Passive in Arabic – part 1

Posted on 20. Apr, 2010 by in Grammar, Uncategorized

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.”

كُتِبَ الخطاب.

“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.”

يُكتَبُ الخطاب.

“The letter is written.”

My next post will also deal with the passive; keep following!

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6 Responses to “Passive in Arabic – part 1”

  1. Juan 21 April 2010 at 4:07 pm #


    It is apparently easier than in other languages.

    In the passive voice, how would you include the doer of the action, i.e., how could you say:
    “The book was written by Fatima”,

    I would guess:

    كُتِبَ الكِتاب بِفاتِمة


  2. aziza 21 April 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Thank you Juan,
    To express by in passive in Arabic, we use the expression (من قبل) /min qibal/.
    Fatima is written like this (فاطمة).

  3. salwa 18 January 2011 at 1:57 am #

    thanks soooooo much , it is too easy to understand

  4. salwa 18 January 2011 at 1:58 am #

    we can say also
    كتب الكتاب بواسطه فاطيما

  5. Natalia 24 June 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Could you please explain how the verbs in passive change in feminine and plural form?

  6. Halima 4 February 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    Thank you very much. very useful information.

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