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Some Insights into the Usage Arabic Verb (1) Posted by on Sep 11, 2018 in Grammar, morphology, Pronunciation, Vocabulary

Certain rules of Arabic verb conjunction, formation, meaning, and pronunciation are oftentimes overlooked because they are minute and needs a meticulous learner or instructor to discover and/or pay attention to. Knowing these niceties lead to more accurate language use and speedier language learning overall. This post gives a list of rules and illustrations that concern the usage of Arabic verbs.

(1) Transitivity

Verbs are either transitive مُتَعَدَّي (i.e. needs an object) or intransitive لَازِم (i.e. does not need an object). In Arabic, many intransitive verbs can be made transitive in two ways:

(a) Adding hamzah أ to the beginning of the beginning of the tri-consonantal verb. This results in the formation of causative verbs (i.e. to cause someone to do something), as in these examples:

لَازِم Intransitive مُتَعَدِّي Transitive

خَرَجَ الطَّالِب.

The student went out

أَخْرَجَ الأُسْتَاذُ الطَّالِب.

The teacher made the student go out

ضَحِكَ النَّاس.

People laughed

أَضْحَكَ المُهَرِّج النَّاس.

The jester made people laugh.

جَلَسَ الطِّفْل.

The baby sat

أَجْلَسَتِ الأُمُّ الطِّفْلُ.

The mother made the baby sit

خَافَ الرَّجُل.

The man became afraid

أَخَافَ الأَسَدُ الرَّجُلَ.

The lion made the man afraid

If the verb is already a transitive one, adding a hamzah أ to it makes it di-transitive (i.e. needing two objects), as in these examples:

مُتَعَدِي لِمَفْعُول Transitive مُتَعَدِّي لِمَفْعُولَيْن  Di-transitive

فَهْمَ عَلِيٌ الدَّرْسَ.

Ali understood the lesson

أَفْهَمَ الأُسْتَاذُ عَلٍيًّا الدَرْسَ.

The teacher made Ali understand the lesson

لَبِسَت الشِّيْخ كُوْفِيَّة.

The old man wore a keffiyeh

أَلْبَسَ الاِبْن الشَّيْخَ كُوْفِيَّة.

The son made the old man wear a keffiyeh

سَمِعَ سَمِيْر أُغْنِيَّة.

Samir listened to a song.

أَسْمَعَ سَمِيْرُ أَصْدِقَاءَهُ أُغْنِيَّة.

Samir made his friends listen to a song.

(b) Doubling the middle letter of the tri-consonantal verb. The resulting verb is also causative, as in these examples:

لَازِم Intransitive مُتَعَدِّي Transitive

رَقَدَ الطِّفْل.

The baby slept

رَقَّدَتِ الأُمُّ الطِّفْلَ.

The mother made the baby sleep.

ضَحِكَ النَّاس.

People laughed

ضَحَّكَ المُهَرِّج النَّاس.

The jester made people laugh.

جَلَسَ الطَّفْل. 

The baby sat

جَلَّسَتِ الأُمُّ الطِّفْلُ.  

The mother made the baby sit.

نَزَلَ الرُّكَاب مِنَ السَّيَّارَة.

The passengers /riders descended the car.

نَزَّلَتِ الشُّرْطَة الرُّكَّابَ مِنْ السَّيَّارَة.

The police made the passengers descend the car.

Similar to the addition of hamzah to tri-consonantal transitive verbs, if the middle letter of the tri-consonantal transitive is doubled, it becomes ditransitive, as in these examples:

مُتَعَدِي لِمَفْعُول Transitive مُتَعَدِّي لِمَفْعُولَيْن  Di-transitive

فَهْمَ عَلِيٌ الدَّرْسَ.

Ali understood the lesson

فَهَّمَ الأُسْتَاذُ عَلٍيًّا الدَرْسَ.

The teacher made Ali understand the lesson

لَبِسَت الشِّيْخ كُوْفِيَّة.

The old man wore a keffiyeh

لَبَّسَ الاِبْن الشَّيْخَ كُوْفِيَّة.

The son made the old man wear a keffiyeh

أَكَلَ الوَلَد التُّفَّاحَة.

The boy ate the apple

أَكَّلَ الأَبُ الوَلَدَ التُّفَّاحَة.

The father made the boy eat the apple

سَمِعَ سَمِيْر أُغْنِيَّة.

Samir listened to a song

سَمَّعَ سَمِيْرُ أَصْدِقَاءَهُ أُغْنِيَّة.

Samir made his friends listen to a song

You may wonder what the difference between فَهَّمَ and أَفْهَم; لَبَّسَ and أَلْبَسَ; سَمَّعَ and أَسْمَع; نَزَّلَ and أَنْزَل and so forth. They are the same as far as transitivity is concerned. Meaning-wise, verb with double middle letter can mean repetition of the action, so سَمَّعَ سَمِيْر أَصْدِقَاءَهُ أُغْنِيَّة means action of ‘making his friends listen’ is done again and again (multiple times).

(2) Intransitivity

While some additions make some triconsonantal verbs transitive or ditransitive, other additions can make similar verb intransitive. Adding اِنْـ to the start of some triconsonantal verbs change them from transitive to intransitive, as in these examples:

مُتَعَدِي  Transitive لَازِم Intransitive

كَسَرَ النَّادِل الصَّحْن.

The waiter broke the plate

اِنْكَسَرَ الصَّحْنُ.

The plate broke

فَتَحْتُ النَّافِذِةَ.

I opened the window.

اِنْفَتَحَتِ النَّافِذَة.

The window opened (by itself).

صَرَفَ الأسْتَاذُ الطُّلَّاب.

The teacher asked the students to leave.

اِنْصَرَفَ الطُّلَّابُ.

The students left.

عَطَفَ اللِّصُّ العَمُوْد.

The thief bent the pole.

اِنْعَطَفَ العَمُوْد.

The pole bent by itself.

(3) Pronunciation:

When conjugated into the imperfective form, perfective verbs that are composed of three consonant letters get fatHah on the imperfective prefixes, as in (a). On the other hand, perfective verbs that are composed of consonant letters such as شَاهَدَ ‘to watch’, نَظَّفَ ‘to clean’, أَكْمَل ‘to complete’, and أَخْبَرَ ‘to tell’ must get DHammah on the imperfective prefix when conjugated into the imperfective form, as in (b).

(a)

مَاضٍ Perfective مُضَارِع Imperfective

كَتَبْت رُوَايَةً.

I wrote a novel

أَكْتُبُ رُوَايَة جَدِيْدَة.

I am writing a new novel.

نُمْنَا سَاعَة وَاحِدَة.

we slept for an hour

نَنَامُ سَاعَة وَاحِدَة بَعْد الغَدَاء.

we sleep for an hour after lunch.

قَرَأَ الجَرِيْدَة.

he read the newspaper

يَقْرَأُ جَرِيْدَة الصَّبَاح.

he is reading the morning newspaper.

طَبَخَتْ العَشَاء.

she cooked dinner

تَطْبُخُ الغَدَاء.

she is cooking lunch

شَرِبْتَ عَصِيْر الأَنَانَاس.

you drank pineapple juice

تَشْرَبُ عَصِيْر التُوت.

you are drinking mulberry juice

رَجِعُوا مِنَ العَمَل مَسَاءً.

they returned from work in the evening

يَرْجِعُون إِلَى البَيْت السَّاعَة الوَاحِدِة ظُهْرًا.

they return home at 1:00 pm

In the above table, you see that the prefixes of the imperfective forms get fatHah, hence أَ, نَـ, يَـ, تَـ, تَـ, and يَـ, respectively.

(b)

شَاهَدْتُ فِيْلم تُوْم كُرُوز الجَدِيْد.

I watched Tom Cruise’s new movie.

أُشَاهِدُ فِيْلَمًا وَاحِدًا فِي الأُسْبُوع.

I watch one movie per week

نَظَّفْنَا الشِّقَّة قَبْلَ أَنْ نَنْقُل.

we cleaned the flat before we moved in.

نُنَظِّفُ شِقَّتُنا كُلَّ أُسْبُوع.

we clean our flat every week.

أكْمَلَ وَاجِبَهُ قَبْل النَّوْم.

he completed his homework before sleeping

يُكْمِلُ وَاجِبَه الآن.

he is completing his homework now

سَاعَدَتْ سَلْوَى أُخْتَهَا.

Salwa helped her mother.

تُسَاعِدُ سَلْوَى أُخْتَهَا.

Salwa is helping her sister

 هَلْ شَارَكْتَ فِي مُسَابَقَة الشَّهْر المَاضِي؟

did you participate in last month competition

هَلْ تُشَارِك فِي كُلِّ مُسَابَقَة؟

do you participate in every competition

دَافَعُوا عَنْ وَطَنِهِم.

they defended their country

يُدَافِعُون عَنْ وَطَنِهِم.

they are defending their country

In (b), the imperfective form prefixes get DHammah, hence أُ, نُـ, يُـ, تُـ, تُـ, and يُـ, respectively.

In the next post, you will learn more verb rules about conjugation, formation, meaning, and pronunciation.

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About the Author:Ibnulyemen

Marhaban! I am from Yemen. I am a language teacher. I teach English and Arabic. Besides Arabic and English, I speak French and some German. I have a strong flair for languages; most of my foreign language competency has been self-learning. For Arabic, I have a strong command of its formal aspects. So, if you have any question about Arabic grammar or morphology, feel free to ask any question you may have. In this blog, I will be leading you through Arabic language learning in a sequential and interactive fashion. I will focus on Modern Standard Arabic. Arabic dialectal expressions and vocabulary will be highlighted whenever pertinent to the topic of each post. Enjoy learning!


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