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Arabic Sentences (continued)

Verbal Sentences


III. Attached & Hiding Subjects

We have talked so far about verbal sentences in which the subjects are apparent. However, subjects of verbs can be omitted in Arabic sentences. Since that every complete sentence must have a subject, Arabic grammar deals with this issue in the following manner:

If the verb has a declension, then this is the subject and it is called an "attached subject pronoun."  


Attached Subject Pronouns
Did (I) fa"alt(u) فَعَلْتُ
Did (you sing. fem.) fa"alt(i) فَعَلْتِ
Did (they plu. masc.) fa"aloo فَعَلُوْا
Do (they dual masc.) yaf"alaan(i) يَفْعَلانِ
Do (they plu. masc.) yaf"aloon(a) يَفْعَلُوْنَ
Do (they plu. fem.) yaf"aln(a) يَفْعَلْنَ


The only exception to that idea is the 3rd person sing. fem. perfective verb which does have a declension but it is not an attached subject pronoun but rather a feminine marker.

Did .... (NO SUBJECT)




If a separate subject pronoun appears after a verb that has an attached subject pronoun, it will be an emphatic pronoun but not the subject, as far as Arabic grammar is concerned.

If the verb does not have an attached pronoun, the subject will be an unseen pronoun that follows the verb and that is called a "hiding pronoun" ضَمِيْرٌ مُسْتَتِرٌ .

Hiding Pronoun

Verb Without Attached Pronoun


( هُوَ )

Past: 3rd person sing. masc.



( هِيَ )

Past: 3rd person sing. fem.



( أَنا )

Present: 1st person sing.



( أًنْتَ )

Present: 2nd person sing. masc.



( هُوَ )

Present: 3rd person sing. masc.



( هِيَ )

Present: 3rd person sing. fem.



( نَحْنُ )

Present: 1st person plu./dual






Verb - Attached Subject - Object

لَقَدْ أَكَلْتُمْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ

laqad 'akaltum kull(a) shay'(in)

= have eaten you every thing

Translation: you have eaten everything



Verb - Attached Subject - Prepositional Phrase

يَقْرَؤُوْنَ فِيْ الْمَكْتَبَةِ

yaqra'oon(a) fee ('a)l-maktaba(ti)

= read (they) in the library

Translation: they read in the library

*Note that it is unusual for sentences with only an attached or a hiding 3rd person subject, but not an apparent noun subject, to be used if they were not preceded by other words or related sentences. e.g. the last example is not a good sentence in Arabic. Verb-like particles may be used in such sentences.


Verb - Attached Subject - Adverb

كُنْتُ جَاْهِزًا

kunt(u) jaahiza(n)

= was I ready

Translation: I was ready



Verb - Attached Subject - Object

عَرَفْنَاْ الْجَوَاْبَ

"arafnaa ('a)l-jawaab(a)

= knew we the answer

Translation: we have found out the answer



Verb - Attached Subject - Verb

كُنَّاْ نَعْرِفُ الْجَوَاْبَ

kunnaa na"rif(u) ('a)l-jawaab(a)

= were we know the answer

Translation: we knew the answer



Examples on hiding subjects:


Verb - Hiding Subject - Object

نُرِيْدُ أَنْ نَلْعَبَ

nureed(u) 'an nal"ab(a)

 = want (we) that play (we)

Translation: we want to play



Verb - Hiding Subject - Object

لَقَدْ أَكَلَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ

laqad 'akal(a) kull(a) shay'(in)

= has eaten (he) every thing

Translation: he has eaten everything



Object - Verb - Hiding Subject

الْحَقَّ أَقُوْلُ لَكُمْ

'al-haqq(a) 'aqool(u) la-kum

 = the truth say (I) to you (plu. masc.)

Translation: I tell you the truth



Verb - Hiding Subject - Adverb

كَاْنَ يَوْمًا عَصِيْبًا

kaan(a) yawma(n) "aseeba(n)

= was (he) a day a hard

Translation: it was a hard day



Verb - Hiding Subject - Adverb

سَوْفَ أَكُوْنُ جَاْهِزًا

sawf(a) 'akoon(u) jaahiza(n)

= will be (I) ready

Translation: I will be ready



IV. Separate Subject Pronouns in Verbal Sentences

Although separate subject pronouns are apparent words, an important idea in Arabic grammar is that separate subject pronouns are NOT the subjects in verbal sentences that contain them (i.e. if they came after the verb). The subjects will still be either the attached subject pronouns or the hiding pronouns; the separate subject pronouns are only emphatic words. Thus, adding a separate subject pronoun to a verbal sentence will confer a marked emphatic effect on the subject.



Verb - Hiding Subject - S.S.P - Object

تَعْرِفُ أَنْتَ الْجَوَاْبَ

ta"rif(u) 'ant(a) ('a)l-jawaab(a)

 = know you the answer

Translation: YOU know the answer


Compare with:

Verb - Hiding Subject - Object

تَعْرِفُ الْجَوَاْبَ

ta"rif(u) ('a)l-jawaab(a)

 = know (you) the answer

Translation: you know the answer


More examples:


Verb - Attached Subject - S.S.P - Adverb

كُنْتُ أَنَاْ جَاْهِزًا

kunt(u) 'anaa jaahiza(n)

= was I ready

Translation: I was ready

*The I here is stressed as well.


Verb - Attached Subject - S.S.P - Adverb

سَتَكُوْنُوْنَ أَنْتُمْ جَاْهِزِيْنَ

sa-takoonoon(a) 'antum jaahizeen(a)

= will be you (plu. masc.) ready

Translation: YOU will be ready


Since that separate subject pronouns are not subjects in verbal sentences, we will see that verbs will be conjugated in the dual and plural (will have attached pronouns) even if they were followed by dual or plural apparent subject pronouns. This is contrary to the regular rules of verbal sentences with apparent plural or dual noun subjects.



Verb - Attached Subject - S.S.P - Prepositional Phrase

تَدْخُلانِ هُمَاْ إِلَىْ المَحَلِّ

tadkhulaan(i) humaa 'ilaa ('a)l-mahall(i)

 = enter (dual fem.) they to the shop

Translation: THEY enter the shop



Verb - Attached Subject - S.S.P - Prepositional Phrase

يَذْهَبُوْنَ هُمْ إِلَىْ أَعْمَاْلِهِمْ

yathhaboon(a) hum 'ilaa 'a"maali-him

= go (plu. masc.) they  to (the) works (of) them

Translation: THEY go to their works


A final grammatical note is that 3rd person singular separate subject pronouns are regarded differently here, those will be considered subjects if they appeared after verbs.

This has to do with the concept of "optionally hiding pronouns" and "obligatory hiding pronouns" (see here for more details).



Verb - Subject - Object

أَكَلَ هُوَ طَعَاْمَهُ

'akal(a) huw(a) ta"aama-h(u)

 = ate he (the) food (of) him

Translation: HE ate his food



Verb - Subject - Object

شَرِبَتْ هِيَ شَرَاْبَهَاْ

sharibat hiy(a) sharaaba-haa

 = drank she (the) drink(s) (of) her

Translation: SHE drank her drinks



Additional: a case in which the verbs of verbal sentences will be conjugated regularly (in the singular) if they were followed by dual or plural separate subject pronouns is if there was an exclusive particle before the pronoun.



Negative Verb - Exclusion - Subject

مَاْ جَاْءَ إِلاّ هُمْ

maa jaa'(a) 'illaa hum

 = not came (3rd p. sing. masc.) except/but them

Translation: nobody came except them



Negative Verb - Object - Exclusion - Subject

مَاْ فَعَلَهَاْ إِلاّ أَنْتَ

maa fa"ala-haa 'illaa 'ant(a)

 = not did her/it except/but you

Translation: nobody did it but you

= it is certainly you who did it


In these sentences, the separate subject pronouns are actual subjects not emphatic words. This includes all of them not only the 3rd person singulars.




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