Praise & Disparagement
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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.
►Three Types of Passive
Arabic has three different types of passive verbs. They are:
♫ 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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
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).
And all the three actions are directed toward the the subject of the verb (passive).
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 .
Adding pronominal suffixes to passive perfective verbs is not any different from adding them to the active verbs.
Naturally, all subjects must be in the nominative case ('ar-raf").