By ArabicTree | March 22, 2008
Arabic has a very distinct quality to it–while at first, it appears to be complex and difficult, that complexity is removed by use of patterns. Almost everything in Arabic follows patterns–and if you know how to spot the patterns, you can get an idea of what the word means, even if you don’t understand everything.
First, a word on how we’re going to explain the patterns–we’re going to use a standard method in Arabic, which is using the letters fa, ayn, and lam as placeholders. So when we say fa’ala (فَعَلَ), that means the first letter has fatha, the second has fatha, and the third has fatha, and they’re arranged like that. Words on this pattern are: thahaba (ذَهَبَ) (fa = tha, ayn = ha, lam =ba), kharaja (خَرَجَ) (fa = kha, ayn = ra, lam = ja). Get it? If not, post in the comments insha’Allah.
The first pattern is fa’ala (فَعَلَ) or fa’ila (فَعِلَ), which means a past-tense verb (eg. kharaja, shariba).
Next is words that begin with “ma” (مَ), which is a place–like (مَسجِد) masjid (the place of sujood), madrasah (the place of dars–lessons, learning) and so on.
Next is words that begin with “mi” (مِ)–these denote the instrument of something. For example, mil’aqa (the instrument of licking–laqa’a) means a spoon.
Words on the pattern of faa’il (فَاعِل) denote a doer. This includes words like: حَاكِم (haakim–judge), kaathib (liar), etc.
Words that start with “mu” (مُ) also denote a doer–such as مُدَرِّس (mudarris–teacher), muhandis (engineer), etc.
Also, words that end with ta-marbuwta (ة) are usually feminine–like ‘Aaishah (عَاإشَة), muhandisah (female engineer), etc..
Finally, verbs beginning with “fa” (فَ) mean splitting, separating, or opening–such as faraqa (separate), fajara (open), etc.
These are just some basic, general patterns–the deeper you go into the Arabic language, the more patterns you discover! And yes, all of these rules have exceptions–like the name “hamzah” (هَمزَة), which ends with ta-marbuwta, but is masculine.
Wallahu ta’ala ‘alim.