Arabic Grammar – 180

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Voice conjugation

We have seen before how middle-voice verbs can be derived from active-voice verbs.

Active voice Middle voice
Stem Ⅰ (G-stem) Stem Ⅶ (n-stem) & Stem Ⅷ (Gt-stem)
Stem Ⅱ (D-stem) Stem Ⅴ (tD-stem)
Stem Ⅲ (L-stem) Stem Ⅵ (tL-stem)
Stem Ⅳ (ʔ-stem) Stem Ⅹ (st-stem)
Stem QⅠ (Q-stem) Stem QⅡ (tQ-stem) & Stem QⅣ (QR-stem)

Now we are going to talk about the last voice, the passive voice. Unlike the middle voice, the passive voice is a conjugation. This means that any verb can be put into this voice in an automatic way, and the resultant passive-voice verb will not be a different word but just a different grammatical form of the same word.

The following table shows the passive conjugation of the all the common verb stems.

Voice conjugation
Stem Perfective Imperfective
Active Passive Active Passive
Ⅰ (G-stem) فَعلَ فُعِلَ يَفْعلُ يُفْعَلُ
faʕVla fuʕila yafʕVlu yufʕalu
Ⅱ (D-stem) فَعَّلَ فُعِّلَ يُفَعِّلُ يُفَعَّلُ
faʕʕala fuʕʕila yufaʕʕilu yufaʕʕalu
Ⅲ (L-stem) فاعَلَ فُوْعِلَ يُفاعِلُ يُفاعَلُ
fȃʕala fȗʕila yufȃʕilu yufȃʕalu
Ⅳ (ʔ-stem) أَفْعَلَ أُفْعِلَ يُفْعِلُ يُفْعَلُ
ʔafʕala ʔufʕila yufʕilu yufʕalu
Ⅴ (tD-stem) تَفَعَّلَ تُفُعِّلَ يَتَفَعَّلُ يُتَفَعَّلُ
tafaʕʕala tufuʕʕila yatafaʕʕalu yutafaʕʕalu
Ⅵ (tL-stem) تَفاعَلَ تُفُوْعِلَ يَتَفاعَلُ يُتَفاعَلُ
tafȃʕala tufȗʕila yatafȃʕalu yutafȃʕalu
Ⅶ (n-stem) اِنْفَعَلَ اُنْفُعِلَ يَنْفَعِلُ يُنْفَعَلُ
ʔ⋅infaʕala ʔ⋅unfuʕila yanfaʕilu yunfaʕalu
Ⅷ (Gt-stem) اِفْتَعَلَ اُفْتُعِلَ يَفْتَعِلُ يُفْتَعَلُ
ʔ⋅iftaʕala ʔ⋅uftuʕila yaftaʕilu yuftaʕalu
Ⅸ (R-stem) اِفْعَلَّ اُفْعُلَّ يَفْعَلُّ يُفْعَلُّ
ʔ⋅ifʕalla ʔ⋅ufʕulla yafʕallu yufʕallu
Ⅹ (st-stem) اِسْتَفْعَلَ اُسْتُفْعِلَ يَسْتَفْعِلُ يُسْتَفْعَلُ
ʔ⋅istafʕala ʔ⋅ustufʕila yastafʕilu yustafʕalu
QⅠ (Q-stem) فَعْلَلَ فُعْلِلَ يُفَعْلِلُ يُفَعْلَلُ
faʕlala fuʕlila yafaʕlilu yufaʕlalu
QⅡ (tQ-stem) تَفَعْلَلَ تُفُعْلِلَ يَتَفَعْلَلُ يُتَفَعْلَلُ
tafaʕlala tufuʕlila yatafaʕlalu yutafaʕlalu
QⅣ (QR-stem) اِفْعَلَلَّ اُفْعُلِلَّ يَفْعَلِلُّ يُفْعَلَلُّ
ʔ⋅ifʕalalla ʔ⋅ufʕulilla yafʕalillu yufʕalallu

The passive voice conjugation for a perfective verb stem:

  • The theme vowel has the value i.
  • All vowels before the theme vowel have the value u if short and ȗ if long.

The passive voice conjugation for an imperfective verb stem:

  • The theme vowel has the value a.
  • The prefix vowel has the value u.

Note that imperative imperfective verbs cannot be conjugated for the passive voice.

Meanings of the voices

Active voice Middle voice Passive voice Fourth voice
Agent subject subject
Patient object subject subject
Example a driver moved the car the car moved the car was moved

If a transitive verb is in the active voice, this means:

  • The verb’s agent is the subject.
  • The verb’s patient is the object.

If a transitive verb is in the middle voice, this means:

  • The verb’s agent is the subject.
  • The verb’s patient is the subject.

If a transitive verb is in the passive voice, this means:

  • The verb’s agent is unindicated.
  • The verb’s patient is the subject.

There is a fourth voice for which there is no English example, which is the voice of intransitive verbs (e.g. middle-voice verbs) in the passive conjugation. For such verbs the following obtains:

  • The verb’s agent is unindicated.
  • The verb’s patient is unindicated/inexistent.

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