Extending the Subject of an Arabic Sentence by use of Adjectives

In this lesson we are going to talk about why you would augment the subject of your sentence with adjectives. This is called extension by وصف

1. To Be Explicit

The first reason for expanding the subject by use of adjectives is to make its meaning very explicit

For example, we can say: The funny comedian evoked many laughs. 

The subject is “the funny comedian”. But the adjective “funny”, seems almost superfluous because the term “comedian” already indicates on being funny. Yet we add this description for increased conspicuousness

Another example is where I might say: The Maple Leafs hockey team really stinks. 

It is enough for me to just say: “The Maple Leafs”, and people will probably understand that I am talking about the hockey team. But I explicitly mentioned that they are a hockey team, if in case I am talking to someone not familiar with hockey or something. 

2. To Be Specific

The next reason is to make the subject more specific and avoid any ambiguity

For example, we can say: Zaid the scholar accompanied us. 

By taking the person’s name, we are already being very specific. But by adding the description: “the scholar”, we are avoiding reference to anybody else who may also have the name “Zaid”. 

And notice that this is different from the hockey team example. With the hockey team, I am defining what I mean when I say “The Maple Leafs”. But with “the scholar”, I am not defining “Zaid”, I am pinpointing “Zaid”. 

3. To Honour and Praise

The third reason for extending the subject by use of adjectives and descriptions is to honour and embellish the subject. 

For example: My darling mother wakes me up for Fajr every morning. 

Expanding “my mother” by saying “darling” was done for praise and honour

4. To Dishonour and Humiliate 

The next reason is the opposite, not for honour and praise, but for dishonour and humiliation

For example: My idiot brother won’t wake up even if he is drowning. 

5. To Stress

The next reason for extending the subject with adjectives and descriptions is to stress it. 

For example: Yesterday that passed was a horrible day. 

The subject is “Yesterday that passed”. 

But “yesterday” is already known as having passed, by definition. The point of saying “that passed” is to stress the fact that the events of yesterday, which were horrible, are now a thing of the past, and so the speaker is showing joy and a satisfaction

6. To Explain 

The final reason for extending the subject with adjectives and descriptions is to explain what you mean by the subject. 

For example, Allah says: 

Extension by wasf in Arabic

When we say دابّة (animal), clearly, we already know it lives on land. And when we say طائر (bird), clearly, we know it flies with its two wings. But part of the reason for adding these seemingly superfluous descriptions is to show that what is meant by دابّة and طائر, is the entire category. Thus, emphasizing the all-encompassing nature of these words. It is like saying: “There is no force on Earth that can reckon with him”. So clearly, any force that would reckon with him would be on Earth anyway. So why would you even say “any force on Earth”? The reason is to make sure that the subject is absolutely all-encompassing