January 12, 2020 0

Arabic Grammar: Using ‘Masdar’ as a Noun

Arabic Grammar: Using ‘Masdar’ as a Noun


Ahla wa sahla! Right now, I want to talk a little bit more about the مصدر in Arabic, what we sometimes call in English the -ing form, the ‘verbal noun,’ ‘gerund.’ Really, the best way to think about it is just that a مصدر is a مصدر. And I’d like to talk about one of the specific aspects of using مصادر in Arabic. If you’ve studied مصادر before, and if you need a refresher you can go back and look at the videos we’ve prepared about مصادر and how they work, you probably remember that one of the ways of thinking about them is that they are the ‘-ing form,’ the ‘verbal noun,’ the idea of writing or eating or talking or whatever the case may be. But, as a slightly more advanced user of Arabic, it’s also very important to recognize that a lot of مصادر are not just ‘verbal nouns,’ they have much more noun-like meanings, much more conventional noun-like meanings, and we don’t need to fall into the trap of only considering them as sort of ‘dormant verbs.’ I just wanted to share a couple of examples with you. For example, the verb قابلة Form III, in Arabic, means ‘to meet up with’ or ‘interview’ a person. So if we wanted to, it could be tempting to think of المقابلة the مصدر form, as ‘interviewing.’ And we could do that, and it might be useful for us, but it’s also important to remember that المقابلة is also a very, very normal word just for ‘interview.’ The thing that is an interview. So if I wanted to talk about ‘a job interview,’ a very normal way to do that would be to say .مقابلة عمل That’s an indefinite إضافة right? ‘A job interview.’ So not just ‘interviewing,’ not just the verbal idea, but a noun, this thing that is ‘an interview,’ a sit-down with a person. A couple of other examples: We have a verb, احتفل, In Arabic, that kind of means ‘to celebrate,’ or ‘to have a party.’ If we’re celebrating something in particular, we would have a بِـ at the end. So the مصدر is الاحتفال. Which we could render as a ‘celebrating,’ or maybe ‘partying,’ but it also means ‘celebration.’ So if we wanted to talk about ‘Ramadan celebrations,’ We could say الاحتفالات الرمضانية. One really handy thing when we’re trying to convert this idea in our minds from the -ing form to an actual noun, celebrating-celebrations, if we ever need to make a مصدر plural, especially in derived forms from II through X, there is a very good chance that it’s a regular feminine plural. Even though احتفال in the singular doesn’t have a ‘taa marbuuTa,’ we can make it plural with ‘alif-taa.’ Another example of that would be if we were talking about needing something. The verb form, احتاج, Form VIII, and then we get the مصدر, الاحتياج. So we could refer to that as ‘needing, -ing, but we could also just call it ‘a need.’ احتياج or الاحتياج would be a very normal way to talk about ‘a need’ as a noun, so if we were talking about ‘basic human needs,’ we could say in Arabic الاحتياجات… Or excuse me, probably we would use an إضافة: احتياجات الإنسان الأساسية What is it we say? What’s the term of art in economics or psychology؟ ‘Fundamental human needs.’ That’s how we would say it in Arabic. أساسية, feminine because we’re referring to this non human plural here, الاحتياجات. So the adjective that describes it is feminine singular. And once again, even though الاحتياج, the verbal noun, the مصدر in the singular doesn’t have a ‘taa marbuuTa,’ I can pretty much count on pluralizing it with an ‘alif-taa.’ There are lots and lots of useful nouns that we get from مصادر. We don’t even need to change them, we can just employ them. It’s not 100% sure, it’s not always a completely safe bet, but if you are trying to express an idea as a noun, and you know a verb that you can turn into a noun-like idea, often you will wind up with the correct term if you can pull off this little change.

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