root: ح-ر-ك / noun / plural: حَرَكات / definition: vowel
Have you ever come across some information about Arabic, long after you began studying, and you’re just like: how did I not know this before?!
Well, that’s how I felt reading Arabic for Nerds‘ post “What does the vowel on the second root letter of an Arabic verb tell us?“—where I found out that the short vowel on the middle root letter of form I past tense verbs (like the fatha of كَتَبَ or the kasra of تَعِبَ) is often related to the general meaning of the verb.
If the short vowel on the second root letter (known as the stem vowel) of the past tense verb is:
- a fatha, the verb is likely referring to an act (like ذهَب, to go)
- a kasra, it’s referring to a transitory state (like تعِب, to be/get tired)
- a damma, it’s referring to a permanent state (like جمُل, to be beautiful)
(Keep in mind we’re only referring to sound form I verbs—i.e. those without any weak root letters—in this post!)
The stem vowel of the past tense verb is related to that of the present tense verb too. If a past tense verb has the stem vowel:
- fatha, the stem vowel on the present tense verb can be either fatha, kasra, or damma
- e.g. فعَل/يفعَل قبَس/يقبِس ترَك/يترُك
- kasra, the stem vowel on the present tense verb can be either fatha or kasra
- e.g. ترِب/يترَب حسِب/يحسِب
- damma, the stem vowel on the present tense verb must be damma
- e.g. كرُم/يكرُم
So there are only 6 possible vowelling combinations.
Sound like a lot of info? I’ve put it in a table:
This info alone is great for making educated guesses about the vowelling on new verbs you come across (or verbs you learnt a while ago but you’ve since forgotten their vowels!), but there’s more…
You might have noticed that some of these vowelling combinations are more common than others. For example, we see verbs with a fatha in the past tense and kasra in the present tense a lot more than we see verbs with a damma in both tenses.
So here are those combinations again, in order of how common they are:
Was some of this information new to you too? It’s nice to find logic in things you thought were random!
That’s all for this week, I’ll see you on my next post, إلى اللقاء!
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