Admittedly, this is a form that you will rarely encounter, as the dual (الْمُثَنَّى) is pretty much not used in colloquial Arabic. Instead, in spoken Arabic, you use the plural of the imperative (أَمْرٌ) to express the dual.
But it is a good exercise to test your feeling for tricky Arabic roots.
Let us recall how we build the imperative in Arabic:
- Form the present tense. For example: you write (تَكْتُبُ)
- Put the verb into the jussive mood (مَجْزُومٌ) → you delete the last vowel and add سُكُونٌ resulting in: تَكْتُبْ
- Delete the prefix – which is the ت. → We get: كْتُبْ
- If you now have a word that has a vowel on the first consonant, you are already done. This would be the situation in all verb forms other than form I (فَعلَ). For example, the V-verb you speak (تَتَكَلَّمُ) → تَتَكَلَّمْ → تَكَلَّمْ (speak!)
- If you end up with a word starting with consonant plus سُكُونٌ, you need to add a helping device (prefix) based on the stem vowel. This is our situation: كْتُبْ
- If the stem vowel is “u” (ضَمَّةٌ), the prefix is اُ. This is what we have in كَتَبَ / يَكْتُبُ. The final result is اُكْتُبْ (write!)
- If the stem vowel is “a” (فَتْحةٌ) or “i” (كَسْرةٌ), the prefix is اِ. For example: جَلَسَ / يَجْلِسُ (to sit). We get اِجْلِسْ (sit!)
This is the standard situation – but there are many spoilers. If there is a weak letter (حَرْفُ عِلَّةٍ) involved, i.e., a و or ي, we have to adjust our recipe. The verb to say (قالَ) has و as the second root letter. Let’s follow our steps to form the imperative. Note that we can stop after the first three steps!
STEP 1: تَقُولُ
STEP 2: تَقُلْ
STEP 3: We get the imperative which is: قُلْ
But what about the other imperative forms? What happens if we have to add a suffix after قُلْ?
|قُولا||you (both); dual||أَنْتُما|
|قُولُوا||you; masculine, plural||أَنْتُمْ|
|قُلْنَ||you; feminine, plural||أَنْتُنَّ|
We see that the vowel on the last root letter ل is crucial for the form of the imperative. Let’s dig deeper.
|impact||vowel on ل||imperative|
|the weak letter disappears||no vowel (سُكُونٌ)||قُلْ ; قُلْنَ|
|the weak letter is written||“i” (كَسْرةٌ) or “u” (ضَمّةٌ)||قُولِي ; قُولُوا|
A key principle of Arabic is responsible for whether you see the weak letter or not:
- It is impossible to have two consecutive سُكُونٌ. For example: قُوْلْ or قُوْلْنَ – thus, the weak letter is omitted!
This explains, why we have و in قُوْلَا (say! – dual).
|meaning||dual||present tense||past tense verb|
|(you both) say!||قُوْلَا||يَقُولُ||قالَ|
|(you both) be!||كُوْنَا||يَكُونُ||كانَ|
The imperative often causes difficulties for learners of Arabic. Although the imperative is used frequently in everyday life, it is used rather little in class.
Let’s see how the most common ten verb stems (with or without weak letters) work in the imperative.