; An English Guide to Classic Qur'anic Arabic: 7.0-7.2 - Verb Basics


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7.0-7.2 - Verb Basics


Section 7.0 - Verb فِعلٌ (fei-lun)


The verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, or happen. The main element of a Verb is that it is associated with time.

In the English language, time is defined by what is called a tense, and in simple terms, these are three. Past Tense, Present Tense and Future Tense.

In the Arabic language, tenses are only two. One is past tense مَاضِىٌ (maa-dee-un) and the other is imperfect tense مُضَارِعٌ (mu-daa-ri-un) which may mean both present and future tenses depending upon the usage and Particles before it. The context of the sentence generally clarifies whether present tense, present continuous tense, or future tense is meant.

In this chapter, we will be covering Past tense الفِعلُ الْمَاضِيْ(al-feil-ul maa-di) only.


Imperfect tense الفِعلُ المُضَارِعُ (al-feil-ulmu-daa-ri-u) will be covered in a later chapter.


Before we start, you need to understand some important points and fundamentals.


Section 7.1 - Root Word


. Three Alphabet ثُلَاثِىْ مُجَرَّدٌ(thu-laathi mu-jarra-dun): Almost 99% of the Verbs in Arabic are based on three alphabet root words called ثُلَاثِىْ مُجَرَّدٌ thu-laathi mu-jarra-dun. We will be concentrating on the three-alphabet root word.

  • Four-Alphabet رُبَاعِىْ (ru-baa-yee): Part of the remaining 1% are 4 alphabet root words. These small numbers of words have 4 root alphabets. Many of these are the same two alphabets repeated twice.
  • Five-Alphabet خُمَاسِىْ (khu-maa-si): There is a very small number of Nouns which have 5 root alphabets. However, no Verbs have 5 root alphabets.
  • Two-Alphabet: Officially there are no words with a two-alphabet root. But there are words with only two alphabets like أَبٌ (father) and أَخٌ (brother).  According to linguists and historians, Arabs used two alphabet root words in the past extensively but transitioned into three alphabets and traces remain in a small number of two alphabet words.

What alphabets can form the root?


  • Short vowels and the ة taa mar-boo-ta Never form part of the root
  • Weak alphabets can form part of the root but are often missing or altered
  • Besides, the following 10 alphabets are sometimes part of a pattern/form and not part of the root. The 3 weak alphabet ا (alif) ي, (yaa) و (waaw), the hamzah (ء) and these 6 alphabets ت س ل م ن هـ. These are used as additional alphabets for indicating Imperfect, future, emphasis etc.

Over time you will get better at separating the root from the pattern
/form and it will become easier.


Section 7.2 – Important Definitions for Verbs and Root Words


1) Three Alphabet Root Word ثُلَاثِىْ مُجَرَّدٌ (thu-laa-thi mu-jar-rad): The three alphabets that are used as standard are (ف faa), (ع ayn) and (ل laam). An example of a three-alphabet root word is فَعَلَ (fa-ala).


2) Four رُبَاعِىْ (ru-baa-yee) and Five خُمَاسِىْ (kum-maa-si) Alphabet Root Words: There are very few of these and even fewer yet used in Al-Qur’an and will be handled as needed. An example for Four alphabet root word would be وَسْوَسَ (was-wasa) meaning whisper which is used in al-Qur’an in Surah an-Naas.


1)     Inflections/forms تَصْرِيْفٌ (tas-ree-fun):


Next, as we studied in Noun, there are 14 different inflections or tas-reef of these alphabets with some additions to describe number (single, dual/plural) gender (masculine/ feminine and person doing the action (3rd person or absent /2ndperson or present/1st person or speaker).


2)     Actor/Subject فَاعِلٌ(faa-ilun):


Fundamental understanding is that for every action, somebody is performing an action and is called an Actor/Subject (فَاعِلٌfaa-ilun). This is generally a universal truth that nothing happens unless without somebody/something is causing it. This is also is the basis of Islamic understanding that since the universe exists, there must be a Creator.


3)     Target/Object مَفْعُوْلٌ (maf’ool-un):


Some sentences beg the question that if an Actor/Subject (فَاعِلٌfaa-ilun) is doing something (an action فِعلٌ fei-lun). then who is the recipient/target of the action مَفْعُوْلٌ maf’ool-un If the Verb does not require a (مَفْعُوْلٌ maf’ool-un), then it is called an intransitive Verb فِعلُ الَّازِمِ (feil-ul laa-zimi). If a (مَفْعُوْلٌ maf’ool-un) is required, then the Verb is called a transitive Verb فِعلُ الْمُتَعَدِّىْ (feil-ul mu-ta-ad-di).


4)     Multiple Objects مَفْعُوْلٌ maf’ool-un:


A Verb can have multiple objects (مَفْعُوْلٌmaf’ool-un) and some Verbs generally may require more than one.


5)     Active and Passive Voice Verbs:


Active Voice Verb الْفِعلُ الْمَعْروْفُ(al-feil-ul ma-a-roofu): an active voice is a type of a clause or sentence in which a subject performs an action and expresses it through its representative Verb. To simply put it, when a subject performs an action directly, it is in active voice. An example would be Hamid hit Mahmoud  ضَرَبَ حَامِدٌ زَيْدًا(daraba hami-dun Zai-dan).

Passive Voice Verb الْفِعلُ الْمَجْهُوْلُ(al-feil-ul maj-hoolu): A passive voice is a type of a clause or sentence in which an action (through Verb) or an object of a sentence, is emphasized rather than its subject. Simply, the subject receives the action of the Verb. The emphasis or focus is on the action, while the subject is not known or is less important. An example would be Mahmoud was hit ضُرِبَ مَحْمُوْدٌ (du-riba mah-mud-un).


8) Universal Truths: For those situations where the act is universal and beyond the bounds of time, every language uses one tense to describe all three past, present, and future tenses. The English language uses the present tense to describe such situations such as the sentence God is merciful implies God was, is, and will be merciful. In the Arabic language, the past tense is used to describe universal truths. For example, in Arabic, the sentence كَانَ اللهُ غَفُّوْرًا(kaan-al-lahu ghaf-foo-ran) would literally mean Allah was forgiving, but universal truth rule applies and this sentence means Allah was, is and will be forgiving.





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