By ArabicTree | June 30, 2007
In Arabic grammar, the harakaat, or vowels that appear on the last word, can be one of three things: damma, kasra, or fatha. Not coincidentally, there are three cases that a word can take: nominative (marfoo’), genitive (majruwr), and accusative (mansoob).
In almost all cases (with only a handful of exceptions), these three cases each map to a different harkaat:
- If the word is nominative (marfoo’), it takes the damma case.
- If the word is genitive (majruwr), it takes the kasra case.
- If the word is accusative (mansoob), it takes the fatha case.
(Words can also end in sukoon, but really, that’s just something you do when you stop on a word when you speak.)
There are exceptions to this, such as words that are mabani; but most of the time, you can look at any word and decide what case it takes. And this helps immensely in understanding and parsing Arabic sentences.
To conclude, ponder the following example: the word kitaab (كِتاب) means “book.” It can take the following forms:
- Kitaabun, with damma, when it’s in the marfoo’ case, OR
- Kitaabin, with kasra, when it’s in the majruwr case, OR
- Kitaaban, with fatha, when it’s in the mansoob case.