Arabic patterns

If you are faced with an Arabic word that you never heard before, you can guess the meaning by its root and pattern.
You already know about Arabic roots, now it's time to look at Arabic patterns.

Here are the verbs we learned in the lesson about roots:

to write
to live

The words have different roots. The word for "to write" which is pronounced "kataba" has a root with the letters k, t and b. The word for "to live" which is pronounced "sakana" has a root with the letter s, k and n.

Can you see that there are some similarities between the verbs "kataba" and "sakana"? Both have the vowel a after each root letter! In other words: they have the same pattern.

The pattern of a word is the way the root letters are combined with affixes.

Affixes are often short vowels, like a in the verbs above, or long vowels, like aa. Some affixes are combinations of consonants and vowels, like ma. Affixes can be in the beginning (prefix), end (suffix) or somewhere in the middle (infix) of the word.

The verbs "kataba" (to write) and "sakana" (to live) follow a common pattern for Arabic verbs: the first letter in the root + the affix a + the second letter in the root + the affix a + the third letter in the root + the affix a. We can call it 1a2a3a, but we will follow the standard and call it fa3ala. The idea is that you replace f with the first letter of the root, 3 with the second letter of the root and l with the third letter of the root.


The Arabic verb that means "to enter" has the pattern fa3ala that we just described. The root letters are d (د), kh (خ) and l (ل).
Can you guess the word?

See the word

to enter

Here you can see more verbs words with the pattern fa3ala.

Patterns for places

In the lesson about roots we also saw these words:


Both words follow this pattern: the affix ma + the first root letter + the second root letter + the affix a + the third root letter. We therefore refer to the pattern as maf3al.

Many Arabic nouns that describe places start with the affix ma.


Just like the Arabic verb that means "to enter", the the word that means "entrance" has the root letters d (د), kh (خ) and l (ل).
Can you guess the word?

See the word


Here are some more words with the pattern maf3al.

Learn more

It's not necessary to know about Arabic patterns. But it's fun! And helpful if you are faced with a new word. Here are som hints on how to recognize the pattern of a word: