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Verb-Like Particles (continued)


Understanding Verb-Like Particles

In essence, verb-like particles are three:


Basic Verb-Like Particles

It is true that



It is hoped that

It may be that



It is wished that





The other three particles are based on 'inna as follows:

1. 'anna أَنَّ

أَنْ إِنَّ أَنَّ

'an 'inna 'anna

that it is true thatthat



إِنَّ المَوْعِدَ اليَوْمَ

'inna ('a)l-maw"id(a) ('a)l-yawm(a)

= truthfully the appointment/date (is) today

Translation: the appointment/date is today


ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّ المَوْعِدَ اليَوْمَ

zanant(u) 'anna ('a)l-maw"id(a) ('a)l-yawm(a)

= (I) thought that truthfully the appointment/date (is) today

Translation: I thought that the appointment/date was today


The meaning of 'anna is a complex meaning which is "'an 'inna" = "that it is true that". The non-reduced form "'an 'inna" cannot be used and it has to be 'anna.

Another example:

لَقَدْ عُدْتُ

la-qad "udt(u)

= (I) have returned

Translation: I have returned / I am back



إِنِّي قَدْ عُدْتُ

'inn-ee qad "udt(u)

= truthfully me have returned

Translation: I have returned / I am back



أَلَمْ تَعْلَمُوْا أَنِّي قَدْ عُدْتُ ؟

'a-lam ta"lamoo 'ann-ee qad "udt(u)

= is it that did not (you) know that truthfully me have returned

Translation: didn't you know that I am back?


Note: 'an أَنْ  is a particle which means "that."  However, it is used almost only before verbs (i.e. before verbal sentences) and not before nouns. Therefore, it can't usually be used before a nominal sentence unless combined with 'inna to produce 'anna, like in the already mentioned examples.

Two Words for "That"

That Usage
 'an أَنْ Verbal Sentences (Verbs)
'anna أَنَّ Nominal Sentences (Nouns, Pronouns, etc.)


'an أَنْ  is used in Arabic to produce infinitival phrases just like how "to" is used in English. If the verb after 'an was an imperfective verb, it must be in the subjunctive mood.

أُرِيْدُ أَنْ أَتَعَلَّمَ

'ureed(u) 'an 'ata"allam(a)

= (I) want that (I) learn

Translation: I want to learn


'an أَنْ  is used in front of nominal sentences in only one classical case, which is when  'an precedes an "explanatory phrase."

فَأَرْسَلَ إِلَيْهِ أَنِ الْحَرْبُ وَشِيْكَةٌ

fa-'arsal(a) 'ilay-hi 'an(i) ('a)l-harb(u) washeeka(tun)

= then (he) sent to him that the war (is) imminent

Translation: so he sent to him a message telling him that war is imminent



2. laakinna لَكِنَّ

لَكِنْ إِنَّ لَكِنَّ

laakin 'inna laakinna

but it is true that but



الْكَلامُ سَهْلٌ لَكِنَّ الْفِعْلَ صَعْبٌ

'al-kalaam(u) sahl(un) laakinna ('a)l-fi"l(a) sa"b(un)

= the talking (is) easy but truthfully the doing (is) hard

Translation: talking is easy but doing is hard


The non-reduced form "laakin 'inna" cannot be used and it has to be laakinna.

It is very habitual for Arabs to add an unnecessary wa وَ  = "and" before both laakin (but) and laakinna (emphasized but) . This "and" means nothing and does nothing.


اْشْتَرَيْتُ الْكِتَاْبَ وَلَكِنِّيْ لَمْ أَقْرَأْهُ بَعْدُ

'ishtarayt(u) ('a)l-kitaab(a) wa-laakinn-ee lam 'aqra'<-h(u) ba"d(u)

 = (I) bought the book but truthfully me did not read him yet

Translation: I bought the book but I haven't read it yet


لَكِنَّكُنَّ قَدْ ذَهَبْتُنَّ

 laakinna-kunn(a) qad thahabtunn(a)

= but truthfully you (plu. fem.) have gone

Translation: but you've gone


3. ka'anna كَأَنَّ

كَأَنْ إِنَّ كَأَنَّ

ka-'an 'inna ka'anna

like that it is true thatit is like that


Some old Arabian dialects used ka'inna instead of ka'anna. The etymology of ka'inna may be easier to track (ka-'inna). ka'inna is still used in several Arabic spoken dialects today, e.g. in Egyptian Arabic.



كَأَنَّ زَيْدًا أَسَدٌ

ka'anna zayda(n) 'asad(un)

= it is like that Zayd (is) a lion

Translation: Zayd is like a lion



The sentence "Zayd is like a lion" cannot be translated literally to Arabic.



زَيْدٌ كَأَسَدٍ

Zayd (is) like a lion


إِنَّ زَيْدًا كَأَسَدٍ

Truthfully Zayd (is) like a lion



To make such a sentence, we have to use the verb-like particle ka'anna like in the aforementioned example (i.e. ka'anna Zayd is a lion = it is like that Zayd is a lion).

However, if the second word were a definite word, we could go without using ka'anna (actually it is better not to use ka'anna in this case, especially in modern Arabic).

زَيْدٌ كَالأَسَدِ

zayd(un) ka-l-'asad(i)

= Zayd (is) like the lion

Translation: Zayd is like the lion

(Zayd is like a lion)



If we use ka'anna in this case, it will sound like a poetry line.

كَأَنَّ زَيْدًا الأَسَدُ

ka'anna zayda(n) ('a)l-'asad(u)

= it is like that Zayd (is) the lion

Translation: Zayd is like the lion

(Zayd is like a lion)


Having the second word definite is more commonly used in Arabic to express ideas of the type "something is like a something" or "someone is like a something." Of course, using ka'anna in such sentences is somewhat less affirmative, as the second word will be indefinite (cf. Zayd is a man / Zayd is the man).




1st Word

2nd Word

3rd word

Definite Word




Not Good





Definite Word






Another example, how do we translate to Arabic "life is like a dream" ?

There are two possible ways, the first one is:

الحَيْاْةُ كَالْحُلُمِ

'al-hayaa(tu) ka-l-hulum(i)

= the life (is) like the dream

Translation: life is like a dream


This translation gives the exact sense of the original sentence.

The other way to translate it is:

كَأَنَّ الحَيْاْةَ حُلُمٌ

ka'anna ('a)l-hayaa(ta) hulum(un)

= it is like that the life (is) a dream

Translation: life is like a dream

This translation confers a tinge of incertitude on the original sentence.



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