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Keys for Writers, Second Edition
Ann Raimes
ESL Tip Sheet 1: Arabic

Spoken in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

The written language
  • Arabic is written from right to left.
  • Spelling is phonetic. 58.
  • No distinction is made between upper and lower case. 53.
Sentence structure and word order
  • Under the influence of the Qur'an (Koran), writers aim at rhythmical balance and coordination, with the split between subject and predicate occurring midway in a sentence. 34d.
  • Arabic favors coordination over subordination; sentences often begin with And or So. 34f.
  • Basic word order in Classical Arabic is V-S-O: the verb precedes the subject: *Hoped the committee to solve the problem. 34b. Colloquial Arabic is S-V-O.
  • Arabic uses a that clause where English uses infinitive: *I want that you stay. 61c.
Nouns and pronouns
  • Personal pronouns are often added to verbs: *My father he lives in California. 64g.
  • Relative pronoun makes no human/nonhuman distinction, and pronoun object is retained in a restrictive relative clause: *Here is the student which you met her last week. 46a, 46i.
  • Singular noun is used after a numeral above ten: *He has eleven cousin.
Verbs and verbals
  • No equivalent of do: *You have a brother? 41c.
  • No verb be in present tense: *They going to the movies. Where the post office?" 38c.
  • No modal verbs. 61b.
  • No gerund or infinitive forms. 61.
  • Perspective of tense and time is very different from English. 41d.
  • Past perfect is formed with be: *They were eat. 41d, 41f.
  • Reported speech retains tense of original: *She said she is leaving. 41i.
  • Simple present tense covers meaning of simple and progressive in English: *She working now. *She working every day. 41e.
Adjectives and adverbs
  • Adjectives occur after noun: *a book interesting long. 45f.
  • No indefinite article: *He is student. 60.
  • Definite article is used for days of the week, some months, some place names, and in many idiomatic expressions: *He went to the Peru. *He is still in the bed. 60f.

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