Kana and its sisters are verbs when placed as head constituents of a nominal sentence, put the information/predicative complement (الخَبَر) in the accusative case (مَنْصُوب); this is opposite to ‘Inna and its sisters’.
The verb كانَ originally means ‘to be’. Because the noun phrase doesn’t note the tense in Arabic unless it includes the active participle of certain verbs, we need to precede nominal sentences with the verb كانَ (= to be) as a temporal exponent if we want to place it clearly in the past (or in the future).
According to Arabic grammarians, a verb is an action correlated to a tense. Kāna is mainly used as a complement to time and lacks the ‘action’ condition. For that very reason, it is not considered to be fully a verb in Arabic even though it has its own conjugation.
Henceforth, when كانَ is put as the head constituent of a nominal sentence, the sentence doesn’t become a verbal sentence but the subject (المُبْتَدأ) following it is then called اِسْم كانَ (noun of kāna) and remains in the nominative case, while the predicate called خَبَر كانَ (predicate of kāna) turns into the accusative case (if it is a noun or an adjective).
Kāna time values
Depending on its use كانَ can express several nuances in the tenses which their English equivalent would be:
|1. Past tense as head constituent of a nominal sentence||كانَ + جُمْلة اسمية|
|كانَ الطَقْسُ مُشْمِسًا و حارًّا فِي الصَبْاحِ |
The weather was sunny and hot this morning
|2. Past progressive or past habitual followed by a verb in the imperfect (present) indicative tense||كانَ + المُضارِع المَرْفُوع|
|كُنّا نَخْرُجُ من الجامِعةِ|
We were getting out of the university
|3. Pluperfect when followed by a verb in the perfect (past) tense||كانَ + قَدْ + الماضي|
|كانَتْ قَدْ اِسْتَعَدَّتْ لِعَرْضِها|
She had prepared for her presentation
|4. Future perfect when put in the future tense followed by a perfect (past) tense verb||سَ+ يَكونُ + قَدْ + الماضي|
|سأَكُونُ قَد جَلَسْتُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَتَكَلَّمَ المُعَلِّمُ|
I will have sat down before the teacher speaks
Note: If the subject (المُبْتَدأ) was a detached pronoun, in the nominal sentence without كان, it will be implied in the temporal exponent conjugated كانَ.
We were exhausted
🢠 نَحْنُ مُرْهَقُونَ
We are exhausted
Kāna’s conjugation / تَصْريف كان
Perfect tense / الماضي
|مُثَنّى (dual)||جمع (plural)||مُفْرَد (singular)||الماضي|
Imperfect indicative tense / المُضارِع المَرْفوع
|مُثَنّى (dual)||جمع (plural)||مُفْرَد (singular)||المُضارِع المَرْفوع|
Imperfect indicative tense
We usually divide kāna and its sisters into three separate categories:
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