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You will learn in this lesson: Arabic verbs, present tense, past tense in Arabic, and future tense.
Learn Arabic اللغة العربية
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In Arabic verbs take their infinitive form by using the past form of that verb and conjugate it to the third person singular “he”, to make it simple here is an example: to draw = rasama = رسم (he drew), to write = kataba (he wrote) = كتب. daraba ضرب (to hit)…
Most verbs in Arabic have a three letters root or stem, there are also verbs containing more than three letters in their root (stem) but we will start with verbs shaving a three consonant stem, also called trilateral verbs, since the trilateral verbs (containing three consonant) are the most common.
In Arabic we use a “masdar” “source” to show how a verb is conjugated and what forms it takes, normally for a three letters verb we use:
fa’ala = فعل = to do (literally in Arabic it means “he did”), this verb is used as an example or model to help us know how to conjugate other verbs having the same characteristics.
We take for instance the verb: to draw = rasama = رسم as you can see it in Arabic it has only three consonant (R ر , S س, M م), this verb sounds exactly like our model verbs (fa’ala فعل) when it comes to its vowels, and that’s all we care about, ignore the similarity or difference in the consonants, what matters is the similarity in the vowels and the number of letters, because you will replace the consonant in our examples and put your own there, to make it more simple we will take a random word phonetically similar to our verb “fa’ala” “ lalala” sounds like “rasama” if you compare its vowels and the number of consonants, other examples are: dahaba ذهب (to go), haraba هرب(to run away), kataba كتب(to write), nasaha نصح(to advise), daraba ضرب (to hit), in fact most Arabic verbs are formed this way. They all seem to have the same tune.
Now to form the present tense with this kind of verbs, we first take our stem from the verb, in other words, extract all vowels from the verb, for example the verb to draw = rasama, once we extract all vowels we will end up having “rsm” , now this stem is ready to be modeled. Look at the table below:
Arabic Present tense:
To form the present tense in Arabic you need to extract the stem from the verb in the infinitive first, for example:
To draw = rasama رسم è Stem is rsm, now let’s look at the table below to see how this verb is conjugated in this tense:
Each form of the verb rasama above contains:
Blue font (that’s what you need to keep, the blue font shouldn’t be modified or removed from verb, it stays the same)
Red font (that’s what you need to delete and add your own consonant of the verb you chose to conjugate: kataba è ktb, haraba è hrb…)
Green font (you can keep that one too, but not all the time, sometimes it becomes “a” or “i” instead of “u” depending on the verb)
You may have noticed that the “rs” of the stem “rsm” are always together, that’s the case with all trilateral verbs (verbs with three consonants, which are the most frequently used verbs in Arabic) the first and second consonant go together, so you can use this table with other verbs as well by replacing the letters in red (the stem we used before) and put your own verb stem instead.
The vowel in green may change to “a” or “i” depending on the verb, like for example for the verb nasaha (to advise) instead of using the “u” in green we have to change it to “a” I advise = ansahu, you advise = tansahu…(and not ansuhu .. tansuhu) and so on… (Note that the stem here is “n.s.h” as we mentioned earlier), for the verb daraba (to hit) we use “i” instead, I hit = adribu, he hits = yadribu. (and not adrubu)…
In case you think that this is too complicated, I will tell you that it’s not something unusual, and if you’re a native or learned Spanish, French, German or even English before, you will notice that the vowels in the middle of some verbs sometimes don’t really follow the rule, Examples:
Spanish: yo hablo = I speak, if you follow this rule you would use yo dormo for the verb dormir, but instead Spanish is using yo duermo = I sleep
French: the verb “appeler” if you respect the French rules you may write: je m’appele = my name, but instead the correct form is “je m’appelle” with “ll”
German: the verb “sehen” to see, by following the general German rule we should write: he sees = er seht, but instead the correct form is er sieht.
English: simply take the verb “to go” I go, you go, he gos? Of course not, the right form is he goes as you know. All these examples are not considered irregularities but semi irregularities, which means that they’re modified only for phonetic and synthetic reasons).
If you don’t know how to extract the stem from a verb (even though it’s very easy) we will go through it now: by omitting all vowels from these verbs we will have: dhb = dahaba ذهب (to go), hrb = haraba هرب(to run away), ktb = kataba كتب(to write), nsh = nasaha نصح(to advise), drb = daraba ضرب (to hit). Easy!
Note that the second person singular masculine “you” is conjugated the same way the third person singular feminine “she” does. Tarsumu = you draw (singular masculine) and also means she draws.
If you scroll down to the bottom of this page you will find a list of 122 trilateral verbs, they will help you train yourself conjugate them to the right tense.
The past Tense in Arabic:
To form the past tense in Arabic you need to extract the stem from the verb in the infinitive first, for example:
To write = kataba è stem is ktb, now let’s look at the table below to see how this verb is conjugated in this tense:
This is very easy and simple! You can put almost all trilateral Arabic verbs in this table. First take the verb you want to conjugate, extract all its 3 consonants, put them in place of the 3 red consonant on the table above. As you may have noticed, look at how the three consonants are spread in the word katabtu, consonant+ vowel+ consonant+ vowel+ consonant…
I will make the same note I made before in the present tense, you will have to change the vowel in the green font into “i”, the only difference this time is that you won’t have to do it that often as the case with the present tense, because the “a” is more used. Do you remember the two verbs (to advise = nasaha, and to hit = daraba) that we conjugated differently in the present tense, in the past tense they can be conjugated the same way as rasama & kataba , like I said before many verbs will follow the general rules of the table above when it comes to the past tense unlike the present tense.
To conjugate your own trilateral verb into the past tense go to the table and have your verb stem ready (don’t tell me you forgot how to make a stem from a trilateral verb)
It should contain three consonant and no vowels, if you want to conjugate it in the paste tense then replace the first consonant on the table above in red “k” with the first consonant of the stem you have of your own verb, then replace “t” with the second consonant you have, finally replace “b” with the last consonant you have, and that’s it!
Example: I wrote = katabtu , if you want to use “I went” (1 step is to find the verb to go in the Arabic infinitive: the verb is dahaba = to go, 2: the stem is dhb, 3: omit the (k, t, b) stem in the table above and put yours, you will easily get è dahabtu!!)
Note: in case you’re confused whether to replace the “a” in the green font with “i” or not, I would just tell you that if you’re a beginner just leave the “a”, because “a” is the most common, but I would also suggest to read more about the forms that most of verbs take so that you will easily decide whether to put “a” or “i” when conjugating verbs into the past tense in Arabic.
If you are looking for a more extensive Arabic course, we recommend Breaking The Arabic Code
Future Tense in Arabic:
To form the Arabic future tense simply use: sa or sawfa + (the verb in present tense).
Examples: sa aktubu (I will write), sa adhabu (I will go), or if you want to use sawfa: sawfa aktubu (I will go), sawfa adhabu (I will go). Isn’t that a piece of cake!
There is no difference between sa and sawfa, to make it easy you can choose to use sa most of the time so that you won’t get confused.
Replace the question marks with your stem one by one. Note that sometimes the “u” in the green font should be replaced by “i” or “a”.
Replace the question marks with the stem you want to use. Note that sometimes the “a” in the green font should be replaced by “i”.
Simply add sa or sawfa before the verb (conjugated in the present tense).
Below is a list of Verbs in Arabic, try to memorize as many as you can, they will help you a lot in your conversations and understanding what has been said by others.
Learn also about Arabic Present Tense
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