Past tense in Arabic

A verb in the past tense refers to an action that was finished some time in the past (before speaking); e.g. محمد ذهبَ إلى المدرسة = Mohammad went to school.  

The root verb in Arabic is always in the past tense; e.g. كَتَبَ = he wrote.

Verbs are categorized according to their minimum root number of letters.

  1 – A Threefold Verb الفعل الثلاثى  : that which has three letters as its root; كتبَ = He wrote

       2 – A Fourfold Verb الفعل الرباعى : that which has four letters as its root; أطلقَ = He launched.

(These two types are called Mojarrad Verbs الأفعال المجردة )

3 – A Fivefold Verb الفعل الخماسى : that which has five letters as its root; تعلَّمَ = He learnt.

       4 – A Sixfold Verb الفعل السداسى : that which has six letters as its root;  استخرجَ = He took/dug out.

(These two types of Verbs belong to the Mazeed Verbs الأفعال المزيدة )

  • Since a verb must agree with its subject in gender and number, the shape of the above verbs changes in the past tense as follows:


كتبَ أطلقَ تعلّمَ اِستخرجَ


First Person

( I= أنا )

 كَتبْتُ  أطلقْتُ  تعلَّمْتُ  اِستخرجْتُ

Verb + Taa of the Subject (with Damma)

First Person

(We = نحنُ )

 كتَبْنَا  أطلقْنَا  تعلَّمْنَا  اِستخرجْنَا

Verb + Naa’ of the Speakers

Second Person

(You = أنتَ )

 كتبْتَ  أطلقْتَ  تعلَّمْتَ    استخرجْتَ

Verb + Taa of the Person Spoken to (with a Fatha)

Second Person

(You = أنتِ )

 كتبْتِ  أطلقْتِ  تعلَّمْتِ  اِستخرجْتِ

Verb + Taa of the Person Spoken to (With a Kasra)

Second Person

(You = أنتما )

 كتَبتُمَا  أطلقتُمَا  تعلَّمْتُمَا  استخرَجْتُمَا Verb + Taa of the Person Spoken to + Dual Alif

Second Person

(You = أنتُم )

 كتبتُم  أطلقتُم  تعلَّمتُم  استخرجتُم

Verb + Taa of the Person Spoken to (M. Plural)

Second Person

(You = أنتُنَّ )

 كتبْتُنَ  أطلقتُنَ  تعلَّمْتُنَ  استخرجْتُنَ

Verb + Taa of the Person Spoken to + Noon of the Feminine.

Third Person 

(He = هو )

 كتَبَ  أطلقَ  تعلَّمَ  استخرجَ


Root or base verb

Third Person

(She = هى )

 كتبَتْ  أطلقَتْ  تعلَّمَتْ  استخرجَتْ

Verb + The Ta’neeth Taa (With Sukoon)

Third Person

(He Both = هما )

 كتَبَا  أطلقَا  تعلَّمَا  استخرجَا


Verb + Dual Alif

Third Person

(She Both = هما )

 كتَبَتَا  أطلقَتَا  تعلَّمَتَا  استخرجَتَا

Verb + Ta’neeth Taa + Dual Alif

Third Person

 (They = هم )

 كتبُوا  أطلقُوا  تعلَّمُوا  استخرجُوا

Verb + Waw of the Masculine Plural

Third person (They = هُنَّ )  كتَبْنَّ  أطلقْنَّ  تعلَّمْنَّ  استخرجْنَّ

Verb + Noon of the Feminine Plural

Arabic as foreign language


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