Tachelhit Lesson 4: Noun States and Asking Directions

Here is a dialogue of a man asking directions to the city of Tafraoute. Read it and try to figure out the words you don’t know. Play the above video for audio.

Ali: -manigh illa ugharas n-Tafraoute i-Rbbi?

argaz: -amZ agharas afasi.

Ali: -akk issrbH rbbi a gwma.

argaz: -mani ygan tamazirt? Tiznit?

Ali: -uhu, Agadir.

argaz: -yak! dari yat illi tzdgh gh-Ugadir.

Ali: -ifulki, ma tskar?

argaz: -txdm gh-nsbiTar.


An element of Tachelhit important to understand early on is the state of attachment, in which some nouns change their sound depending on whether they’re grammatically isolated. I promise it isn’t as confusing as it sounds:

In the above dialog, Ali asks,

manigh illa ugharas n-Tafraoute i-Rbbi?

“Where is the road of Tafraoute, please?”

The man (argaz) responds,

amZ agharas afasi

“Take the road [on the] right.”

The word for ‘road’ is agharas. But when Ali asks about the road of Tafraoute, then the noun agharas takes on the state of attachment — i.e. it is attached to another element of the sentence. So it changes its initial vowel, and becomes ugharas.

This can even apply to placenames When asked if he comes from Tiznit, Ali responds,

uhu, Agadir

“no, [I’m from] Agadir”

The man then says,

yak! dari yat illi tzdgh gh-Ugadir.

“Really! I have (dari) a daughter (yat illi) she lives (tzdgh) in Agadir.

In summary: The state of attachment causes a change in the initial syllable of nouns which start with a vowel or with the feminine marker -t.

For masculine nouns, this mostly applies to nouns that start with the letter a, which in most cases transforms to u.

argaz (man) –> urgaz

yan argaz “one man”

For certain nouns, the vowel transforms to wa.

asif (river) –> wasif

For feminine nouns that start with ta or ti, those vowels disappear in the state of attachment:

tamghart (woman) –> tmghart

tigmmi (house) –> tgmmi


yan argaz “a man”

yat tigmmi “a house”

yan urgaz illa gh tgmmi “a man is in the house”

These nouns don’t change when they are used as isolated words, or when they function as the direct object:

Zrigh argaz            I saw the man

Zrigh tamghart    I saw the woman

These examples illustrate the detached form of nouns. But the attached state applies in most cases! So you should familiarize yourself with both forms of a noun when you learn it.

OK, we’re done talking about that. Let’s learn some prepositions, and ask where some stuff is.

-Preposition n- + masculine noun: agharas n-Ugadir “the road of/to Agadir”

Complete the following sentences using the word in parentheses:

  1. agharas n- (Agadir)
  2. agharas n- (adrar, mountains) 
  3. agharas n- (aDwwar, village)
  4. agharas n- (asif, river)
  5. agharas n- (Tiznit)
  6. agharas n- (Taroudant)
  7. agharas n- (tigmmi, house)
  8. agharas n- (taghart, beach)

Answers: 1. agharas n-Ugadir 2. agharas n-udrar, 3. agharas n-uDwwar 4. agharas n-wasif 5. agharas n-Tznit 6. agharas n-Troudant 7. agharas n-tgmmi 8. agharas n-taghart (taghart is one example of a word that doesn’t change — but if in doubt about a word, assume it does change.)

Remember ili, the verb meaning “to be in a place, to exist”? We use that to ask where something or someone is:

manigh illa…? “where is (masc.)…?”

mani = “where”, –gh = “in, at”

illa = masc. singular

tlla = fem. singular


  1. manigh illa Idris?
  2. manigh tlla Zinb?
  3. manigh illa Mohammed?
  4. manigh tlla Fatim?

This sentence puts the subject in a state of attachment.

  1. manigh illa ugharas?
  2. manigh illa uDwwar?
  3. manigh tlla tgmmi?
  4. manigh tlla tmghart?
  5. manigh illa unZar? (anZar, rain)

Note: only nouns starting with a vowel or with the feminine marker t- are subject to the state of attachment. Others, which tend to be loanwords from Arabic and French, (lbusTa, post office, lbanka, bank) never change.

  1. manigh tlla lbusta?
  2. manigh tlla lbanka?


Left and Right

afasi            right

aZlmad       left

amZ agharas aZlmad “take the road on the left.”

tgmmi tlla afasi “the house is on the right”

This lesson reviewed a lot of what I’ve covered in previous posts, but that’s a good thing. By now you should be comfortable with the basics of the language.

Finally, here’s that dialogue from the beginning with translations. Remember the video up top with the dialogue audio!

Ali: -manigh illa ugharas n-Tafraoute i-Rbbi?

        Where is the road to Tafraoute, please?

argaz: -amZ agharas afasi.

Take the road on the right.

Ali: -akk issrbH rbbi a gwma.

Thank you, brother (Note: a is always used when addressing someone, whether by name or title — like saying “greetings, o Ali!”)

argaz: -mani ygan tamazirt? Tiznit?

where are you from (lit. where is your country?) Tiznit?

Ali: -uhu, Agadir.

No, Agadir

argaz: -yak! dari yat illi tzdgh gh-Ugadir.

Really! I have a daughter who lives in Agadir.

Ali: -ifulki, ma tskar?

Neat, what does she do?

argaz: -txdm gh-nsbiTar.

She works in a hospital.

Next lesson: Noun genders


One thought on “Tachelhit Lesson 4: Noun States and Asking Directions

  1. Pingback: Noun Genders in Tachelhit | Appalachia, Insha'Allah

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