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Moroccan Arabic Grammar: The Past Tense

The past tense suffix

There are four types of verbs in Moroccan Arabic (Darija) and they are each conjugated using the basic past tense suffix (but each in a different way – see below):

Person (English)Person (Darija)Past Tense Suffix
I‘anaa-t
you (s)ntaa/ntee-tee
hehowa
sheheeya-aat
wehnaa-naa
you (pl)ntoomaa-too
theyhomaa-oo

The CCC Verbs

Most verbs in Moroccan Arabic (Darija) fall into the category of CCC verbs (Consonant, Consonant, Consonant), for example:
qt3 (to cut)
n3s (to sleep)
shrb (to drink – sh is one consonant in arabic script)
qllb (to look for – “ll” is one letter with a shedda on it, in arabic script)
ftr (have breakfast)
lbs (get dressed)
gls (sit down)
khrj (go out)
etc.

To conjugate CCC verbs, all you need to do is add the past tense suffix:

Person (English)Person (Darija)Conjugation of the verb “shrb”
I‘anaashrbt
you (s)ntaa/nteeshrbtee
hehowashrb
sheheeyashrbaat
wehnaashrbnaa
you (pl)ntoomaashrbtoo
theyhomaashrboo

The CC verbs

Some verbs have the CC form (Consonant, Consonant), for example:
chdd (to take)
Hll (to open)
sdd (to close)
kbb (to pour)
etc.
Note: all of these are written with just two letters (two consonants) in Arabic script – with a shedda on the second consonant.

To conjugate CC verbs, we add an “ee” sound before adding the past tense suffix for the first and second person:

Person (Engish)Personne (Darija)Conjugation of the verb “Hll”
I‘anaaHlleet
you (s)ntaa/nteeHlleetee
hehowaHll
sheheeyaHllaat
wehnaaHlleenaa
you (pl)ntoomaaHlleetou
theyhomaaHlloo

CCV Verbs

There are also CCV verbs (Consonant, Consonant, Vowel), for example:
mshaa (to go)
shraa (to buy)
tlqaa (to meet)
nqaa (to clean)
etc.

To conjugate CCV verbs, we remove the “aa” vowel and add an “ee” sound for the first and second persons, before adding the past tense suffix:

Person (English)Person (Darija)Conjugation of the verb “mshaa”
I‘anaamsheet
you (s)ntaa/nteemsheetee
hehowamshaa
sheheeyamshaat
wehnaamsheenaa
you (pl)ntoomaamcheetoo
theyhomaamshaaoo

CVC verbs

There are also CVC verbs (Consonant, Vowel, Consonant), for example:
gaal (to say)
kaan (to bee)
baan (to appear)
taar (to fly)
etc.

To conjugate CVC verbs, we remove the “aa” vowel from the middle of the verb and then add the past tense suffix at the end. For “heeya” (she), we just add a “t” at the end.:

Person (English)Person (Darija)Conjugation of the verb “kaan”
I‘anaaknt
you (s)ntaa/nteekntee
hehowakaan
sheheeyakaant
wehnaaknnaa
you (pl)ntoomaakntoo
theyhomaakaanoo

Summay – all the types of verbs in the past tense

The rules:

CCC+ past tense suffix
CC+ ee, + past tense suffix
CCVremove the vowel, + ee, + past tense suffix
CVCremove the vowel, + past tense suffix

In our dictionary entries, all the verbs are lablled CCC, CC, CCV or CVC, so you know how to conjugate them.

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