Passive in Arabic – part 2 Posted by aziza on Apr 25, 2010 in Grammar
In English, it is not uncommon to express the agent of the passivized action using a by-phrase, e.g. “this book was written by a famous author”. In Arabic, the passive construction is used mostly without the by-phrase and the agent remains unknown. When we need to use the by-phrase in Arabic, we use the expression (من قبل) /min qibal/ to express ‘by’.
When the subject is known, we use active sentences to express it. For example, to translate the sentence “this book was written by a famous author”, we use the sentence (هذا الكتاب كتبه مؤلف مشهور.) We can also use the passive (هذا الكتاب كتب من قبل مؤلف مشهور). However, the use of the active sentence is more idiomatic in Arabic style.
I remember when I was at university, I was always advised by my translation teachers to avoid translating the English passive into Arabic passive but to use the active instead. Although I did not take the advise, there are some strategies that can be used to translate English passive into active in Arabic. One way of changing passive constructions into active in Arabic is to use the construction تم + مصدر instead of the passive verb, e.g. “the company was founded in the eighties” can be translated into:
(أُنشئت الشركة في الثمانينيات) or
(تم إنشاء الشركة في الثمانينيات)
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