Intermediate - Transitive and intransitive verbs

September 21st, 2010 22 comments
In today's grammatical lesson, we try to simplify the subject of transitive and intransitive verbs in Arabic. What seems like a complicated subject is actually quite easy and after listening to the lesson and seeing the transcript we hope it will all make sense to you.

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  4.5/5 (8 votes)

Desmond says chat
Wed 22nd Sep 10@07:19 am

There is something very odd about the final example sentence. First, the noun ﺨﺸﺐ has been spelt with a shadda. Second the noun in question has been rendered as woods. Third, ﺨﺸﺐ has been transcribed as 7'ashaba although the word is pronounced 7'ashab (no a after b).

Does the shadda make ﺨﺸﺐ plural? If so, what does the plural mean? The English plural woods can have four meanings: (1) different types of wood, (2) an area of trees which is smaller than a forest, (3) heavy wooden balls used in the game of bowls, (4) large-headed golf clubs. The second, third and fourth meanings are improbable. A donkey cant carry thousands of trees on its back, and it is most unlikely that the Arabic noun ﺨﺸﺐ can denote a wooden ball or a golf club. Do you mean that the donkey carried different kinds of wood (e.g. oakwood and cedarwood), or do you mean logs of wood?
Wed 22nd Sep 10@10:05 am

All the grammar lessons are level C. Hence Learners (A & B) miss out on very important lessons. Could you consider having these as Lower Intermediate (B) atleast? Bonus would be if you could have an option of the previous grammar lessons in (B) also?
Desmond says chat
Wed 22nd Sep 10@10:19 am

After relistening to the last part of the podcast I am even more puzzled. Ehab says the shadda can be used to emphasise a noun. Why do we have to emphasise ﺨﺸﺐ? Is the shadda used to highlight the contrast between dates and wood?

A further problem is posed by a discrepancy between the podcast and the audio transcript. The a at the end of ﺨﺸﺐ is clearly audible in the podcast, but not in the audio transcript. Is there some connection between the shadda and the extra vowel at the end of ﺨﺸﺐ?
Desmond says chat
Wed 22nd Sep 10@03:49 pm

I dont know what kind of scale khatavkar_rajan is referring to when he speaks of Level A, Level B and Level C, but I agree with what he says about grammar. The beginners lessons arent always easy. Indeed, as I have pointed out elsewhere, some of them are more difficult that podcasts which have been assigned to the intermediate or upper intermediate categories.

In order to achieve a tolerably adequate understanding of all the beginners lessons, one needs to know a great deal about Arabic grammar. Listeners who have no previous knowledge of the language have to choose between five options. First, they can ask dozens of questions in the Comments Section. Second, they can start off with the intermediate grammar lessons and then return to the beginners lessons. Third, they can buy an Arabic coursebook and enrol for a course at a language school or university. Fourth, they can seek private tuition. Fifth, they can look for grammatical information on the Net.

All these options are fraught with difficulties:

(1) If listeners ask too many questions, the Arabicpod team may not have enough time to provide satisfactory answers.

(2) If listeners start off with intermediate lessons they may be discouraged by the fact that many of the explanations are given in Arabic, and many of the words and expressions used in these explanations will be unfamiliar.

(3) Beginners may have difficulty in choosing a suitable coursebook.

(4) If they do not live in or near a large city they may not be able to enrol for a language course.

(5) If they opt for private tuition they may not be able to find a competent teacher.

(6) If they want to look for information on the Net they will need to know a great deal about linguistics, they will need to have an excellent command of English and at least five or six other languages, and they may have to search for a long time before they find what they are looking for. Some of the most useful videos, websites and Google books are in French, German, Spanish, Italian or other languages, and they can only be discovered by chance when certain search words or combinations of search words are used.
Moshaya says chat
Wed 22nd Sep 10@04:38 pm

Khatavkar_rajan well try to do more grammatical lessons in lower levels in the future.

Desmond, is not spelt with a shaddah and nowhere in the transcript has it got a shaddah. You might have confused it with the verb 7ammaltu which does have a shaddah.

The a at the end of al7ashaba is not pronounced if its the last word in a sentence and the speaker has stopped for a second or so similar to what you heard in the audio transcript. However, sometimes particularly in grammatical lessons you will hear the speaker pronouncing the last vowel to highlight the vowel which is there because of a grammatical rule etc. If the word came at the beginning of a sentence it will be mubtada2 with a 9ammah vowel at the end i.e.
Thanks for all your feedback, again we will try our best to introduce grammatical lessons for beginners
Wed 22nd Sep 10@06:06 pm

I enjoyed reading all of these invaluable comments. Having studied Arabic grammar in a number of different courses for well over three years (with little exposure to how the language actually sounds), I was delighted to stumble upon these podcasts earlier this year because they finally provided me with the listening experience I was looking for. But of course not all AP fans come from the same background, and I agree with Desmond and khatavkar_rajan that most listeners at the beginner and lower intermediate stages would probably appreciate some more explanations in English - just to get the hang of things. So thank you, Mohammed, for your suggestion to introduce some (more) grammar lessons at the lower stages. And thank you - Ehab and Mohammed - for this delightful lesson. It proves yet again how beautiful and precise classical Arabic is.
Desmond says chat
Wed 22nd Sep 10@09:34 pm

Thanks for your comment, KAREN. Im glad we all agree that one shouldnt put the cart before the horse.


Thank your for your reply to my query. Ive just looked more closely at the transcript. I mistook the fatha for a shadda.

Your comment on pronunciation is very interesting. I think this will be of interest to many other listeners. If you look at the comments sections of the other podcasts youll notice that other people have asked similar questions.

What about the meaning of ﺨﺸﺐ? Did you just mean wood?

There are lots of other things Id like to comment on. Ill begin with the first example. Considered from a grammatical viewpoint, the sentence is crystal-clear. What interests me here is the style of the language you have used. Wind + blow and rain + fall are perfectly acceptable English collocations, and the English sentence is to use a Chomskyan phrase well-formed. Yet it does sound very odd because it is not sufficiently informative.

Wind + blow and rain + fall are like ship + sail. They belong to a small group of collocations that are rarely used without an adverbial complement. A wind that doesnt blow doesnt exist; rain that doesnt fall isnt rain; and a ship that doesnt sail is useless.
In normal English we therefore find sentences such as the following:

(1) The rain fell steadily, noisily, out of a dark reddish-blue sky. (I. Murdoch, An Unofficial Rose)

(2) A bitter wind blew in through the open garage door (). (D. Du Maurier, Rebecca).

(3) The ship sailed on the Doubs river in June and July 1776 (). (Wikipedia)

When the collocations in question are used without adverbial complements they produce special stylistic effects. Heres an example from a Google book: The wind blew and the rain fell, as though heaven had opened its windows. The tone is very solemn and literary. In everyday spoken English one would say It was very wet and windy.

My question is therefore: Does the Arabic sentence sound as odd as its literal English equivalent?

Lets suppose Ehab has just spent a miserable week in the north of Scotland (ceaseless torrential rain and gale-force winds). When he comes back to London youll ask him: What was the weather like in Scotland? How would you react if he were to reply: The wind blew and the rain fell?
Desmond says chat
Thu 23rd Sep 10@02:34 am

The second example sentence poses interesting collocational problems. The first main clause can be rendered as the river flooded or the river burst its banks. A literal translation of the second clause would read: Water wet / drenched / soaked the ground. (Wetted doesnt exist in English.) A Google search will show that wet the ground is unacceptable. There are relatively few examples where wet and the ground are not separated by a punctuation mark, and these examples normally refer to situations where only a relatively small amount of water is involved. As a result, the use of wet would create a contradiction between the two clauses. Drenched the ground is also unsatisfactory. There are only nine examples of water drenched the ground on the Web. An examination of these examples shows that water drenched the ground is a very rare and literary word combination. Water soaked the ground is much more common, so we could say The river burst its banks and water soaked the ground. A passive construction would be even better: The river burst its banks and the ground was flooded. This demonstrates an important difference between English and Arabic usage. Passive constructions are common in English but rare in Arabic.
chazyouwin says chat
Thu 23rd Sep 10@06:02 pm

I have been thinking that the lessons by Sierra and Elias have filled in any perceived "gap" on grammar at the beginner/lower intermediate quite nicely. They are somewhat more difficult as a result, perhaps "beginner plus" and "lower intermediate plus." Also, I have not been troubled by listening to intermediate and initially understanding only about fifty percent of what is said.

But of course, additional lessons would always be appreciated!
chazyouwin says chat
Fri 1st Oct 10@01:36 am

Another helpful step which would be helpful for we beginners/lower intermediates would be to give us a handy-dandy but somewhat extensive translation list of Arabic vocabulary used in the grammar in the intermediate lessons. If there is something like that available on the net, I would love to have a link to it. With such a list, we would find the intermediate explanations more accessible.

I use a few Arabic books purchased from the local Barnes & Noble to supplement the lessons here. John Mace, in particular, has an excellent introductory text. The title suggests that it deals only with script, but in fact it goes well beyond. Here's an Amazon link to it.
Desmond says chat
Fri 1st Oct 10@01:37 pm

Dear Charles,

It's quite easy to find information about Arabic linguistic terminology on the Net. I know dozens of Google books and hundreds of websites where this kind of material is presented more or less systematically. If you key in "grammatical terminology Arabic" without quotation marks, "Glossary of Arabic grammar terms" will appear at the top of your screen. Click on "Glossary" and you'll find a list of terms in Arabic script. The English translations aren't always very good, but you'll be able to correct the mistakes by consulting other sources.

One of the worst mistakes is "jussive case". The jussive is a mood, not a case. Nowadays many people - including university graduates who have studied modern languages - are unable to use linguistic terminology correctly because they never learnt grammar at school.
chazyouwin says chat
Fri 1st Oct 10@02:47 pm

Thanks for the tip Desmond. Here's a list from .


Hollow Verb (Middle is a weak letter)
The Definite Article
() The Prepositions
The particles (conditional Pronouns which introduce the verb in the Jussive Case.
The Jussive Case (w/ verbs)
The particles which introduce the verb in Accusative Case.
/ Noun/ Nouns.
The Five Nouns (, , , , )
The Interrogative Pronouns.
The Demonstrative Pronouns.
Active Participle
Passive Participle.
The Relative Pronouns.
: Conditional Phrase.
: Conditional Particle.
A Genetive Construction
The vowel of the last consonant in a verb or noun is dynamic.
The Imperfect verb with (you feminine singular, you masculine dual, they masc. Dual, you masc. Plural, they masc. Plural)
Comperative & Superlative
Feminine Noun ending with Alif &
Hamzah ( )
Feminine Noun ending with ( )
, .....
The end of a word, noun, verb or particle is static. Some employs the term indeclension.
The Diminutive Pattern.
The Verbal Exclamatory Style.
An Accusative of specification & comparison & measurement.
"Nunation" (duplicate vowel of the last consonant).
Added word for emphasis.
Comperative & Superlative
/ Genetive (with nouns).
/ Jussive (with verbs)
Broken Plural
Masculine Sound Plural
Feminine Sound Plural
Equential Sentence (Nominal)
Verbal Sentence
Haal Accusative
The preposition
The Ten Letters (one or more added to the Root of the Verb to derive different meanings.

( , , , , , , , , , )
( )
The conjunctions.
The Alphabet.
The Predicate
/ Nominative ( Verbs & Nouns).
/ Absence of Vowels
Prepositional Phrase
/ Relative Pronoun

Attributive Relative Clause
The Personal Pronoun.
A proper Noun
Actor , (The doer of the verb (comes only after the verb.
The Perfect Tense.
The Triliteral Verb ()
An Intransitive Verb
A transitive Verb.

+ one or more of the Increase Letters.
The Imperfect Tense ( indicates present or future Tense).
The Weak Verb
Passive verb
Active Verb
Perfect Tense
La of Negation.
Ma of Negation.
The subject of a Sequential (Nominal) Sentence.
With a static case-ending.
Active Voice
Passive Voice
A Verb starting with ( , )
Exceptive Particles
Infinitive/ Verbal Noun
Genetive Construction
1st Particle of the construction
2nd Particle of the construction
A Definite Noun
An Accusative Object.
Adverbal Qualification of Time or Place.
Cognate Accusative (The Absolute Object.)
( )
Adverbal Qualification of Purpose
( )
A noun ending with long Vowel ()
A noun ending with a long vowel()
Followed by ().
An unnonated noun.
A noun ending with ()
( )
Subject of the Predicate (Substitute of the Doer of the Verb)
(It comes only with Passive Verbs).
Nisbah (Attributive Form)
/ Accusative (w/ nouns )
Subjunctive (w/verb).
/ The Adjective.
A common noun
of emphasis
The feminine plural pronoun
The masculine Plural Pronoun
The dual pronoun.
The you feminine Pronoun.
A glottal stop
The Pattern of the verb.
Desmond says chat
Fri 1st Oct 10@03:38 pm

Yes, Charles. That's the list I meant. If you have questions about specific terms used by Ehab, just put your questions in the comment box and I'll do my best to answer them.

I'm compiling my own Arabic dictionary. So far I've written over 300 pages. I've invented my own transliteration system and added detailed notes on the grammatical behaviour of each lexical item. Needless to say, there are lots of linguistic terms which I've taken from Google books, academic journals and Arabic websites.
chazyouwin says chat
Sat 2nd Oct 10@05:21 am

Desmond - that's spectacular. Question for you - do you work in academia?

I barely have time to do these lessons - but I love to listen to them repetitively on my commute.

My day job is attorney, and that's quite demanding. Charles
Desmond says chat
Sat 2nd Oct 10@11:02 am

Dear Charles,

There's nothing spectacular about my Arabic dictionary. It's just a small reference work which is tailored to my own needs. I add a few lines every day, and the dictionary has now assumed respectable proportions. As the Scots say, many a mickle makes a muckle.

I began to teach myself Arabic in December 2008, and I've made considerable progress since then. As I'm a professional linguist (among other things), I've been observing the way my brain works during the language acquisition process, and I'll publish my findings when the time is ripe.

I've published books and innumerable articles in English, French and German (I'm equally at home in these three languages), and I've just started work on a research paper which will be published in a Festschrift, a volume of essays which will be dedicated to an old friend of mine who works in Geneva, and who is now retiring after a long and distinguished academic career. All the contributions to the Festschrift have to be written in French, but that's no problem for me since French is one of my main languages and I have to speak or write French almost every day. (Incidentally, I'm on the advisory board of a French publishing house.)

Best wishes,
chazyouwin says chat
Thu 14th Oct 10@01:12 pm

Desmond - Your background is fascinating.

My exposure to both French and German comes from a couple of introductory courses back in the 1970s. I hated the "language lab," where one needed to physically appear and sit and listen to tapes. I am sure you will agree that easy availability of lessons for mp3 players is revolutionary for foreign language learning.

My relaxed and casual study of Arabic basically consists of 5-6 hours per week of repetitive listening of the AP lessons in the car and at the gym, supplemented by an hour or two per week of reading whenever convenient (and typically also when I am otherwise confined, as on a plane). It is the best part of my day!

I look forward to continued correspondence.


Desmond says chat
Thu 14th Oct 10@02:47 pm

Dear Charles,

I began to learn Latin and French simultaneously at the age of eleven, and I took up German at the age of fifteen. There were no computers in those days, and there was no satellite TV either. That made language learning very difficult. I had to make do with a crackly old radio. Sometimes the atmospherics were so bad that I couldn't understand anything at all, but I persevered. Every day in every way I listened to France Inter, Europe 1 and the Deutsche Welle, and that paid dividends. Since I have an excellent memory and a highly active brain, my French and German vocabularies were soon expanding by about 1,000 lexical units a week. I mastered Latin very rapidly, too, and when the headmaster stopped me in the corridor and began to interrogate me in classical Latin and modern French I replied unhesitatingly in fluent and idiomatic Latin or French.

The headmaster was an awe-inspiring personage who spoke twelve languages, including Greek, Russian and Japanese. He often interrupted our French and Latin lessons. He would just sweep into the room without warning and begin to interrogate our teacher in classical Latin or ancient Greek, then he would inspect our exercise books and punish the weakest pupils. When he was draped in his long, tattered, shroud-like gown he looked just like Count Dracula, and he had terrifying fits of rage which left everyone numb and silent. I'll tell you more later.
nooraj says chat
Mon 23rd May 11@12:11 pm

I have a question. The Maf'ool thani (second Object). what's the difference between that and Mudafun ilahi ( )..or is it the same?
Desmond says chat
Mon 23rd May 11@11:09 pm

@ nooraj

The mudaaf (ﻤﻀﺎﻑwink ilayhi (ﺍﻠﻴﻪwink is the second term in a genitive construction (idaafa). A second object is something entirely different. It is a noun phrase governed by a ditransitive verb.

A second object governed by a ditransitive verb might be an idaafa, but that does not mean that second object and idaafa are synonymous.

One of Ehabs example sentences begins with saqaa (ﺴﻗﻰwink, a classical Arabic verb meaning to water or to give sb sth to drink. This is a typical ditransitive verb. There are two objects (patient and medicine). One of the objects (the patient) is the beneficiary of the action denoted by the verb. If this were an English sentence, the patient would be described as the indirect object, but terms like indirect object are not used in Arabic grammar because Arabic does not function the same way as English.
jenkki says chat
Tue 30th Aug 11@05:24 pm

I just re-listened to this lesson a few times, and Mohammed is certainly correct that following the sentences with the help of the transcript is a big help, but I still have some questions. You definitely rushed through the last few sentences a bit too fast for me.

Like Desmond also referred to above, regarding direct or indirect objects. I don't understand why Arabic doesn't classify the mfolbee's into direct vs indirect object, eg. in the case of "I gave the beggar money", the word "beggar" is an indirect object because it answers the question "to what/whom?" and the word "money" is the direct object because it answers the question "what/who?"

I guess, more generally, I left this lesson wondering what the purpose of the categorization of verbs into and

Is there a difference in rules of inflection or conjugation for the nouns and verbs of these different categories of sentence?

Or is it all just an academic exercise, i.e. classifying words, doing complete sentence structure diagrams, etc... we used to do that in my english classes when I was in 7th grade, but I'm not sure how vital this was to know good english. Probably a linguist (like Desmond) knows the answer to this question (i.e. what is the purpose of sentence structure diagrams?).

Desmond says chat
Tue 30th Aug 11@10:01 pm

@ jenkki

Youre right. The lesson was too short, and many important problems were ignored.

In languages like Latin and German the distinction between direct and indirect objects is of crucial importance because Latin and German have accusative and dative cases. In Arabic this distinction is less important because there is no dative case in Arabic.

Look at the sentence that means I gave the beggar money. The meaning is perfectly clear although the word for beggar has no dative ending. The word for money has an accusative ending, and even if it had no ending at all we could guess that the beggar, not the money, is the beneficiary of the action denoted by the verb. (You cant give a beggar to money!)

Classifying verbs isnt simply an academic exercise. You cant use verbs correctly if you dont know whether they are transitive, intransitive or ditransitive. Lets consider the English verb break. We can say (1) He broke the plate or (2) The plate broke. In sentence (1) break is a transitive verb, but in (2) it is an intransitive verb. This never poses problems for native speakers of English, but it may pose serious problems for people who have to learn English as a foreign language. They need to be told that break can be used transitively or intransitively, especially if break corresponds to two different verbs in their mother tongue.

Now look at two of the Arabic equivalents of break. Kasara (ﻜﺴﺭwink is transitive, while inkasara (ﺍﻨﻜﺴﺭwink is intransitive. (Theres a good example of inkasara in the podcast entitled My bicycle.)

Raise and rise are also good examples. Raise is transitive, while rise is intransitive. Germans nearly always make mistakes when they use these verbs because they dont understand the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. Theyll say things like *The prices raised instead of Prices rose.

There may be languages where transitive and intransitive verbs have different endings, but so far Ive never encountered a language like this. There are, however, languages where prefixes are sometimes used to highlight the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs. In German, for instance, transitive verbs often have the prefix be-. Gehen and antworten are intransitive, while begehen and beantworten are transitive.

Diagrams can be useful as long as they are not over-complicated. Chomskys diagrams are often excessively complicated, but Tesnires diagrams are generally very enlightening. A good diagram will help the language learner to understand the relationships between sentence elements.
jenkki says chat
Thu 1st Sep 11@06:36 am

Thanks Desmond. By the way, last night I was reading my Al Kitaab vol 1 chapter 16 and there was a section on and state that verb patterns II - IV tend to be transitive while V-X tend to be intransitive (usually refexive).

As example, they compare type II () vs type V ():
to change something/someone:
to change (by itself)

So, I guess there really is a good case for why this grammar is important. i.e. it gives a hint to verb meaning based on the wazn.

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