Praise & Disparagement
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The major two categories of verbal structures in Arabic are the perfective and the imperfective. The imperfective is used for both the simple present and simple future tenses, and the perfective is used for the simple past tense.
Imperfective verbs have different moods. There are five moods, four of which (the indicative, subjunctive, jussive, and energetic) share one structure but with different endings. The fifth mood, the imperative, has its own distinct structure. Perfective verbs have only one mood; but this mood has two different functions. It can be either indicative or subjunctive depending on the sentence. The subjunctive perfective verbs can be used for all tenses not only the past.
Perfective and imperfective verbs have also active and passive voices. We will cover the passive voice right after we finish with the active voice.
Triliteral Roots-Basic Structures
It is better in Arabic to begin by describing the past (perfective) verbs, because these are the simplest forms.
The majority of Arabic verbs have roots consisting of three letters. Some verbs have four-lettered-roots, but there are no verbs with more than four letters to their roots.
We will begin by talking about the structures of triliteral roots. Without adding any additional letters to them, triliteral roots can be structured in 3 different ways to give the three basic structures of perfective verbs in Arabic:
The perfective verb alone can mean either the simple past tense "(he) did" or the perfect present "(he) has done." Verb structures in Semitic languages are usually presented in the 3rd person singular masculine conjugation "(he) did" because this is the simplest and most basic form. It should be noted that there is no pronoun "it" in Arabic, so verbs conjugated in the "he" conjugation may also be referring to an "it" (i.e. an object/animal).
The blue letters are the root letters. Most of the roots are plugged into only one of the three structures, but some roots can be plugged into more than one. These three structures are called in western terms the "form I" of Arabic verbs, or the G-stem (G for "ground"). The difference between the three structures lies in the short vowel between the final two letters colored in green.
The three structures all express the same general meaning, which is "(he) did" or "(he) has done." However, there is a difference between the three in regard to "what" he actually did or has done.
The first structure, fa"al(a), is generally a "dynamic" or "active" structure. It usually indicates a real action on the part of the subject that occurs over a period of time, like e.g. "(he) wrote," "(he) read," or "(he) ate."
The second structure, fa"il(a), is generally a "stative" structure. Rather than indicating real actions that occur over time, this structure usually refers to the state of the subject, e.g. "(he) knew," "(he) became tired," or "(he) became happy."
These verbs do not indicate real actions. You don't actually do something when you "know."
The stative verb "to know" can indicate two things:
Thus, stative verbs can indicate either being something or becoming something. Most of the stative fa"il(a) verbs will primarily indicate the second meaning, i.e. "(he) became something." A few number of them will indicate "(he) was something" as a primary meaning.
The dynamic vs. stative distinction between fa"al(a) and fa"il(a) is a general rule but is not always true. There are verbs of the first structure that are stative, and vice versa.
The primary reason for these irregularities is probably because the original meanings of the verbs were different. For example, the original meaning of the root ع ر ف is related to "succession" or "flowing." Also, the verb sharib(a), if understood literally, means "(he) became soaked."
The third structure, fa"ul(a), is a pure stative structure. It is always stative without irregularities, and unlike the previous one, the primary meaning of this structure in Classical Arabic is always "(he) was something" rather than "(he) became something."
Remember that "he" can also mean "it" in Arabic. The meaning "(he) has been" colored in purple is the commonly meant one in Classical Arabic.
This structure is less common than the previous one. A main difference between the two is that this structure is usually used for simple attributes like "small," "easy," "tall," "good," "slow," "honorable," etc. Whereas the previous structure is generally used for more real states like "angry," "tired," "safe," "knowing," "forgetting," "saturated," etc.
Unlike the previous two structures, fa"ul(a) verbs are always intransitive verbs.
Transitive verb: a verb that can take a direct object.
e.g. he bought a book.
Intransitive verb: a verb that cannot take a direct object.
e.g. he slept (he can't "sleep something").
A summary of the structures we have talked about so far:
So far we have been dealing only with the 3rd person singular masculine conjugation of the perfective verb "(he) did." This is the basic conjugation of verbs in Arabic.
In order to get the rest of the conjugations, we will add endings, or suffixes, to this basic form.
Here is the full conjugation scheme:
*In perfect classical Arabic this would be fa"alt(i), but this is too perfect for our time.
*Another possibility in classical Arabic is: fa"altum(u) فَعَلْتُمُ.
*Theا in ــواis silent.
The red endings are considered in Arabic grammar subjects of the verbs to which they are attached. A subject of a verb refers to who did (active verb) or who received (passive verb) the action denoted by the verb.
However, the 3rd person singular endings, both the masculine and feminine (he & she), are the only endings that are not considered attached subject pronouns.
The final -a of the masculine conjugation is not a pronoun. The -t at the end of the feminine conjugation is a feminine marker called "still feminine taa'< تَاْءُ التَأْنِيثِ السَّاكِنَةُ ." Unlike the feminine taa'< attached to nouns, this one is always pronounced, hence the different figure in writing.
The fact that these two are not attached pronouns is important when making verbal sentences. Verbal sentences are the principal type of sentences in formal Arabic. In such sentences, the verb comes before the subject:
An important rule regarding the formation of verbal sentences is the following:
When a perfective verb ending with a 3rd person attached subject pronoun is used in a verbal sentence (i.e. precedes its subject), the attached pronoun must be removed and replaced with -a for the masculine subject and -at for the feminine subject unless the subject is a separate pronoun.
More details about verbal sentences are available on this page.
The conjugation technique is the same for every perfective verb in Arabic. However, irregular verbs have irregular conjugation rules. Irregular verbs include doubled verbs; the verbs that end with a repeated letter, and weak verbs; the verbs whose roots include weak letters (w or y). Conjugation of irregular verbs will be explained soon.
The regular verbs are also called sound verbs. Example on the conjugation of a regular verb:
(he) knew, became acquainted with
(used for "being familiar with people, things, etc.," equivalent to the French connaξtre )
*A group of males and females will be referred to as a group of males. An unspecified or unknown gender will be referred to as male.
Based on these two verbs, can you translate the following to Arabic?
(you need not to translate the pronouns in parenthesis)