Moroccan Arabic Grammar: The Past Tense

The past tense suffix

There are four types of verbs in Moroccan Arabic (Darija) and they are each conjugated using the basic past tense suffix (but each in a different way – see below):

Person (English) Person (Darija) Past Tense Suffix
I ‘anaa -t
you (s) ntaa/ntee -tee
he howa
she heeya -aat
we hnaa -naa
you (pl) ntoomaa -too
they homaa -oo

The CCC Verbs

Most verbs in Moroccan Arabic (Darija) fall into the category of CCC verbs (Consonant, Consonant, Consonant), for example:
qt3 (to cut)
n3s (to sleep)
shrb (to drink – sh is one consonant in arabic script)
qllb (to look for – “ll” is one letter with a shedda on it, in arabic script)
ftr (have breakfast)
lbs (get dressed)
gls (sit down)
khrj (go out)

To conjugate CCC verbs, all you need to do is add the past tense suffix:

Person (English) Person (Darija) Conjugation of the verb “shrb”
I ‘anaa shrbt
you (s) ntaa/ntee shrbtee
he howa shrb
she heeya shrbaat
we hnaa shrbnaa
you (pl) ntoomaa shrbtoo
they homaa shrboo

The CC verbs

Some verbs have the CC form (Consonant, Consonant), for example:
chdd (to take)
Hll (to open)
sdd (to close)
kbb (to pour)
Note: all of these are written with just two letters (two consonants) in Arabic script – with a shedda on the second consonant.

To conjugate CC verbs, we add an “ee” sound before adding the past tense suffix for the first and second person:

Person (Engish) Personne (Darija) Conjugation of the verb “Hll”
I ‘anaa Hlleet
you (s) ntaa/ntee Hlleetee
he howa Hll
she heeya Hllaat
we hnaa Hlleenaa
you (pl) ntoomaa Hlleetou
they homaa Hlloo

CCV Verbs

There are also CCV verbs (Consonant, Consonant, Vowel), for example:
mshaa (to go)
shraa (to buy)
tlqaa (to meet)
nqaa (to clean)

To conjugate CCV verbs, we remove the “aa” vowel and add an “ee” sound for the first and second persons, before adding the past tense suffix:

Person (English) Person (Darija) Conjugation of the verb “mshaa”
I ‘anaa msheet
you (s) ntaa/ntee msheetee
he howa mshaa
she heeya mshaat
we hnaa msheenaa
you (pl) ntoomaa mcheetoo
they homaa mshaaoo

CVC verbs

There are also CVC verbs (Consonant, Vowel, Consonant), for example:
gaal (to say)
kaan (to bee)
baan (to appear)
taar (to fly)

To conjugate CVC verbs, we remove the “aa” vowel from the middle of the verb and then add the past tense suffix at the end. For “heeya” (she), we just add a “t” at the end.:

Person (English) Person (Darija) Conjugation of the verb “kaan”
I ‘anaa knt
you (s) ntaa/ntee kntee
he howa kaan
she heeya kaant
we hnaa knnaa
you (pl) ntoomaa kntoo
they homaa kaanoo

Summary – all the types of verbs in the past tense

The rules:

CCC + past tense suffix
CC + ee, + past tense suffix
CCV remove the vowel, + ee, + past tense suffix
CVC remove the vowel, + past tense suffix

In our dictionary entries, all the verbs are lablled CCC, CC, CCV or CVC, so you know how to conjugate them.