Hello and Welcome to our continuing journey into Arabic grammar.
Have you ever had one of those days when you really didn’t feel like being active? Well, you’re in luck today as we slow things down a bit and become a little less active and a little more passive.
That’s right, if you didn’t guess it already, today we’re going to learn about the passive verb tense.
Just as it is in English, the passive voice in Arabic is when who or what is receiving the action is the subject of the sentence.
Note the difference in the two sentences below:
Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa (Active)
رَسَمَ لِيوناردو دا فينشي لَوْحَةَ المُوناليزا
/rasama liyonaardoo daavinshee lawHata ilmunaleezaa/
The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci (Passive)
رُسِمَت لَوْحَةُ الموناليزا مِنْ قِبَلِ ليوناردو دا فينشي
/rusimat lawHatu ilmunaaleezaa min qibali liyonaardoo daavinshee/
Both sentences describe the same incident, but in the active sentence, “Leonardo da Vinci” is the subject and the verb is active. In the second sentence, “The Mona Lisa” is the subject and the verb is passive.
The difference in the verbs is the most important point.
Passive verbs can be past, present or future.
The passive works kind of the same way in Arabic; however, there are two important differences:
In Arabic, the one doing the action cannot be mentioned. English has a strange form of the passive in which the one doing the action is mentioned:
The picture was taken by Bilal.
أُلتُقِطَتِ الصّورَةُ مِنْ قِبَلِ بِلال
/ʼultuqiTati iSSooratu min qibali bilaal/
However, this type of sentence is highly discouraged in English writing and is not allowed at all in Arabic.
In Arabic, the passive is formed by changing the vowels with the verb. English uses a compound of the verb “to be” and the past tense of the main verb (for example. “was taken”). This means in most un-voweled texts, you cannot tell by looking at the verb whether it is active or passive. The most important difference is that the passive places the short vowel ُ above the first letter. For example:
وُلِدْتُ في مِصر
/wulidtu fee miSr/
I was born in Egypt
Nevertheless, as you can see, the rest of the conjugation is the same.
As we mentioned before, passive conjugations are modified from active conjugations by changing internal vowels.
Note from the conjugations in the table that the vowel above the first consonant is always a ضَمَّة/dhammah/ and that the stem vowel is always a كَسرَة/kasrah/. 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. As a result, it is the context that will tell you whether they are active or passive.
Below are the passive voice conjugations for the verb يَفْحَصُ/yafHaSu/, /faHaSa/ فَحَصَ “to examine” in the past tense.
Finally, we will see how the passive is used and what it means using “I watched the film” as a model sentence.
Congratulations! Now you know how to conjugate passive verbs and use them to create passive sentence in Arabic.
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