Arabic modal verbs?!

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by *Sultana, Nov 8, 2007.

  1. *Sultana New Member

    Hello everyone...

    should, would and could are some modal verbs in English; and it is known that there aren't any modal verbs in Arabic; this is confusing to me, because what about the word (يجب) isn't that 'should' in Arabic?? If anyone has examples in both English Arabic to explain this to me, I'd be greatful.

    One more thing, how does Arabic and English differ in terms of verb tenses?


  2. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    I don't know if Arabic lacks "modal verbs" or not. It does lack exact 1:1 translations for words like "would," "should," and "could".

    I refer you to the other thread recently about "should have."

    "Would" as used in if-conditionals in English is accomplished by having more than one word for if, and using certain tenses. The Arabic verb exists in basically two tenses, but other times and modalities are accomplished by prefixes or particles, and negation as well has several particles to accomplish different moods and times.

    يجب yajibu refers to something which is incumbent upon someone to do. This translates some of the senses of "should" in English. For "could" one must ask oneself, do I mean "Would be able to..." or do I mean "It would be possible that..." as "could" has different senses in English. Ability can be accomplished with the verbs قدر and استطاع, while probability can be accomplished with أمكن.

    As for would, this really depends on the context of the sentence involved. There is a "would of courtesy" (Would you be able to help me?), a "would of (unlikely) probability" (If I were/was rich, I would do such and such). There is would of contrary-to-fact (If I had done X, I would have done Y). There is "would of past iterative", (when I was young, I would go to his house every day). Etc. All of these are accomplished with different structures in Arabic.

    Of course in all of these cases there may be more than one way to say something in Arabic (just as there would be more than one way to say it in English).
  3. *Sultana New Member

    Thanks Clevermizo for the useful information.
  4. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    I don't know what they're called in Arabic, but there are certainly those verbs, or verb forms, that are equivalent to English modal verbs -- ممكن modal of possibility; محتمل modal of probability; يجب ، ضروري ، لازم modals of necessity/incumbency; etc.

    I'll try to do more research and get back.
  5. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    I think I can guess why it might be said that such verbs do not exist in Arabic.

    In English we can coordinate can/could/should/might/shall/may/would directly in front of non-finite verb forms. In Arabic all of the aforementioned structures in this thread would require subordination with أنْ+المضارع المنصوب which is different from the English modal auxiliary structure. But honestly, the same result is achieved (modality modification), so it sounds like it's six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    In colloquial Arabic, words like لازم, ضروري, ممكن, pretty much work grammatically just like English modals, so they perhaps could be called such. However, again, the verb that follows is a finite verb form, whereas English uses non-finite verb forms.

    Also, all modal verbs in English have weird conjugation - no marking for singular 3rd person plural, and yet the subject is perceived as the subject of the modal verb itself: He should, He shall and never He shalls.

    It may be that modal verbs like this are specific to Germanic languages, or at least we don't find these words in Arabic. يجب أن has an impersonal subject - the subject is not the same as what follows أن.
  6. *Sultana New Member

    Ok, I think I found the answer. Modal verbs do exist in Arabc; but most of the time you need to add a preposition to them; like : يجب أن
    While in English you can simply say should; and it's actually wrong to add a preposition after a modal verb in (saying 'should to' is wrong); which is kind of what clevermizo said. It's a big discussion. But thanks guys.

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