The conditional sentence / الجُمْلة الشَرْطِيّة

The Arabic conditional sentence / الجُمْلة الشَرْطِيّة

The concept of the double sentence

When it comes to Arabic conditional sentences, both Arabic and English have a twofold structure known as the double sentence. The condition (الشَرْط) is followed by its response (جَواب الشَرْط), which correspond respectively to protasis and apodosis in English terminology.

Introducing conditional sentences is mainly done by using particles إِذاإِنْ, and لَوْ which all mean ‘if’. Depending on the particle used for a condition in Arabic grammar, it can express an array of nuances such as various eventualities, unrealistic possibilities, or even feasible hypotheses.

The two parts of a double sentence are usually expressed in the perfect tense. However, other common cases are as follows:

  • When the condition carries a sense of potentiality, the answer can be expressed in the imperfect indicative tense (المُضارِع المَرْفوع)
  • To express subtle nuances in Arabic, the temporal exponent كان is often coupled with particle قد.

Note: When trying to confirm past tense, the verb كانَ can follow each all of the three conditional particles.

Expression of eventuality with إِذا 

The particle إِذا ‘if’ is used to express a concrete eventuality. It is followed by the perfect tense (الماضي) in the 1st part/the condition (الشَرْط) and the perfect tense (الماضي) or imperfect indicative tense (المُضارِع المَرْفوع) or future (المُسْتَقْبَل) in the 2nd part/reply to the condition (جَواب الشَرْط). It works as follows:

جَواب الشَرْط
2nd part (reply to condition)
الشَرْط
1st part (condition)
حَرْف الشَرْط
Conditional particle
الماضي
perfect tense
الماضي
perfect tense
إذا
if
المُضارِع المَرْفوع
imperfect indicative tense
المُسْتَقْبَل
future tense
  • إذا + perfect (الماضي) + perfect (الماضي)
إذا جِئْتَ إِلى بَيْتِي أَكَلْتَ طَبَقًا طَيِّبًا
If you come to my house, you will eat a good dish.
  • إذا + perfect (الماضي) + imperfect indicative (المُضارِع المَرْفوع)
إذا جِئْتَ إِلى بَيْتِي تأكُلُ طَبَقًا طَيِّبًا
If you come to my house, you will eat a good dish.
  • إذا + perfect (الماضي) + imperfect indicative (المُضارِع المَرْفوع)
إذا نَجَحْتَ فِي الاِمْتِحانِ سَأَحْتَفِلُ مَعَ أَصْدِقائِيِ
If I pass the exam, I will celebrate with my friends.

The answer/2nd part can be introduced by فـ ‘then’ under the following conditions:

إذا اِشْتَرَكْتَ فِي الحَرْبِ فَدُعائِي مَعَكَ
If you take part in the war, my prayers are with you.
إذا ذَهَبْتَ إِلى السُوقِ فَاشْتَرِ تُفاحًا
If you go to the market, then buy apples
إِذا جَاءَ الْمَطَرُ فقَدْ تَنْبُتُ الزَّهْرَةُ
If the rain comes, the flowers may bloom
إذا أَكْمَلْتُ الدِّرَاسَةَ فسَأَذْهَبُ إلى المَكْتَبِ
If I finish the study, I will go to the office
إِذَا ذَهَبْتَ إلَى مَصْرَ فهَلْ سَتَزُور الأَهْرامات؟
If you go to Egypt, will you visit the pyramids?
If you follow my advice, you won’t fail.إذا تَبَعْتَ نَصِيحَتِي فلَنْ تَفْشَلَ
If you get lost, don’t call meإذا ضَلَلْتَ فَلا تَتَّصِلْ إِليّ
إذا خاطَرْتَ بِحياتِكَ فَلَيْسَ مَسْؤُولِيّتِي
If you risk your life, it’s not my responsibility

Note: The imperfect jussive tense (المُضارِع المَجْزوم) and the imperative (الأَمْر) cannot be used after إذا

Note 2: أَيْنَما or حَيْثُما and كَيْفَما work the same way as إِذا

Expression of the possible hypothesis with إِنْ

The particle إِنْ is a synonym of إِذا with the difference that it’s used to mark the potentiality or probability of a hypothesis. It must be followed by either the perfect tense (الماضي) or imperfect jussive tense (المضارِع المَجْزوم). Both the 1st and 2nd parts are in the perfect tense (الماضي) or imperfect jussive tense (المضارِع المَجْزوم). It works as follows:

جَواب الشَرْط
2nd part (reply to condition)
الشَرْط
1st part (condition)
حَرْف الشَرْط
Conditional particle
الماضي
perfect tense

الماضي
perfect tense
إنْ
if
المُسْتَقْبَل
future tense
المُضارِع المَجْزوم
imperfect jussive tense
المُضارِع المَجْزوم
imperfect jussive tense
  •  إن + perfect (الماضي) + perfect (الماضي)
إِنْ دَرَسْتَ نَجَحْتَ
If you study, you succeed
  •  إن + perfect (الماضي) + imperfect jussive (المُضارِع المَجْزوم)
إِنْ تَدْرُسْ تَنْجَحْ
If you study, you succeed
  •  إن + imperfect jussive (المُضارِع المَجْزوم) + imperfect jussive (المُضارِع المَجْزوم)
إِنْ تَعْمَلْ تَنْجَحْ
If you study, you succeed

In similar conditions as those in which إِذا is employed, the answer/2nd part (جَواب الشَرْط) with إنْ should then start with فَـ.

Note: the relatives مَنْ, ما and مَهْما (=whatever) work in the same way as إِنْ

The expression of the dubious or unreal hypothesis with لَوْ

The particle  لَوْ أَنّ) لَوْ before a nominal sentence) introduces a doubtful (= very unlikely) or unreal (which has not occurred) hypothesis. The perfect tense (الماضي) is employed in both parts of the sentence, referring either to the past or future. The response to the condition (جَواب الشَرْط) will always be preceded by particle لَـ, unless it begins with لا or لمْ. To express a negative answer in this part of the sentence, we would typically resort to using the particle ما at the beginning; thus starting with ‘لَما’ instead.

جَواب الشَرْط
2nd part (reply to condition)
الشَرْط
1st part (condition)
حَرْف الشَرْط
Conditional particle
لَـ + الماضي
lā + perfect tense
الماضي
perfect tense
لَوْ
if

Example:

If I was a manager, the problem would be solved.لَوْ كُنْتُ مُدِيرًا لَحَلَّتِ الْمُشْكِلَةُ
If you had accompanied me yesterday, you’d have had a good time.لَوْ واكَبْتَني البارحةَ لاسْتَمْتَعْتَ بِوَقْتِكَ
  • When used with the negative particle لا, the expression لولا signifies (without, if it were not, etc…). It is followed by a nominal predicate مَرْفُوع or suffix (attached) pronoun.
لَوْلا صَداقةٌ قَديمةٌ بَيْنَنا لَصَفَعْتُكَ
If it were not for an old friendship between us, I would have slapped you.
  • When used with the negative jussive particle لَمْ, the expression لَوْ لَم is followed by the verb in the imperfect jussive tense (المُضارِع المَجْزوم).
لَوْ لَمْ تُضَيِّعْ وَقْتَكَ لَتَعْلَمَتْ أَشْياءَ كَثيرَةً
If you hadn’t wasted your time, you would have learned many things.

Note 2: The second part of the conditional sentence may precede the first part.

لأَصْبَحوا مَجانينَ لَوْ عَمِلُوا فِي هَذِهِ الشَّرِكَةِThey would have turned crazy if they had worked for this company.

Concessive particles

Even though إِنْ and لَوْ are standalone particles, when coupled with other particles they can transcend their meaning to express concession. To demonstrate this concept in English terms, the combined particles and expressions correspond directly to concessive conjunctions such as ‘although’, ‘even if’, ‘in spite of’, or ‘despite’.

whatever / even if / even thoughوَلَوْ
لَنْ أَشْتَريَ سَيّارةً جَدِيدةً وَلَوْ كانَ عِنْدي المال
I wouldn’t buy a new car even if I had the money
even if / even supposing thatحَتّى وَلَوْ
حَتَّى وَلَوْ تَعِبْتَ كَثِيرًا لَا تَتَراجَعْ عَنْ مَبْدَأِكَ
Even if you are very tired, do not back down from your principles
even though / even ifوَإِنْ 
سَنَصِلُ إِلى الهَدَفِ حَتّى وَإِنْ كانَ الطَرِيقُ صعباً
We will reach the goal even if the road is difficult
even though / althoughمَعَ أَنَّ
مَعَ أَنَّ الاِمْتِحانَ كانَ صَعْباً، حَصَلْتُ عَلى دَرَجَةٍ جَيِّدةٍ
Although the exam was difficult, I got a good grade
although / even thoughرَغْمَ أَنَّ
رَغْمَ أَنَّ الجَوَّ حارٌّ، ذَهَبْنا إِلى الحَدِيقةِ
Although it was hot, we went to the park
in spite of / despiteبِالرَغْمِ مِنْ
بالرَغْمِ مِنْ العَواصِفِ الرَمَليّةِ، اِنْطَلَقْنا فِي الرِّحْلَةِ
Despite the sandstorms, we set off on the trip
in spite of / despiteرَغْمَ
رَغْمَ المَطَرِ الغَزِيرِ ، خَرَجْنَا لِلنُّزْهَةِ
Despite the heavy rain , we went out for a walk
The conditional sentence

Learn about the structure and usage of conditional sentences in Arabic with examples and explanations. Improve your understanding of Arabic grammar and communication skills.

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