The Meaning of لم يكن لـ


root: ب-د-ع / adjective / definition: creative

I was tempted to write another literature-inspired post this week (especially considering I just completed my first piece of creative writing Arabic homework which was so fun to do!), but how long can we go without some good old grammar?!

A long while ago, when I was reading ألف شمس ساطعة, an interesting grammatical structure popped up in the second chapter. The sentence read:

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Reading Arabic Literature: Snippets From This Week


root: س-ب-ع / noun / plural: أَسابيع / definition: week

Conveniently for this reading literature series, I’ve just started Arabic literature classes at university this term—which means lots more reading for me and lots more vocabulary for these posts!

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Two Arabic Verbs Meaning “to Harbour Feelings”


root: ش-ع-ر / noun / plural: مَشاعِر / definition: feeling, emotion

After writing a 4000-word essay in a matter of days and sleepily submitting it at midnight, I’m finally feeling ready to jump into term two at university!

And speaking of feelings (…smooth transition there), this week I wanted to show you two Arabic verbs that mean “to harbour feelings (towards)”.

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“Once Upon a Time” in Arabic


root: ق-ص-ص / noun / plural: قِصَص / definition: story

Once upon a time… It’s the typical opening of the stories I’m sure most of us used to read when we were younger. But what’s the Arabic equivalent of this phrase? And how does it make sense grammatically?

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Diminutives in Arabic


root: ص-غ-ر / adjective / definition: small

A diminutive is a modified word used to express smallness. Think of the English word duckling, derived from duck.

In Arabic, the diminutive is referred to as التَّصغير—a verbal noun meaning “to make smaller”. So how can we recognise and form diminutives in Arabic?

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Three Ways to Say “Bloodshed” in Arabic


root: د-م / noun / plural: دِماء / definition: blood

Yes, yes, I know this word seems quite specific compared to the others in the synonyms series, but that’s why I was so interested when I found three Arabic phrases for the English term “bloodshed”.

And—in all honestly, and quite unfortunately—with the topics universities often get us to write and read about for Arabic classes (war, colonialism, violent clashes, etc.), terms like this are useful to know for students.

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Using عدم


root: ع-د-م / noun / definition: nonexistence, absence, lack

The word عَدَم is a noun meaning “nonexistence”, “absence”, or “lack (of)”. When it’s used in an إضافة with a following noun, it can often be translated as a prefix like non-, un-, or dis-.

Let’s look at some examples…

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One Term Down… And a Few New Languages

(Photo courtesy of my photographer friend in London, taken in the British Museum)


root: م-ح-ن / verbal noun of form VIII / plural: اِمتِحانات / definition: exam

As of earlier today, I’ve officially finished all of my Arabic exams for the first term! Woo hoo!

I have to say, the energy I’ve managed to build up since that gruelling four-hour drive to get to university in September has all but been depleted—but at least I’ve managed to drag myself across the finish line…

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Using مهما

فَصْل دِراسيّ

root: ف-ص-ل / noun phrase / definition: academic term, semester

It’s officially the final week of term 1 and I’m in that position where, on one hand, I can’t believe a whole term has passed and, on the other hand, I wish I could fast forward past this final wave of deadlines and exams. Such is student life!

Let me try to ignore my pressing deadlines and must-do revision for now, while I try to gather my thoughts into some sort of coherence for this (short) post.

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Form I Verb Vowelling Patterns


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.

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