Fact corner

As in other Semitic languages (such as Hebrew, for example), Amharic verb forms are derived by applying various templates (vowel and affix patterns) to a set of roots consisting of between three to five consonants. Verbs inflect for person, number, gender, aspect (perfect/imperfect � n.b. tense and complex/compound tenses are expressed by means of auxiliary verbs), mood (indicative/imperative/interrogative/optative), voice (active/passive), and polarity (positive/negative). Verbs agree with their subjects and optionally with their objects.

The verb

  • An Amharic verb root usually consists of a set of three to five consonants. Verb forms are derived by applying vowels and suffixes to the roots. A verb form normally has one or more suffixes and prefixes. Sometimes, consonants are geminated (doubled).
  • Verbs are marked for person, number, and gender.
  • There are two aspects: imperfect and perfect.
  • Compound tenses are expressed by means of auxiliary verbs.
  • There are four moods: indicative, imperative, interrogative, and optative.
  • Verbs are marked for voice: active and passive.
  • Verbs are marked for positive and negative.
  • Verbs agree with their subject and sometimes with the direct or indirect object.
  • There are at least ten different classes of verbs, each modifying its stem in a number of different ways.

Sample verb: məlbəs

(Regular three-radical verb)

Infinitive Perfective Imperfective
Underived 'A' məlbəs ləbbəsə yıləbsal
'B' məKəTTəl KəTTələ yıKəTTılal
Passive məlləbəs tələbbəsə yılləbbəsal
Causative in /-a/ 'A' malbəs aləbbəsə yaləbsal
in /-a/ 'B' maKəTTəl aKəTTələ yaKəTTılal
in /-as/ masləbbəs asləbbəsə yasləbbısal
Frequentative Simple mələbəbəs ləbabbəsə yıləbabbısal
Causative in /-a/ maləbabəs aləbabbəsə yaləbabbısal
Causative in /-as/ masləbabəs asləbabbəsə yasləbabbısal
Reciprocal Simple məlləbəs təlabbəsu yıllabbəsallu
Reduplicated məlləbabes tələbabbəsu yılləbabbəsallu
Benefactive Simple mallabəs allabəsə yallabbısal
Reduplicated malləbabes alləbabbəsə yallebabbısal

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