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Verbs (continued)

Imperfective Structures

 

 

 

Tense

Verb

Simple Past

Perfective

Simple Present

Imperfective

Simple Future

The imperfective verb is used for both the simple present and simple future tenses.

Example, the imperfective verb:

يَكْتُبُ

yaktub(u)

 

This verb is derived from the root K T B = "write." It can mean any of the following:

  • (He) writes (simple present)

  • (He) is writing (progressive present)

  • (He) will write (simple future)

  • (He) will be writing (progressive future)

 

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:

 

كَتَبْتَ

katabt(a)

(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.

 

Moods of Imperfective Verb

(You masc. sing.) write/will write

Indicative

taktub(u)

تَكْتُبُ

Subjunctive

taktub(a)

تَكْتُبَ

Jussive

taktub

تَكْتُبْ

Energetic

Light

taktuban

تَكْتُبَنْ

Heavy

taktubann(a)

تَكْتُبَنَّ

Imperative

'uktub

اُكْتُبْ

Energetic-Imperative

Light

'uktuban

اُكْتُبَنْ

Heavy

'uktubann(a)

اُكْتُبَنَّ

 

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:

  1. Removing the perfective pronominal suffix and adding an imperfective pronominal prefix and an imperfective pronominal suffix (if needed) to the stem.

  2. Omitting the short A vowel between the first and second root letters of the verb stem (-CaCvC- → -CCvC-).

  3. Adding a mood-sign that should follow the pronominal suffix (if the latter existed).

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).

Form I Perfective Structures

(Active Voice)

(He) did

 (He) has done

fa"al(a)

فَعَلَ

fa"il(a)

فَعِلَ

fa"ul(a)

فَعُلَ

 

 

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.

 

yafa"al

يَفَعَل

yafa"il

يَفَعِل

yafa"ul

يَفَعُل

 

 

The second step is to omit the short A following the first root letter. We will get the following:

 

yaf"al

يَفْعَل

yaf"il

يَفْعِل

yaf"ul

يَفْعُل

 

Finally, we will add the indicative mood sign of the 3rd person masculine singular: -u .

 

Form I Imperfective Structures

(Active-Indicative)

(He) does

(He) will do

yaf"al(u)

يَفْعَلُ

yaf"il(u)

يَفْعِلُ

yaf"ul(u)

يَفْعُلُ

 

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:

 

كَتَبَ

katab(a)

(He) wrote/has written

 

Becomes in the imperfective:

 

يَكْتُبُ

yaktub(u)

(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.

 

General facts:

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:

 

1) Fa"al(a)

 

  • Broadly speaking, dynamic fa"al(a) verbs that carry an essentially transitive meaning often have u in the imperfective.

 

Examples:

 

Fa"al(a) yaf"ul(u)

yaktub(u)

يَكْتُبُ

katab(a)

كَتَبَ

(He) writes

(He) wrote

ya'<kul(u)

يَأْكُلُ

'akal(a)

أَكَلَ

(He) eats

(He) ate

yaqtul(u)

يَقْتُلُ

qatal(a)

قَتَلَ

(He) kills

(He) killed

ya'<khuth(u)

يَأْخُذُ

'akhath(a)

أَخَذَ

(He) takes

(He) took

 

 

  • However, for transitive dynamic fa"al(a) verbs that refer to simple actions, like carried, broke, hit, cut, burned, bent, breached, connected, tied, opened, closed, sealed, etc., the vowel will often be i.

 

Examples:

 

Fa"al(a) yaf"il(u)

yaksir(u)

يَكْسِرُ

kasar(a)

كَسَرَ

(He) breaks

(He) broke

yahmil(u)

يَحْمِلُ

hamal(a)

حَمَلَ

(He) carries

(He) carried

yahriq(u)

يَحْرِقُ

haraq(a)

حَرَقَ

(He) burns

(He) burned

yarbit(u)

يَرْبِطُ

rabat(a)

رَبَطَ

(He) ties

(He) tied

yadrib(u)

يَضْرِبُ

darab(a)

ضَرَبَ

(He) hits

(He) hit

yamsik(u)

يَمْسِكُ

masak(a)

مَسَكَ

(He) holds, grasps

(He) held, grasped

yarliq(u)

يَغْلِقُ

ralaq(a)

غَلَقَ

(He) closes

(He) closed

 

 

  • Stative and intransitive fa"al(a) verbs, or ones that do not have an essentially transitive meaning often have i in the imperfective.

 

Examples:

 

Fa"al(a) yaf"il(u)

yajlis(u)

يَجْلِسُ

jalas(a)

جَلَسَ

(He) sits

(He) sat

yarji"(u)

يَرْجِعُ

raja"(a)

رَجَعَ

(He) returns

(He) returned

yanzil(u)

يَنْزِلُ

nazal(a)

نَزَلَ

(He) goes down

(He) went down

ya"rif(u)

يَعْرِفُ

"araf(a)

عَرَفَ

(He) knows

(He) knew

yamlik(u)

يَمْلِكُ

malak(a)

مَلَكَ

(He) owns

(He) owned

yafqid(u)

يَفْقِدُ

faqad(a)

فَقَدَ

(He) loses

(He) lost

yatimm(u)

يَتِمٌّ*

tamm(a)

تَمَّ*

(He) becomes completed

(He) was/become completed

yahibb(u)

يَحِبُّ*

habb(a)

حَبَّ*

(He) loves, likes

(He) loved, liked

yaqif(u)

يَقِفْ*

waqaf(a)

وَقَفَ

(He) stands up, stops

(He) stood up, stopped

yamshiy

يَمْشِيْ*

mashaa

مَشَىْ

(He) walks

(He) walked

*Irregular doubled verb.

*Irregular Mithaal verb.

*Irregular defective verb.

 

  • Regardless of all the facts mentioned so far, fa"al(a) verbs whose roots contain guttural letters in the second or third positions will often have a in the imperfective. The gutturals, or throat letters, are those like  أ هـ ح خ ع غ .

 

Examples:

 

Fa"al(a) yaf"al(u)

yas'al(u)

يَسْأَلُ

sa'al(a)

سَأَلَ

(He) asks

(He) asked

yaqra'(u)

يَقْرَأُ

qara'(a)

قَرَأَ

(He) reads

(He) read

yasna"(u)

يَصْنَعُ

sana"(a)

صَنَعَ

(He) makes

(He) made

yajma"(u)

يَجْمَعُ

jama"(a)

جَمَعَ

(He) gathers

(He) gathered

yaftah(u)

يَفْتَحُ

fatah(a)

فَتَحَ

(He) opens

(He) opened

yathbah(u)

يَذْبَحُ

thabah(a)

ذَبَحَ

(He) slaughters

(He) slaughtered

yathhab(u)

يَذْهَبُ

thahab(a)

ذَهَبَ

(He) goes

(He) went

yazhar(u)

يَظْهَرُ

zahar(a)

ظَهَرَ

(He) appears

(He) appeared

yas"ad(u)

يَصْعَدُ

sa"ad(a)

صَعَدَ

(He) goes up

(He) went up

 

 

 

2) Fa"il(a)

 

  • Fa"il(a) verbs will nearly always have a in the imperfective.

 

Examples:

 

Fa"il(a) yaf"al(u)

ya"lam(u)

يَعْلَمُ

"alim(a)

عَلِمَ

(He) knows

(He) knew

yafham(u)

يَفْهَمُ

fahim(a)

فَهِمَ

(He) understands

(He) understood

yat"ab(u)

يَتْعَبُ

ta"ib(a)

تَعِبَ

(He) becomes tired

(He) become tired

yafrah(u)

يَفْرَحُ

farih(a)

فَرِحَ

(He) becomes happy

(He) become happy

yaslam(u)

يَسْلَمْ

salim(a)

سَلِمَ

(He) becomes safe

(He) was safe

ya"mal(u)

يَعْمَلُ

"amil(a)

عَمِلَ

(He) works

(He) worked

yashrab(u)

يَشْرَبُ

sharib(a)

شَرِبَ

(He) drinks

(He) drank

yadhak(u)

يَضْحَكُ

dahik(a)

ضَحِكَ

(He) laughs

(He) laughed

 

 

  • There are rare fa"il(a) verbs in Classical Arabic that have i instead of a in the imperfective. These are no more than 20 verbs or so; most of them are irregular Mithaal verbs whose first root-letter is w .

 

They include the following:

 

Fa"il(a) yaf"il(u)

وَثِقَ

وَلِيَ

وَرِثَ

حَسِبَ

وَرِكَ

وَرِيَ

وَجِدَ

وَرِعَ

وَعِقَ

وَهِمَ

وَفِقَ

وَمِقَ

وَكِمَ

وَقِهَ

وَعِمَ

وَرِمَ

 

 

Etymology Note

 

Many classical dialects conjugated fa"il(a) verbs in the imperfective in the following manner:

Fa"il(a) yif"al(u)

 

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).

 

3) Fa"ul(a)

 

  • As a strict rule, fa"ul(a) verbs will always have u in the imperfective.

 

Examples:

 

Fa"ul(a) yaf"ul(u)

yakbur(u)

يَكْبُرُ

kabur(a)

كَبُرَ

(He) becomes big(ger)

(He) was/become big(ger)

yasrur(u)

يَصْغُرُ

sarur(a)

صَغُرَ

(He) becomes small(er)

(He) was/become small(er)

yakthur(u)

يَكْثُرُ

kathur(a)

كَثُرَ

(He) becomes many/much

(He) was/become many/much

 

 

 

Form I of Arabic Verbs

(Active Voice)

Indicative Imperfective Perfective
yaf"al(u)

يَفْعَلُ

fa"al(a)

فَعَلَ

yaf"il(u) يَفْعِلُ
yaf"ul(u) يَفْعُلُ
yaf"al(u) يَفْعَلُ

fa"il(a)

فَعِلَ
yaf"il(u) يَفْعِلُ
yaf"ul(u) يَفْعُلُ

fa"ul(a)

فَعُلَ

 

 

Pronominal Prefixes & Suffixes

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:

yaf"al(u)

(He) does/is doing

 

  • The three blue letters represent the root letters.

  • The red letters are the prefix of the 3rd person masculine singular conjugation (the "he" conjugation) of form I.

  • The green short vowel is the changeable element of the form I structure.

  • The pink letter is the indicative mood sign عَلامَةُ الرَفْعِ. Mood signs change with change in the mood of the verb.

 

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:

 

Indicative Imperfective

المُضَاْرِعُ الْمَرْفُوْعُ

(Form I, Active Voice)

S

I

N

G

U

L

A

R

(I) do

'af"al(u)

أَفْعَلُ

(You masc.) do

taf"al(u)

تَفْعَلُ

(You fem.) do

taf"aleen(a)

تَفْعَلِيْنَ

(He) does

yaf"al(u)

يَفْعَلُ

(She) does

taf"al(u)

تَفْعَلُ

D

U

A

L

(You) do

taf"alaan(i)

تَفْعَلانِ

(They masc.) do

yaf"alaan(i)

يَفْعَلانِ

(They fem.) do

taf"alaan(i)

تَفْعَلانِ

P

L

U

R

A

L

(We dual/plu.) do

naf"al(u)

نَفْعَلُ

(You masc.) do

taf"aloon(a)

تَفْعَلُوْنَ

(You fem.) do

taf"aln(a)

تَفْعَلْنَ

(They masc.) do

yaf"aloon(a)

يَفْعَلُوْنَ

(They fem.) do

yaf"aln(a)

يَفْعَلْنَ

 

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.

Imperfective Conjugations With Attached Subject Pronouns

(Form I, Active-Indicative)

2nd person feminine singular

(Thou fem.) doest

taf"aleen(a)

تَفْعَلِيْنَ

2nd person dual

(You dual) do

taf"alaan(i)

تَفْعَلانِ

2nd person masculine plural

(You masc.) do

taf"aloon(a)

تَفْعَلُوْنَ

2nd person feminine plural

(You fem.) do

taf"aln(a)

تَفْعَلْنَ

3rd person masculine dual

(They masc. dual) do

yaf"alaan(i)

يَفْعَلانِ

3rd person feminine dual

(They fem. dual) do

taf"alaan(i)

تَفْعَلانِ

3rd person masculine plural

(They masc.) do

yaf"aloon(a)

يَفْعَلُوْنَ

3rd person feminine plural

(They fem.) do

yaf"aln(a)

يَفْعَلْنَ

 

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:

رَقَصَ

raqas(a)

 

(He) danced

 

 

المُضَاْرِعُ الْمَرْفُوْعُ Indicative Imperfective

(Active Voice)

رَقَصَ : فَـعَـلَ

S

I

N

G

U

L

A

R

(I) dance

'arqus(u)

أَرْقُصُ

(You masc.) dance

tarqus(u)

تَرْقُصُ

(You fem.) dance

tarquseen(a)

تَرْقُصِيْنَ

(He) dances

yarqus(u)

يَرْقُصُ

(She) dances

tarqus(u)

تَرْقُصُ

D

U

A

L

(You) dance

tarqusaan(i)

تَرْقُصَاْنِ

(They masc.) dance

yarqusaan(i)

يَرْقُصَاْنِ

(They fem.) dance

tarqusaan(i)

تَرْقُصَاْنِ

P

L

U

R

A

L

(We dual/plu.) dance

narqus(u)

نَرْقُصُ

(You masc.) dance

tarqusoon(a)

تَرْقُصُوْنَ

(You fem.) dance

tarqusn(a)

تَرْقُصْنَ

(They masc.) dance

yarqusoon(a)

يَرْقُصُوْنَ

(They fem.) dance

yarqusn(a)

يَرْقُصْنَ

 

 

Exercise

 

(He) knew

عَرَفَ

(He) hear

سَمِعَ

(He) was/become bigger

كَبُرَ

 

Based on these verbs, can you translate the following to Arabic?

(you need not to translate the pronouns in parenthesis)

 

(I) know

(We) know

(You sing. masc.) Know

(You plu. masc.) Know

(You sing. fem.) hear

(You plu. fem.) hear

(They dual fem.) hear

(They plu. masc.)  hear

(You dual) become bigger

(She) becomes bigger

(They plu. fem.) become bigger

(They dual masc.) become bigger

 

 

Answers

 

(I) know

أَعْرِفُ

(We) know

نَعْرِفُ

(You sing. masc.) Know

تَعْرِفُ

(You plu. masc.) Know

تَعْرِفُوْنَ

(You sing. fem.) hear

تَسْمَعِيْنَ

(You plu. fem.) hear

تَسْمَعْنَ

(They dual fem.) hear

تَسْمَعَاْنِ

(They plu. masc.)  hear

يَسْمَعُوْنَ

(You dual) become bigger

تَكْبُرَاْنِ

(She) becomes bigger

تَكْبُرُ

(They plu. fem.) become bigger

يَكْبُرْنَ

(They dual masc.) become bigger

يَكْبُرَاْنِ

 

 

 

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