FuSHa to Shami 12: Compound tenses (future, continuous, past habitual)

Shami has a few more complex structures that do not involve simply conjugating verbs.


There are various ways to express the future. One is by using the simple present with b- on its own:

بروح معك bruu7 ma3ak ‘I’ll go with you’

One is by using bédd- (literally ‘want’):

بدي امرق لعندو بكرا béddi émro2 la-3éndo bukra – I’m going to go to his house tomorrow

Another common way is with the particle رح ra7(a)- or the prefix حـ ‭‭7a-:

رح روح ra7 ruu7 – I’ll go

حشوفك بكرا ‭‭7a-shuufak bukra – I’ll see you tomorrow

There are differences in nuance between these different forms and the use of the bare present, as there are between ‘going to’, ‘will’ and the present continuous in English, but these differences are difficult to pin down. Native speakers have an intuition about what sounds right and wrong in different sentences, and the only way to gain that sort of intuition as a non-native speaker is from practice.


The continuous is formed with 3am which can be combined with the subjunctive or b-present. It typically lines up with the English continuous form in that it suggests repetitive action over a specific period of time:

عم ادرس ‭‭3am édros – I’m studying

ضرسي ما عم ينوملي الليل Dersi maa 3am ynawwemni élleel – my tooth is stopping me from sleeping at night [= is not letting me sleep]

One small difference in usage is that 3am can be used with many verbs that in English do not permit a continuous:

ما عم بقدر افتح الباب maa 3am bé2der éfta7 élbaab – I can’t get the door open [= I’m not being able to…]

Combinations of kaan and other verb forms

كان can be used with other verb forms to make compound tenses, as in fuSHa. With the subjunctive past kaan can be used to form a past habitual:

كان يدرس kaan yédros – he used to study

With the continuous it can be used to form a past continuous:

كنت عم ادرس ként 3am édros – I was studying

With the future the past form of kaan can be used to form a future-in-past:

كان رح يشتي kaan ra7 yshatti – it was going to rain

كان بدو يفوت kaan béddo yfuut – he was about to go in (or ‘he wanted to go in’)

With the past, it can form a pluperfect:

كان راح kaan raa7 – he’d gone

The present form bikuun can also be used with past, continuous and future in a similar way to express either assumptions or to centre the action on the future:

بكون عم يدرس bikuun 3am yédros – he must be studying, he’ll be studying

بكون خلص bikuun khallaS – he’ll have finished, he must have finished

بكون بدو يفوت bikuun béddo yfuut – he’ll be about to go in

The b-less form can be used similarly where it is triggered by something:

خايف يكون فات من الباب التاني khaayef ykuun faat mn élbaab éttaani – I’m afraid he might have come in through the other door

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