FuSHa to Shami 10: Imperative

The formation of the imperative (فعل الأمر) is one of the major dividing lines between Jor/Pal and Syr/Leb. However, the differences are exclusively in form 1 (‘simple’) verbs. For non-form-1 verbs, the imperative is simply the present form with the prefix removed:

تتعلم té-t3allam > تعلم t3allam ‘learn!’ (masc)

تعلمي t-3allm-i > علمي ‭3allmi ‘teach!’ (fem)

تشتغلو té-shteghl-u > اشتغلو shtéghlu ‘work!’ (pl)

Sometimes, especially where it appears in fuSHa writing, the initial ا may be written in forms in Shami before consonant clusters. This does not mean it is necessarily pronounced.

For form 1 verbs, Jor/Pal work like fuSHa, prefixing i- or u- to the present form minus its prefix depending on the stem vowel for sound and defective verbs and using the present form minus its prefix on its own for hollow verbs:

افتح ifta7 ‘open!’

ادرس udros ‘study!’

احكي i7ki ‘speak!’

قول ‭2uul! ‘say’

Syr/Leb follow Jor/Pal in their treatment of hollow and defective verbs, but with sound verbs (with three solid root consonants) they do not add a prefix but instead lengthen the stem vowel:

فتاح ftaa7! ‘open!’ (< yéfta7)

دروس droos! ‘study!’ (< yédros)

مسيك mseek! ‘take!’ (< yémsik)

The vowel is not lengthened in the feminine and the plural, but neither is a prefix added:

فتحي fta7i ‘open!’

درسو drésu ‘study!’


This also applies to the imperatives of akal ‘eat’, akhad ‘take’ and 2é3ed ‘sit’, which are slightly irregular:

خود خدي خدو khood khédi khédu ‘take!’ (you might hear the shortened kho, khi)

كول كلي كلو kool kéli kélu ‘eat!’

عود عدي عدو ‭3ood 3édi 3édu ‘sit!’ (compare with the regular Jor/Pal u23od).


عطى ‭3aTa ‘to give’ has an irregular imperative:

عطي عطي عطو ‭3aTi 3aTi 3aTu ‘give!’


اجى ija does not have a regular imperative, replaced (as in fuSHa) by the following forms:

تعال تعالي تعالو ta3aal ta3aali ta3aalu

تع تعي تعو ta3 ta3i ta3u


A few other forms are used with imperative meaning that are not full verbal paradigms (or not verbs at all):

مكانك makaanak (makaanik etc) – ‘stop where you are’

ايدك iidak (iidik etc) – ‘put that down!’

And most commonly:

هات هاتي هاتو haat haati haatu ‘give me, hand over’ (e.g. هات المصاري ‘give us the money’)


Negative imperative

The negative imperative is typically formed with maa plus the subjunctive, similar to fuSHa:

ما تروح maa truu7 ‘don’t go’

In Jor/Pal it can take the final -esh:

متروحش matruu7esh ‘don’t go’

Many Syrian speakers use لا instead, lining up even more with fuSHa:

لا تروح laa truu7 ‘don’t go!’

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