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Common mistakes in Arabic – and how to avoid them: abadan and qatta

Native Arabic speakers make certain mistakes in Arabic. The Arabic word for never is often used in the wrong way.

Last updated: May 2, 2021

The همزة is a good example in Modern Standard Arabic as even many native speakers just don’t know the rules for writing the همزة. But today, we don’t look at spelling rules – we we will analyze a famous and common mistake: the word for never.

The same is true for verbs that have a و or a ي in the root, so-called weak letters, in Arabic حَرْف عِلّة (harf ella). In dialects, it is sometimes even the normal case to not delete these letters even though they should be omitted according to Standard or Classical Arabic.

But how about other mistakes? Today we will deal with a common mistake that is not related to the همزة or حَرْف عِلّة.

The word أبدًا for never

The sentence: I have/had never visited him.

ما زُرْتُهُ أَبَدًا ما زُرْتُهُ قَطُّ

Many people would go for option A – which is the wrong one.

So, which one is correct?

Answer – example B is correct.

Why is that?

This is because the word أَبَدًا is an adverb that is used for the future (ظَرْف زَمان لِلمُسْتَقْبَل). It conveys the meaning of continuity. For this reason, you could say: لَنْ أَزُورَهُ أَبَدًا

This conveys a similar meaning as it implies that you have never visited him before. Sounds strange but you can also find this type of construction in the Qur’an. Let’s look for example at sura The Table Spread (سُورة الْمائِدة) – verse 5:24.

قَالُوا يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا أَبَدًا مَّا دَامُوا فِيهَا ۖ فَاذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَرَبُّكَ فَقَاتِلَا إِنَّا هَاهُنَا قَاعِدُونَ

They said, “O Moses, indeed we will not enter it, ever, as long as they are within it; so go, you and your Lord, and fight. Indeed, we are remaining right here.”

If you want to dig deeper, check out this article.

What about the word قَطُّ?

It means: never; ever, at all.

Watch out:The word قَطُّ must be used with the past tense in negative sentences.

For this reason, you cannot say (“I don’t do that at all.”):

wrong لا أَفْعَلُهُ قَطُّ
correct لا أَفْعَلُهُ أَبَدًا

More interesting grammar topics:

Picture credit: Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

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