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Grammar In Poetry: الخيل والليل والبيداء تعرفني

In this post, we’re going to look at واو العطف.


The letter و is a conjunction that means “and”. However, عطف plays a particular role in grammar. To understand what this is, let’s look at what عطف actually means.


The root ع-ط-ف is used to convey bending or turning something towards a certain direction. For example, a turn in a road is called انعطاف.


Grammatically, what the و does is that it “turns” or “bends” a word to make it fit the grammatical function of a previously stated word.


Look at this excerpt:


الخيلُ والليلُ والبيداءُ تعرفني

والسيفُ والرمحُ والقرطاسُ والقلمُ


Here’s the literal translation:


The horses and the night and the desert know me

And the sword and the spear and the paper and the pen


The second line seems incomplete, doesn’t it?


However, what this excerpt means is, “The horses and the night and the desert and the sword and the spear and the paper and the pen know me.” The function of the و makes repeating تعرفني unnecessary. The و makes the words that follow it “bend back” to become subjects of the previously stated sentence. And because they are the subjects, the words are in the nominative case.


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