Sarf is the science of Classical Arabic which deals with:
- patterns of vowelization which indicate tense of a verb
- designated endings which reflect the gender, plurality, and person of the Subject (the one doing the verb)
Gender: There are two genders in Arabic: Masculine and Feminine. Unlike English, there is no neutral gender in Arabic. All nouns are masculine unless they are defined feminine, either by general agreement e.g. Umm (Mother), shams (Sun), or by the the ending ة which is called ta marbuta.
Plurality :In Arabic there are three ways of describing the number of nouns: single, dual, and plural (more than 2).
Person: Similar to English, there are three persons in Arabic: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
According to the above scheme the Subject of a verb can cause 18 (2 x 3 x 3) changes to the patterns of vowelization and designated endings of that verb. These are listed below:
3rd person Masculine Singular/Dual/Plural 3
3rd person Feminine Singular/Dual/Plural 3
2nd person Masculine Singular/Dual/Plural 3
2nd person Feminine Singular/Dual/Plural 3
1st person Masculine Singular/Dual/Plural 3
1st person Feminine Singular/Dual/Plural 3
However, the 1st person Masculine Singular/Dual and 1st person Feminine Singular/Dual are condensed as one; thus, the total is reduced by 4, bringing it to 14. A complete listing of these is given in the table below (note: this is taken from page 20 of Hussain Abdul Sattar’s Book, Fundamentals of Classical Arabic, available here).