Within the spoken and Standard Written version of Arabic, it is the verbs that stand out as being exceptionally complex. Arabic verbs are based on trilateral or quadrilateral roots, meaning the root is created out of three or four consonants. This basic root communicates the meaning of the particular verb, which is then modified to create grammatical function and context. The verbs within this language can be modified to express such functions as person, number, and tense, as well as the concepts of mood and voice.
There are several verbal categories within the standard form of the Arabic language that are actually marked on the verbs themselves. These include:
• Person—first, second, or third.
• Number—singular, plural, and the less commonly seen dual.
• Gender—feminine or masculine.
• Tense—past, present, future.
• Voice—passive or active.
• Mood—utilized in the present (known in this language as the non-past) and include jussive, indicative, subjunctive, imperative, longer energetic and shorter energetic.
• Form—derivative concepts such as reflexive, intensive, and causative.
• Weakness—the property assigned to a verb depending on the specific consonants that make up the verb root. There are five types of weakness divided into two or three subtypes each.
Conjugation of Arabic verbs provides a variety of information to the sentence in which the verb appears. These grammatical functions are accomplished through the addition of a variety of prefixes and suffixes that change depending on the mood, person, gender and number that are being expressed through the verb.
The tenses that are expressed through the use of verbs in the Arabic language can be extremely specific so it is crucial to understand the exact meaning that is meant to be expressed so that the proper prefix or other marking can be applied to the verbs. The way that tense is interpreted through this language is:
• Generally (but there are several distinct situational exceptions) what is referred to as the past tense is more specifically the past perfect tense. This means that, when using the example of the word “write”, the past tense application means “he wrote” as opposed to “he was writing”. Expressing the latter of the two interpretations is accomplished through conjugating the verb for “to be” and adding it to the verb in the past tense.
• The two main tenses of the language, past and present, can be used to apply aspect to verbs rather than just timing. This means that it can indicate the state of the action rather than focusing entirely on the timing of that particular action.
Understanding the complexity of Arabic verbs can require great dedication and practice, particularly if the goal is to be able to communicate intelligibly and understand both the written and the verbal language.