Arabic Language Blog

How to Order and Give Instructions in Arabic Posted by on Feb 8, 2018 in Arabic Language, Grammar

To give orders or instructions in Arabic, full verbs in the imperative form are used.  In Arabic, ‘order’ is أَمْر and its plural is أَوَامِر and ‘instruction’ is تَوْجِيْه and its plural is تَوْجِيْهَات. A full verb is the verb that indicates an action, as لَعِبَ ‘to play’, كَتَبَ ‘to write’, وَعَدَ ‘to promise’ and alike. In this post, I will illustrate how to derive an imperative form from different types of verbs.

Verb Forms Table

The Derivation Steps:

The imperative form of the verb is derived from the 3rd person masculine singular present form of the verb. To obtain it, the following steps are followed:

  1. From the 3rd person masculine singular past form (1st column in the table), we derive the 3rd person masculine singular present form (2nd column in the table),
  2. The present form prefix يـَ is then dropped, and remainder verb will constitute the imperative form under these conditions:

a) if the first letter of the remainder verb has a sukuun, then alif wasl should be used, as in examples 1, 2, 3, and 4 in the table above. The justification for adding alif wasl is that in Arabic starting a word with a sukuun is not allowed. Besides, the diacritical mark of alif wasl must be Dammah if the third letter of the present form diacriticized with it, hence يَكْتُبُ become اُكْتُبْ.

b) If the first letter of the remainder verb does not have a sukuun, then it becomes the imperative verb, as in 5 in the table, hence from يُنَطِّفُ ‘he cleans’ the imperative verb is نَظِّفْ ‘clean!’ (i.e. the remainder after dropping the يُـ of the present)

c) If the first letter of the remainder verb is hamzah, then it must be dropped and what remains will constitute the imperative form, as in example 6. The reason why hamzah is dropped is that it has a sukuun, and if the rule in (a) is applied, then we will have a sequence of alif wasl and hamzah which, according to the spelling rules, must convert into alif madd (i.e. آ). This, as a consequence, generates a different word form, that is a noun or the 1st person singular present verb form.

d) If the past form of the verb begins with و, which is a weak letter, as in example 7, it is usually dropped in the present prior to adding the يـَ of the present. Then the remainder verb after dropping the يـَ will constitute the imperative form as 7.

e) The final diacritical mark of all imperative verbs that does not end with a weak letter (i.e. ا, و, or ي) must always be a sukuun, as seen in the table of examples. However, if the remainder verb after dropping the يـَ of the present has two final sukuuns in a sequence, that is the last letter and the one before last, then the one before last must be dropped altogether, as in 8. As a side note, most imperative forms should end in a sukuun because it indicates that the action will take place in the future (i.e. after the time of speaking in this case). And on the subject of final diacritical marks on verbs, Dammah mean that the action takes place in the present, and fatHah means that the action takes place in the future. As for dropping the letter before last, in Arabic a sequence of two sukuuns is disallowed; therefore, the first letter in order is always dropped.

f) If the remainder verb ends with a weak letter, then it must be dropped, and its corresponding diacritical mark must be put on the preceding letter, as in example 9. (note: the three main diacritical marks are short version of the long vowels, or weak letters, that is fatHah correspond for alif ا, Dammah correspond for waw و, and kasrah correspond for yaa ي)

Negating Orders or Instructions:

The above derivations show how to make a positive imperative form. To command or instruct someone not to do something, we use the 3rd person masculine singular present form following these steps:

  1. Since we give orders/instructions to the person we are talking to (i.e. the second person), we change يـَ of the present, which refers to the 3rd person, to تَـ which is a prefix for the second person, hence يَكْتُبُ becomes تَكْتُبُ,
  2. We use the negative particle لا before the new form,
  3. The same changes that occurs with positive imperative occur with the negative, expect for the dropping of the يـَ which is replaced by تَـ, hence the negative imperative forms of the examples in the table are as follows:
                    ماضٍ past مُضَارِع present أَمْر مَنْفِي imperative
(1)              كَتَبَ ، دَرَسَ يَـكْتُبُ ، يَدْرُسُ لا تَـكْتُبْ، لا تَـدْرُسْ
(2)              جَلَسَ ، عَبَرَ يـَجْلِسُ ، يَعْبِرُ لا تَـجْلِسْ ، لا تَــعْبِرْ
(3)              عَلِمَ ، شَرِبَ يَعْلَمُ ، يَشْرَبُ لا تَــعْلَمْ ، لا تَـشْرَبْ
(4)              أَكَمَلَ ، أَحْضَرَ يُكْمِلُ ، يُـحْضِرُ لا تُـكْمِلْ ، لا تُـحْضِرْ
(5)              نَزَّلَ ، عَلَّمَ يُنْزِل ، يُعَلِّمُ لا تُـنَزِّلْ ، لا تُــعَلِّمْ
(6)              أَخَذَ ، أَكَلَ يـَأْخُذُ ، يـَأْكُلُ لا تَـأخُذْ ، لا تَــأكُلْ
(7)              وَعَدَ ، وَضَعَ يَعِدُ ، يَضَعُ لا تَــعِدْ ، لا تَــضَعْ
(8)              قَالَ ، بَاعَ يَقُوْلُ ، يَبِيْعُ لا تــقُلْ ، لا تَـبِعْ
(9)              طَوَى ، رَمَى يَطْوِيُ ، يَرِمِيُ لا تَـطْوِ ، لا تَـرْمِ

The justification behind retaining the same internal and final changes of positive imperative form is that grammatically imperative forms are assigned the jussive case (i.e. sukuun) because they are to take place after the time of speaking. Other irregularities mentioned above also apply here.

Imperative forms with 2nd person feminine singular, 2nd person masculine and feminine dual, and 2nd person masculine and feminine plural along other imperative forms will be covered in the next post.

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About the Author: Ibnulyemen اِبْنُ اليَمَن

Marhaban! I am from Yemen. I am a language teacher. I teach English and Arabic. In this blog, I will be leading you through Arabic language learning in a sequential fashion. I will focus on Modern Standard Arabic. To learn more, you can also visit my website Ibnulyemen Arabic or my facebook page.


  1. Sow alassane:

    Bonsoir. Madame on vous remercie beaucoup avec ma famille beaucoup . Vraiment merci beaucoup. Bon courage . Vous nous a vraiment aider ??

  2. Mabel federe:

    You make it very clear and acurate i really like the way you explain the past present and Command tense. Thank you