Recently a reader asked me about the word حَيَّ. The word is used in the call of the Muezzin: Come to prayer! (حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلاةِ). The word in question – حَيَّ – is a so-called اِسْم الْفِعْل. There is no clear translation for this grammar term. Let’s call it quasi-verb. In fact, we have to deal with a “hybrid” .
Such words point to a verb and carry its meaning as well as its time and function.
There are some important things to know.
Such a word is not a pure noun (اِسْم) only. Why? Other than nouns, a اِسْم الْفِعْل only conveys a meaning on itself when it is linked to time.
We also don’t call it a pure verb because it does not carry the signs and markers of a verb, i.e., the usual endings.
All forms of a اِسْم الْفِعْل are indeclinable (مَبْنِيّ).
Furthermore, it is not affected by other parts of the sentence. In other words, it does not have a regent (عامِل) and doesn’t have a position in إعراب.
However, a اِسْم الْفِعْل has governing power of a verb and works as a regent (عامِل). It can govern other words and induces cases – note the cases after such a word.
Therefore, it can carry a direct object (مَفْعُول بِهِ) in the accusative case (مَنْصُوب). This object, however, can never precede the اِسْم الْفِعْل. It has to be placed after.
In Arabic grammar books, the اِسْم الْفِعْل is classified by the tense/time it relates to. Therefore, we have three types (imperative, past tense, present tense). I only focus on the imperative here as this is the most common type.
|The imperative mode (اِسْم فِعْل أَمْر).|
Many exclamations have a certain verbal force are given the equivalent of an imperative.
|Stop! Give up! Let alone!|
|Come! Come to prayer! (حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلاةِ)|
|Amen! (to hear/answer a prayer)|
|Note: Christians use Amen a lot. Amen is probably of Aramaic origin: אמין, meaning strong, enduring, true, lasting, eternal. In Hebrew, אָמֵן means so be it; truly. From Hebrew, it perhaps entered ancient Greek (ἀμήν) and from where it spread to other languages.|
Muslims say ’Āmīn as well, for example, after having read the first Sura al-Fātiha (سُورة الْفاتِحة). Some linguists suggested that the آ – the Aleph Madd (أَلِف مَدّ) – is only there in the word آمِينَ to provide the fullness of the sound “a” (فَتْحة). What supports this idea is the fact that there is no word in Arabic following the pattern فَاعِيلٌ.
Hurry up to school! (هَيّا إِلَى الْمَدْرَسة)
|Come here, bring here!|
قَرِّبْ or اِقْتَرِبْ
Many common expressions fit into this category. They were originally prepositional phrases (الْجَرّ وَالْمَجُرور) or adverbs of place (ظَرْف مَكان) but now have the meaning of an imperative. Grammarians call such expressions a اِسْم فِعْل مَنْقُول (transferred).
|There it is for you! (You take this!)||Take it (خُذْها إِلَيْكَ)!|
|There is my hand for you!||Take my hand (خُذْ يَدِي)!|
|Take the book (said to a woman)!||You (f.) take (خُذِي)!|
|Seize Karim!||Seize Karim who is in front of!|
|Seize Karim who is beside you!|
|Get hold of K. who is close to you!|
|Take him!||Take (خُذْ)!|
|Get away from me!||Move away (اِبْتَعِدْ)!|
|You must be honest!||You have to (اِلْزَمْ)!|
|Move on! Forward!||Move forward (تَقَدَّمْ)!|
|Backward!||Fall behind! (تَأَخَّرْ)|
|Stay in your place!||Stand firm! (اُثْبُتْ)|
|It has several meanings: Up! Come on! Onward! With a word in the مَنْصُوب-case, it means: Give me/us…! Bring…!|
Notice in the examples the direct objects – the accusative case (مَنْصُوب)!
PS: My coming book Arabic for Nerds 2 will deal with stuff like that extensively.
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