Fusha to Shami 18: MaSdars and Nouns of Instance

MaSdars (مصادر) or verbal nouns are very common in fuSHa. Cursory treatments of 3aamiyye (usually the same ones that claim that all 3aamiyye sentences are subject-verb-object or that the grammar is ‘very simplified fuSHa’) usually claim that the maSdar simply isn’t used in colloquial. There is an element of truth to this in that certain very common uses of the maSdar in fuSHa are usually or always replaced by structures with conjugated verbs:

قبل وصوله > قبل ما يوصل

احب القراءة > بحب اقرى

However, this doesn’t mean that the maSdar isn’t used at all (or the اسم مرّة or noun of instance which we’ll also deal with here). This post will deal with the places that they are common.

Formation of maSdars

As in fuSHa, maSdars are unpredictably formed. This goes especially for form I verbs, where they can take any number of shapes (كتابة, نسي, عصيان) although there are a few very common patterns (particularly fa3l). It also applies, as in fuSHa (think takallama > kalaam) to verbs in other forms as well: دوّر على dawwar 3ala ‘look for’ has a maSdar دوارة dwaara for example.

There are also a few regular forms (in 3aamiyye) which nonetheless do not line up with their equivalent forms in fuSHa. Form II defective verbs for example have maSdars in téf3aaye (or in Pal/Jor, tif3aay): عبّى ‘to fill’ becomes té3baaye, سلّى ‘to entertain’ becomes تسلاية téslaaye, etc etc. The regular form for all quadriliteral verbs with the t- prefix is fa3lane (تولدن twaldan ‘act childish’ > ولدنة waldane, تحيون t7eewan ‘act like a moron’ > 7eewane ‘acting like a moron’.

A number of verbs which also exist in fuSHa have different (often regular) common maSdars in 3aamiyye: نسي nési is usually نسي nasy ‘forgetfulness’, for example (and not e.g. نسيان which is instead the participle).

MaSdars are best learnt individually with each verb.

Formation of the اسم مرة

The formation of the noun of instance is simple and identical to fuSHa. All nouns of instance take the form fa3le (or fa3we, foo3a etc for defective and hollow verbs). These nouns express the meaning of a single instance of the verb:

ضربة Darbe ‘a blow’, ‘a hit’, ‘a strike’ etc (contrast with ضرب Darb ‘hitting’)

خطوة khaTwe ‘a step’, ‘a single act of stepping’ (contrast with خطو khaTw ‘stepping’)

Most nouns of instance are derived from form I verbs. Generally the maSdar can be used in the sense of a noun of instance.

Normal gerund uses

Although as discussed above there are some fuSHa contexts where the maSdar is not much used – particularly where in fuSHa it stands in for a normal sentence (e.g. بعد وصوله للمطار) – it is quite commonly used as a gerund that lines up with the English usage:

بحب القراءة b7ébb élqiraa2a – I like reading (equivalent to بحب اقرى)

القراءة صعبة élqiraa2a Sa3be – reading is hard

المشي مفيد للضغط élmashy mufiid la-DDagh@T – walking is good [= useful] for blood pressure

The noun of instance is also used (intuitively) in expressions like the following:

اخي منتبه انو فوتاتي ع المحل كترانة akhi méntabeh énno footaati 3a-lma7all kétraane – my brother has noticed that I’m coming here a lot [= that my entrances… have become more]

هلحكي بالروحة ولا بالرجعة؟ ha-l7aki bé-rroo7a wélla bé-rraj3a? – was this on the way there or on the way back? [= is this talk in the going or the returning?]

قديش بتدفع روحة رجعة؟ ‭2addeesh btédfa3 roo7a raj3a? – how much do you pay there and back?

As mentioned with normal nouns, some verbs always take indefinite direct objects. This includes maSdars:

كمل حكي kammel 7aki – keep on talking

وقف اكل wa22ef ak@l – stop eating

Cognate accusative

More interesting is its usage in the مفعول مطلق (cognate accusative) structure, whose existence in 3aamiyye is usually denied wholesale. In fact it is quite common, especially with accompanying adjectives (very commonly مرتب mrattab, literally ‘tidy’) and especially especially when telling stories colourfully. Of course, these nouns do not take accusative case marking since cases do not exist in 3aamiyye:

ضربتو ضرب مرتب Darabto Dar@b mrattab – I gave him a real beating [= beat him tidy beating]

عم تدور على مشاكل دوارة ‭3am @tdawwer 3ala mashaakel @dwaara – you’re looking really hard for problems [= searching a searching]

حكيت حكي ما بينحكى ‭7akeet 7aki maa byén7aka – I said things that shouldn’t be said [= talked talking that is not talked]

مسكوني مسك اليد méskuuni mask élyad – they caught me red-handed [= the catching of the hand]

The noun of instance can also be used here (when it exists), giving a slightly different meaning of a single instance:

هلق روح نملك احلى نومة halla2 ruu7 némlak a7la noome – now go and have a lovely sleep [= the nicest sleeping]

هاد اكيد بكون ابوه هابشلو شي هبشة مرتبه واشترالو السيارة haad akiid bikuun abuu haabéshlo shi habshe mrattabe w-@shtaraalo éssiyyaara – no, this guy’s dad must have got his hands on a nice little deal and bought him the car [= will have got a tidy getting]

These can be counted:

ضربني تلت ضربات Darabni tlét Darbaat – he hit me three times (= تلت مرات)

Some maSdars can be used in the same construction as the maf3uul muTlaq but with a different verb from the one they are derived from. The most common of these refer to motion. Note that whilst the idiomatic and the literal translations could have ‘-ing’, the English ‘-ing’ of the literal translation is the -ing of the gerund (‘running is good for you’) and not of the participle (‘I’m running’) – that is, the English forms are identical but the Arabic words here are maSdars, not participles:

نروح مشي؟ nruu7 mashy? – shall we walk there? [= go a walking]

جينا ركيد jiina rgiid – we ran here [= we came a running]

مو جايبتيني لهون شحط مشان تقليلي هيك حكي muu jaayebtiini lahoon shaH@T mishaan t2éliili heek 7aki? – surely you haven’t dragged me here just to tell me this nonsense? [= you haven’t brought me here a dragging to tell me this sort of speech?]

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