The فِعل (Verb)
We’ve mentioned that there are only three kinds of words and gone over the first kind (the اسم/noun). Now, we’re going to look at the second type: the فِعل (verb). We’ve said previously that an اِسْم is a word that indicates a meaning that is not associated with any time period.
A فِعل is loosely translated as “verb”, but is really any word that indicates a meaning that is associated with one of the three time periods: past, present and future. Consider the following words:
- كَتَبَ (“He wrote”) – Gives the meaning of writing in the past
- يَكْتُبُ (“He writes”) – Gives the meaning of writing in the present
- اكْتُبْ (“Write!”) – Gives the meaning of writing in the future (because the command will be fulfilled after the speaker says it)
All three of these words give the meaning of writing, but in different time frames. Both an اسم and a فعل indicate a meaning, but the difference is that an اسم isn’t associated with any particular time frame and a فعل is.
Here’s a little chart (you know you love them!) to drill the concept in a little further:
In each row, you see the same verb across three time frames. For example, the first row has words for “he helped”, “he helps”, and “Help!”. The same idea goes for the other rows.
The 3 kinds of فِعل’s
A فعل can be one of three kinds:
- ماضٍ (Past) – Indicates something that happened before the speaker
- مُضارِع (Present) – Indicates something that occurs at the time of the speaker or after
- أمر (Command) – Indicates an something whose occurrence is sought after the speaker’s time
Examples of these are in the table above. If the Arabic terms throw you off, you can just go by the English translation for now. I’m just putting them down here to introduce you to them.
The حَرف (particle)
We’ve covered the اسم and the فعل. Now we come to the third and final type of Arabic word: the حرف. Unlike the اسم and the فعل , a حرف comes to give meaning in the context of some other word(s). To make it clearer if I say “كِتاب”, you hear it and you just know that I mean “a book”. I don’t need to add anything else for you to know what كتاب means.
Now if I say “مِنْ”, what would you say that means? You might be tempted to say “Of course, it means ‘from’! Duh!” You’d be absolutely wrong. Why? Because although one of the most common meanings that مِن is used for is “from”, it doesn’t always mean “from”.
How do you know what I mean by the word مِنْ then? You look at what I used مِن with. If I said ذَهَبتُ مِن البَيتِ (“I went from the house”), you’d know that مِن means “from”. If I said بابٌ مِن ذَهَب (“A door of gold”), you’d know that مِن means “of”. In either case you only know what مِن means because of the other words I used it with.
A very common mistake many people fall into when translating is that they will always translate a حرف the same way no matter what, so that مِن is always “from” and في always winds up as “in”. If you know that by definition a حرف comes to give a meaning to something else, then you will be careful to always look at the whole sentence before deciding what it means and not try to simply translate the word by itself.
Some examples of حرف’s (with frequently used meanings):
- مِنْ (from)
- إلى (to)
- عَنْ (from/about)
- عَلى (upon/over)
- إلا (except)
- لَكِنْ (however)
- إنَّ (indeed)
- أَنْ (to)
- بَلى (certainly)
- بَلْ (rather)
- قَدْ (has, might)
- سَوفَ (will)
- حَتَّى (until)
- لَمْ (not)
- لا (no)
- لَنْ (will not)
- لَوْ (if)
- لَمّا (not yet)
- ما (not)
- لات (not)
- إنْ (if)
- ثُمَّ (then)
- أوْ (or)
Next come some indicators used to identify whether a word is a noun, verb or particle
Questions to consider:
- What is the definition of فِعل?
- How many kinds of فِعل are there?
- What is مُضارِع?
- What is أمر?
- What ماض?
- Give 5 examples of a فِعل. (If you can’t come up with these, open a Quran and take a guess)
- What is the definition of حَرف?
- Give 10 examples of a حَرف.
Until next time, السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
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