Arabic Language Blog

Basic Sentence Structure in Arabic (III) Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Grammar, Vocabulary

Previously, you were acquainted with the types of sentences in Arabic. Based on the part of speech of the word with which it starts, the sentence is verbal فِعْلِيَّة or nominal اِسْمِيَّة. The verbal must at least have a verb فِعْل and a subject فَاعِل to be meaningful. In this post, you learn the common negation نَفْي of verbal sentences.

To make a verbal sentence negative, we simply add the appropriate negative particle أدَاةُ النَّفْي before the verb. Listed in the table above are the most common negative particles that are used in everyday communication. These are مَا, لا, لَنْ, and لَمْ.

Negating the Past Tense Verb:

To negate the past tense verb, we use the particle مَا. That is, to make the sentence خَرَجَ الوَلَدُ ‘the boy went out’ negative, we put the particle مَا before the verb, hence مَا خَرَجَ الوَلَدُ ‘the boy did not go out.’ The particle does not cause change in the form of the verb; it only negates the meaning. Here are more examples:



مَا شَرِبْتُ الحَلِيْب. ‘I didn’t drink the milk.’

شَرِبْتُ الحَلِيْب. ‘I drank the milk’

مَا حَضَرَ الطَّبِيْب. ‘the physician didn’t come.’

حَضَرَ الطَّبِيْب. ‘the physician came.’

مَا سَافَرَ الطُّلَّاب. ‘the students didn’t travel.’

سَافَرَ الطُّلَّاب. ‘the students travelled.’

Negating the Present Tense Verb:

To negate the present tense, three different negative particles can be used: لا, لَنْ, and لَمْ. Like مَا, the particle لا does not cause a change in the verb form. It simply negates the meaning, so يَخْرُجُ الوَلدُ ‘the boy goes out’ becomes لا يَخْرُجُ الوَلَدُ ‘the boy does not go out.’ Here are more examples:



 لا أَشْرَبُ الحَلِيْب. ‘I don’t drink the milk.’

أَشْرَبُ الحَلِيْب. ‘I drink the milk’

لا يَحْضُرُ الطَّبِيْب. ‘the physician doesn’t come.’

يَحْضُرُ الطَّبِيْب. ‘the physician comes.’

لا يُسَافِرُ الطُّلَّاب. ‘the students don’t travel.’

يُسَافِرُ الطُّلَّاب. ‘the students travel.’

Unlike لا, the two present particles (لَنْ and لَمْ) cause a change in tense and case. لَنْ changes the tense of the verb into the future; therefore, يَخْرُجُ الوَلَدُ, which means ‘the boy goes out’ at the present time becomes لَنْ يَخْرُجَ الوَلَدُ ‘the boy will not go out’ in the future time. Besides, the verbal final diacritical mark becomes fatHah instead of DHammah. Here are more examples:



لَنْ أَذْهَبَ إِلَى البَحْر هَذا السَّبْت. ‘I will not go to the sea this Saturday.’

أَذْهَبُ إِلَى البَحْر كُلَّ سَبْت. ‘I go to the sea every Saturday.’

سَلِيْم لَنْ يَسُوْقَ السَّيَّارَة. ‘Salim will not derive the car.’

سَلِيْم يَسَوْقُ السَّيَّارَة. ‘Salim drives the car.’

البِنْت لَنْ تَطْبُخَ العَشَاء. ‘the girl will not cook dinner.’

البِنْت تَطْبُخُ العَشَاء. ‘the girl cooks dinner.’

In the case of لَمْ, the tense of the verb changes to past, so يَخْرُجُ الوَلَد ‘the boy goes out’ becomes لَمْ يَخْرُجْ الوَلَد ‘the boy did not go out.’ Besides, the verb final diacritical mark changes from DHammah to sukoon. Here are more examples:



لَمْ أَذْهَبْ إِلَى البَحْر السَّبْت المَاضِي. ‘I did not go to the sea last Saturday.’

أَذْهَبُ إِلَى البَحْر كُلَّ سَبْت. ‘I go to the sea every Saturday.’

سَلِيْم لَمْ يَأْكُل التُّفَّاحَة. ‘Salim did not eat the apple.’

سَلِيْم يَأْكُلُ التُّفَّاحَة. ‘Salim eats the apple.’

البِنْت لَمْ تَطْبُخْ العَشَاء. ‘the girl did not cook dinner.’

البِنْت تَطْبُخُ العَشَاء. ‘the girl cooks dinner.’

Negating the Imperative form:

To negative the imperative form of the verb, we simple add the particle لا before the verb. Hence, اُخْرُجْ! ‘go out!’ becomes ‘don’t go out!’ The negative particle simple negate the command. Here are more examples:



لا تَكْتُبِ الوَاجِبَ الآن. ‘don’t do the HW now.’

اُكْتُبِ الوَاجِب. ‘do the homework.’

لا تَذْهَبْ إِلَى الجَامِعَة يَوْمَ الجُمْعَة. ‘don’t’ go to the university on Friday.’

اِذْهَبْ إلى الجَامِعَة اليَوْم. ‘go the university today.’

لا تَسْمَعْ كلَامَ الأُسْتَاذ. ‘don’t’ listen to the teacher’s advice.’

اِسْمعْ كلَامَ الأُسْتَاذ.  ‘listen to the teacher’s advice.’

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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. Tariq Qureshi:

    Superb. I am studying ” ‘arabeeya bayna yadaika” at a local university. Would you be kind enough to link to your previous post(s). JazaakAllaah.

    • Ibnulyemen:

      @Tariq Qureshi this is a bit late, sorry! I just made the changes/rectifications your request. Enjoy learning!