Conditional Sentences in Arabic - الْجُمْلَةُ الشَّرْطِيَّة
In Arabic grammar, conditional sentences are composed of two primary components: the condition itself, termed the protasis or فِعْلُ الشَّرْطِ, and the consequence or result of that condition, known as the apodosis or جَوَابُ الشَّرْطِ.
In many cases, especially within verbal sentences, both the protasis and the apodosis can utilize verbs that are in the perfect (or past) tense or in the jussive mood. This interplay of verb moods and tenses is pivotal in conveying the exact nuance and implication of the condition being presented.
For instance, consider the sentence: إِذَا جَاءَ النَّصْرُ فَسَبِّحْ (When the victory comes, then glorify [God]). Here, “إِذَا جَاءَ النَّصْرُ” serves as the protasis, denoting the condition of the victory arriving. In contrast, “فَسَبِّحْ” is the apodosis, highlighting the subsequent action or consequence of glorifying God when that condition is met. The choice of verb forms in such sentences is crucial in understanding and interpreting the relationship between the condition and its outcome.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَنصُرُوا اللَّـهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ
O you who have believed, if you support Allah, He will support you and plant your feet firmly. (47:7)
In Arabic, conditional sentences are typically introduced by specific particles that set the tone for the condition being presented. Here are some of the primary particles used:
- إِنْ (In): Translates to “if,” and sets a hypothetical or contingent scenario.
- إذَا (Idha): Often means “when” and is used for conditions that are expected to occur.
- لَوْ (Law): Another way to say “if,” used to express hypothetical situations or wishes.
- مَنْ (Man): Means “who,” “whom,” or “whoever,” setting conditions based on specific individuals or actions.
- مَهْمَا (Mahma): Translates to “whatever” or “no matter how,” indicating an emphasis on the universality or intensity of a condition.
- أَيُّ (Ayyu): Means “which” or “whichever,” specifying choices within a condition.
- لَمَّا (Lamma): Generally means “when,” used in past conditions or narrative contexts.
- مَا (Ma): Can be translated to “what” or “whenever,” based on its use in the sentence.
- أَيْنَ (Ayna): Asks “where,” pointing to a location-based condition.
1. إنْ (if) is used to begin the sentence
وَإِن تَعُودُوا نَعُدْ
but if you return [to war], We will return (8:19)
When the particle لَ precedes إِنْ, it adds emphasis, translating to “indeed if” or “certainly if.” This combination strengthens the condition, indicating a heightened sense of certainty or emphasis on the hypothetical scenario presented.
لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهِ لَأَرْجُمَنَّكَ ۖ وَاهْجُرْنِي مَلِيًّا
If you do not desist, I will surely stone you, so avoid me a prolonged time.” (19:46)
وَلَئِن لَّمْ يَفْعَلْ مَا آمُرُهُ لَيُسْجَنَنَّ وَلَيَكُونًا مِّنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ
and if he will not do what I order him, he will surely be imprisoned and will be of those debased.” (12:32)
Note: When إِنْ is followed by إلَّا, it functions as a negation, translating to “none but” or “none except.
إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ
It is not, but a revelation revealed, (53:4)
2. إِنْ and إِذَا: Indicating Probable or Possible Conditions in Arabic
In probable conditional sentences, both the protasis (فِعْلُ الشَّرْطِ) and the apodosis (جَوَابُ الشَّرْطِ) can be in the perfect or jussive mood.
فَإِذَا جَاءَ الْخَوْفُ رَأَيْتَهُمْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَيْكَ
And when fear comes, you see them looking at you (33:19)
فَإِذَا ذَهَبَ الْخَوْفُ سَلَقُوكُم بِأَلْسِنَةٍ
But when fear departs, they lash you with sharp tongues, indisposed toward [any] good. (33:19)
3. The hypothetical or unlikely condition is denoted by the conjunction لَوْ
وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَجَعَلَ النَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً
And if your Lord had willed, He could have made humanity one community (11:118)
لَوْ أَنزَلْنَا هَـٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ عَلَىٰ جَبَلٍ لَّرَأَيْتَهُ خَاشِعًا مُّتَصَدِّعًا مِّنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّـهِ
If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah (59:21)
A hypothetical negative condition is typically conveyed using لَوْ لَا, which translates to ‘if not’ or ‘had not’.
وَلَوْلَا أَن كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْجَلَاءَ لَعَذَّبَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا
And if not that Allah had decreed for them evacuation, He would have punished them in [this] world (59:3)
وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّـهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُم بِبَعْضٍ
And if it were not for Allah checking [some] people using others (2:251)
Illustrative Examples of Conditional Sentences from the Holy Quran
وَإِنْ أَرَدتُّمُ اسْتِبْدَالَ زَوْجٍ مَّكَانَ زَوْجٍ
But if you want to replace one wife (4:20)
وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَقُولُوا هَـٰذِهِ مِنْ عِندِكَ ۚ قُلْ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ
and if evil befalls them, they say, “This is from you.” Say, “All [things] are from Allah.” (7:78)
فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ
So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, (99:7)
وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِهِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ
And whoever disbelieves in it – it is they who are the losers. (2:121)
مَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا يُجْزَ بِهِ
Whoever does a wrong will be recompensed for it (4:123)
فَلَمَّا جَهَّزَهُم بِجَهَازِهِمْ
So when he had furnished them with their supplies (12:70)
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