Quadriliteral Verbs

Quadriliteral verbs have roots made of four consonants instead of the usual three. They exist in four forms, only two of which occur with any frequency. Once you master these verbs, you will be finished with your review and mastery of the Arabic verb system. The quads (as the quadriliterals are called) are very easy and we will not need to worry about things like hollow and defective verbs when we deal with them.


Some quadriliterals are clearly words which have been adapted from other languages. For example, the verb تَلْفَنَ means “to telephone” someone. I wonder what word it was borrowed from? Others have been in the language for a long time and their origins are uncertain, while still others which have been in the lexicon for centuries are clearly of foreign origin like تَرْجَمَ and فَلْسَفَ .


Often quads are onomatopoeic in nature. هَمْهَمَ means “to mumble” and وَسْوَسَ means “to whisper.” Many of these words, as you can see, are formed by repeating two consonants twice in a row in a way which yields the onomatopoeic effect.


تَلْفَنَ is a Form I quad. The تَ in this verb is part of the root. The second radical in Form I quads always has a sukuun. In the past tense, these verbs conjugate like any other verb. Thus “I telephoned” is تَلْفَنْتُ In the present tense, these verbs have a pattern similar to Form II triliteral verbs. “He whispers” is يُوَسْوِسُ . The prefix vowel is always a dhamma, the sukuun remains over the second radical (unlike Form II triliteral verbs) and the stem vowel is a kasra. The complete conjugations are in the charts.

The passive is also regular. You should be able to generate it in both tenses on your own., Try to do so now for هو for the verb تَرْجَمَ “to translate.” You should have come up with تَرْجِمَ and يُتَرْجِمُ .


Now derive the command conjugations using the rules you have seen for all other verbs. Then compare your answers to the charts. (For أنتَ the command of تَلْفَنَ is تَلْفِنْ .) If you are wrong, review the section on commands in Chapter Two of Part II.

The active participle is مُتَلْفِن and the passive participle is مُتَلْفَن

The verbal noun is تَلْفِنَة.


Form II quads tend to be the intransitive counterparts of the Form I version, but not always. They are usually said to be related to Form I quads the way Form V triliteral verbs are related to Form II. تَزَخْرَفَ is atypical Form II quad meaning “to be decorated.” The تَ, here is the Form II quad prefix. The Form I quad of this verb is زَخْرَفَ , meaning “to decorate” something.

In the past tense,these verbs conjugate like all other verbs. In the present tense, they conjugate just like Form V triliterals. For example يَتَزَخْرَفُ “it is decorated,” maintains a stem vowel of fatha just like a regular Form V. Likewise, the prefix vowel is a fatha.

The active participle is مُتَزَخْرِف . The passive participle would be مُتَزَخْرَف, but this particular verb does not have one.


Sometimes Form II quads are used to mean the imitation of the quality indicated by the root. For example تَبَغْدَدَ means “to act like a Baghdadi.” We see this even in Form V triliterals in words such as تَمَصَّرَ “to act like an Egyptian.”

Occasionally, Form II quads are formed from place nouns. For example تَمَرْكَزَ means “to be located or centered” somewhere, from the place noun مَرْكَز meaning “center.”


Form III quads are quite rare, so we will skip them.


For IV quads are also quite rare but one of them, إطْمَأَنَّ occurs frequently. The verb means “to be calm, tranquil, or secure.” The root is طَمْأَنَ, which is the Form I version of this quad, which means “to calm” someone.


The Form IV quad إطْمَأَنَّ has, as you can see, a doubled final radical. The final radical is separated into two, just as is done for doubled verbs. Thus, “I calmed down” is إِطْمَأنَنْتُ In the imperfect indicative, the verb is يَطْمَئِنُّ The stem vowel is a kasra (and the seat of the hamza is now a yaa’), and the prefix vowel is a fatha.


The active participle is مُطْمَئِنّ The passive participle does not exist. The verbal noun is إِطْمِئْنان. You will see this verb often, so you should be aware of it. You will rarely, if ever, see other Form IV quads.


That, lady or gentleman, is it for the verb system of this language. Read section C and do the drills which follow.



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