Appendix:Arabic verbs

Derived stems

Arabic Verbs
Arabic Nouns

Arabic verbs are noted for an unusual system of derivation. From any particular root various verb stems may be formed. Western scholars usually refer to these derivations as “form I”, “form II”, ... up through “form XV,” though these designations are not used indigenously, where they are referred to by derivations from the root ف ع ل (f-ʕ-l). Accordingly, form I would be فَعَلَ (faʕala), form II would be فَعَّلَ (faʕʕala), etc. These forms refer to triliteral roots (those made of three consonants). There are also quadriliteral roots, made up of four consonants, which come in four forms, “form Iq”, “form IIq”, “form IIIq” and “form IVq”. Triliteral forms XI through XV and quadriliteral forms IIIq and IVq are rare and tend to be intransitive, often stative, verbs (having the meaning “to be or become Y” where Y is an adjective).

These forms and their associated participles and verbal nouns are the primary means of forming vocabulary in Arabic. All of the examples shown here are the citation forms, which in Arabic means the 3rd-person masculine singular perfect (e.g., “he did”, “he wrote”).

Form I


Perfective فَعَلَ (faʕala), فَعِلَ (faʕila), فَعُلَ (faʕula), imperfective يَفْعَلُ (yafʕalu), يَفْعِلُ (yafʕilu), يَفْعُلُ (yafʕulu), active participle فَاعِل (fāʕil), passive participle مَفْعُول (mafʕūl), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَلْ (ifʕal), اِفْعِلْ (ifʕil), اُفْعُلْ (ufʕul)

This is the simplest basic form of a verb; it gives the general idea of its root. Most verbs are triliteral, but there are a few quadriliteral ones.

When the middle vowel of the perfective is a, the middle vowel of the imperfective may be a, i, or u. When the perfective vowel is i, the imperfective vowel is usually a; when the perfective vowel is u, the imperfective vowel is also u.

a u كَتَبَ (kataba) يَكْتُبُ (yaktubu) to write
i غَسَلَ (ḡasala) يَغْسِلُ (yaḡsilu) to wash
a ذَهَبَ (ḏahaba) يَذْهَبُ (yaḏhabu) to go
i a شَرِبَ (šariba) يَشْرَبُ (yašrabu) to drink
i وَثِقَ (waṯiqa) يَثِقُ (yaṯiqu) to trust
u u كَرُمَ (karuma) يَكْرُمُ (yakrumu) to be generous

Form II


Perfective فَعَّلَ (faʕʕala), imperfective يُفَعِّلُ (yufaʕʕilu), verbal noun generally تَفْعِيل (tafʕīl), in weak verbs necessarily and final-hamzated verbs facultatively تَفْعِلَة (tafʕila), with geminate verbs sometimes تَفْعَال (tafʕāl), in rare historical cases a فِعَّال (fiʕʕāl) verbal noun exists, active participle مُفَعِّل (mufaʕʕil), passive participle مُفَعَّل (mufaʕʕal), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) فَعِّلْ (faʕʕil)

This stem is formed by doubling the second radical. The meaning this form imparts is intensive, causative, or declarative.

It is frequently used as a denominative formation to convert nouns or adjectives into verbs.

Form III


Perfective فَاعَلَ (fāʕala), imperfective يُفَاعِلُ (yufāʕilu), verbal noun مُفَاعَلَة (mufāʕala) or: فِعَال (fiʕāl) active participle مُفَاعِل (mufāʕil), passive participle مُفَاعَل (mufāʕal), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) فَاعِلْ (fāʕil)

This stem is formed by lengthening the vowel after the first radical. The meaning of this form is associative, meaning the action of the root is either done with somebody or something else, or to somebody or something else, and it is usually transitive. The indirect object of form I is the direct object of form III. Thus, the object of the preposition إِلَى (ʔilā, to) in كَتَبَ إِلَى أَحْمَدَ (kataba ʔilā ʔaḥmada, he wrote to Ahmad) becomes the direct object of the verb in كَاتَبَ أَحْمَدَ (kātaba ʔaḥmada, he corresponded with Ahmad).

Form IV


Perfective أَفْعَلَ (ʔafʕala), imperfective يُفْعِلُ (yufʕilu), verbal noun إِفْعَال (ʔifʕāl), active participle مُفْعِل (mufʕil), passive participle مُفْعَل (mufʕal), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) أَفْعِلْ (ʔafʕil)

This stem is formed by prefixing أَـ (ʔa-) and dropping the vowel of the first radical. In the imperfect, the أَ (ʔa) disappears and the regular imperfect prefix takes the vowel u, and the characteristic is i: يُكْتِبُ (yuktibu). The meaning this form imparts is usually causative.

Sometimes it has a declarative meaning: to say that someone has a certain quality.

Occasionally Form IV is derived from a noun and has an intransitive meaning:

Form V


Perfective تَفَعَّلَ (tafaʕʕala), imperfective يَتَفَعَّلُ (yatafaʕʕalu), verbal noun تَفَعُّل (tafaʕʕul) or تِفِعَّال (tifiʕʕāl), active participle مُتَفَعِّل (mutafaʕʕil), passive participle مُتَفَعَّل (mutafaʕʕal), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) تَفَعَّلْ (tafaʕʕal)

This stem is formed by prefixing تَـ (ta-) to form II. The meaning this form imparts is the reflexive or passive of form II. Out of the reflexive also arises the effective. This differs from the passive in that the latter indicates that the person is the object of, or experiences the effect of, the action of a another; whereas the effective implies that an act is done to a person, or a state produced in them, whether it is caused by another or themselves.

In pre-classical language the formant can be تْـ (t-) instead of تَـ (ta-) and assimilates then to alveolars. Example: اِصَّدَعَ (iṣṣadaʕa) instead of تَصَدَّعَ (taṣaddaʕa), present يَصَّدَّعُ (yaṣṣaddaʕu) instead of يَتَصَدَّعُ (yataṣaddaʕu).[1]

Form VI


Perfective تَفَاعَلَ (tafāʕala), imperfective يَتَفَاعَلُ (yatafāʕalu), verbal noun تَفَاعُل (tafāʕul), active participle مُتَفَاعِل (mutafāʕil), passive participle مُتَفَاعَل (mutafāʕal), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) تَفَاعَلْ (tafāʕal)

This stem is formed by prefixing تَـ (ta-) to form III. The imperfect has the vowel a throughout, except for the last: يَتَكَاتَبُ (yatakātabu), yatakātabu. The meaning this form imparts is reciprocal or one of pretence.

In pre-classical language the formant can be تْـ (t-) instead of تَـ (ta-) and assimilates then to alveolars (sun letters).[1]

Form VII


Perfective اِنْفَعَلَ (infaʕala), imperfective يَنْفَعِلُ (yanfaʕilu), verbal noun اِنْفِعَال (infiʕāl), active participle مُنْفَعِل (munfaʕil), passive participle مُنْفَعَل (munfaʕal), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِنْفَعِلْ (infaʕil)

This stem is formed by prefixing نـ (n-) with a prothetic vowel (اِ (i)) where necessary (in-). The meaning this form imparts is reflexive or passive. Note: this form should not be made from roots whose first radical is ‭ر (r), ل (l), ي (y), و (w), أ (ʔ), or ن (n), although some people do it.



Perfective اِفْتَعَلَ (iftaʕala), imperfective يَفْتَعِلُ (yaftaʕilu), verbal noun اِفْتِعَال (iftiʕāl), active participle مُفْتَعِل (muftaʕil), passive participle مُفْتَعَل (muftaʕal), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْتَعِلْ (iftaʕil)

This stem is formed by infixing ـتَـ (-ta-) after the first radical, and with a prothetic vowel (اِ (i)) where necessary. The meaning this form imparts is the reflexive or sometimes passive, of the first form.

When the first radical of the root is ط () , ض () , ص () , ز (z) , ذ () , د (d) , ث () , ت (t) , or ظ (), the infixed ـتـ (-t-) is completely assimilated, or assimilated in voicing or emphasis:

Form IX


Perfective اِفْعَلَّ (ifʕalla), imperfective يَفْعَلُّ (yafʕallu), verbal noun اِفْعِلَال (ifʕilāl), active participle مُفْعَلّ (mufʕall), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَلَّ (ifʕalla)

This stem is formed by dropping the vowel of the first radical, adding a prothetic vowel (اِ (i)) where necessary, and doubling the final radical. This form is used by only a small number of verbs denoting color or bodily defect. This form has no passive participle. It is frequently connected to an adjective with the form أَفْعَل (ʔafʕal); see Appendix:Arabic nominals § Color or defect adjectives.

Form X


Perfective اِسْتَفْعَلَ (istafʕala), imperfective يَسْتَفْعِلُ (yastafʕilu), verbal noun اِسْتِفْعَال (istifʕāl), active participle مُسْتَفْعِل (mustafʕil), passive participle مُسْتَفْعَل (mustafʕal), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِسْتَفْعِلْ (istafʕil)

This stem is formed by prefixing ـسْتَـ (-sta-), with a prothetic vowel (اِ (i)) where necessary, and dropping the vowel of the first radical. The meaning this form imparts is to ask or think that the sense of form I should be done.

Other forms (XI-XV)


These forms were already rare in Classical Arabic, and are even more so in Modern Standard Arabic.

Form XI


Perfective اِفْعَالَّ (ifʕālla), imperfective يَفْعَالُّ (yafʕāllu), verbal noun اِفْعِيلَال (ifʕīlāl), active participle مُفْعَالّ (mufʕāll), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَالَّ (ifʕālla)

This stem is formed from form IX by lengthening the vowel after the second radical. This form is very rare and it is usually used only for metrical purposes in poetry as an alternative to form IX. Some scholars [2] suggest the XI form may have a more volatile meaning than form IX, as well as one slightly more intensive.

Example: اِحْمَارَّ (iḥmārra, to turn red, to blush)

Form XII


Perfective اِفْعَوْعَلَ (ifʕawʕala), imperfective يَفْعَوْعِلُ (yafʕawʕilu), verbal noun اِفْعِيعَال (ifʕīʕāl), active participle مُفْعَوْعِل (mufʕawʕil), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَوْعِلْ (ifʕawʕil)

Example: اِحْدَوْدَبَ (iḥdawdaba, to be or become humpbacked)



Perfective اِفْعَوَّلَ (ifʕawwala), imperfective يَفْعَوِّلُ (yafʕawwilu), verbal noun اِفْعِوَّال (ifʕiwwāl), active participle مُفْعَوِّل (mufʕawwil), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَوِّلْ (ifʕawwil)

Example: اِعْلَوَّطَ (iʕlawwaṭa, to ride or mount a camel without a saddle)

Form XIV


Perfective اِفْعَنْلَلَ (ifʕanlala), imperfective يَفْعَنْلِلُ (yafʕanlilu), verbal noun اِفْعِنْلَال (ifʕinlāl), active participle مُفْعَنْلِل (mufʕanlil), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَنْلِلْ (ifʕanlil)

Example: اِسْحَنْكَكَ (isḥankaka, to be or become caliginous)

Form XV


Perfective اِفْعَنْلَى (ifʕanlā), imperfective يَفْعَنْلَى (yafʕanlā), verbal noun اِفْعِنْلَاء (ifʕinlāʔ), active participle مُفْعَنْلٍ (mufʕanlin), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَنْلَ (ifʕanla)

Example: اِسْرَنْدَى (israndā, to vanquish)

Form Iq


Perfective فَعْلَقَ (faʕlaqa), imperfective يُفَعْلِقُ (yufaʕliqu), verbal noun فَعْلَقَة (faʕlaqa) or: فَعْلَاق (faʕlāq), فِعْلَاق (fiʕlāq), فُعْلَاق (fuʕlāq), active participle مُفَعْلِق (mufaʕliq), passive participle مُفَعْلَق (mufaʕlaq), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) فَعْلِقْ (faʕliq)

This is the simplest basic form of a quadriliteral verb. Most verbs are transitive, although a subset with reduplicated roots often are not. This form is similar to form II of triliteral roots.

The formation is sometimes used to convert nouns into verbs.

Form IIq


Perfective تَفَعْلَقَ (tafaʕlaqa), imperfective يَتَفَعْلَقُ (yatafaʕlaqu), verbal noun تَفَعْلُق (tafaʕluq), active participle مُتَفَعْلِق (mutafaʕliq), passive participle مُتَفَعْلَق (mutafaʕlaq), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) تَفَعْلَقْ (tafaʕlaq)

This is a quadriliteral root stem, formed by prefixing تَ (ta) to form Iq. The meaning this form imparts is the reflexive or passive of form Iq. This form is similar to form V of triliteral roots.

Form IIIq


Perfective اِفْعَنْلَقَ (ifʕanlaqa), imperfective يَفْعَنْلِقُ (yafʕanliqu), verbal noun اِفْعِنْلَاق (ifʕinlāq), active participle مُفْعَنْلِق (mufʕanliq), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَنْلِقْ (ifʕanliq)

This stem is formed by prefixing اِـ (i-), dropping the vowel of the first radical, and adding a ـَ (-a) to and infixing نـ (n-) after the second radical.

Example: اِحْرَنْجَمَ (iḥranjama, to crowd)

Form IVq


Perfective اِفْعَلَقَّ (ifʕalaqqa), imperfective يَفْعَلِقُّ (yafʕaliqqu), verbal noun اِفْعِلْقَاق (ifʕilqāq), active participle مُفْعَلِقّ (mufʕaliqq), imperative (2nd person, m, sg) اِفْعَلِقَّ (ifʕaliqqa)

This stem is formed by prefixing اِـ (i-), dropping the vowel of the first radical, and adding a ـَ (-a) to the second radical, and geminating the final radical.

Root types


Sound verbs


Verbs are considered sound if none of the radicals is و or ي or ء, nor are the second and third radicals identical.

Hamzated verbs


Verbs are called hamzated if ء (hamza) is one of the root consonants (radicals). The phonetical pattern of the conjugation of these verbs doesn't differ from other verbs in all forms but because of the rules of positioning of hamza, the spelling is affected in some forms, e.g. the verb أَكَلَ (ʔakala) (ʾ-k-l) has the form يَأْكُلُ (yaʔkulu) in the imperfect masculine singular and the verb قَرَأَ (qaraʔa) (q-r-ʾ) has the form تَقْرَئِينَ (taqraʔīna) in the imperfect feminine singular.

Weak verbs


TO DO Weak verbs are verbs that have one of the radicals و or ي.

  1. Assimilated verbs (R1 = و or ي)
    Form I: وَجَدَ (wajada) - "to find", imperfective يَجِدُ (yajidu).
  2. Hollow verbs (R2 = و or ي)
    Form I: قَالَ (qāla) - "to say" قَالَتْ (qālat) "she said" but قُلْتُ (qultu, I said), قُلْتَ (qulta, you m said), قُلْتِ (qulti, you f said); imperfective يَقُولُ (yaqūlu) "he said", يَقُلْنَ (yaqulna) "they (f.) say".
  3. Final-weak verbs (R3 = و or ي), e.g. مَشَى (mašā) - "to walk", رَمَى (ramā) - "to throw", حَظِيَ (ḥaẓiya) - "to be in the good graces of, to enjoy", بَقِيَ (baqiya) - "to stay, to remain", دَعَا (daʕā) - "to call sb., to summon sb."., لَقِيَ (laqiya) - "to meet sb.".

Other examples of weak verbs:

Quadriliteral verbs


TO DO Quadriliteral verbs are made from roots having four radicals, e.g. تَرْجَمَ (tarjama) - "to translate"; هَنْدَسَ (handasa) - "to engineer"; قَهْقَهَ (qahqaha) - "to laugh loudly"; تَبَلْوَرَ (tabalwara) - "to be crystalized" (form IIq); اِحْرَنْجَمَ (iḥranjama) - "to press one another" (form IIIq); اِطْمَأَنَّ (iṭmaʔanna) - "to be calm" (form IVq).

Geminate verbs


TO DO Geminate verbs are verbs that have the second and the third radicals the same, e.g. مَدَّ (madda) - "to stretch"; دَلَّ (dalla) - "to indicate"; ظَنَّ (ẓanna) - "to think"; حَاقَّ (ḥāqqa) - "to sue, to litigate" (form III); أَحَبَّ (ʔaḥabba) - "to love" (form IV); تَضَادَّ (taḍādda) - "to be opposed to one another" (form VI); اِنْشَقَّ (inšaqqa) - "to split" (form VII); اِحْتَلَّ (iḥtalla) - "to occupy" (form VIII); اِسْتَرَدَّ (istaradda) - "to demand back" (form X).


  1. 1.0 1.1 Fischer, Wolfdietrich (2006) Grammatik des Klassischen Arabisch (in German), 4th edition, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, →ISBN, § 47, page 26
  2. ^ Haywood, J.A., Nahmad, H.M. (1962) A New Arabic Grammar of the Written Language by Haywood, Harvard University Press, page 185

See also