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Lesson 11b: Verbs Overview

Starting in lesson 11, the use of transliteration will be slowly phased out. You will notice that the dialogues in this and all subsequent lessons are written exclusively in Arabic script.

Lesson 11, Part A:
  • Intro
  • Dialogue
Lesson 11, Part B: Lesson 11, Part C:
  • The Present Tense
Verbs Overview
Wow!!! You had to do 10 whole lessons before we even mention how to use verbs. On the one hand, that sucked. On the other hand, it goes to show how much you can say in Arabic without ever using a verb. Now it's time to dig right in. Why did we wait so long? Because verbs are really complicated. How are they complicated? Let us count the ways (but don't be scared):

Verb Tense:
Like in most languages, verbs in Arabic are conjugated differently depending on the tense (past, present, future, etc..). In this respect Arabic verbs aren't that difficult. There are really only 2 tenses you need to worry about: past and present (or perfect and imperfect depending on your terminology). Other tenses like future are just variations on these two.

Verb Form:
As you've learned, Arabic words are based on 3 or 4-letter roots which have a basic meaning like "writing". Different patterns are applied to the root to create related words like "to write", "writer", "book" and "office".

Arabic verbs can be formed using 10 of these patterns. They are usually number from 1 to 10 using Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc..) so that a verb based on the 4th pattern is referred to as a "Form IV Verb" in most textbooks.

Each of these 10 forms has a different conjugation that you will need to learn.

Irregular Verbs:
Depending on the root letters, a verb may have an irregular conjugation:
  • Hamzated verbs: - If one of the root letters is the hamza, then you need to learn some funky spelling rules in order to figure out what letter to use as the seat for the hamza.

  • Doubled verbs: - Many verbs have the same letter for their 2nd and 3rd root letters. These are known as doubled verbs and sometimes are conjugated like there are 3-letters in the root and other times as if there were only 2-letters in the root.
  • Weak Verbs: - If one of the root letters is what is considered a "weak letter" (يorو) then the verb is known as a Weak Verb. The conjugation rules are different depending on which weak letter is used and whether the weak letter is the 1st letter (Known as an Assimilated Verb), 2nd letter (Hollow Verb) or 3rd letter (Sick/Defective Verb).

The Present/Imperfect tense also has 4 different moods, each of which has a slightly different conjugation.
  • Indicative: - This is the default mood for present tense verbs and the same sentence can mean either a habitual action like "I go to school" or an ongoing action like "I am going to school".

  • Subjunctive: - The subjunctive is used for verbs in a subordinate clause after another verb. For example, in the sentence "I want to eat" the verb "want" would be in the indicative but the subordinate verb "eat" would be in the subjunctive. Determining whether a verb should be in the subjunctive is made easier by a relatively short (about 10) list of Subjunctive Particles after which the verb is always Subjunctive.

  • Jussive: - In addition to the Subjunctive Particles there is an even smaller list of Jussive Particles after which the verb must be in the Jussive.

  • Imperative: - Finally there is the Imperative mood which is used to issue commands like "Stop!" or "Go!".

What we cover in TenguGo Arabic 1
Wow that's a lot to cover. What will be be covering in the next 4 lessons? Just the basics:

Tenses: We will be covering the past, present and future.

Verb Forms: We will only be covering the first form (Form I). Other forms will be covered in TenguGo Arabic 2 but since the 1st form is the most irregular the other forms won't be that difficult to pick up afterwards.

Irregular Verbs: We will not be covering any irregular verbs. They will be covered in TenguGo Arabic 2.

Moods: We will only be covering the Indicative mood.