The Causative بـ


root: ذ-ك-ر / noun / definition: memory

Ahh, finally, a grammar post! My brain feels at least somewhat refreshed now that I’ve had a week of doing nothing (except what we can call passive learning: watching Lebanese and Iraqi TV series and having الجزيرة on in the background every day while I play solitaire in the kitchen).

In today’s post we’re going to look at an interesting function of the preposition بِـ when it follows some verbs.

For some verbs, adding بـ after them gives them a causative meaning.

We don’t actually have to look further than the Hans Wehr to know this, because under ب, we find:

Causative verbs indicate that the subject causes the object to do something.

The easiest way to get your head around this is through examples. So here are some that came to mind today:

ذَهَبَ = to go

ذَهَبَ بِـ = to carry something away, to do away with something

(i.e. to cause something—whatever comes after the preposition—to go away)

أَتى = to come

أَتى بِـ = to bring

(i.e. to make something come—the same is true for the verb جاءَ)

رَجَعَ = to return (intransitive)

رَجَعَ بِـ = to bring something back

(for instance, the phrase رَجَعَت به الذاكرةُ إلى = he remembered—literally: “his memory brought him back to”)

رَقِيَ = to ascend, be promoted

رَقِيَ بِـ = to promote something

(i.e. to cause something to rise, or be promoted)

طاحَ = to get lost

طاحَ بِـ = to sweep something away

(i.e. cause something to get lost)

جارَ = to deviate

جارَ بِـ = to lead astray

(for example, جارت به الطريقُ = the path led him astray, he got on the wrong path—this example is given in the Hans Wehr and if you’re wondering why the verb is feminine, it’s because the subject, طريق, can actually be considered masculine or feminine)

خَرَجَ = to go out

خَرَجَ بِـ = to bring/take someone out

مَشى = to walk, to move along

مَشى بِـ = to pass on

(i.e. to make something move along—in the Hans Wehr, we find the phrase مشى بالنميمة = to scatter slanderous rumours)

I still remember the first time I came across this function of بـ: it was in a tutorial class in my second year of undergrad, and we were reading a text in our booklets about a hospital visit, and—if my memory is actually as sharp as I’d like to imagine—the phrase أتى بـ came in the context of a nurse bringing someone (who had broken their leg, I think) somewhere in a wheelchair.

I can only credit my teachers for making Arabic lessons so interesting that these things are memorable years later.

Well that’s it for this week, and I finish off this post on a smile because I love writing about grammar, in particular.

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