Arabic—Tunisian Dialect

Relative clauses in TCA

Like many of the grammatical concepts already discussed in this section on TCA, the relative clause in TCA is simpler than the relative clause in MSA. When forming a relative clause with a definite antecedent, MSA uses different relative pronouns depending on the gender and number of the antecedent. In Tunisian Arabic, there is only one relative pronoun: إلي. This pronoun is used with all genders and numbers, and for both animate and inanimate antecedents. This is similar to the English relative pronoun that as in: “She is the woman that I met at the symposium” or “Those are the stones that I quarried yesterday.”

Key concepts:

Note that إلي  is only used when the antecedent is definite. If the antecedent is indefinite, no relative pronoun is used.

Also note that, in Arabic, the object of a verb or preposition must be explicitly stated. In English we might say, “This is the ball that I threw,” but in Arabic, this doesn’t make sense. “Threw” must take an object in Arabic. So instead we say “This is the ball that I threw it.” This doesn’t make sense in English, but inserting the pronoun “it” is critical in Arabic (both in dialect and in MSA).

Forming relative clauses with a definite antecedent

When the antecedent is definite, we simply use إلي to signal the relative clause.

Here are some examples of relative clauses with definite antecedents:


تعرف الاديب الي كتب الكتاب هذا.

“She knows the author who wrote this book.”


شنوا اسم الجامعة الي تخرجت منها؟

“What is the name of the university that you graduated from?”

Note here that, unlike English, in Arabic, if the antecedent is an object of a verb or preposition in the relative clause, a pronoun referring back to the antecedent is inserted within the clause. So although we translate the clause “the university that you graduated from,” in Arabic we say “the university that you graduated from it


.هاذا الفيلم الي حكيت عليه.

“This is the film that I was talking about.”

Like in the example above, a pronoun is inserted to refer back to the antecedent. So literally the sentence is “this is the film that I was talking about it.”

Forming relative clauses with a indefinite antecedent

In order to form a relative clause with an indefinite antecedent, we simply insert the relative clause after the antecedent, with no relative pronoun. Also though this is very simple, it may be more confusing for native English speakers.


.عندي صاحب يحكي بالعربي بلڤدا

“I have a friend [who] speaks Arabic well.”


.نعرف حانوت يبيع باطاطا

“I know a shop [that] sells potatoes.”


عندك اي كتب تحب تبيعها؟

“Do you have any books [that] you want to sell?”

Literally “Do you have any books [that] you want to sell them?”


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