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Sarf – The Irregular Verb – اَجوَف

July 6, 2007

In the last post we learned about the 7 categories into which Arabic verbs can be grouped and then we saw how introduction of weak letters can cause verbs to become irregular i.e. cause their conjugations to differ from the normal conjugations of regular verbs. Now we will, Insha Allah, start going into details of each of the verb categories which deal with irregular verbs. Our first post deals with ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ which, as you may recall, is a verb having واو or ياء at theposition.

ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ verbs in Arabic Language come from either one of the 3 baabs: ﻧﹷﺼﹷﺮﹶ, ﺿﹷﺮﹶﺏﹶ, or ﺳﹷﻤﹻﻊﹶ . Thus , ﻗﹷﺎﻝﹶ comes from the ﻧﹷﺼﹷﺮﹶ baab, ﺑﹷﺎﻉﹶ comes from ﺿﹷﺮﹶﺏﹶ baab, and ﺧﹷﺎﻑﹶ comes from ﺳﹷﻤﹻﻊﹶ baab. The very first thing when dealing with irregular verbs is to find the actual base letters in it. Remember, irregular verbs are called irregular since one or more of their base letters have either changed to some other letter or have dropped altogether due, mainly, to pronunciation issues. We will now see how we can find the base letters in ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ verbs and during this exercise we will come up with a rule to form irregular verbs in this category starting from their base letter.
The base letter in an irregular verb can be found by:

  1. Looking at nouns formed from these verbs
  2. Looking at the ﻣﹹﻀﺎﺭﹺﻉ of the irregular verb

Exposure to Arabic Language leads us to the fact that the 3 nouns formed from ﻗﹷﺎﻝﹶ and ﻧﹷﺼﹷﺮﹶ, and ﺑﹷﺎﻉﹶ are ﻗﻮﻝ(a saying), ﺑﻴﻊ(a transaction or a sale), and ﺧﻮﻑ(fear), respectively. Also, as we will learn shortly, the ﻣﹹﻀﺎﺭﹺﻉ of the three verbs also contain واو

in its middle. Thus, we can now derive the original verbs using this fact and the knowledge of baab from which each verb comes.

Original Form Final Form
ﻗﹷﻮﹶﻝﹶ ﻗﹷﺎﻝﹶ
ﺑﹷﻴﹷﻊﹶ ﺑﹷﺎﻉﹶ
ﺧﹷﻮﹺﻑﹶ ﺧﹷﺎﻑﹶ

Now we are ready to state our rule for dealing with active voice of the ﻣﺎﺿﻰ of ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ .
Simple Change to Alif rule
(Active ﻣﺎﺿﻰ) :

Whenever there is a ﻣﹹﺘﹷﺤﹷﺮﱢﻙ weak letter i.e. a واو or a ياء preceded by a ﻣﹷﻔﹿﺘﹹﻮﺡ letter, change the واو or ياء to alif.

As you can see that this rule completely covers the conjugation given in the table above.

Now I will list the ﻣﺎﺿﻰ table for ﻗﹷﺎﻝﹶ which will throw up some more light on the treatment of ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ

ﻗﹷﺎﻝﹶ He said
ﻗﹷﺎﻻﹶ They (two males) said
ﻗﹷﺎﻟﹹﻮ They (more than two males)said
ﻗﹷﺎﻟﹷﺖﹾ She said
ﻗﹷﺎﻟﹷﺘﺎﹶ They (two females) said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﻦﹶ They (more than two females)said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﺖﹶ You (male) said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﺘﹹﻤﺎ You (two males) said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﺘﹹﻢ You (more than 2 males) said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﺖﹺ You (female) said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﺘﹹﻤﺎ You(2 females) said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﺘﹹﻦﱠ You(more than 2 females) said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﺖﹸ I said
ﻗﹹﻠﹿﻨﺎ We said

Note the loss of alif from 6th conjugation onwards. Also, note the change from fatha to dhamma. The alif is dropped because it is not easy to pronounce an alif followed by a ﺳﹷﺎﻛﹻﻦ letter because of the introduction of an unnecessary ﻣﹷﺪ. The dhamma is introduced as a trace for the fact that it was a واو which dropped from the verb. Similarly for ﺑﹷﻴﹷﻊﹶ the 6th conjugation would be ﺑﹻﻌﺖﹶ , with the first letter having a kasra (and onwards to the last conjugation) signifying that the dropped letter was a ياء .

For ﺧﹷﺎﻑﹶ , however, this simple rule does not apply in totality. The 6th conjugation here is ﺧﹻﻔﹿﻦﹶ rather than ﺧﹹﻔﹿﻦﹶ, which one would expect. This is explained by the fact that in the case of ﺧﹻﻔﹿﻦﹶ the kasra signifies that the verb is ﻣﹷﻜﺴﹹﻮﺭﹸ ﺍﻟﹿﻌﹷﻴﻦ (has a kasra on the position) because ﺧﹷﺎﻑﹶ originates from the ﺳﹷﻤﹻﻊﹶ baab, therefore its middle letter has to have a kasra on it. In this case we do get a hint as to which letter was dropped.

To deal with the passive voice we recognize that the following are the starting points for the above mentioned 3 verbs:

Original Form Final Form
ﻗﹹﻮﹺﻝﹶ ﻗﹻﻴﻞﹶ
ﺑﹹﻴﹻﻊﹶ ﺑﹻﻴﻊﹶ
ﺧﹹﻮﹺﻑﹶ ﺧﹻﻴﻒﹶ

Using the above table we can state the following rule for the passive ﻣﺎﺿﻰ of the ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ type:

Whenever the position of a passive ﻣﺎﺿﻰ is a واو or ياء remove the vowel from the letter before it and transfer the kasra to this letter. Now, if the position is a واو change it to a ياء in accordance with the ﻣﹻﻴﺰﺍﻥﹲ rule, which states that any واو which is ﺳﹷﺎﻛﹻﻦ and is preceded by a kasra will change toياء

Note: 6th conjugation onwards the conjugations are same for both active and passive voice for the ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ type

The ﻣﹹﻀﺎﺭﹺﻉ for the ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ type:

These come from the ﺻﺤﻴﺢ counterparts of the corresponding verb which means that the originals will rhyme with the corresponding baabs. The following table list the ﻣﹹﻀﺎﺭﹺﻉ for the ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ.

ﺑﺎﺏ ﻣﹹﻀﺎﺭﹺﻉ for the ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ
ﻳﹷﻨﹿﺼﹹﺮﹸ ﻳﹷﻘﹿﻮﹸﻝﹸ
ﻳﹷﻀﹿﺮﹺﺏﹸ ﻳﹷﺒﹿﻴﹻﻊﹸ
ﻳﹷﺴﹿﻤﹷﻊﹸ ﻳﹷﺨﹿﻮﹶﻑﹸ

As is the case with the ﻣﺎﺿﻰ of the ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ , changes occur in the final forms of these verbs due to presence of weak letters. These changes are given below:

Original Form Final Form
ﻳﹷﻘﹿﻮﹸﻝﹸ ﻳﹷﻘﹹﻮﻝﹸ
ﻳﹷﺒﹿﻴﹻﻊﹸ ﻳﹷﺒﹻﻴﻊﹸ
ﻳﹷﺨﹿﻮﹶﻑﹸ ﻳﹷﺨﺎﻑﹸ

These changes are governed by the following rule:

Whenever there is a ﻣﹹﺘﹷﺤﹷﺮﱢﻙ weak letter i.e. a واو or a ياء preceded by a ﺳﹹﻜﹹﻮﻥ , transfer the vowel from the weak letter to the letter before it. Now, if vowel being transfered is a fatha then change this letter to an alif.

This rule can conveniently be called:

Transfer the vowel – in case of fatha change to alif Rule

Below, I give the full conjugations for the ﻣﹹﻀﺎﺭﹺﻉ for the ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ using ﻳﹷﻘﹿﻮﹸﻝﹸ as an example:

يَقُولُ He says
يَقُولاَنِ They (two males) say
يَقُولُونَ They (more than two males) say
تَقُولُ She says
تَقُولاَنِ They (two females) say
يَقُلْنَ They (more than two females) say
تَقُولُ You (male) say
تَقُولاَنِ You (two males) say
تَقُولُونَ You (more than 2 males) say
تَقُولِينَ You (female) say
تَقُولاَنِ You(2 females) say
تَقُلْنَ You(more than 2 females) say
أَقُولُ I say
نَقُولُ We say

Hopefully this brief introduction to ﺃﺟﻮﹶﻑ will be a good starting point for understanding irregularities in Arabic verbs, Insha Allah.

  1. Salam, its very good that you teach arabic here. You dont think Yaghulu mean I say? for future verb in arabic, they use Sowfa (سوف)before the verb and it mean I will say. am i right?

    • naeem permalink

      salam sister. Yaqoolo or yaghulu as you wrote means either wo kehta hai OR wo kahay ga. in english thats He says OR he will say

  2. I think you are right! I will change the translation. Thanks a lot for pointing out the mistake.

    Jazak Allah!

  3. Mashallah your blog is so active 🙂
    Keep it up!

  4. AOA;

    Excellent blog. keep it up

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Sarf - The Irregular Verb - ناقِص - Part 1 « Internals
  2. Sarf - The Irregular Verb - ناقِص - Part 2 « Internals
  3. Sarf - The rules for تَعلِیل - A look at اجوف and ناقِص « Internals

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