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Past continuous in Arabic - الْفِعْلُ الماضِي الاِسْتِمْرَارِي

Introduction

In Arabic, the Past Continuous tense is formed by using the helping verb كَانَ (kana), which means “was” or “were,” followed by the imperfect tense of the main verb. This tense is used to describe actions that were ongoing or in progress in the past. Let’s explore how this tense is constructed:

 

  1. Use of كَانَ (kana): The helping verb كَانَ (kana) is the equivalent of “was” or “were” in English. It establishes the past timeframe for the action.

  2. Imperfect Tense: Following كَانَ (kana), we use the imperfect tense of the main verb to describe the action that was ongoing. The imperfect tense indicates that the action was not completed but was in progress.

 

Let’s illustrate this with an example:

 

  • كَانَ يَقْرَأُ (kana yaqra’u): He was reading.
    • Here, كَانَ (kana) signifies “was,” and يَقْرَأُ (yaqra’u) represents the imperfect tense of the verb قَرَأَ (qara’a), which means “to read.” Together, this phrase conveys the idea that someone “was reading” in the past, indicating an ongoing action.

 

This construction allows you to express past actions that were continuous and unfolding. Whether you want to narrate a story, describe an event, or provide context for a past situation, mastering the past continuous tense in Arabic is essential for effective communication. Join our free Arabic course to delve deeper into this and other Arabic language concepts.

 

 

كانَ يَفْعَلُ

 

He was doing

 

 

 

 

 

1. Past continuous conjugation of كانَ يَفْعَلُ

 3rd person masculine

Singular

 

كَانَ يَفْعَلُ

 

He was doing

 

 

Dual

 

كَنَا يَفْعَلانِ

 

They both were doing

 

 

Plural

 

كانُوْا يَفْعَلُونَ

 

They all were doing

 

 

 3rd person feminine

Singular

 

كَانَتْ تَفْعَلُ

 

She was doing

 

 

Dual

 

كَنَتَا تَفْعَلانِ

 

They both were doing

 

 

Plural

 

كُنَّ يَفْعَلْنَ

 

They all were doing

 

 

2nd person masculine

Singular

 

كُنْتَ تَفْعَلُ

 

You were doing

 

 

Dual

 

كَنْتُمَا تَفْعَلانِ

 

You both were doing

 

 

Plural

 

كَنْتُمْ تَفْعَلُوْنَ

 

You all were doing

 

 

2nd person feminine

Singular

 

كُنْتِ تَفْعَلِيْنَ

 

You were doing

 

 

Dual

 

كَنْتُمَا تَفْعَلانِ

 

You both were doing

 

 

Plural

 

كُنْتُنَّ تَفْعَلْنَ

 

You all were doing

 

 

First-person (masculine/feminine)

Singular

 

كُنْتُ أَفْعَلُ

 

I was doing

 

 

Dual

 

 

 

Plural

 

كُنَّا نَفْعَلُ

 

We were doing

 

 

 

 

In Arabic, the conjugation of كَانَ (kana) is in the past tense, even though it is commonly used in conjunction with the imperfect tense يَفْعَلُ (yaf’al). This combination allows us to create the Past Continuous tense, which is used to describe actions that were ongoing or in progress in the past. Let’s explore this further through examples:

 

Example :

 

ذَٰلِكَ بِمَا عَصَوا وَّكَانُوا يَعْتَدُونَ

 

That was because they disobeyed and were [habitually] transgressing. (2:61)

 

 

 

 

 وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

 

But to fast is best for you, if you only knew. (2:184)

 

 

 

 

كَانَا يَأْكُلَانِ الطَّعَامَ

 

They both used to eat food (5:75)

 

 

 

وَقَالُوا لَوْ كُنَّا نَسْمَعُ أَوْ نَعْقِلُ مَا كُنَّا فِي أَصْحَابِ السَّعِيرِ

 

And they will say, “If only we had been listening or reasoning, we would not be among the companions of the Blaze.” (67:10)

 

 

Conclusion

This lesson on Arabic nuances concludes here. Insha’Allah, our subsequent session will delve into the imperfect tense in Arabic.

 

 

Al-dirassa Institute invites you on a linguistic journey with our expert teachers to master the Arabic language. Should you wish to further your studies, we welcome your inquiries.

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