Definition 2022



See also: کان, كأن, and گان



كَانَ (kāna) I, non-past يَكُونُ‎ (yakūnu)

  1. (copulative) to be [+accusative]
  2. to exist
    • Bible (SVD), Book of Genesis, 1:3
      وَقَالَ اللهُ: «لِيَكُنْ نُورٌ»، فَكَانَ نُورٌ.
      waqāla llāhu: “liyakun nūrun”, fakāna nūrun.
      And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
  3. to happen, to occur, to take place


Usage notes

  • Like all copulative verbs in Arabic, كَانَ (kāna) takes a predicate in the accusative case.
    كَانَ جَمَالٌ عَبْدُ ٱلنَّاصِرِ رَئِيسَ جُمْهُورِيَّةِ مِصْرَ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةِ.
    kāna jamālun ʿabdu n-nāṣiri raʾīsa jumhūriyyati miṣra l-ʿarabiyyati.
    Gamal Abdel Nasser was the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
  • In the present indicative, “to be” is most often expressed by a nominal sentence (جُمْلَة اِسْمِيَّة (jumla(t) ismiyya)) with no verb. In this case, the predicate is in the nominative case.
    عَبْدُ الْفَتَّاحِ ٱلسِّيسِي (هُوَ) رَئِيسُ جُمْهُورِيَّةِ مِصْرَ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةِ.
    ʿabdu l-fattāḥi s-sīsī (huwa) raʾīsu jumhūriyyati miṣra l-ʿarabiyyati.
    Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
  • Imperfect forms of كَانَ (kāna) are not rare, however:
    • They occur after certain conjunctions that must always be followed by a verb:
      أُرِيدُ أَنْ أَكُونَ غَنِيًّا.
      ʾurīdu ʾan ʾakūna ḡaniyyan.
      I want to be rich.
    • They are sometimes used instead of a nominal sentence to provide for a clearer sentence structure.

Related terms

See also