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.IQɘ°ùdG íàa IOÉYEG ≈∏Y º¡©e G’∏pªnY (rónb) G’fÉc
kaan-uu (qad) ¬amil-uu ma¬-a-hum ¬alaa √i¬aadat-i fatH-i l-sifaarat-i.
They had worked with them on re-opening the embassy.

.ᩪ·G AÉ°ùe nπn°Unh (rónb) o’˜°ùdG n¿Éc
kaana l-safiir-u (qad) waSal-a masaa√-a l-jum¬at-i.
The ambassador had arrived Friday evening.

.áªFɤdG ≈∏Y ô°üe „°Vh o¤rósjnCG (rónb) oâr¦oc
kun-tu (qad) √ayyad-tu waD¬-a miSr-a ¬alaa l-qaa√imat-i.
I had supported putting Egypt on the list.

2 The verb lays-a ¢ùr«d ˜to not be™
This irregular verb negates the present tense. It is discussed in detail in Chapter
37, section 1. It is noted here because it is a sister of kaan-a and requires a comple-
ment in the accusative case. Although it is inflected as a past tense verb, it conveys
negation of the present tense.

.ɦ¤jó°U ¢ùr«nd Gòg .kÉ«eɬ ¢ùr«d
n nn
haadhaa lays-a Sadiiq-a-naa. lays-a muHaamiy-an.
This is not our friend. He is not a lawyer.

3 Verbs of becoming: baat-a n¤ÉH, √aSbaH-a í‘°UnG, Saar-a QÉ°U
n nr C n
Verbs that indicate a change of state or condition are also sisters of kaan-a.

3.1 baat-a n¤ÉH ˜to become; come to be™
The verb baat-a/ya-biit-u indicates a change of state (or sometimes the continuation
of a state) and is used chiefly in the past tense. It may be used as a main verb or as
an auxiliary verb.

.nÚ©¦à¤e G’JÉH .q¦Qhô°†dG øe n¤ÉH
baat-uu muqtani¬-iina. baat-a min-a l-Daruuriyy-i.
They have become convinced. It has become necessary.

.„¦’«dG ¬H ±ô©oJ O“‘dG ânJÉH
baat-at-i l-bilaad-u tu-¬raf-u bi-hi l-yawm-a.
The country has come to be known for it today.
638 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

3.2 √aSbaH-a /yu-SbiH-u í‘°üoj/ nín‘r°UnCG ˜to become™
o pr
This is a Form IV verb that has an inceptive meaning: ˜to start to be,™ or ˜to

.kÉqj Qhô°V kGôeCG nín‘r°UnCG ób .q»e’«dG º¡sªg í‘°UnGC
n nr
qad √aSbaH-a √amr-an Daruuriyy-an. √aSbaH-a hamm-a-hum-u l-yawmiyy-a.
It has become an essential matter. It became their daily concern.

.á«qªgCG ÌcCG kGAµL oíp‘r°üo«n°Sh .ká∏µ°»e í‘°UnGC
n nr
wa-sa-yu-SbiH-u juz√-an √akthar-a √aSbaH-a mushkilat-an.
It became a problem.
And it will become a more
important part.

3.3 Saar-a /ya-Siir-u o’°ünj / nQÉ°U ˜to become; to come to be™
The verb Saar-a was not found to be very frequent in the material covered for this
work. When used as the main verb it has the same meaning and effect as √aSbaH-a.

.áq«ŸÉY á«°ù∏WCG É¡àaɤK ¤QÉ°U
Saar-at thaqaafat-u-haa ¬aalamiyyat-an.
Its culture became global.

3.3.1 As an auxiliary verb
When used as an auxiliary verb, Saar-a denotes inception and continuation:

.ÈcCG kGQhO òNCÉJ ¤QÉ°U ¤É¦«qà°ùdG ò¦e
mundhu l-sittiinaat-i Saar-at ta-√xudh-u dawr-an √akbar-a.
Since the sixties it has come to play a greater role.

3.3.2 Saar li-
When used with the preposition li- expressing possession, it conveys the idea of
˜come to have™ or ˜come to possess™:

.kÉq«∏µ°T Úq«fɪã©∏d A™’dG QÉ°U
Saar-a l-wilaa√-u li-l-¬uthmaaniyy-iina shakliyy-an.
The Ottomans came to have allegiance in form.
(˜Allegiance came to be to the Ottomans in form™).

4 Verbs of remaining: baqiy-a »¤H, Zall-a πX, maa zaal-a «GR Ée, maa daam-a „¦GO Ée
n pn sn n n
Several verbs and verbal expressions that are sisters of kaan-a denote the concept
of remaining in a particular state or condition. They may be used independently
or as auxiliary verbs. These include:
Verbs of being, becoming, remaining, seeming 639

4.1 baqiy-a / ya-bqaa ≈¤r‘nj / n»p¤nH ˜to stay; remain™
.kÉjq ô°S ≈¤r‘«°S
q .„É©dG IôcGP ˜ “j’W ≈¤r‘à°S
nn nn
sa-ya-bqaa sirriyy-an. sa-ta-bqaa Tawiil-an fii dhaakirat-i
It will remain secret. l-¬aalam-i.
It will remain long in the world™s

4.2 Zall-a / ya-Zall-u π¶j / sπnX ˜to keep, keep on, to remain™
.áqeÉJ áH’‘«Z ˜ πX .π°†aCG tπn¶n«n°S
Zall-a fii ghaybuubat-in taamat-in. sa-ya-Zall-u √afDal-a.
He remained in a complete coma. It will remain better.

.Ióq«·G ¤Éb“©dG OÉeQ â“ IO’L’e â∏X
k r sn
Zall-at mawjuudat-an taHt-a ramaad-i l-¬alaqaat-i l-jayyidat-i.
It remained present under the ashes of good relations.

4.3 maa zaal-a / laa ya-zaal-u o«Gµnj ™ / n«GR Ée ˜to remain; to continue to be; to still be™
This expression consists of a negative particle (maa plus the past tense; lam plus
the jussive; or laa plus the imperfect) plus the verb zaal-a ˜to cease,™ thus it
means literally ˜to not cease to be.™ In terms of tense, both the past tense form
and the present tense usually have present tense meaning. Sometimes in con-
text, however, they may refer to the past, or be equivalent to an English past

.káq«M râdGR Ée áq«‘©°»dG ¤ÉYɦ°üdG .kɪFÉb n«GR Ée
al-Sinaa¬aat-u l-sha¬biyyat-u maa maa zaal-a qaa√im-an.
zaal-at Hayyat-an. It still exists.
Handicrafts continue to be lively.

.kGqôªà°ùe √QÉ«¡fG «GR Ée .ká∏ª©à°ùe âdGR Ée
n rn
maa zaal-a nhiyaar-u-hu mustamirr-an. maa zaal-at musta¬malat-an.
Its decline is still continuous. They are still used.

4.3.1 maa zaal-a As an auxiliary verb
As an auxiliary verb maa zaal-a conveys the idea of continuation of a state or
action. It is followed by a present tense main verb.

o∞p¤nJ o«GµJ ™ lQG’°SCG .¬t‘p«of ɦrdR Ée
√aswaar-un laa ta-zaal-u ta-qif-u maa zil-naa nu-Hibb-u-hu
walls that are still standing We still love it.
640 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic WITH EQUATIONAL SENTENCES
.âbh Éfó¦Y o«Gµnj ™ .’°†«àdG á∏Môe ˜ oârdR Ée
laa ya-zaal-u ¬ind-a-naa waqt-un. maa zil-tu fii marHalat-i l-taHDiir-i.
We still have time I am still in the preparation stage.
(˜there is still time to-us™).

4.4 maa daam-a ˜as long as™
The expression maa daam-a n„¦GO Ée consists of the pronoun maa ˜that which™ or
˜what™ and the verb daam-a n„¦GO ˜to continue,™ ˜to remain,™ or ˜to last.™

.Iqôªà°ùe á©WɤŸG q¿EÉa , ájYô°»dG øe káLQÉN âeGO Ée
maa daam-at xaarijat-an min-a l-shar¬iyyat-i, fa-√inna l-muqaaTa¬at-a
As long as it remains outside legality, the boycott will continue.

5 Verbs of seeming or appearing
These verbs are not considered sisters of kaan-a but are similar in that they take an
object complement in the accusative case even though they are not transitive.

5.1 badaa / ya-bduu hór‘nj / GónH ˜to seem; to appear™
.k“Fɘàe hór‘nj ™ .kGqóL kɤ«àY hór‘nj
laa ya-bduu mutafaa√il-an ya-bduu ¬atiiq-an jidd-an.
He does not seem optimistic. It looks very ancient/antique.

5.2 Zahar-a/ya-Zhar-u ô¡¶j / nôn¡nX ˜to seem; to appear™
onr n
.kɘ«©°V oôn¡r¶nj
ya-Zhar-u Da¬iif-an.
He seems weak.
Negation and exception

Arabic uses a variety of means to express negation and exception. This is accom-
plished primarily through the use of negative or exceptive particles, which often
affect the following phrase by requiring a particular case on a noun or noun
phrase, or a particular mood of the verb. There is also a verb, lays-a n¢ùr«nd, which has
a negative meaning ˜to not be.™ Each of these negative or exceptive expressions
could be the topic for extensive grammatical analysis, but here their description
is limited to their basic functions in MSA.

1 The verb lays-a ¢ùr«d ˜to not be™
This verb is exceptional in two ways:

(1) it is inflected only as a past tense verb but it negates the present tense of
“be” 1;
(2) it is a sister of kaan-a n¿Éc and therefore requires its complement to be in the
accusative case.

1.1 Chart: conjugation of lays-a n¢ùr«nd ˜to not be™
The verb lays-a n¢ùr«nd has only one type of conjugation. It appears on the surface to
resemble a past tense verb because it is inflected with the past tense suffixes, but
in terms of meaning, it negates the present tense. Like a hollow verb, lays-a n¢ùr«nd
has two stems; a short one, las- -r`°ùnd, used when the suffix starts with a consonant,
and a longer stem, lays- `°ùr«nd, used when the suffix starts with a vowel or is only
a vowel.2

Negation of the perfect or past tense of “be” is not done with lays-a, but with the use of the
negative particle lam plus the jussive form of kaan-a ˜to be.™ Similarly, the future tense of “be” is
negated through the use of the future negative particle lan plus the subjunctive of kaan-a. The verb
lays-a, therefore, is specialized and limited to negating the present tense of “be.”
Lecomte (1968, 87) states that lays-a “est une curieuse particule pseudo-verbale dot©e d™une
conjugaison d™allure concave.”

642 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

Singular Dual Plural

oâr°ùnd ɦr°ùnd
First person
las-tu las-naa

nâr°ùnd ɪoàr°ùnd rºoàr°ùnd
Second person:
m. las-ta las-tumaa las-tum

pâr°ùnd ɪoàr°ùnd søoàr°ùnd
las-ti las-tumaa las-tunna

n¢ùr«nd É°ùr«nd G’°ùr«nd
Third person:
m. lays-a lays-aa lays-uu

rân°ùr«nd Éàn°ùr«nd nør°ùnd
lays-at lays-ataa las-na

1.2 Discussion and examples of lays-a n¢ùr«nd
.kÉNqQD’e oPÉà°SC™G n¢ùr«d
lays-a l-√ustaadh-u mu√arrix-an.
The professor is not a historian.
In the above example, the verb lays-a n¢ùr«nd starts the sentence, followed by the
subject noun al-√ustaadh-u oPÉà°SC™G in the nominative case. The predicate or com-
plement of the verb lays-a n¢ùr«nd (mu√arrix-an kÉNqQD’e) is in the accusative case because
lays-a n¢ùr«nd is a “sister” of the verb kaan-a n¿Éc and thus belongs to a group of verbs
that (although intransitive in the traditional sense of the term) take their
complements in the accusative case.3
If the sentence were not negative, it would be equational and verbless. The
subject would be al-√ustaadh-u oPÉà°SC™G and the predicate mu√arrix-un l±qQD’e, both in
the nominative case, as is the rule with equational sentences:

.l±qQD’e oPÉà°SC™G
al-√ustaadh-u mu√arrix-un.
The professor is a historian.
In another example,

.káq«fɦ‘d oâ°ùnd
las-tu lubnaaniyyat-an.
I am not Lebanese.

See Chapter 36, on verbs of being, becoming, remaining, seeming (kaan-a wa-√axawaat-u-haa n¿Éc
Negation and exception 643

The verb is inflected for the first person (“I”) and the predicate or complement
consists of just one word, an adjective, in the accusative case: lubnaaniyyat-an
áq«fɦ‘d. It is feminine because the writer is feminine and speaking of herself. If the
sentence were not negative it would be:

.lá«fɦ‘d ÉfnCG
√anaa lubnaaniyyat-un.
I [am] Lebanese (f.).

with a pronoun subject (√anaa ÉfnCG ˜I™), no overt verb, and the adjective as predicate,
in the nominative case. For more extensive discussion of equational sentences, see
Chapter 4, section 2.

1.3 Further examples
Here are a few more examples of lays-a n¢ùr«nd in context:

1.3.1 Predicate of lays-a ¢ùr«d is a noun or adjective in the accusative case
.mQÉKBG ná‘q¤¦e râ°ùr«d .kɘjô°T k“LQ n¢ùr«d Gòg
nn n
lays-at munaqqibat-a √aathaar-in haadhaa lays-a rajul-an shariif-an.
She is not an archaeologist. This is not a noble man.

.n–‘°ùdG n¢ùr«d Gòg .kIóq«L râ°ùr«d ‚o੪°S
n nn
haadhaa lays-a l-sabab-a. sum¬at-u-ka lays-at jayyidat-an.
This is not the reason. Your reputation is not good.

1.3.2 Predicate of lays-a ¢ùr«d is a prepositional phrase
The predicate or complement of lays-a may be a prepositional phrase rather than
a noun, noun phrase, or adjective. In this case, the preposition causes the follow-
ing noun to be in the genitive case.

?‚dòc n¢ùr«ndnCG
.u¦Qhô°†dG øe ¢ùr«d
lays-a min-a l-Daruuriyy-i. √a-lays-a ka-dhaalika?
It is not necessary. Isn™t it so (˜like that™)?

.´’°V’ŸG ≈∏Y m±Éc m´“qWG ≈∏Y â°ùnd
las-tu ¬alaa TTilaa¬-in kaaf-in ¬alaa l-mawDuu¬-i.
I am not informed enough about the subject.

1.3.3 Predicate of lays-a n¢ùr«nd is an adverb
The predicate of lays-a may also be an invariable adverb that does not take case
inflections. In the following sentence, the adverb hunaaka n‘ɦog is the predicate
and Siraa¬-un l´Gôp°U ˜struggle™ is the subject of lays-a n¢ùr«nd.
644 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

.l´Gôp°U n‘ɦog ¢ùr«d
lays-a hunaaka Siraa¬-un.
There is no struggle (˜There is not a struggle™).

2 Negative particles and their effects

2.1 laa ™ ˜no; not; there is no™
The negative particle laa has five functions: (1) by itself, it can mean simply ˜no™ in
response to a statement, question, or a request; (2) it negates the present tense of
verbs; (3) it is used for the negative imperative; (4) to indicate categorical negation;
and (5) when repeated, indicates ˜neither . . . nor.™

2.1.1 laa ˜no™
?w¦ôr°üpe nâfCG rπg .kÉqj ô°üpe oâr°ùnd .™
laa. las-tu miSriyy-an.
hal √anta miSriyy-un?
Are you Egyptian? No. I am not Egyptian.

2.1.2 laa ™ not; negation of present tense verb
The negative particle laa is used to negate present tense verbs. The verb remains in
the indicative mood.4

.o« ’¤nJ GPÉe oºn¡ranCG ™ .oøNOGCo ™
laa √a-fham-u maadhaa ta-quul-u. laa √u-daxxin-u.
I do not understand what you are saying. I do not smoke.

.nêhôoÿG o«phÉ«oj ™ .nQµ·G –MGCo ™
laa yu-Haawil-u l-xuruuj-a. laa √u-Hibb-u l-jazar-a.
He is not trying to leave. I do not like carrots.

.káfɪ°V oπqµn°»oj ™ .oµ’©nj ™
laa yu-shakkil-u Damaanat-an. laa ya-juuz-u.
It does not constitute a guarantee. It is not possible/permissible.

2.1.3 laa ™ with the subjunctive √allaa √an The negative particle laa may negate a verb in
q™nCG r¿nCG laa ™:
the subjunctive if there is a subjunctivizing element present. In the following
In his 1996 article “Negative polarity and presupposition in Arabic” Elabbas Benmamoun proposes
that “negative laa has three different suppletive forms that correlate with different temporal
interpretations: laa which occurs in the present tense . . . , lam which carries past tense . . . , and
lan which carries future tense” (Benmamoun 1996, 51). While all three particles are negations, and
all start with the letter laam, they have different effects on the following verb and are presented
separately here.
Negation and exception 645

sentences, the subjunctivizing phrase ya-jib-u √an (˜it is necessary that™) is followed
by laa plus a verb in the subjunctive, and the subjunctivizing verb phrase,
qarrar-a √an ˜to decide to™ is also followed by laa plus a verb in the subjunctive. The
particles √an and laa are joined together in a contraction, √allaa:

.¬«a nπnªrYnCG q™CG o¤Qqôb
qarrar-tu √allaa √a-¬mal-a fii-hi.
I decided not to work in it. laa ™ AFTER Hattaa ≈qàM: The subjunctivizing particle Hattaa ≈qànM ˜in order
that, so that™ may be followed by laa ™ plus a verb in the subjunctive:

ºp¡pà°SÉ«°S pó«jCÉJ ˜ s£o°»nj ™ ≈qànM
Hattaa laa ya-shuTT-a fii ta√yiid-i siyaasat-i-him
so that it does not go too far in supporting their policy

2.1.4 laa ™ verb as modi¬er
A negative verb phrase is occasionally used to express a negative adjectival or
adverbial concept in Arabic. This phrase usually takes the form of an indefinite
relative clause:

pó©°ùŸG nÜôb oCGór¡nJ ™ ácôM
Harakat-un laa-ta-hda√-u qurb-a l- masjid-i
non-stop motion/movement near the mosque

.o√oQɵrfEG oøpµrªoj ™ nÉq°UÉN k≈¦©e páMÉ«°ù∏d »£©J
tu-¬Tii li-l-siyaaHat-i ma¬nan xaaSS-an laa yu-mkin-u √inkaar-u-hu.
It gives to tourism an undeniably special meaning.

2.1.5 The negative imperative with laa ™
The negative imperative is formed by using laa plus the jussive form of the verb
in the second person (“you”).5

.‚n°ù˜f rèpYrµoJ ™ .nó©°üŸG „¦pór®nàr°ùnJ ™
laa tu-z¬ij nafs-a-ka. laa ta-staxdim-i l-miS¬ad-a.
Don™t disturb yourself/don™t bother. Don™t use the elevator.

2.1.6 The laa ™ of categorical or absolute negation: (laa al-naa¬ya li-l-jins ¢ù¦©∏d á«aɦdG ™)
This is a special use of laa that negates the existence of something absolutely. The
particle laa precedes a noun which is in the accusative, but with no nunation
For further discussion of the imperative, see Chapter 35.
646 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

and no definite article. This type of negation is used in a number of idiomatic

.p¬p©aód nπ«‘°S ™ .¢ùª°»dG nâ“ nójónL ™
laa sabiil-a li-daf ¬-i-hi laa jadiid-a taHt-a l-shams-i.
There is no way to defend it. There is no[thing] new under the sun.

.É¡d n–r∏nb ™ .¬«a n–rjn Q ™
laa qalb-a la-haa. laa rayb-a fii-hi.
She is heartless (˜there is no heart There is no doubt about it.
to her™).

.¬«a s‚n°T ™ .nIóFÉa ™
laa shakk-a fii-hi. laa faa√idat-a.
There™s no doubt about it. It is useless. It is no use.

.–LG’dG ≈∏Y nôrµo°T ™
.p¬pH n¢SrCÉnH ™
laa ba√s-a bi-hi. laa shukr-a ¬alaa l-waajib-i.
It™s not bad (˜There is no harm in it™). ˜There is no thanking for a duty™
(used as a polite response to an
expression of thanks). ˜Don™t
.¬q∏dG q™EG n¬dEG ™ .p¬q∏dÉpH q™EG nIs’ob ™nh n«r’nM ™
laa √ilaah-a √illaa llaah-u. laa Hawl-a wa-laa quwwat-a √illaa
There is no god but God. bi-llaah-i.
There is no power and no strength but
in God.

2.1.7 laa . . . wa-laa ™nh . . . ™ ˜neither . . . nor™
The two-part formation of laa . . . wa-laa ™nh . . . ™ is used for the coordinate negative
˜neither . . . nor™ or ˜don™t . . . even . . .™. In response to a negative statement, the
wa-laa ™h part may be used at the start of the response.

.ÉfCG ™h n¢»cGqôe ˜ ™h ¢SÉa ˜ ™
wa-laa √anaa. laa fii faas-a wa-laa fii marraakash-a
Me either/me neither neither in Fez nor in Marrakesh
(depending on context)

»JÉ«a’°ùdG OÉ«qJ™G ™h Ió«qàŸG ¤Éj™’dG ™
laa l-wilaayaat-u l-muttaHidat-u wa-laa l-ittiHaad-u l-suufiyaatiyy-u
neither the United States nor the Soviet Union
Negation and exception 647

2.1.8 laa ™ as component of compound
Because of its ability to negate a noun or adjective directly, laa enters actively into
the formation of compound words that include concepts of negation. They
include both adjectives and nouns. For example,

invertebrate laa-faqaariyy q¦Qɤa ™
never-ending laa -nihaa√iyy q»FÉ¡f ™
decentralization al-laa-markaziyya áqj µcôe“dG
the unconscious al-laa-wa¬y »Yh“dG
´’LQ “dG oᣤf
nuqTat-u l-laa-rujuu¬-i
the point of no return

2.2 Negation of the past

2.2.1 lam rºd jussive
The most common way to negate a past tense verb in written Arabic is to use the
negative particle lam followed by the verb in the jussive mood.

.p¤CÉnf „ .o¬nàqj ’g oáWô°»dG p∞o°»rµnJ „
lam na-√ti. lam ta-kshuf-i l-shurTat-u huwiyyat-a-hu.
We did not come. The police did not reveal his identity.

.l§OÉM r„n¤nj „ .lπ«ãe o¬nd r≥p‘r°ùnj „
lam ya-qa¬ Haadith-un. lam ya-sbiq la-hu mathiil-un.
No accident happened. It is unprecedented.
(˜an accident did not happen™) (˜an equivalent has not preceded it™)

.lóMCG râoªnj „ .„¦É°»dG ˜ §óM Ée r§nór«nj º∏a
lam ya-mut √aHad-un. fa-lam ya-Hdath maa Hadath-a fii l-shaam-i.
No one died. What happened in Syria did not happen [here].
(˜[some]one did not die™)

2.2.2 maa Ée past tense verb
This way of negating the past is rare in written Arabic, although it is widely used
in spoken Arabic vernaculars. The only instance of it that occurred in the database
was in a negation of a future perfect verb:

.náHÉàµdGh nIAGô¤dG o±pôr©nàn°S rânfÉc Ée
maa kaan-at sa-ta-¬rif-u l-qiraa√at-a wa-l-kitaabat-a.
She would not have known how to read and write (˜reading and writing™).
648 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

2.2.3 lan rønd plus subjunctive to negate the future tense
To negate a proposition in the future the particle lan rønd is used followed by the
verb in the subjunctive mood.

.p¬pY’f øe n’NC™G n¿’µnj ønd
.≈°ùrfnCG rønd
lan √a-nsaa. lan ya-kuun-a l-√axiir-a min naw¬-i-hi.
I won™t forget. It will not be the last of its kind.

.n¥É˜qJ™G nπpbrôn©oJ ød
.n∞sbn’nànj rønd
lan ya-tawaqqaf-a. lan tu-¬arqil-a l-ttifaaq-a.
He will not stop. It will not obstruct the agreement.

2.2.4 Use of ghayr ôr«nZ ˜other than; non-™
The noun ghayr is used in three ways: as a noun plus pronoun suffix, as the first
term of a construct phrase with another noun, and as the first term of a descrip-
tive construct phrase whose second term is an adjective.
It conveys the idea of “otherness” or that something is different from some-
thing else.6 USE OF ghayr ôr«nZ PLUS PRONOUN SUFFIX: The pronoun suffix on ghayr ôr«nZ
reflects the number and gender of the noun or pronoun antecedent.

.Égpôr«nZ øY ∞∏à®J p¤Éªq¶¦ŸG øe Égpôr«nZ nπãe
ta-xtalif-u ¬an ghayr-i-haa. mithl-a ghayr-i-haa min-a l-munaZZamaat-i
She differs from others like other (˜other than it™) organizations
(˜other than she™).

áq«H ô©dG O“‘dG øe Égoôr«nZh oô°üe
miSr-u wa-ghayr-u-haa min-a l-bilaad-i l-¬arabiyyat-i
Egypt and other Arab countries ôr«nZ AS FIRST TERM OF NOUN CONSTRUCT: Used as the first
USE OF ghayr
term of a construct phrase or √iDaafa áaÉ°VEG, ghayr ôr«nZ carries the meaning of
˜other than.™

.ÉWÉ£‘dGh pº«q∏dG nôr«nZ oπcCÉj ™
laa ya-√kul-u ghayr-a l-laHm-i wa-l-baTaaTaa.
He doesn™t eat [anything] other than meat and potatoes.

Cantarino 1975 (II:147“53) provides an extensive analysis of ghayr ôr«nZ and its usage in literary
Arabic. See also Wright 1967, II:208“209.
Negation and exception 649 ˜NON-; -LESS™: In this
construction, the noun ghayr ˜non-; un-, in-, other than™ is used as the first term
of a construct phrase or √iDaafa áaÉ°VEG in order to express negative or privative
concepts denoting absence of a quality or attribute. The second term of this kind
of construct phrase is an adjective. As the first term of a construct, ghayr ôr«nZ
carries the same case as the noun it modifies. As a noun which is the first term
of an √iDaafa, it cannot have the definite article.
The second term of the √iDaafa construction is an adjective or participle in the
genitive case which agrees with the noun being modified in gender, number, and
definiteness. Therefore, it is the second term of this descriptive construct that
shows agreement with the modified noun.7 Here are some examples:8

non-Islamic ghayr-u √islaamiyy-in q»e“°SEG oôr«nZ
unusual ghayr-u ¬aadiyy-in q¦OÉY oôr«nZ
non-oil-exporting ghayr-u muSaddir-in li-l-naf T-i §˜¦∏d mQqó°üe oôr«nZ
unsuitable ghayr-u munaasib-in m–°Sɦe oôr«nZ
indirect ghayr-u mubaashir-in mô°TÉ‘e oôr«nZ
unofficial ghayr-u rasmiyy-in q»ª°SQ oôr«nZ
(1) Modifying definite noun: To modify a definite noun, ghayr ôr«nZ is followed
by an adjective with the definite article.

páq«e“°SE™G oôr«nZ o« hódG pIRÉ«¦ŸG oôr«nZ o« hódG
al-bilaad-u ghayr-u l-√islamiyyat-i al-duwal-u ghayr-u l-munHaazat-i
the non-Islamic countries non-aligned states

páq«Hô©dG oôr«nZ oáq«e“°SE™G o«hódG º∏°ùŸG ô«Z oÇQɤdG
p orn
al-duwal-u l-√islaamiyyat-u ghayr-u al-qaari√-u ghayr-u l-muslim-i
l-¬arabiyyat-i the non-Muslim reader
the non-Arab Muslim countries

(2) Modifying indefinite noun: To modify an indefinite noun, ghayr ôr«nZ is
followed by an indefinite adjective.

mπ«°UCG oôr«nZ l–∏c .o¬od’¤j Ée mí««°U oôr«nZ
kalb-un ghayr-u √aSiil-in ghayr-u SaHiiH-in maa ya-quul-u-hu.
a non-pedigreed dog It is untrue what he says.

For more examples, see ghayr ôr«nZ in Chapter 10, section 7.2.
For further discussion of ghayr ôr«nZ see Beeston 1970, 101“102; Kouloughli 1994, 105 and 277“78;
Wright 1967, II:208“209.
650 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

mº¶à¦e pôr«nZ mπµ°»H máq«f’fÉb pôr«nZ ¥ô£H
bi-shakl-in ghayr-i muntaZam-in bi-turuq-in ghayr-i qaanuuniyyat-in
in a disorganized manner in illegal ways ghayr ôr«nZ FOLLOWING NEGATIVE VERB: Following a negative verb, ghayr ôr«nZ
has the meaning of ˜only™ or ˜merely.™

.«G’eC™G øe pπ«∏¤dG nôr«nZ „¦ó¤j „
lam yu-qaddim ghayr-a l-qaliil-i min-a l-√amwaal-i.
It offered only a little money (˜It did not offer other than a little money™).

2.2.5 ¬adam „¦nónY + noun ˜non-™
The noun ¬adam ˜lack; absence; nonexistence™ may be annexed to another noun
as the first term of a genitive construct to create a compound lexical item equiv-
alent to various kinds of privative or negative expressions. Although the
annexation structure or √iDaafa is a two-word expression in Arabic, it may carry
a non-compositional meaning.9

non-interference ¬adam-u tadaxxul-in mπNóJ o„¦nónY
nonexistence ¬adam-u wujuud-in mO’Lh „¦nónY
neutrality; ¬adam-u nHiyaaz-in mRÉ««fG o„¦nónY
instability ¬adam-u stiqraar-in mQGô¤à°SG o„¦nónY
máqjOôc mácôM u¦CG pºYO o„¦nónY m „¦qó¤J p≥«¤“ o„¦óY
¬adam-u da¬m-i √ayy-i Harakat-in kurdiyyat-in ¬adam-u taHqiiq-i taqaddum-in
the non-support of any Kurdish movement the non-realization of progress

.p¤™RɦàdG øe ’ãµdG pËó¤J o„¦nónY uº¡ŸG øe
min-a l-muhimm-i ¬adam-u taqdiim-i l-kathiir-i min-a l-tanaazulaat-i.
It is important not to offer [too] many concessions.

3 Exceptive expressions
This category of expressions includes connectives and adverbs with meanings
that contrast with previous propositional content. It includes items that have
meanings such as “except for,” “however,” “nevertheless√” and “despite; in spite
of.” Sometimes these items consist of one word, other times they are phrases.
They are also referred to as “adversative” expressions.

See also Chapter 8, section 1.7.1.
Negation and exception 651

3.1 bal πH : ˜but; rather; but rather™
This word introduces a subordinate clause that contrasts in meaning with the
main clause.10 The verb in the main clause is normally negative, with bal intro-
ducing a contrary affirmation.

.páª∏µdG pπ°UCG øe rπnH kIóFGR râ°ù«d
lays-at zaa√idat-an bal min √aSl-i l-kalimat-i.
It is not an affix; rather, it is [part] of the root of the word.

.p¬u∏c p„É©dG ˜ rπnH ≈fOC™G ¥ô°»dG ˜ §¤a ¢ù«d
lays-a faqaT fii l-sharq-i l-√adnaa bal fii l-¬aalam-i kull-i-hi.
Not only in the Near East, but [also] in the whole world.

3.2 √illaa q™pEG: ˜except; but; but for™
This is a frequently used exceptive word in modern written Arabic. Its effect on
the following phrase varies depending on whether the main clause is a negative
or positive assertion.

3.2.1 Af¬rmative clause √illaa q™pEG
When the main clause is affirmative and √illaa introduces an exception to that
statement, it is followed by a noun in the accusative.

kÉ©H Q ™GE ná°ùeÉÿG áYÉ°ùdG
al-saa¬at-a l-xaamisat-a √illaa rub¬-an
at a quarter to five (˜the fifth hour except for a quarter™)

.kÉ‘«‚ q™GE pÜ“£dG tπc nAÉL
jaa√-a kull-u l-Tullab-i √illaa najiib-an.
All the students came except Najib.

3.2.2 Negative clause + √illaa q™pEG
When the main clause is negative, √illaa ™GpE is followed by a noun that takes what-
ever case its role in the sentence requires. That is, √illaa ™GpE has no grammatical effect
on the noun. In the following sentences, for example, the noun phrase after √illaa ™GpE q
fills the logical role of subject of the verb and is therefore in the nominative case.

.lI’¨°U láq«r∏bCG q™EG óL’j ™
laa yuujad-u √illaa √aqalliyyat-un Saghiirat-un.
There is only a small minority. (˜There is not but a small minority.™)

See al-Warraki and Hassanein 1994, 62. In this book, see also Chapter 18, section 3.1.
It is interesting to note that verb-subject gender agreement does not extend across √illaa back to the
verb. Although the logical subject in all these cases is feminine singular, the verb is masculine singular.
652 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

.m¤GÎe’∏«c oá©°†H q™EG É«fÉ‘°SEG øoY nÜô¨ŸG oπ°ü˜j ™
laa ya-fSil-u l-maghrib-a ¬an isbaanyaa √illaa biD ¬at-u kiiluumitiraat-in.
Only a few kilometers separate Morocco from Spain (˜there does not separate
Morocco from Spain but a few kilometers™).

.lá∏«∏b l¿ hôb q™EG áq«««°ùŸG pICÉ°»f øY p„¦“°SE™G nICÉ°»f oπ°ü˜j ™
laa ya-fSil-u nash√at-a l-√islaam-i ¬an nash√at-i l-masiiHiyyat-i √illaa quruun-un
Only a few centuries separate the birth of Islam from the birth of Christianity
(˜there does not separate the birth of Islam from the birth of Christianity but a
few centuries™).

3.2.3 √illaa q™pEG prepositional phrase
A prepositional phrase may follow √illaa, especially after a negative main clause.

.pôjR’dG p«“N øe q™EG øj ô©¡ª∏d nIO’Y ™
laa ¬awdat-a li-l-mahjar-iina √ illaa min xilaal-i l-waziir-i.
There is no return for exiles except through the minister.

.IôgɤdG ˜ q™EG Égoó‚ ™ oá°Uô˜dG √òg
haadhihi l-furSat-u laa na-jid-u-haa √illaa fii l-qaahirat-i.
This opportunity is found only in Cairo.
(˜We do not find this opportunity except in Cairo.™)

.pπ«∏dG n«“N q™EG p¬p„Hɬ‚ øe oêô®j ™
laa ya-xruj-u min maxaabi√-i-hi √illaa xilaal-a l-layl-i.
He doesn™t leave his hiding places except at night.

3.2.4 √illaa √anna s¿nCG q™EG : ˜however; nonetheless; but™
This exceptive phrase introduces a clause or a sentence which contrasts with or
balances out the previous one. Following the subordinating particle √anna is
either a noun in the accusative case, or else a suffixed pronoun. In the following
sentences, √illaa √anna is the initial element, relating the sentence to one that
came just prior to it.

.nô¶¦dG oâ˜∏j CGóH kIQÉKEG nÌcCG kGQq’£J s¿CG q™EG
√illaa √anna taTawwur-an √akthar-a √ithaarat-an bada√-a yu-lfit-u l-naZar-a.
However, a more exciting development has started to redirect attention.

.m–j ôb móY’e ≈qàM rµ©¦oj „ ¬sfCG q™EG
√illaa √anna-hu lam yu-njaz Hattaa maw¬id-in qariib-in.
However, it wasn™t completed until recently.
Negation and exception 653

.ÉgGô› oòNCÉàn°S nádGó©dG q¿CG q™EG
√illaa √anna l-¬adaalat-a sa-ta-√xudh-u majraa-haa.
However, justice will take its course.

In the following sentences, √illaa √anna ¿G ™G introduces an exceptive clause that con-
trasts with the main clause. In this situation, it does not always have a lexical equiv-
alent in English. Note that the main clause may start with an exceptive expression.

.m¤Gô“D’e n„¦ÉbnCG nPÉà°SC™G q¿CG q™EG ≈«ªoj nOÉc
kaad-a yu-mHaa √illa √anna l-√ustaadh-a √aqaam-a mu√tamaraat-in.
It would have disappeared, except that the professor held conferences.

.r¤AÉL É¡qfCG q™EG r¤ôqNCÉJ »àjGóH rânfÉc r¿EG h
wa-√in kaan-at bidaayat-ii ta√axxar-at √illaa √anna-haa jaa√-at.
Although my start was delayed, [however] it did come.

.pºq∏©àdG o„j ô°S »¦qfCG q™EG kÉ‘j ô¤J Úqà°ùdG »Z’∏H nºrZnQh
wa-raghm-a buluugh-ii l-sittiina taqriib-an √illaa √anna-nii sarii¬-u l-ta¬allum-i.
Despite my reaching almost sixty [years old], [however] I™m quick to learn.

.¦ô’ p¤É°VhɘŸG q¿CG ’g »cGQOEG q¿CG q™EG nπ«°UɘàdG ±ôYCG „ »¦qfCG „eh
wa-ma¬-a √anna-nii lam √a-¬rif-i l-tafaaSiil-a √illaa √anna √idraak-ii huwa
√anna l-mufaawaDaat-i ta-jrii.
Although I didn™t know the details, [however] it was my understanding
that the negotiations were being held.

3.3 maa ¬adaa: ˜except; except for™
This exceptive phrase is followed by an accusative noun:

.nóªMCG GóY Ée ºo¡o©«ªL oÜq“£dG ‚«°V
DaHik-a l-Tullaab-u jamii¬-u-hum maa ¬adaa √aHmad-a.
All the students laughed except Ahmad.

Ú¦KE™G GóY Ée „¦’j qπc
p¤É¶M“ŸG √òg GóY Éeh
wa-maa ¬adaa haadhihi l-mulaaHaZaat-i kull-a yawm-in maa ¬adaa l-ithnayn-a
except for these observations every day except Monday

3.4 siwaa i’p°S: ˜except; except for™
This word is an indeclinable noun which normally goes into an √iDaafa áaÉ°VEG
structure with the following noun, very much as does ghayr ’Z. The following
noun or noun phrase is therefore in the genitive case. Usually, siwaa i’°S intro-
duces an exception to a negative statement.
654 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

.má∏«∏b mô¡°TCG i’°S ≥‘j „
lam ya-bqa siwaa √ashhur-in qaliilat-in.
There remained only a few months (˜there did not remain but a few months™).

.má°ù«˜f nôgG’L i’°S p¥hó¦°üdG ˜ røµj „
lam ya-kun fii l-Sanduuq-i siwaa jawaahir-a nafiisat-in.
In the box were only precious jewels
(˜There was not in the box but precious jewels™).

§¤a móMGh mº∏a i’°S pᦰùdG ˜ rógÉ°»J „ ’d ≈qàM
Hattaa law lam tu-shaahid fii l-sanat-i siwaa film-in waaHid-in faqaT
even if you don™t see but one film a year

3.5 ma¬-a dhaalika n‚pd'P n„ne: ˜nevertheless; in spite of that™ ma¬-a
√anna s¿nCG „ne: ˜although, despite™
The semi-preposition ma¬-a „e means ˜with™ but it may also convey a sense of con-
trast or exception, as in these two expressions.

.m«ÉY ki’à°ùe ≈∏Y nÜÉàµdG q¿EÉa n‚pd'P n„nenh
wa-ma¬-a dhaalika fa-√inna l-kitaab-a ¬alaa mustaw-an ¬aal-in.
Nevertheless, the book is on a high level.

π«°UɘàdG ±ôYCG „ »¦sfnCG n„neh
wa-ma¬-a √anna-nii lam √a-¬rif-i l-tafaaSiil-a
although I do not know the details

3.6 raghm-a nºrZnQ, bi-l-raghm-i pºrZsôdÉH, ¬alaa l-raghm-i pºrZsôdG ≈∏nY: ˜despite; in spite of™
The word raghm is a noun which goes into an √iDaafa relationship with the fol-
lowing noun or noun phrase, which is thus in the genitive case. It may be used by
itself, or with bi- or with ¬alaa.

‚dP ÉgpQɵfEG ºZQ p¤ÉLÉ©àM™G nºrZnQnh
nr n
raghm-a √inkaar-i-haa dhaalika wa-raghm-a l-iHtijaajaat-i
despite her denying that despite excuses

É¡u∏c p•’¨°†dG ºZQ kÉeÉY øj ô°»Y Qhôe øe pºrZsôdÉH
nr n
raghm-a l-DughuuT-i kull-i-haa bi-l-raghm-i min muruur-i ¬ishriina ¬aam-an
despite all the pressures despite the passage of twenty years

ájq ’¤dG pIO’©dG √òg pºrZnQ ≈∏nYnh É¡peɶàfG „¦óY pºrZnQ ≈∏nY
wa-¬alaa raghm-i haadhihi l-¬awdat-i ¬alaa raghm-i ¬adam-i ntiZaam-i-haa
l-qawwiyyat-i despite its lack of organization
despite this strong comeback
Negation and exception 655

3.7 ¬alaa raghm-i √annas¿nCG pºrZnô ≈∏nY: ˜despite [the fact] that™
The phrase ¬alaa raghm-i pºrZnQ ≈∏nY may be directly followed by the subordinating
conjunction √anna and a subordinate clause. In this case, the entire clause acts as
the second term of an √iDaafa after raghm. It is often followed by another exceptive
clause introduced by √illaa √anna ˜nevertheless.™

. . . q¿CG ó¤à©oj ¬qfCG q™pEG . . . G’dÉb IQGR’dG ˜ ÚdhD’°ùe s¿nCG pºrZnQ ≈∏nYnh
wa-¬alaa raghm-i √anna mas√uul-iina fii l-wizaarat-i qaal-uu . . . √illaa √anna-hu
yu-¬taqad-u √anna . . .
despite the fact that ministry officials said . . . it is nevertheless considered
that . . .

q»©«‘£dG RɨdG áYɦ°U QOÉ°üe s¿CG q™EG , ´hô°»ŸG á˜∏c ø∏©J „ ácô°»dG s¿CG pºZô ≈∏nYnh
wa-¬alaa raghm-i √anna l-sharikat-a lam tu-¬lin kalfat-a l-mashruu¬-i, √illaa √anna
maSaadir-a Sinaa¬at-i l-ghaaz-i l-Tabii¬iyy-i
despite the fact that the company did not announce the cost of the plan,
nevertheless, natural gas industry sources . . .

n„LôŸG âfÉc áq«°SÉq‘©dG nᘓÿG s¿CG pºZô ≈∏n©na
fa-¬alaa raghm-i √anna l-xalaafat-a l-¬abbaasiyy-a kaan-at l-marji¬-a
despite the fact that the Abbasid Caliphate was the authority

3.8 wa-√in r¿pEGn h: ˜even though; even if; despite the fact that™
This phrase is a combination of the conjunction wa- and the conditional marker,

’«¨àdG Gò¡d ¿ÉYPE™G ¿’°†aôj ¿’¶aɬ ‘ɦg n¿Éc r¿pEGnh
wa-√in kaan-a hunaaka muHaafiZ-uuna ya-rfuD-uuna l-√idh¬aan-a li-haadhaa l-taghyiir-i
even though there were conservatives who refused to comply with this change

3.9 law-laa ™ r’nd: ˜had it not been for; if it were not for™
This word is a conjunction with exceptive meaning created through the contraction
of two particles, law ’d (contrary to fact conditional) laa ™ (negative), resulting in
the meaning of hypothetical negation: ˜had it not been for.™ It is generally followed
by a noun in the nominative case but may also be followed by a suffix pronoun.12

O“‘dG ≈∏Y ¤ôª¡fG »àdG kɪ∏e ¿’©‘°ùdG ™ r’nd
law-laa l-sab¬uuna milim-an-i llatii nhamar-at ¬alaa l-bilaad-i
had it not been for the 70 millimeters [of rain] that poured on the country

No instances of law-laa ™ r’nd followed by a suffix pronoun were encountered in the data. For
further discussion and examples, including suffix pronouns, see Cantarino 1975, III:326“30.
656 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

áq«fÉf’«dG pÜ’©°»dÉH É¡ocɵàMG ™ r’nd
law-laa Htikaak-u-haa bi-l-shu¬uub-i l-yuunaaniyyat-i
had it not been for their close contact with the Greek peoples

.GôHhC™G ™ r’nd ≈°ù¦oj ¬ô°ùŸG OÉc
kaad-a l-masraH-u yu-nsaa law-laa l-√uubiraa.
The theater would have almost been forgotten had it not been for the opera.
Passive and passive-type expressions

1 Introduction
The concept of passive meaning contrasted with active meaning is referred to as
voice in Western grammatical terms. That is, a verb is either in the active voice or the
passive voice. In general, when in the active voice, the doer of the action is the sub-
ject of the verb (˜We studied the problem™ daras-naa l-mushkilat-a á∏µ°»ŸG ɦr°SnQO); when
n n
a verb is in the passive, the entity affected by the action (the direct object of the
verb) becomes the subject (˜The problem was studied™ duris-at-i l-mushkilat-u
oá∏µ°»ŸG ân°SpQoO). The voice of a verb therefore conveys information on the topical
focus of a sentence.

1.1 Two types of Arabic passive: in¬‚ectional and derivational
There are two basic ways to convey a passive meaning in Arabic, the first being
an inflectional (or internal) passive, involving a shift of vowel pattern within
the verb: e.g., ¬uqid-a nóp¤oY˜it was held™ from ¬aqad-a nón¤nY ˜he held,™ and the second
a derivational passive, where a derivational verb form (typically V, VII, or VIII )
is used to convey a passive, reflexive, or mediopassive sense of the action
involved in the verb (e.g., Form VII in¬aqad-a nón¤n©rfpG ˜it was held™).1 The type of
action denoted by the derivational passive is referred to in Arabic as muTaawa¬a
áYhÉ£e ˜obedience, conformity™ because it reflects a resultative state of the
object (fataH-tu l-baab-a fa-nfataH-a nínàn˜fÉa nÜÉ‘dG oâr«nàna ˜I opened the door and it

As Wright notes (1967, I:51): “The idea of the passive voice must not be thought to be absolutely
identical with that of the fifth, seventh, and eighth forms. These are, strictly speaking effective
[or resultative-KCR] . . . whilst the other is purely passive” (Italics in original). In English,
however, it is sometimes necessary to render the equivalent meaning of these derived forms in
the passive.
Terminology for the passive: The passive voice, especially the inflectional passive ( fu¬il-a πp©oa), is
referred to in Arabic as the “unknown” al-majhuul « ’¡ÛG, indicating that the agent or doer of
the action is not known. When a passive-like or mediopassive meaning is conveyed by a derived
form of the verb, it is characterized as muTaawi¬ ´hÉ£e or, literally, ˜obedient™ to an action that
has occurred (e.g., infataH-a íà˜fG ˜it opened™).

658 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

1.2 Use of the in¬‚ectional passive
Generally speaking, the inflectional passive is used in Arabic only if the agent or
doer of the action is non-designated, unknown, or not to be mentioned for some
reason. This contrasts with English where one may readily mention the agent in a
passive construction through use of the preposition ˜by™ (˜The problem was studied
by us™).3

1.3 Contrast between active and passive voice
When the Arabic passive voice is used the object of the action is the subject of
the verb. The object of the action in the passive is therefore in the nominative
case. Note that an essential requirement for a verb to take a passive form is that it
must be a transitive verb, i.e., one that takes an object.4
If active-verb sentences are rephrased as passive constructions, the object of the
verb becomes the subject of the sentence, and the verb is marked for passive by
virtue of a change in the internal vowels. The doer of the action is normally not

Active: Passive:

.nÜÉ‘dG oâr«nàna oÜÉ‘dG nípàoa
fataH-tu l-baab-a. futiH-a l-baab-u.
I opened the door. The door was opened.

.¬oàr«nàna .nípàoa
fataH-tu-hu. futiH-a.
I opened it. It was opened.

In the derivational passive, or resultative, a particular form of the verb is used
to convey passive meaning. Here, it is Form VII:

.oÜÉ‘dG nínàn˜rfG .nínàn˜rfG
infataH-a l-baab-u. infataH-a.
The door opened. It opened.

Wright states: “the passive is especially used in four cases; namely (a) when God or some higher
being, is indicated as the author of the act; (b) when the author is unknown, or at least not known
for certain; (c) when the speaker or writer does not wish to name him; (d) when the attention of
the hearer or reader is directed more to the person affected by the act (patiens, the patient), than
to the doer of it (agens, the agent)” 1967, I:50.
The term that Arab grammarians use for “transitive verbs” is √af ¬aal muta¬addiya ájqó©àe «É©aCG,
derived from the Form V verb ta¬addaa ˜to go beyond, exceed.™ That is, the action of the verb
extends beyond the agent and all the way to the object. For intransitive verbs, the Arabic term is
either √a f ¬aal ghayr muta¬addiya ájqó©àe ’Z «É©aCG or √af ¬aal laazima áeR™ «É©aCG, verbs whose action
does not extend beyond the subject.
Passive and passive-type expressions 659

Sometimes Arabic inflectional and derivational passives exist side by side;
other times one is preferred. Moreover, they may carry slightly different implica-
tions about how the action was accomplished (see below).

1.4 Syntax: Restriction on mention of agent
When a passive verb is used in Arabic, mention of the identity of the agent or doer
of the action is usually omitted.5 It may be unknown or simply unnecessary. For
this reason, a term used to refer to the passive in Arabic is al-majhuul « ’¡ÛG ˜the
unknown.™ In fact, if the agent is to be mentioned, the passive is not normally
used; the active verb is then the preferred option.6
However, instruments or other inanimate causative factors (such as the
weather) may be mentioned by means of prepositional phrases, e.g.,

.¬Éà˜ŸG Gò¡pH oÜÉ‘dG nípàoa
futiH-a l-baab-u bi-haadhaa l-miftaaH-i.
The door was opened by/with this key.

When the subject of the passive verb is mentioned as a separate noun, it is in
the nominative case (as in the sentence above, al-baab-u oÜÉ‘dG ). The technical
Arabic term for the subject of a passive verb is naa√ib al-faa¬il πYɘdG –FÉf ˜the
deputy doer; the representative of the doer.™7
Note that the passive verb may occur in the present or past tense, and in the
indicative, jussive or subjunctive moods, depending on context.

2 The internal or in¬‚ectional passive
The internal passive is formed by changing the vowel sequence of the verb in the
following ways:

2.1 Past tense
In the past or perfect tense, the vowel sequence is /-u -i-/. That is, within the stem,
all vowels previous to the stem vowel are /u/ and the stem vowel itself is /i/. This is
true for all verb forms (derivations), and for quadriliteral verbs as well as triliteral
verbs. Aside from the internal vowel change, the past tense verb in the passive
conjugates as usual, with the normal suffixes:

Another term used to describe the passive verb in Arabic is maa lam yu-samma faa¬il-u-hu ˜that
whose agent is not named.™ See Wright 1967, I:50“51 for more on terminology and section 2.5 in
this chapter.
As Cowan notes (1964, 59): “If the agent is mentioned in the sentence one cannot use the passive”
(emphasis in original). This rule is occasionally, but only rarely, broken in MSA.
On the syntax of passive verbs in literary Arabic, see Cantarino 1974, I:52“58.
660 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

Paradigm: wulid-a nópdoh ˜was/were born™

Singular Dual Plural

o¤rópdoh Éfrópdoh
First person:
wulid-tu wulid-naa

n¤rópdoh ɪoJrópdoh rºoJrópdoh
Second person:
m. wulid-ta wulid-tumaa wulid-tum

p¤rópdoh ɪoJrópdoh søoJrópdoh
wulid-ti wulid-tumaa wulid-tunna

nópdoh Gópdoh Ghópdoh
Third person:
m. wulid-a wulid-aa wulid-uu

r¤nópdoh ÉJnópdoh n¿rópdoh
wulid-at wulid-ataa wulid-na

2.1.1 Examples of the Form I past tense passive in context STRONG/REGULAR ROOT
.≈˜°»à°ùŸG ¤EG nπp¤of .á¦jóŸG «’NO øe G’©p¦oe
nuqil-a √ilaa l-mustashfaa. muni¬-uu min duxuul-i l-madiinat-i.
He was transported to the hospital. They were prevented from entering
the city.

.áqj ÈY ±hô«H –àc .« ’NO oº°SQ n¢Vpôoa
n po
kutib-a bi-Huruuf-in ¬ibriyyat-in. furiD-a rasm-u dukhuul-in.
It was written in Hebrew characters. An entry fee was imposed. ASSIMILATED ROOT
.áªFɤdG ≈∏Y rân©p°Voh ÉjQ’°S .π‘£°SE™G ˜ nópLoh
suuriyaa wuDi¬-at ¬alaa l-qaa√imat-i. wujid-a fii l-isTabil-i.
Syria was placed on the list. It was found in the stable. GEMINATE ROOT
.¤G’°UC™G ¤sóoY
¬udd-at-i l-√aSwaaT-u.
The votes were counted.
Passive and passive-type expressions 661 HAMZATED ROOT
.áÁ ô·G øY ôj R’dG nπp„o°S
su√il-a l-waziir-u ¬an-i l-jariimat-i.
The minister was asked about the crime. HOLLOW ROOT: In the past tense passive of hollow roots, the long medial
vowel is /-ii-/. This applies to Forms I, IV, VII, VIII, and X.

∞MÉàŸG óMC™ rân©«H h .¬d nπ«b
qiil-a la-hu.
wa-bii¬at li-√aHad-i l-mataaHif-i
and it was sold to one of the museums It was said to him. In the past tense passive of defective verbs, the final
radical is yaa√. This applies to the derived forms as well.

.IQÉ©—G øe É«p¦oH ÚLôH GhóLh
wajad-uu burj-ayni buniy-aa min-a l-Hijaarat-i.
They found two towers [which] were built of stone.

.º¡Fɪ°SCÉH ‘ɦg iô¤dG ân«uªo°S ‚dòdh
wa-li-dhaalika summiy-at-i l-quraa hunaaka bi-√asmaa√-i-him.
Therefore, the villages there were named after them.

.Q’°†—G ¤EG ¿’q«˜«°üdG n»pYoO óbh
wa-qad du¬iy-a l-SuHufiyy-uuna √ilaa l-HuDuur-i.
The journalists were invited to attend.

2.1.2 The past passive in derived forms of the verb FORM II: fu¬¬il-a nπu©oa
.‚∏ª∏d kÉ‘«‘W nøu«oY .o¤ÉYɪàL™G ân∏LGCo
¬uyyin-a Tabiib-an li-l-malik-i. √ujjil-at-i l-ijtimaa¬aat-u.
He was appointed physician to the king. The meetings were delayed. nπpY’a: The long vowel -aa- characteristic of Form III verbs
FORM III: fuu¬il-a
changes to long -uu- in the passive.

.o¥É˜qJ™G n‘pQ’H .¥É˜qJ™ÉH ân„L’a
buurik-a l-ittifaaq-u. fuuji√-at bi-l-ttifaaq-i.
The agreement was blessed. She was surprised at the agreement.
662 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic FORM IV: √uf¬il-a nπp©raoCG; HOLLOW FORM IV √u¬il-a nπ«aoCG; DEFECTIVE
FORM IV √uf ¬iy-a

.ɵj ôeCG øe oádÉ°SôdG ân∏°SrQGCo .oQÉ£ŸG n≥p∏rZoCG
√ursil-at-i l-risaalat-u min √amriikaa. √ughliq-a l-maTaar-u.
The letter was sent from America. The airport was closed.

.≈˜°»à°ùŸG ¤EG â∏NOGo .Iô£N ¬hô©H –«°UoGC ºgóMCG
r np r n
√udxil-at √ilaa l-mustashfaa. √aHad-u-hum √uSiib-a bi-juruuH-in xaTirat-in.
She was admitted to the hospital. One of them was afflicted with serious

.lAÉ°»Y ¥ó¦˜dG ˜ nº«boCG
√uqiim-a fii l-funduq-i ¬ashaa√-un.
A dinner was given at the hotel.

ᦰS π‘b rânjpôrLoCG »àdG ¤ÉHÉ®àf™G «“N
xilaal-a l-intixaabaat-i llatii √ujriy-at qabl-a sanat-in
during the elections that were held (˜were run™) a year ago FORM V: tufu¬¬il-a (rare) nπu©o˜oJ
He passed away. FORM VI: tufuu¬il-a nπpY’˜oJ (rare) FORM VII: none.8 FORM VIII: uftu¬il-a nπp©oàraoG, FORM VIII HOLLOW uftiil-a nπ«àraoG, FORM VIII DEFECTIVE

.G’∏p¤oàrYoG m¢UÉ®°TCG oá©‘°S .áÁ ô·ÉH nºp¡tJoG
sab¬at-u √ashxaaS-in u¬tuqil-uu. uttuhim-a bi-l-jariimat-i.
Seven persons were arrested. He was accused of the crime.

.oQ’°†—G n»p°†oàrboG
. nπ«àrZoG ónb n¿Éch
wa-kaan-a qad ughtiil-a. uqtuDiy-a l-HuDuur-u.
He had been assassinated. Attendance was required.

Note that although the Form VII passive verb does not occur, some Form VII passive participles do
exist, e.g., munHadar ˜slope.™
Passive and passive-type expressions 663 FORM IX: none. FORM X: ustuf¬il-a nπp©r˜oàr°SoG, FORM X HOLLOW ustu¬il-a nπ«˜oàr°SoG, FORM X DEFECTIVE

.¬¦e nó«˜oàr°SoG .Ú∏°SGôŸG o¢†©H n»pYróoàr°SoG
ustuxdim-a. ustafiid-a min-hu. ustud¬iy-a ba¬D-u l muraasil-iina.
It was used. It was beneficial Some correspondents were invited.
(˜it was benefitted from™).

2.1.3 Quadriliteral verbs in the past passive
Quadriliteral verbs have the same vowel sequence (-u-i-) as triliteral verbs in the
passive. FORM I: fu¬lil-a nπp∏r©oa
.áq«¦«J“dG ¤EG o¬hô°»dG √òg rânªpLrôoJ
turjim-at haadhihi l-shuruuH-u √ilaa l-laatiiniyyat-i
These commentaries were translated into Latin. FORMS II, III, IV: rare.

2.2 In¬‚ectional passive: present tense stem
In the present tense, the vowel sequence in the passive is /u/ on the subject marker
and, subsequently, /a/ within the verb stem. Note that the present tense stem is
used for the subjunctive and jussive, as well.

Present tense passive indicative: yu-dhkar-u oôncròoj ˜he/it is mentioned™
Singular Dual Plural

oôncrPoCG oôncròof
First person:

oôncròoJ p¿GôncròoJ n¿ h ôncròoJ
Second person:
m. tu-dhkar-u tu-dhkar-aani tu-dhkar-uuna

nøjôncròoJ p¿GôncròoJ n¿rôncròoJ
tu-dhkar-iina tu-dhkar-aani tu-dhkar-na

oôncròoj p¿Gôncròoj n¿ h ôncròoj
Third person:
m. yu-dhkar-u yu-dhkar-aani yu-dhkar-uuna

oôncròoJ p¿GôncròoJ n¿ rôncròoj
tu-dhkar-u tu-dhkar-aani yu-dhkar-na
664 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

2.2.1 Examples of the Form I present tense passive in context STRONG/REGULAR ROOT: yu-f¬al-u oπn©r˜oj
.óZ ¬É‘°U IôgɤdG ˜ oón¤r©oJ s„¦É©dG nÚeC™G q¿CG oôncròoj h
tu-¬qad-u fii l-qaahirat-i SabaH-a ghad-in. wa-yu-dhkar-u √anna l-√amiin-a
It will be held tomorrow morning l-¬aamm-a
in Cairo. it is mentioned that the secretary
general ASSIMILATED ROOTS: yuu¬al-u oπnY’j: In assimilated verbs, the present tense
passive shows a long vowel /-uu-/ after the subject marker because of the merging
of the /-u-/ of the passive with the underlying verb-initial semivowel (usually

oµ‘ÿG É¡«a o„n°V’j »àdG o«“°ùdG .á∏µ°»ª∏d wπM oónL’j
al-silaal-u llatii yuuDa¬-u fii-haa l-xubz-u yuujad-u Hall-un li-l-mushkilat-i.
baskets in which bread is put There is (˜is found™) an answer to
the problem. GEMINATE ROOTS: yu-fa¬¬-u t„n˜oj
.káH ’g ’e ká‘jOCG tón©oJ
tu-¬add-u √adiibat-an mawhuubat-an.
She is considered a gifted writer. oπnYrD’oj; hamza-MEDIAL: yu-f√al-u
HAMZATED ROOTS: hamza-INITIAL: yu-√¬al-u
o«nCÉr˜oj; hamza-FINAL: yu-f¬a√-u oCÉn©r˜oj
.o¤“q‘¤ŸG oπncrD’oJ .á°SÉ«°ùdG øY «É°ùoj
o Cn r
tu-√kal-u l-muqabbilaat-u. yu-s√al-u ¬an-i l-siyaasat-i.
The hors d™oeuvres are being eaten. He is being asked about the policy.

.oádɤŸG oCGnôr¤oJ
tu-qra√-u l-maqaalat-u.
The article is being read. HOLLOW ROOTS: yu-faal-u o«É˜oj
.ÉjGó¡dG É¡«a ´É‘oJ
o ¬¦Y «É¤o«°S Éeh π«b Ée
tu-baa¬-u fii-haa l-hadaayaa. maa qiil-a wa-maa sa-yu-qaal-u ¬an-hu
Gifts are sold in it. what has been said and what will be
said about it
Passive and passive-type expressions 665 DEFECTIVE ROOTS: yu-f¬aa ≈©r˜oj
.≈«rªoj o´’°V’ŸG OÉch
wa-kaad-a l-mawDuu¬-u yu-mHaa.
The topic was almost erased.

2.2.2 Derived forms of the verb in the present tense passive
Following are examples of the present passive in derived forms of the verb.
Note that certain forms ( V, VI, VII, VIII, IX) occur less frequently in the inflec-
tional passive because they are intransitive or have passive or mediopassive
meaning.9 FORM II: yu-fa¬¬al-u oπs©n˜oj; DEFECTIVE: yu-fa¬¬aa ≈q©n˜oj
.¬É©¦dÉH rπnq∏nµoj rºnd
¥són°üoJ ™ lQÉ©°SCG
√as¬aar-un laa tu-Saddaq-u lam yu-kallal bi-l-najaaH-i.
unbelievable (˜not believed™) prices It was not crowned with success.

.oóªMCG ≈qªn°ùoj
yu-sammaa √aHmad-u.
He is called/named Ahmad. FORM III: yu-faa¬al-u oπnYɘoj: rare. FORM IV: yu-f¬al-u π©˜j; HOLLOW: yu-faal-u «É˜oj; DEFECTIVE: yu-f¬aa ≈©r˜j
onro o o
.GóZ oøn∏r©o«n°S .láqª¡e l¤ÉKOɬ iôr©oJ
sa-yu-¬lan-u ghad-an. tu-jraa muHaadathaat-un muhimmat-un.
It will be announced tomorrow. Important talks are being conducted.

.áq«e’µM á‘j ô°V á„ŸÉH ¿hô°»Y É¡«dEG o±É°†oj
yu-Daaf-u √ilay-haa ¬ishruuna bi-l-mi√at-i Dariibat-an Hukuumiyyat-an.
Added to it is twenty percent government tax. FORM V: yu-tafa¬¬al-u oπs©n˜nàoj: rare. FORM VI: yu-faa¬al-u oπnYɘoj: rare. FORM VII: yu-nfa¬al-u oπn©n˜r¦oj: rare.

See section 3.
666 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic FORM VIII: yu-fta¬al-u oπn©nàr˜oj; HOLLOW: yu-ftaal-u o«Éàr˜oj; DEFECTIVE:

.åjó—G ô°ü©dG ˜ ÚeÉq°SôdG ô¡°TCG øe oôn‘nàr©oj
yu-¬tabar-u min √ashhar-i l-rassaam-iina fii l-¬aSr-i l-Hadiith-i.
He is considered one of the most famous artists of the modern era.

.ó©°ùŸG ˜ o–n®nàr¦oj ᘫ∏ÿG ¿Éµ``a
fa-kaan-a l-xaliifat-u yu-ntaxab-u fii l-masjid-i.
The Caliph used to be elected at the mosque.

. . . áe’µ—G ø∏©J ¿CG oôn¶nàr¦oj
yu-ntaZar-u √an tu-¬lin-a l-Hukuumat-u . . .
it is expected that the government will announce . . . FORM IX: none. FORM X: yu-staf¬al-u oπn©r˜nàr°ùoj: HOLLOW: yu-stafaal-u o«É˜nàr°ùoj; DEFECTIVE:

.¥GQhC™G „¦°üd o„¦nór®nàr°ùoJ
tu-staxdam-u li-Sanaa¬-i l-√awraaq-i.
It is used to make papers.

2.2.3 Quadriliteral present tense passive

Form I: yu-fa¬lal-u oπn∏r©n˜oj
The passive of quadriliterals occurs most often in Form I.

r¢Snôr¡n˜oJ rºnd »àdG –àµdG ºLôàJ »àdG –àµdG
on rno
al-kutub-u llatii lam tu-fahras al-kutub-u llatii tu-tarjam-u
the books which have not been the books which are being translated

2.3 Passive with verb-preposition idioms
When a concept is conveyed by a verb-preposition idiom, the verb remains in the
third person masculine singular in the passive. It does not inflect for agreement
in number or gender. If a passive participle is used, it also remains in the
masculine singular. In the following illustrations, an active sentence using a verb-
preposition idiom is changed to passive.
Passive and passive-type expressions 667

Verb-preposition idiom: baHath-a ¬an rønY nån«nH ˜to search for, to look for™
Active: Passive:

.O™hC™G øY ɦrãn«nH .O™hC™G øY nåp«oH
buHith-a ¬an-i l-√awlaad-i.
baHath-naa ¬an-i l-√awlaad-i.
We looked for the children. The children were looked for.

.ádɤŸG øY ɦrãn«nH .ádɤŸG øY nåp«oH
buHith-a ¬an-i l-maqaalat-i.
baHath-naa ¬an-i l-maqaalat-i.
We looked for the article. The article was looked for.

Further examples:

.„¦’j á„e IqóŸ ¢ù‘—ÉH «ÉLôdG ≈∏Y nºpµoM
Hukim-a ¬alaa l-rijaal-i bi-l-Habs-i li-muddat-i mi√at-i yawm-in.
The men were sentenced to imprisonment for 100 days.

É¡H m¥’Kr’ne nQpOÉ°üne øe
min maSaadir-a mawthuuq-in bi-haa
from trusted sources

–«°üÿG «“¡dG ˜ É¡«∏Y nôpãoY láq«¦«W l¬G’dCG
√alwaaH-un Tiiniyyat-un ¬uthir-a ¬alay-haa fii l-hilaal-i l-xaSiib-i
clay tablets discovered in the Fertile Crescent

2.4 Passive with doubly transitive verbs
With verbs that are doubly transitive, taking two objects, only one of the objects
switches to be the subject of the passive sentence. The other remains in the
accusative case:

.áÁµ¡dGh ô°ü¦dG ÚH kÉq«Y’f k™É¤àfG oôn‘nàr©oj ¬qfC™
li-√anna-hu yu-¬tabar-u ntiqaal-an naw¬iyy-an bayn-a l-naSr-i wa-l-haziimat-i.
Because it is considered a characteristic transition between victory and defeat.

.áq«q¦˜dG pQÉKB™G p´hQCG nóMCG oôn‘nàr©oj
yu-¬tabar-u √aHad-a √arwa¬-i l-√aathaar-i l-fanniyyat-i.
It is considered one of the most splendid artifacts.

.‚∏ª∏d kÉ‘«‘W nøu«oY .ø©°ùdG G’YpOhCG
¬uyyin-a Tabiib-an li-l-malik-i. √uudi¬-uu l-sijn-a.
He was appointed physician to the king. They were thrown [into] prison.
668 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

2.5 Mention of agent: ¬alaa yad-i pónj ≈∏nY, min qibal-i pπn‘pb røpe
Rarely, an agent or doer of the action may be mentioned in an Arabic passive
sentence. When this is the case, certain phrases tend to be used, just as English
would use the term “by.” These are ¬alaa yad-i pónj ≈∏Y noun ˜by the hand of™ or
min qibal-i pπn‘pb røpe noun ˜on the part of.™

.Úª∏°ùŸG pπn‘pb røpe áq∏ଠóLÉ°ùŸG √òg qøµd
laakinna haadhihi l-masaajid-a muHtallat-un min qibal-i l-muslim-iina.
But these mosques are occupied by Muslims.

.Úq«fɪ∏Y pónj ≈∏nY π«àZCG
ughtiil-a ¬alaa yad-i ¬almaaniyy-iina.
He was assassinated by laymen.

Úª∏°ùŸG pónj ≈∏nY É¡«àa ≈qàM
Hattaa fatH-i-haa ¬alaa yad-i l-muslim-iina
until it was conquered (˜its conquering™) by the Muslims

2.5.1 bi-qalam-i pº∏¤H
With authors of books, the phrase bi-qalam-i noun ˜by the pen of™ is often used
instead of ˜by™:

±hô©ŸG ôYÉ°»dGh „É©dG º∏¤H
bi-qalam-i l-¬aalim-i wa-l-shaa¬ir-i l-ma¬ruuf-i
by the famous scholar and poet

2.6 Passive with potential meaning
The Arabic passive is sometimes used to indicate possibility, worth, or potential.
The passive participle in particular may have a meaning equivalent to an English
adjective ending in “-able.”

.oôncròoj lO’Lh á°VQÉ©ª∏d øµj º∏a
fa-lam ya-kun li-l-mu¬aaraDat-i wujuud-un yu-dhkar-u.


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