Arabic Grammar Tenses, Words and sentences

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How many letters can an Arabic word contain?

In this lesson we assume your previous knowledge of the Arabic Letters which of course build the Arabic Words.  These 28 letters make up the words that enable us to write and communicate with others.

Words in Arabic consist of a letter (minimum) and up to seven letters. This means you can never find an Arabic word made up of more than seven letters.

Examples:

  • One letter: such as the word “بِ” which means: “By” or “In.”
  • Two letters: such as “مَنْ” which means: “Who.”
  • Three letters: such as “طِفْلٌ” which means: “A boy.”
  • Four letters: such as “طِفْلَةٌ” which means: “A girl.
  • Five letters: such as “طَاوِلَةٌ” which means: “A table.”
  • Six letters: such as “لَيْمُوْنَةٌ” which means: “A lemon.”
  • Seven letters: such as “بُرْتُقَالَةٌ” which means: “An orange.”

Note: As you might have noticed, there is no indefinite articles in the Arabic Language. 

 

What are the Arabic Word Classes?

There are three Arabic Word Classes (letter, noun, and verb).

  • The first type is a letter “حَرْفٌ” such as some Questioning tools. For example: “لِمَ” which means, “why” ,or  “وَ” which means “and” or “I swear.”
  • The second type is a noun “اِسْمٌ” and the instance of that is “سَيَّارَةٌ”  which stands up for “ a car” ,or “جَمِيْلٌ” which means “beautiful.”

NOTICE that in Arabic adjectives, adverbs and other cases are nouns, not word classes.

  • The third type is a verb “فِعْلٌ” and the examples for this type is “أَكَلَ” which means “ate.”

NOTICE: in Arabic we use the past form when searching for the meaning of a word in a dictionary in contradiction with English which searches using the Simple Present form.

In conclusion: every Arabic word cannot be but a letter, noun, or a verb.

Examples of letter words:

“هَلْ” which means “Do” or “Does”

“فِيْ” which means “in” or “on” or “into” or “within”

“ثُمَّ” which means “then”

“إِنْ” or “إذا” which means “if”

“قَدْ” which means “indeed”

Do not be confused between the 28 letters that make up the language and the letter ‘word’ class.

Examples of nouns:

“مُحَمَّدٌ” which means “Mohammad” (a male person’s name)

“أَسَدٌ” which means “A lion”

“نَمِرٌ” which means “A tiger”

“جَبَلٌ” which means “A mountain”

“أُوْرُوْبَّا” which means “Europe”

Examples of verbs:

“أَكَلَ” which means “ate” > past form

“يَأْكُلُ” which means “is eating” or “eats” > present form

“كُلْ” which means “eat” > Imperative 

What are the Verb tenses in Arabic?

Verbs are classified into three tenses:

  • Past
  • Present
  • Imperative

 

The past tense in Arabic

Past tense is used to talk about a completed action in a time before now. Let’s delve into some examples and see what is the form of this tense.

The Arabic sentence structure is:

Verb + Subject + Object (left to right)

ِفِعْلٌ + فَاعِلٌ + مَفْعُوْلٌ بِه (right to left)

You know the past form simply by the accent ”  َ ” on the last letter of the word. For example:

“أكلَ”  “لعبَ”  “شربَ”  “رسمَ” “قاتلَ” “سافرَ” “انطلقَ”

As you can notice, the diacritical mark on the last letter of all these examples is ”  َ ”  and this means these verbs are in the past form. As simple as it is.

Here, Complete sentences:

أَكَلَ الطِّفْلُ تُفَّاحَةً”    >>> “The child ate an apple

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is “أَكَلَ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is  ”  َ
  • The subject is the second word which is “الطِّفْلُ” and
  • the object is the last one which is “تُفَّاحَةً

 

شَرِبَ الطِّفْلُ حَلِيْبًا” >>> “The child drank milk

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” شَرِبَ ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is ”  َ
  • The subject is the second word which is “الطِّفْلُ” and
  • the object is the last one which is ” حَلِيْبًا

 

 

لَعِبَ الطِّفْلُ كُرَةَ قَدَمٍ”>>> “The child played football

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” لَعِبَ ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is ”  َ ”  
  • The subject is the second word which is “الطِّفْلُ” and
  • the object is the last one which is ” كُرَةَ قَدَمٍ

 

 

رَسَمَ الطِّفْلُ رَسْمَةً“>>> “The child draw a drawing

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” رَسَمَ ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is ”  َ ” 
  • The subject is the second word which is “الطِّفْلُ” and
  • the object is the last one which is ” رَسْمَةً

In conclusion: the past tense in Arabic can be identified by seeing the diacritical mark ”  َ ” above the last letter of the word. The verb always is the first word of the sentence. Therefore, knowing where is the verb and its tense now will be an easy task to do

 

The Present Tense in Arabic

Present tense is used to describe an action that is going on at this moment, or to talk about arrangements for events at a time later than now.

Let’s delve into some examples and see what is the form of this tense.

As you should know the Arabic sentence is made up of three parts

Verb + Subject + Object (left to right)

فعل + فاعل + مفعول به  (right to left)

The Present Tense can be identified by:

  • the diacritical mark ”  ُ   ” above the last letter of the word and
  • By one of the following letters as the first letter of the word. These letters are:

       1- “أ” for example: أكتب. This “أ”  is corresponded to “I” in English.

      2- “ن” for example: نكتبُ. This “ن”   is corresponded to “We” in English.

      3- “ي” for example: يكتبُ. This “ي”  is corresponded to “He” or “They” in English.

      4-“ت” for example: تكتبُ. This “ت”   is corresponded to “She” or “They” or “You” in                  English.

For example:

“يأكلُ”  “يلعبُ”  “نشربُ”  “أرسمُ” “تقاتلُ” “تسافرُ” “أنطلقُ”

 

As you can notice, the diacritical mark on the last letter of all these examples is  ”  ُ   ”  and the first letters are one of the following ( أ ت ن ي ). This means these verbs are in the present form. As simple as it is.

Here, Complete sentences:

يَأْكُلُ الطِّفْلُ تُفَّاحَةً”    >>> “The child is eating an apple

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” يَأْكُلُ ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is  ”  ُ   ”  and the first letter is “ي” which refers to the subject “الطِّفْلُ ” which can be replaced by “He
  • The subject is the second word which is “الطِّفْلُ ” and
  • the object is the last one which is “تُفَّاحَةً

 

تَشْرَبُ الطِّفْلَةُ حَلِيْبًا” >>> “The (female) child is drinking milk

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” تَشْرَبُ ” and as you can see diacritical mark is   ”  ُ   ” and the first letter is “ت” which refers to the subject
     ” الطِّفْلَةُ ” which can be replaced by “She
  • The subject is the second word which is “الطِّفْلَةُ ” and
  • the object is the last one which is ” حَلِيْبًا

 

يَلْعَبُ الأَطْفَالُ كُرَةَ قَدَمٍ”>>> “The children are playing football

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” يَلْعَبُ ” and as you can see diacritical mark is   ”  ُ   ” and the first letter is “ي” which refers to the subject ” الأَطْفَالُ ” which can be replaced by “They
  • The subject is the second word which is “الأَطْفَالُ ” and
  • the object is the last one which is ” كُرَةَ قَدَمٍ

 

أَرَسَمُ رَسْمَةً“>>> “I am drawing a drawing”

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” أَرَسَمُ ” and as you can see diacritical mark is  ”  ُ   ” and the first letter is “أ” which refers to the subject “أَنَا” which can be replaced by “I
  • The subject is the second word which is “أَنَا”  and
  • the object is the last one which is ” رَسْمَةً

In conclusion: the present  tense in Arabic can be identify by seeing the diacritical mark ”  ُ   ” above the last letter of the word. And the word  always starts with one of the letters (أ ت ن ي )

The imperative form (In Arabic it is a tense)

The imperative form (tense) is used to give a command or an order for another person

Let’s see the form of this tense:

As you should know the Arabic sentence is made up of three parts

Verb + Subject + Object (left to right)

فعل + فاعل + مفعول به  (right to left)

The imperative form (tense) can be identified by:

  • the diacritical mark” ْ ” above the last letter of the word.
  • Important: In the imperative form (just like English), in Arabic we do not mention the subject

 

Here, Complete sentences:

كُلْ تُفَّاحَةً”    >>> “eat an apple

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” كُلْ ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is  “ ْ ”   
  • The subject is unmentioned but it is “أَنْتَ” or “أَنْتِ“which correspond to “You
  • and the object is the last one which is “تُفَّاحَةً

 

اِشْرَبْ حَلِيْبًا” >>> “Drink milk

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” اِشْرَبْ ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is “ ْ
  • The subject is unmentioned but it is “أَنْتَ” or “أَنْتِ“which correspond to “You
  • and the object is the last one which is ” حَلِيْبًا

اِلْعَبْ كُرَةَ قَدَمٍ”>>> “Play football

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” اِلْعَبْ ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is  “ ْ
  • The subject is unmentioned but it is “أَنْتَ” or “أَنْتِ“which correspond to “You
  • and the object is the last one which is ” كُرَةَ قَدَمٍ

 

اُرْسُمْ رَسْمَةً “>>> “Draw a drawing

Explanation:

  • The verb is the first word of the sentence (starting from the right direction) so it is ” اُرْسُمْ ” and as you can see the diacritical mark is “ ْ
  • The subject is unmentioned but it is “أَنْتَ” or “أَنْتِ“which correspond to “You
  • and the object is the last one which is ” رَسْمَةً

In conclusion: the imperative form (tense) in Arabic can be identified by seeing the diacritical mark “ ْ ”  above the last letter of the word. And the subject is an unmentioned pronoun which is “أَنْتَ” or “أَنْتِ” which correspond to “You

 

Here, we finished our simple tour of the verb tenses in the Arabic Language. In a nutshell, the Arabic tenses are:

  • Past: there is a mentioned subject noun or pronoun
  • Present: there is a mentioned subject noun or pronoun
  • Imperative: There is an unmentioned pronoun subject which is “أَنْتَ” or “أَنْتِ” which correspond to “You

 

Exercise: test yourself with these sentences:

شَاهَدَ الطِّفْلُ البَحْرَ >>> The child saw the sea

نَظَرَ الرَّجُلُ إِلَىْ السَّمَاءِ >>> The man looked at the sky

يَأْكُلُ الفَقِيْرُ رَغِيْفَ خُبْزٍ>>> The poor man is eating a loaf of bread

 تُشْرِقُ الشَّمْسُ مِنَ الشَّرْقِ>>> The sun rises from the east

الشَّجَرَةُ خَضْرَاءُ >>> The tree is green

اِلْعَبْ مَعَ أَخِيْكَ>>> Play with your sibling

اُكْتُبْ وَاجِبَكَ >>> Write your homework

 

The solutions:

The verbs in past tense: شَاهَدَ نَظَرَ

The verbs in past tense: يَأْكُلُ تُشْرِقُ

The verbs in past tense: اِلْعَبْ اُكْتُبْ

Notice that there is a sentence without a verb and this is common in Arabic, as there is two kinds of sentence:

  • Verbal sentence: Verb + Noun+ Object
  • Noun sentence: Noun + Noun or Noun + Verb +Object

Here, you find detailed information about these two types