Last updated: February 3rd, 2008
Introduction Non-vocalized texts Sentence structure Nouns The Definite Article The Cases Verbs The Passive Derived Forms Pronouns Adjectives The Masdar
Introduction Textes Non-vocalisés Structure des phrases Noms L' Article Défini Les Cas Les Verbes Le Passif Dérivées Les Pronoms Les Adjectifs Le Masdar
Les termes grammaticaux utlisés ne correspodent pas de façon nette à la grammaire arabe.
The simplest Arabic words are based on a
root of three consonants.
Les mots les plus simples en arabe prennent la forme d'ue
racine qui se compose de trois lettres.
Par exemple, la raine "k-t-b" exprime l'idée "écrire"
Le mot le plus simple basé sur cette racine, c'est
"kataba", ce qui veut dire "il a écrit"
Voici quelques mots supplémentaires basés sur cette racine simple:
KiTaaB = book - livre
In a traditional Arabic dictionary, all of these words would be listed under K, even the ones that start with M!
These derived forms follow set models with the same word shape around the root which is usually composed of three consonants.
E.g. On the same model as مكتب
مدخل madkhal - entrance (from dakhala - he entered)
مخرج makhraj - exit (from kharaja - he went out)
مسبح masbaH - swimming pool (from sabaHa - he swam)
These forms can be recognized as they are limited in number and more or less regular, but the system is not predictable enough to allow for the coining of new words
or reliably inducing the meaning of one you haven't seen before.
Non-vocalised texts - Textes Non-vocalisés
One of the difficulties in learning Arabic is that the short vowels are usually not written except in texts written for children or in dictionaries.
Chances are you were able to figure out
what this vowel-less sentence meant in English because a native
speaker can easily fill in the gaps.
Si vous êtes francophone, il y a de fortes chances que
vouz ayez pu déchiffrer ce texte sans voyelles sans trop
Pas si évident pour quelqu'un qui apprend le français.
Is 'cn' can, cane or cone?
'L', est-ce que c'est 'le', 'la', 'là', 'il', 'lu'?
'PS', est-ce que c'est ''puis', 'pas', 'pose', 'pus', 'pèse'?
En arabe, la tâche devient plus facile puisque le vocabulaire se forme à partir de racines simples auxquelles on ajoute des lettres pour créer des 'formes' assez reconnaisables dont on peut déduire les voyelles.
C'est grâce à ces 'formes' assez facilement identifiables qu'on n'a pas besoin d'écrire les voyelles. Mais quel défi pour celui ou celle qui apprend la langue!
Pour plus d'éclaircissements, lire la suite.
Learning to recognize word shapes will help you develop a sense for where the vowels go.
This list contains some of the most commonly occuring ones and is one worth referring back to every now and then as your vocabulary increases.
Word shape 1a2ii3 or فَعيل
This is a very common form for adjectives! The clue is that there is an ي between the 2nd and 3rd letter of the root.
You can be fairly certain that the first vowel is a short a after the first letter of the root.
كبير – big – kabiir – grand
صغير – small – saGHir - petit
فقير – poor – faqiir – pauvre
Word shape ma12uu3 مَفعول
This is a passive participle which often corresponds to an adjective, but sometimes a noun as well.
In the case of kataba, the passive participle 'maktuub' means 'written' or 'something that has been written' (a document)
Another word shape that starts with مَ 'ma' – ma12a3 or مَفعَل
these words typically express a place where something happens.
مكتب office – maktab – bureau
Sometimes the feminite suffix is added for a nuance of meaning.
مكتبة – library – maktaba – bibliothèque
There is also a third form possible, although not as common as in
منزل – home – manzil – maison
Word Shape 1a22aal فَعّال
This is a form that denotes a person's nature or profession.
خبّاز baker – khabbaaz – boulanger (from the word خبز bread – khubz – pain m.)
كذّاب – liar – kadhdhaab – menteur (from the word كذب – lie – kathab – mentir)
adding the feminine ending, besides denoting a female can be used with this form for a machine.
سيّارة – car – sayyaara – voiture f.
Word Shape 1a22ii3 فَعّيل
This is the verbal noun (maSdar) of the second group of verbs II
ترتيب - arrangement, organisation – tartiib – arrangement, organisation
Word Shape mu1a22i3 or مُفَعٍّل
This is the active participle of derived verb from II which is usually used for the person carring out the action of the verb.
ممثّل – actor, representative – mumaththil – acteur, représentant (from the verb مثّل – represent – maththal - représenter)
It also is used for adjectives.
معقّد – complicated – mu?aqqad - compliqué
For more about word shapes go to Derived Forms.
There are two types of sentence in Arabic - nominal sentences and
Nominal sentences start with a noun (or pronoun) and usually convey te meaning 'to be' or a similar notion.
محمد مسرور - Mohammed is happy. MuHammed masruur. - Mohammed est heureux.
البنت في البوستان The girl is in the garden. Al-bint fii-l-bustaan. - La fille est dans le jardin.
Verbal sentences start with a verb, followed by the subject and then the predicate (the rest of the sentence - the direct object for example.).
The verb 'to be' is implied in the present tense, just like in Russian.
He is here. - هو هنا Huwa hunaa.
Omar is sick. - عمر مريد - ?umar mariD.
I was - kuntu - كنت
you were (dual) - kuntumaa كنتما
we were - kunnaa - كنّا
I will be - akuunu - أكون
you will be (dual) - takuunaani - تكونان
they will be (dual) - yakuunaani - يكونان
I - anaa - أنا
you two - antumaa - أنتما
we - nahnu - نحن
The possesive pronous take the form of suffixes
my - ي
your (dual) - كما
our - ـنا
Past Tense – Au passé
you wrote (dual) - antumaa katabtumaa - أنتما
we wrote - nahnu katabnaa - نحن
Usually, the pronoun is left out.
N.B.! In a non-vocalized text, كتبت can be 'I wrote' (katabtu), 'you wrote' m. (katabta) , 'you wrote' f. (katabti) or' she wrote' (katabat) !
Present Tense - Le Présent
The present tense is the only tense where there is room for some doubt as to what the second vowel is.
This usually provided in dictionaries after the root form.
I write - ana aktubu - أنا
أكتب - j'écris
we write - nahnu naktubu - نحن
Arabic only has two tense forms, the present and the past.
La langue arabe ne connaît que deux temps - le présent
et le passé.
Other meanings corresponding to other tenses are created by other means.
On peut contruire l'équivalents d'autre temps en français par d'autres moyens.
The future tense is formed by adding the word سوف saufa or the prefix س before the verb in the present.
The past perfect tense is formed by adding the particle قد before the the كان kaana plus the verb in the past.
The imperfect is formed by adding كان kaana before the verb in the past.
The future perfect is formed by the verb كان kaana plus the word قد qad plus the verb i the past.
Most verbs have 10 derived forms that add to the
3-letter root to alter meaning.
The derived forms can become nouns or other parts of speech.
All the derived forms have predictable vowels if you learn the patterns.
Some grammars recommend learning all the forms in all of their configurations by heart, and that certainly is desirable, but
the chart of all the forms looks frightenting with more than eighty forms and it woud be nearly unrealistic to even try to learn them all at once.
After all, some hardly ever are used and the most common ones are appear often.
Most roots only ever appear in a handful of the many theoretical forms.
The first form is the only one where you need to know the vowels. This includes the present tense, but it's only the second vowel that can change.
For example, when forming the present tense from the past radical,
you need to know if the second vowel is an 'a', an 'i' or a
Usually Arabic dictionaris list the vowel after the radical so you know how to form the present.
If you see be seated - جلس (i) - this means that 'he is seated would be يجلس - yajlis
كتب (u) kataba - (he wrote) here the present tense is يكتب yaktub (he writes, he is writing)
II) Doubling the middle consonant فعّل fa??ala or 1a22a3a or -a--a-a
Doubling of the middle consonant either intensifies the meaning of
makes it an action caused by someone else. (to cause to do, to make
e.g. to study - درس - darasa becomes درّس - darrasa 'to teach' !
The active participle mudarris - مدرّس - teacher
be big - كبر - kabur becomes كبّر kabbara -enlarge (remember the word kabiir كبير - big.)
This is one of the forms where the first vowel of the present tense changes to a 'u'. (not an 'a')
V) Add 'ta' at the beginning of the second form تفعّل tafa??ala or ta1a22a3a or ta-a--a-a
III) Adding a long aa after the first consonant فاعل
faa?ala or 1aa2a3a or -aa-a-a
The present tense prefix is a 'u', ot an 'a'.
VI) Add 'ta-' to the beginning of the third form تفاعل tafaa?ala or ta1aa2a3a
IV) Adding a short a at the beginning أفعل
af?ala or a12a3a or a--a-a
The أ at the beginning is dropped in the present tense and the vowel is a 'u', not an 'a'.
This form has a meaning of 'causing something to happen.'
e.g. The basic form جلس jalasa to sit down becomes آجلس ajlas which means 'to ask someone to take a seat, offer a chair to someone'
VII) The first form with the prefix 'in' - إنــ
infa?ala or in1a2a3a or in-a-a-a (yanfa??ilu or yan1a2i3u or yan-a-i-u in the present)
This makes a reflexive verb.
كسر kasara (to break sth) becomes إنكسر inkasara (to break, become broken)
طلق Talaqa (to release, set free) becomes إنطلق (leave, depart)
This form is often used to create nouns (masdar) based on the pattern. infi?aal which means 'mood, emotion' إنفعال
Note that a noun starting with in- that corresponds to this pattern will always have a short i as the middle vowel and always has a long aa at the end!
intikhaab - إنتخاب
infijaar - إنفجار - explosion
infiraaj - إنفراج - détente
VIII) ifta?ala – إفتعل or i1ta2ala
This is a very common form.
IX) if?alla – إفعل
This is a rare form.
It is only used for colors or for words denoting some form of deformity.
It is never used in the passive.
X) The tenth form adds the prefix ist- istaf?ala – إستفعل or ista12a3a
This form implies that the action is for one's own benefit.
The verb akhbara - أخبر - to inform (someone else) becomes istakhbara - إستخبر - to inform oneself, get the information, find out
This form is often used for nouns (masdar) with the second vowel being a short i and the last vowel a long aa.
istithnaa' - إستثناء - exception
istiqbaal - إستقبال - reception
istiHsaan - إستحسان - agreement
Nouns can be masculine or feminine. Most feminine nouns end in ـــة , the 'silent t' that is pronounced as an sort a.
When a suffix is added, however, the t becomes audible again and
is written as a normal t ت.
friend (male)– صديق Sadiiq
friend (female) – صديقة – Sadiiqa
your friend – (female) –
There are some nouns that have a masculine form, but are considered feminine, such as the words for parts of the body that come in twos.
The followig noun can be used as masculine or feminine
road طريق - Tariiq - le chemin
sky سماء - samaa' - le ciel
finger آصبع - iSba? - le doigt
gold ذهب - dhahab - or
salt ملح - milH - le sel
The external or regular plurals are in the form of a suffix.
the longer the word, the greater the liklihood that it has a regular plural.
Le pluriel externe, ou régulier, prend la forme d'un suffixe.
Ce sont surtout les mots plus longs qui prennent cette forme de pluriel.
The regular plural for masculine nouns is formed by the suffix ـــون -uun (-iin in the accusative or the genetive)
The regular plural for feminine nouns is ـــات -aat.
Le pluriel externe pour les noms masculins, c'est le suffixe ـــون -uun. (-iin à l'accusatif ou à l'oblique)
Pour les noms féminins, ـــات -aat.
American – آمريكي Américain
Americans – آمركيون - Américains
car – سيارة sayyara– voiture
cars – سيارات sayyaraat - voitures
Irregular plurals take some getting used to as they can look quite
differnt from the singular as the changes are internal, not just i
a suffix at the end of the word.
Les pluriels irréguliers sont un peu déroutant
au début puisque les changements sont à l'intérieur
Many nouns designating fruit, trees, vegetables are have a collective sense in that they have a plural meaning although they are in the singular (masculine).
برتقال burtuuqaal – oranges
ليمون - liimuun - lemons
تمر tamr – dates
The same word with the feminie ending, the 'hidden t' is used to designate just one.
برتقالة – burtuqaala – an orange
ليمونة- liimuuna – a lemon
L'article défini (le, la, les) en arabe, cest الـــ al-
Il y a beaucoups de mots en français qui commencent
avec 'al-' qui viennent de l'arabe.
A house – بيت – beit (in classical Arabic beitun) - une maison
The house – البيت – al-beit (in classical Arabic al-beitu) - la maison
But it's a lot more complicated than that.
Mais ça se complique:
For two reasons –
one being pronunciation.
The other a very important grammatical distinction.
Pour deux raisons –
la première concerne la prononciation
et la deuxième, un point crucial de grammaire.
The 'solar' consonants behave like the Arabic word for the sun – شمس – shams
This means that when the definte article preceeds it, the ش sh at the beginning morphs with the 'l' making the L sound dissappear entirely with a lengthened 'sh' sound.
The sun – الشمس – ash-shams (not al-shams) - (in Classical Arabic ash-shamsu)
The lunar letters are pronounced normally after the 'l' which remains audible.
One such lunar letter is 'q' in the Arabic word for 'moon' قمر qamar
a moon – قمر – qamar – une lune
the moon – القمر – al-qamar – la lune
ن ت ث ل ط ظ ص ض ش س ز ر د ذ
ج ح خ ع غ ف ق ك م ه و ي
Unlike most European languages, the definite arlticle can appear before not only nouns, but also adjectives, and the combinations lead to different meanings.
compare the following phrases based on a noun and an adjective
a new house – une maison neuve
بيت جديد – beit jadiid – (in Classical Arabic - beitun jadidun)
<>(no definite articles)
the new house – la maison neuve
البيت الجديد- al-beit al-jadiid – (in Classical Arabic - al-beitu al-jadiidu)
(The definite article is used both with the noun and the adjective)
BUT - MAIS
The house is new. La maison est neuve.
البيت جديد – al-beit jadiid
(definte article before the noun, but not before the adjective)
This is a sentence with an understood 'is'. The verb 'to be' in Arabic is not expressed in the present tense.
This is a sentence with the definite aticle on the noun and none on the adjective.
There is another possible combination which corresponds to the word 'of''
(or the genetive in many languages.)
A noun without the 'al' followed by another noun WITH the 'al'
بنت الجار bint al-jaar
It translates as the first noun having a 'the' in front of it although there is no 'al'
the neighbor's daughter (the daughter of the neighbor)
There are three cases in standard Arabic, but in the simplified language, this isn't nearly as important.
In the very formal literary Arabic, all adjectives and nouns have a suffix which is left out in the commonly spoken form of standard Arabic
The Nominative takes a -u ending in the definite and -un in
al-kitabu hunaa - the book is here. haadhaa kitabun - This is a book (both just 'kitab' normally)
The Accusative takes -a or -an
It is used for the direcy object of a sentence.
kataba al-waladu al-kibaba The boy read the book. kataba waladu kitaban. A boy read a book.
However the accusative is also require in a number of other situations in Arabic.
1) After كان (to be), ليس (is not) or any one of a group of verbs denoting a state of being or becoming
(known in Arabic as Kana and her sisters)
2) after the introductory word إن inna
3) An adjective that forms the suprlative (more interesting) using أكثر akthar takes the accusative as does
an adjective in the expression 'less than' أقل من
As is the case with most Western grammatical terms used to describe Arabic, this case only bears a distant similarity with the term 'genetive'.
The Genetive takes -i or -in
This case is used after a preposition
This form of verbs sometimes coresponds to a common noun in English or French, but sometimes replaces a construction that normally would be expressed by a verb.
There are a number of ways to form the verbal noun:
if the root is 123
From the root طبخ Tabakha you get طبخ Tabkh (note the identical spelling!)
The verb فرح fariHa becomes فرح faraH (same spelling again!)
دخل dakhala to enter becomes دخول dukhuul 'entrance'
صعب 'to be difficult' becomes صعوبة Su?uuba
كتب kataba becomes كتابة kitaaba 'reading'
translate – tarjama – - ترجم - traduire
I translate – utarjimu – -
- je traduis
we translate – nutarjimu - نترجم
- nous traduisons
Irregular verbs have one or more of the letters in the root that are
-semi-consonant ي or و
-the hamza ء
-or two identical consonants (the second and third.)
eat! - كل kul! Mange!
The word for 'no' is laa. 'Non' en arabe, c'est لا laa.
This is also the word that is used to put a verb in the negative in the present tense.
C'est aussi le mot pour mettre une phrase au négatif au présent.
I know him. - أعرفه A?rifuhu. - Je le connais.
I don't know him. - لا أعرفه Laa a?rifuhu. - Je ne le connais pas.
To put a verb in the past tense in the negative, use the word ما maa.
Au passé, il faut utiliser le mot ما maa
He went to the restaurant with us. - ذهب إلى المطعم معنا dhahaba ilaa l-maT?am ma?anaa – Il est allé au restaurant avec nous
He didn't go to the restaurant with us. ما ذهب يلى المطعم معنا maa dhahaba ilaa l-maT?am ma?anaa.
Il n 'est pas allé au restaurant avec nous.
I didn't understand. لم
أفهم Je n'ai pas compris
To negate a sentence in the future tense, use لن before the verb in the present tense.
لن نذحب إلى المطعم - We will not go to the restaurant. - Nous n'irons pas au restaurant.
To negate an adjective, use غير gheir before it.
Pour un adjectif, utiliser غير:
ممكن mumkin - possible – possible
غير ممكن gheir mumkin – not possible – pas possible
In a non-vocalized text, the passive cannot be distinguished from the active. The context must be used to determine the pronunciation of the vowels.
He opened the door. - فتح الباب - fataHa l-baab. Il a ouvert la porte.
The door was opened. (someone opened the door) - فتح الباب - futiHa l-baab Quelqu'un a ouvert la porte. On a ouvert la porte.
(The Arabic word for passive - majhuul - مجهول means 'unknown' as the doer of the action is unstated.)
The Passive – Le passif
When the vowels aren't written, there is no difference between a verb in the active and the passive forms.
In the present tense, the prefix takes the vowl 'u' and all other vowels are 'a', whether short or long.
يفقد yafqid he loses yufqad he is lost
تطلب she requests tuTlab she is requested
يشاهد yushaahid he witnesses yushaahad it is witnessed
In the present passive, if the first letter is a hamza, the carrier changes from alif to waw
يأخذ ya'khudh takes يؤخذ yu'khadh is taken
he asks, is asked يسأل yas'al yus'al
he reads, it is read يقرأ yqarq4 yuqra'
أكل akal /ukil he ate / he was eaten
In the passive of verbs where the 2nd or third letter of the root is a hamza, the carrier letter changes:
سأل sa'al he asked سئل su'il he was asked
قرأ qara' he read قرئ quri' it was read
four radical verbs
ترجمت tarjama he translated turjima it was translated
The distinction between adjectives and nouns is a bit blurred in Arabic as most adjectives can be used as a noun.
Just as with nouns, adjectives can become feminine by adding the 'silent t' at the end. It is only pronounced as an 'a' in Modern Arabic.
جميل – handsome – jamiil – beau
جميلة – pretty – jamiila – belle
Adjectives must agree in gender with the noun they qualify.
The comparative of an adjective always starts with 'أ' and eliminates any vowel between the first and second consonant of the root and shortens the second vowel.
The word for 'big' which is كبير kabiir
bigger is أكبر akbar
The word for 'small' is صغير Saghiir
smaller is أصغر aSghar
'bigger than', أكبر من akbar min,
أصغر من smaller 'than' aSghar min
Follow the model a12a3(u)
عَميق deep أعْمَق deeper
سَميك thick أسمَك thicker
جَميل beautiful أجمَل more beautiful
كبير kabiir big اكبر akbar bigger
صغير Saghiir small اصغر aSghar smaller
The feminine form is on the model 1u23aa
كبرى kubraa bigger (f)
صغرى Sughraa smaller (f)
For longer words, add أكْثَر before the adjective in the accusative form.
'Less beautiful' أقَل جَميل
the word 'than' in a comparison is 'من4 min
The superlative takes th definite article.
The most beautiful الاحسن al-aHsan
'Less than' is translated by أقل follwed by the adjective in the accusative form.