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Verb-Like Particles


Verb-like particles الأَحْرُفُ الْمُشَبَّهَةُ بِالْفِعْلِ are a very important group of particles that is commonly used in both classical Arabic and modern standard Arabic.


Verb-Like Particles

الأَحْرُفُ الْمُشَبَّهَةُ بِالْفِعْلِ

It is true that 'inna إِنَّ
That 'anna أَنَّ
But laakinna لَكِنَّ
It is like that ka'anna كَأَنَّ

It is hoped that

It may be that


It is wished that




The first four of those particles are in fact all based on the same particle 'inna إِنَّ .This word comes from an unclear origin. However, Arabs regularly used this word as an "opening word" to start a nominal sentence.


We mentioned in the section about sentences that the "normal" sentence in Arabic is a sentence in which the verb precedes the subject (e.g. "reads the boy a book"). This kind of sentences is called "verbal sentences" in opposition to the "nominal sentences." A nominal sentence is a sentence in which the subject precedes the verb (e.g. "THE BOY reads a book"). Nominal sentences are usually used in Arabic when we wish to emphasize the subject, and this is why the subject was capitalized in the sentence.


In order to "neutralize" the emphatic effect of bringing the subject in front of the verb in nominal sentences, Arabs use the verb-like particles (especially 'inna) at the beginning of nominal sentences to confer a "normal tone" on the sentence (counting on their "verb-like" nature, which in a sense turns the sentence back into a verbal sentence). Although the literal meaning of 'inna is "it is verified or true that" which is an emphatic meaning, the actual purpose of using 'inna is to de-emphasize the subject of a nominal sentence.


This is important because most of the speakers of other languages are not familiar with the usage of verbal sentences, and when they speak Arabic they usually use nominal sentences without employing the essential 'inna which can make them sound "not very native-like."




1. A verbal sentence (normal tone)


Verb - Subject - Object

يَقْرَأُ الْوَلَدُ كِتَاْبَهُ

yaqra'(u) ('a)l-walad(u) kitaaba-h(u)

= read the boy (the) book (of) him

Translation: the boy reads his book



2. A nominal sentence (emphatic tone)


Subject - Verb - Object

الْوَلَدُ يَقْرَأُ كِتَاْبَهُ

'al-walad(u) yaqra'(u) kitaaba-h(u)

= the boy reads (the) book (of) him

Translation: THE BOY reads his book



3. A nominal sentence with'inna (normal tone)


V.L.P - Subject - Verb - Object

إِنَّ الْوَلَدَ يَقْرَأُ كِتَاْبَهُ

'inna ('a)l-walad(a) yaqra'(u) kitaaba-h(u)

= it is true that the boy reads (the) book (of) him

Translation: the boy reads his book


Using 'inna requires simple things:

  • That it be used in front of a nominal sentence (and only a nominal sentence).

  • That the grammatical case of the subject of the nominal sentence be changed from the nominative ('ar-raf") to the accusative ('an-nasb).

The changing of the subject's case to the accusative is another reason for why 'inna is called a "verb-like" particle, because this seems as if the subject has become an object of 'inna.

In Arabic, the subject of a sentence that contains a verb-like particle is called "the noun of the verb-like particle" اِسْمُ الْحَرْفِ الْمُشَبَّهِ بِالْفِعْلِ.  The predicate of the sentence is called "the predicate of the verb-like particle" خَبَرُ الْحَرْفِ الْمُشَبَّهِ بِالْفِعْلِ .

More examples on 'inna in different situations:


V.L.P - Subject - Predicate

إِنَّ الْسَّمَاْءَ صَاْفِيَةٌ

'inna ('a)s-samaa'(a) saafiya(tun)

= it is true that the sky (is) clear

Translation: the sky is clear



V.L.P - Subject - Predicate

إِنَّ عَلِيًّا هُنَاْ

'inna "aliyya(n) hunaa

= truthfully Ali (is) here

Translation: Ali is here



V.L.P - Subject - Predicate

إِنَّ هَذَاْ يَوْمٌ عَصِيْبٌ

'inna haathaa yawm(un) "aseeb(un)

= truthfully this (is) a day a hard

Translation: this is a hard day


Not all nominal sentences can have a verb-like particle. For example, conditional sentences, or sentences that begin with a locational demonstrative can't.

If the subject was a separate subject pronoun, it must be changed to an attached object pronoun when adding 'inna. (See Attached Object Pronouns for information on how to attach object pronouns to verb-like particles).


Subject - Predicate

أَنَاْ جَاْهِزٌ

'anaa jaahiz(un)

= I (am) a ready

Translation: I am ready


V.L.P - Subject - Predicate

إِنِّيْ جَاْهِزٌ

'inn-ee jaahiz(un)

= truthfully me (is) a ready

Translation: I am ready


A must case for using 'inna is when the sentence begins with a 3rd person subject pronoun. Otherwise it will be very emphatic.


Subject - Predicate

هِيَ فَتَاْةٌ ذَكِيَّةٌ

hiy(a) fataa(tun) thakiyya(tun)

= she (is) a girl a smart

Translation: SHE is a smart girl



V.L.P - Subject - Predicate

إِنَّهَاْ فَتَاْةٌ ذَكِيَّةٌ

'inna-haa fataa(tun) thakiyya(tun)

 = truthfully her (is) a girl a smart

Translation: she is a smart girl



Subject - Predicate

 هُوَ صَدِيْقِيْ

huw(a) sadeeq-ee

 = he (is) (the) friend (of) me

Translation: HE is my friend



V.L.P - Subject - Predicate

 إِنَّهُ صَدِيْقِيْ

'inna-hu sadeeq-ee

 = truthfully him (is) (the) friend (of) me

Translation: he is my friend



V.L.P - Subject - Predicate (Prepositional Phrase)

إِنَّهُ فِيْ الْدَّاْخِلِ

'inna-h(u) fee ('a)d-daakhil(i)

= it is true that him (is) in the inside

Translation: he's inside



Subject - Predicate

هُمْ أُنَاْسٌ طَيِّبُوْنَ

hum 'unaas(un) tayyiboon(a)

 = they (are) people kind

Translation: THEY are kind people



V.L.P - Subject - Predicate

إِنَّهُمْ أُنَاْسٌ طَيِّبُوْنَ0

'inna-hum 'unaas(un) tayyiboon(a)

= truthfully them (are) people kind

Translation: they are kind people



'inna with Emphatic la-

A commonly used particle, especially in classical Arabic, is emphatic la- لَـ . This la- precedes many words for the purpose of emphases. It also precedes nominal sentences.


لَزَيْدٌ صَاْدِقٌ

la-zayd(un) saadiq(un)

 = certainly Zayd (is) an honest

Translation: certainly Zayd is telling the truth


 لَهُوَ صَدِيْقِيْ

la-huw(a) sadeeq-ee

 = certainly he (is) (the) friend (of) me

Translation: certainly he is my friend


When using 'inna with such sentences, the emphatic la- will have to be moved from before the subject to before the predicate.

إِنَّ زَيْدًا لَصَاْدِقٌ

'inna zayda(n) la-saadiq(un)

 = truthfully Zayd (is) certainly an honest

Translation: certainly Zayd is telling the truth


إِنَّهُ لَصَدِيْقِيْ

'inna-hu la-sadeeq-ee

 = truthfully him (is) certainly (the) friend (of) me

Translation: certainly he is my friend


This moved emphatic la- is called in Arabic the "slipped laam" اللاَّمُ الْمُزَحْلَقَةُ , because it slips from before the subject to after it.



 Why Verb-Like?

►They look like verbs, and end with the perfective verb declension -a .

►They all carry meanings of verbs.

►They affect the subject of the nominal sentence by changing its case to the accusative, which is what verbs do with their objects.

►They can be attached to object pronouns like verbs. See Attached Object Pronouns.


Literal Senses of Verb-Like Particles

It is verified that



That it is verified that



But it is verified that



As/like it is verified that



It is hoped that

It may be that



It is wished that






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