The Past Tense in Arabic Language
Updated: Apr 8
Verbs in Arabic Language; Part 1: All you need to know about the Past Tense in Arabic language, Declension and Conjugation: Brain Friendly Study Cards.
In this series of lessons, I will provide a detailed explanation for each verb, in terms of declension and relevant signs, as well as conjugation, using brain friendly study cards, to help you recall the information, and refer to it when needed. Stay tuned and subscribe to the blog to get the following releases for the rest of the verbs, and all other new FREE learning tools; plus get your subscription freebie: a complete Arabic conversation phrase book for beginners, which helps you get through daily life situations with ease (English translation and transcription provided). Additionally, follow the Facebook Page to get the new uploads straight into your news-feed!
First, we all know the three basic tenses: Past, Present, and Future. In Arabic language nouns as well as verbs are divided into مَبْنِيّ Mabneyy and مُعْرَب Mu'rab. Mabneyy means it has a fixed case ending (the shape of the last letter) no matter its position in the sentence (so the last letter of the verb is always pronounced the same, with the same diacritic); whereas Mu'rab means that the case ending changes according to its position in the sentence and the grammatical case (so the last letter of the verb will have a different pronunciation and diacritic).
The past tense and imperative tense are always "Mabneyy" مَبْنِيّان. The present tense is generally "Mu'rab" with the exception of being "Mabneyy" when attached to Noun of the plural feminine نون النّسوة and the affirmative Noun نون التّوكيد, as you will see in the next lesson. It also has the subjunctive and Jussive moods, in addition to the default case.
*Why is understanding grammatical inflection and the subsequent diacritics and case endings important in Arabic? Simply because the way Arabic is spoken is different to English. Consider the sentence "Kareem hit Jaad".
Kareem (subject) hit Khaalid (object).
ضَرَبَ كَريمٌ خالِداً.
Kareem hit Khalid. (This can be deduced by the nominative sign for Kareem which is the double Damma diacritic, being the subject, versus the accusative sign for Khaalid which is the double FatHa, being the object).
ضَرَبَ كريماً خالِدٌ.
Khaalid hit Kareem! We deduce this not by the order of the sentence, like in English, but again by the case endings: the nominative sign for Khaalid which is the double Damma diacritic, being the subject, versus the accusative sign for Kareem which is the double FatHa, being the object).
ضَرَبَ خالِداً كريمٌ.
Here it means: Kareem hit Khaalid. (This can be deduced not by the order of the sentence as in English, but by the nominative sign for Kareem which is the double Damma diacritic, being the subject, versus the accusative sign for Khaalid which is the double FatHa, being the object).
The past tense is always Mabneyy; that is the last letter of the verb excluding the attached pronouns, has a fixed diacritic: either fatHa, sukoun, or damma. For example: ذَهَبَا= ذَهّبَ + ـا, "they (both) went": it is mabneyy with fatHa (we look at the Baa letter, the last letter of the verb, and exclude the attached dual pronounـا). The following study card explains when each diacritic is used:
Here is a simple verb conjugation of a verb with no vowels فعل صحيح in the past tense.
Click for Part 3: The Imperative Tense.
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