The complex tense - kaan


🔴 See also: Kaan in past, Kaan in present, Kaan in future, Drills


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Talk about the Past using Kaan.


 1  kaan = was - كانْ within the equational sentence places the entire sentence into the past tense.

It's that easy.

And when kaan is used within a verbal sentence a series of different meanings occur depending on whether the sentence is past, present, or future.


Example of kaan with the past tense


Beware: Kaan when used with the past tense verb puts the verb further into the past.



  Example 1: kaan with the past tense verb

"He had eaten" is further in the past then "he ate."

Example  of kaan used with a past tense verb



Past tense  2  akal

He ate



Note for MSA/Classical: The particle قد is added to denote a past action of eating.

كانَ قَدْ أكَلَ

كانْ أكَلْ

Kaan with the past tense –  3  kaan ‘akal

He had eaten

Naturally, when actions are further in the past they require a second verb.

One verb is further in the past relative to the second verb.

Verb #1 and verb #2 below are in pink.

Side-point: Second verbs appear in the simple past.

Example of kaan placing the verb "further" into the past

هُوَ كانَ قَدْ أكَلَ ثُمَّ ذَهَبَ إلىَ الْمَدْرَسَةِ

هُوَّ كانْ أكَلْ وِبَعْدينْ راحْ اِلْمَدْرَسَةْ

 4  Huwwa kaan ‘akal wi baçdiin raa il madrasa.

He had eaten and then went to school.

1st verb = eaten

2nd verb = went

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Example of kaan in the present tense

  Beware: Kaan with the present tense places the action into the past progressive -- an action over a period of time in the past.

Example 2: kaan with the present tense verb

Example  of kaan used with a present tense verb


Present tense  5  Bi yaakul

He is eating




هُوَ كانَ يَأْكُلُ
هُوَّ كانْ بِياكُلْ

with the Present tense 6  Kaan biyaakul
He was eating



    Read more on the verbal past tense sentence

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