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ARABIC ONLINE

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Arabic Online

 

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Incomplete Verbs

 

Incomplete verbs الأَفْعَاْلُ النَّاْقِصَةُ (or الأَفْعَاْلُ النَّاْسِخَةُ = canceling verbs) are verbs which give incomplete meanings if they were expressed alone.

Example, let's take the verb "to be."

Verb - Subject

كَاْنَ الْوَلَدُ

kaan(a) ('a)l-walad(u)

= was/existed the boy

Translation: the boy was/existed

The Arabic verb kaan(a) = was/existed can be both a complete and an incomplete verb. If the verb was understood as a complete verb, the meaning of the last sentence will be:

The boy existed

And this is a complete sentence with a complete meaning.

If the same verb was understood as an incomplete verb, the meaning of the same sentence will become:

The boy was

And this is not a complete sentence with a complete meaning, because we don't know what the boy was.

So in order for that sentence to make sense if the verb was meant as incomplete, we have to add an additional word. That word can be many things, a noun, a verb, a prepositional phrase, etc.

Example:

Verb - Subject - Adverb

كَاْنَ الْوَلَدُ سَعِيْدًا

kaan(a) ('a)l-walad(u) sa"eeda(n)

= was/existed the boy happily

Translation: the boy was happy

The rule in Arabic is that if we add a noun to complete the meaning of an incomplete verb, that noun must be in the accusative case ('an-nasb). In other words, that noun will be an adverb.

Therefore, the verb kaan(a) can be either a complete or an incomplete verb depending on whether an adverb is added to the sentence or not.

Other things than nouns can be added and they will also serve as adverbs for an incomplete verb.

Examples:

Verb - Subject - Prepositional Phrase

كَاْنَ الْوَلَدُ فِيْ الْحَدِيْقَةِ

kaan(a) ('a)l-walad(u) fee ('a)l-hadeeqa(ti)

= was the boy in the park/yard

Translation: the boy was in the park

 

 

Verb - Subject - Adverb

سَتَكُوْنُ الْسَّمَاْءُ صَاْفِيَةً

sa-takoon(u) ('a)s-samaa'(u) saafiya(tan)

= will be/exist the sky clearly

Translation: the sky will be clear

 

 

Verb - Subject - Prepositional Phrase

ظَلَّ الْوَلَدُ فِيْ الْحَدِيْقَةِ

zall(a) ('a)l-walad(u) fee ('a)l-hadeeqa(ti)

= stayed the boy in the park/yard

Translation: the boy stayed in the park

 

 

Verb - Subject - Adverb

يَظَلُّ الطِّفْلُ حَزِيْنًا عِنْدَمَاْ تَغِيْبُ أُمُّهُ

yazall(u) ('a)t-tifl(u) hazeena(n) "inda-maa tareeb(u) 'ummu-h(u)

= stays the child unhappily when is absent (the) mother (of) him

Translation: the child stays unhappy when his mother is not there

 

 

Verb - Subject - Verb

بَقِيَ الْوَلَدُ يَلْعَبُ

baqiy(a) ('a)l-walad(u) yal"ab(u)

= kept the boy playing

Translation: the boy kept playing

 

 

There are several verbs in Arabic that can be both complete and incomplete verbs. There are also others that can only be incomplete but not complete.

An example of a verb that can be only an incomplete verb:

( maa zaal(a) مَاْ زَاْلَ = not left = be still / remain ) this verb is only used negated.

 

Verb - Subject - Adverb

مَاْ زَاْلَ الْوَلَدُ سَعِيْدًا

maa zaal(a) ('a)l-walad(u) sa"eeda(n)

= remain the boy happily

Translation: the boy is still happy

The verb zaal(a) (imperfective: yazaal(u) يَزَاْلُ ) is never used except combined with a negative particle; usually it is maa so it will become maa zaal(a). This verb means "be still" or "remain". It is an incomplete verb that is never used without a complementary adverb.

Example:

Verb - Subject

مَاْ زَاْلَ الْوَلَدُ

maa zaal(a) ('a)l-walad(u)

= remain the boy ...

Translation: the boy is still ... (incomplete sentence)

Although this sentence has both a subject and a verb, it is not a full sentence and it lacks meaning.

There are two verbs in Arabic that are strictly incomplete (they always need an adverb):

Incomplete Verbs

 الأَفْعَاْلُ النَّاْقِصَةُ

Meaning Manageability

Verb & Literal Sense

(He) is still

Partially manageable

maa zaal(a)

مَاْ زَاْلَ

not (he) left

(He) is not

Frozen

lays(a)

لَيْسَ

(he) was not

Manageability التَّصَرُّفُ refers to whether the verb has imperfective and imperative structures (see Frozen Verbs).

 

Arabic verbs that can be both incomplete & complete are many.

 

I. Fully Manageable Verbs

 

Incomplete / complete Verbs

 الأَفْعَاْلُ النَّاْقِصَةُ / التَّاْمَةُ

(Fully Manageable Verbs)

 

Meaning Verb & Literal Sense
(He) was / existed kaan(a) كَاْنَ
(he) was
(He) became / was in the morning 'asbah(a) أَصْبَحَ
(he) was in the morning
(He) became / was in the evening 'amsaa أَمْسَىْ
(he) was in the evening
(He) became / was in the forenoon 'adhaa أَضْحَىْ
(he) was in the forenoon
(He) became / was in the early morning radaa غَدَاْ
(he) was in the early morning
(He) became / spent the night baat(a) بَاْتَ
(he) spent the night
(He) kept (doing) / stayed zall(a) ظَلَّ
(he) was in daytime
(He) kept (doing) / stayed baqiy(a) بَقِيَ
(he) stayed
(He) became / was transferred saar(a) صَاْرَ
(he) was transferred

(He) became / returned

If negated, the meaning will become:

(He) is no longer

"aad(a) عَاْدَ
(he) returned

(He) became / returned

"aad(a) رَجَعَ
(he) returned
(He) was / came jaa'(a) جَاْءَ
(he) came

(He) became / was transformed

"aad(a) آضَ
(he) was transformed
(He) became / was transformed "aad(a) اِنْقَلَبَ
(he) was transformed
(He) became / was transformed "aad(a) اِسْتَحَاْلَ
(he) was transformed
(He) became / was transformed "aad(a) تَحَوَّلَ
(he) was transformed
(He) became / was transformed "aad(a) تَبَدَّلَ
(he) was changed

 

II. Partially Manageable Verbs

 

Incomplete / complete Verbs

 الأَفْعَاْلُ النَّاْقِصَةُ / التَّاْمَةُ

(Partially Manageable Verbs)

 

Meaning Verb & Literal Sense

(He) is still / not (he) left

maa barih(a)

مَاْ بَرِحَ

not (he) left

(He) is still / is always / not let go

maa fati'(a)

مَاْ فَتِئَ

not (he) broke

(He) is still / was not released

maa ('i)nfakk(a)

مَاْ انْفَكَّ

(he) was not released

 

 

III. Frozen Verbs

 

Incomplete / complete Verbs

 الأَفْعَاْلُ النَّاْقِصَةُ / التَّاْمَةُ

(Frozen Verbs)

 

Meaning Verb & Literal Sense

As long as / since that

As long as be

maa daam(a)

مَاْ دَاْمَ

ever lasted

 

 

Examples:

Verb - Subject - Adverb

أَصْبَحَ الثَّلْجُ مَاْءً

'asbah(a) ('a)th-thalj(u) maa'a(n)

= became the ice water

Translation: the ice became water

or: the ice has become water

*If someone is wondering how the word "water" can be an adverb, the literal meaning of the sentence will make it clear, "the ice entered the morning time as water."

 

Verb - Subject - Adverb

سَيُصْبِحُ الثَّلْجُ مَاْءً

sa-yusbih(u) ('a)th-thalj(u) maa'a(n)

= will became the ice water

Translation: the ice will become water

 

 

Verb - Subject - Adverb

 أَمْسَىْ الْوَضْعُ خَطِيْرًا

'amsaa ('a)l-wad"(u) khateera(n)

= became the situation dangerously

Translation: the situation became dangerous

or: the situation has become dangerous

 

 

Verb - Hiding Subject - Preposition

لَنْ أَذْهَبَ مَاْ دَاْمَ هُنَاْكَ

lan 'athhab(a) maa daam(a) hunaak(a)

= (I) will not go since that/as long as (he) (is) there

Translation: I will not go since that he is there

or: I will not go as long as he is there

 

 

Verb - Attached Subject - Prepositional Phrase

سَأُسَاْعُدُكَ مَاْ دُمْتَ بِحَاْجَتِيْ

sa-'usaa"idu-k(a) maa dumt(a) bi-haajati-y

= (I) will help you since that/as long as (you) (are) in (the) need (of) me

Translation: I will help you since that you need me

or: I will help you as long as you need me

 

 

 

The meanings of incomplete verbs that are used in negative forms will not necessarily change with change from the perfective to the imperfective, except with the particle lan- which is used solely for negation of future events.

 

Incomplete Verbs

لَنْ يَزَاْلَ

لا يَزَاْلُ

مَاْ يَزَاْلُ

لَمْ يَزَلْ

مَاْ زَاْلَ

lan yazaal(a)

laa yazaal(u)

maa yazaal(u)

lam yazal

maa zaal(a)

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always was

(He) is still

(He) always was

لَنْ يَبْرَحَ

لا يَبْرَحُ

مَاْ يَبْرَحُ

لَمْ يَبْرَحْ

مَاْ بَرِحَ

lan yabrah(a)

laa yabrah(u)

maa yabrah(u)

lam yabrah

maa barih(a)

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always was

(He) is still

(He) always was

لَنْ يَفْتَئَ

لا يَفْتَئُ

مَاْ يَفْتَئُ

لَمْ يَفْتَئْ

مَاْ فَتِئَ

lan yafta'(a)

laa yafta'(u)

maa yafta'(u)

lam yafta'<

maa fati'(a)

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always was

(He) is still

(He) always was

لَنْ يَنْفَكَّ

لا يَنْفَكُّ

مَاْ يَنْفَكُّ

لَمْ يَنْفَكَّ

مَاْ انْفَكَّ

lan yanfakk(a)

laa yanfakk(u)

maa yanfakk(u)

lam yanfakk(a)

maa ('i)nfakk(a)

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always will be

(He) is still

(He) always was

(He) is still

(He) always was

 

Examples:

Verb - Subject - Verb

مَاْ فَتِئَ سَعِيْدٌ يُحَاْوِلُ النَّجَاْحَ

maa fati'(a) sa"eed(un) yuhaawil(u) ('a)n-najaah(a)

= (he) is always Sa'id trying to succeed

Translation: Sa'id is always trying to succeed

* النَّجَاْحَ is a verbal noun or an infinitive.

 

Verb - Subject - Verb

مَاْ يَفْتَئُ سَعِيْدٌ يُحَاْوِلُ النَّجَاْحَ

maa yafta'(u) sa"eed(un) yuhaawil(u) ('a)n-najaah(a)

= (he) is always Sa'id trying to succeed

Translation: Sa'id is always trying to succeed

 

Other incomplete verbs such as عَاْدَ can have variant meanings depending on whether they are negative or not.

 

لَنْ يَعُوْدَ

لا يَعُوْدُ

مَاْ يَعُوْدُ

لَمْ يَعُدْ

مَاْ عَاْدَ

lan ya"ood(a)

laa ya"ood(u)

maa ya"ood(u)

lam ya"ud

maa "aad(a)

(He) will no longer be

(He) will not be again

(He) is/was no longer

(He) was not again

 

Examples:

Verb - Subject - Adverb

مَاْ عَاْدَتِ الْحَيَاْةُ صَعْبَةً

maa "aadat(i) ('a)l-hayaat(u) sa"bata(n)

= no longer is the life (fem.) hardly

Translation: life is no longer hard

 

 

Verb - Subject - Adverb

لَمْ تَعُدِ الْحَيَاْةُ صَعْبَةً

lam ta"ud(i) ('a)l-hayaat(u) sa"bata(n)

= no longer is the life (fem.) hardly

Translation: life is no longer hard

 

 

Verb - Subject - Adverb

لَنْ تَعُوْدَ الْحَيَاْةُ سَهْلَةً

lan ta"ood(a) ('a)l-hayaat(u) sahlata(n)

= no longer will be the life (fem.) easily

Translation: life will no longer be easy

 

 

The subject of an incomplete verb is called in Arabic: "the noun of the incomplete verb" اِسْمُ الْفِعْلِ النَّاْقِصِ .

The adverb of an incomplete verb is called in Arabic: "the predicate of the incomplete verb" خَبَرُ الْفِعْلِ النَّاْقِصِ . This predicate can be a noun, a verb, a prepositional phrase, etc.

Incomplete verbs can be often called "kaan(a) and her sisters" كَاْنَ وَأَخَوَاْتُهَاْ .

 

 

 

Imperfective Verb Be

 

We mentioned before that the verb "to be" in Arabic does not show up in sentences in the present tense. However, we will still see an imperfective structure of this verb showing up in many sentences in Arabic (yakoon(u)). How is that possible?

The answer is that, as we mentioned before in the verb section, the imperfective structure can mean both the present and the future tenses. So the structure yakoon(u) does not actually mean "is," rather it means "will be."

Nonetheless, this does not mean that the sentence would necessarily be a future tense sentence, even if the verb "be" itself were a future verb. Think of the following sentence:

The wetter the road conditions, the harder it will be for a vehicle to stop.

This sentence contains a verb "be" in the future tense, however, it is not really talking about any future events. This sentence is only stating a general fact of life.

The same it is for Arabic sentences; had we had a simple indicative sentence, we would use the verb "be" in the present tense (i.e. not use it at all). On the other hand, if we had a sentence that is stating a general fact or describing some kind of customary behavior, we would use the verb "be" in the future tense (the imperfective, yakoon(u)). However, it should be noted that the future particles sa- and sawfa cannot be used in this case, because those are only used for actual future events.

In summary, the verb "be" does not exist in the present tense. The imperfective structure would be describing a future action if it were preceded by a future particle ( sa- or sawfa). If it were not preceded by a future particle, it would often confer a "declarative" tone on the sentence, as in stating a general fact or describing a customary behavior.

Example:

الجَّوُّ مُشْمِسٌ فِيْ الصَّيْفِ  

('a)l-jaww(u) mushmisu(n) fee ('a)s-sayf(i)

= the weather (is) sunny in the summer

Translation: the weather is sunny in summer

 

 

Verb - Subject - Adverb

يَكُوْنُ الجَّوُّ مُشْمِسًا فِيْ الصَّيْفِ  

yakoon(u) ('a)l-jaww(u) mushmisa(n) fee ('a)s-sayf(i)

= will be the weather sunny in the summer

Translation: ≈ the weather is usually sunny in summer

 

 

 

 

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