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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.
چیز خوب
روز بلند
شهر بزرگ
اسم قشنگ
روز گرم
اتاق تمیز
سرباز قوی
پیرزن خوشحال
سال نو
good thing
long day
big city
beautiful name
warm day
clean room
strong soldier
happy old woman
new year
پسر بد
فیلم کوتاه
لامپ کوچک
موجود زشت
شب سرد
پول کثیف
تیم ضعیف
پیرمرد ناراحت
لباس کهنه
bad boy
short film
small lamp
ugly creature
cold night
dirty money
weak team
sad old man
old clothes
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”.
خانه‌ی ساکت
هفته‌ی بعد
silent house
next week
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 practice and is only common by some members of the younger generation in Iran.
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.
مردان بزرگ
شهرهای بزرگ کثیف
great men
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 too formal.
The ezafe is used for indicating possession as well. The possessor follows the possessed.
کتاب علی
خانه‌ی ما
Ali's book
Our house
دوست مریم
چشم‌های من
Maryam's friend
My eyes
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.
روی میز
بالای ابرها
توی شهر
on the table
above the clouds
inside the city
زیر تخت
پایین تپّه
بیرون اتاق
under the bed
below the hill
outside the room
Other Usages
The following are just some examples of other situations where the ezafe is used.
ماه بهمن
شهر تهران
the month of Bahman
the city of Tehran
میدان آزادی
خانم ناصری
Azadi square
Ms. Nasseri