Ezafe is the short vowel “ ِ ” (pronounced similar to the letter "e" in English "ten") used as a linking word between two nouns (or pronouns). It is rarely written but always pronounced. The ezafe expresses different relations between words:
Adjectives are linked to their noun using an ezafe. Unlike English, the noun precedes its adjective in Persian.
happy old woman
sad old man
When the noun ends with a vowel, another letter or sound should step between the ezafe and the noun to prevent the two vowels being pronounced right after each other. This letter is “ی”, which in this position, should be pronounced like the letter “y” in the English word “yes”.
The letter “ی” in this case is always pronounced but not always written. In fact, writing it as a separate letter is a very new standard and is only common in Iran. The conventional way is to simply avoid writing it.
An adjective can follow a singular or plural noun. As in English, the adjective stays in single form when the noun becomes plural. One noun can take one or more adjectives.
شهرهای بزرگ کثیف
dirty big cities
As you see in the above example, the letter “ی” is used here again to link two vowels together.
As in English, the word “و”, meaning “and”, can come to attribute more than one adjective to a noun or more than one noun to an adjective:
خانههای بزرگ و تمیز
شهرها و روستاهای قشنگ
big and clean houses
beautiful cities and villages
Notice that the word “و” can be read both as “o” and “va”, but the latter sounds rather formal.
The ezafe is used for indicating possession as well. The possessor follows the possessed.
If any of the words has adjectives, its adjectives come right after it.
درخت بزرگ باغ
درخت باغ بزرگ
The garden's big tree
The big garden's tree
Place and Direction
Many of the words indicating place and direction are followed by an ezafe when preceding a noun.
on the table
above the clouds
inside the city
under the bed
below the hill
outside the room
The following are just some examples of other situations where the ezafe is used.