Quadriliteral Active Participles in Arabic

اِسم فاعِل

root: ف-ع-ل / phrase / definition: active participle

If you’d asked me a week ago, I’d have told you that I lead a somewhat minimalist life—I hate having *things* cluttering up spaces around me which could very well be left empty. (This is, of course, ignoring my book-filled shelves and surfaces—books are entirely different to things.)

But packing up my stuff to move to university—which starts in less than three weeks!—has made me question that. Because all of a sudden, my room is populated with two stuffed suitcases, kitchen pots and utensils, and a scattering of half-packed bags plopped on the floor.

Anyway, anyway… I digress.

My point is that: in the midst of the localised chaos and preparation for my master’s course, Arabic grammar provides a blissfully structured refuge.

So I thought we’d take a look this week at how to form derivatives from quadriliteral roots. More specifically, how to form active participles.


  • A quadriliteral root is a root made up of four letters, like د-ه-و-ر. We’re most used to seeing triliteral (three-letter) roots and derivatives.
  • An active participle, اسم فاعِل, can act as a noun or adjective and refers to the “doer” of the verb from which it derives. For example, from the form I quadriliteral verb تَرجَمَ / يُتَرجِمُ (to translate), we get the active participle مُتَرجِم (translator).

First off, here’s a reminder of the quadriliteral verb forms in Arabic, with the letters ف-ع-ل-ل representing the four root letters:

(Click to enlarge)

You might be glad to know that forming active participles from quadriliteral verbs is the same as for most* triliteral ones. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Take the present tense form of the verb (e.g. يُتَرجِم)

2. Replace the ي prefix with مُـ (e.g. مُتَرجِم)

3. Make sure the penultimate root letter has a kasra on it (i.e. no change for مُتَرجِم as there’s already a kasra on the ج)

Here are some more examples:

Form I

root: ف-ر-ق-ع

verb: فَرقَعَ / يُفَرقِعُ (“to explode”)

active participle: مُفَرقِع (“(an) explosive”)

Form II

root: د-ه-و-ر

verb: تَدَهوَرَ / يَتَدَهوَرُ (“to decline, deteriorate”)

active participle: مُتَدَهوِر (“deteriorating”)

Form III

root: ب-ر-ش-ق

verb: اِبرَنشَقَ / يَبرَنشِقُ (“to bloom, flourish”)

active participle: مُبرَنشِق (“flourishing”)

Form IV

root: ض-م-ح-ل

verb: اِضمَحَلَّ / يَضمَحِلُّ (“to fade away, vanish”)

active participle: مُضمَحِلّ (“fading away, vanishing”)

Simple, right?

That’s all for this week, see you on my next post!

!مع السلامة

* The triliteral verbs that don’t form active participles in this way are form I and IX verbs. Form I verbs follow the فاعِل pattern, while form IX ones follow مُفعَلّ (notice the fatha on the penultimate root letter rather than a kasra).

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