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Verbs in Arabic – Past Tense – The Table

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Haven given somewhat of an overview of the verb in general, it’s time to jump in.

The first thing you’ll have to do is learn the actual endings by hart. Take note that I’ve placed them in the traditional Arabic order here, starting with third person (“he” / “she” / “they”) and moving down to the first person. For the traditional English ordering, see previous posts (singular and plural). The table is given with the word درس (darasa, “to study”).

دَرَسَ (darasa)
he studied
دَرَسوا (darasuu)
they (m) studied
دَرَسَتْ (darasat)
she studied
دَرَسْنَ (darasna)
they (f) studied
دَرَسْتَ (darasta)
you (sing. masc.) studied
دَرَسْتُمْ (darastum)
you (plural. masc.) studied
دَرَسْتِ (darasti)
you (sing. fem.) studied
دَرَسْتُنَّ (darastunna)
you (plural. fem.) studied
دَرَسْتُ (darastu)
I studied
دَرَسْنا (darasnaa)
we studied

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February 2, 2008 at 3:44 pm

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Verbs in Arabic – the beginning of an overview

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Having a good feeling of how the verbs work in Arabic has eluded me for almost a year now. Time to end that and dive into the subject for real. Again, as always, I’m not an expert in Arabic – so please correct me if you see any mistakes and don’t rely on this information too much.

There are only two tenses: present and past tense. Pretty much all shapes of the words can be made out of two stems per verb: one for the past tense, and one for the present tense. Usually, both of these stems are given when a word is given – on this site I’ve given only the past tense stem so far and will give both from now on. Starting with explaining the past tense seems to be the rule – presumably because it’s easier.

There is no infinitive. The stem of a verb is the same version as singular male. It is always this stem that is given in word lists. So “to study” is given as, درس (darasa), which really means “he studied”.

There is also something with groups of verbs – but it is as of yet unclear to me if knowledge of those is actually required or is just a help later on when things get more complicated. An example is the fact that درس (darasa), “to study”, is related to درّس (darrasa, “to teach”). I’ll look in to it more and dedicate a separate post to it.

Also, the plural of things or abstracts uses the female versions of the verb in the singular shape. Just keep it in mind for now, and more on that later.

Written by klaasvanschelven

February 2, 2008 at 10:47 am

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Plural Past Tense Verb Endings

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After looking at the Singular Past Tense Verb Endings it is time to look at the plural.

The endings are as follows:

نا (-naa) for first person plural نحن (naHnu, “we”)

تم (-tum) for second person plural (m) أنتم (‘antum, “you”)

تن (-tunna) for second person plural (f) أنتن (‘antunna, “you”)

وا (-uu) for third person plural (m) هم (hum, “they”)

ن (-na) for third person plural (f) هن (hunna, “they”)

Generally, the actual personal pronoun (“we”, “they”, etc.) is left out since it can be understood from the verb ending. It may be added for extra emphasis though.

An example with درس (darasa, “he studied”).

درسنا (darasnaa, “we studied”)

درستم (darastum, “you studied”)

درستن (darastunna, “you studied”)

درسوا (darasuu, “they studied”)

درسن (darasna, “they studied”)

Note: the traditional Arabic presentation is third person, second person, first person – I deviate here because that’s more natural to me.

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January 27, 2008 at 8:44 am

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Noun sentences in إعراب (i’raab) – 2

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[This post has been edited after corrections in the comments]

Last time I mentioned some exceptions in creating the مرفوع (marfuu’, nominative). The general rule is that the nominative get “un” for words without “al”, and “un” for words with “al”.

There are however, some exceptions.

Names of women and non Arabic names do not get a تنوين ضمة (tanwiin Damma, “-un”), but get a regular صمة (Damma) instead. So: قاتمةُ (faatimatu), not “faatimatun”. “Klaasu”, not “Klaasun”.

Additionally, in the genitive (which we will deal with later), they do not get كسرة (kasra, “i”), but get a فتحة (fatHa, “a”) instead.

That’s the ones I know – please do inform me if you know more cases…

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January 25, 2008 at 7:12 am

Noun Sentences: A Question Answered

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In the previous I asked myself the question how to say “muHammed is the teacher”. Teach Yourself Arabic contained the answer…

If a definite noun is put with a definite noun or adjective, a separating pronoun must be inserted, to make the meaning clear.

So the anser is…. محمد هو المدرس (muHammad huwa al-mudarris)

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January 21, 2008 at 10:05 am

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Noun Sentences Recap

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In the previous I’ve dealt with noun sentences (nominal sentences) containing either two nouns, or a noun and an adjective. Let’s recap so we’ll be ready for some more forms.

Two Nouns:

محمد مدرس (muHammad mudarris, “moHammad is a teacher”). Two nouns, the first one definite (proper name) and taking the role of subject, the second indefinite and taking the role of the nominal predicate.

Noun and adjective:

بيت كبير (bait kabiir, “a big house”). A noun and an adjective, both indefinite, together forming the subject.

البيت كبير (al-bait kabiir, “the house is big”). A noun and an adjective, the first definite and subject, and the second indefinite and nominal predicate.

البيت الكبير (al-bait al-kabiir, “the big house”). A noun and an adjective, both definite, together forming the subject.

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January 21, 2008 at 9:47 am

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Noun sentences in إعراب (i’raab)

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Having dealt with noun sentences earlier this week, let’s see how these are given their suffixes in i’raab. The general rule here is: noun sentences have everything in the nominative, which means “un” or “u” at the end of each word. To get it right we’ll have to be a bit more precise, though.

In noun sentences, all the words show up in مرفوع (marfuu’, nominative). First of all we will see how the مرفوع changes the word endings. In general, the diacritics ضمة (Damma) or the تنوين ضمة (tanwiin Damma) are used. Remember: these are written above the letter and resemble the letter و (waw). Examples: بُ and بٌ . Their sounds are respectively “u” and “un”.


محمدٌ مدرسٌ (muHammadun mudarrisun, “muHammad is a teacher”)

بيتٌ كبيرٌ (baiitun kabiirun, “a big house”)

The تنوين ضمة (tanwiin Damma) is only used for words not marked with the definite article ال (al-, “the”). If the definite article is present, the correct marker is the regular ضمة (Damma). Example:

البيتُ الكبيرُ (al-baitu al-kabiiru)

Now for some more precise terminology. Consider the following sentence in English: “John is a teacher.”In this sentence, “John” is the subject, and “a teacher” is the nominal predicate. Similarly, in “The school is small “, “The school” is the subject and “small” is the nominal predicate. However, in the phrase “a small school”, all of the phrase is the subject.

As seen in the previous post on noun sentences, there is no equivalent of “is” in Arabic, but subject and nominal predicate should be easily recognisable nonetheless. In أحمد صغير (‘aHmed Saghiir, “aHmed is small”) أحمد is the subject and صغير is the nominal predicate.

In إعراب (i’raab), both the subject and the nominal predicate are in the مَرفوع (marfuu’, nominative). Adjectives take the case of the noun they describe. These two rules together make for the above generalisation that words in noun sentences are simply in the nominative.

I have a couple of open questions left:

  • There is a number of words “not worthy of the Damma”. I’ll have to find out which and report on that.
  • If there is a adjective following a noun marked with “al” – does this mean the adjective gets “u” too? So: “al-baitu kabiiru” or “al-baitu kabiirun”?
  • I’ve read at some places that the تنوين ضمة (tanwiin Damma) is a marker of the indefinite article. Others describe this as a mistake, and simply state that it is an indication of the lack of the definite marker. Which is true? The following quote from Wikipedia goes with this:

Since Arabic has no indefinite article, nouns in a syntactic context unmarked for definiteness are generally indefinite; this has led to the extremely common but inaccurate belief that nunation is a marker for indefiniteness and is analogous to an indefinite article. The lack of a marker for definiteness does not necessarily make a word indefinite; in fact, many definite nouns (proper names) take nunation, as for example in the expression أشهد أن محمدا رسول الله (‘ashhadu ‘anna Muḥammadan rasūlullāh – “I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.”), in which the name Muhammad, a definite noun, is nunated.

Wikipedia: Nunation

Written by klaasvanschelven

January 21, 2008 at 9:11 am