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ARABIC ONLINE

        اللّغة العربيّة    

Arabic Online

 

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Verbs (continued)

Passive Voice

 

We have covered in detail how to form all the kinds of active-voice verbs. Now, we shall continue by describing how to turn the verbal structures we talked about into their passive-voice versions.

 

►Active vs. Passive

 

The difference between an active verb and a passive verb regards the direction of the action indicated by the verb with regard to the subject. That is, whether the subject of the verb receives the action or not.

 

In an active verb, the action is directed outward from the subject, which means that the subject performs the action but does not receive it.

 

In a passive verb, the action is directed toward the subject, which means that the subject receives the action.

 

 

Statement

Subject

Recipient of Action

Active

The man gave a book

the man

somebody

Passive

The man was given a book

the man

the man

 

 

►Three Types of Passive

 

Arabic has three different types of passive verbs. They are:

 

  • The Passive of the Unknown

  • The Passive Without Agent

  • The Reflexive

 

 

♫ Passive of the Unknown

 

The first type is the type usually designated "passive."

 

This type is called in Arabic الْمَبْنِيُّ لِلْمَجْهُوْلِ = "the built for the unknown" (this is where I derived my designation from). Some westerners refer to it as the "internal passive," because it is formed by changing vowels within the verbal structure.

 

For example,

 

 

Form I

Form II

Form III

Form VII

Active

fa"?l(a)

fa""al(a)

faa"al(a)

'infa"al(a)

Internal Passive

fu"il(a)

fu""il(a)

foo"il(a)

'infu"il(a)

 

This is the type of the passive which we are going to talk about in detail in this section.

 

The passive of the unknown does not have an exact equivalent in English. Its literal meaning is the following:

 

fa"?l(a)

(he) did

fu"il(a)

(he/it) was/became done by somebody

 

The passive of the unknown, or simply "the passive" as it is usually called, indicates a passive action plus an unspecified agent.

 

 

♫ Passive Without Agent

 

The passive without agent is called in Arabic الْمُطَاْوِعُ = "the amenable." Verbs carrying this meaning are ones with an -n- affix, like form VII.

 

The passive without agent denotes a passive action (i.e. directed toward the subject) without saying anything about the fact that someone did it. In other words, it ignores the performer of the action, thus indicating less meaning than the passive of the unknown.

 

fa"?l(a)

(he) did

fu"il(a)

(he/it) was/became done by somebody

'infa"al(a)

(he) was/became done

 

Form VII (the agentless passive) is the principally used form of the passive voice in most of the modern spoken dialects of Arabic, but not in formal Arabic.

 

When forming an internal passive from form VII, the meaning will change to the passive of the unknown:

 

'infa"al(a)

(he) was/became done

'infu"il(a)

(it) was/became done by somebody

 

 

There is, of course, no verb without an agent, but I am using the "agentless passive" designation instead of simply saying "passive" because "passive" alone means the internal passive.

 

 

♫ Reflexive

 

The reflexive encompasses the definitions of both the active and passive voices, as it indicates an action carried out by the subject and directed toward the subject in the same time. Thus, the subject of a reflexive verb is both a performer and a recipient of the action.

 

Reflexive verbs exist in English; consider the following example:

 

The glass broke

 

Subject: the glass

Action: breaking

Agent (performer): the glass

Recipient: the glass

 

The reflexive indicates a passive action plus the self as an agent. Verbs that carry this meaning in Arabic are verbs carrying the -n- affix (for simple, basic actions) and verbs carrying the -t- affix (for all kinds of actions). The -t- affix appears in forms V, VI, VIII & QII.

 

The -t- affix could also impart an agentless passive meaning in some classical dialects.   -t- affixed verbs are the principally used form of the passive voice in some modern dialects of Arabic that show strong relations with classical south Arabian dialects (i.e. Egyptian Arabic).

 

When forming an internal passive from a reflexive verb, the meaning will change to the passive of the unknown.

 

 

Unknown, Agentless, & Reflexive

 

The best way to differentiate between the three types of the passive is by considering the following question:

 

Who did the action?

 

 

Or "who is the agent of the verb?"

 

In the passive of the unknown, there is an unspecified agent indicated.

 

In the passive without agent, there is no agent indicated.

 

In the reflexive, the subject is the agent of the action.

 

And all the three actions are directed toward the same target, which is the subject of the verb (hence they are all passive verbs).

 

 

Statement

Action

Agent

Passive of the Unknown

The glass was broken by somebody

breaking of glass

somebody

Passive Without Agent

The glass was broken

breaking of glass

---

Reflexive

The glass broke

breaking of glass

the glass

 

 

The internal passive

indicates

 an action

+

an unspecified agent

The agentless passive

indicates

 an action

   

The reflexive

indicates

 an action

+

the self as agent

And all the three actions are directed toward the the subject of the verb (passive).

 

►Arabic Terms

  • Active voice ≡ the built for the knownالْمَبْنِيُّ لِلْمَعْلُوْمِ

  • Passive of the Unknown ≡ the built for the unknown الْمَبْنِيُّ لِلْمَجْهُوْلِ

  • Agentless passive ≡ the amenable  الْمُطَاْوِعُ

 

 

Perfective Structures

Basic Structure (Form I)

 

To turn an active verb to a passive of the unknown, we are going to manipulate only vowels within the active structure but we will not touch any of the letters. Sometimes though, we are going to need to change weak letters within the structures to ones that suit the new short vowels.

 

To turn an active form I verb into passive, we will change the short vowel following the first letter from a to u, and the short vowel between the second and third letters (the green short vowel) to i .

 

Form I of Arabic Verbs

(Perfective)

Passive Voice

≡ (He/it) was done by somebody

Active Voice

(He) did

فُعِلَ

fu"il(a)

fa"al(a)

فَعَلَ

fa"il(a)

فَعِلَ

fa"ul(a)

فَعُلَ

 

Examples:

Passive

Active

kutib(a)

كُتِبَ

katab(a)

كَتَبَ

≡ (he/it) was written by somebody

(he) wrote

quri'(a)

قُرِأَ

qara'(a)

قَرَأَ

≡ (he/it) was read by somebody

(he) read

'ukil(a)

أُكِلَ

'akal(a)

أَكَلَ

≡ (he/it) was eaten by somebody

(he) late

"ulim(a)

عُلِمَ

"alim(a)

عَلِمَ

≡ (he/it) was known by somebody

(he) knew

fuhim(a)

فُهِمَ

fahim(a)

فَهِمَ

≡ (he/it) was understood by somebody

(he) understood

 

 

Pronominal Suffixes

Adding pronominal suffixes to passive perfective verbs is not any different from adding them to the active verbs.

 

الْمَاْضِيْ Perfective  // ف ع ل Root

(Form I, Passive Voice)

S

I

N

G

U

L

A

R

(I) was/became done by somebody

fu"ilt(u)

فُعِلْتُ

(You masc.) were/became done by somebody

fu"ilt(a)

فُعِلْتَ

(You fem.) were/became done by somebody

fu"ilti

فُعِلْتِ

(He/it) was/became done by somebody

fu"il(a)

فُعِلَ

(She) was/became done by somebody

fu"ilat

فُعِلَتْ

D

U

A

L

(You) were/became done by somebody

fu"iltumaa

فُعِلْتُمَاْ

(They masc.) were/became done by somebody

fu"ilaa

فُعِلا

(They fem.) were/became done by somebody

fu"ilataa

فُعِلَتَاْ

P

L

U

R

A

L

(We dual/plu.) were/became done by somebody

fu"ilnaa

فُعِلْنَاْ

(You masc.) were/became done by somebody

fu"iltum

فُعِلْتُمْ

(You fem.) were/became done by somebody

fu"iltunn(a)

فُعِلْتُنَّ

(They masc.) were/became done by somebody

fu"iloo

فُعِلُوْا

(They fem.) were/became done by somebody

fu"iln(a)

فُعِلْنَ

 

 

  • The subject of an active verb is called in Arabic the "doer"  الْفَاْعِلُ.

  • The subject of a passive verb is called in Arabic the "deputy of the doer"  نَاْئِبُ الْفَاْعِلِ.

 

Naturally, all subjects must be in the nominative case ('ar-raf").

 

 

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