بدأ = “to begin, start”

We begin with بَدَأَ (badaʾa), meaning, “to begin, start.” Right off the bat we have a funny root, because the third “letter” actually isn’t a letter, it’s the hamza or glottal stop, ء. You may remember from earlier posts that the hamza often “sits” on the character used for a long vowel, and in this case, since the short vowel before it is a short “a,” it sits on the alif, the character for the long “a” sound.

Recall that Arabic lacks an infinitive form, so badaʾa actually is the third-person masculine singular past tense or “he began.”

Sentence example:

I am starting a new job today. = أبْدَأُ اليَوم وَظيفةً جديدةً (Abdaʾu al-yawm waẓīfatan jadīdatan, although in speaking you would generally pronounce it “Ab-da-ul-yawm wa-zeef-a ja-deed-a”).

Arabic verbs generally are placed at the beginning of the sentence.

The present tense, first-person singular voice of the form I verb is created by starting with an alif-hamza before the root and with no short vowel over the first root letter. In Arabic instructional parlance this is described as أفعَلُ (afʿalu).The verb faʿala means “to do” and is used in instruction as the template to show the patterns of verb forms and voices. The short “u” vowel at the end of the verb is also a present tense marker, though in speech it is either ignored or elided into the next word.

The ending -an, which is represented in Arabic by the “fathatan” or two fathas one on top of the other, like so (ً),  demonstrates both that the noun is in the accusative case (always noted by the fatha or short “a” sound) and indefinite (a job, represented by the doubled short vowel and “-an” pronunciation, or in this case “-atan” because the noun is feminine so the vowel sits on the feminine marker “-at”). It is an example of “tanween,” the indefinite marker, which is written by doubling the short vowel indicator and pronounced by adding an “-n” sound after the vowel, (“-un,” “-an,” or “-in” depending on the short vowel/case, as the short vowel sound is a case marker). Note that nouns and their adjectives take the same short vowel endings so that they agree on case and definite/indefinite. In speech, this is something that can be dropped entirely; in fact, including these sounds in speech is the equivalent of speaking King James Bible-style English in normal modern conversation. You’ll probably be understood, but you might take a little teasing for your trouble.

Related vocabulary:

بَدء (badʾ) or بَدأة (badʾah) = beginning, start

اِبْتِداءً مِن (ibtidāʾan min) = as of (+date)

Another verb that can mean “to begin” and that is related to our Persian word of the day is شَرَعَ (sharaʿa). However, it is less used to mean “begin” and more often as “to go in, enter into.” It also has the meaning of “to prescribe laws or make laws,” and it is from this word that is derived الشريعة (al-Sharīʿah, “the Sharia”), the canonical law of Islam.

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