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Quranic Grammar - Verbs, Subjects and Objects


According to traditional Arabic grammar, every verb which is in the active voice must have a subject fāʿil (فاعل). If the subject of a verb is implicit through inflection, then an explicit subject is added to the dependency graph as a hidden subject pronoun. Similarly every verb in the passive voice must be linked to another node through a dependency relation called nāib fāʿil (نائب فاعل). This represents the subject of a passive verb, and if not already a word in the verse, must also always be present by adding a hidden subject pronoun.

A verb can optionally take an object mafʿūl bihi (مفعول به) and ditransitive verbs take a subject and two objects. The subject and objects of a verb can be other words, or they can be pronoun suffixes fused to the same verb. Regardless of which morphological segments take the role of subject and object, the subject must always be in the nominative case marfūʿ (مرفوع), and any objects must always be in the accusative case manṣūb (منصوب).

Fig 1. below lists hidden subject pronouns by verb inflection:

Verb Inflection Hidden Subject Pronoun
First person singularأَنَا
First person pluralنَحْنُ
Second person masculine singularأَنتَ
Second person masculine pluralأَنتُم
Third person masculine singularهُوَ
Third person feminine singlarهِىَ
Third person masculine pluralهُم

Fig 1. Hidden subject pronouns.

The following dependency graph shows a syntactic analysis for verse (99:1). The passive verb has a dependency relation for nāib fāʿil (نائب فاعل):

(with) its earthquake,
the earth
is shaken

Fig 2. Passive verb subject representative (99:1).

The next verse (99:2) has an active verb with a fāʿil (فاعل) dependency relation:

its burdens,
the earth
And brings forth

Fig 3. Verb subject dependency relation (99:2).

See Also

Language Research Group
University of Leeds