Hollow Verbs, Form I

You have now learned how to deal with Form I verbs in both tenses as well as how to produce the jussive. Up to this point we have focused only on Form I verbs and only on Form I verbs which do not have a waaw or a yaa’ as one of their radicals. This part of Chapter One will treat Form I verbs whose middle radicals are either a waaw or a yaa’. These verbs are known as hollow verbs because the middle consonant disappears and is replaced by an alif. Often, these verbs are not taught to American students until they have had a considerable amount of Arabic and are already seriously contemplating giving up the language forever. Then, when these verbs are taught, the students drop like flies from class.

In reality, hollow verbs are only slightly more difficult to learn than sound verbs and can be mastered in about ten per cent more study time. Remember that for the past tense, suffixes for ALL verbs in Arabic are exactly the same. Remember also that in the present tense, the prefixes for ALL verbs are the same and the suffixes are usually the same. Therefore, you do not need to learn to generate completely new conjugations when learning hollow verbs.

 

By the way, hollow verbs are extremely common and some of them are among the most widely-used verbs in the language. There is no escaping them.

 

A hollow verb has either a waaw or a yaa’ as its middle radical. For example, the verb زَارَ is, in theory, زَوَرَ. However the pattern of fatha waaw fatha (وَ) does not exists in Arabic. (Why? Probably because it is too hard to say. Who knows?) Instead, the two fathas combine into an alif (in reality, an alif is one fatha lengthened by another) and obliterate the waaw. Along the same lines, سارَ exists in theory as سَيَر . Here the sequence of fatha yaa’ fatha also does not exist in Arabic. Here, too, the two fathas form an alif which obliterates the yaa’. The result in both cases is the same.

Below are the verb conjugations for the verb زارَ in the past tense. Look at them carefully. Following the conjugations is an explanation.

 

Plural

Dual

Singular

زُرْنا

نَحْنَ

زُرْتُما

أنتُما

زُرْتُ

أنا

زُرْتُم

أنتُم

زارا

هما (m)

زُرْتَ

أنتَ

زُرْتُنَّ

أنتُنَّ

زارَتا

هما (f)

زُرْتِ

أنتِ

زاروا

هم

زارَ

هو

زُرْنَ

هنَّ

زارتْ

هي

 

First, look at the conjugations for هو and هي They differ in no way at all from the conjugations of sound verbs you have seen. Notice that the suffixes on those two conjugations begin with a vowel (the fatha in both cases). Now look at the conjugation for أنا. Note that the suffix is the same here as it would be for any other verb. However, the alif has disappeared and been replaced by a dhamma. Yaa habiibi, what has happened?

The suffix for this conjugation begins with a consonant (the ت). A sukuun, as usual, precedes this suffix. In Arabic, any long vowel is considered to be immediately followed by a sukuun. Therefore, the theoretical conjugation of this verb for أنا would be زارتُ . In that situation there would be two sukuuns in a row – this cannot happen in Arabic. Thus, one sukuun has got to go. The alif and hence its sukuun are dropped and replaced by a short vowel. Since the middle radical of زارَ is a waaw, its short counterpart, the dhamma, replaces the alif. The principle of shortening the alif to a short vowel holds whenever the suffix begins with a consonant. When the suffix begins with a vowel, the alif remains. Since زارَ has a waaw as a middle radical, the alif is always replaced by a dhamma when the situation calls for the alif s replacement.

 

Study the other conjugations ofزارَ and see how the eternal truths in the above paragraph apply.

سارَ (to walk, to march) is also a hollow verb. It has a yaa’ for its middle radical. For this verb, the alif will be replaced by a kasra in exactly the same way that the alif was replaced by a dhamma for زارَ
Look at the conjugations below.

Plural

Dual

Singular

سِرْنا

نَحْنَ

سِرتٌما

أنتُما

سِرْتُ

أنا

سِرْتُم

أنتُم

سارا

هما (m)

سِرْتَ

أنتَ

سِرْتُنَّ

أنتُنَّ

سارَتا

هما (f)

سِرْتِ

أنتِ

ساروا

هم

سارَ

هو

سِرْنَ

هنَّ

سارَت

هي

 
We see, then, that there are two classes of hollow verbs in Form I, those whose middle radical is a waaw and those whose middle radical is a yaa’. In most cases you can tell the middle radical from the voweling of the past-tense conjugations. That is, most verbs with a waaw as a middle radical conjugate exactly like زارَ in the past tense. Verbs whose middle radical is a yaa’ conjugate just like سارَ in the past tense.

 

Some verbs, however, conjugate just as سار does in the past tense, even though their middle radical is a waaw. Two such verbs are خافَ and نامَ . This class of verbs will be treated in detail when we come to the present tense conjugations of Form I hollow verbs, which we will do as soon as you finish the drills.

 

Hollow Verbs, Form I, Present Tense

The conjugations for Form I hollow verbs in the present tense follow rules analogous to the conjugations for the past tense. Whenever the suffix of the conjugations begins with a consonant, the middle radical is shortened. Whenever the suffix begins with a vowel, the middle radical will be a long vowel. We will separate these verbs into three categories in the manner alluded to in the previous section: verbs whose middle radical is a waaw,, those whose middle radical is a yaa’, and those whose middle radical is either a waaw or yaa’ but whose present conjugations do not reflect the identity of the middle radical.

 

Middle Radical Waaw

We now return to the verbزارَ to illustrate this class of verbs. In the present tense the middle radical waaw actually appears in most of the conjugations for the verb. When it does not, it is replaced by a dhamma. As I have said, whenever the suffix of the present tense conjugation begins with a vowel, the waaw will be reflected in the conjugation. For example, the conjugation for أنا is أزورُ . The suffix is a dhamma, of course, so the waaw appears as a long vowel.

 

Now we know that the suffix for any verb conjugated for هن in the present tense begins with a ن. Any suffix for either the past tense or present tense, that begins with a consonant, always places a sukuun immediately before that consonant. Therefore, the theoretical conjugation for زارَ for the third person feminine plural would be يَزوْرْنَ,, Note the sukuun following the waaw and remember that in Arabic, any long vowel is always followed by a sukuun. Thus we have two sukuuns, which, as you know, is forbidden in Arabic. In such a case, the first sukuun and its long vowel disappear and are replaced by a dhamma. For the present tense, this shortening only takes place for the pronouns هي and أنتن. Look at the conjugations below for the verb يَزورُ , زارَ

 

Plural

Dual

Singular

نَزورُ

نَحْنَ

تَزورانِ

أنتُما

أزورُ

أنا

تَزورونَ

أنتُم

يَزورانِ

هما (m)

تَزورُ

أنتَ

تَزُرْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تَزورانِ

هما (f)

تَزورينَ

أنتِ

يَزورونَ

هم

يَزورُ

هو

يَزُرْنَ

هنَّ

تَزورُ

هي

 

Note that this verb conjugates exactly like any sound verb with respect to the prefixes and suffixes used in the conjugations. The only difference is in the shortening of the middle radical in two conjugations. Think of the hollow radical as a sort of combination of the middle radical and the stem vowel. When I refer to verbs like this in the future, I’ll refer to them using the past and present conjugations for هو as I do for sound verbs. For example, the verb in the chart above will be referred to as زارَ , ‘ يَزورُ You should also think of hollow verbs in this way; it will help you to remember whether to put a waaw, a yaa’, or an alif in the middle.

 

Middle Radical Yaa’

The verb يَسير , سارَ ُhas a yaa” as its middle radical. The yaa’ is reflected in the present tense conjugations for this type of verb, just as the waaw is reflected in the conjugations for زارَ , ‘ يَزورُ. Below are the conjugations for يَسير , سارَ in the present tense.

 

Plural

Dual

Singular

نَسيرُ

نَحْنَ

تَسيرانِ

أنتُما

أسيرُ

أنا

تَسيرونَ

أنتُم

يَسيران

هما (m)

تَسيرُ

أنتَ

تَسِرْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تَسيرانِ

هما (f)

تَسيرينَ

أنتِ

يَسيرونَ

هم

يَسيرُ

هو

يَسِرْنَ

هنَّ

تَسيرُ

هي

 

As you can see, the principle of shortening the long vowel to its short counterpart applies here just as it does for verbs with waaw as the middle radical. The only difference here is that the middle radical is a yaa’ which is shortened to a kasra. When such verbs are referred to in the text, their character will be indicated in the same way as for verbs with middle radical waaw, i.e. يَسير , سارَ

By now you should feel a little bit less concerned about conjugating hollow verbs. You can see that they conjugate pretty much as do sound verbs. Remember, the prefixes and suffixes for all of the conjugations for every verb you have seen are the same. The only difference is the principle of shortening the middle radical.

This is perhaps a good time to point out that Form I verbs, for all their fine qualities, are the most difficult of all verbs in Arabic with respect to conjugations and forming their verbal nouns. In other words, Arabic does not actually get harder than it is right now. Forms II-X have patterns which are entirely uniform within each form and are very easy to learn. If you can get Form I verbs down now as you go through this part of the text you will have no trouble with the rest of the verbs. A pleasant thought, is it not?

 

 

 

Schizophrenic Form I Hollow Verbs

We now come to the third class of hollow verbs for Form I. An example of this type of verb is خافَ , يَخافُ These verbs can have either a waaw or a yaa’ as a middle radical. In the past tense these verbs conjugate just like يسير , سار . In other words, the alif is replaced by a kasra for certain conjugations. We have noted this phenomenon when we dealt with the past tense of hollow verbs.

 

In the present tense for these verbs, the alif remains in the conjugations. In the conjugations for هن and أنتن , the alif is shortened to a fatha. Look at the conjugations for يخاف , خاف below.

Plural

Dual

Singular

نَخافُ

نَحْنَ

تَخافانِ

أنتُما

أَخافُ

أنا

تخافونَ

أنتُم

يَخافانِ

هما (m)

تَخافُ

أنتَ

تَخَفْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تَخافانِ

هما (f)

تَخافينَ

أنتِ

يَخافونَ

هم

يخافُ

هو

يَخَفْنَ

هنَّ

تَخافُ

هي

The verbs in this class are all conjugated exactly the same way, regardless of whether the middle radical is a waaw or a yaa’. In the past tense a kasra shows when the alif is shortened. In the present tense, the alif remains and is shortened to a fatha when shortening takes place. Whenever a verb of this type is referred to, it will be noted in the following manner: يَنامُ , نامَ.

 

Why do these schizophrenic hollow verbs exist? The only reason I can think of is to refute the assertion of Orientalists that Arabic is a logical, robot-like language. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, a noted Harvard Orientalist, used to love to say that if Albert Einstein had invented a language it would have been Arabic. In reality, if Einstein had invented a language, none of the words would have had a waaw or yaa’ as part of its root.

 

 

Hollow Verbs. Form I, The Jussive

Here is where hollow verbs really become fun. Before you look at the charts I have included below, let’s talk about how and why these verbs look the way the do in the jussive.

 

Let’s start with the conjugation for هو for the verb يَزورُ , زارَ The present tense is, obviously, يَزورُ. Now let’s put it into the jussive step by step. The first step is to replace the dhamma at the end of the verb with a sukuun, so we would get this يَزورْ Now remember what I said earlier about every long vowel having a sort of hidden sukuun attached. So what we really have here is يَزوْرْ. This gives us two sukuuns in a row – a no-no in Arabic. So, as before, the first sukuun and its long vowel are dropped. The long vowel is replaced by its short counterpart. Since the long vowel in this case is a waaw, the short counterpart is a dhamma. So we remove the waaw and replace it with a dhamma and we get يَزُرْ

 

This principle of shortening will apply to:

 

1. The five conjugations which in the present tense end in a dhamma. These conjugations are the singular conjugations, with the exception of أنتِ , plus the conjugation for نحن You should recall that I asked you to try to associate these five conjugations in your mind. This is one of the reasons.

2. The two feminine plural conjugations, because the suffixes for these begin with a consonant and thus give us two sukuuns in a row as well. For example, for هن the theoretical conjugation would be يَزوْرْنَ . Here we have two sukuuns in a row, so the waaw is replaced by a dhamma. The result is: يَزُرْنَ

For the rest of the conjugations, the final ن is dropped as it would be for any verb in the jussive.

Below is a chart for the jussive conjugations for يَزورُ , زارَ Study it with the comments above in mind, and once again see how these eternal verities apply.

Plural

Dual

Singular

نَزُرْ

نَحْنَ

تَزورا

أنتُما

أزُرْ

أنا

تَزوروا

أنتُم

يَزورا

هما (m)

تَزُرْ

أنتَ

تَزُرْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تَزورا

هما (f)

تَزوري

أنتِ

يَزوروا

هم

يَزُرْ

هو

يَزُرْنَ

هنَّ

تَزُرْ

هي

 

Look at the singular conjugations and look at the conjugation for نحن All of the singular conjugations except for أنتِ have shortened the waaw to a dhamma as is also the case for the conjugation for نحن The jussive suffix for these conjugations requires a sukuun which replaces the dhamma these conjugations had in the present tense. This gives you two sukuuns in a row. So the hidden sukuun over the waaw is dropped. When it goes the waaw goes. A dhamma is put in place of the waaw

For the two feminine plural conjugations, the jussive suffix begins with a consonant. This too means that you have two sukuuns in a row. So the waaw is dropped and a dhamma is put in its place.

 

All of the rest of the conjugations, when in the present tense, begin with a long vowel and end in a ن followed by a short vowel. For these, the jussive requires removing that ن and its vowel, as usual.

 

For verbs of the category of يَسيرُ , سارَ the principle of shortening is exactly the same. This time, though, the ي will be replaced by a kasra. Additionally, for verbs of the category يَنامُ , نامَ the alif is replaced by a fatha for the same reason and in the same conjugations.

 

Below are two practice charts. In the first, put in the fully voweled, jussive conjugations for سارَ,يَسيرُ and in the second put in the jussive conjugations for يَنامُ , نامَ Use the above chart and the comments as your guide. Then when you are finished, compare your charts to the charts on the next page.

 

Write in the jussive conjugations for the verb سارَ, يَسيرُ am in the chart below.

 

Plural

Dual

Singular

نَحْنَ

أنتُما

أنا

أنتُم

هما (m)

أنتَ

أنتُنَّ

هما (f)

أنتِ

هم

هو

هنَّ

هي

 

Write in the jussive conjugations for the verb يَنامُ , نامَ in the chart below.

Plural

Dual

Singular

نَحْنَ

أنتُما

أنا

أنتُم

هما (m)

أنتَ

أنتُنَّ

هما (f)

أنتِ

هم

هو

هنَّ

هي

 

 

 

Now compare what you have written in the two charts above with the charts Below.

Here are the jussive conjugations for the verb سارَ, يَسيرُ

Plural

Dual

Singular

نَسِرْ

نَحْنَ

تَسيرا

أنتُما

أَسِرْ

أنا

تَسيروا

أنتُم

يَسيرا

هما (m)

تَسِرْ

أنتَ

تَسِرْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تَسيرا

هما (f)

تَسيري

أنتِ

يَسيروا

هم

يَسِرْ

هو

يَسِرْنَ

هنَّ

تَسِرْ

هي

Here are the jussive conjugations for the verb يَنامُ , نامَ ,

 

Plural

Dual

Singular

نَنَمْ

نَحْنَ

تَناما

أنتُما

أَنَمْ

أنا

تَناموا

أنتُم

يَناما

هما (m)

تَنَمْ

أنتَ

تَنَمْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تَناما

هما (f)

تَنامي

أنتِ

يَناموا

هم

يَنَمْ

هو

يَنَمْنَ

هنَّ

تَنَمْ

هي

6 comments… add one
  • My understanding of hollow verbs of the schizophrenic variety is simply one of underlying structure. As we know, Form I active strong verbs can take the form fa3ala (dhahaba) or fa3ila (fakira). The schizophrenic verbs have an underlying form of fa3ila (fawila>fayila) which is why the kesra and the alif appear instead of the expected waw and dhamma.

    Reply
    • I should also add that the two verbs نام and خاف that you choose also, like فكر, confirm this view as فَعِلٓ active verbs often relate to states of mind or awareness.

      Great website btw. The best.

      Reply
  • “In most cases you can tell the middle radical from the voweling of the past-tense conjugations. That is, most verbs with a waaw as a middle radical conjugate exactly like زارَ in the past tense. Verbs whose middle radical is a yaa’ conjugate just like سارَ in the past tense.”

    I don’t quite understand by what it meant by this? Do you mean knowing the present-tense would allow you to figure out what the middle radical is ?

    Reply
    • Yes! The verb زار in the present tense is يزور – if you know the present tense, you know that waaw is the middle radical. This applies to most hollow verbs – they have yaa or waaw as a middle radical, but this changes to alif in the past tense, so if you only know the past tense, you will not know which the middle root radical is.

      Reply
  • Very innovative

    Reply
  • Super useful! But I think there’s a small mistake. In the section ‘Middle Radical Waaw’ it says “For the present tense, this shortening only takes place for the pronouns هي and أنتن.” I’m pretty sure (and the chart right below that statement support me) that it should say that the shortening takes place for هنَّ and أنتن.”
    Am I right? Or am I just really confused?

    Reply

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