متى شِئت - متى تشاء / متى تَشَأ

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by DigitalLinguist, Jul 12, 2017.

  1. DigitalLinguist

    DigitalLinguist New Member

    English - United States
    I was in the midst of an Arabic Duolingo lesson the other night when I came upon the sentence:

    Eat fish whenever you want.

    I translated it with:

    .كل سمكًا متى أنت تشاء

    but the answer given was:

    .كل سمكاً متى أنت شئت

    I wasn't all that familiar with


    so I looked it up on a verb chart and confirmed what I had thought -- that it was in another tense (the past indicative). What confuses me is the use of an imperative with a past tense. Is this common in Arabic? Are there any grammar rules on this and if so, are there any good web pages that explain this? If you know of any, please share links to your resources in the answer you provide. As always, thanks in advance.

    I'd have posted this question in the Duolingo forum itself, but the course is only offered for Arabic speakers (for those in the know I'm doing what is known as the "reverse course" which, in this case, means I'm enrolled in the course as an Arabic speaker who wants to learn English but really I'm a native speaker of English who just wants to practice a little Arabic.) I've gone through the discussion thread for this one (and yes, I cheated a bit with a Chrome translation), but I'm glad I didn't force myself to manually translate all 116 comments. Though the Chrome translation was bad, it gave me enough to know that I might have better luck in getting an answer to this over here in this forum. Either way, I hope it provides some food for thought and fires up the grill for discussion.


    While I've got your attention, is there any reason to use a form of




    in this sentence? Again, thanks in advance.
  2. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    Both are incorrect actually. The أنت is not used because it can be understood from the context, it is a hidden pronoun. The correct is:
    كُلْ سمكا متى شئتَ
    كل سمكا متى تشاءُ
    The latter (i.e., using the present tense) is used more in colloquial. In standard Arabic both are equally common. It's also quite common to use أردتَ and تُريدُ.

    I'm not sure if there is a subtle difference between the two, I would definitely go for the past in standard Arabic and the present in colloquial in this particular case - I'm not sure why, it may be due to a subtle difference that I myself am not aware of, or it may be simply because I'm used to this way of saying it. However, in other cases I think there can be a difference in meaning.

    According to ابن منظور the use of أراد is for things that you like and/or dislike, while شاء is only for things that you like. As an example, you do not say أشاءُ استخدام المرحاض because it's not something you like to do, it's just something that you need to do right now so you would say أُريد استخدام المرحاض. In the example you gave you can use either one.
  3. DigitalLinguist

    DigitalLinguist New Member

    English - United States
    Thank you for your thorough, thoughtful answer. I found your comments about the inclusion/exclusion of the pronoun (in this case أنت) rather interesting. The first foreign language I ever learned (Spanish) was clearly a "pro-drop" language, but I don't recall that having been taught in my university studies (where I initially studied Arabic). Then again, that was quite some time ago. What I didn't know is that it is considered incorrect to include it. I had been under the impression it was optional and that it was more optional than in Spanish (where if you use the pronoun, you are placing emphasis on it or using it for clarification). Perhaps these two languages follow the same rules of pronoun inclusion/exclusion.

    Incidentally, since having posted this, I also came across another useful page that helped me understand the verb tense of this sentence a bit better. I'll add it in a reply to the original question I posed.

    Again, thank you for your reply.

    After posting this question, I later came upon the following page (while looking for something else). When I realized that it helped me understand the question I posed, I decided to return to this thread and share the link to it. You'll find it below:

    The Conditional

    Hope that helps someone out there.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2017
  4. Matat Senior Member

    The أنت should be dropped in this case not merely because we don't need it, but more so because متى is a conditional particle and most conditional particles almost always have a فعل شرط (conditional verb) come after them. For most conditional particles, if they are immediately followed by nouns, you run into some tricky grammatical interpretations. Outside of a conditional statement, أنت تشاء would be less problematic, but even then, it would probably suffice without the أنت.
    It should be متى تَشَأْ (in jussive mood) since متى is an أداة شرط جازمة, but I'd guess that most people would incorrectly write it as متى تشاء. It's best to stick with متى شئت and avoid this altogether.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  5. DigitalLinguist

    DigitalLinguist New Member

    English - United States
    Very interesting post, Matat. Clearly there's a lot more to learn about Arabic than what I learned in my university studies. Looking back, I feel as if I could have been pushed much harder than I was, but, then again, I had at least 10 other credits of study to apply myself toward each quarter, so perhaps it was just as well. Regardless, it makes me appreciate this thread here at WordReference all that much more. What a wonderful resource it is, and it has already become my first "go to" resource when I can't easily find an answer to my question anywhere else. Answers provided by Mahaodeh and Matat clearly show that the quality of reply here at WordReference in this Arabic forum is very high and worth one's time.
  6. DigitalLinguist

    DigitalLinguist New Member

    English - United States
    I was reviewing your post again, Matat, and paid more careful attention to your inclusion of the phrase

    أداة شرط جازمة

    I tried searching for its meaning online, but did not find anything easily. What does it mean in English?
  7. Matat Senior Member

    ٌأَدَاةُ شَرْطٍ جَازِمَة = a conditional particle which puts the conditional verb and result verb in the jussive mood.

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