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An innovation first attested in Old Arabic, derived from the root ء ي ء(ʾ-y-ʾ), originally a vocative word used to call to someone, to direct their attention; see also إياك.


إِيَّا (ʾiyyā)

  1. particle attached to oblique pronoun forms when they are not attached to the verb or preposition governing them
    • 609–632 CE, Qur'an, 1:5:
      إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
      ʾiyyāka naʿbudu waʾiyyāka nastaʿīnu
      Thee do we worship; and unto Thee do we turn for aid.

Usage notesEdit

Arabic personal pronouns are suffixes, not complete words in their own right, except in the subject form. Because of this, Arabic grammar does not allow them to stand independently in a sentence; they must be attached to a "carrier" word. Normally, object pronouns immediately follow the verb, preposition, or particle governing them, and thus in the overwhelming majority of the time, this governing verb, preposition, or particle is also the "carrier" of the pronoun suffix. However, these object pronouns may be separated from the governing word for any of a number of reasons, in which case إِيَّا(ʾiyyā) must be employed as a generic "carrier" word:

  1. to delay the verb until after the object pronoun is introduced, usually to emphasize the pronoun (similarly to Chinese ())
    • 609–632 CE, Qur'an, 1:5:
      إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
      ʾiyyāka naʿbudu waʾiyyāka nastaʿīnu
      Thee do we worship; and unto Thee do we turn for aid.
      Without إِيَّا(ʾiyyā), the pronouns would have to follow the verbs, and it would simply say نَعْبُدُكَ وَنَسْتَعِينُكَ(naʿbuduka wanastaʿīnuka, We worship Thee and turn to Thee for aid).
  2. to introduce a second object pronoun, when the other object pronoun is already attached to the verb, preposition, or particle
    • 7th century CE, 'The Quran'[1]:
      وَمَا كَانَ ٱسْتِغْفَارُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ إِلَّا عَنْ مَوْعِدَةٍ وَعَدَهَا إِيَّاهُ‎‎
      wamā kāna stiḡfāru ʾibrāhīma liʾabīhi ʾillā ʿan mawʿidatin waʿadahā ʾiyyāhu
      And Abraham prayed for his father's forgiveness only because of a promise he had made to him.
      Arabic grammar requires that the object of a relative clause be restated with a redundant pronoun, so the sentence literally reads "about a promise he made it (to) him"; the indirect object ("him", i.e. Abraham's father) therefore requires إِيَّا(ʾiyyā) to carry it, as وَعَدَ(waʿada) is already carrying the relative pronoun referring back to the promise.
    • أَعْطِيتُهُ السَّيَّارَةَ
      ʾaʿṭītuhu s-sayyārata
      I gave him the car.
    • أَعْطِيتُهُ إِيَّاهَا
      ʾaʿṭītuhu ʾiyyāhā
      I gave him it.
  3. to state the object of a verb, preposition, or particle that is elided or understood from context
    • 7th century CE, 'The Quran'[2]:
      أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوٱ إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ‎‎
      ʾamara ʾallā taʿbudū ʾillā ʾiyyāhu
      He has ordained that you should worship nought but Him (literally, "He has ordained that you should not worship except Him").
      إِلَّا(ʾillā, except, but) functions as a conjunction, not a preposition; the implied sentence is أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوٱ إِلَّا تَعْبُدُوهُ(ʾamara ʾallā taʿbudū ʾillā taʿbudūhu, He has ordained that you should not worship except [that you worship] Him), but the repeated verb تَعْبُدُوٱ(taʿbudū) is elided the second time. The remaining pronoun requires إِيَّا(ʾiyyā) since the verb to which it would have been attached is gone.
    • 7th century CE, 'The Quran'[3]:
      وَإِنَّا أَوْ إِيَّاكُمْ لَعَلَىٰ هُدًى أَوْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ
      waʾinnā ʾaw ʾiyyākum laʿalā hudan ʾaw fī ḍalālin mubīnin
      And, behold, either we or you are on the right path, or have clearly gone astray!
      Because أَوْ(ʾaw, or) is a conjunction, it cannot carry an object pronoun. إِيَّا(ʾiyyā) provides a carrier for the second pronoun, as an alternative to repeating إِنَّ(ʾinna, indeed; behold) (إِنَّا أَوْ إِنَّكُم(ʾinnā ʾaw ʾinnakum)).


See alsoEdit