Arabic—Tunisian Dialect

The Verb Forms of Tunisian Arabic

Tunisian Arabic, just like MSA, utilizes a regular system of verb forms (الأوزان) to manipulate the meaning of a root word. While the vocabulary of Tunisian Arabic can often be different than MSA, the verb forms themselves are very similar. However, not every verb form found in MSA is found in Tunisian Arabic. Below is a chart of the verb forms used in Tunisian Arabic:

Equivalent MSA Verb Form Past Tense Pattern Present Tense Pattern Meaning
I فعل يفعل Basic verb meaning
II فعّل يفعّل Gives causative meaning (typically transitive) to form I
III فاعل يفاعل Typically these have the value of simple verbs (unlike in MSA) and
None تفعل يتفعل Gives passive meaning to form I
V تفعّل يتفعّل Gives passive or reflexive meaning to form II
VI تفاعل يتفاعل Gives intransitive or reflexive value to form III
VIII إفتعل يفتعل Rare. Reflexive meaning
None فعال يفعال Gives inchoative meaning (usually to an adjective).
X استفعل يستفعل Gives meaning of “finding something to be [form I meaning]” or “to seek that [form I meaning] be done”

Form I: فعل

Form I Tunisian verbs have a basic meaning.


  • ْفْطَر   to eat lunch/breakfast
  • ْمَات   to die
  • ْحْلِم    to dream
  • ْحْفَر   to dig

Form II: فعّل

Form II in Tunisian tends to give the form I verb a causative (and often transitive meaning). Note that form II MSA verbs can also be intensive forms, but this is not usually the case in TCA.


  • Form I قرى  “to learn” becomes form II قرّى  “to teach” (“to cause to learn”)
  • حسّن  “to improve” (to cause to be good)
  • فوّح  “to spice” (to cause to have flavor)

Form III: فاعل

Form III verbs tend not to be derived from a form I verb, and have a more or less simple meaning


  • عاون  “to help” (related to form I noun عود “helper, agent”)
  • داوى  “to heal, to take medicine” (related to form I noun داء  “disease”)
  • سامح  “to forgive” 

Passive Form: تفعل

This form is totally absent from MSA. Some sources report that this is a borrowing of the Amazigh passive construction. It gives a form I verb passive meaning. Most form I verbs with transitive meaning can be transformed in this way.


  • Form I جرح “to wound” becomes تجرح “to get hurt, be wounded” 
  • Form I شرى  “to buy” becomes تشرى  “to be bought, purchased”
  • Form I شد  “to catch, hold, grab” becomes تشد  “to be caught”

Form V: تفعّل

This form typically gives a passive or reflexive meaning to a form II verb.


  • Form II عدّى “to pass (something)” becomes form V تعدّى  “to pass by”
  • From II علّق “to hang (something)” becomes form V تعلّق  “to hang on to, rely on”
  • تكيّف  “to smoke (cigarettes)”

Form VI: تفاعل

Like form V, these typically have a reflexive or transitive value, but are instead formed from form III verbs.


  • Form III عاقن “to help” becomes form VI تعاون “to help one another, work together”

Form VIII: إفتعل

Like forms V and VI, this form tends to carry reflexive meaning.


  • إنتحر  “to commit suicide”
  • إحتل “to take over, conquer, colonize”

Verb of Becoming: فعال

This form is used to turn adjectives into verbs. It has the same meaning as MSA form IX, but is formed differently.


  • طوال “to become tall” (from طويل “tall”)
  • حمار “to turn red” (from احمر “red”)
  • عقال “to become well-behaved, to become wise” (from عاقل “well-behaved”)

Form X: إستفعل

This form gives meaning of “finding something to be [form I meaning]” or “to seek that [form I meaning] be done.” However, the exact meaning of the form X verb can be difficult to discern from the form I meaning.


  • إستغرب “to find something strange, to marvel” (related to form I noun غريب “strange”)
  • إستخدم “to utilize, use” (related to form I خدم “to work”)
  • إستحق “to deserve, earn (something)” (related to form I noun حق “right, duty”)




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