D: Doubly Transitive Verbs

The material below is based largely on material dealing with the same subject in Chapters 34 and 44 of EMSA, Vol. II. Look there for more examples.

Some verbs in Arabic will have two accusative objects. The verb “to give” أعطى is perhaps the most commonly used example. In English we understand that one of the objects is the direct object and the other the indirect object. In the sentence “I gave the student the dead fish,” “the fish” is the direct object and “the student” is the indirect object. Now look at the ways this can be said in Arabic and see the comments which follow.

  1. I gave the student the dead fish.
١. أعْطيتُ الطالبَ السمكةَ المَيِّتةَ.
  2. I gave the dead fish to the student.
٢. أعطيتُ السمكةَ الميتةَ للطالبِ.
  3. I gave it to the student.
٣. أعطيتها للطالبِ.
  4. I gave it to him.
٤. أعطيتُها لَهُ.
  5. I gave him the dead fish.
٥. أعطيتُهُ السمكةَ الميتةَ.
  6. I gave him it.
٦. أعطيتُهُ إيّاها.


In Arabic we would say أعطيتُ الطالبَ السمكةَ المَيِّتة , which is what we said in sentence one. In such a construction the first object (the indirect object) can also be placed after the second object (the direct object). The preposition لِ is then added to the indirect object. Thus أعطيتُ السمكةَ الميتةَ للطالبِ “I gave the dead fish to the student” which is what we have in sentence two.

We can now also replace both (السمكة (الميتة and الطالب with object pronouns. This is what we have done in sentences three and four.

These transformations often occur with verbs of giving such as أعطى , وهب and منح .

Now going back to our original sentence أعطيتُ الطالبَ السمكةَ الميتة , we can make other changes. First, we can replace the indirect object, الطالب, with an object pronoun and get أعطيتهُ السمكة الميتة,”I gave him the dead fish.” This is what we have in sentence five. Now we can take this sentence and replace the direct object with an object pronoun too. However, when we do this, we must precede that pronoun with the particle إيّا .Thus, we get what we wrote in sentence six – أعطيتُهُ إيَاها . This use of إيّا is rare today in journalistic Arabic, but is commonly used in some of the dialects.

Other verbs such as فهّم (“to make someone understand”), فسّر (“to explain”), and درّس (“to teach”) can behave like verbs of giving.

Verbs of considering are another category of doubly transitive verbs. Included among such verbs are عَدَّ (“to count,” “to consider”), إعتبر (“to consider”) and وجد (“to find” something to be something). For example وجد سامي العربية جميلة, “Sami found Arabic (to be) a beautiful language.” This category of verbs does not allow the transformations using لِ and إيّا which we saw above.

The third group of doubly transitive verbs consists of verbs of transformation such as عيّن (“to appoint”), إنتخب (“to elect”), and جعل (“to make”). You have most likely seen sentences such as عيّنْتُ هذا الرجلَ وزيراً “I appointed this man as a minister.” Here, the subject transforms the first object into the second object.

  1. I gave the student the book.
١. أعطيتُ الطالبَ الكتابَ
  The student was given the book.
أُعْطِيَ الطالبُ الكتابَ
  2. They gave the book to the student.
٢. أعطيتُ الكتابَ للطالبِ
  The book was given to the student.
أُعْطِيَ الكتابُ للطالبِ
  3. We considered him a great man.
٣. إعتبرناهُ رجلا عظيما
  He was considered a great man.
أُعتُبِرَ رجلا عظيما
  4. The American people elected the Democratic candidate president.
٤. أنتخب الشعب الامريكي المرشحَ الديموقراطيَ رئيسا
  The Democratic candidate was elected president.
أُنتخبَ المرشحُ الديمقراطيُ رئيسا


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