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Prepositions are non-nouns that are always the head of a genitive structure.

Prepositions are known in Arabic as حروف جرّ (i.e. genitive particles). As their name in Arabic suggests, they instantiate the genitive case. Because of this, pronouns that follow prepositions are in their clitic form. Many prepositions have distinct host forms to hold clitics:

Prepositions are a semi-closed category; different regions may have alternatives for these terms. Prepositions include the following terms & their variants:

inventory

prepositions
بـ
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in, inside
لـ
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belonging to; by
من
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from
عن
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about
على
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to, into, toward
عند
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at
زي
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like, as
مثل
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like, as
مع
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with
بلا
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without
بدون
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without
بدل
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instead of
ضدّ
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against
قبل
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before; (time) ago
بعد
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after; (time) in
فوق
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up, over, above, on top
تحت
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down, under, below, underneath
جنب
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beside, next to
بين
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between
ورا
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behind
قدّام
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in front of
قبال
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facing, across from
حوالي
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around, surrounding
جوّا
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inside
برّا
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outside
خلال
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through
لحدّ
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until
عشان
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because, since
بخصوص
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as for, regarding, with regard to
بالنسبة لـ
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as for, regarding, with regard to
special prepositions
كـ
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as
حسب
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according to

Prepositions & Verbs

Generally speaking, Arabic is very literal in its use of prepositions. Sometimes, though, certain prepositions are used — namely with verbs — in a way that doesn't translate very well into English. These usages may be divided into three categories:

  1. Verbal Prepositions are prepositions used as verbs.
  2. Prepositional Verbs are combinations of verbs & prepositions that have idiomatic meanings.
  3. Prepositional Patient Markers are prepositions used to indicate the semantic patient of a verb.

Verbal Prepositions

See the copula & pseudo-verbs. Some prepositions are used as verbs with idiomatic meanings; they are a subset of prepositional verbs formed specifically by attaching prepositions to the null copula.

I have a friend in London

Prepositional Verbs

Some verbs convey distinct idiomatic meanings when paired with certain prepositions. Since these multi-term verbs cannot be broken down into individual parts, a preposition in this case cannot be analyzed as a unit with its own independent meaning.

ردّ (على)
to reply (to)
ردّ على
to obey, to do as (someone) says
he replied to the message
ردّ على
3M.obeyed
أهله
his-parents
he obeyed his parents

Patient Markers

A handful of prepositions are used to indicate the semantic direct or indirect patient of an action. Each one conveys a different relationship of the action & its patient; i.e. whether someone benefitted from it, suffered from it, etc. Sometimes these prepositions build new idiomatic meanings.

على

Indicates the sufferer of an action over which the sufferer has no control or influence.

he missed out on it
حكى
3M.spoke
عليه
(against-him)
he backstabbed him

It is sometimes an exact antonym of لـ (la-), which indicates the beneficiary of an action, although both may translate as "for" in English.

إفتح
2M.open
طريق
road
لـ
for
سيّارة الإسعاف
the-ambulance
clear a way for the ambulance
ما
don't
تسكّر
2M.close
الطريق
the-road
عليه
(against)
سيّارة الإسعاف
the-ambulance
don't cut off the ambulance

لـ

Indicates the recipient or beneficiary of an action. This is usually understood as an indirect object marker, but it should be noted that it may be used with practically any verb.

مع

indicates the recipient of an action; it refers to the person or thing that is affected by the occurrence of an action that is deemed to have happened automatically or uncontrollably (usually an intransitive verb). هاذا اللي طلع معك؟ In contrast, the referent of مع (maʕ “with”) carries out the action alongside the subject.

بـ

In addition to being an instrumental preposition, بـ (b-) indicates the semantic direct object of an intransitive verb. While its use as an instrumental preposition indicates what is used to carry out the action, this sense indicates the target or location of the action.

It focuses on the doer of the action over the object, giving the sense that the action is not instantaneous, but rather is a continuous process for which the semantic object was used.

صوّر
to take a picture
صوّرها
3M.photographed-her
he took a picture of her
صوّر
3M.photographed
فيها
her
he took pictures of her
فكّر
(intransitive) to think
فكّر
(ditransitive) to consider (someone a certain way)
فكّر
3M.thought
فيه
him
he thought about him
فكّره
3M.thought-him
منيح
to
he considered him good
مسك
(intransitive) to hold on
مسك
(transitive) to grab
إمسك
2M.hold on
فيه
it
hold onto it
إمسكه
2M.grab-it
grab it
1. (instrumental preposition; marks the thing used to carry out an action) by, using, by means of. أنا بروح عالشغل كل يوم بالبسكليت مش ضروريّ تسكّر الباب بالقفل 1. (mark ) with صارلك ساعة وإنتا بتلعب بشواربك