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The passive (المبني للمجهول) form is very important and interesting. It involves changing the form and the meaning of sentences to a certain extent. In passive constructions, the object of the active sentence becomes a grammatical subject, e.g. ‘my friend wrote the book’ is an active sentence that begins with the subject. Its passive counterpart ‘the book was written by my friend’ brings the object to the position of the subject and presents the real subject in the end of the sentence in a prepositional phrase. In Arabic, passive works in the same way. It should always be remembered that we can only form passive constructions from transitive verbs, i.e. verbs that take a direct object.
The passive and the active forms of most verbs in Arabic are closely related. The main difference between active and passive forms of verbs – that do not include vowels – is the voweling.
The passive of past tense verbs is formed by putting a damma or short /o/ (ُ) on the first letter of the verb, and a kasra or short /i/ (ِ) on the letter before last. For example,
كَتَبَ = he wrote
كُتِبَ = it was written
كَتَبَ الولد الخطاب.
“The boy wrote the letter.”
“The letter was written.”
The passive of present tense verbs is formed by putting a damma or short /o/ (ُ) on the first letter of the verb, and a fateha or short /a/ (َ) on the letter before last.
يَكتُبُ= he writes
يُكتَبُ = it is written
يَكتُبُ الولد الخطاب.
“The boy writes the letter.”
“The letter is written.”
My next post will also deal with the passive; keep following!