What are the best Arabic grammar books?
- Arabic for Nerds 1: 270 Questions about Arabic grammar
- Arabic for Nerds 2: 450 (more) Questions about Arabic Grammar
- ABOUT GRAMMAR (nahw/نحو and sarf/صرف)
- Books written in ENGLISH
- A grammar of the Arabic language by William Wrightl
- Grammar of Classical Arabic by Wolfdietrich Fischer
- Modern Literary Arabic: A Reference Grammar by Ron Buckley
- Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage by Abdul Haleem
- Sibawayhi by M.G. Carter
- Syntax of modern Arabic prose by Vicente Cantarino (3 volumes)
- Books written in GERMAN
- Books written in ARABIC
- Mulakhas Qawa’id al-Lugha al-Arabiyya (ملخص قواعد اللغة العربية) by Fou’ad Nemah (فؤاد نعمة)
- A dictionary of Arabic grammar in charts and tables
- al-Nahw al-Wafi (النحو الوافي) by Abbas Hassan (عباس حسن)
- Dictionary of Arabic Orthography (معجم الإملاء) by Adma Tarabay (أدما طربيه)
- الأخطاء اللغوية الشائعة (common language mistakes) by Mahmoud Gomah (مَحْمُود عَبْد الرّازِق جُمعة)
- ABOUT DIALECTS (Egyptian Arabic)
I have been studying Arabic intensively since 2006 and have also written books myself (Arabic for Nerds) on Arabic grammar. I have several shelves filled with books about Arabic grammar and literature.
On this page I present books that have been very helpful during my years of studies and have a prominent place in my bookshelf. If you can’t find them in your preferred book store, check out this blog post where you can find sellers for Arabic books.
Arabic for Nerds 1: 270 Questions about Arabic grammar
548 pages. 19.99 US-Dollars / £ 15.99. ISBN-13 (paperback): 978-3-9819848-7-3. ISBN-13 (hardcover): 978-3-9819848-2-8
ARABIC FOR NERDS 1 pushes you from the intermediate to the advanced level.
Reading about Arabic grammar is usually as thrilling as reading telephone directories. I used a new approach and have compiled 270 interesting questions drawing from my years of studies in the Arab world to create a colorful journey into Arabic grammar. You can find more information (and the table of contents) here.
Arabic for Nerds 2: 450 (more) Questions about Arabic Grammar
828 pages. 25.99 US-Dollars / £ 21.99. ISBN-13 (paperback): 978-3-9819848-0-4. ISBN-13 (hardcover): 978-3-9819848-1-1
Have you been in the following situation? You know every single word in an Arabic sentence, but you don’t have a clue what the sentence is all about? The painful reason is: you don’t understand the grammar.
ARABIC FOR NERDS 2 will teach you in an entertaining way how to dissect a sentence, how to identify the function of letters, words, and syntax – in short: the I’rab (إِعْراب). I have compiled 450 interesting questions that mainly deal with Arabic grammar(النَّحْوُ). You can find more information (and the table of contents) here.
ABOUT GRAMMAR (nahw/نحو and sarf/صرف)
I am not a big fan of the Western approach of teaching Arabic. I have only studied Arabic in Arabic and in Arab countries.
In fact, in my own books, I try to build a bridge between both worlds since I am convinced that the Latin/Greek approach of Western authors is not deep enough and sometimes even not entirely correct. Nevertheless, there is some good stuff available!
Books written in ENGLISH
A grammar of the Arabic language by William Wrightl
ISBN: 978-0486441290. 867 pages. Publisher: Dover Publications. You will find several other versions as this is an old book and can be reprinted. It costs between 20 and 25 US-Dollars and can be ordered on amazon.
About the author: William Wright (1830 – 1889) was a famous English orientalist and professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge.
About the book: Although this book is quite old already – the first edition was published in 1859 (!) – it is still one of the best works in English on Arabic grammar. It lacks structure and it may be quite difficult to look up things. But it goes very deep and explains things that you won’t find in contemporary works on Arabic grammar. The book is mainly based on a German book by Carl Paul Caspari.
Grammar of Classical Arabic by Wolfdietrich Fischer
ISBN: 978-0300084375. 354 pages. Publisher: Yale University Press. Unfortunately it is very expensive and costs around 50 US-Dollars. You can get it on amazon. The original version was published in German.
About the author: Prof. Wolfdietrich Fischer (1928 – 2013) was a very famous German expert on Arabic grammar of the 20th century.
What I like about the book: This is a concise and well-organized grammar of Arabic (which is one of the few disadvantages of William Wright’s grammar). It gives you an overview and is a good tool for upper beginners and intermediate learners who want to look up certain grammar problems. It is one of the most widespread Arabic grammar books in the West.
But there are also cons: The book often touches only the surface which means if you had only studied that book, you would probably struggle to fully understand the grammar of the Qur’an. Furthermore, unless you are already familiar with certain topics, it is probably too much condensed. Nevertheless, it is one of the better grammar books in English.
Modern Literary Arabic: A Reference Grammar by Ron Buckley
LEVEL: UPPER INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED
ISBN: 978-9953335643. Librairie du Liban (مكتبة لبنان ناشرون). First edition 2004. 1039 pages. Since this book was published in Beirut, it is much cheaper to buy it in the Arab world. However, it is also available at amazon.
About the author: Ron Buckley is a senior lecturer of Arabic at the University of Manchester.
What I like about the book: Although it follows the Western logic (regarding the sentence structure and terms), it is extremely helpful simply because of the abundance of examples takes from contemporary texts. Every sentence is fully vowelled and translated into English. It is really great if you want to check how certain words are used in Arabic. Furthermore, it goes much deeper as most other Arabic grammar books written in English which are usually pretty shallow.
Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage by Abdul Haleem
LEVEL: BEGINNER TO EXPERT
ISBN: 978-9004149489. 1069 pages. Published in 2008 by Brill Academic Pub. Price: USD 354 (!). You can get the book on amazon.
About the author: Muhammad Abdel Haleem was born in Egypt and learned the Qur’an by heart in his childhood. He is a Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London.
Why I like this book: This dictionary is a comprehensive Arabic-English dictionary of words of the Qur’an. It is based on Classical Arabic dictionaries and Qur’an commentaries. It gives the context in which a particular word occurs, with cross-references to other usages. Particles are also explained, insofar as they are used in conveying nuances of meaning in the text. A must-have for everyone who wants to read and understand the meaning of Qur’an. There is only one problem: The book is insanely expensive.
Sibawayhi by M.G. Carter
LEVEL: UPPER BEGINNER
ISBN: 978-1850436713. 176 pages. Published in 2003. Oxford University Press. 15 USD. You can get it on amazon.
About the author: Michael G. Carter has done a lot of research in the field of Arabic grammar and its history and taught at several universities, e.g., at the Center for Medieval Studies at University of Sydney.
What I like about this book: This book gives a short account of the background and life of Sibawayhi, the founder of Arabic grammar. The author also explains some of Sibawayhi’s grammatical ideas. If you want to dive into the history of Arabic grammar, this book is a good and relatively easy start.
Syntax of modern Arabic prose by Vicente Cantarino (3 volumes)
Three volumes in total – ISBN: 978-0253395047 and 978-0253395054 and 9780253395078. Published in the 1970s. Unfortunately, they are difficult to get.
About the author: Vicente Cantarino (1925 – 2017), born in Valencia/Spain, was an expert on Medieval Spain. He taught at several universities in the USA (University of North Carolina, Indiana University, University of Texas in Austin, Ohio State).
Why I like the books: Many textbooks do not teach how Arabic sentences work. Prof. Cantarino has done a good job. In three volumes, he explains the Arabic sentence (though from a mere English perspective). Since he also gives the English translation of each Arabic example, the books are pretty helpful if you start developing a feeling for Arabic (but still need some time to switch to grammar books in Arabic).
Books written in GERMAN
Syntax der Arabischen Schriftsprache der Gegenwart (Syntax of contemporary written Arabic)
Published by H. El-Ayoubi, Wolfdietrisch Fischer and Michael Langer
LEVEL: UPPER INTERMEDIATE
There are three parts: you can get all of them on amazon.
About the author: Wolfdietrich Fischer from Germany (1928-2013) was an authority of the grammar of Classical Arabic.
What I like about the books: The authors produced a ground-breaking work. They have updated all available resources and present a Panoptikum of the Arabic syntax. There is a bit too much Latin in the explanations; nevertheless, some parts are also understandable for intermediate students. If you are into grammar and morphology, it is a very good and up-to-date reference work.
Four books were planned, however, since one of the main contributors, Wolfdietrich Fischer, died in 2013 and since a lack of funding, part four was not published. It should have dealt with particles.
Unfortunately, the books are very expensive (this has become a habit when professors write books) and the layout is quite banal and poor.
- Book one deals with the noun (568 pages, 68 Euros): ISBN 9783895002205
- Book two (part 1) deals with pronouns, adverbs and prepositions (632 pages, 98 Euros): ISBN 9783895003585
- Book two (part 2) deals with the verb (588 pages, 98 Euros): ISBN 9783895007446
Arabisches Lexikon der Verb- und Satzlehre by Seif el-Dine Chehade
ISBN 978-3-941878-00-6. Verlag S. Chehade. 709 pages. Approx. 25 Euros. Published in 2005. You can order it on amazon .
About the author: Seif el-Dine lives in Aachen, Germany.
What I like about the book: This book analyzes the conjugation of the Arabic verb stems in detail. It contains 277 conjugation patterns and includes the most important Arabic verbs (all of them are fully vowelled). Furthermore, the author gives many examples and explains the most important Arabic sentence structures (he uses the Western logic). Nevertheless, the book is very helpful if you quickly want to check the conjugation of a verb.
Arabische Syntax by Hermann Reckendorf
ISBN 978-1987694031. First published in 1921. 578 pages. There are several reprints available. You can get it on amazon. Approx. 19.99 Euros.
About the author: Hermann Reckendorf (1863 – 1924) grew up in Heidelberg in Germany. He was an Orientalist and Arabist and later worked as a professor at the University of Leipzig in Germany.
What I like about the book: This book explains many fine points of Arabic sentences.
It is pretty academic but since it gives many examples, you will get a good idea about particles and where to proper put certain elements of a sentence.
Books written in ARABIC
Mulakhas Qawa’id al-Lugha al-Arabiyya (ملخص قواعد اللغة العربية) by Fou’ad Nemah (فؤاد نعمة)
LEVEL: UPPER BEGINNER/INTERMEDIATE
In my copy of the book I couldn’t find a ISBN. It was first published in 1973. The book roughly costs 7 US-Dollars. Around 400 pages. The author has published it himself: المكتب العلمي للتأليف والترجمة
About the author: Fouad Nemah graduated in 1958 from Cairo University. Later, he was the general manager at the National Bank of Egypt (مدير عام بالبنك الأهلي المصري) and then started his own business as a translator and publisher.
What I like about the book: This was my main grammar book during my first three years of Arabic studies. It helped me a lot. The author covers the major topics of Nahw (grammar) and Sarf (morphology) and uses simple examples to illustrate grammatical problems. But you should be familiar with the grammar terms in Arabic.
A dictionary of Arabic grammar in charts and tables
معجم قواعد اللغة العربية في جداول ولوحات by Antoine el-Dahdah (أبو فارس الدحداح)
LEVEL: UPER INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED
ISBN: 978-995-33-3350-2. Around 330 pages. Publisher: Librairie du Liban (مكتبة لبنان ناشرون). It is available at amazon (but usually a bit overpriced)
What I like about the book: It is one of my favorite grammar books for one reason: you can find answers very fast. The tables are simply great and helpful (I have to admit that I like tables ;-). The author covers all topics of nahw and some stuff related to sarf. A warning: The cover has an English translation of the Arabic title – however, the book is entirely in Arabic!
al-Nahw al-Wafi (النحو الوافي) by Abbas Hassan (عباس حسن)
LEVEL: ADVANCED, NATIVE
ISBN: 978-9770286647 (but watch out: there are usually four volumes!). Publisher: دار المعارف, Cairo. 2,082 pages. Price: If you buy it in the Arab world, you will have to spend around 25 US-Dollar for the entire work (four volumes)
About the author: Abbas Hassan (1901 – 1979) was born in Munufiyya in Egypt and later became a highly distinguished professor at Cairo University and also a member of the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo (مجمع اللغة العربية بالقاهرة).
What I like about the book: Arabic syntax is presented according to the levels of learners. There are many examples and proofs from the Qur’an and poems for advanced learners. In the book, only the original grammatical terms are used. In my opinion, the four volumes present the full extent of Arabic grammar.
REMARK: On the Google Play store you can download an app which contains all four volumes! (Disclaimer: Since it is listed on the official Google store, I guess it is legal to download it as I am totally against product piracy)
Dictionary of Arabic Orthography (معجم الإملاء) by Adma Tarabay (أدما طربيه)
ISBN: 978-9953863047. 206 pages. First edition published in 2000. Publisher: Librairie du Liban (مكتبة لبنان ناشرون). Price: around 20 US-Dollars.
About the author: Adma was born in Lebanon and later worked in teaching and translation.
What I like about the book: If you want to understand all details about the correct spelling of the Hamza or the Aleph, then this is your book.
الأخطاء اللغوية الشائعة (common language mistakes) by Mahmoud Gomah (مَحْمُود عَبْد الرّازِق جُمعة)
First published in 2018. 436 pages. Publisher: battana (منشورات بتانة). Around 15 US-Dollars.
What I like about the book: It is interesting to learn about mistakes of native Arabic speakers. They are very different in nature. Mahmoud also explains why certain things are incorrect. It is a great book for Arabic nerds. You can read it on the train or at the beach. Great fun!
ABOUT DIALECTS (Egyptian Arabic)
It is quite difficult to find books on dialects. Most of them only include vocab lists (which makes sense of course because vocab and expressions are crucial in dialects).
The syntax of spoken Arabic by Kristen E. Brustad
LEVEL: UPPER INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED
ISBN 978-0878407897. 442 pages. First published in 2000. Georgetown University Press. Around 50 US-Dollars. It is available on amazon.
About the author: Kristen Brustad is an Associate Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Texas and the co-Author of the textbook “al-Kitaab” which is used by many students in the West.
What I like about the book: For some reason, many Western scholars prefer to write in Latin characters which I personally never understood – however, Kristen does not. She uses the Arabic script (plus transliteration).
The book analyzes different aspects of dialects such as tenses, moods, negation, demonstrative particles, possessive pronouns, etc. If you are not familiar with a certain dialect, you can get a quick overview and compare it to other dialects. But watch out: This book doesn’t each you vocab nor grammar.
The big fat book of Egyptian Arabic verbs by Matthew Aldrich (with Yomna Adly)
LEVEL: UPPER INTERMEDIATE
ISBN 978-0985816094. 550 pages. Publisher: Lingualism. Published in 2016. Price: 34.99 US-Dollars. You can order it on amazon.
What I like about the book: Matthew knows very well what learners of Arabic need and appreciate. He uses the Arabic script plus he gives the transliteration. Furthermore, the examples are recorded and you can download the audio files from his website.
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picture credit: Image by StockSnap from Pixabay