active participle

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by Tensor78, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. Tensor78 Senior Member

    U.S. English

    I have a question about the active participle. (I'll stick to form 1 just to keep it simple.) My grammar text says that the active participle is often thought of as something resembling the gerund in English. However, my text also says that the active participle usually takes on a nominative function. For example, Taalib = demanding but also Taalib = student.

    My book gives some examples: huwa raakibun HiSaanan = he is riding a horse.

    But what happens if the active participle doesn't have an object? How do I know if the meaning is nominal or verbal?

    Example: anaa raakib = I am a knight? Or does it mean: "I am riding" ? With a direct object it seems obvious. But without a direct object, I can't see how to translate it.

  2. barkoosh Senior Member

    It's all about context and common usage, not to forget that way we express ideas can be different from English.

    When you don't mention the object, the first impression is that the active participle is 'taking a nominative function' if that nominal exists. For example: "anaa Taalib" is "I'm a student", while "anaa Taalib yad ibnatika" is "I'm asking you for your daughter's hand in marriage". However, when you say "anaa dhaahib", this is definitely "I'm going/leaving" since "dhaahib" isn't, as far as I know, used as a nominal. I'm not setting a strict rule here; it can depend also on the context and common usage.

    "anaa raakib" can't mean "I am a knight" since we use فارس for "knight". The word "raakib" could be understood as "passenger". But let's say that this "passenger" meaning doesn't exist, do we say "anaa raakib" for "I am riding"? I think the answer is, no. This is not how we speak. Instead, we may say, أنا أركب الفرس (anaa arkabu el-faras; I am riding the horse) or أنا على صهوة الفرس (ana 3alaa Sahwati el-faras; I am on the horseback)...

    Here's another example:
    anaa Taa2ir أنا طائر
    The first impression, although odd, is "I am a bird". If a woman is saying أنا طائرة, the first impression, although odder, is "I am an airplane". To avoid this confusion, If someone is actually flying, he/she usually says: anaa aTiir أنا أطير.

    Again, this depends on the context and common usage. No rule can be set, and comparing to one's language doesn't always help.
  3. Tensor78 Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Thanks for the input. But, was your explanation for MSA or a dialect? I was looking for information on MSA. Sorry, I should have specified.
  4. barkoosh Senior Member

    Maybe a bit difficult to understand, but this is MSA :)
  5. Tensor78 Senior Member

    U.S. English

    barkoosh, what happens if I have an active participle used verbally and I want to use a pronoun as the direct object? Would I just attach it like I would if the active participle were a verb?


    I am writing a letter = anaa kaatib maktuub (I think that this is right by your explanation in post #2)
    I am writing it = anaa kaatibhu ????

    Is the last sentence correct?

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2015
  6. dkarjala Senior Member

    English - America
    Hi. Great question. In classical Arabic, you generally have the option of treating the participle like a present tense verb indicating the state the person/thing is currently in with a direct object, although you can also form an إضافة. Generally, you do the latter when the participle refers to a noun (writer rather than writing) or to an action they have already done in the past, rather than the equivalent of the present tense.

    Nowadays, as barkoosh says, you have to pay attention to certain words and how they are actually used. In MSA, the participle as a verb is very rare and usually, in my experience, reserved for states like going, sleeping, etc.

    They way you know if it's nominal or verbal is context! Is it referring to the kind of person/thing you're talking about (writer, rider, etc.) or what they'recurrently doing (writing/riding)? The former is nominal, the latter verbal.

    Hope this helps!
  7. Tensor78 Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Thanks. But, what if it's being used verbally and it takes a direct object pronoun? Do I just append it to the end of the participle?

    Example: anna kaatibhu = I am writing it ?????

    Is that correct?
  8. dkarjala Senior Member

    English - America
    Yes. But you are unlikely to see this in MSA.

    But don't second guess yourself. You need a direct object (accusative), so you use the accusative of هو which is the suffix ـهُ. Absolutely fine.
  9. Tensor78 Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Thanks a bunch!
  10. Abu Talha Senior Member

    I did some research about the verbal use of the active participle here too, in case it helps: اسم فاعل governing foll. noun in the accusative vs. genitive
  11. barkoosh Senior Member

    I agree with dkarjala. It's unlikely to see "anaa kaatibuhu" (I am writing it) in MSA. Today, we would usually say "anaa aktubuhu"; "anaa kaatibuhu" would be taken as "I am the writer of it".
  12. dkarjala Senior Member

    English - America
  13. clevermizo Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    There are many threads dealing with the topic of the active participle. Please search through them. I will potentially merge this thread with one of those shortly.

    But briefly, أنا كاتب رسالة is not idiomatic in modern written Arabic, and would not be used to mean 'am writing.' It can only mean "I am the writer of a letter."

    The distinction between the verbal and nominal usages is idiomatic and varies, case by case, but in general, if a verb is transitive, its participle is not typically used verbally nowadays, with exceptions of course (like طالب). In dialects the usage of participles differs and the tense and aspectual force of the verbal use varies depending on the verb (أنا رايح I am going, but شو عامل? What have you done? etc.).

Share This Page