Praise & Disparagement
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The imperfective verb is used for both the simple present and simple future tenses.
Example, the imperfective verb:
This verb is derived from the root K T B = "write." It can mean any of the following:
Unlike the perfective verbs, imperfective verbs are not "built words," which means that they have changeable endings depending on the grammatical mood of the verb.
For example, the perfective verb "(you masc. sing.) wrote/has written" has only one possible form:
(You masc. sing.) wrote/has written
However, the imperfective verb "(you masc. sing.) write/will write" can have multiple different endings depending on the mood of the verb.
All these words have the same general meaning, which is "(you masc. sing.) write/will write," but they have different endings that depend on the grammar of the sentence. The imperative mood stands out in that it involves a different prefix not just different endings.
This is the "mood inflection," which is the verbal equal of the "case inflection" of nouns; the two are collectively called in Arabic 'i"raab إِعْرَاْبٌ ≈ "Arabization." In Arabic grammar, energetic and imperative verbs are not considered mood-inflected forms of the imperfective, rather they are considered "built" verbs that do not undergo mood inflection. The imperative is considered a separate class of verbs that is distinguished from both the perfective الْمَاْضِيْ and the imperfective الْمُضَاْرِعُ .
Like the case-inflected parts of nouns, mood-inflected parts of verbs are always colored in pink on this site (except for the imperative prefixes). Moods will be covered in detail later.
Basic Imperfective Structure (Form I)
Turning a perfective verb into an imperfective is somewhat complicated, because there are differences between the different verb forms in how they transform. We will begin by describing how regular form I verbs are conjugated in the imperfective.
Transforming a perfective form I verb to the imperfective requires three steps:
Like with the perfective, the added pronominal prefix and suffix depend on the subject of the verb. We will talk only about the 3rd person masculine singular conjugation for now and leave the rest for later.
We saw when we talked about the perfective that form I had three varieties depending on the short vowel between the second and third root-letters (the green short vowel).
To transform these verbs to the imperfective, we will implement the first step and remove the perfective pronominal suffix. For the 3rd person masculine singular subject, the imperfective prefix will be ya-, and there will be no suffix.
The second step is to omit the short A following the first root letter. We will get the following:
Finally, we will add the indicative mood sign of the 3rd person masculine singular: -u .
So like the perfective form I, the imperfective form I has also three varieties that differ in the short vowel between the second and third root-letters.
However, the green vowel in the imperfective will not match the one in the perfective, except by chance.
For example, the perfective verb:
(He) wrote/has written
Becomes in the imperfective:
(He) writes/will write
The green vowel was a in the perfective and become u in the imperfective. It can also become i in other verbs, or it can remain a; it is an arbitrary process.
Fa"al(a) verbs can have a , i , or u in the imperfective
Fa"il(a) verbs can have only a or i in the imperfective
Fa"ul(a) verbs can have only u in the imperfective
It is possible to recognize some loose generalities about the green vowel's transformation between the perfective and the imperfective, but they are too loose to depend upon. However, here are some of these:
*Irregular doubled verb.
*Irregular Mithaal verb.
*Irregular defective verb.
They include the following:
Many classical dialects conjugated fa"il(a) verbs in the imperfective in the following manner:
Prefixes with a vowel i (e.g. yi-) did not exist in western Arabian dialect and they do not exist in formal Arabic. However, in most of the modern spoken dialects, such prefixes are used for nearly all the imperfective verbs not only the imperfective of fa"il(a).
Unlike the perfective verbal structures which have only pronominal suffixes, imperfective verb structures have pronominal prefixes in addition to suffixes. This weird feature is common in the Afro-Asiatic language family of which Arabic is a member.
We already know the 3rd person masculine singular conjugation:
(He) does/is doing
Notice that the 3rd person masculine singular conjugation has only a prefix ya- attached to the stem -f"al but not a pronominal suffix (the -u is a mood-sign not a pronominal suffix).
Here is the full conjugation:
Notice that the feminine plural conjugations do not have mood-signs. This means that those conjugations do not undergo mood inflection and they retain the same form at all moods (except the imperative and heavy energetic, which are not considered moods in Arabic grammar). This is expressed in Arabic by saying that these words are "built words."
Apart from the feminine plural conjugations, there are six conjugations that have pronominal suffixes as well as prefixes (the red letters). Two of these six conjugations are identical in figure, so the six are termed the "five verbs"الأَفْعَاْلُ الْخَمْسَةُ .
A distinctive feature of the "five verb" conjugations is that their mood signs are not merely vowels but rather contain consonant letters noon ن . The mood inflection of these conjugation works by either keeping the ن(in the indicative & energetic moods) or omitting it along with the following short vowel (in the subjunctive, jussive & imperative moods).
Like what we said when we talked about the perfective, the pronominal suffixes are considered in Arabic attached subject pronouns. The conjugations that have attached subject pronouns are the "five verbs" and the feminine plural conjugations.
The presence of an attached subject pronoun (i.e. a pronominal suffix) will matter when forming a verbal sentence. Verbal sentences are the principal type of sentences in formal Arabic in which the verb precedes the subject. When forming such a sentence, it is strictly prohibited that an attached subject pronoun be followed by a noun subject or an adjective subject. This will be covered in the sentence section.
Example on the full conjugation of a regular verb:
Based on these verbs, can you translate the following to Arabic?
(you need not to translate the pronouns in parenthesis)