Arabic Grammar – 155

Click to view table of contents

Middle-voice stems (Ⅶ, Ⅷ, Ⅴ & Ⅵ)

A middle-voice verb فِعْلٌ مُطاوِعٌ is a verb whose subject is a semantic patient, that is, it denotes an action that affects semantically the subject of the verb rather than an object. An example from English is The ice melts. A middle-voice verb is intransitive if derived from a monotransitive active-voice verb.

Stem Ⅶ ʔ⋅infaʕala, yanfaʕilu اِنْفَعَلَ، يَنْفَعِلُ (the n-stem) and Stem Ⅷ ʔ⋅iftaʕala, yaftaʕilu اِفْتَعَلَ، يَفْتَعِلُ (the Gt-stem) form middle-voice derivatives of Stem Ⅰ.

Stem Ⅴ tafaʕʕala, yatafaʕʕalu تَفَعَّلَ، يَتَفَعَّلُ (the tD-stem) forms middle-voice derivatives of Stem Ⅱ.

Stem Ⅵ tafȃʕala, yatafȃʕalu تَفاعَلَ، يَتَفاعَلُ (the tL-stem) forms middle-voice derivatives of Stem Ⅲ.

Following are examples.

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅶ
ahara صَهَرَ ʔ⋅inahara اِنْصَهَرَ
he melted (tr.) he became melted (intr.)
qalaba قَلَبَ ʔ⋅inqalaba اِنْقَلَبَ
he turned over, he transformed (tr.) he became turned over, he became transformed (intr.)
Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅷ
rafaʕa رَفَعَ ʔ⋅irtafaʕa اِرْتَفَعَ
he raised (tr.) he rose (intr.)
ǵamaʕa جَمَعَ ʔ⋅iǵtamaʕa اِجْتَمَعَ
he gathered (tr.) he became gathered (intr.)
Stem Ⅱ Stem Ⅴ
kassara كَسَّرَ takassara تَكَسَّرَ
he smashed (tr.) he became smashed (intr.)
ʕallama عَلَّمَ taʕallama تَعَلَّمَ
he taught (ditr.) he learned (tr.)
Stem Ⅲ Stem Ⅵ
sȃʔala ساءَلَ tasȃʔala تَساءَلَ
he asked for a long time (tr.) he wondered (intr.)
qȃtala قاتَلَ taqȃtala تَقاتَلَ
he fought with (tr.) he fought [with] (intr.)

Like we said before, causative verbs can be middle-voice on their own. For example, the Stem Ⅱ verb ħaǵǵara, yuħaǵǵiru حَجَّرَ، يُحَجِّرُ can have exactly the same meaning as the Stem Ⅴ verb taħaǵǵara, yataħaǵǵaru تَحَجَّرَ، يَتَحَجَّرُ “petrify (intr.).”

Stem Ⅵ forms verbs with the meaning “pretend to do” or “feign doing.”

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅵ
ǵahila جَهِلَ taǵȃhala تَجاهَلَ
he was/became ignorant of (tr.) he pretended to be ignorant of, he ignored (tr.)
maria مَرِضَ tamȃraa تَمارَضَ
he was/became sick (intr.) he pretended to be sick (intr.)


Some verbs of middle-voice stems are identical in meaning to their active-voice counterparts. This is especially common for stems with a t affix.

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅶ
daθara دَثَرَ ʔ⋅indaθara اِنْدَثَرَ
he faded away (intr.) he faded away (intr.)
Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅷ
fataħa فَتَحَ ʔ⋅iftataħa اِفْتَتَحَ
he opened (tr.) he opened (tr.)
qalaʕa قَلَعَ ʔ⋅iqtalaʕa اِقْتَلَعَ
he plucked (tr.) he plucked (tr.)
Stem Ⅱ Stem Ⅴ
fakkara فَكَّرَ tafakkara تَفَكَّرَ
he thought (intr.) he thought (intr.)
ħaddaθa حَدَّثَ taħaddaθa تَحَدَّثَ
he talked to (tr.) he talked (intr.)
Stem Ⅲ Stem Ⅵ
xȃðala خاذَلَ taxȃðala تَخاذَلَ
he failed to support (tr.) he failed to support (intr.)


Sȋbawayhi indicated an intensive meaning for active-voice Stem Ⅷ verbs such as ʔ·iktasaba, yaktasibu اِكْتَسَبَ، يَكْتَسِبُ “earn with effort (tr.),” ʔ·intazaʕa, yantaziʕu اِنْتَزَعَ، يَنْتَزِعُ “pull out forcefully and quickly (tr.),” and ʔ·istalaba, yastalibu اِسْتَلَبَ، يَسْتَلِبُ “take away forcefully and quickly (tr.),” as opposed to their Stem Ⅰ counterparts kasaba, yaksibu كَسَبَ، يَكْسِبُ “earn (tr.),” nazaʕa, yanziʕu نَزَعَ، يَنْزِعُ “pull out, pluck (tr.),” and salaba, yaslibu سَلَبَ، يَسْلِبُ “take away, rob (tr.).” Other linguists challenged Sȋbawayhi on this point and maintained that, e.g. ʔ·iktasaba meant exactly the same thing as kasaba. However, the Qurʔȃn seems to make a distinction between kasaba and ʔ·iktasaba in 2:286 similar to the one indicated by Sibawayhi. Also the Qurʔȃn generally uses samiʕa, yasmaʕu سَمِعَ، يَسْمَعُ for the meaning “hear” but ʔ·istamaʕa, yastamiʕu اِسْتَمَعَ، يَسْتَمِعُ for the meaning “listen,” which goes against the opinion of those who said that ʔ·istamaʕa, yastamiʕu was just a synonym of samiʕa, yasmaʕu “hear, listen.”

When a Stem Ⅶ verb and a Stem Ⅷ verb are both from the same root, usually the Stem Ⅶ verb is middle-voice and the Stem Ⅷ verb is active-voice (rarely it is the other way around).

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅶ Stem Ⅷ
كَشَفَ اِنْكَشَفَ اِكْتَشَفَ
kašafa ʔ⋅inkašafa ʔ⋅iktašafa
he uncovered (tr.) he became uncovered (intr.) he discovered (tr.)


Like the intensive Stem Ⅲ, the active-voice Stem Ⅷ can have a meaning of mutuality.

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅷ
qatala قَتَلَ ʔ⋅iqtatala اِقْتَتَلَ
he killed (tr.) he fought [with] (intr.)
sabaqa سَبَقَ ʔ⋅istabaqa اِسْتَبَقَ
he came before, he outran (tr.) he raced [with] (intr.)



In the modern vernacular dialects, the middle voice has become also a passive voice (i.e. it has become a mediopassive voice), and the original passive voice has mostly disappeared. Some dialects (e.g. Aleppo) use the n-stem to form passives of the G-stem. Other dialects (e.g. Cairo) use a tG-stem corresponding to the Classical Gt-stem for this purpose.

For example, in Aleppo:

Active Passive
ʕəmel, biʕmel
(ʔə)nʕamal, binʕəmel
do be done

In Cairo:

Active Passive
ʕimil, biyiʕmil
(ʔi)tʕamal, biyitʕimil
do be done


Assimilation of the prefix to the first radical

When Stem Ⅶ is derived from a root Ⅰ=m/l/r/w/y, the prefix n– assimilates completely to the first radical.

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅶ
maħaqa, yaaqu
مَحَقَ، يَمْحَقُ ʔ⋅immaħaqa, yammaħiqu
اِمَّحَقَ، يَمَّحِقُ
greatly diminish (tr.) be(come) greatly diminished (intr.)


The same can happen when Stem Ⅷ is derived from a root Ⅰ=t/d/ṭ/θ/ð/ð̣/s/z/ṣ/ḍ.

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅷ
alaʕa, yaṭluʕu
طَلَعَ، يَطْلُعُ ʔ⋅iṭalaʕa, yaṭaliʕu
اِطَّلَعَ، يَطَّلِعُ
be(come) aware (intr.) become aware (intr.)
ðakara, yaðkuru
ذَكَرَ، يَذْكُرُ ʔ⋅iððakara, yaððakiru
اِذَّكَرَ، يَذَّكِرُ
remember (tr.) remember (tr.)
samiʕa, yasmaʕu
سَمِعَ، يَسْمَعُ ʔ⋅issamaʕa, yassamiʕu
اِسَّمَعَ، يَسَّمِعُ
hear (tr.) listen (intr.)
zaħama, yaamu
زَحَمَ، يَزْحَمُ ʔ⋅izzaħama, yazzaħimu
اِزَّحَمَ، يَزَّحِمُ
crowd (tr.) be(come) crowded (intr.)
abara, yaṣbiru
صَبَرَ، يَصْبِرُ ʔ⋅iṣabara, yaṣabiru
اِصَّبَرَ، يَصَّبِرُ
be(come) patient (intr.) be(come) patient (intr.)
aǵaʕa, yaḍǵaʕu
ضَجَعَ، يَضْجَعُ ʔ⋅iḍaǵaʕa, yaḍaǵiʕu
اِضَّجَعَ، يَضَّجِعُ
lie down (intr.) lie down (intr.)


However, if the first radical in Stem Ⅷ is a sibilant s/z/ṣ or a lateral fricative , the standard way is to have only partial assimilation. This is the Qurʔȃn’s way.

Stem Ⅷ
ʔ⋅istamaʕa, yastamiʕu
اِسْتَمَعَ، يَسْتَمِعُ
ʔ⋅izdaħama, yazdaħimu
اِزْدَحَمَ، يَزْدَحِمُ
ʔ⋅iṭabara, yaṭabiru
اِصْطَبَرَ، يَصْطَبِرُ
ʔ⋅iṭaǵaʕa, yaṭaǵiʕu
اِضْطَجَعَ، يَضْطَجِعُ


If the result of assimilation is interdental θθ/ðð/ð̣ð̣ or lateral fricative ḍḍ, it may be fortified to the corresponding dental. In the Qurʔȃn this is used for ðð.

Stem Ⅰ Stem Ⅷ
ðakara, yaðkuru
ذَكَرَ، يَذْكُرُ ʔ⋅iddakara, yaddakiru
اِدَّكَرَ، يَدَّكِرُ
remember (tr.) remember (tr.)


Stems Ⅴ & Ⅵ have the variant forms ʔ⋅itfaʕʕala, yatfaʕʕalu اِتْفَعَّلَ، يَتْفَعَّلُ and ʔ⋅itfȃʕala, yatfȃʕalu اِتْفاعَلَ، يَتْفاعَلُ . In these forms complete assimilation happens between the affix t and the first radical if it is a coronal sound. The Qurʔȃn has such forms as ʔ⋅iṣaddaqa, yaṣaddaqu اِصَّدَّقَ، يَصَّدَّقُ for taaddaqa, yataaddaqu تَصَدَّقَ، يَتَصَدَّقُ “give charity,” and ʔ⋅iθθȃqala, yaθθȃqalu اِثّاقَلَ، يَثّاقَلُ for taθȃqala, yataθȃqalu تَثاقَلَ، يَتَثاقَلُ “be(come) heavy.”


اترك تعليقًا

إملأ الحقول أدناه بالمعلومات المناسبة أو إضغط على إحدى الأيقونات لتسجيل الدخول:

شعار ووردبريس.كوم

أنت تعلق بإستخدام حساب تسجيل خروج   /  تغيير )

صورة تويتر

أنت تعلق بإستخدام حساب Twitter. تسجيل خروج   /  تغيير )

Facebook photo

أنت تعلق بإستخدام حساب Facebook. تسجيل خروج   /  تغيير )

Connecting to %s