The active participle in Egyptian Arabic


Active participles act as adjectives, and so they must agree with their subject. An active participle can be used in several ways: (1) to describe a state of being (understanding; knowing), (2) to describe what someone is doing right now (going, leaving), and (3) to indicate that someone/something is in a state of having done something (having put something somewhere, having lived somewhere for a period of time).

أنا فاهم اللي انت بتقوله (ana faahim ill-inta bit'uulu)
I understand what you're saying.

هي نايمة (heyya nayma)
She is sleeping.

حاطط الصورة (HaaTiT iS-Suura)
I've put up the picture.

For some verbs, active participles are not used, while for others, they are used frequently and must be used instead of the present continuous tense if you want to describe a current action. If you mess up and use an imperfect-tense verb where you should use an active participle (or vice versa), it can change your sentence's meaning completely!

Active participleImperfect tense
أنا لابسة بدلة (ana labsa badla)vs.بلبس بدلة (balbis badla)
I am wearing a suit (right now).I wear a suit (on a regular basis).
أنا رايح النادي (ana raayiH in-naadi)vs.بروح النادي (baruuH in-naadi)
I'm going to the club; I'm on my way there right now.I go to the club (regularly).
عامل ايه؟ (3aamil eih?)vs.بتعمل ايه؟ (biti3mel eih?)
An idiomatic way of asking someone, "What's up?"What are you doing (right now)? -or- What do you do (as a career)?

Derivation of the active participle

Active participles are derived in fairly regular ways from their root verbs.

Type of verbPassive participle
Form 1 sound verbs (of the type فعل fi3il)فاعل (faa3il)
عرف (3irif) to knowعارف (3aarif) in a state of knowing
فهم (fihim) to understandفاهم (faahim) in a state of understanding
Form 1 geminate/doubled verbs (of the type فعّ fa33)فاعع (faa3i3)
حطّ (HaTT) to putحاطط (HaaTiT) in a state of having put
Form 1 defective verbs (of the type فعي fi3i or fa3a)فاعي (faa3i)
مشي (miši) to goماشي (maaši) going
Form 1 hollow verbs (of the type فاع faa3)فايع (faayi3)
راح (raaH) to goرايح (raayiH) going
غاب (ġaab) to be absentغايب (ġaayib) in a state of being absent
Most other triliteral verb formsSubstitute "mi" for the "yi" of the imperfect howwa verb conjugation
روّح (rawwaH) to go homeمروّح (mirawwaH) going home
سافر (saafir) to travelمسافر (misaafir) traveling
استنى (istanna) to waitمستني (mistanni) waiting*

* Note: When the imperfect howwa conjugation of the verb in question ends in -a, as with "istanna - yistanna," the ending -a is replaced by -i in the active participle, as with "mistanni."

List of commonly-used active participles

Generally speaking, the most commonly-used active participles fall into the categories of motion or action (going, coming, leaving, carrying), location (living, staying), and mental state (seeing, understanding, wanting). Here is a table of some of these active participles:

 Masculine singularFeminine singularPlural
comingجاي (gayy)جاية (gayya)جايين (gayyiin)
goingرايح (raayiH)رايحة (rayHa)رايحين (rayHiin)
going/walkingماشي (maaši)ماشية (mašya)ماشيين (mašyiin)
leavingخارج (xaarig)خارجة (xarga)خارجين (xargiin)
returningراجع (raagi3)راجعة (rag3a)راجعين (rag3iin)
going homeمروّح (mirawwaH)مروّحة (mirawwaHa)مروّحين (mirawwaHiin)
travelingمسافر (misaafir)مسافرة (misafra)مسافرين (misafriin)
going upطالع (Taali3)طالعة (Tal3a)طالعين (Tal3iin)
going downنازل (naazil)نازلة (nazla)نازلين (nazliin)
carryingشايل (šaayil)شايلة (šayla)شايلين (šayliin)
standingواقف (waa'if)واقفة (wa'fa)واقفين (wa'fiin)
sittingقاعد ('aa3id)قاعدة ('a3da)قاعدين ('a3diin)
awakeصاحي (SaaHi)صاحية (SaHya)صاحيين (SaHyiin)
sleepingنايم (naayim)نايمة (nayma)نايمين (naymiin)
takingواخد (waaxid)واخدة (waxda)واخدين (waxdiin)
eatingواكل (waakul)واكلة (wakla)واكلين (wakliin)
waitingمستني (mistanni)مستنية (mistanniyya)مستنيين (mistanniyyiin)
living (in a place)ساكن (saakin)ساكنة (sakna)ساكنين (sakniin)
living (in general)عايش (3aayiš)عايشة (3ayša)عايشين (3ayšiin)
rememberفاكر (faakir)فاكرة (fakra)فاكرين (fakriin)
knowعارف (3aarif)عارفة (3arfa)عارفين (3arfiin)
understandفاهم (faahim)فاهمة (fahma)فاهمين (fahmiin)
wantعايز (3aayiz)عايزة (3ayza)عايزين (3ayziin)
seeشايف (šaayif)شايفة (šayfa)شايفين (šayfiin)
hearسامع (saami3)سامعة (sam3a)سامعين (sam3iin)

Examples of usage

Here are some examples of situations in which you could use the active participle. Note that generally you can leave out the subject pronoun that would go with the active participle, as long as it's clear who you're talking about.

I'm about to go out to the supermarket, and I tell the people I'm with,
أنا ماشية، عايزين حاجة؟ (ana mašya, 3ayziin Haaga?)I'm going out, do you want anything?
Someone asks you how you are, and you say,
تعبانة شوية، أنا واخدة برد (ta3baana šwaya, ana waxda bard)A little sick, I've caught a cold.
A teacher asks a student a question, and he responds,
مش فاكر الجواب (miš faakir il-gawaab)I don't remember the answer.
Someone asks you a question, and you reply,
أنا مش عارف (ana miš 3aarif)I don't know.
You're walking down a flight of stairs, and your friend downstairs calls you to ask where you are. You say,
نازلة على طول (nazla 3ala Tuul)I'm going right down.
You're on the way to the movie theater, so you tell someone,
أنا رايحة السينما (ana rayHa s-senema)I'm going to the movie theater.
Someone asks you where you live, and you say,
أنا ساكن في مصر الجديدة (ana saakin fi maSr ig-gediida)I live in Heliopolis.
Someone asks you where your parents live, and you say,
عايشين في أمريكا من خمس سنين (3ayšiin fi amriika min xamas siniin)They've been living in the US for five years.
You see a friend of yours standing somewhere waiting, and you ask her,
واقفة\مستنية هنا من امتى؟ (wa'fa/mistanniyya hina min imta?)How long have you been standing/waiting here?
You hear a weird noise and ask someone with you,
سامع حاجة؟ (saami3 Haaga?)Do you hear something?
You've been waiting for a friend, and then when you see him arrive:
أهو جاي (aho gayy)There he comes.
You see something incredible, and say:
مش مصدق عينيا! (miš misadda' 3eineiyya!)I don't believe my eyes!

Note: It's common to use لسة (lissa), "still," before an active participle to mean that an action has just been completed. You can think of it as saying, "I'm still in the state of just having (done whatever)."

لسة واكلة (lissa wakla)
I've just eaten.

Main grammar page The passive particle