Arabic Verbs
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Arabic Verbs

Arabic verbs ( fi?l; pl. afl), like the verbs in other Semitic languages, and the entire vocabulary in those languages, are based on a set of two to five (but usually three) consonants called a root (triliteral or quadriliteral according to the number of consonants). The root communicates the basic meaning of the verb, e.g. ?-?-? k-t-b 'write', ?-?-? q-r-? 'read', ?-?-? ?-k-l 'eat'. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as person, gender, number, tense, mood, and voice.

Various categories are marked on verbs:

Weakness is an inherent property of a given verb determined by the particular consonants of the verb root (corresponding to a verb conjugation in Classical Latin and other European languages), with five main types of weakness and two or three subtypes of each type.

Arabic grammarians typically use the root ?-?-? f-?-l to indicate the particular shape of any given element of a verbal paradigm. As an example, the form (root-?-?) yutak?tabu 'he is corresponded (with)' would be listed generically as yutafalu (yuta1?2a3u), specifying the generic shape of a strong Form VI passive verb, third-person masculine singular present indicative.

The maximum possible total number of verb forms derivable from a root -- not counting participles and verbal nouns -- is approximately 13 person/number/gender forms; times 9 tense/mood combinations, counting the ?- sa- future (since the moods are active only in the present tense, and the imperative has only 5 of the 13 paradigmatic forms); times 17 form/voice combinations (since forms IX, XI-XV exist only for a small number of stative roots, and form VII cannot normally form a passive), for a total of 1,989. Each of these has its own stem form, and each of these stem forms itself comes in numerous varieties, according to the weakness (or lack thereof) of the underlying root.

Inflectional categories

Each particular lexical verb is specified by four stems, two each for the active and passive voices. In a particular voice, one stem (the past stem) is used for the past tense, and the other (the non-past stem) is used for the present and future tenses, along with non-indicative moods, e.g. subjunctive and imperative. The past and non-past stems are sometimes also called the perfective stem and imperfective stem, respectively, based on a traditional misinterpretation of Arabic stems as representing grammatical aspect rather than grammatical tense. (Although there is still some disagreement about the interpretation of the stems as tense or aspect, the dominant current view is that the stems simply represent tense, sometimes of a relative rather than absolute nature. There are some unusual usages of the stems in certain contexts that were once interpreted as indicating aspectual distinctions, but are now thought to simply be idiosyncratic constructions that do not neatly fit into any aspectual paradigm.)[]

To the past stem, suffixes are added to mark the verb for person, number and gender, while to the non-past stem, a combination of prefixes and suffixes are added. (Very approximately, the prefixes specify the person and the suffixes indicate number and gender.) A total of 13 forms exist for each of the two stems, specifying person (first, second or third); number (singular, dual or plural); and gender (masculine or feminine).

There are six separate moods in the non-past: indicative, imperative, subjunctive, jussive, short energetic and long energetic. The moods are generally marked by suffixes. When no number suffix is present, the endings are -u for indicative, -a for subjunctive, no ending for imperative and jussive, ? -an for shorter energetic, -anna for longer energetic. When number suffixes are present, the moods are either distinguished by different forms of the suffixes (e.g. -?na for masculine plural indicative vs. -? for masculine plural subjunctive/imperative/jussive), or not distinguished at all. The imperative exists only in the second person and is distinguished from the jussive by the lack of the normal second-person prefix ta-/tu-.

The third person masculine singular past tense form serves as the "dictionary form" used to identify a verb, similar to the infinitive in English. (Arabic has no infinitive.) For example, the verb meaning 'write' is often specified as kataba, which actually means 'he wrote'. This indicates that the past-tense stem is ? katab-; the corresponding non-past stem is -ktub-, as in yaktubu 'he writes'.

Tense

There are three tenses in Arabic: the past tense (? al-m), the present tense ( al-muri?) and the future tense. The future tense in Classical Arabic is formed by adding either the prefix ‏sa- or the separate word ‏sawfa onto the beginning of the present tense verb, e.g. ? sa-yaktubu or sawfa yaktubu 'he will write'.

In some contexts, the tenses represent aspectual distinctions rather than tense distinctions. The usage of Arabic tenses is as follows:

  • The past tense often (but not always) specifically has the meaning of a past perfective, i.e. it expresses the concept of 'he did' as opposed to 'he was doing'. The latter can be expressed using the combination of the past tense of the verb k?na 'to be' with the present tense or active participle, e.g. k?na yaktubu or ? k?na k?tibun 'he was writing'. There are some special verbs known as "compound verbs" that can express many grammatical aspects such as Inchoative, Durative etc., for example ? bad?' yulfitu n-na?ara means "It started to attract attention" which bad?' conveys the meaning of "to start doing something (in the past)"
  • The two tenses can be used to express relative tense (or in an alternative view, grammatical aspect) when following other verbs in a serial verb construction. In such a construction, the present tense indicates time simultaneous with the main verb, while the past tense indicates time prior to the main verb. (Or alternatively, the present tense indicates the imperfective aspect while the past tense indicates the perfective aspect.)

In all but Form I, there is only one possible shape for each of the past and non-past stems for a given root. In Form I, however, different verbs have different shapes. Examples:

  • kataba yaktubu 'write'
  • kasiba yaksibu 'earn'
  • qara?a yaqra?u 'read'
  • qadima yaqdamu 'turn'
  • kabura yakburu 'become big, grow up'

Notice that the second vowel can be any of a i u in both past and non-past stems. The vowel a occurs in most past stems, while i occurs in some (especially intransitive) and u occurs only in a few stative verbs (i.e. whose meaning is 'be X' or 'become X' where X is an adjective). The most common patterns are:

  • past: a; non-past: u or i
  • past: a, non-past: a (when the second or third root consonant is a "guttural," i.e. one of ? ? h ?)
  • past: i; non-past: a
  • past: u; non-past: u

Mood

There are three moods (? l?t, a word that also means "cases"; sg.lah), whose forms are derived from the imperfective stem: the indicative mood (‏marf), usually ending in u; the subjunctive (‏manb), usually ending in a; and the jussive (‏majz?m), with no ending. In less formal Arabic and in spoken dialects, the subjunctive mood is used as the only imperfective tense (subjunctivism) and the final ?arakah vowel is not pronounced.

The imperative ( ghat al-amr) (positive, only 2nd person) is formed by dropping the verbal prefix (?-) from the imperfective jussive stem, e.g. qaddim 'present!'. If the result starts with two consonants followed by a vowel (a or i), an elidible alif (?) is added to the beginning of the word, usually pronounced as "i", e.g. ighsil 'wash!' or ? if?al 'do!' if the present form vowel is u, then the alif is also pronounced as u, e.g. ? uktub 'write!'. Negative imperatives are formed from the jussive.

The exception to the above rule is the form (or stem) IV verbs. In these verbs a non-elidible alif ? pronounced as a- is always prefixed to the imperfect jussive form, e.g. ? arsil "send!", [1]a?if 'add!'.

The subjunctive is used in subordinate clauses after certain conjunctions. The jussive is used in negation, in negative imperatives, and in the hortative la+jussive. For example: 2. sg. m.:

  • imperfect indicative taf?alu 'you are doing'
  • subjunctive an taf?ala 'that you do'
  • jussive l? taf?al its meaning is dependent upon the prefix which attaches to it; in this case, it means 'may you do not do!'
  • short energetic taf?alan its meaning is dependent upon the prefix which attaches to it; if the prefix is "la" it means 'you should do'
  • long energetic ? taf?alanna it has more emphasis than the short energetic, its meaning is dependent upon the prefix which attaches to it; if the prefix is "la" it means 'you must do'
  • imperative ? if?al 'do!'.

Voice

Arabic has two verbal voices (? s?gh?t "forms", sg. s?ghah), active ( ghat al-ma?l?m), and passive ( ghat al-majh?l). The passive voice is expressed by a change in vocalization. For example:

  • active fa?ala 'he did', yaf?alu 'he is doing'
  • passive fu?ila 'it was done', yuf?alu 'it is being done'

Thus, the active and passive forms are spelled identically in Arabic; only their vowel markings differ. There are some exceptions to this in the case of weak roots.

Participle

Every verb has a corresponding active participle, and most have passive participles. E.g. ? mu?allim 'teacher' is the active participle to stem II. of the root ?-?-? ?-l-m ('know').

  • The active participle to Stem I is ? fil, and the passive participle is mafl.
  • Stems II-X take prefix mu- and nominal endings for both the participles, active and passive. The difference between the two participles is only in the vowel between the last two root letters, which is -i- for active and -a- for passive (e.g. II. active mu-fail, and passive mu-faal).

Verbal noun (ma?dar)

In addition to a participle, there is a verbal noun (in Arabic, ? ma?dar, pl. madir, literally meaning 'source'), sometimes called a gerund, which is similar to English gerunds and verb-derived nouns of various sorts (e.g. "running" and "a run" from "to run"; "objection" from "to object"). As shown by the English examples, its meaning refers both to the act of doing something and (by frequent semantic extension) to its result. One of its syntactic functions is as a verbal complement of another verb, and this usage it corresponds to the English gerund or infinitive (He prevented me from running or He began to run).

  • verbal noun formation to stem I is irregular.
  • the verbal noun to stem II is tafl. For example: tar 'preparation' is the verbal noun to stem II. of ?-?-? ?-?-r ('to be present').
  • stem III often forms its verbal noun with the feminine form of the passive participle, so for ? sada, 'he helped', produces the verbal noun musadah. There are also some verbal nouns of the form ? fil: ? j?hada, 'he strove', yields jih?d ? 'striving' (for a cause or purpose).

Some well-known examples of verbal nouns are fat? (see Fatah) (Form I), tanm (Form II), ? jih?d (Form III), isl?m (Form IV), ? intifah (feminine of Form VIII verbal noun), and ? istiql?l (Form X).

Derivational categories, conjugations

The system of verb conjugations in Arabic is quite complicated, and is formed along two axes. One axis, known as the form (described as "Form I", "Form II", etc.), is used to specify grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, reciprocal, passive or reflexive, and involves varying the stem form. The other axis, known as the weakness, is determined by the particular consonants making up the root. For example, defective (or third-weak or final-weak) verbs have a ? w or ? y as the last root consonant (e.g. ?-?-? r-m-y 'throw', ?-?-? d-?-w 'call'), and doubled (or germinated) verbs have the second and third consonants the same (e.g. ?-?-? m-d-d 'extend'). These "weaknesses" have the effect of inducing various irregularities in the stems and endings of the associated verbs.

Examples of the different forms of a sound verb (i.e. with no root weaknesses), from the root ?-?-? k-t-b 'write' (using ?-?-? ?-m-r 'red' for Form IX, which is limited to colors and physical defects):

Form Past Meaning Non-past Meaning
I kataba
'he wrote' yaktubu
'he writes'
II kattaba
?
'he made (someone) write' yukattibu
'he makes (someone) write'
III k?taba
'he corresponded with, wrote to (someone)' yuk?tibu
'"he corresponds with, writes to (someone)'
IV ?aktaba
'he dictated' yuktibu
'he dictates'
V takattaba
nonexistent yatakattabu
nonexistent
VI tak?taba
'he corresponded (with someone, esp. mutually)' yatak?tabu
'he corresponds (with someone, esp. mutually)'
VII inkataba
?
'he subscribed' yankatibu
?
'he subscribes'
VIII iktataba
?
'he copied' yaktatibu
?
'he copies'
IX i?marra
'he turned red' ya?marru
'he turns red'
X istaktaba
'he asked (someone) to write' yastaktibu
'he asks (someone) to write'

The main types of weakness are as follows:

Main weakness varieties for Form I, with verbs in the active indicative
Weakness Root Past
3rd sg. masc.
Past
1st sg.
Present
3rd sg. masc.
Present
3pl. fem.
Sound (Non-Weak) ?-?-?
k-t-b 'to write'

kataba

katabtu

yaktubu
?
yaktubna
Assimilated (First-Weak), W ?-?-?
w-j-d 'to find'

wajada

wajadtu

yajidu

yajidna
Assimilated (First-Weak), Y ?-?-?
y-b-s 'to dry'

yabisa

yabistu

yaybasu
?
yaybasna
Hollow (Second-Weak), W ?-?-?
q-w-l 'to say'
?
q?la

qultu
?
yaq?lu

yaqulna
Hollow (Second-Weak), Y ?-?-?
s-y-r 'to travel, go'
?
s?ra

sirtu
?
yas?ru

yasirna
Defective (Third-Weak, final-weak), W ?-?-?
d-?-w 'to call'
?
da

da?awtu
?
yad

yadna
Defective (Third-Weak, final-weak), Y ?-?-?
r-m-y 'to throw'

ram?

ramaytu
?
yarm?

yarm?na
Doubled (geminated) ?-?-?
m-d-d 'to extend'

madda

madadtu
?
yamuddu
?
yamdudna

Conjugation

Regular verb conjugation for person-number, tense-aspect-mood, and participles

In Arabic the grammatical person and number as well as the mood are designated by a variety of prefixes and suffixes. The following table shows the paradigm of a regular sound Form I verb, kataba () 'to write'. Most of the final short vowels are often omitted in speech, except the vowel of the feminine plural ending -na, and normally the vowel of the past tense second person feminine singular ending -ti.

The initial vowel in the imperative (which is elidable) varies from verb to verb, as follows:

  • The initial vowel is u if the stem begins with two consonants and the next vowel is u or ?.
  • The initial vowel is i if the stem begins with two consonants and the next vowel is anything else.
  • There is no initial vowel if the stem begins with one consonant.

In unvocalised Arabic, katabtu, katabta, katabti and katabat are all written the same: ?. Forms katabtu and katabta (and sometimes even katabti) can be abbreviated to katabt in spoken Arabic and in pausa, making them also sound the same.

? (alif) in final ? (-?) is silent.

Weak roots

Roots containing one or two of the radicals ? w (w?w), ? y (y ) or ? ? (hamzah) often lead to verbs with special phonological rules because these radicals can be influenced by their surroundings. Such verbs are called "weak" (verba infirma, 'weak verbs') and their paradigms must be given special attention. In the case of hamzah, these peculiarities are mainly orthographical, since hamzah is not subject to elision (the orthography of ? hamzah and ? alif is unsystematic due to confusion in early Islamic times). According to the position of the weak radical in the root, the root can be classified into four classes: first weak, second weak, third weak (or final weak) and doubled, where both the second and third radicals are identical. Some roots fall into more than one category at once.

Assimilated (first-weak) roots

Most first-weak verbs have a ? w as their first radical. These verbs are entirely regular in the past tense. In the non-past, the w drops out, leading to a shorter stem (e.g. ( ( wajada (yajidu) 'to find'), where the stem is ? -jid- in place of a longer stem like -jlid- from the verb ( (? jalada (yajlidu) 'to whip, flog'. This same stem is used throughout, and there are no other irregularities except for the imperative, which has no initial vowel, consistent with the fact that the stem for the imperative begins with only one consonant.

There are various types of assimilated (first-weak) Form I verbs:

Hollow (second-weak) roots

The following shows a paradigm of a typical Form I hollow (second-weak) verb ( (? ? q?la (qultu, yaq?lu) (root-?-? q-w-l) 'to say', parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa?ala (yaf?ulu) type. See notes following the table for explanation.

All hollow (second-weak) verbs are conjugated in a parallel fashion. The endings are identical to those of strong verbs, but there are two stems (a longer and a shorter) in each of the past and non-past. The longer stem is consistently used whenever the ending begins with a vowel, and the shorter stem is used in all other circumstances. The longer stems end in a long vowel plus consonant, while the shorter stems end in a short vowel plus consonant. The shorter stem is formed simply by shortening the vowel of the long stem in all paradigms other than the active past of Form I verbs. In the active past paradigms of Form I, however, the longer stem always has an ? vowel, while the shorter stem has a vowel u or i corresponding to the actual second root consonant of the verb.

No initial vowel is needed in the imperative forms because the non-past stem does not begin with two consonants.

There are various types of Form I hollow verbs:

  • ( (? ? (root-?-?) q?la qulna (yaq?lu yaqulna) 'to say', formed from verbs with ? w as their second root consonant and parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa?ala (yaf?ulu) type
  • ( (? ? (root-?-?) s?ra sirna (yas?ru yasirna) 'to get going, to travel', formed from verbs with ? y as their second root consonant and parallel to verbs of the fa?ala (yaf?ilu) type
  • ( (? ? (root-?-?) kh?fa khufna (yakh?fu yakhafna) 'to fear', formed from verbs with ? w as their second root consonant and parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa?ila (yaf?alu) type
  • ( (? ? (root-?-?) n?ma nimna (yan?mu yanamna) 'to sleep', formed from verbs with ? y as their second root consonant and parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa?ila (yaf?alu) type

The passive paradigm of all Form I hollow verbs is as follows:

  • ( (? ? q?la qilna (yuq?lu yuqalna) 'to be said'

Defective (third-weak) roots

? fa (yaf)

The following shows a paradigm of a typical Form I defective (third-weak) verb ( (? ram? (yarm?) (root-?-? r-m-y) 'to throw', parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa?ala (yaf?ilu) type. See notes following the table for explanation.

Two stems each

Each of the two main stems (past and non-past) comes in two variants, a full and a shortened. For the past stem, the full is ? ramay-, shortened to ram- in much of the third person (i.e. before vowels, in most cases). For the non-past stem, the full is rmiy-, shortened to rm- before -? -?. The full non-past stem rmiy- appears as rm?- when not before a vowel; this is an automatic alternation in Classical Arabic. The places where the shortened stems occur are indicated by silver (past), gold (non-past).

Irregular endings

The endings are actually mostly regular. But some endings are irregular, in boldface:

  • Some of the third-person past endings are irregular, in particular those in ram-? 'he threw', ? ram-aw 'they (masc.) threw'. These simply have to be memorized.
  • Two kinds of non-past endings are irregular, both in the "suffixless" parts of the paradigm (largely referring to singular masculine or singular combined-gender). In the indicative, the full stem ? -rm? actually appears normally; what is irregular is the lack of the -u normally marking the indicative. In the jussive, on the other hand, the stem actually assumes a unique shortened form ? -rmi, with a short vowel that is not represented by a letter in the Arabic.
( (? fa (yaf)

The following shows a paradigm of a typical Form I defective (third-weak) verb ( (? (root-?-?) da (yad) 'to call', parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa?ala (yaf?ulu) type. Verbs of this sort are entirely parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa (yaf) type, although the exact forms can still be tricky. See notes following the table for explanation.

Verbs of this sort are work nearly identically to verbs of the ( (? fa (yaf) type. There are the same irregular endings in the same places, and again two stems in each of the past and non-past tenses, with the same stems used in the same places:

  • In the past, the full stem is ? da?aw-, shortened to da?-.
  • In the non-past, the full stem is ? d?uw-, rendered as ? d- when not before a vowel and shortened to d?- before ? -? -?.

The Arabic spelling has the following rules:

  • In the third person masculine singular past, regular ? alif appears instead of ? alif maqrah: hence not *.
  • The otiose final alif appears only after the final w?w of the plural, not elsewhere: hence ? 'you (masc. sg.) call (ind.)' but 'you (masc. pl.) call (subj.)', even though they are both pronounced ? tad.
? fa?iya (yaf)

The following shows a paradigm of a typical Form I defective (third-weak) verb nasiya (yans?) (root-?-?) 'to forget', parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa?ila (yaf?alu) type. These verbs differ in a number of significant respects from either of the above types.

Multiple stems

This variant is somewhat different from the variants with -? or -? in the non-past. As with other third-weak verbs, there are multiple stems in each of the past and non-past, a full stem composed following the normal rules and one or more shortened stems.

  • In this case, only one form in the past uses a shortened stem nas-? 'they (masc.) forgot'. All other forms are constructed regularly, using the full stem ? nasiy- or its automatic pre-consonant variant ? nas?-.
  • In the non-past, however, there are at least three different stems:
  1. The full stem ? -nsay- occurs before -a/?- or -n-, that is before dual endings, feminine plural endings and energetic endings corresponding to forms that are endingless in the jussive.
  2. The modified stem ? -ns? occurs in "endingless" forms (i.e. masculine or common-gender singular, plus 1st plural). As usual with third-weak verbs, it is shortened to -nsa in the jussive. These forms are marked with red.
  3. Before endings normally beginning with -i/?- or -u/?-, the stem and endings combine together into a shortened form: e.g. expected *ta-nsay-?na 'you (fem. sg.) forget', *ta-nsay-?na 'you (masc. pl.) forget' instead become ta-nsayna, ta-nsawna respectively. The table above chooses to segment them as ta-nsa-yna, ta-nsa-wna, suggesting that a shortened stem ? -nsa- combines with irregular (compressed) endings -yna < *-?na, -wna < *-?na. Similarly subjunctive/jussive ta-nsaw < *ta-nsay-?; but note energetic ta-nsawunna < *ta-nsay-unna, where the original *-yu- has assimilated to -wu-. Consistent with the above analysis, we analyze this form as ta-nsa-wunna, with an irregular energetic ending -wunna where a glide consonant has developed after the previous vowel. However, since all moods in this case have a form containing -nsaw-, an alternative analysis would consider -nsaw and -nsay as stems. These forms are marked with gold.
Irregular endings

The endings are actually mostly regular. But some endings are irregular in the non-past, in boldface:

  • The non-past endings in the "suffixless" parts of the paradigm (largely referring to singular masculine or singular combined-gender). In the indicative and subjunctive, the modified stem -ns? appears, and is shortened to ? -nsa in the jussive. In the forms actually appears normally; what is irregular is the lack of the -u normally marking the indicative. In the jussive, on the other hand, the stem actually assumes a unique shortened form ? -nsa, with a short vowel that is not represented by a letter in the Arabic script.
  • In the forms that would normally have suffixes -i/?- or -u/?-, the stem and suffix combine to produce -nsay-, -nsaw-. These are analyzed here as consisting of a shortened stem form ? -nsa- plus irregular (shortened or assimilated) endings.

Doubled roots

The following shows a paradigm of a typical Form I doubled verb ( ( (root-?-?) madda (yamuddu) 'to extend', parallel to verbs of the ( (? fa?ala (yaf?ulu) type. See notes following the table for explanation.

All doubled verbs are conjugated in a parallel fashion. The endings are for the most part identical to those of strong verbs, but there are two stems (a regular and a modified) in each of the past and non-past. The regular stems are identical to the stem forms of sound verbs, while the modified stems have the two identical consonants pulled together into a geminate consonant and the vowel between moved before the geminate. In the above verb ( ( madda (yamuddu) 'to extend' (s.th.), the past stems are ? madad- (regular), madd- (modified), and the non-past stems are ? mdud- (regular), mudd- (modified). In the table, places where the regular past stem occurs are in silver, and places where the regular non-past stem occurs are in gold; everywhere else, the modified stem occurs.

No initial vowel is needed in most of the imperative forms because the modified non-past stem does not begin with two consonants.

The concept of having two stems for each tense, one for endings beginning with vowels and one for other endings, occurs throughout the different kinds of weaknesses.

Following the above rules, endingless jussives would have a form like ? tamdud, while the corresponding indicatives and subjunctives would have forms like tamuddu, tamudda. As a result, for the doubled verbs in particular, there is a tendency to harmonize these forms by adding a vowel to the jussives, usually a, sometimes i. These are the only irregular endings in these paradigms, and have been indicated in boldface. The masculine singular imperative likewise has multiple forms, based on the multiple forms of the jussive.

There are various types of doubled Form I verbs:

Formation of derived stems ("forms")

Arabic verb morphology includes augmentations of the root, also known as forms, an example of the derived stems found among the Semitic languages. For a typical verb based on a triliteral root (i.e. a root formed using three root consonants), the basic form is termed Form I, while the augmented forms are known as Form II, Form III, etc. The forms in normal use are Form I through Form X; Forms XI through XV exist but are rare and obsolescent. Forms IX and XI are used only with adjectival roots referring to colors and physical defects (e.g. "red", "blue", "blind", "deaf", etc.), and are stative verbs having the meaning of "be X" or "become X" (e.g. Form IX i?marra 'be red, become red, blush', Form XI i?m?rra with the same meaning). Although the structure that a given root assumes in a particular augmentation is predictable, its meaning is not (although many augmentations have one or more "usual" or prototypical meanings associated with them), and not all augmentations exist for any given root. As a result, these augmentations are part of the system of derivational morphology, not part of the inflectional system.

The construction of a given augmentation is normally indicated using the dummy root f-?-l (?-?-?), based on the verb fa?ala 'to do'. Because Arabic has no direct equivalent to the infinitive form of Western languages, the third-person masculine singular past tense is normally used as the dictionary form of a given verb, i.e. the form by which a verb is identified in a dictionary or grammatical discussion. Hence, the word fa?ala above actually has the meaning of 'he did', but is translated as 'to do' when used as a dictionary form.

Verbs based on quadriliteral roots (roots with four consonants) also exist. There are four augmentations for such verbs, known as Forms Iq, IIq, IIIq and IVq. These have forms similar to Forms II, V, VII and IX respectively of triliteral verbs. Forms IIIq and IVq are fairly rare. The construction of such verbs is typically given using the dummy verb fa?lala (root-?-?-?). However, the choice of this particular verb is somewhat non-ideal in that the third and fourth consonants of an actual verb are typically not the same, despite the same consonant used for both; this is a particular problem e.g. for Form IVq. The verb tables below use the dummy verb fa?laqa (root-?-?-?) instead.

Some grammars, especially of colloquial spoken varieties rather than of Classical Arabic, use other dummy roots. For example, A Short Reference Grammar of Iraqi Arabic (Wallace M. Erwin) uses FaMaLa (root-?-?) and ? FaSTaLa (root-?-?-?) for three and four-character roots, respectively (standing for "First Middle Last" and "First Second Third Last"). Commonly the dummy consonants are given in capital letters.

The system of identifying verb augmentations by Roman numerals is an invention by Western scholars. Traditionally, Arabic grammarians did not number the augmentations at all, instead identifying them by the corresponding dictionary form. For example, Form V would be called "the tafaala form".

Verbs Derived nouns Typical meanings, notes Examples
Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle Verbal noun
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Imperative (2nd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) sg. masc. nom.
I
fa?ala

yaf?ulu

uf?ul

fu?ila

yuf?alu

fil
?
mafl
fa?l, ful, fi?l, ((? fu?l(ah), ((? fal(ah), ((? fil(ah), etc. basic verb form ( (? kataba (yaktubu) 'write"; ( (? dakhala (yadkhulu) 'enter'; ( (? darasa (yadrusu) 'study"; ( (? qatala (yaqtulu) "kill"

yaf?ilu

if?il
( (? ?amala (ya?milu) 'carry'; ( (? qadara (yaqdiru) 'be able'; ( (? ?arafa (ya?rifu) 'know'; ( (? jalasa (yajlisu) 'sit'

yaf?alu

if?al
usually with a guttural consonant (? ? h ?) in second or third position ( (? qa?a?a (yaq?a?u) 'cut'; ( (? qara?a (yaqra?u) "read"; ( (? ?ahara (ya?haru) 'seem'; ( (? ba?atha (yab?athu) 'search'

fa?ila
often stative verbs (temporary conditions) ( (? fahima (yafhamu) 'understand'; ( (? rakiba (yarkabu) 'ride'; ( (? shariba (yashrabu) 'drink'; ( (? labisa (yalbasu) 'wear'

yaf?ilu

if?il
often stative verbs (temporary conditions); rare except with initial ? w consonant (which disappears in non-past) ( (? ?asiba (ya?sibu) 'estimate'; ( ( wathiqa (yathiqu) 'trust'

fa?ula

yaf?ulu

uf?ul
only with stative verbs (permanent conditions) ( (? kabura (yakburu) 'grow big, grow old'; ( (? kathura (yakthuru) 'be many, be numerous'; ( (? ba?uda (yab?udu) 'be distant (from)'; ( (? karuma (yakrumu) 'be/become noble'
II ?
faala

yufailu
?
fail
?
fuila

yufaalu

mufail

mufaal

tafl, tafl, fil, taf?ila
causative and intensive; denominative; transitive of form 1. ? kattaba 'make (someone) write (something)'; ? dakhkhala 'bring in (someone/something)'; ? darrasa 'teach'; ? qattala 'massacre'; ? ?ammala 'burden, impose'; ? ?arrafa 'announce, inform'; ? qaa?a "cut into pieces"
III
fala

yufilu
?
fil
?
fila

yufalu

mufil

mufal
? ? ?
mufalah, fil, fl
the verbs in this form need an indirect object which is often "with" and sometimes "against". ? k?taba 'write to, correspond with (someone)'; ? d?khala 'befall (someone)'; ? d?rasa 'study with (someone)'; ? q?tala 'fight'; ? j?lasa 'sit with (someone), keep (someone) company'; ? qa?a 'disassociate (from), interrupt, cut off (someone)'
IV
af?ala

yuf?ilu

af?il

uf?ila

yuf?alu
?
muf?il
?
muf?al

ifl
usually transitive and causative of form 1 (this form has not intensive meaning). ? aktaba 'dictate'; ? adkhala 'bring in (someone), bring about (something)'; ? aqdara 'enable'; ? ajlasa 'seat'; ? aq?a?a 'make (someone) cut off (something), part company with, bestow as a fief'
V
tafaala

yatafaalu

tafaal

tufuila

yutafaalu
?
mutafail
?
mutafaal

tafaul, tifil
usually reflexive of Form II. tadakhkhala 'interfere, disturb'; tadarrasa 'learn'; ta?ammala 'endure, undergo'; ta?arrafa 'become acquainted (with someone), meet'; taqaa?a 'be cut off, be disrupted, be intermittent'
VI
tafala
?
yatafalu

tafal

tufila
?
yutafalu

mutafil
?
mutafal

taful
reciprocal of Form III; and even "pretend to X" tak?taba 'correspond with each other'; tad?khala 'meddle, butt in'; tad?rasa 'study carefully with each other'; taq?tala 'fight with one another'; tamala 'maltreat, be biased (against)'; ta?arrafa 'become mutually acquainted, come to know (something)'; taqa?a 'part company, break off mutual relations, intersect (of roads)'
VII ?
infa?ala
?
yanfa?ilu
?
infa?il
?
(unfu?ila)
?
(yunfa?alu)

munfa?il

munfa?al
?
infil
anticausative verb of Form I; inkataba 'subscribe'; inqa?a?a 'be cut off, cease, suspend'
VIII ?
ifta?ala
?
yafta?ilu
?
ifta?il
?
uftu?ila
?
yufta?alu

mufta?il

mufta?al
?
iftil
reflexive of Form I; often some unpredictable variation in meaning iktataba 'copy (something), be recorded'; iqtatala 'fight one another'; i?tamala 'carry away, endure, allow'; iqtadara 'be able'; i?tarafa 'confess, recognize'; ; iqta?a?a 'take a part (of something), tear out/off, deduct'
IX
if?alla

yaf?allu
?
if?alil
()
(uf?ulla)
()
(yuf?allu)

muf?all
n/a ?
if?il?l
stative verb ("be X", "become X"), specially for colors (e.g. "red", "blue") and physical defects. i?marra 'turn red, blush'; iswadda 'be/become black'; i?farra 'turn yellow, become pale'; i?walla 'be cross-eyed, squint'
X
istaf?ala

yastaf?ilu

istaf?il

ustuf?ila

yustaf?alu

mustaf?il

mustaf?al

istifl
"ask to X"; "want to X"; "consider (someone) to be X"; causative, and sometimes autocausative verb; often some unpredictable variation in meaning istaktaba 'ask (someone) to write (something)'; istaqtala 'risk one's life'; istaqdara 'ask (God) for strength or ability'; ista?rafa 'discern, recognize'; istaq?a?a 'request as a fief'
XI ?
iflla

yafllu
?
iflil
n/a
mufll
n/a
ifl?l
rare except in poetry; same meaning as Form IX i?m?rra "turn red, blush"; i?h?bba 'be/become reddish-brown'; ilh?jja 'curdle'
XII
if?aw?ala

yaf?aw?ilu

if?aw?il

ufila

yuf?aw?alu

muf?aw?il

muf?aw?al

if?l
very rare, with specialized meanings; often stative i?dawdaba 'be convex, be hunchbacked'; ighdawdana 'grow long and luxuriantly (of hair)'; i?lawlaka 'be pitch-black'; ikhshawshana 'be rough/crude, lead a rough life'
XIII
if?awwala

yaf?awwilu

if?awwil

uf?uwwila

yuf?awwalu
?
muf?awwil
?
muf?awwal

if?iww?l
iljawwadha 'gallop'; i?lawwa?a 'hang on the neck of (a camel)'
XIV
if?anlala

yaf?anlilu

if?anlil

uf?unlila

yuf?anlalu

muf?anlil

muf?anlal

if?inl?l
iq?ansasa 'have a protruding chest and hollow back, be pigeon-breasted'; iq?andada 'reside'; is?ankaka 'become very dark'
XV
if?anl?

yaf?anl?
?
if?anla

uf?unliya

yuf?anl?
?
muf?anlin

muf?anlan

if?inl
i?ranb? 'become very furious'; ighrand? 'curse and hit (someone)'
Iq
fa?laqa
?
yufa?liqu

fa?liq

fu?liqa
?
yufa?laqu

mufa?liq

mufa?laq
fa?laqat, fa?l?q, fi?l?q, fu?l?q basic form, often transitive or denominative; similar to Form II, but verbal noun is different; reduplicated roots of the form ? fa?fa?a are common, sometimes ? fa?fala is also seen ? da?raja 'roll (something)'; ? tarjama 'translate, interpret'; ? handasa 'sketch, make a plan'; ? bay?ara 'practice veterinary surgery' (< 'veter(inary)'); ? zalzala 'shake (something), frighten'; ? waswasa 'whisper'; ? gharghara "gargle"
IIq ?
tafa?laqa

yatafa?laqu
?
tafa?laq
?
tufu?liqa

yutafa?laqu

mutafa?liq

mutafa?laq

tafa?luq
reflexive of Form Iq; frequentative intransitive denominative; similar to Form V tada?raja 'roll' (intrans.)'; tazalzala 'shake (intrans.), tremble'; tafalsafa 'philosophize' (< ? faylas?f- 'philosopher'); tamadhhaba 'follow a sect' (< madhhab- 'sect' < dhahaba 'go'); taqahqara 'be driven back'
IIIq
if?anlaqa

yaf?anliqu

if?anliq

uf?unliqa

yuf?anlaqu

muf?anliq

muf?anlaq

if?inl?q
rare ikhran?ama 'be proud' (cf. ? al-Kharm- 'Khartoum')
IVq
if?alaqqa

yaf?aliqqu

if?alqiq

uf?uliqqa

yuf?alaqqu
?
muf?aliqq
?
muf?alaqq

if?ilq?q
usually intransitive; somewhat rare i?ma?anna 'be tranquil, calm'; i?ma?alla 'fade away, dwindle'; iqsha?arra 'shudder with horror'

Each form can have either active or passive forms in the past and non-past tenses, so reflexives are different from passives.

Note that the present passive of forms I and IV are the same. Otherwise there is no confusion.

Sound verbs

Sound verbs are those verbs with no associated irregularities in their constructions. Verbs with irregularities are known as weak verbs; generally, this occurs either with (1) verbs based on roots where one or more of the consonants (or radicals) is w (w?w, ?), y (y, ?) or the glottal stop ? (hamzah, ?); or (2) verbs where the second and third root consonants are the same.

Some verbs that would be classified as "weak" according to the consonants of the verb root are nevertheless conjugated as a strong verb. This happens, for example:

  • Largely, to all verbs whose only weakness is a hamzah radical; the irregularity is in the Arabic spelling but not the pronunciation, except in a few minor cases.
  • Largely, to all verbs whose only weakness is a y in the first radical (the "assimilated" type).
  • To all verbs conjugated in Forms II, III, V, VI whose only weakness is a ? w or ? y in the first or second radicals (or both).

Form VIII assimilations

Form VIII has a -t- that is infixed into the root, directly after the first root consonant. This -t- assimilates to certain coronal consonants occurring as the first root consonant. In particular, with roots whose first consonant is ? d z th dh ? ? ? ?, the combination of root and infix ? t appears as dd zd thth dhdh . That is, the t assimilates the emphasis of the emphatic consonants ? ? ? ? ? and the voicing of ? d z, and assimilates entirely to the interdental consonants ? th dh ?. The consonant cluster , as in iarra 'compel, force', is unexpected given modern pronunciation, having a voiced stop next to a voiceless one; this reflects the fact that ? ? was formerly pronounced voiced, and ? ? was pronounced as the emphatic equivalent not of ? d but of an unusual lateral sound. (? ? was possibly an emphatic voiced alveolar lateral fricative // or a similar affricated sound /d/ or /d/; see the article on the letter ? d.)

Defective (third-weak) verbs

Other than for Form I active, there is only one possible form for each verb, regardless of whether the third root consonant is ? w or ? y. All of the derived third-weak verbs have the same active-voice endings as ( (? fa (yaf) verbs except for Forms V and VI, which have past-tense endings like ( (? fa (yaf) verbs but non-past endings like ( (? fa?iya (yaf) verbs. The passive-voice endings of all third-weak verbs (whether Form I or derived) are the same as for the ( (? fa?iya (yaf) verbs. The verbal nouns have various irregularities: feminine in Form II, -in declension in Form V and VI, glottal stop in place of root w/y in Forms VII-X.

The active and passive participles of derived defective verbs consistently are of the -in and -an declensions, respectively.

Defective Form IX verbs are extremely rare. Heywood and Nahmad list one such verb, i?m?ya 'be/become blind', which does not follow the expected form *i?mayya.[2] They also list a similarly rare Form XI verb i?m?yya 'be/become blind' -- this time with the expected form.

Verbs Derived nouns
Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle Verbal noun
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Imperative (2nd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) sg. masc. nom.
I
fa
?
yaf

if?i

fu?iya
?
yuf

fin

maf?iyy
fa?y, fa?w, fa?an, fi?an, fa, ? fiyah, ? fiyah, ? fawah, mafh, maf?iyah, fu?yah, fu?wah, fu?uww, fu?w?n, etc.

fa
?
yaf

uf?u

maf?uww

fa?iya
?
yaf

if?a

maf?iyy
II
fa

yufa

fai
?
fuiya
?
yufa
?
mufain

mufaan

taf?iyah
III
f

yuf

fi

fiya

yuf
?
mufin

mufan
mufh, fi
IV ?
af
?
yuf

af?i

uf?iya
?
yuf

muf?in
?
muf?an
?
if
V
tafa
?
yatafa
?
tafaa

tufuiya
?
yutafa

mutafain
?
mutafaan
?
tafain
VI ?
taf

yataf

tafa

tufiya

yutaf

mutafin

mutafan
?
tafin
VII
infa

yanfa

infa?i
()
(unfu)
()
(yunfa)

munfa?in

munfa?an
?
infi
VIII
ifta

yafta

ifta?i
?
uftu?iya

yufta

mufta?in

mufta?an
?
ifti
IX ( (
ifya (if?ayaytu?)
( (?
yafyu (yaf?ayna?)

if?ay?
-- --
mufy
-- ?
if?iy
X
istaf

yastaf
?
istaf?i

ustuf?iya

yustaf
?
mustaf?in

mustaf?an

istif

Hollow (second-weak) verbs

Only the forms with irregularities are shown. The missing forms are entirely regular, with w or y appearing as the second radical, depending on the root. There are unexpected feminine forms of the verbal nouns of Form IV, X.

Verbs Derived nouns
Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle Verbal noun
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Imperative (2nd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) sg. masc. nom.
I ( (
f?la (filtu)
?
yaf?lu
?
fil

f?la
?
yuf?lu

fil

maf?l
usually fawl, fayl; also ? f?l, faw?l, ((? fiy?l(ah), fiw?l, fuw?l, ((? maf?l(ah), maf?l etc.
( (
f?la (fultu)
?
yaf?lu
?
ful

maf?l
( (
f?la (filtu)
?
yaf?lu
?
fal

maf?l
( (
f?la (fultu)

maf?l
IV (? (?
af?la (?afaltu)
?
yuf?lu

afil
?
uf?la

muf?l

muf?l

if?lah
VII ( (
inf?la (infaltu)

yanf?lu

infal
n/a
munf?l
?
infiy?l
VIII ( (
ift?la (iftaltu)

yaft?lu

iftal

uft?la

yuft?lu

muft?l
?
iftiy?l
X
istaf?la

yastaf?lu
?
istafil

ustuf?la

yustaf?lu
?
mustaf?l
?
mustaf?l

istif?lah

Assimilated (first-weak) verbs

When the first radical is w, it drops out in the Form I non-past. Most of the derived forms are regular, except that the sequences uw iw are assimilated to ? ?, and the sequence wt in Form VIII is assimilated to tt throughout the paradigm. The following table only shows forms with irregularities in them.

The initial w also drops out in the common Form I verbal noun ?ilah (e.g. ?ilah 'arrival, link' from ? wa?alah 'arrive'). Root-?-?

Verbs Derived nouns
Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle Verbal noun
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Imperative (2nd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) sg. masc. nom.
I
wa?ala

ya?ulu
?
?ul

wu?ila
?
yalu
(?)
wil(ah)
(?)
mawd(ah)
? ?
wa?l, wul, ?ilah
etc.

ya?ilu
?
?il

ya?alu
?
?al

wa?ila

ya?ilu
?
?il

wa?ula

ya?ulu
?
?ul
IV
?aw?ala
?
yilu

?aw?il
?
ila
?
yalu
(?)
mil(ah)
(?)
mal(ah)
(?)
?l(ah)
VIII
?itta?ala

yatta?ilu

?itta?al

?uttu?ila

yutta?alu
(?)
mutta?il(ah)
(?)
mutta?al(ah)
?(?)
?ittil(ah)
X
istaw?ala

yastaw?ilu

istaw?il

ustila

yustaw?alu
(?)
mustaw?il(ah)
(?)
mustaw?al(ah)
?(?)
istl(ah)

When the first radical is y, the forms are largely regular. The following table only shows forms that have some irregularities in them, indicated in boldface. Root-?-?

Verbs Derived nouns
Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle Verbal noun
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Imperative (2nd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) sg. masc. nom.
I
ya?ala

yay?ulu
?
ul

yu?ila
?
yalu
(?)
yil(ah)
(?)
mayd(ah)
(?)
ya?l(ah) etc.

yay?ilu

il

wa?ala

yay?alu

al

wa?ila

yay?ilu

il

wa?ula

yay?ulu

ul
IV
?ay?ala

yilu

?ay?il

ila

yalu
(?)
mil(ah)
(?)
mal(ah)
(?)
?l(ah)
VIII
?itta?ala

yatta?ilu

?itta?al

?uttu?ila

yutta?alu
(?)
mutta?il(ah)
(?)
mutta?al(ah)
?(?)
?ittil(ah)
X
istay?ala

yastay?ilu

istay?il

ustila

yustay?alu
(?)
mustay?il(ah)
(?)
mustay?al(ah)
?(?)
istl(ah)

Doubled verbs

Root-?-?

Verbs Derived nouns
Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle Verbal noun
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Imperative (2nd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) sg. masc. nom.
I ()
falla (falaltu)
?
yafullu

fulla, fulli, uflul

fulla
?
yufallu
?(?)
f?ll(ah)
(?)
mafl?l(ah)
?(?)
fall(ah) etc.
?
yafillu

filla, filli, iflil
?
yafallu

falla, falli, iflal
()
falla (faliltu)
?
yafallu
III
f?lla
?
yuf?llu

f?lla, f?lli, f?lil

f?lla
?
yuf?llu
(?)
muf?ll(ah)
(?)? (?)
muf?llat(ah), fil?l(ah)
IV ?
?afalla
?
yufillu

?afilla, ?afilli, ?aflil
?
?ufilla
?
yufallu
(?)
mufill(ah)
(?)
mufall(ah)
(?)
?ifl?l(ah)
VI ?
taf?lla

yataf?llu

taf?lal

tuf?lla

yutaf?llu
(?)
mutaf?ll(ah)
(?)
taf?ll(ah)
VII
infalla

yanfallu
? ? ?
infalla, infalli, infalil
n/a (?)
munfall(ah)
(?)
infil?l(ah)
VIII
iftalla

yaftallu
? ? ?
iftalla, iftalli, iftalil

uftulla

yuftallu
(?)
muftall(ah)
(?)
iftil?l(ah)
X
istafalla

yastafillu

istafilla, istafilli, istaflil

ustufilla

yustafallu
?(?)
mustafill(ah)
?(?)
mustafall(ah)
(?)
istifl?l(ah)

Hamzated verbs

The largest problem with so-called "hamzated" verbs (those with a glottal stop ? or "hamzah" as any of the root consonants) is the complicated way of writing such verbs in the Arabic script (see the article on hamzah for the rules regarding this). In pronunciation, these verbs are in fact almost entirely regular.

The only irregularity occurs in verbs with a hamzah ? as the first radical. A phonological rule in Classical Arabic disallows the occurrence of two hamzahs in a row separated by a short vowel, assimilating the second to the preceding vowel (hence ?a? ?i? ?u? become ). This affects the following forms:

  • The first-person singular of the non-past of Forms I, IV and VIII.
  • The entire past and imperative of Form IV.

In addition, any place where a hamzat al-wa?l (elidable hamzah) occurs will optionally undergo this transformation. This affects the following forms:

  • The entire imperative of Form I.
  • The entire past and imperative of Form VIII, as well as the verbal noun of Form VIII.

There are the following irregularities:

  • The common verbs ?akala (; root-?-?) 'eat', ?akhadha (; root-?-?) 'take', ?amara (; root-?-?) 'command' have irregular, short imperatives kul, khudh, mur.
  • Form VIII of the common verb ?akhadha 'take' is ittakhadha 'take on, assume', with irregular assimilation of the hamzah.
  • The common verb sa?ala yas?alu 'ask' has an alternative non-past yasalu with missing hamzah.
Verbs Derived nouns
Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle Verbal noun
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Imperative (2nd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) sg. masc. nom.
I
?a?ala (root-?-?)
? ()
yaulu (ulu)
?
uul, ul
?
?u?ila
? (?)
yualu (alu)

il
?(?)
mal(ah)
(?)
?a?l(ah) etc.
etc.
IV
ala
? (?)
yuilu (ilu)

il
?
il
? (?)
yualu (alu)
(?)
muil(ah)
(?)
mual(ah)
(?)
?l(ah)
VIII ?
i?ta?ala, ?ta?ala
(?)
ya?ta?ilu (ta?ilu)
?
i?ta?il, ?ta?il
?
u?tu?ila, ?tu?ila
()
yu?ta?ala (ta?ala)
(?)
mu?ta?il(ah)
(?)
mu?ta?al(ah)
(?)? ?(?)
i?til(ah), ?til(ah)

Doubly weak verbs

Doubly weak verbs have two "weak" radicals; a few verbs are also triply weak. Generally, the above rules for weak verbs apply in combination, as long as they do not conflict. The following are cases where two types of weaknesses apply in combination:

  • Verbs with a w in the first radical and a w or y in the third radical. These decline as defective (third-weak) verbs, and also undergo the loss of w in the non-past of Form I, e.g. waq? yaq? 'guard', waf? yaf? 'complete, fulfill (a promise)', waliya yal? 'be near, follow'. These verbs have extremely short imperatives qi fi li (feminine q? f? l?, masculine plural q? f? l?, feminine plural iqna ifna ilna), although these are not normally used in Modern Standard Arabic. Similarly, verbs of this sort in Form IV and Form VIII are declined as defective but also have the normal assimilations of w-initial verbs, e.g. Form IV awf? y?f? 'fulfill a vow', Form VIII ittaq? yattaq? 'fear (God)', augmentations of waf? yaf? and waq? yaq?, respectively (see above).
  • Verbs with a hamzah in the first radical and a w or y in the third radical. These decline as defective (third-weak) verbs, and also undergo the assimilations associated with the initial hamzah, e.g. the common verb ?at? ya?t? 'come' (first singular non-past t? 'I come') and the related Form IV verb t? yu?t? 'bring' (first singular non-past t? 'I bring').

The following are examples where weaknesses would conflict, and hence one of the "weak" radicals is treated as strong:

  • Verbs with a w or y in both the second and third radicals. These are fairly common, e.g. raw? yarw? 'recount, transmit'. These decline as regular defective (third-weak) verbs; the second radical is treated as non-weak.
  • Verbs with a w in the first radical and the second and third radicals the same. These verbs do not undergo any assimilations associated with the first radical, e.g. wadda (wadidtu) yawaddu 'to love'.
  • Verbs with a hamza in the first radical and the second and third radicals the same. These verbs do not undergo any assimilations associated with the first radical, e.g. ?ajja ya?ujju 'burn', first singular non-past ?a?ujju 'I burn', despite the two hamzahs in a row.

The following are cases with special irregularities:

  • Verbs with a w or y in the second radical and a hamzah in the third radical. These are fairly common, e.g. the extremely common verb ja yaju 'come'. The only irregularity is the Form I active participle, e.g. jin 'coming', which is irregularly declined as a defective (third-weak) participle (presumably to avoid a sequence of two hamzahs in a row, as the expected form would be *ji?).
  • The extremely common verb ra yar? 'see'. The hamzah drops out entirely in the non-past. Similarly in the passive, ru?iya yur? 'be seen'. The active participle is regular rin and the passive participle is regular mary-. The related Form IV verb ar? y?r? 'show' is missing the hamzah throughout. Other augmentations are regular: Form III r yur 'dissemble', Form VI tar yatar 'look at one another', Form VIII irta yarta 'think'.
  • The common verb ?ayiya ya?y? 'live', with an alternative past tense ?ayya. Form IV a?y? yu?y? 'resuscitate, revive' is regular. Form X ista?y? yasta?y? 'spare alive, feel ashamed' also appears as ista?ayya and ista.

Summary of vowels

The vowels for the various forms are summarized in this table:

Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle Verbal noun
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.)
Before first root consonant (if vowel is present) a in Forms IV-VI. In Forms VII-XII one has i when the hamzah is not elided. a except in Forms II-IV, where it is u. u u, and a after the t of Forms V and VI u u except in Form I, where it is a. a in Forms II, V, and VI. In Forms VII-XII one has i when the hamzah is not elided.
Just before 2nd root consonant a, ?, or none a, ?, or none u, ?, or none a, ?, or none a, ?, or none a, ?, or none i, a, ?, or none
Just before third root consonant a Form I a, i, or u. a in Forms V, VI, and IX, i in others. i a i except in Form IX, where it is a. a except in Form I, where it is ?. ? in Form II, u in Forms V and VI, ? elsewhere
After final root consonant, 3rd person sg. indicative a u a u n/a n/a n/a

See also Wiktionary's appendix on Arabic verb forms.

Verbs in colloquial Arabic

The Classical Arabic system of verbs is largely unchanged in the colloquial spoken varieties of Arabic. The same derivational system of augmentations exists, including triliteral Forms I through X and quadriliteral Forms I and II, constructed largely in the same fashion (the rare triliteral Forms XI through XV and quadriliteral Forms III and IV have vanished). The same system of weaknesses (strong, defective/third-weak, hollow/second-weak, assimilated/first-weak, doubled) also exists, again constructed largely in the same fashion. Within a given verb, two stems (past and non-past) still exist along with the same two systems of affixes (suffixing past-tense forms and prefixing/suffixing non-past forms).

The largest changes are within a given paradigm, with a significant reduction in the number of forms. The following is an example of a regular verb paradigm in Egyptian Arabic.

Example of a regular Form I verb in Egyptian Arabic, kátab/yíktib "write"
Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Singular
1st katáb-t ? á-ktib ? bá-ktib ? ?á-ktib ?
2nd masc. katáb-t ? tí-ktib ? bi-tí-ktib ?a-tí-ktib í-ktib ?
fem. katáb-ti ? ti-ktíb-i bi-ti-ktíb-i ?a-ti-ktíb-i i-ktíb-i
3rd masc. kátab yí-ktib ? bi-yí-ktib ?a-yí-ktib
fem. kátab-it ? tí-ktib ? bi-tí-ktib ?a-tí-ktib
Plural
1st katáb-na ní-ktib ? bi-ní-ktib ?á-ní-ktib
2nd katáb-tu ti-ktíb-u bi-ti-ktíb-u ? ?a-ti-ktíb-u ? i-ktíb-u
3rd kátab-u yi-ktíb-u bi-yi-ktíb-u ? ?a-yi-ktíb-u ?
Example of a regular Form I verb in Moroccan Arabic, kteb/ykteb "write"
Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Singular
1st kteb-t ? né-kteb ? ka-né-kteb gha-né-kteb
2nd masc. ktéb-ti ? té-kteb ? ka-té-kteb gha-té-kteb kteb
fem. ktéb-ti té-ktebi ka-té-ktebi gha-té-ktebi ktebi ?
3rd masc. kteb y-kteb ? ka-y-kteb gha-y-kteb
fem. ktéb-et ? té-kteb ? ka-té-kteb gha-té-kteb
Plural
1st ktéb-na n-kétbu ka-n-kétbu ? gha-n-kétbu ?
2nd ktéb-tiw ? t-kétb-u ka-n-kétb-u ? gha-n-kétb-u ? kétb-u
3rd ktéb-u y-ktéb-u ka-y-kétb-u ? gha-y-kétb-u ?


This paradigm shows clearly the reduction in the number of forms:

  • The thirteen person/number/gender combinations of Classical Arabic have been reduced to eight, through the loss of dual and feminine-plural forms. (Some varieties still have feminine-plural forms, generally marked with the suffix -an, leading to a total of ten forms. This occurs, for example, in Iraqi Arabic and in many of the varieties of the Arabian peninsula.)
  • The system of suffix-marked mood distinctions has been lost, other than the imperative. Egyptian Arabic and many other "urban" varieties (e.g. Moroccan Arabic, Levantine Arabic) have non-past endings -i -u inherited from the original subjunctive forms, but some varieties (e.g. Iraqi Arabic) have -?n -?n endings inherited from the original indicative. Most varieties have also gained new moods, and a new future tense, marked through the use of prefixes (most often with an unmarked subjunctive vs. an indicative marked with a prefix, e.g. Egyptian bi-, Levantine b-, Moroccan ta-/ka-). Various particles are used for the future (e.g. Egyptian ?a-, Levantine ra?-, Moroccan ?a(di)-), derived from reduced forms of various verbs.
  • The internal passive is lost almost everywhere. Instead, the original reflexive/mediopassive augmentations (e.g. Forms V, VI, VII) serve as both reflexive and passive. The passive of Forms II and III is generally constructed with a reflex of Forms V and VI, using a prefix it- derived from the Classical prefix ta-. The passive of Form I uses either a prefix in- (from Form VII) or it- (modeled after Forms V and VI). The other forms often have no passive.

In addition, Form IV is lost entirely in most varieties, except for a few "classicizing" verbs (i.e. verbs borrowed from Modern Standard Arabic).

See varieties of Arabic for more information on grammar differences in the spoken varieties.

Negation

The negation of Arabic verbs varies according to the tense of the verb phrase. In literary Modern Standard Arabic, present-tense verbs are negated by adding l? "not" before the verb, past-tense verbs are negated by adding the negative particle ? lam "not" before the verb, and putting the verb in the jussive mood; and future-tense expressions are negated by placing the negative particle ? lan before the verb in the subjunctive mood.[3]

References

  1. ^ When a verb in Arabic ends with a vowel, the vowel is replaced with the corresponding short vocal when converted into imperative.
  2. ^ Possibly, i?m?ya is contracted from *i?mayaya using the same process that produces hollow verbs. A dictionary of modern written Arabic (Hans Wehr, J. Milton Cowan) also lists a supposed Form IX defective verb ir?aw? 'desist (from sin), repent, see the light'; however, this has both an unexpected form and meaning, so it is unclear whether the classification as Form IX is accurate.
  3. ^ Karin C. Ryding, A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 644 [§37.2.1.2], 647 [§36.2.2.1], 648 [§37.2.2.3].

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