Arabic Moods 1


Arabic Moods


Verb moods that exist in Arabic are:


  • Indicative

  • Subjunctive

  • Jussive

  • Energetic

  • Imperative


(To see definitions for verb moods you may click here)

All these are moods only of the Imperfective verbs. This means that they can be expressed in both the present and the future tenses. Perfective verbs, on other hand, do not take more than one single mood. This is why they are “built” words.

The unique mood of the perfective verbs is not really identified in Arabic grammar; I myself believe that all perfective verbs are built in the subjunctive mood, but this really does not matter since there is no other mood that these verbs can take. Thus there is only mood in the past tense.

The first three moods are obtained by altering the pink declensions (the mood signs) of the indicative verbs. These are the verbs that we’ve been dealing with so far.

The energetic mood is not considered a mood in Arabic grammar. It is obtained by attaching a particle that is called ” noon of emphasis ” نُوْنُ التَوْكِيْدِ to the end of the imperfective structure.

The imperative mood will take a wholly different structure from the regular imperfective one. This is why these verbs are considered a third, separate, category from the perfective and the imperfective in Arabic grammar. 


The Subjunctive


The indicative الْمَرْفُوْعُis turned into the subjunctive الْمَنْصُوْبُ by changing the moodsigns at the end of the verb.



  المُضَاْرِعُ المَنْصُوْبُ Imperfective (subjunctive)o// فَـعـلَ









(I)do ‘af”al(a) أَفْعَلَ
(You) do (masc.) taf”al(a) تَفْعَلَ
(You) do (fem.) taf”alee تَفْعَليْ
(He) does yaf”al(a) يَفْعَلَ
(She) does taf”al(a) تَفْعَلَ





(You) do taf”alaa تَفْعَلا
(They) do (masc.) yaf”alaa يَفْعَلا
(They) do (fem.) taf”alaa تَفْعَلا







(We) do (dual / plu.) naf”al(a) نَفْعَلَ
(You) do (masc.) taf”aloo تَفْعَلُوْا
(You) do (fem.) taf”aln(a) تَفْعَلْنَ
(They) do (masc.) yaf”aloo يَفْعَلُوْا
(They) do (fem.) yaf”aln(a)



The differences between the subjunctive and indicative imperfective verbs were that we changed the indicative -u  to -a , and the noonنwas deleted. The plural feminine marker, as we mentioned before, is not mood inflected.


We see that there are two distinct types of imperfective structures. The first type does not possess a red letter attached to the end of the structure, and it has a short vowel as a sign of the mood. The second type has a red letter attached to the end (an attached subject pronoun), and the mood sign is a letter noonن .


The verbs of the second type are designated in Arabic grammar the “five verbs”  الأَفْعَاْلُ الخَمْسَةُ. If you counted these structures you would find that there is really five of them.


For irregular verbs, you may see mood inflection for defective verbs.

Determining when to use each mood is simple in Arabic. A verb will be in the subjunctive mood (‘al-nasb) if, and only if, it is preceded by what is called a subjunctive particle أَدَاْة نَصْبٍ. The subjunctive particles are the following:


Subjunctive Particles


‘an أَنْ

Will not

lan لَنْ

In order to

kay كَيْ


‘ithan إِذَنْ


Indirect Subjunctive Particles

So that
















‘an أَنْis used to form infinitives in Arabic just as “to” is used to form them in English. It precedes the imperfective and it means: “that.”


أُرِيْدُ أَنْ أَتَعَلَّمَ

‘ureed(u) ‘an ‘ata”allam(a)

= (I) want that (I) learn

Translation: I want to learn

‘anأَنْ is used after verbs such as want, can, try, love, hate, etc. Just like in English.


Lan لَنْ  is the particleused to negate future events. It is used with imperfective.


لَنْ يَذْهَبَ

lan yathhab(a)

= will not (he) go

Translation: he will not go



Kay كَيْ means “in order to” or “so that…”


جَاْؤُوْا كَيْ يُساْعِدُوْا

jaa’oo kay yusaa”idoo

= (they) came so that (they) help

Translation: they came to help


Very often, Kayكَيْ will be preceded by the particleli- لِـ . This will change nothing.

جَاْؤُوْا لِكَيْ يُساْعِدُوْا

jaa’oo li-kay yusaa”idoo

= (they) came so that (they) help

Translation: They came to help


‘ithan إِذَنْ is different from the other particles. It is not exclusively a subjunctive particle and can be a jussive particle as well. The usage of ‘ithan as a subjunctive particle requires certain conditions and is an archaic usage. Therefore I am not describing it in detail here (the conditions, in brief, are that it be (1) the first word of the sentence, and (2) not separated from the imperfective by any word except for a swearing construction).

أ- سَأَزُوْرُكَ. ه

ب- إِذَنْ أُكْرِمَكَ.ه

A- sa-‘azooru-k(a) B- ‘ithan ‘ukrima-k(a)

= A-(I) will visit you B- Then (I) be generous with you

Translation: A- I will visit you B- I would be generous with you if you did


أ- سَأَزُوْرُكَ. ه

ب- إِذَنْ وَاللَّهِ أُكْرِمَكَ.ه

A- sa-‘azooru-k(a) B- ‘ithan wa-(‘a)l-laah(i) ‘ukrima-k(a)

= A-(I) will visit you B- Then (I swear by) God (I) be generous with you

Translation: A- I will visit you B- I certainly would be generous with you if you did


The second set of particles are not really subjunctive particles. We saw that li-لِـcan be added to the particle Kay كَيْ and that it will not change anything. Correspondingly, all the particles of the second set can be added to the particle ‘an أَنْ , but here, there is a change that can happen.


The change will be that ‘an أَنْ is omitted. Nevertheless, the verb will remain in the subjunctive mood.



أَتَيْنَاْ لِنَرَاْكَ

‘ataynaa li-naraa-k(a)

= (we) came to (we) see you

Translation: we came to see you

 li-لِـ is an ablative particle حَرْفُ جَرٍّthat can be only attached to nouns (including pronouns). It was attached to a verb in this example because there was an omitted ‘an أَنْ before that subjunctive verb. In this case, ‘anأَنْ is said to be “estimated” مُقَدَّرَة after li- لِـ . ‘an أَنْ with an imperfective verb form together an infinitive or verbal noun which can accept the ablative li- لِـ. Since that the verb ends with a long vowel aa , the mood sign will not show up as a rule. (see mood inflection for defective verbs)


Another example:

سَأَنْتَظِرُهُنَّ حَتَّىْ يَرْجَعْنَ

sa-‘antaziru-hunn(a) hattaa yarja”n(a)

= (I) will wait for (them >2/fem.) until (they >2/fem.) return

Translation: I will wait for their return


Hattaaحَتَّىْ is an ablative particle too. There is an estimated anأَنْ between it and the following verb, which must be in the subjunctive mood. The mood sign was not showing here because this particular conjugation of the imperfective (plural feminine) is a built one مَبْنِيّ.


نَنْتَصِرُ أَوْ نَمُوْتَ

nantasir(u) ‘aw namoot(a)

= (we) win or (we) die

Translation: either we win or we die

‘aw أَوْ is a conjunction word. It can normally precede verbs, but when the following verb is in the subjunctive mood, there must be an estimatedan أَنْ in between them.   Remember that the imperfective alone often denotes the future tense in classical writings.

Fa- فَـis also a conjunction word that means “then”. It works grammatically in a manner similar to ‘aw أَوْ; but fa- فَـ would be followed by an estimatedan أَنْ only in sentences that contain negation, a command, an interrogation, a whishing word, etc.


لا تَذْهَبُوْا فَتَهْلَكُوْا

laa tathhaboo fa-tahlakoo

= not(you >2/masc.) go then (you) perish

Translation: don’t go or you will perish

*The verb after laa لا is in the jussive mood.

 Wa وَis the conjunction word that means “and”. It works identically to fa- فَـ here, and requires the same conditions.

لا تَعِظْ وَتُسِيْءَ الْتَّصُرُّفَ 

laa ta”iz wa-tusee’(a) (‘a)t-tasarruf(a)

= not(you) preach and (you) do badly the behavior

Translation: don’t preach and misbehave at the same time