Arabic Language Blog

Passive in Arabic – part 2 Posted by 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)

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Arabic with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Scheich Josef:

    مرحبا يا عزيزة

    Wouldn’t it be easier in this case to translate the phrase “the company was founded in the eighties” by

    تأسست الشركة في الثمانينيات

    using the active voice of the V-th form verb تأسس ?

    Do you see a difference between في الثمانينيات and في الثمانينات ?

    It might be usful to specify the cases of the
    words in a sentence like هذا الكتاب كتبه مؤلف مشهور since no final vowalisation is given.

    Thanks for your great work 🙂

    مع السلامة


    • aziza:

      @Scheich Josef Ahlan Josef,
      Of course you can translate the phrase into:
      تأسست الشركة في الثمانينيات
      It is another way of expressing the same meaning using an active verb.
      Both الثمانينيات and الثمانينات are the same, so it is up to you which form you choose.
      Here is the sentence with voweling added: هذا الكتابُ كتبه مؤلفٌ مشهورٌ
      It literally means (this book; a famous author wrote it)
      Thank you very much for your interest comments and good luck!