes a glossary of Arabic and English grammatical terms. The Arabic terms are written here only in English and are alphabetized under the English alphabet. For instance, if one wants to look up what a ضمير means, it would be found in the Arabic glossary under ‘Damiir.’ Nevertheless, it is a refreshing change from the sometimes complex terminology utilized in many reference grammars.

This book draws mostly on media sources for the examples in this book, and gives compelling reasons for doing so in the introduction. It also states that this resource is intended to fill the gap that exists for a good reference grammar for Modern Standard Arabic.

This book doesn’t use the diacritical marks excepting cases where it’s necessary to explain a point. Examples are used throughout and tables are utilized only where necessary. It is also well cross-referenced not only to other parts of the book but also to other books as well. This book is divided into chapters, which are then divided into sections and sub-sections. For instance 1: Cardinal Numbers is divided into 1.1: The Numeral “one” and from there to 1.1.1: واحد waaHid and واحدة waaHida, and so forth.

The book is divided into the following sections and chapters:

    Chapter 1: Introduction to Arabic
    Chapter 2: Phonology and script
    Chapter 3: Arabic word structure: an overview
    Chapter 4: Basic Arabic sentence structures
    Chapter 5: Arabic noun types
    Chapter 6: Participles: active and passive
    Chapter 7: Noun inflections: gender, humanness, number, definiteness, and case
    Chapter 8: Construct phrases and nouns in apposition
    Chapter 9: Noun specifiers and nouns in apposition
    Chapter 10: Adjectives: function and form
    Chapter 11: Adverbs and adverbial expressions
    Chapter 12: Personal pronouns
    Chapter 13: Demonstrative pronouns
    Chapter 14: Relative pronouns and relative clauses
    Chapter 15: Numerals and numeral phrases
    Chapter 16: Prepositions and prepositional phrases
    Chapter 17: Questions and question words
    Chapter 18: Connectives and conjunctions
    Chapter 19: Subordinating conjunctions: the particle ‘inna and her sisters
    Chapter 20: Verb classes
    Chapter 21: Verb inflection: a summary
    Chapter 22: Form I: The base form triliteral verb
    Chapter 23: Form II
    Chapter 24: Form III triliteral verb
    Chapter 25: Form IV triliteral verb
    Chapter 26: Form V triliteral verb
    Chapter 27: Form VI triliteral verb
    Chapter 28: Form VII triliteral verb
    Chapter 29: Form VIII triliteral verb
    Chapter 30: Form IV triliteral verb
    Chapter 31: Form X triliteral verb
    Chapter 32: Form XI-XV triliteral verb
    Chapter 33: Quadriliteral verbs
    Chapter 34: Moods of the verb I: indicative and subjunctive
    Chapter 35: Moods of the verb II: jussive and imperative
    Chapter 36: Verbs of being, becoming, remaining, seeming
    Chapter 37: Negation and exception
    Chapter 38: Passive and passive-type expressions
    Chapter 39: Conditional and optative expressions
Appendix I: How to use an Arabic dictionary
Appendix II: Glossary of technical terms

How to Use It

Although it would be extremely helpful to know the Arabic script as well as a solid foundation of vocabulary, it is not necessary for using this book as it includes transliterations and translations of every example. Sometimes this can create some difficulties with intermediate or advanced students who would rather see an example in Arabic instead of as CaaCC-a (faa’’-).

The table of contents in this book is well laid-out so one can look for a general grammatical topic here. However, the table of contents is ten pages long, so sometimes the index can be more helpful.

The index is only in English with the occasional Arabic transliterated term thrown in. This only creates the occasional problem, as some terms are found in the index twice. For instance, ‘ma’ is found both alphabetically under ‘ma’ and under ‘question words.’ The index fortunately gives page numbers instead of chapter numbers, so there is no cause for flipping around trying to find the relevant part in the chapter.


Ryding, Karin C. A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.