don't like the romanized letters , otherwise, wonderful effort
coming in the month of Ramadan.

--- On Mon, 8/30/10, Kais Dukes <> wrote:

From: Kais Dukes <>
Subject: Arabic Verb Forms as used in the Quran
Date: Monday, August 30, 2010, 8:23 AM

Hello All,
Fatma, a PhD researcher at Birkbeck, has kindly put together a brief document 
on Arabic verb forms. I'm planning to include this in the next release of the 
Quranic Arabic Corpus website. 

Would anyone be interested to have a quick look at this document and provide 
some feedback? The Quranic Arabic Corpus website ( 
already has some guidelines on Arabic grammar and annotation, and this new 
section on verb forms would be a great addition. Thanks Fatma !

Kind Regards,
-- Kais Dukes
NOTE: This is included as a Word Document (attached) but I've also included the 
text from the Word document below (minus the formatting):

 Arabic roots for beginners (trilateral and quadrilateral radicals)
Arabic language is unique in the way that it forms its words, concepts and 
verbs, through a system known as derivation. The idea is that all words are 
derived on a ‘stem’ or ‘template’ that is fixed by a certain number of letters 
or ‘radicals’; often referred to as trilateral and quadrilateral radicals.  
Arabic shares this quality with other Semitic languages such as Hebrew, which 
has seven different verb forms.  The basic rule of the language is that all 
(most as there are some exceptions) words are derived from this three-root 
(trilateral, see fig.1- F-3 -L meaning ‘to do’) or a four-root letter 
(quadrilateral) system, ‘the roots’ convey a basic concept which then allows 
for more complex semantic concepts to be derived whether these are verbs or 
nouns. Based on this system nouns and verbs can have up to fourteen to fifteen 
forms; though ten is the norm for most roots. 

For example, take the three-root concept of ‘D-R-S’ which gives the basic 
meaning of ‘to study’. By adding letters to the three-root template (before, in 
between or after the radicals in the stem) other more complex meanings are 
formed such as; school, teacher, lessons and even legislation. See fig 2. 
Below, where the x’s are the extra letters that can be added to the original 3 
letters; and they do not have to all added at the same time- notice that the 
root is still intact it has not changed. The root letters can be doubled in 
some forms, and the other letters can be elongated or doubled.  

Once again based on this system nouns (singular, dual, plural) and verbs 
(singular, dual, plural, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, imperatives and verbal  
nouns) are derived in an almost mathematical way, leaving no room for confusion 
as to the desired meaning of the word. Of course the ideal model of this 
derivation is the Qur’an and as you look through the Qur’an you will see these 
in play- I will try to quote all examples from the Qur’an so that it becomes 
easy to see the forms. 

These derived forms allow for the language to reflect the state of how, in 
particular an action (verb) was performed. There is even a reference to how 
many individuals participated in the action and if it was reciprocal or not.  

To make clear what is being said let’s take a three-root template (it is not 
always the rule that one template can be derived in all the derivations) and 
derive it in all ten (possibly more) forms. I will use Roman numbers (as is the 
convention in Arabic Grammar books) and Arabic ones in brackets: Our root 
letters are capitalized and their meanings will be in brackets, all examples 
are taken from the Qur’an and you refer to these in context.  In the tables I 
have, under the Form column, included the template of the form so that if you 
read any book on grammar you will find the same templates, and any letter in 
capital is the original 3/4 radical root of the verb. I will try to find an 
example (the Arabic is underlined in each example) for each form and meaning(s) 
the forms, but if I do not then the general example should hopefully suffice. 
Not all books separate the meanings of the forms the way it is done here, and 
this is a matter of style, though
 all grammarians agree that these are the realizations of the forms, see the 
sources at the end. 

Form    Verb (derived form)     Meaning         Examples 

Form I (1)
F-a-3-a-L-a     K-a-T-a-B-a (‘to write’)        The simplest form, "he wrote". 
Verbs of this form are generally transitive, meaning they require an object.  
So he wrote a book or he ate an apple, however it is possible to have 
intransitive (require no object) verbs in this class as well. 
        Example: (2:79)فَوَيْلٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَكْتُبُونَ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ“So woe to 
those who write the scripture”
Form II (2)   

F-a-33-a-L-a            3-a-LL-a-M-a (‘to teach’)       A verb that is already 
transitive becomes doubly so, as it takes a meaning of "make do" or "make 
become", so the meaning could be ‘to make one learn’ i.e.  to ‘teach’. 
This form reflects meaning in three ways: 1.    Intensity of the verb 
(repetition or the energy in which the action is performed)2.     He made 
himself do (to make himself)
3.      Causative  (to make another)    Causative Example: 3:48وَيُعَلِّمُهُ 
And He will teach him writingIntensity: An example can be taken from Surah 12: 
24وَرَٲوَدَتۡهُ ٱلَّتِى هُوَ فِى بَيۡتِهَا عَن نَّفۡسِهِۦ وَغَلَّقَتِ 
ٱلۡأَبۡوَٲبَ“And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him. She closed 
the doors...”
The verb غَلَّقَت here shows the intensity and the repetition in the verb, she 
closed all the doors and bolted them. 
Form III (3)    
F-aa-3-a-L-a            Q-aa-T-a-L-a  (‘to fight ‘)     This form implies that 
there is someone or something else present and that the action is performed 
upon him/her/it.
This forms reflects meaning in three ways: 1.   Causative ‘to be’ Active 
participle 2.  Mutual action, he made him do the same 
        Causative example: 12:26شَهِدَ شَاهِدٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَهۡلِهَآ“And a witness 
from her family testified.”The active participle is derived from form I 
SH-a-H-i-D-a ‘to witness/be present’, which is also in this very same verse. So 
here it is almost as if to say ‘he caused himself to witness’. 

Mutual action example: 2:224وَقَٰتِلُوا۟ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ‘And fight in the 
cause of Allah...’‘Fight’ here requires someone to be fought with, and so the 
action is mutual. 

Form IV (4)   
a-F-3-a-L-a             a-H-L-a-K-a (‘to destroy’)      It is similar to the 
2nd form in that it makes intransitive verbs transitive, and transitive verbs 
doubly so. This form has the meaning of: 
1.      He made himself do/perform 2.   Reflexive causative- he made himself do 
Transformative (to a place or a state)
        Example: 2:205وَيُهْلِكَ ٱلْحَرْثَ ‘destroy crops’He made himself 
destroy the crops. 
Example: 12:25
قَالَتۡ مَا جَزَآءُ مَنۡ أَرَادَ بِأَهۡلِكَ سُوٓءًا"What is the recompense of 
one who intended evil for your wife...?”The verb here أَرَادَ is the causative; 
he made himself want to harm. 

Example: 5:30فَطَوَّعَتْ لَهُ نَفْسُهُ قَتْلَ أَخِيهِ فَقَتَلَهُ فَأَصْبَحَ 
مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ“And his soul permitted to him the murder of his brother, so 
he killed him and became among the losers.”
He was not of the losers before this action of killing but now was transformed 
into that state. 
Form V (5)  
t-a-F-a-33-a-L-a                t-a-DH-a-KK-a-R-a (‘to receive admonition’)     
Form 5 is linked to Form 2, whatever action is done through a Fa33aLa (see 
form2 above) verb, the tafa33ala (this form) is from the point of view of the 
object of that verb. 

This usually reflects the reflexive and /or effective meaning, ‘he made 
himself’ or ‘he made noun undergo such and such’. 
        Example: 2:269
وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّآ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَٰبِ‘And no one will be reminded 
except those of understanding’
So Dh-a-KK-a-R-a ‘to remind’ is form II and now in Form V it is from the point 
of view of the object so ‘he received the reminder/ admonition’. 

Example: 47:15وَأَنْهَارٌ مِّن لَّبَنٍ لَّمْ يَتَغَيَّرْ طَعْمُهُ“rivers of 
milk the taste of which never changes...”
The verb here is t-a-GH-a-YY-a-R-a ‘to undergo change’, so these rivers in 
paradise do not undergo any change of state or taste even if ones tries to do 
that (in relation to form II: GH-a-YY-a-R-a ‘to cause to change’). 

Form VI (6)
t-a-F-aa-3-a-L-a        t-a-DH-aa-H-a-R-a (‘to support one another’)    Form 6 
is the reflection of how the object underwent the action of Form 3 
(F-aa-3-a-L-a). Notice that as in Form 5, this is obtained by adding ta- before 
the verb. Since form 3 implies an action done on someone, form 6 implies 
reciprocity as in the English sentence "they looked at each other". 

The subject cannot be singular in this function of the form. For example, 
t-a-K- aa-T-a-B-a itself would mean "they corresponded with each other" (they 
wrote to each other). Here they support one another in this particular action. 
This usually reflects the meaning of:1. Pure mutuality t-a-B-aa-D-a-L-a ‘he 
exchanged’ takes one object OR t-a-3-aa-W-a-N-a ‘he became assisting’. More 
than one party needs to be involved in this action
2.      Conative- he made himself be doing/ doer. 3.    Pretension – he made 
himself be doing.  ‘He made himself appear to forget’
        Pure mutuality example: 2:85مِّن دِيَٰرِهِمْ تَظَٰهَرُونَ 
عَلَيْهِم‘..Cooperating [with one another] against them in sin and aggression’.

Example: 78:1عَمَّ يَتَسَآءَلُونَ‘About what are they asking one another?’
Conative example: 46:16وَنَتَجَاوَزُ عَن سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ فِي أَصْحَابِ 
“...[we will] overlook their misdeeds, [their being] among the companions of 

Pretension: He made himself appear to be ignorant 
Form VII (7)

i-n-F-a-3-a-L-a         i-n-Q-a-L-a-B-a (‘to turn away’)        This one 
expresses submission to an action or effect -- in the case of an animate being, 
an involuntary submission.
The form reflects meaning on two levels: 1.     Reflexive (to let oneself be 
put through)2.     Angentless passive (non-reciprocal of form I) 
        Reflexive Example: وَمَن يَنقَلِبْ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَن يَضُرَّ 
اللَّهَ شَيْئًا “And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at 

Agentless passive: 73:18ٱلسَّمَآءُ مُنفَطِرٌۢ بِهِۦ كَانَ وَعْدُهُۥ 
مَفْعُولًا“The heaven will break apart therefrom; ever is His promise 
The verb is i-n-F-a-T-a-R-a ‘to be taken apart’. Of course in the Qur’anic 
sense the Agent of the action is Allah so the skies do not split without a 
cause. But here it serves the heaven’s submission to be broken apart. 

Form VIII (8) 
i-F-t-a-3-a-L-a         It's generally the reflexive of the simple K-a-T-a-B-a 
‘he wrote’, where the object of Form 1 becomes its own object.
Reflects 2 meanings: 1. Reflexivea.     Conative b.     Causative (to make 
oneself do)
2.      Reciprocal      a.      Conative example:
 قُل لَّا تَعۡتَذِرُواْ لَن نُّؤۡمِنَ لَڪُمۡ“Say, "Make no excuse - never will 
we believe you.”
>From the verb ‘i-3-T-a-R-a-DH-a’ to excuse oneself, so here it comes as a 2nd 
>person ‘do not excuse yourselves’. 

b.      Causative example: 
ثُمَّ ٱتَّخَذۡتُمُ ٱلۡعِجۡلَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهِۦ وَأَنتُمۡ ظَـٰلِمُونَ “Then you 
took [for worship] the calf after him, while you were wrongdoers”. 
 Here they made themselves take, a conscious effortful action. 
2.ReciprocalThey fought one another 
Form IX (9) 
i-F-3-a-LL-a    i-S-W-a-DD-a 
‘to turn black in colour’       This form usually reflects the meaning of:1.    
Usually refers to bodily defects and colours. 
i-3-W-a-JJ-a ‘to be crocked/lame’       Colour:  3:106يَوۡمَ تَبۡيَضُّ وُجُوهٌ۬ 
وَتَسۡوَدُّ وُجُوهٌ۬‌ۚ
“On the Day [some] faces will turn white and [some] faces will turn black...”
>From X (10) 
i-s-t-a-F-3-a-L-a       i-s-t-a-H-Z-a-Z-a-a  ‘to make oneself mock at’  The 
tenth form consists of nine radicals, and usually reflects the meaning of 
someone seeking something. 
Usually the form reflects the meaning of: 1.    Causative: i-s-t-KH-R-a-J-a ‘to 
effortfully made come out’ (i.e. he extracted) 2.       Reflexive causative: 
i-s-t-a-H-Z-a-A-a ‘ he made himself deride’  (mock)
2a: Reflexive transformative: he made be himself be noun: ‘i-s-t-a-3-R-a-B-a’  
he made himself an Arab3.        Causative to do to the self: He made the 
object do himself (=the subject) or He sought to be done by the object.  
‘i-s-t-GH-F-a-R-a’ he sought to be forgiven by someone else.  Reflexive 
causative example: 
وَلَقَدِ ٱسْتُهْزِئَ بِرُسُلٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَحَاقَ بِٱلَّذِينَ سَخِرُوا۟ 
مِنْهُم مَّا كَانُوا۟ بِهِۦ يَسْتَهْزِءُونَ“And already were messengers 
ridiculed before you, but those who mocked them were enveloped by that which 
they used to ridicule”. 

The verb i-s-t-a-H-Z-a-A-a appears twice in this verb, once as a past passive 
and secondly as a present tense plural masculine verb. 
Causative example: 4:106وَٱسْتَغْفِرِ ٱللَّهَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ غَفُورًا 
“And seek forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful”
Example: 2:45وَٱسْتَعِينُوا۟ بِٱلصَّبْرِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ 
إِلَّا عَلَى ٱلْخَٰشِعِينَ
“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except 
for the humbly submissive [to Allah]”
Table 1: 10 verb forms (trilateral) 
Form    Verb (derived form)     Meaning         Examples 
I (1)   F-a-3-L-a-L-a   D-a-H-R-a-J-a ‘he rolled’ T-a-M-A-a-N-a‘he reassured’   
II (2) t-a-F-a-3-L-a-L-a        t-a-D-a-h-R-a-J-a‘he rolled’ 
(intransitive)t-a-T-a-M-A-a-N-a‘he became reassured’       1.      Reflexive
2.      Reflexive causative     Example: 4: 103 فَإِذَا ٱطۡمَأۡنَنتُمۡ 
فَأَقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ
“But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] 
prayer”III(3)i-F-3-a-N-L-a-L-a      i-F-R-a-N-Q-a-3-a ‘he popped/cracked’   
IV (4) i-f-3-a-L-a-LL-a i-T-M-A-a-NN-a ‘to be in a state of reassurance’ 
i-Q-SH-a-3-a-RR-a ‘to be in a state of shuddering or shivering’         Stative 
Example: 13:28
وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ 
ٱلْقُلُوبُ“…whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of 
Allah.Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured”

Example: 39:23تَقۡشَعِرُّ مِنۡهُ جُلُودُ ٱلَّذِينَ يَخۡشَوۡنَ رَبَّہُمۡ ثُمَّ 
تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمۡ وَقُلُوبُهُمۡ إِلَىٰ ذِكۡرِ ٱللَّهِ“The skins shiver 
therefrom of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and their hearts relax 
at the remembrance of Allah.”
Table 2: 4 verb forms (Quadrilateral) – taken from Arabic tripod 
Quadrilateral verbs are much rarer than trilateral verbs, the way to check the 
original number of roots is to use the templates. That way you can see whether 
it is trilateral or quadrilateral and what form it takes, because this will 
determine the meaning. 

Wright, W (2005) Arabic grammar. New York :Dover Publications Fischer, W (2002) 
A grammar of Classical Arabic. Translated by J. Rogers. New Haven: Yale 
Hani Deek- http://arabic.tripod.comAl Hazimi, U (1937) Matn al Binaa fi sarf. 


Reply via email to