Besides basic verbs, we can find derived forms of a root verb by adding one, two, or three letters. These are known as “augmented forms” in Arabic (الأَوْزان المَزيدة).
There are fourteen derived verb forms (stems) that have been traditionally labeled in Western Arabist literature by Roman numerals, beginning with the initial form I and proceeding to II, III, IV, and so on. Of these numerous stems, Forms I to X are far and away the most often encountered; only they will be discussed here.
We can discern nuances of meaning generally derived from the main verb form for each derivative. However many verbs do not properly fit into these classifications. Thus, it may be rather precarious to venture a guess as to what a particular derived verb truly means simply by its form alone.
The power of this table is that for each verb form, a specific noun form is also assigned. This makes it possible to establish direct connections between verbs and nouns. In other words, it suffices to know only one verbal or nominal pattern to deduce all the others on the same row. This table represents a real key to understanding the Arabic language as it allows us to draw connections between different patterns based on the same root.
Passive Participle (recipient)
Active Participle (agent)
|تَفْعِيلٌ / تَفْعِلة||مُفَعَّلٌ||مُفَعِّلٌ||يُفَعِّلُ||فَعَّلَ||II||Causative, intensive|
|مُفاعَلةٌ / فِعَالٌ||مُفاعَلٌ||مُفاعِلٌ||يُفاعِلُ||فاعَلَ||III||Reciprocal|
|تَفَعُّلٌ||مُتَفَعَّلٌ||مُتَفَعِّلٌ||يَتَفَعَّلَ||تَفَعَّلَ||V||Reflexive of II|
|تَفاعُلٌ||مُتَفاعَلُ||مُتَفاعِلُ||يَتَفاعَلُ||تَفاعَلَ||VI||Reflexive of III|
|اِنْفِعالٌ||مُنْفَعَلٌ||مُنْفَعِلٌ||يَنْفَعِلُ||اِنْفَعَلَ||VII||Passive of I|
|اِفْتِعالٌ||مُفْتَعَلٌ||مُفْتَعِلٌ||يَفْتَعِلُ||اِفْتَعَلَ||VIII||Reflexive of I|
Note: There is no verb that is used in all ten forms; normally each root will produce in use only certain derived forms, and sometimes one can even find derived forms without there being a simple verb of the same root.
Note 2: As mentioned previously, there is no infinitive in Arabic in the same sense as in English. Memorizing the root, which is mostly identical to its basic verb form (I) without vowels and the derived verb forms listed under it in a dictionary is vitally important. Without this knowledge, it will be almost impossible to find any word in dictionaries.
Note 3: For every derived form, the active and passive participles are only differentiated thanks to the vowel on the middle root letter.
Active participle / اِسْم الفاعِل
Active participles – whether they’re adjectives or nouns – are used to point out the doer performing an action. In many cases, these active participles denote an ongoing activity or state that is close in feeling and meaning to a verb expressed in the imperfect tense; this may be comparable to English present partitives, progressive presents, and futures such as “will” and “going.”
|He will lose||هُوَ فاشِل|
Passive participle / اِسْمُ المَفْعُول
The passive participle is a type of adjective or noun that implies the result of an action. It shares similarities with the past participle in English grammar. When dealing with triliteral verbs (form I), it follows a specific pattern known as mafʿūl (مَفْعُول), for example:
Verbal noun / المَصْدَر
The term المَصْدَر, or ‘the source’ in English, is a noun that originates from the verb and signifies the action, quality, or condition described by it. The Arabic verbal noun, corresponds to gerunds ending with “-ing” and to other action words like:
Note: There’s too many different verbal noun forms for Form I to consider them as a specific pattern that could be displayed on the table. You can refer to our dedicated section on verbal nouns to have an overview of the different patterns.
The ten forms meanings
Form I: فَعَلَ
Although the vowelling of the derived verb forms remains the same for all verbs the vowelling of the middle consonant (radical) of the basic verb form (I) can vary.
|to study||دَرَسَ يَدْرُسُ|
|to know||عَلِمَ يَعْلَمُ|
Form II: فَعَّلَ
Formed by a doubling of the 2nd letter of the root. It can indicate:
- Intensity also repetition of the action
to cut in several pieces
|← الوَزْن الثاني |
|← قَطَعَ |
- Factive sense
|← الوَزْن الثاني |
| ← عَلِمَ |
- Pronouncing a formula (often religious)
|to say Allah Akbar||كَبَّرَ يُكَبِّرُ|
|to thank Allah (say al-hamdulilah)||حَمَّدَ يُحَمِّدُ|
Form III (فَاعَلَ)
Form III is generated by adding an ا after the first root-letter. It often depicts someone striving towards something or another person, sometimes with a touch of rivalry or hostility.
|to address a discourse (to someone or several people)||خاطَبَ|
Form IV (أَفْعَلَ)
It is formed by adding a stable hamza on top of the alif ا before the 1st root-letter (which disappears at مُضارِع). It very often has a factive or causative meaning.
to reduce to silence
← الوَزْن الرابِع
to be silent
bring down/to overthrow
Form V (تَفَعَّلَ)
It is formed by prefixing a تَـ to form II. It can indicate a reflective-passive sense of Form II:
← الوَزْن الخامِس
|← عَلَّمَ |
to cut itself
|← قَطَّعَ |
to cut in several pieces
Form VI (تَفَاعَلَ)
It is formed by prefixing a تَـ to Form III. It notes a reflective-passive sense of Form III with a nuance of reciprocal action performed by two parties.
to have a conversation with one another
← الوَزْن السادِس
|← حادَثَ |
to speak to someone
to fight/engage in battle with one another
|← قاتَلَ |
Form VII (اِنْفَعَلَ)
It is formed by adding an ا and نـ before the very first letter of any root word. Form VII of Arabic grammar reflects the reflexive-passive form of Form I, heavily emphasizing its passive aspect. As such, it doesn’t have a passive voice form.
to withdraw (oneself)
← الوَزْن السابِع
|← سَحَبَ |
to break (oneself)
We do not find verbs in form VII whose root begins with:
Form VIII (اِفْتَعَلَ)
It is formed by adding an ا before the very first letter of any root word and a and تـ after it. Form VIII can also reflect the reflexive-passive form of Form I.
Note: To make pronunciation easier and smoother, the following modifications are done to certain derived verbs of form VIII.
- If the first consonant of the basic verb form is تَ / ثَ / ط / ظ / د / ذ the تَ of Form VIII is assimilated by this letter which will be doubled (with a shadda).
|(not اِدْتَعى ) اِدَّعى |
← الوَزْن الثامِن
|← دعا |
|(not اِتْتَبَعَ ) اِتَّبَعَ |
to go after/ to follow in the steps of
|← تَبَعَ |
- If the first consonant of the root letters is ز as in زَهَرَ (to shine) the ـتـ of form VIII is changed into د
|(not اِزْتَهَرَ ) اِزْدَهَرَ|
to flourish/ to prosper
|← الوَزْن الثامِن|
- If the first consonant of the root letters is one of the following four emphatic letters: ص/ض/ط/ظ the ـتـ of form VIII as in the pattern verb اِفْتَعَلَ is changed into ـطـ
|(not اِضْتَربَ) اِضْطَرَبَ|
to be troubled
|← الوَزْن الثامِن|
Form IX (اِفْعَلَّ)
It is formed by adding an alif ا before the 1st root letter and doubling of the 3rd letter of the root. It is unusual in the passive and is only used from the adjectives of color or deformity.
← الوَزْن التاسِع
|← أَحْمَر |
|← أَسْوَد |
to become twisted
|← أَعْوَج |
Form X (اِسْتَفْعَلَ)
It is formed by adding اِسْتَـ before the 1st letter of the root letter. Form X expresses:
- The idea of asking, seeking
- The idea of “deeming as”
|To deem a positive|
- The reflexive-passive form IV
|← الوَزْن العاشِر|
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The ten measures of the triliteral verb
Learn about the ten measures of the triliteral verb in Arabic with our comprehensive guide. Perfect for beginners and advanced learners alike.
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