The exclamation / التَعَجّب

The exclamation in Arabic (التََعَجُّب)

There are two ways to convey exclamation in Arabic that express astonishment toward a person or an object:

  • The standard exclamation / التَعَجُّب القِياسِي: is the expression of two reference verb patterns conveying exclamation under specific conditions.
  • The oral exclamation / التَعَجُّب السَماعِي: corresponds to all the many other ways of expressing wonder that don’t abide by the same constraints as the ‘standard exclamation’.

The standard exclamation / التَعَجّب القِياسي

The two verbal patterns ما أَفْعَلَ and أَفْعَلْ بِـ

The Arabs use two forms of exclamation in standard use which are:

أَفْعَلْ بِـ
(rarely used)
ما أَفْعَلَ
(most used 🔥)
  • The most common form is constructed from the pattern أَفْعَلَ (considered here as a verb of form IV in the perfect tense which remains fixed as such) preceded by the particle ما and followed by the subject which is a noun (in the accusative case defined by the article ال) or a suffix pronoun (َضَمِير مُتّصِل):
ما أَجْمَلَها
How beautiful she/it is!
ما أَجْمَلَ المَدِينةَ
How beautiful this city is!
  • The second form of construction of the exclamation, a little less used, is also constructed from the pattern أَفْعِلْ (considered here as a verb of form IV in the imperative which remains fixed as such) and followed by the preposition بـ fixed to l ‘object representing the cause of astonishment which is a noun (in the genitive case defined by the article) or a suffix pronoun.
أَجْمِلْ بِها
How beautiful she/it is!
أَجْمِلْ بِالمَدِينةِ
How beautiful this city is!

Note: When two verbs of wonder relate to the same noun, they are positioned following the noun and take a suffix pronoun.

ما أَسْرَعَ السَّيّارةَ وما أَطْوَلَ السَيّارةَ ما أَسْرَعَ السَّيّارةَ وما أَطْوَلَها ✔️
How fast and how long this car is!

The conditions

Nonetheless, in order for a verb to adopt one of these two patterns that express the exclamation, it must be:

  1. Triliteral verb of form I (فِعْل ثُلاثي مُجَرَّد), like فَتَحَ (not like اِسْتَقْبَلَ).
  2. A verb on the pattern أَفْعَلَ that won’t be confused with the pattern of colors and deformity أَفْعَلَ that has the feminine form فَعْلاء (like أَحْمَر / حَمْراء).

If the verb does not respect those conditions then we will put it in the form of a maṣdar after a verb respecting precisely those conditions such as these:

…ما أضعف
How weak…
…ما أقوى
How strong…
…ما أقبح
How bad/ugly…
…ما أحسن
How good/ beautiful…
…ما أشدّ
How intense…
الوَزْن
Pattern
أَفْعِلْ بـما أَفْعَلَ
أَشْدِد بِسَوادِ قَهْوَتِكَ
How black your coffee is!
ما أَكْثَر اِبْتِسامَهُ
How smiling he his!
أصْعِبْ بكونِهِ أعْمى
How difficult it is for him to be blind!
ما أَقْوَى إِيمانَكُم بِاللهِ
How strong your faith in God is!

The oral exclamation / التَعَجّب السَماعيّ

There is an extensive list of other exclamation structures in Arabic, but we’ll only cover here the most important ones:

  • A regularly used structure consists of يا لَـ (with fatḥa on the lām لَ) followed by a pronoun agreeing with the indefinite noun that follows it, with the preposition مِن in between.

يا لَـ + ضَمِير مُتَّصِل + مِنْ + اِسْم

يا لَهُ مِنْ جُنْديّ
what a soldier!
يا لَها مِنْ حَياة
what a life!
  • When the noun is mentioned with the article of definition (أَداة التَعْرِيف), we don’t need to resort to the pronoun suffix.
يا لَلحَظَّ
what luck!
يا لَلجُرْأةَ
what audacity!
  • The particle كَمْ can also be used in an exclamatory sense in addition to being an interrogative particle. It is then followed by a noun in the genitive case (preceded or not by the preposition مِنْ) or by a sentence:
كَمْ أُحِبُّكَ
How much I love you! (I love you so much)
كَمْ مِنْ مَرَّات قُلْتُ لَكَ ذَلِكَ
How many times did I tell you that!
The exclamation

Learn about the different types of exclamatory expressions in Arabic, how to form them and where to place them in a sentence. Master the art of expressing strong emotions and feelings with clarity and impact.

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