Adverbials of Place and Time in Arabic Language

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

When we speak about Zarf AL-makaan or Az-zamaan in Arabic ظَرْف المَكان/ ظَرْف الزَّمان, Zarf literally denotes a vessel or container, which contains something; therefore it is the container where or when the verb takes place. So, Zarf Al-Makaan is the place where the verb happens (Where/ which direction, etc.; the place of doing the verb...), and Zarf Az-zamman is the time when the verb happens (When/ What time...). In this lesson we will get introduced to both, including some examples and grammatical tips.

Zarf Al-makaan or the adverbial of place has to imply a non-specific place versus specific. For example, when we say the man is in front of the house: .الرّجل أمامَ البيت, although we said in front of, it is not very specific. On the other hand, when we say: .الرّجل في البيت or .الرّجل في المَدْرَسَة; The man is in the house, or the man is in the school; we implied a very specific location: the house and the school, and we use the aid of a particle of Jarr حرف الجرّ, in this case في.

This condition is not true for Zarf Al-Zamaan, which can be specific or non-specific:

جَلَسَ الأُسْتاذُ في الصَّفِّ ساعةً/ جَلَسَ الأُسْتاذُ في الصَّفِ وَقْتاً.

The teacher sat in the class for an hour/ The teacher sat in the class for a period of time (an hour: specific/ a period of time: non-specific time).

Examples of adverbials of place/ Zarf Al-Makaan/ similar to some prepositions in English language:

أمامَ: جَلَسَ الطّالِبُ أمامَ الأستاذِ.

The student sat in-front of the teacher.

خَلْفَ: مَشى الطِّفْلُ خَلْفَ أُمِّهِ. .The child walked behind his mother

قُدَّامَ: مَشى الحارِسُ قُدَّامَ المَلِكِ. .The guard walked in-front of the king

وَرَاءَ: وَقَف المُصلُّون و راءَ الإِمام. .Those praying stood behind the Imam

فوقَ: الكِتابُ فوقَ الطّاولةِ.

The book is on the table.

تَحْتَ: الفَأْرُ تَحْتَ الطّاوِلَةِ. .The mouse is under the table

مَعَ: مَشَت مهى مَعَ سارة. .Maha walked with Sarah

"لَا تَحْزَنْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَنَا "


“Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us.”

إزاءَ: بَيْتُنا إزاءَ المَتْجَر.

Our house is in-front of/ next to/ in the direction of the shop.

حِذاءَ: بَيْتي يِحِذاءِ بَيْتِك. .My house is next to/ close to/ facing/ beside/ alongside of/ near your house

تِلْقَاءَ: جَلَسْتُ تِلْقَاءَكَ. .I sat facing/ in-front/ opposite of you

ثَمَّ: "وأَزْلَفْنَا ثَمَّ الآخرِين".


"And We advanced thereto the pursuers."


denotes a distant or far place, whether real or abstract

"وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ ثَمَّ رَأَيْتَ نَعِيماً وَمُلْكاً كَبِيراً"

Al-Insan, 76vs20;

"And when thou lookest, it is there thou wilt see a Bliss and a Realm Magnificent. "

" Allah says,

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ ...

And when you look,

meaning, `when you see it, O Muhammad.'

... ثَمَّ ...


meaning, there.

This refers to Paradise and its beauty, its vastness, its loftiness and the joy and happiness it contains."

هُنَا: جَلَسْتُ هُنا. .I sat here

More examples:

قُرْبَ = near

خِلالَ = through

حَوْلَ = around

ناحِيَةَ = towards

Others: right and left: يمِين وشِمَال,

east and west: شَرْق وغرب

The typical grammatical infliction of an adverbial of place or Zarf Al-makaan is as follows:

ظرف مكان منصوب وعلامة نصبه الفتحة.

Adverbial of time; in the accusative case, marked with Fatha; (is also Mudaaf).

The noun after or attached pronoun (for example= عندي) is the mudaaf ilayh; ; in the genitive case.

الكِتابُ فَوْقَ الطّاوِلَةِ.

Taawila or table is the mudaaf ilayh after Fawka or on top of/ on; is in the genitive case, marked with kasra.

Note: Most Zarf Al-makaan have a fixed ending i.e. "Mabniyy"; while some are "Mu'rab" and can have different case endings.

*To learn more about prepositions used in Arabic language review this detailed lesson with a free eBook and video, plus workbook to practice (Click Here).

You can also watch this video about equivalents of English prepositions in Arabic. (Click here to externally open in YouTube)

Examples of adverbials of time/ Zarf Az-zamaan:

لَيْلاً = at night

وَصَلَ مِنَ السَّفَرِ لَيْلاً. .He arrived back from travel at night

صَباحاً = in the morning

شِتاءً = in winter

صَيْفاً = in summer

يُقامُ المَهْرَجانُ صَيفاً. .The festival is held in the summer

مُتَأَخِّراً = late

مُبْكِراً = early

شَهْراً = a month

أَقامَ في المَدينَةِ شَهْراً. .He stayed in the city for one month

سَنَةً = a year

The typical grammatical infliction of adverbials/ nous of time:

ظَرْف زمان منصوب وعلامة نصبه الفتحة.

Zarf zamaan in the accusative case marked by Fatha.

A famous Arabic poetry verse and idiom by Al-mutanabbee المتنبّي, an influential and prominent Arabic poet from the Islamic golden era says: مَصائِبُ قَوْمٍ عِنْدَ قَوْمٍ فَوائِدُ, meaning one man's loss is another man's gain; or the misfortunes of some people are advantages to others.

Al-mutanabbee is still considered one of the greatest and most eloquent Arabic poets up to date. I used this verse in one of the page's Facebook posts. Let's analyze this poetry verse which also became a common Arabic idiom, and the meanings and usages of عِنْدَ:

مَصائِب = plural noun مُصيبة = misfortune; affliction; woe; trouble etc = singular noun

عِنْدَ = Depending on the meaning can be Zarf AL-makaan or Az-zamaan satisfies the meaning of closeness/ proximity, even for abstract concepts; equivalent of preposition "at" in English وَقَفَ عِنْدَ الباب= .He stood at the door

Zarf Makaan in this example; denoting place . عِنْدَ المَغيب = at sunset