The genitive construct and other ways to express possession in Egyptian Arabic

The genitive construct

In Arabic, two nouns can be placed one after the other in what is called a genitive construct (الإضافة) to indicate possession. First comes the noun being possessed (المضاف), then comes the noun referring to the owner (المضاف اليه). For example:

كتاب الولد (kitaab il-walad)
the boy's book

اسم البنت (ism il-bint)
the girl's name

مدينة القدس (mediinat il-'uds)
the city of Jerusalem

بنت عمي (bint 3ammi)
my cousin (paternal uncle's daughter)

If المضاف ends in a taa' marbuuTa, then the end of that word will be pronounced -it instead of -a.

أوضة أختي (ooDit oxti)
my sister's room

عربية نبيلة (3arabiyyit Nabiila)
Nabila's car

صورة صاحبي (Suurit SaHbi)
my friend's picture

شقة نجوى (ša''it Nagwa)
Nagwa's apartment

In Egyptian Arabic, المضاف must be indefinite, but المضاف اليه may be definite or indefinite.

كتاب الولد (kitaab il-walad)
the boy's book

كتاب حسن (kitaab Hasan)
Hasan's book

كتاب ولد (kitaab walad)
a boy's book

Whether an adjective modifies المضاف or المضاف اليه, it will come at the very end, after المضاف اليه. As usual, it will agree in gender, number, and definiteness with the noun it modifies.

كتاب البنت الطويلة (kitaab il-bint iT-Tawiila)كتاب البنت الطويل (kitaab il-bint iT-Tawiil)
the tall girl's bookthe girl's long book
كتاب بنت طويل (kitaab bint Tawiil)كتاب بنت طويلة (kitaab bint Tawiila)
a girl's long booka tall girl's book

But sometimes, if both المضاف or المضاف اليه are the same gender and number, there can be confusion over what noun is being modified by the adjective, as with this phrase:

كتاب الولد الطويل (kitaab il-walad iT-Tawiil) - does this mean "the tall boy's book" or "the boy's long book"?

Fortunately, Egyptian Arabic has a solution for this kind of ambiguity: use of the بتاع (bitaa3) construction. The word بتاع (female form بتاعة bitaa3a, plural form بتوع bituu3) indicates possession.

الكتاب بتاع الولد الطويل (il-kitaab bitaa3 il-walad iT-Tawiil)
the tall boy's book

الكتاب الطويل بتاع الولد (il-kitaab iT-Tawiil bitaa3 il-walad)
the boy's long book

This construction is also used if you want to modify both terms of the اضافة with adjectives.

الكتاب الطويل بتاع الولد الصغير (il-kitaab iT-Tawiil bitaa3 il-walad iS-Soġayyar)
the little boy's long book

Other ways to express possession

There are also other ways to express possession. Of course, you can use possessive pronouns.

Arabic has no verb for "to have," but you can express this idea with three different prepositions, with possessive pronoun suffixes added:

Here are the "conjugations" of these words:

I haveعندي (3andi)لي (leyya)معايا (ma3aaya)
you (masc. sing.) have     عندك (3andak)لك (lik)معاك (ma3aak)
you (fem. sing.) haveعندك (3andik)لكي (likii)معاكي (ma3aakii)
he hasعنده (3andu)له (luh)معاه (ma3aah)
she hasعندها (3andaha)لها (laha)معاها (ma3aaha)
we haveعندنا (3andena)لنا (lina)معانا (ma3aana)
you (pl.) haveعندكوا (3anduku)لكوا (luku)معاكوا (ma3aaku)
they haveعندهم (3anduhum)     لهم (luhum)     معاهم (ma3aahum)

And here are the negations:

I don't haveماعنديش (ma3andiiš)ماليش (maliiš)مامعيش (mama3iiš)
you (masc. sing.) don't have     ماعندكش (ma3andakš)مالكش (malakš)مامعكش (mam3akš)
you (fem. sing.) don't haveماعندكش (ma3andikiiš)مالكيش (malkiiš)مامعكيش (mam3akiiš)
he doesn't haveماعندهش (ma3anduuš)مالوش (maluuš)مامعهوش (mam3ahuuš)
she doesn't haveماعندهاش (ma3andahaaš)مالهاش (malhaaš)مامعهاش (mam3ahaaš)
we don't haveماعندناش (ma3andenaaš)مالناش (malnaaš)مامعناش (mam3anaaš)
you (pl.) don't haveماعندكوش (ma3andukuuš)مالكوش (malkuuš)مامعكوش (mam3akuuš)
they don't haveماعندهمش (ma3anduhumš)     مالهمش (malhumš)     مامعهمش (mam3ahumš)

To shift into the past tense, you say كان (kaan) or ماكانش (makanš) followed by the preposition + pronoun suffix.

ماكانش عندي فكرة إنه هو اللي عمل كده (makanš 3andi fikra innu howwa lli 3amal kida)
I had no idea that he was the one who did that.

Main grammar page Introduction to the sentence