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Word Patterns in Arabic

The goal of this lesson is to understand how to read word patterns. Every Arabic word falls in a specific pattern and every Arabic word has a root. We will be discussing patterns throughout this course.

The Arabic term for pattern is وَزَن
With the definite article ال , it becomes اَلْوَزَن (the pattern).
The plural form of وَزَن is اَوْزَان

  1. What are Arabic word patterns?
  2. Exercise
  3. Arabic root words

What are Arabic word patterns?

Arabic word patterns ( اَوْزَان ) act like dies. All words in a specific pattern sound in a rhythm.
We take a few example words from the lesson Plurals in Arabic and try to find out their common pattern.


All these above words are broken plurals ( جَمْعُ الْمُكَسَّر ). We can see here a clear pattern in all these words, i.e.

ـُ ـُ وْ ـٌ

We can see that the letter و is constantly repeated in all three words. The other three letters are changing but their vowels remain constant.
In word patterns, changing letters are represented by consonants   ع , ف and ل , while the unchanging letter is written as it is. As in the above case, the letter و is the unchanging letter and would be written as it is, in the pattern.
The pattern of the above three words ( بُيُوْتٌ ، قُلُوْبٌ ، نُجُوْمٌ ) is:


As all these words are broken plurals, now, we can also say that any word following the pattern فُعُوْلٌ would be a broken plural.
Some other words that follow the pattern فُعُوْلٌ are:

Guests ضُيُوْفٌ
Scholars (of religion) شُيُوْخٌ
Differences فُرُوْقٌ
Males ذُكُوْرٌ
Money (plural) نُقُوْدٌ
Lessons دُرُوْسٌ

All of the above mentioned words are broken plurals. Other patterns of broken plurals are:


Some example words for these patterns are:

Example Pattern

How the knowledge of patterns is important?

Word patterns ( اَوْزَان ) make the words easy to recognize, i.e. if we memorize all the above-described patterns, we can immediately tell that a particular word following any of these patterns is a broken plural, even if we don't know the meanings.

For example, we take another pattern:

(ـَ ا ـِ ـٌ)

All of the words that fit in the patter فَاعِلٌ indicate the one who performs an action. Like:

Example of the pattern
Reader قَارِيٌ
Writer كَاتِبٌ
Driver سَائِقٌ
(One who tells a lie)
Collecter جَامِعٌ

So, if a word comes in front of us that fits in the pattern فَاعِلٌ and we don't know the meaning of that word, still we can assume that the particular word is about some kind of performer.
That's how word patterns are helpful in the Arabic language.

Literal meanings of the word وَزَن are weight or scale.
In poetry, the word وَزَن is used for rhythm. Similarly, in word patterns, it is also used for the rhythm of words.


Write the following words in front of their corresponding patterns.

دَرَسَ، صَانِعٌ، حَمِيْدٌ، مَطْلُوْبٌ، جَامِدَةٌ، صَانِعَةٌ، جَمِيْلٌ، حَامِدَةٌ، مَحْمُوْدٌ، جَامِدٌ، كَافِرٌ، كَتَبَ، خَرَجَ، مَصْنُوْعٌ، مَجْمُوُدٌ، جَامِدَةٌ، كَافِرَةٌ، طَالِبٌ، حَامِدٌ، طَالِبَةٌ، خَرَجَ، مَكْفُوْرٌ، دَخَلَ، مَطَالِيْبٌ، كَبِيْرٌ، كَثِيْرٌ، كَتَبَ



صَانِعٌ، جَامِدٌ، كَافِرٌ، حَامِدٌ، طَالِبٌ فَاعِلٌ
صَانِعَةٌ، جَامِدَةٌ، كَافِرَةٌ، حَامِدَةٌ، طَالِبَةٌ فَاعِلَةٌ
مَصْنُوْعٌ، مَجْمُوُدٌ، مَكْفُوْرٌ، مَحْمُوْدٌ، مَطْلُوْبٌ مَفْعُوْلٌ
مَطَالِيْبٌ مَفَاعِیْلٌ
حَمِيْدٌ، كَبِيْرٌ، جَمِيْلٌ، كَثِيْرٌ فَعِيْلٌ
دَرَسَ، خَرَجَ، كَتَبَ فَعَلَ

Arabic root words

A closely related topic to patterns ( اَوْزَان ) is the root system of Arabic words. The Arabic term for root of the word is ( اَلْجَذَر )
As discussed earlier, we have three changing letters and may have one or more unchanging letters in a word pattern.
Changing letters represent the root of the particular word. These are the letters that replace   ع , ف and ل of any pattern.
In the pattern فُعُوْلٌ we have one sticky or unchanging letter, i.e. و
If we take an example word that follows the pattern فُعُوْلٌ , we can easily recognize the root of that particular word. For example, in the word ضُيُوْفٌ letters   ي, ض and ف make the root of this word.

How the knowledge of the root of the word is important?

Most of the Arabic words are based on three consonants (trilateral root). However, a few words are based on two consonants (bilateral root) and four consonants (quadrilateral root).

Roots of verbs in the Arabic past indefinite tense are the easiest to understand. They consist of just root letters, without any addition. For example:

He entered دَخَلَ
He went out خَرَجَ
He studied دَرَسَ
He wrote كَتَبَ

Roots of these trilateral words are simple to extract.

Root letters Word
د خ ل دَخَلَ
خ ر ج خَرَجَ
د ر س دَرَسَ
ك ت ب كَتَبَ

Now, if we know the root of a word, we would be able to make further words based on known word patterns. For example, we know the root of كَتَبَ (He wrote) is
ك ت ب
and we want to know the Arabic term for the word writer.
From the above topic, we know that the pattern of the person who performs an action is فَاعِلٌ
By placing the root ك ت ب in the die (pattern) فَاعِلٌ , we get كَاتِبٌ (writer).

Forming words from roots is an advanced topic in Arabic grammar. This is just an introduction to the root system.

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