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Meanings of Verb Forms (continued)

Triliteral Roots

 

Form IV

 

Form IV of Arabic Verbs

(Active Voice)

Causative

(He) made do

'af"al(a)

tr./intr.

أَفْعَلَ

Reflexive Causative

(He) made himself do

 

Also called the C-stem (C for "causative"), this structure is formed by prefixing an 'a- and dropping the short A after the first root letter. The 'a- is a qat" or a disconnecting hamza(t), which means that it will always be pronounced (details about the different types of hamza(t) are available on this page).

 

The 'a- prefix imparts a causative meaning just like the one described for form II.

 

Causative

(He) made (a/the performer) do

OR

(He) had (a/the performer) do

Examples:

Form IV

Form I

'aktab(a)

أَكْتَبَ

katab(a)

كَتَبَ

(he) made/had write

(he) wrote

'athhab(a)

أَذْهَبَ

thahab(a)

ذَهَبَ

(he) made/had go

(he) went

'ahdar(a)

أَحْضَرَ

hadar(a)

حَضَرَ

(he) made/had come

(he) brought

(he) became present

(he) came

'akhraj(a)

أَخْرَجَ

kharaj(a)

خَرَجَ

(he) made/had go/come out

(he) brought out

(he) drove out

(he) went/came out

'a"lam(a)

أَعْلَمَ

"alim(a)

عَلِمَ

(he) made/had know

(he) informed

(he) knew

'akhbar(a)

أَخْبَرَ

khabur(a)

خَبُرَ

(he) made/had be told

(he) told

(he) was told

'albas(a)

أَلْبَسَ

labis(a)

لَبِسَ

(he) made/had wear

(he) dressed (tr.)

(he) wore

'at"ab(a)

أَتْعَبَ

ta"ib(a)

تَعِبَ

(he) made tired

(he) became tired

'at"am(a)

أَطْعَمَ

ta"im(a)

طَعِمَ

(he) made/had eat

(he) fed

(he) ate

(he) tasted

'akram(a)

أَكْرَمَ

karum(a)

كَرُمَ

(he) made be dignified

(he) dignified

(he) was/became dignified

'amaat(a)

أَمَاْتَ*

maat(a)

مَاْتَ*

(he) made/caused to die

(he) died

'araaa

أَرَىْ*

ra'aa

رَأَىْ*

(he) made see

(he) showed

(he) saw

'adaa"(a)

أَضَاْعَ*

daa"(a)

ضَاْعَ*

(he) made be lost, mislaid

 → (he) lost, mislaid

(he) was/became lost, mislaid

'ajaab(a)

أَجَاْبَ*

jaab(a)

جَاْبَ*

(he) made go through

→ (he) answered

original sense:

→ (he) helped to reach

(he) went through

(he) voyaged (tr.)

*These are irregular verbs.

 

Like any other causative form, this form can also be reflexive.

 

Reflexive Causative

(He) made himself do

 

The reflexive causative verbs will mean nothing different from the form I verbs. They probably carry only an emphatic character.

 

Examples:

 

Form IV

Form I

'ahabb(a)

أَحَبَّ*

habb(a)

حَبَّ*

(he) made himself like, love

→ (he) liked, loved

(he) liked, loved

'araad(a)

أَرَاْدَ*

raad(a)

رَاْدَ*

(he) made himself want

 → (he) wanted

(he) wanted

'a"aar(a)

أَعَاْرَ*

"aar(a)

عَاْرَ*

(he) made himself lend

 → (he) lent

(he) lent

'ayna"(a)

أَيْنَعَ

yana"(a)

يَنَعَ

(he) made himself ripen

 → (he) ripened

(he) ripened

'ashraqat

أَشْرَقَتْ

sharaqat

شَرَقَتْ

(she) made herself rise

→ (she, the sun) rose

(she) shined

(she) cut

(she, the sun) rose

* Irregular verbs.

 

I believe that the reflexive meaning of this form is not original but just a later development. This tendency to impart a reflexive meaning to all the causative verbs carried on even after the time of classical Arabic. For example, some form II verbs that were merely causative in classical Arabic became reflexive in the modern spoken dialects:

 

Modern Syrian Arabic

Classical Arabic

(he) was wrong

غَلَّطْ

(he) made wrong

غَلَّطَ

rallat

rallat(a)

(he) became deep

غَمَّقْ

(he) made deep

عَمَّقَ

rammaq

"ammaq(a)

 

 

Also, like the other causative forms, this form has a transformative meaning. This is when these verbs are derived from nouns. It is like what we described for form II, but the difference here is that the transformative action will be most of the time reflexive.

 

Transformative

(He) made be noun

(He) became noun

(He) noun-ized

Examples:

 

Form IV

Noun

'athmar(a)

أَثْمَرَ

thamar(un)

ثَمَرٌ

(he) fructified

(he) yielded

fruits (sing. masc.)

'azhar(a)

أَزْهَرَ

zahr(un)

زَهْرٌ

(he) flower-ized

(he) bloomed

flowers (sing. masc.)

'ashjar(a)

أَشْجَرَ

shajar(un)

شََجَرٌ

(he) plant-ized

(he) bloomed

trees, plants

 (sing. masc.)

'asbah(a)

أَصْبَحَ

subh(un)

صُبْحٌ

(he) morn-ized

(he) was in the morning

a morning (masc.)

'amsaa

أَمْسَىْ

masaa'(un)

مَسَاْءٌ

(he) even-ized

(he) was in the evening

an evening (masc.)

'abhar(a)

أَبْحَرَ

bahr(un)

بَحْرٌ

(he) sea-ized

(he) headed into sea

(he) sailed

a sea (masc.)

 

Many of these verbs have equivalent form I verbs, but I don't believe they were derived from the form I verbs.

 

Finally, form IV has a specific causative prefix and its causative function is a very strong one, so this leaves no space for a factitious transformative meaning like that of form II and III (the figurative transformative).

 

Meanings of Form IV

Causative

tr./intr.

to do

Simple

(he) made do

Reflexive

(he) made himself do

→ (he) did (emphatic)

to be noun

(Transformative)

Simple

(he) made be noun

Reflexive

(he) made himself be noun

→ (he) became noun

 

 

Etymology Note

The causative prefix 'a- comes originally from ha-.

هَفْعَلَ أَفْعَلَ

haf"al(a) 'af"al(a)

 

Cf. Hebrew hif"eel הפעיל.

Some classical Arabic verbs preserved the ha- causative prefix.

Examples:

 (He) spilled

أَرَاْقَ

هَرَاْقَ

 (He) illuminated

أَنَاْرَ

هَنَاْرَ

(He) made rest

أَرَاْحَ

هَرَاْحَ

(He) wanted

أَرَاْدَ

هَرَاْدَ

Both the ha- and 'a- forms of these verbs were possible in classical Arabic.

The ha- itself comes from sa-.

سَفْعَلَ هَفْعَلَ أَفْعَلَ

saf"al(a) haf"al(a) 'af"al(a)

 

This causative sa- prefix remains clear in the Arabic form X. There are also preserved sa- prefixes in some classical verbs of form IV:

 (He) threw

أَلْقَىْ

سَلْقَىْ

 (He) turned over (tr.)

(He) turned away (tr.)

→ (He) transformed (tr.)

أَقْلَبَ

سَقْلَبَ

(He) foddered

أَعْلَفَ

سَعْلَفَ

(He) controlled, dominated

from the root: ? أ ط ر

سَيْطَرَ ؟

It is believed by many people that the Arabic letter s was originally sh, but this doesn't appear to be true.

 

Form VII

We will talk about forms VII & VIII before the rest of the forms.

Form VII of Arabic Verbs

(Active Voice)

Reflexive

 

 (He) did himself

'infa"al(a)

intr.

اِنْفَعَلَ

Agentless Passive

 

 ≡ (He/it) was/became done

This form contains the affix -n- and thus called the N-stem. The hamza(t) 'i- at the beginning is a connecting hamza(t), which means that it will be pronounced only if it was the first thing coming out of the mouth (details about the different types of hamza(t) are available on this page).

The connecting hamza(t) was added to the beginning of many Arabic words for a merely phonological purpose, and it is not original part of these words. It does not carry any meaning. This page lists the types of words to which the connecting hamza(t) is added.

Original Form

Form With "Liaison" Hamza(t)

نْفَعَلَ

اِنْفَعَلَ

nfa"al(a)

'infa"al(a)

Used when preceded by other talking, but never written

Used when not preceded by other talking, the only written from

 

Arabs used the connecting hamza(t) because they hated to start talking with a cluster of two consonants not containing a vowel in the middle (CC-). In Arabic terms, they hated to start with a "still" letter (a consonant not followed by a vowel).

 

Form VII has two meanings that are both passive meanings. Before we describe the meanings of form VII, we will talk about the passive verbs in Arabic in general.

 

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." It is meant when the passive voice is mentioned without specification.

 

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)

 

Generally, the passive of the unknown is derived from perfective verbs by changing the vowel following the first root-letter to u, and the one between the final two letters of the verb to i. We will go through forming it in detail later.

 

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 pliable." 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 agent 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).

 

 

Meanings of Form VII

 

1) Reflexive

 

This is probably the original meaning of the -n- affix, whereas the agentless passive meaning is just a later evolution.

 

The -n- affix can be translated simply as "himself." It is somewhat similar to the French or Latin word se.

 

Form I

Form VII

Basic

(He) did

Reflexive

 

(He) did himself

 

Naturally form VII will be intransitive, i.e. it will not take an object, because it has an inherent object already which is "himself."

Examples:

Form VII

Form I

'inkasar(a)

اِنْكَسَرَ

kasar(a)

كَسَرَ

(he) broke himself

→ (he) broke (intr.)

(he) broke (tr.)

'infajar(a)

اِنْفَجَرَ

fajar(a)

فَجَرَ

(he) split, burst himself

→ (he) burst, exploded (intr.)

(he) split, burst (tr.)

'inkhafad(a)

اِنْخَفَضَ

khafad(a)

خَفَضَ

(he) lowered himself

→ (he) descended

(he) lowered

'inqata"(a)

اِنْقَطَعَ

qata"(a)

قَطَعَ

(he) cut himself

→ (he) became cut

(he) cut

'indamm(a)

اِنْضَمَّ*

damm(a)

ضَمَّ*

(he) joined himself

→ (he) joined (intr.)

(he) joined (tr.)

'inhall(a)

اِنْحَلَّ*

hall(a)

حَلَّ*

(he) untied, dissolved himself

→ (he) untied, dissolved (intr.)

(he) untied, dissolved (tr.)

'infakk(a)

اِنْفَكَّ*

fakk(a)

فَكَّ*

(he) untied himself

→ (he) united (intr.)

(he) untied (tr.)

'indass(a)

اِنْدَسَّ*

dass(a)

دَسَّ*

(he) foisted himself (into)

→ (he) slipped (into) (intr.)

(he) foisted (into)

'inhaaz(a)

اِنْحَاْزَ*

haaz(a)

حَاْزَ*

(he) collected himself toward

→ (he) became biased toward

(he) favored

(he) joined (intr.)

(he) acquired

(he) collected toward

'inqaad(a)

اِنْقَاْدَ*

qaad(a)

قَاْدَ*

(he) led, drove himself

→ (he) became led, driven

(he) led, drove

'inhanaa

اِنْحَنَىْ*

hanaa

حَنَىْ*

(he) bent himself

→ (he) bent (intr.)

(he) bent (tr.)

'inqadaa

اِنْقَضَىْ*

qadaa

قَضَىْ*

(he) ended, determined himself

→ (he) became ended, determined

(he) ended (tr.)

(he) determined

'insahar(a)

اِنْصَهَرَ

sahar(a)

صَهَرَ

(he) melted himself down

→ (he) melted down (intr.)

(he) melted down (tr.)

'inqalab(a)

اِنْقَلَبَ

qalab(a)

قَلَبَ

→ (he) turned over (intr.)

→ (he) turned away (intr.)

→ (he) turned inside out (intr.)

→ (he) transformed (intr.)

(he) turned over (tr.)

(he) turned away (tr.)

(he) turned inside out (tr.)

→ (he) transformed (tr.)

'intalaq(a)

اِنْطَلَقَ

talaq(a)

طَلَقَ

(he) sat himself free

→ (he) broke out

(he) became launched

(he) sat free

* Irregular verbs.

Reflexive form VII verbs are mostly made out of simple form I verbs that indicate basic actions, whereas the reflexive -t- affixed forms (V, VI, VIII & QII) are made out of all the kinds of verbs.

 

2) Passive Without Agent

 

This is probably a secondary meaning that evolved from the reflexive meaning. As described earlier, this does not really mean a verb without an agent, but it means a passive verb without any mention of an agent.

 

Agentless Passive

≡ (He) was/became done

Examples:

Form VII

Form I

'inkatab(a)

اِنْكَتَبَ

katab(a)

كَتَبَ

(he) was/became written

(he) wrote

'injathab(a)

اِنْجَذَبَ

jathab(a)

جَذَبَ

(he) was/became attracted

(he) pulled, attracted

'infatah(a)

اِنْفَتَحَ

fatah(a)

فَتَحَ

(he) was/became opened

(he) opened

'inralaq(a)

اِنْغَلَقَ

ralaq(a)

غَلَقَ

(he) was/became closed

(he) closed

'inza"aj(a)

اِنْزَعَجَ

za"aj(a)

زَعَجَ

(he) was/became annoyed

(he) annoyed

'indahar(a)

اِنْدَحَرَ

dahar(a)

دَحَرَ

(he) was/became repelled

(he) pushed, repelled

 

Naturally form VII will be made out of transitive from I verbs. However, there are very few of such verbs that are made out of intransitive verbs. In this case the form will have a different meaning which is the reflexive causative.

Reflexive Causative

(He) made himself do

 

Examples:

 

Form VII

Form I

'inkamash(a)

اِنْكَمَشَ

kamash(a)

كَمَشَ

(he) made himself become tiny

→ (he) shrank

(he) became tiny

(he) vanished

'indathar(a)

اِنْدَثَرَ

dathar(a)

دَثَرَ

(he) made himself fade away

→ (he) faded away

(he) faded away

(he) accumulated

(he) became covered

 

 

 

Meanings of Form VII

Reflexive

(he) did himself

 Agentless Passive

(he) was/became done

Reflexive Causative

(Rare)

(he) made himself do

 

 

 

Special Issues

 

Form VII contains in it a still noon (-n-). Still noons, or noons without a directly following vowel, have numerous special phonological rules in Arabic. One of these rules is the one called in Arabic "the assimilation"  الإِدْغَاْمُ . This rule means that the still noon will sometimes assimilate into following letter, or in other words, it will be transformed into the letter that follows it.

 

Example, the defective verb:

 

مَحَىْ

 

mahaa

 

(He) erased

 

When rendered in form VII:

 

اِنْمَحَىْ اِمَّحَىْ

 

'inmahaa 'immahaa

 

(He) became erased

 

The still noon was transformed to a meem; the letter following it.

 

In perfect classical pronunciation of Arabic, this phenomenon should happen whenever the still noon was followed by any of the following letters: ر ل م و ي .

 

Perfect Pronunciation in Classical Arabic

The Assimilation الإِدْغَاْمُ

-nr -rr

-nl -ll

-nm -mm

-nw -ww

-ny -yy

 

Another comparable rule is called "the transformation"  الإِقْلابُ . This states that the still noon should be transformed to a meem when followed by a baa'<:

-nb -mb

These rules are all verbal rules and are not shown in writing, and they are no longer employed today except in reciting the Koran, the Islamic holy book. However, I mentioned them here because traces of them can appear written in some classical verbs of form VII, like the above mentioned example:

 اِمَّحَىْ

'immahaa

 

(He) became erased

 

In such verbs, the optional rule of assimilation became obligatory for some reason.

 

Such verbs are rare. Here are some other archaic examples:

 

Form VII

Form I

'irra'aa

اِرَّأَىْ

ra'aa

رَأَىْ

→ (he) was seen

(he) saw

'illahan(a)

اِلَّحَنَ

lahan(a)

لَحَنَ

→ (he) was understood

(he) made a tune (intr.)

→ (he) made a grammatical mistake (intr.)

→ (he) understood (tr.)

'iwwajal(a)

اِوَّجَلَ

wajal(a)

وَجَلَ

→ (he) was feared more than

(he) feared more than (tr.)

(he) out-feared (somebody)

'iyyasar(a)

اِيَّسَرَ

yasar(a)

يَسَرَ

→ (he) became easy

(he) made easy

 

Note: in modern times, there have been people calling for form VII not to be made from roots beginning with certain letters such as r, l, n, w, y, etc.

 

Etymology Note

The still noon in Semitic languages is one of the most commonly altered letters. Knowing the rules of still noon transformation in Arabic makes it easier to understand why this letter is so much changeable.

 

One additional rule that was not mentioned above is the rule of "hiding" الإِخْفَاْءُ . This rule says that a still noon should be pronounced nasally whenever followed by any of the following letters:ت ث د ذ ز ج خ س ش ص ض ط ظ ف ق ك  .

 

Nasal pronunciation of still noon exists also in French, but it is not exactly like the Arabic one which makes the noon even less evident. Knowing this Semitic rule is valuable when looking into languages such as Hebrew, Syriac, or Akkadian, where the nasal noon was lost completely.

 

Click on the Arabic word to hear the perfect classical pronunciation.

English

Proto-Semitic

Arabic

Ge"ez

(Ethiopian)

Akkadian

(Mesopotamian)

Aramaic

Hebrew

Thou (masc.) *'anta 'ant(a) 'anta 'atta 'atta 'attāh
Thou (fem.) *'anti 'ant(i) 'anti 'atti 'att 'att
Nose (masc.) *'anpun 'anf(un) 'anf 'appu 'appāyā 'af

Note: the asterisk * means that these are reconstructed words. Nobody knows what Proto-Semitic was like (this is the supposed mother Semitic language), people only guess.

 

The word for a "man" in Hebrew is 'eesh איש and the Arabic equivalent is 'ins(un) إِنْسٌ = "a human being." This is also an example of this phenomenon.

 

 

 

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