Possessive Case / Mudaf & Mudaf Ilayh

You’re already familiar with possessive case in English–when we show ownership of something. For example, we might say, “this is Amer’s book” or “this is the book of Amer.”

The possessive case has two elements:

  1. The possessor, i.e. the one who owns the thing. In this case, Amer.
  2. The possessed, i.e. the thing being owned. In this example, the book.

The possessive case in Arabic is the same. The possessed is called the mudaf, the possessor the mudaf ilayh. It’s easiest to think of them as the form of “the x of y” rather then “y’s x”.

In English, you write an apostrophe-s after the possessor–so “Amer” becomes “Amer’s”.

In Arabic, there are two rules–one for the mudaf, and one for the mudaf ilayh.

  1. The possessor takes kasra (becomes majruw)
  2. The possessed becomes definite (by virture of being possessed).

As a first attempt before we knew these rules, we might write “the book of Amer” as “al-kitaabu Amerun”. Applying our rules:

  1. Amerun becomes Amerin
  2. Al-kitaabu becomes kitaabu

So the final sentence is “kitaabu Amerin”.

What about Ahmed’s chair? kursiyu Ahmedin. Heaven’s gate? Baabu jannatin!

If you feel you understand this bit of grammar, post an example (Arabic/transliteration and English translation) in the comments. If you have any questions, comments, clarifications, etc. post those in comments too inshallah!

External Links: MedinahArabic.com lesson on Possessive Case


20 thoughts on “Possessive Case / Mudaf & Mudaf Ilayh

  1. Qasim

    I do not understand one point.

    It was mentioned that the mudaf when possesed becomes definite? But dont definite nouns start with Al? Where as it has been written above kitabu and not al-kitabu?

    I am just new to arabic so appologise for any mistakes.

  2. Ilm Seeker Post author

    The mudaf is definite WITHOUT alif-lam. It’s definite because it’s the mudaf; if it wasn’t definite, it would have double-tanween, i.e. kitaabun.

    This is something a lot of students struggle with :) we generally don’t post Arabic posts anymore; try out Arabic resources (like ArabicGems.wordpress.com, ArabicTree.com, etc.)

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  4. Hind ummu salma abdu

    But i think Ahmad and jannah are ghiaru mu’orab they never take kasrah vowel,we cant say Kursiyu Ahmadin or babu jannatin,but is kursiyyu Ahmada,baabu jannata.in Arabic the name that never takes kasrah fathah replace kaseah and the name that never takes fathah kasrah replace fathah. Afwan sayyidiy al mu’allim.

  5. Ilm Seeker Post author

    @madinah that’s how mudaf and mudaf ilayhi work. The owner (mudaf ilayhi, in this case “Zainab”) takes kasra. That’s how you identify the owner of something.

  6. Abdul Rahman

    Names like Zainab, Maryam, Yusuf, Ibrahim do not take tanween, nor do they take kasrah when they are “mudhaaf ilaih”. The sign of “majroor” for such nouns is fatha. So it should be “kitaabu Zainaba”.

  7. random

    on mudaaf there can never be al on mudaaf ilayh there can if there is an al on the mudaf ilayh at the end of that word you need to have a single kasra as with al you can not have a tanween

  8. Eirik Stokke

    Say, for instance, that I want to put «bull» (ثور/tawr) + «neck» (رقبة/raqaba) together to form the compound noun «bullneck». In English we say that if someone has a muscular neck that he has “the neck of a bull”, but let’s say this person person recieved the nickname “bullneck” due to his muscular neck (i.e. “Farid the Bullneck”), then how would this be written properly in Arabic?

  9. Munira

    asalaamu alyakum
    i am currently undergoing islamic studies at an academy but seem to be stuck on a mudaaf mudaafilya question
    if you could help inshallah
    i need to translate from english to arabic
    days’s of summer
    when dropping an ‘s the words have to be swapped but if you drop of then you musnt swap the words
    in such cases
    what do you do?
    jazakallah khair

  10. Ilm Seeker Post author

    Wa’alikum as-salaam @Munira

    The easier way to do this, is to always rephrase to “a of b” (eg. days of summer). Then, the first word becomes the mudaf, and the second word becomes the mudaaf ilayhi.

    In this case, “days of summer” => ayaamu as-saif

  11. Abdul Rahman

    Wa ‘alaykum assalam Munira.
    The expression “days’s of summer” is not correct. You can say “the days of summer” as in “the days of summer are long” , or “summer’s days are long”, or you can say “summer days” without the apostrophe, like “I love to be outdoors on summer days.” The translation would be “nuhur al-saif”.

  12. patel

    Slm Im stuck in the examples can u help is u can then i have to find example of muzaf muzaf ilayh n sifat together plzz help

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