November 6, 2019 8

The verb “to be” in Arabic كان

The verb “to be” in Arabic كان


«ʔahlan wa-sahlan»! This time we are going to talk about a verb which is very important in Arabic grammar. It’s the verb «kāna». «kāna» is the verb ‘to be’. You remember that in Arabic verbs are always quoted
in the third person masculine past form. So, the word «kāna» means ‘he was’. So, «kāna» is a weak verb. [We have] only two consonants: «kāf», «nūn» The third consonant is hidden behind the «ʔalif». «kāna» in the present is «yakūnu» «yakūnu»: so, the real root of this verb is «kāf», «wāw», «nūn». There are other verbs which follow
the same rules of «kāna» which are called «kāna wa-ʔaḫawātuhā». «ʔaḫawāt» is the plural of «ʔuḫt», ‘sister’. So, ‘kāna and her sisters’. Here are two examples of
«ʔaḫawāt kāna», which are: «ṣāra», «yaṣiru» and «ʔaṣbaḥa», «yuṣbiḥu» Both mean the same thing:
‘to become’. A sentence beginning with the verb «kāna»
is considered as a verbal sentence, «ǧumla fiεaliyya». ‘The lesson was boring’. Remember that «ḫabar kāna» is always
in the accusative case, don’t ask why. This is our sentence without vowels. So, «kāna ad-darsu… And you have to know the word «mumill»,
which is ‘boring’, And you understand that it is
in the accusative because of the «ʔalif». Even in vowelless spoken Arabic, this case after the «ḫabar kāna» has to be pronounced. So, «kān ad-dars mumillan». Now we have another example which is
«kānat is-sayyāratu mukassaratan». «kānat is-sayyāratu mukassaratan» «sayyāra» is ‘car’, and «mukassar» is an adjective which means ‘broken’, actually ‘destroyed’. So, ‘the car was destroyed’. You remember that in the third feminine form
«faεalat», «katabat», even «kānat», there is a «sukūn» here [over the «tāʔ»]. But here you have to tie
with the article which takes the «waṣla» and then you put a «kasra» in order to say
«kānat‿is-sayyaratu mukassaratan». So, this is a «ʔism kāna» which is in
the nominative case as the subject of «kāna» and this is the «ḫabar kāna»
which has to go in accusative. So, «kānat as-sayyara mukassara»,
‘the car was completely destroyed’. «mukassar» is stronger than «maksūr». «kasara», «yaksiru» is ‘to break’,
«kassara», « yukassiru» is ‘to destroy’. Once again we have
«kāna ʔaḥmadu mutεaban». «kāna ʔaḥmadu mutεaban» «ʔaḥmad» is a proper name. «ʔaḥmad» is the «ʔism kāna» and «mutεab» is ‘tired’. So, ‘ʔaḥmad was tired’. The adjective is «mutεab», or «mutεabun». But as a «ḫabar kāna» it has to be in the accusative. So, «kāna ʔaḥmadu mutεaban». You can also say «kān ʔaḥmad mutεaban». In this case you will have to pronounce the accusative «an» in which you are helped in seeing the «ʔalif». What am I going to show now, you are wondering… How to say ‘he was not’? You have two possibilities:
the simplest one is to use the negation «mā». «mā kāna», ‘he was not’. [Second possibility:] «lam» followed by the jussive mode which ends in «sukūn». So «kāna», «yakūnu», «yakun», «lam yakun». You will find this first possibility easier, of course,
but this [second] form is considered more elegant. It is lighter than «mā kāna». As you remember, «yakun» is a present form which normally is «yakūnu», with a «wāw». So, in the jussive mode you have to put a
«sukūn» instead of the «ḍamma». But before a «sukūn» you cannot have a long vowel. So the «wāw» goes away. «lam yakun», ‘he was not’. You want to say: ‘I was not married’. And it is a woman or a girl who is speaking. So, you can say
«mā kuntu mutazawwiǧatan». «mutazawwiǧatan»,
«mutazawwiǧun» ‘is married’ in masculine, «mutazawwiǧa» in feminine. «mā kuntu mutazawwiǧatan». or «lam ʔakun mutazawwiǧatan». This is more frequent. Both mean ‘I was not married’. Without vowels:
«mā kunt mutazawwiǧa». «lam ʔakun mutazawwiǧa». For the example «lam yakun ḏanbaka», «lam yakun ḏanbaka»,
‘it was not your fault’. I am speaking to a man. If I am speaking to a woman,
I will say «lam yakun ḏanbaki». And pay attention with these words.
This can be two words: «ḏanb» with «sukūn» [over the «nūn»] is ‘fault’, «ḏanab» is ‘tail’. So, if you say «lam yakun ḏanabaka», you mean
‘it was not your tail’, which doesn’t mean anything. This is a sentence which could say
a man whose heart is broken: «ʔaεṭaytuki kulla šayʔin wa-lam yakun hāḏā kāfiyan». «ʔaεṭaytu»: the verb is «ʔaεṭä», «yuεṭī», ‘to give’, «ʔaεṭaytuki»
‘I gave to you (♀)’, «kulla šayʔin»
‘everything’, ‘all’, ‘all I could’, «wa-lam yakun»…
«wa» can have also the meaning of ‘but’. «lam yakun hāḏā kāfiyan»
‘but this was not sufficient’, ‘that was not enough’. «ʔaεṭaytuki kulla šayʔin wa-lam yakun hāḏā kāfiyan». [without the final vowels]
«ʔaεṭaytuki»: you have to pronounce [the «kasra»] «kull šayʔ wa-lam yakun hāḏā kāfiyan». Let’s use it now in the future. So, I wrote:
«satakūnu hāḏihi s-sanatu ṣaεbatan ǧiddan». «sana» is ‘year’,
«hāḏihi» is a demonstrative. «ṣaεb», «ṣaεbun» means ‘difficult’,
«ǧiddan» is ‘very’. So, «satakūnu hāḏihi s-sanatu ṣaεbatan ǧiddan». «hāḏihi s-sanatu» is the «ʔism kāna»
and is in the nominative. «ṣaεbatan» is the «ḫabar kāna». That’s why it is in accusative. ‘This year will be very difficult’. [without final vowels]
«satakūn hāḏih as-sana ṣaεba ǧiddan». Some people claim that the «sīn» now is no more used and that you can say
«takūnu hāḏihi s-sanatu ṣaεbatan ǧiddan». Without [final] vowels:
«takūn hāḏih as-sana ṣaεba ǧiddan». And it has the same meaning,
‘this year will be very difficult’. Let’s try to use it in the negative for the future. You know that the future has to be negated by «lan» and «manṣūb». So, «ʔanā ʔakūnu» gives «lan ʔakūna», ‘I won’t be’. «lan ʔakūna hunā l-ʔusbūεa l-qādima». «ʔusbūε» is ‘week’,
«qādim», ‘next’. So, ‘I won’t be here next week’. This sentence is for me, because I take some days of holidays for Christmas. [without final vowels]
«lan ʔakūn hunā al-ʔusbūε al-qādim». You remember that in the present tense we do not use the verb ‘to be’ so we just use a nominal sentence. «al-muεallimu mutεabun». But you may use «yakūnu», specially if preceded by «rubbamā», which means ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’
to introduce a guess you have. «rubbamā yakūnu l-muεallimu mutεaban qalīlan». ‘The teacher could be a little tired’. The same nuance is expressed by «qad» instead of «rubbamā». «qad yakūnu», ‘it might be’, ‘it may be’. So, «qad yakūnu l-muεallimu mutεaban qalīlan». Without final vowels, you may hear:
«qad yakūn al-muεallim mutεaban qalīlan». Here you have to respect the accusative. ‘The teacher might be a little tired’. Another example with «qad yakūnu»: «qad yakūnu ʔafḍala ʔan tusāfira ʔilä l-maġribi» «ʔafḍal» means ‘preferable’ or ‘better’. So, here I am saying:
«qad yakūnu ʔafḍal»… ‘it could be better’, ‘the best thing’ ‘that you go to Morocco’. «qad yakūnu ʔafḍala ʔan tusāfira ʔilä l-maġribi» [without final vowels]
«qad yakūn ʔafḍal ʔan tusāfir ʔilä l-maġrib» Well, this is an example which stands for an old person of my age. «kāna yaqraʔu l-ǧarīdata». So, «qaraʔa», «yaqraʔu» is ‘to read’. «ǧarīda» is the ‘newspaper’. Using «kāna» followed by the present
you have our imperfect, ‘he was reading’ or ‘he used to read’. So, «kāna yaqraʔu l-ǧarīdata», ‘he used to read the newspaper’ or ‘he was reading the newspaper’. Without final vowels, you can hear:
«kān yaqraʔ al-ǧarīda». Here we have an example with the subject «ʔabī».
«ʔab» is ‘father’, «ʔabī» is ‘my father’. So, «kāna ʔabī yaštaġilu fī l-maqhä». ‘My father was working’ or ‘used to work in the cafeteria’. Without final vowels, you may hear:
«kān ʔabī yaštaġil fī l-maqhä» Finally, and then it’s finished, you can use «kāna» with a past verb, but in most cases you have to insert «qad». «kāna qad kataba qiṣṣatan», ‘he had written a story’. It’s a past perfect. In first person you would say:
«kuntu qad katabtu qiṣṣatan». Without final vowels, you may hear:
«kān qad katab qiṣṣa». «šukran», thank you. You will find some difficulties but don’t worry, you will see that soon you’ll get it. I wish you a great day and see you soon.

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