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Arabic Sentences (continued)

Verbal Sentences


II. Apparent Dual & Plural Subjects

Now we get to the tricky point about verbal sentences. We know that verbs in Arabic are conjugated in different forms to suit different numbers and genders of the subjects. However, in verbal sentences, if we had a verb followed by an apparent noun subject, the verb will be ALWAYS conjugated in the singular form. This will happen only with 3rd person conjugations of verbs because those are the only ones that can be followed by apparent noun subjects.


Verb - Subject - Prepositional Phrase

يَذْهَبُ الْرَّجُلُ إِلَىْ عَمَلِهِ

yathhab(u) ('a)r-rajul(u) 'ilaa "amali-h(i)

 = go the man to (the) work (of) him

Translation: the man goes to his work

In this sentence, the subject (the man) is singular and the verb was conjugated in the singular form; so nothing unusual.


Verb - Subject - Prepositional Phrase

يَذْهَبُ الْرِّجَاْلُ إِلَىْ أَعْمَاْلِهِمْ

yathhab(u) ('a)r-rijaal(u) 'ilaa 'a"maali-him

 = go the men to (the) works (of) them

Translation: the men go to their works

In this sentence, the subject (the men) is plural, but it is an apparent noun so the verb ought to be conjugated in the singular from.

Note that in the nominal counterpart the verb must be conjugated in the plural:

Subject - Verb - Prepositional Phrase

الْرِّجَاْلُ يَذْهَبُوْنَ إِلَىْ أَعْمَاْلِهِمْ

('a)r-rijaal(u) yathhaboon(a) 'ilaa 'a"maali-him

 = the men go to (the) works (of) them

Translation: THE MEN go to their works



Verb - Subject - Prepositional Phrase

دَخَلَتْ سَيِّدَتَاْنِ إِلَىْ المَحَلِّ

dakhalat sayyidataan(i) 'ilaa ('a)l-mahall(i)

= entered two ladies to the shop

Translation: two ladies entered the shop

The subject (two ladies) is dual, but since it is an apparent noun, the verb was conjugated in the singular form.

The nominal version for comparison:

Subject - Verb - Prepositional Phrase

سَيِّدَتَاْنِ دَخَلَتَاْ إِلَىْ المَحَلِّ

sayyidataan(i) dakhalataa 'ilaa ('a)l-mahall(i)

= two ladies entered to the shop

Translation: TWO LADIES entered the shop



Verb - Subject

سَيُهْزَمُ الأَعْدَاْءُ

sa-yuhzam(u) ('a)l-'a"daa'(u)

= will be defeated the enemies

Translation: the enemies will be defeated

The verb here is in the passive voice. It is in the singular conjugation even though the subject is plural because the subject is an apparent noun. If we turn it into a nominal sentence, the conjugation will have to be changed to the plural:

Subject - Verb

الأَعْدَاْءُ سَيُهْزَمُوْنَ

'al-'a"daa'(u) sa-yuhzamoon(a)

= the enemies will be defeated

Translation: THE ENEMIES will be defeated



Verb - Subject - Adverb

سَتَكُوْنُ الْمُعَلِّمَاْتُ حَاْضِرَاْتٍ

sa-takoon(u) ('a)l-mu"allimaat(u) haadiraat(in)

= will be the teachers (fem.) present

Translation: the teachers will be present



Subject - Verb - Adverb

الْمُعَلِّمَاْتُ سَيَكُنَّ حَاْضِرَاْتٍ

('a)l-mu"allimaat(u) sa-yakunn(a) haadiraat(in)

= the teachers will be present

Translation: THE TEACHERS will be present


Apparent noun subjects include other things than simple nouns in Arabic.

Example, demonstratives:

Verb - Subject

سَيُمْسِكُهُ هَؤُلاءِ

sa-yumsiku-h(u) haa'ulaa'(i)

= will catch him these

Translation: those will catch him


Example, relative pronouns:

Verb - Subject

جَاْءَ الَّذِيْنَ سَيُسَاْعِدُوْنَنَاْ

jaa'(a) 'al-latheen(a) sa-yusaa"idoon-naa

= came who will help us

Translation: the people who will help us came



Gender of Verbs

We now know that verbs are always singular in a verbal sentence when the subject is an apparent 3rd person noun. The gender of these singular verbs would normally be masculine if the subject was masculine and feminine if the subject was feminine.

However, feminine subjects can in fact equally take masculine or feminine verbs in many situations.


Verb - Subject

وَقَعَ الْكَأْسُ

waqa"(a) ('a)l-ka's(u)

= fell the cup (fem.)

Translation: the cup fell down


وَقَعَتِ الْكَأْسُ

waqa"at(i) ('a)l-ka's(u)

= fell the cup (fem.)

Translation: the cup fell down


The subject (the cup) is a feminine word. In the first sentence the verb was masculine and in the second one the verb was feminine. Both are correct; this is possible only in verbal sentences (if the verb precedes the subject).

Another example:

Verb - Subject

جَاْءِتِ الْبَنَاْتُ

jaa'at(i) ('a)l-banaat(u)

= came the girls

Translation: the girls came


جَاْءَ الْبَنَاْتُ

jaa'a ('a)l-banaat(u)

= came the girls

Translation: the girls came

Again, both are correct.


There are two situations in which the verb must be feminine and only feminine:

1. If the subject is an apparent true feminine noun (female person) that is directly following the verb (without separating words). Broken or irregular plurals are excluded from this rule (the last example).


Verb - Subject

رَجَعَتْ سُعَاْدُ

raja"at su"aad(u)

= returned Su'ad

Translation: Su'ad returned

In this sentence the verb must be feminine because the subject is a true female person.


2. If the subject is pronoun referring to a feminine noun, whether it was true or figurative feminine.



Verb - Hiding Subject - Prepositional Phrase

خَرَجَتْ مِنَ الْغُرْفَةِ

kharajat min(a) ('a)l-rurfa(ti)

= went out (she) from the room

Translation: she went out of the room


We have mentioned that any irregular plural can take a masculine verbs. The other way around is also true, irregular plurals can always take feminine verbs even if the subject was true masculine. Thus, irregular plural subjects can take masculine and feminine verbs interchangeably in verbal sentences.


Verb - Subject

قَدْ جَاْءَتِ الرِّجَاْلُ

qad jaa'at(i) ('a)r-rijaal(u)

= have came the men

Translation: the men have came

In this sentence, the subject was true masculine yet the verb was feminine. This is because the subject is an irregular plural word.

It is always preferred (at least in my view) that the gender of the verb matches the gender of the subject. A one good reason for that is simply to avoid any confusion or mistakes.




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