See also: کان, كأن, and گان




From the root ك و ن ‎(k-w-n).



كَانَ ‎(kāna) I, non-past يَكُونُ‎ (yakūnu)

  1. to be, to exist
    • Bible (SVD), Book of Genesis, 1:3
      وَقَالَ اللهُ: «لِيَكُنْ نُورٌ»، فَكَانَ نُورٌ.
      waqāla llāhu: “liyakun nūrun”, fakāna nūrun.
      And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
  2. to happen, to occur, to take place


Usage notesEdit

  • Like all copulative verbs in Arabic, كَانَ ‎(kāna) takes a predicate in the accusative case.
    كَانَ جَمَال عَبْدُ النَّاصِر رَئِيسَ جُمْهُورِيَّةِ مِصْرَ الْعَرَبِيَّة.
    kāna jamāl ʿabdu n-nāṣir raʾīsa jumhūriyyati miṣra l-ʿarabiyyat.
    Gamal Abdel Nasser was the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
  • In the present indicative, “to be” is most often expressed by a nominal sentence (جُمْلَة اِسْمِيَّة ‎(jumla ismiyya)) with no verb. In this case, the predicate is in the nominative case.
    عَبْدُ الْفَتَّاح السِّيسِي (هُوَ) رَئِيسُ جُمْهُورِيَّةِ مِصْرَ الْعَرَبِيَّة.
    ʿabdu l-fattāḥ as-sīsī (huwa) raʾīsu jumhūriyyati miṣra l-ʿarabiyyat.
    Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
  • Imperfect forms of كَانَ ‎(kāna) are not rare, however:
    • They occur after certain conjunctions that must always be followed by a verb:
      أُرِيدُ أَنْ أَكُونَ غَنِيًّا.
      ʾurīdu ʾan ʾakūna ḡaniyyan.
      I want to be rich.
    • They are sometimes used instead of a nominal sentence to provide for a clearer sentence structure.

Related termsEdit

See alsoEdit