Last updated: July 14, 2022
There are situations when وَ expresses “when”, “with”, or “while”. Such constructions with وَ are often difficult to translate as we need different words in English.
This happens in two situations:
- The وَ is a واو الْحال (waw al-hal) and part of a circumstantial description.
- The وَ is part of a مَفْعُول مَعَهُ (mafoul mahu), i.e., an object of accompaniment.
The Waw is a واو الحال
سافَرَ زَيْدٌ وَهُوَ طالِبٌ فِي كُلِيّةِ الطِّبِّ إِلَى مِصْرَ
Zayd traveled to Egypt when he was a student in the Faculty of medicine.
Note: This sentence does not mean: Zayd, who is a student in the faculty of medicine, traveled to Egypt.
If you want to express that, you should use dashes (…- سافَرَ زَيْدٌ – وَهُوَ طالِبٌ).
Some more examples.
.جاءَ الطِّفْلُ وَهُوَ يَبْكِي
The child came crying.
.تَخَرَّجْتُ فِي الْجامِعةِ وَأنا فِي الثّانِيةِ وَالْعِشْرِينَ مِنْ عُمْرِي
I graduated from university when I was 22 years old.
The Waw is part of the مفعول معه
I walked along the river.
اِسْتَيْقَظْتُ وَأذانَ الْفَجْرِ
I woke up with (at the same time of) the call to prayer.
A Wāw of accompaniment (واو المَعِيّة) can’t share the action with what’s before it. Watch out: Don’t mix it up with the Waw al-Hal!
We know that in our example, the وَ introduces an object which the subject (in our example: I) is doing actions next to. Hence, we call it an object in connection with which something is done (مَفْعُول مَعَهُ).
Nevertheless, the most common application of وَ is to convey the meaning of and (واو الْعطْف). Even if you don’t understand the words in a sentence, you can get closer to the meaning by looking at the cases.
|1||مَفْعُول مَعَهُ||I walked with Zayd.||سِرْتُ وَزَيْدًا|
|2||مَعْطُوف||I and Zayd walked.||سِرْتُ وَزَيْدٌ|
Remark: In the book Arabic for Nerds 2, I deal with stuff like that extensively.
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Do you think grammar is boring? Then check out these articles:
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