Differences between conditional clauses in MSA and TCA
- While MSA has a few different particles for introducing conditional clauses, spoken Tunisian Arabic uses just one: إذا.
- MSA always uses the past tense of the verb for the first half of the conditional (remember that the past tense operates as the subjunctive mood), but in Tunisian Arabic there is more flexibility.
- One final difference to keep in mind is that, in MSA, the second half of the conditional (the result) is introduced with the prefix ف or ل, but in Tunisian Arabic, no prefix is needed.
Conditional clauses with the past tense verb
In Tunisian colloquial Arabic, we commonly use the past tense for the first half of the clause (recall that the past tense can carry subjunctive meaning). In the context of conditional clauses, the past tense verb has present meaning. This type of clause can be used to express any level of certainty. The result of the condition can be in the present or future tense, depending on the intended meaning.
.إذا كان المشروع ينجح تعطيني العشر من الارباح
“If the project were to succeed, give me a tenth of the profits.”
.إذا كانك فاضي ايجا عاوني في الخدمة
“If you are free, come help me at work”
.إذا كان المطر تصب موش باش نكورو ليوم
“If the rain pours, we will not play soccer today.”
Conditional clauses with the present tense
In Tunisian Arabic, certain conditional clauses are expressed with the present tense. Most commonly, this is used when giving advice. One way to understand this use of the present instead of the past tense is there is no uncertainty in this type of clause; the giver of the advice already knows (or assumes) what the receiver of the advice wants. In the examples above, there is less certainty, the past tense is required.
.إذا تحب تولي بون أتلات لازم تترانى كل يوم
“If you want to become a good athlete, you must train every day”
.اذا تحب تنجاح في الامتحان لازم تدرس برشا
“If you want to succeed on the test, you must study a lot.”