The Passive Voice

The passive voice is widely used in Arabic without the negative associations regarding style that the passive voice has in English. American students are often uncomfortable with the passive voice when reading Arabic texts because the unvoweled passive conjugations often look exactly like active voice conjugations. Since many students often are horrified at the thought of reading for meaning and recognizing words in context, and since they are usually very weak in grammar, sentences in the passive often are totally misunderstood.

Below are the passive voice conjugations for the verb يَفْحَصُ , فَحَصَ (“to examine”) in the past tense.

Plural Dual Singular

فُحِصْنا

نَحْنَ

فُحِصْتتُما

أنتُما

فُحِصْتُ

أنا

فُحِصْتُمْ

أنتُم

فُحِصا

هما (m)

فُحِصْتَ

أنتَ

فُحِصْتُنَّ

أنتُنَّ

فُحِصَتا

هما (f)

فُحِصْتِ

أنتِ

فُحِصوا

هم

فُحِصَ

هو

فُحِصْنَ

هنَّ

فُحِصَتْ

هي

.

Passive Conjugations

Passive conjugations are differentiated from active conjugations by internal vowel changes. You can see from the conjugations above that the vowel on the first consonant is always a dhamma and that the stem vowel is always a kasra. These are the only differences. The suffixes are exactly the same as for the active voice. If you write out these passive conjugations without the short vowels, they will look just like active conjugations. Therefore context is what will tell you what is going on.

Now we will see how the passive is used and what it means. Let’s use “I studied the book” as a model sentence. This sentence is in the active voice. It is also a very boring sentence. Anyway, if we wish to convert this sentence to the passive voice in English we would say, “This book was studied by me.” (This is a gross barbarism in English, but such sentences do occur.) Now let’s look at the Arabic versions of these sentences.

   1. I studied the book.

١. دَرَسْتُ الكتابَ

   2. The book was studied.

٢.  دُرِسَ الكتابُ

 

Look at the second Arabic sentence. The direct object of the first sentence is now the subject of the second sentence (just like English). Thus the verb is conjugated for the third person masculine singular in order to agree with the subject. The verb, of course, is conjugated in the passive voice. Notice that the Arabic sentence does not have the equivalent of “by me” included. This is because in Arabic the doer of the action is supposed to go unmentioned. In fact, the Arabic word for the passive is المَجْهول “the unknown,” in reference to the fact that the passive is used so the doer of the action will remain unknown. Here is another example.

   1. The student (f) studied this book.

  ١. دَرَسَت الطالبةُ هذا الكتاب.

   2. This book was studied

  ٢.  دُرِسَ هذا الكتابُ.

 

See that the subject in the first sentence is removed and that the object of the first sentence becomes the subject in the next sentence. This is really not different from English. The only real difference is that in English we can mention who did the action in the passive, whereas in Arabic we cannot.

Question: How would you say in Arabic: “These books were studied”? Think of the answer and then look below.

 دُرِسَتْ هذه الكتبُ

 

I hope you got this right. The subject of the sentence is a non-human plural, so the verb must be feminine singular and the demonstrative must also be feminine singular.

So far, you have only seen a sound From I verb conjugated in the past tense in the passive voice. Now I will show you the conjugations for a Sound Form II verb and a sound Form III verb for the passive and in the past tense. Then I will give you the present tense conjugations for sound verbs Forms I-III. Then we will examine the hollows, defectives, etc. It seems like a lot at first, but you will see that the passive conjugations are actually simpler than the active ones.

Below are the passive past tense conjugations for the Form II verb دَرَّسَ Note that the voweling pattern is exactly the same as for Form I.

Plural Dual Singular

دُرِّسْنا

نَحْنَ

دُرِّسْتُما

أنتُما

دُرِّسْتُ

أنا

دُرِّسْتُمْ

أنتُم

دُرِّسا

هما (m)

دُرِّسْتَ

أنتَ

دُرِّسْتُنَّ

أنتُنَّ

دُرِّسَتا

هما (f)

دُرِّسْتِ

أنتِ

دُرِّسوا

هم

دُرِّسَ

هو

دُرِّسْنَ

هنَّ

دُرِّسَتْ

هي


 

Since the voweling pattern is the same for Forms I and II, these two forms will look alike when unvoweled in the passive. In fact, these verbs in the passive will look just the same as when written in the active. Thus, درس could represent دُرِسَ , دَرَّسَ , دَرَسَ or دُرِّسَ In fact, درس could also represent other things as well, such as دَرْس “lesson” or the command دَرِّسْ “teach.” Thus, you must be aware of the context.

Now let’s look at a Form III verb in the passive for the past tense.

Plural Dual Singular

شُوهِدْنا

نَحْنَ

شُوهِدْتُما

أنتُما

شُوهِدْتُ

أنا

شُوهِدْتُمْ

أنتُم

شُوهِدا

هما (m)

شُوهِدْتَ

أنتَ

شُوهِدْتُنَّ

أنتُنَّ

شُوهِدَتا

هما (f)

شُوهِدْتِ

أنتِ

شُوهِدوا

هم

شُوهِدَ

هو

شُوهِدْنَ

هنَّ

شُوهِدَتْ

هي

 

In Form III the alif is converted to a waaw which is the long counterpart of the dhamma, as you know. The stem vowel, as always, is a kasra. Since the waaw does stand out, you should have no trouble identifying a Form III verb in the passive voice when it is in the past tense.

Now we come to the present tense for the passive voice. First we will take the Form I verb, فَحَصَ يَفْحَصُ

Plural Dual Singular

نُفْحَصُ

نَحْنَ

تُفْحَصانِ

أنتُما

أُفْحَصُ

أنا

تُفْحَصونَ

أنتُم

يُفْحَصانِ

هما (m)

تُفْحَصُ

أنتَ

تُفْحَصْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تُفْحَصانِ

هما (f)

تُفْحَصينَ

أنتِ

يُفْحَصونَ

هم

يُفْحَصُ

هو

يُفْحَصْنَ

هنَّ

تُفْحَصُ

هي

 

For the present tense, the vowel on the prefix is always a dhamma (for all ten forms). The stem vowel is always a fatha (also for all ten forms). The suffixes are the same as for the active voice. Note that it is the internal voweling which indicates the voice. Thus, unvoweled, the active and passive present look exactly the same.

Form II verbs will be done exactly as Form I, as will Form III verbs. Here are the passive conjugations for Forms II and III in the present tense.

Plural Dual Singular

نُدَرَّسُ

نَحْنَ

تُدَرَّسانِ

أنتُما

أُدَرَّسُ

أنا

تُدَرَّسونَ

أنتُم

يُدَرَّسانِ

هما (m)

تُدَرَّسُ

أنتَ

تُدَرَّسْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تُدَرَّسانِ

هما (f)

تُدَرَّسينَ

أنتِ

يُدَرَّسونَ

هم

يُدَرَّسُ

هو

يُدَرَّسْنَ

هنَّ

تُدَرَّسُ

هي

 

 

Plural Dual Singular

نُشاهَدُ

نَحْنَ

تُشاهَدانِ

أنتُما

أُشاهَدُ

أنا

تُشاهَدونَ

أنتُم

يُشاهَدانِ

هما (m)

تُشاهَدُ

أنتَ

تُشاهَدْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تُشاهَدانِ

هما (f)

تُشاهَدينَ

أنتِ

يُشاهَدونَ

هم

يُشاهَدُ

هو

يُشاهَدْنَ

هنَّ

تُشاهَدُ

هي

 

You can see that the Form II pattern is just like the Form I pattern in that you begin with a dhamma and the stem vowel is a fatha. Note that the vowel over the first radical is also a fatha. This is because, in the present tense passive, all vowels after the dhamma on the prefix are always fatha until you get to the suffix. You will see more examples of this when we deal with other forms of the verb. Just remember that in the passive voice for the present tense, the prefix will always be a dhamma and all vowels after that (including the stem vowel) will always be a fatha until you get to the suffix at the end.

Since Form II verbs have a dhamma on the prefix in both the active and passive voices, and since they all have a fatha on the first radical of the verb in both voices, it is only the stem vowel that tells you which voice is being used. Obviously, in writing, the active and passive will look alike when unvoweled. When listening you will have to focus on the stem vowel.

In Form III we have the same situation as in Form II. It is only the stem vowel which gives you the voice since the dhamma is used in the prefixes in both voices. Again, when written, the active and passive present tense will look the same when unvoweled.

Now I will discuss the various subcategories of verbs: hollow, defective, assimilated and doubled. I will treat each subcategory separately, but I will treat each one for all three forms of the verb which we have had so far. This is a slight deviation from the pattern in previous chapters.

Hollow Verbs

In the past tense, hollow verbs in Form I have only one pattern for conjugation in the passive voice. If you recall (you had better recall), that for the active voice we have three different categories of hollow verbs, you will see that the passive is much easier. No matter what the middle radical is, there is only one conjugation pattern. Here it is for the past tense using the verb يَزورُ , زارَ

Plural Dual Singular

زِرْنا

نَحْنَ

زِرْتُما

أنتُما

زِرْتُ

أنا

زِرْتُمْ

أنتُم

زيرا

هما (m)

زِرْتَ

أنتَ

زِرْتُنَّ

أنتُنَّ

زيرَتا

هما (f)

زِرْتِ

أنتِ

زيروا

هم

زيرَ

هو

زِرْنَ

هنَّ

زيرَتْ

هي

 

Because the stem vowel for the passive in the past tense is always a kasra, the middle radical of a Form I hollow verb must either appear as a kasra or a ي , the long counterpart of the kasra. The rules for when shorten the ي to a kasra are the same as the rules for shortening the middle radical in the active  voice past tense. Exactly the same. Note that زيرَ is clearly in the passive voice, since the ي will not  appear in the active past tense for a Form I hollow verb. However, زِرْتُ, when unvoweled, will look just like the active.

NOTE THAT ALL FORM I HOLLOW VERBS WILL CONJUGATE JUST LIKE THE VERB ABOVE IN THE PASSIVE FOR THE PAST TENSE.

Moving right along to the present tense, the passive conjugation of يَزورُ is يُزارُ . Thus, just as for a sound verb, the prefix vowel is a dhamma. The stem vowel will be either an alif, or its short counterpart, the fatha, which is the passive stem vowel for all sound verbs. Here is the complete conjugation.

Plural Dual Singular

نُزارُ

نَحْنَ

تُزارانِ

أنتُما

أُزارُ

أنا

تُزارونَ

أنتُم

يُزارانِ

هما (m)

تُزارُ

أنتَ

تُزرْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تُزارانِ

هما (f)

تُزارينَ

أنتِ

يُزارونَ

هم

يُزارُ

هو

يُزَرْنَ

هنَّ

تُزارُ

هي

 

Note that the principle of shortening applies here just as it does in the active voice. Note also that: ALL FORM I HOLLOW VERBS FOR THE PRESENT TENSE IN THE PASSIVE VOICE WILL CONJUGATE EXACTLY THE SAME WAY AS THE VERB IN THE CHART ABOVE.

Form II hollow verbs are completely regular in both tenses and will conjugate just as دَرَّسَ does. For example,زَوَّرَ is  زُوِّرَ in the past tense passive and  يُزَوَّرُ in the present tense passive.

Form III hollow verbs are also completely regular in the passive, as they are in the active. قَاوَمَ becomes  قووِمَ in the past and يُقاوَمُ in the present. Personally, I like the two waaws you get in قووِمَ . I have always felt it is too bad that there is not a verb واوَوَ. In the passive for the past tense it would look like this وووو and would sound even more ridiculous than a network newscaster trying to pronoun such difficult Arabic names as بَشار .

Assimilated Verbs

Assimilated verbs in Form I are perfectly regular in the past tense passive. Thus وَصَفَ becomes وُصِفَ

Furthermore, in the present tense these Form I verbs are also regular, unlike their condition in the present active voice. Remember that in the present active voice, these verbs lose the و. Thus وَصَفَ becomes يَصِفُ. But in the passive the و remains, giving يُوصَفُ So if you see the و and you know that the verb is From I, you know that you have the passive. On the next page you will find the present tense passive conjugations for يَصِفُ , وَصَفَ

Plural Dual Singular

نوصَفُ

نَحْنَ

توصَفانِ

أنتُما

أُوصَفُ

أنا

توصَفونَ

أنتُم

يوصَفانِ

هما (m)

توصَفُ

أنتَ

تُوصَفْنَ

أنتُنَّ

توصَفانِ

هما (f)

توصَفينَ

أنتِ

يوصَفونَ

هم

يوصَفُ

هو

يوصَفْنَ

هنَّ

توصَفُ

هي

 

Assimilated verbs in Forms II and III are completely regular in both tenses in the passive just as they are in the active. The Form II  وَقَّعَ is وُقِّعَ  in the past passive and  يُوَقَّعُ in the present passive. Similarly, the Form III واصَلَ is ووصِلَ (there are those two waaws again) in the past passive and  يُواصَلُ in the present passive.

 Doubled Verbs

Form I doubled verbs work the same way in the passive as they do in the active voice when it comes to breaking up the doubled consonant of the root. As I am totally certain you recall, عَدَّ for example, when conjugated in the past tense, will have the two د’s separated whenever the suffix begins with a consonant. Thus “I counted” is عَدَدْتُ . In the passive “I was counted” you would have   عُدِدْتُ I hope this is transparent. Now, whenever the doubled consonant is not broken up, there is no kasra. Thus “he was counted” is عُدَّ Here the dhamma of the passive appears but there is no place to put the kasra.  Here is the complete passive past tense for عَدَّ.

Plural Dual Singular

عُدِدْنا

نَحْنَ

عُدِدْتُما

أنتُما

عُدِدْتُ

أنا

عُدِدْتُمْ

أنتُم

عُدَّا

هما (m)

عُدِدْتَ

أنتَ

عُدِدْتُنَّ

أنتُنَّ

عُدَّتا

هما (f)

عُدِدْتِ

أنتِ

عُدّوا

هم

عُدَّ

هو

عُدِدْنَ

هنَّ

عُدَّتْ

هي

 

In the present tense there is no problem at all. The passive of يَعُدُّ is يُعَدُّ. Here you see the dhamma on the prefix of the passive, as always. The stem vowel of the present tense active has been replaced by the fatha of the passive. Now, if the doubled consonant needs to be broken up, for the pronoun هن for example, you will see this: يُعْدَدْنَ. Here, the stem vowel in the passive is moved over to its position between the second and third radicals just as the stem vowel of the active would be.

Now without looking at the completed chart below, fill in the blank chart immediately underneath this paragraph with the passive present tense conjugations for يَعُدُّ , عَدَّ. Then check your work against the chart underneath it.

Plural Dual Singular

نَحْنَ

أنتُما

أنا

أنتُم

هما (m)

أنتَ

أنتُنَّ

هما (f)

أنتِ

هم

هو

هنَّ

هي

 

Here is the completed chart.

Plural Dual Singular

نُعَدُّ

نَحْنَ

تُعَدّانِ

أنتُما

أُعَدُّ

أنا

تُعَدّونَ

أنتُم

يُعَدّانِ

هما (m)

تُعَدُّ

أنتَ

تُعَدَدْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تُعَدّانِ

هما (f)

تُعَدّينَ

أنتِ

يُعَدّونَ

هم

يُعَدُّ

هو

يُعَدَدْنَ

هنَّ

تُعَدُّ

هي

 

I hope you got most of the above conjugations right.

Form II doubled verbs are totally regular. Thus the passive of  حَدَّدَ is حُدِّدَ in the past tense and  يُحَدَّدُ in the present tense.

Form III doubled verbs are extremely rare and are not taught in this book.

Defective Verbs

Form I defective verbs, like hollow verbs, only have one set of conjugations for each of the two tenses. Do you remember the four kinds of defective verbs in Form I? If not, you should review them. In any event, all of the Form I defectives will conjugate in the same as يَدْعو , دعا, is conjugated below. Here is that verb for both tenses in the passive voice.

Past Tense

Plural Dual Singular

دُعينا

نَحْنَ

دُعيتُما

أنتُما

دُعيتُ

أنا

دُعيتُمْ

أنتُم

دُعيا

هما (m)

دُعيتَ

أنتَ

دُعيتُنَّ

أنتُنَّ

دُعيتا

هما (f)

دُعيتِ

أنتِ

دُعوا

هم

دُعيَ

هو

دُعينَ

هنَّ

دُعيتْ

هي

 

 The first thing to notice is that the final radical appears as a ي. This is due to the influence of the stem vowel of kasra used in the passive voice in the past tense. This ي will appear in the passive in the past tense for all defective verbs. Notice also that the final ي remains for the conjugation for هي. (This is because the pattern of kasra-yaa’-fatha is permissible.) We have seen this pattern in the active voice of the third category of Form I defectives. For example نَسِيَ is نَسيَتْ  for هي in the active. In the passive it would be نُسيَتْ. In any event, just remember that all Form I defectives have their passive past tense conjugations exactly like the verb in the chart above. So do all defectives in Forms II-X.

Present Tense

Plural Dual Singular

نُدْعى

نَحْنَ

تُدْعيانِ

أنتُما

أُدْعى

أنا

تُدْعَوْنَ

أنتُم

يُدْعيانِ

هما (m)

تُدْعى

أنتَ

تُدْعَيْنَ

أنتُنَّ

تُدْعيانِ

هما (f)

تُدْعَيْنَ

أنتِ

يُدْعوْنَ

هم

يُدْعى

هو

يُدْعَيْنَ

هنَّ

تُدْعى

هي

 

The stem vowel of fatha turns the final radical into an alif maqsuura. This will be the case for the passive voice in the present tense for all defective verbs. When the suffix انِ is added for the dual, the alif maqsuura becomes a ي and acts as a consonant. When the suffix نَ is added for the pronouns هن and انتن , the alif maqsuura becomes a ي with a fatha before it (the fatha is the stem vowel) and a sukuun after it. (We have seen this before. For example على + كم = عَليْكُم .) For انتِ the ينَ ending blends with the alif maqsuura resulting in the same conjugation as for انتن. For هم the و of the suffix replaces the alif maqsuura but the stem vowel of fatha remains, giving you  يُدْعَوْنَ  The same thing happens with أنتم

Just remember that all Form I defectives will conjugate exactly the same way as the verb we have just treated here. So will all defectives in Forms II-X.

Therefore, defectives in Forms II and III will also conjugate exactly as the verb discussed above. For example, the verb سَمّى is  سُمِّيَ in the past passive and يُسَمّى in the present passive. The Form III verb نادى is نودِيَ in the past passive and يُنادى in the present passive.

Some Notes on the Passive

I have stressed repeatedly that the passive conjugations often look like active conjugations. Now you see what I mean. You must always be aware of the context. Drills 33 and 34 will give you some practice at producing the passive. Authentic Arabic Exercise number 8 will give you some practice at recognizing the passive. Before you do those drills, read the following.

I have given you examples of the passive voice for Forms I-III using the past tense (the perfect) and the present tense (the imperfect indicative). Be aware that the passive exists in the other two moods of the imperfect, the jussive and the subjunctive. Keep in mind that the principles of shortening long vowels for hollow and defective verbs are the same in the passive as they are for the active. For example, to negate زيرَ (“he was visited”) using لم + the jussive, you will write  لم يُزَرْ (“he was not visited”). You may wish to refer to the verb charts, but it should be clear to you that the passive exists in both tenses and all moods. Thus it is all the more important that you read for context.

As stated above, Drills 33 and 34 will help you in producing the passive. But make sure that you can generate the passive conjugations for any Form I, II, or III verb as well as you can generate the active voice conjugations.

Authentic Arabic Exercise number 8 will give you an article and ask you to translate it. In the key I will have some comments on a couple of things in the passage that experience tells me will be problematic for the American student. Do not look at those comments or the translation in the key until after you have given the translation your best effort. When you read and translate the passage, you will need to have all of the material covered so far in this book available in your brain, sort of the way a computer program sits in RAM. Your previous experiences with the language may come in handy as well, since things will appear in the text which have not yet been covered.

Whenever you read an Arabic text, either for comprehension or in order to produce a good translation, always read the entire piece first, using a dictionary as little as possible. If the text is very long, read parts of it, say half a page, without a dictionary and see how much you understand. Then use a dictionary to look up a few key words if you need to. Then go on and read some more. When you have f i nished, read the entire text again using the same method. If you need to render a precise translation, look up the words you do not know after the second reading and then do your translation. There will be more on this later in the text. But try this method with Authentic Arabic Exercise number 8 even though the reading selection is not long.

That is it for the passive for now. In Chapter Four I will cover two other brief items pertaining to the passive. One is easy. The second is often a problem for some students. However, if you understand the material in this chapter, then this second item will be easy for you.

2 comments… add one
  • thank you for your help

    Reply
  • great help…thanks!

    How do we say “You are taught or loved or understood “” in arabic?

    Reply

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