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Quranic Grammar - Imperative Verbs (الأمر والنهي)

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An imperative expression may be either a command or request (أمر), or else a negative prohibition (نهي). An example of an imperative verb used as a command can be found at the start of chapter 87, in verse (87:1) shown below:

 (87:1:4)
l-aʿlā
the Most High,
 (87:1:3)
rabbika
(of) your Lord,
 (87:1:2)
is'ma
(the) name
 (87:1:1)
sabbiḥi
Glorify

Fig 1. An imperative verb used as a command in verse (87:1).

An imperative may also be formed using an imperfect verb fiʿil mudāriʿ (فعل مضارع), by prefixing the verb with the imperative lām prefix. The dependency graph for verse (106:3) shown below describes the syntax of this imperative construction. The imperative lām prefix always precedes an imperfect verb which will be found in the jussive mood majzūm (مجزوم). In the dependency graph below the imperative lām prefix and the imperfect jussive verb are linked through an imperative dependency (أمر).

 (106:3:4)
l-bayti
House,
 (106:3:3)
hādhā
(of) this
 (106:3:2)
rabba
(the) Lord
 (106:3:1)
falyaʿbudū
So let them worship

Fig 2. The imperative lām prefix used with a jussive verb in verse (106:3).

Prohibition

The negative imperative (نهي) is used to specify prohibition. This is always formed using the prohibition particle (لا) followed by an imperfect jussive verb (فعل مضارع مجزوم). The negative imperative is usually translated as "do not". An example of prohibition can be found in verse (68:8). In the graph below the imperfect verb has been placed into the jussive mood majzūm (مجزوم) through a prohibition dependency:

 (68:8:3)
l-mukadhibīna
the deniers.
 (68:8:2)
tuṭiʿi
obey
 (68:8:1)
falā
So (do) not

Fig 3. Prohibition (negative imperative) used with a jussive verb in verse (68:8).

The Imperative Result

The dependency relation known as jawāb amr (جواب أمر) links a resulting action to a preceding imperative verb. The pseudo-syntax used for this construction is:

do <imperative> then <result>

The result of an imperative will always be an imperfect verb found in the jussive mood majzūm (مجزوم). An example may be found in verse (70:42) shown below. In this verse the two verbs in the imperative result clause are both in the jussive mood (70:42:2) and (70:42:3):

 (70:42:3)
wayalʿabū
and amuse themselves
 (70:42:2)
yakhūḍū
(to) converse vainly
 (70:42:1)
fadharhum
So leave them

Fig 4. An imperative verb with its result in verse (70:42).

See Also

Language Research Group
University of Leeds
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