Arabic Grammar – 143

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Basic stem (Ⅰ)

Based on their theme vowel qualities, Stem Ⅰ verbs are classified in the following main classes.

Stem Ⅰ (G-stem)
Class Perfective Imperfective Example
A a-u فَعَلَ
faʕala
يَفْعُلُ
yafʕulu
نَصَرَ، يَنْصُرُ
naara, yanṣuru
“render victorious, support”
B a-i فَعَلَ
faʕala
يَفْعِلُ
yafʕilu
ضَرَبَ، يَضْرِبُ
araba, yaḍribu
“hit”
C a-a فَعَلَ
faʕala
يَفْعَلُ
yafʕalu
فَتَحَ، يَفْتَحُ
fataħa, yaftaħu
“open”
D i-a فَعِلَ
faʕila
يَفْعَلُ
yafʕalu
فَرِحَ، يَفْرَحُ
fariħa, yafraħu
“be(come) happy”
E u-u فَعُلَ
faʕula
يَفْعُلُ
yafʕulu
كَرُمَ، يَكْرُمُ
karuma, yakrumu
“be(come) noble”

 

Verbs of the a-u and a-i classes are often action verbs. Verbs of the i-a class are often state verbs. Verbs of the u-u class are quality verbs.

The a-a class represents a convergence of:

  • Original a-u & a-i verbs of roots Ⅱ/Ⅲ=guttural.
  • Original a-a verbs.

The original a-a class is one of the rare classes, which are the following:

  • The original a-a class (e.g. the verb III=y ʔaba⋅y, yaʔba⋅y أَبَى، يَأْبَى “refuse”)
  • The i-i class (e.g. ħasiba, yaħsibu حَسِبَ، يَحْسِبُ “think”)
  • The i-u class (e.g. faila, yafḍulu فَضِلَ، يَفْضُلُ “exceed”)
  • The u-a class (e.g. the verb Ⅱ=Ⅲ labba, yalabbu لَبَّ، يَلَبُّ “be(come) wise”)

Most verbs of the rare classes have synonymous variants belonging to the common classes.

In Classical Arabic the a-i class was on the path of merger with the a-u class. Many a-i verbs had synonymous a-u variants. Verbs that are strictly a-i are ones indicating simple actions, such as araba, yaḍribu ضَرَبَ، يَضْرِبُ “hit,” kasara, yaksiru كَسَرَ، يَكْسِرُ “break,” rabaa, yarbiu رَبَطَ، يَرْبِطُ “tie,” ħamala, yaħmilu حَمَلَ، يَحْمِلُ “carry,” and qafaza, yaqfizu قَفَزَ، يَقْفِزُ “jump.” Verbs indicating the production of sounds are usually a-i verbs, such as afara, yaṣfiru صَفَرَ، يَصْفِرُ “whistle” and hadara, yahdiru هَدَرَ، يَهْدِرُ “rumble.”

Note

In the modern Syrian vernaculars most a-i verbs have been changed to a-u verbs, e.g. in Aleppo arab, biḍrob “hit” & kasar, biksor “break.”

While variation between the a-u and a-i classes does not usually indicate a difference in meaning, variation between the other classes can indicate such a difference.

As an example,

  • The a-u verb ħasaba, yaħsubu حَسَبَ، يَحْسُبُ means “count, calculate.”
  • The i-i/i-a verb ħasiba, yaħsibu/yaħsabu حَسِبَ، يَحْسِبُ/يَحْسَبُ means “think.”
  • The u-u verb ħasuba, yaħsubu حَسُبَ، يَحْسُبُ means “be(come) of noble social background.”

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