Time and place noun
Arabic words that describe place or time start with ma. There are three patterns to form words that describe place or time: maf3il, maf3al and maf3ala.
Examples of place and time nouns that follow the pattern maf3il are manzil meaning house and mawqi3 meaning place.
Examples of place and time nouns that follow the pattern maf3al are masbaH meaning swimming pool and maktab meaning office.
Examples of place and time nouns that follow the pattern maf3ala are maktaba meaning bookshelf, library and madrasa meaning school.
Other words starting with ma
Not all words beginning with ma describe place or time. Words belonging to passive participle verbform 1 have the form maf3uul. There are also verbal nouns that have exactly the same pattern as the time and place nouns but do not describe time or place.
Discover more patterns
Words that describe tools, instrument nouns, are reminiscent of time and place nouns, but they start with mi instead of ma.
There are many patterns for Arabic words. Among the easiest to recognize are words that describe colors and words that describe professions.
Arabic word patterns
Arabic words follow certain patterns. The patterns make it easier to recognize, memorize and figure out the meaning of Arabic words.
Most Arabic words have a root consisting of three letters. In addition to the root letters, the words contain vowels and sometimes extra letters. The patterns show how the three root letters should be combined with vowels and sometimes extra letters to form words.
To represent the root letters of the word, the letters f, 3 and l are usually used. The letter f (fa) represents the first root letter, 3 (ayn) represents the second root letter and l (lam) represents the third root letter. Some words really have the root f,3 and l. But most words have different root letters.
Using Arabic patterns
As an example, we can look at the root k,t and b. That is, the first root letter is k (kaf), the second root letter is t (ta) and the third is b (ba).
The pattern fa3ala is a common Arabic pattern for verbs. This means that the verb is created by adding the short vowel (a) after each root letter. With the root (k,t,b), the verb becomes kataba that means to write.
The pattern maf3uul is a passive participle, that means that words with this pattern often describe the object of an action. The word is build by of the prefix (ma), the first root letter, the second root letter, the long vowel (uu) and the third root letter. With the root (k,t,b), the verb becomes maktuub that means written.
The patternmaf3al is used for words that describe places or times. You get the words by combining the prefix (ma), the first root letter, the second root letter, the short vowel (a) and the third root letter. With the root (k,t,b), the verb becomes maktab that means office.
Do I need to learn Arabic patterns?
If you think Arabic word patterns seem boring or hard to learn, then just ignore them. Most native Arabic speakers I have talked to about Arabic word patterns, have little or no knowledge of them. It is only at the university in Sweden where I read Arabic, and in textbooks by Western authors, that I have noticed interest in the Arabic word patterns.
Personally, I find the patterns very useful. I can guess the meaning of words I have never heard before, thanks to the patterns and the root letters. Above all, I think that Arabic word patterns are interesting and pleasant, actually therapeutic. When life feels chaotic and insecure, it's nice that every new Arabic word I encounter fits into the patterns I know.
More about Arabic patterns
On this website, you will find the most important Arabic patterns for forming words, and many more in addition to them. See all Arabic word patterns
This site contains thousands of words and each word has a page with detailed information about the word. Among many other things, you can see the pattern of the word. Learn more about Arabic word patterns