by Ernest N. McCarus
As you progress in your studies of Arabic --- getting to grips with the alphabet and script, memorizing phrases etc --- you will, sooner or later, encounter the need for detailed study of the real rules and structure of the language: the grammar, which really is the framework that underpins everything. I think it is safe to say that formal Arabic grammar is highly complex, albeit there are rules for almost everything; but there are so many rules! And here is where, at least for me, it started to become very difficult to progress beyond the basics of Arabic grammar. Quite simply, I did not know enough about the terminology and concepts of grammar contained in my own language. This was especially true for grammatical structures that don't really exist (to the same extent) in English, such as the case system for Arabic nouns and adjectives.
Unless you are fluent in concepts such as verb conjugation, gender and number agreement, verb moods, case, tense, aspect, accusative, nominative, genitive etc, you will, like me, soon find yourself reaching for your favourite search engine! There are of course innumerable examples and explanations of English grammar on the web but like all web material the quality of writing varies from site-to-site. In my experience, many of the explanations were quite turgid and often littered with even more jargon and buzzwords which really didn't help.
So, in my search for a "grammar bridge" between English and Arabic I was delighted to discover "English Grammar for Students of Arabic" by Ernest N. McCarus. In placing my order, my hope was that the author had not chosen to go down the "linguistic spaghetti" route in the explanations. I was not disappointed because the explanations and examples in this book are absolutely superb: concise but with great clarity.
This slim book of 160 or so pages is split into 48 chapters, so the average chapter length is a little over 3 pages, presenting the material in small digestible chunks. Each chapter has a question as its title, such as "What are objects?", "What is meant by case?" and so forth. Each chapter starts with a clear and concise answer to the question posed by its title, often followed by more detailed explanations. A very useful feature of the book's structure is that the chapters contain two subheadings called "In English" and "In Arabic". The "In English" sections provide additional detail and examples that are often "deconstructed" to explain the topic or concept under discussion. The "In Arabic" sections are exceptionally helpful. These sections contain guidance on the similarities and differences between the topic in English grammar and "the equivalent" topic in Arabic grammar. In addition, the "In Arabic" sections provide detailed analyses of sentence fragments showing and explaining the grammatical role, function and classification of the words in the fragment.
So how would you use this book? A particular strength of this book is that you can easily dip in and out of chapters of interest; you really don't need to read the whole thing in one go. Because the chapters are quite short, often self-contained and with questions for titles, it is very easy to find just what you are looking for. There are plenty of references to other chapters if you need to read some additional material.