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See also: کان‎, كأن, and گان




From the root ك و ن (k-w-n). Compare Ge'ez ኮነ (konä).



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

  1. (copulative) to be [+accusative]
  2. 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.
  3. to happen, to occur, to take place

Usage notesEdit

  • Like all copulative verbs in Arabic, كَانَ (kāna) takes a predicate in the accusative case. This contrasts with old Indo-European languages such as Latin and Greek, in which the predicate of a copulative verb is in the nominative case.
    كَانَ جَمَالٌ عَبْدُ ٱلنَّاصِرِ رَئِيسَ جُمْهُورِيَّةِ مِصْرَ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةِ.‎
    kāna jamālun ʿabdu n-nāṣiri raʾīsa jumhūriyyati miṣra l-ʿarabiyyati.
    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 الْفَتَّاحِ ٱلسِّيسِي (هُوَ) رَئِيسُ جُمْهُورِيَّةِ مِصْرَ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةِ.‎
    ʿabdu l-fattāḥi s-sīsī (huwa) raʾīsu jumhūriyyati miṣra l-ʿarabiyyati.
    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.
  • The jussive forms that end in sukun, sometimes drop the final ن (n), giving: يَكُ (yaku), تَكُ (taku), أَكُ (ʾaku), نَكُ (naku).


Related termsEdit

See alsoEdit


  • Wehr, Hans (1979), “كون”, in J. Milton Cowan, editor, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, 4th edition, Ithaca, NY: Spoken Language Services, →ISBN