active participle اسم الفاعل

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usa, english
I search the forums for a related post, but I could not find any.
We have the word ذهب and it means "he went". How do I use the awzaan chart to get ("he is going") ذاهب? Do a google search for "Augmented Verbal Forms Reference chart" in quotes and I am referring to the first link.

I start from the root ذهب and find that it belongs to form 1. Theذاهب looks like it belongs to form 3, but ذاهب (or فاعل) is supposed to be past tense according to the chart, but it is not.

This may border on a silly question, but I was not able to find this obvious info in my books. If my question is not clear, then just let me know how you get from ذاهب from ذهب.

  • asadxyz

    Senior Member
    You are feeling this trouble because there are diacritic marks (tashkeel) on this root.
    Root : ذَهَبَ
    اسم الفاعل = ذاهِبٌ
    One who is going
    While form III is : ذاهَبَ (past tense)
    Without tashkeel they will look alike.
    BTW: I have put this form III for the sake of your concern about this root.In practice form III is not derived from this root.(Hans Wehr has not mentioned)


    usa, english
    To paraphrase asadxyz, I will attempt this with diacritical marks.

    1. root ذَهَبَ: "He went"

    2. ذَاهِبٌ: "He is going" (present tense of َّذََهَبَ - not derived from Awzan according to asadxyz).

    3. ذَاهّب: ?? What does this mean (derived from awzan)??

    Am I right on #2, and please clarify #3.

    If ذَاهِبٌ is not derived, it should be listed in the dictionary, but it is not.


    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    ذاهب dhaahibun means "someone who goes/is going". With verbs of motion this is often equivalent to a present tense, but note the normal present tense is still يذهب. You can't use اسم فاعل all the time with the equivalent meaning of the "is doing" progressive of English.

    Secondly, ذاهب dhaahaba is not a verb to my knowledge - or I can't find it in a dictionary. Even though roots can be put into any wazn mechanically, this does not practically mean such verbs exist or are common in the language. For example, even though some verbs in English take the prefix un- to mean "to not do" or "to do the opposite of" - this does not mean you can add this prefix to any verb you want and end in a viable form. For example, undo is a word, but ungive is not (except perhaps given poetic license:D).

    When you say derived from awzaan, remember that everything in Arabic grammar has a وزن. Not just تفعل، فعل، فاعلَ، تفاعل, but adjectives have such awzaan as فعلان، فعيل، فاعل, nouns have forms like فعل، فعلاء، فعول, etc. All of these things are awzaan. dhaahibun is a word built off of the wazn faa3ilun, *dhaahaba would be built off of faa3ala, but I don't think it exists.

    I think Westerners are often taught that awzaan is a word that refers to just the patterns for past/present tense verbs, but all words in Arabic have some sort of defined pattern in the traditional grammatical approach.

    Finally why dhaahibun is not listed in your dictionary - this is because it is a form of the verb dhahaba ذهب, and since it is not unpredictable in some way, I doubt your dictionary sees a reason to include it. It doesn't have a secondary lexical meaning (for example طالب meaning "one who requests" would probably not be given a separate entry in your dictionary under طلب, but طالب which the derived meaning "student", would be listed separately).

    In English monolingual dictionaries, I think we are used to every form being listed out, so it may be puzzling if your Arabic-English dictionary leaves some of the work up to you to do (i.e., know how to create dhaahibun from dhahaba):D. A normal Spanish-English dictionary would not list hablado (spoken) separately under hablar (to speak) unless hablado had some derived meaning, or was irregular. In English many words are irregular, so it is common to list most of the forms.


    Senior Member
    My dear friend,
    Those derived forms which are made under some rule or regulation are usually not listed in the dictionary because those are understood.
    For example in English
    -to speak = to utter some word
    But you may not find the word "speaker" because it is a rule that you put -er at the end of a verb then it becomes the "doer" of that action.Same is the case with Arabic dictionaries.For Triliteral roots (ثلاثى مجرد ) we use certain scales or measures (awzaan) for making
    -active participle = فاعل = faa3ilun
    -Passive participle = مفعول = maf3oolun
    Example :
    You will see trilteral root (Qaaf,Taa, Laam) = قتل = qatala
    You may not see the following words in the dictionary
    قاتل = qaatilun = One who kills
    مقتول = maqtoolun = one who is killed
    But those are understood derivatives.The same is the case with adverbs of time or place unless there is some specific deviation from general prinicple or there is need to mention the change in meaning.
    So dictionary does not need to mention ذاهب dhaahibun = one who is going because it is understood.


    usa, english
    Thanks all!
    Asad: Thanks for pointing out my problem with irab..

    Clevermizo: You narrowed in on my obstacle to understanding the derivation of ذاهِبٌ. I too was under the impression that awzaan was just related to present/past tense verbs. I looked up اسم فاعل and ذاهبٌ was clear to me.

    The اسْم الْفَاعِلِ is an اسْم derived on a particular set of patterns to indicate the one performing the action... patterns like:

    كَتَبَ - يَكْتُبُ - كَاتِبٌ
    ذَكَرَ - يَذْكُرُ - ذَاكِرٌ
    عَلِمَ - يَعْلَمُ - عَالِمٌ
    ضَرَبَ - يَضْرِبُ - ضَارِبٌ


    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    For example in English
    -to speak = to utter some word
    But you may not find the word "speaker" because it is a rule that you put -er at the end of a verb then it becomes the "doer" of that action.
    Actually, traditionally English dictionaries list all morphological forms that move a root from one syntactic role to another. For example, it would list speak, speaks, speaking, spoken as forms of the verb to speak, but it would list speaker as a different entry. This is sometimes why English speakers have a hard time with other language dictionaries that take morphological inflection for granted. English dictionaries do this, in my opinion, partly because forms are often unpredictable from the root. You state that adding -er to the end of a verb arrives at the agent of an action, but really, sometimes this is -or (actor, communicator), or sometimes rare or uncommon, or with a derived meaning (*teller - one who tells is rare, but a type of bank employee is common, *knower - simply rare), or just irregular (donor - one who donates).

    In Arabic, the pattern faa3ilun is extremely robust, and therefore one may take it for granted, unless it has some derived meaning (طالب, for example). English patterns by contrast are much less robust, and therefore English dictionaries usually list everything.

    Edit: I should add that Arabic monolingual dictionaries (such as لسان العرب) may list all the forms, even when they are completely predictable. This is not common of Arabic/English dictionaries, I don't think.
    I'm reading Haywood and Nahmad's A new Arabic grammar of the written language and I'm currently on the section dealing with the active participle (اسم الفاعل). The authors explain it can be used similarly to what we know as the "present participle" like "writing" or "demanding" as well as what they call a "noun with what might be termed a technical meaning" like "clerk" (كاتب) etc.

    They go on to talk about how when the active participle is used as a doer of some action like this, they can take several broken plural forms. They give the following examples:

    كاتِب (pl. كَتَبَة) clerk
    كاتِب (pl. كُتَّاب) writer
    طالِب (pl. طَلَبَة or طُلاَّب) student
    فارِس (pl. فَوارِس) knight

    The part that confused me was what follows. I will write it down verbatim:
    These plurals should not be employed when the participle has a verbal force, e.g.

    هم كابِبُو هذه المَكاتِيب they are the writers of these letters
    أنا كاتِبٌ مَكْتُونًا I am writing a letter
    I'm puzzled because they used the term "verbal force" to contrast the following uses of the active participle with the ones they had just mentioned earlier, yet then the first example they gave uses what appears at least in the English translation not to have a "verbal force." For example, the second example of "I am writing a letter" is pretty straightforward; I think I understand what the authors mean when they say "writing" is a "verbal force" and shouldn't take the aforementioned broken plural. But why not "writers" as in "writers of these letters"?

    My hunch is because there's a subtle difference between كاتبون and كُتَّاب in the same way there is a difference in English between "writer" as a profession and "writer of" meaning the person who wrote some thing in a specific instance but without reference to their quality of being a writer in general. Is it the same here? Is كتاب referring to people who are writers in general, either as a profession or hobby or what have you, whereas كاتبون has no such implication, instead just referring to the fact they are "those who wrote X"? Is that what the authors mean by "verbal force"?

    Sorry in advance if this question is overly long-winded and technical!


    Senior Member
    English - UK
    You're correct! The broken plurals are used for what are sometimes called 'lexicalised' active participles, while true active participles in the more 'verbal' sense always have sound plurals. This isn't that clear with كاتب but is very clear with for example طالب meaning 'student' (pl طلاب, طلبة) vs طالب meaning 'having requested', 'requesting', etc. The latter, incidentally, can take a normal object, while the former can't: طالبٌ العملَ.

    Participles with verbal force in the second sense (continuous action in particular) don't seem to me to be very common in MSA, with a small number of exceptions (although they are very common in dialects, albeit not necessarily in a continuous sense).
    Got it, thanks so much for the response.

    I have another question now. How would we know to translate هم كابِبُو هذه المَكاتِيب as "they are the writers of these letters" instead of "they are writing these letters"? Is it because the active participle كاتبون is in an idaafa complex with هذه المكاتيب as opposed to the latter being the object of the former? If so, if we wanted to use the same active participle but with the meaning "they are writing these letters, could we say هم كاتبون هذه المكاتيب?
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