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What is the Differential Alif الألِف الفارِقة or the Silent Alif in Arabic and when to use it?

Learn how and when to use the differential Alif or الألِف الفارِقة in Arabic, sometimes called the silent Alif, in a simple and easy way (Recommended for intermediate learners+)

You may have noticed an additional ALif at the end of some words which is not pronounced, such as: كَتَبوا، شَرِبوا، دَرَسوا [katabuu, sharibuu, darasuu] (they ate, they drank, they studied). This Alif is written but never pronounced and is called الألِف الفارِقَة [al-'Alif al-faariqah] or the differential or silent Alif. Although never pronounced, this Alif has some important duties to fulfill.

Firstly, watch this comprehensive lesson about the subject and preidcate in Arabic المُبْتَدأ والخَبر .


We can conlude from the lesson the following:

1- The differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة always comes with a friend: the و “Waaw” letter, just for a “Wow” impression. ;) كَتَبوا، شَرِبوا، دَرَسوا [katabuu, sharibuu, darasuu] (they ate, they drank, they studied).

2- The differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة is always used with a verb conjugated for هُم [hum; they masculine plural] or أنْتُم [Antum; uou masculine plural] pronouns, never a noun! It loves a crowd! So remember: always comes with a "wow" and a "crowd", i.e. the plural pronoun. For example: هُم كَتَبوا [Hum katabuu, they masculine plural wrote], أنْتُم: لا تَكْتُبوا [Antum, laa taktubuu, You plural masculine don't write].

The differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة

3- The differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة is used to differentiate between the original “Waaw” of a verb and the attached personal pronoun “Waaw” of the plural واو الجَماعَة [waaw al-jamaaʻah]. For example in the following conjugations, the "Waaw" is an original letter belonging the verb دَعا - يَدْعو and not the plural "Waaw" pronoun: أنا أدْعو، نَحْنُ نَدْعو, هُوَ يَدْعو.

The differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة

4- The differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة is used to differentiate between the attached personal pronoun “Waaw” of the plural واو الجَماعَة, which only attaches to a verb,and the “Waaw” of the sound masculine plural. For example: مُعَلِّمو المَدْرَسَة (the school's teacher). The "Waaw" at the end of مُعَلِّمون is that of the sound masculine plural and is not the plural "Waaw" pronoun or واو الجَماعَة [waaw al-jamaaʻah]. *The noun was omitted due to iḑaafah construction الإضافة or noun annexation, but that's a differnet topic :) .

The differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة

And finally a table of conjugation showing the differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة :

The differential Alif الأِلِف الفارِقَة

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