Persian grammar (Persian: دستور زبان پارسی) is the body of rules describing the properties of the Persian language. Persian grammar is similar to that of many other Indo-European languages, especially those in the Indo-Iranian family. By the time of Middle Persian it had become more analytical, having no grammatical gender and few case markings, and New Persian has inherited such characteristics. The agglutinative structure of the language is its most notable feature among other Iranian languages.
While Persian has a subject–object–verb (SOV) word order, it is not strongly left-branching. The main clause precedes a subordinate clause. The interrogative particle āyā (آیا), which asks a yes/no question in written Persian, appears at the beginning of a sentence. Modifiers normally follow the nouns they modify, although they can precede nouns in limited uses. The language uses prepositions, uncommon to many SOV languages. The one case marker, rā (را), follows the definite direct object noun phrase.
Normal sentences are ordered subject–preposition–object–verb. If the object is specific, then the order is "(S) (O + "rā") (PP) V". However, Persian can have relatively free word order, often called "scrambling." This is because the parts of speech are generally unambiguous, and prepositions and the accusative marker help disambiguate the case of a given noun phrase. This scrambling characteristic has allowed Persian a high degree of flexibility for versification and rhyming.
Persian nouns have no grammatical gender. Persian nouns mark with an accusative marker only for the specific accusative case; the other oblique cases are marked by prepositions. Possession is expressed by special markers: if the possessor appears in the sentence after the thing possessed, the ezāfe may be used; otherwise, alternatively, a pronominal genitive enclitic is employed. Inanimate nouns pluralize with -hā, while animate nouns generally pluralize with -ān (with variants -gān and -yān), although -hā is also common. Special rules exist for some nouns borrowed from Arabic.
Persian is a null-subject, or pro-drop, language, so personal pronouns (e.g. I, he, she) are optional. Pronouns generally are the same for all cases. The first-person singular accusative form mæn rā "me" can be shortened to mærā. Pronominal genitive enclitics (see above) are different from the normal pronouns, however.
|1st||man مَن||mâ ما|
|2nd||to تو||šomā شُما|
|3rd||u او (non-human/human),
vey وِى* (human only and formal)
|ânhâ آنها (non-human/human),
išân ایشان (human only and formal)
- rarely used
Possession is often expressed by adding suffixes to nouns. These are added after inflection for number.
Note that when the stem to which these are added ends in a vowel, a "y" is inserted for ease of pronunciation. However, with the plural marker ها, it is also common to drop the -a stem from the possessive marker. For example, 'my cars' could be translated as either ماشین هایم (māšin hāyem) with the y-stem or ماشین هام (māšin hām). Sometimes ها is attached to the word, like ماشینها.
In colloquial speech, the personal pronouns can be used in conjunction with verbs to incorporate a direct object. For example: "Yesterday I saw him."
|diruz u ra didam||دیروز او را دیدَم|
|diruz didamaš||دیروز دیدَمَش|
Adjectives typically follow the nouns they modify, using the izāfa construct. However, adjectives can precede nouns in compounded derivational forms, such as khosh-bækht (lit. good-luck) 'lucky', and bæd-kār (lit. bad-deed) 'wicked'. Comparative forms ("more ...") make use of the suffix tær (تَر), while the superlative form ("the most ...") uses the suffix tærin (تَرین).
Comparatives used attributively follow the nouns they modify, while superlatives precede their nouns.
With respect to comparison, "than" is expressed by the preposition "از" (az), for example:
- سگ من از گربهی تو کوچکتر است
- (Sag-e man az gorbe-ye to kuchektar ast; My dog is smaller than your cat.)
Normal verbs can be formed using the following morpheme pattern:
( NEG - DUR or SUBJ/IMPER ) - root - PAST - PERSON - ACC-ENCLITIC
- Negative prefix: næ - changes to ne before the Durative prefix
- Imperfective prefix: mi
- Subjunctive/Imperative prefix: be
- Past suffix: d - changes to t after unvoiced consonants
- Optative identifier: an "ā" is added before the last character of the present tense of singular third person. Although there are suggestions that this inflection has been abandoned, but significant remnants of its usage can still be observed in contemporary stylish Persian compositions and colloquial proverbs, as in hærče bādā bād (هرچه بادا باد) "come what may" and dæst mærizād (دست مريزاد) lit. "May that hand not spill [what it is holding]", meaning "well done".
- In the past tense, there is no conjugation(e.g. رفت, not رفتد)
These are the most common tenses:
Infinitive: The infinitive ending is formed with -ن (æn), e.g. خوردن (xōrdan) 'to eat.' The basic stem of the verb is formed by deleting this ending.
Past: The past tense is formed by deleting the infinitive ending and adding the conjugations to the stem. There are virtually no irregular verbs in the past tense, unlike English. In the third person singular, there is no conjugation, so 'خوردن' would become 'خورد'(xōrd),he/she/it ate.
Perfect: The perfect tense is formed by taking the stem of the verb, adding ه(eh) to the end, and then adding the conjugations. The endings are pronounced with an 'a,' separately from the 'ه'. So 'خوردن' in the perfect first person singular would be 'خورده ایم' (Xōrde am), I have eaten. The spelling is also notable, since the 'ی' isn't pronounced. As with the past tense, the third person singular ending is also irregular, i.e. it's -است. Thus, 'خوردن' would become 'خورده است' (xōrde æst).
Pluperfect: The pluperfect is formed by taking the stem of the perfect, e.g. 'خورده,' adding 'بود'(būd),and finally adding the conjugations to the end, thus 'خورده بودم'(xōrde būdæm), I had eaten. In the third person singular, either simply no conjugation or -است is accepted. 'بود' means 'was,' and an interesting philological note is that Latin forms its pluperfect the same way; 'Eram', 'I was,' for example, could be added to the perfect verb 'auffugi,'I had escaped,' and thus, 'auffugeram,' 'I had escaped.'
Future: The future tense is formed by first, taking the present tense form of 'خاستن' (khāstæn), to want, and conjugating it to the correct person; this verb in third person singular is 'خواهد' (mī khāhæd). Next, it is put in front of the unconjugated stem of the verb, e.g. خورد, thus 'خواهد خورد,' he/she/it will eat. For compound verbs, such as 'تمیز کردن' (tæmīz kardan), 'to clean, refresh,' خواهد goes in between both words, and 'کردن' is reduced to its stem, thus تمیز خواهد کرد (tæmīz khāhæd kærd), he/she/it will clean. In the negative, 'خواهد' receives -ن.
Present: The present tense is the most difficult tense in Persian because it is completely irregular. It is formed by finding the root of the word, adding the prefix 'می'(mī), and then conjugating it. The third person singular conjugation is -د, and this is probably why the past tense has no conjugation, since many stems already end in a 'd.' The root of the verb 'خوردن,' for example, is 'خور'(Xōr), so the present first person singular would be 'می خورم'(mī xōræm), I eat, am eating, do eat. The negative -ن is pronounced 'ne' before 'mī,' but in all other tenses is pronounced 'næ.'The present tense in Persian should not be confused with the tenses in Semitic languages, since many roots are etymologically unrelated to their infinitives, and there's no solid rule that all verbs follow; however, one will notice after acquiring some knowledge of Persian verbs that there are a few general patterns that a few similar verbs follow; for example, with a verb containing -ختن, such as 'ساختن' (sâxtan),'to make, build' the -ختن is replaced with ز, thus the root is 'ساز' (sâz). Sometimes the present tense is used together with an adverb (for example: فردا - tomorrow) instead of the future tense explained by خاستن.
فردا به سينما مى رود - Tomorrow he will go to cinema.
The present tense construction also has more than just one use. It can also be used in infinitive constructions and imperatives. In the English sentence 'I want to eat,' the Persian translation would be می خواهم بخورم(mi xâham bexōram).'بخورم' is actually just another form of the present tense, only instead of using the suffix 'می,' it uses -ب(be). This -ب can also be used to form imperatives by attaching it to the present tense root, thus the imperative form of 'خوردن' would be 'بخور,' but could also be 'خورید' or simply just 'خور.'
Light verbs such as kardan "to do, to make" are often used with nouns to form what is called a compound verb, light verb construction, or complex predicate. For example, the word "goftegu" means "conversation", while "goftegu kardan" means "to speak". One may add a light verb after a noun, adjective, preposition, or prepositional phrase to form a compound verb. Only the light verb (e.g. kardan) is conjugated; the word preceding it is not affected. For example:
- dâram goftegu mikonam ("I am speaking")
- goftegu karde am ("I have spoken")
- goftegu xâhaam kard ("I will speak")
As can be seen from the examples, the head word (in this case, goftegu) remains unchanged throughout the conjugation, and only the light verb kardan is conjugated. They may be compared to English verb particle constructions, such as hand down (leave as an inheritance) and set up (arrange), or German compound verbs, such as radfahren (to ride by bicycle) and zurückgehen (to go back).
Some other examples of compound verbs with kardan are:
- farâmuš kardan, "to forget"
- gerye kardan, "to cry"
- telefon kardan, "to call, to telephone"
- bâzsâzi kardan, "to fix"
- bāyæd - 'must': Not conjugated. Subordinating clause is subjunctive
- shāyæd - 'might': Not conjugated. Subordinating clause is subjunctive
- tævānestæn - 'can'(literally 'to be able to'): Conjugated. Subordinating clause is subjunctive
- khāstæn - 'want': Conjugated. Subordinating clause is subjunctive
- khāstæn - 'will': Conjugated. Main verb is tenseless
Prepositions in Persian generally behave similarly to those in English – they precede their object. They include the following:
|ændær (اندر)||in (literary)|
|bær (بر)||on, upon|
|chon (چون)||like (formal)|
|dar (در)||at, in|
|tā (تا)*||till, until|
|hæm-chon (همچون)||like, as, such (formal)|
- tā(تا) actually has many more meanings; it can be used as a correlative conjunction,e.g. از صبح تا شب (az sobh tā shæb), from morning to night, as a substitute for a counter, e.g. دو تا فرش (dō tā færsh) instead of دو تخته فرش (dō tækhteh færsh) , 'two carpets,' and is used idiomatically in an expression such as سه هفته طول کشید تا از کارم جدید لذت برم (seh hæfteh tūl keshid tā æz karæm e jadid læzæt bæræm), 'it took me three weeks to enjoy my new job.'
- Mahootian, Shahrzad (1997). Persian. London: Routledge. p. 190. ISBN 0-415-02311-4.
- A Grammar of Contemporary Persian (Persian Studies, No 14) by Gilbert Lazard and Shirley A. Lyon (Paperback - Nov. 1993)
- Modern Persian: Spoken and Written by Donald L. Stilo and Jerome Clinton (Hardcover - Dec. 1994)
- Persian (Descriptive Grammars) by Shahrzad Mahootian (Hardcover - June. 27 1997)
- Old Persian Grammar Texts Lexicon Vol. 33 (2nd Edition) by Roland G. Kent (Hardcover - Nov. 1, 1998)
- Persian Colloquial Grammar by Fritz Rosen and Fritz Rosen (Hardcover - Mar. 2000)
- Persian Grammar: For Reference and Revision by John Mace (Paperback - Oct. 18, 2002)
- Grammar of the Persian Language by B. Forbes (Paperback - Sept. 30, 2003)
- Modern Persian: A Course-Book by Simin Abrahams (Paperback - May 16, 2005)
- A Concise Grammar of the Persian Language by Arthur Henry Bleeck (Paperback - Nov. 14, 2008)
- An Introduction to Persian Revised 4th Edition by W. M. Thackston (Hardcover - Jan. 1, 2009)
- A Grammar of the Persian Language: To Which Is Added, a Selection of Easy Extracts for Reading, Together with a Copious Vocabulary by Duncan Forbes (Paperback - Mar. 2010)
- Modern Persian Conversation-Grammar; With Reading Lessons, English-Persian Vocabulary and Persian Letters by William St. Clair Towers Tisdall (Paperback - Jan. 6, 2010)
- Historical Grammar of the Ancient Persian Language by Edwin Lee Johnson (Paperback - Feb. 24, 2010)
- A Grammar of the Persian Language by Sir William Jones (Paperback - Mar. 1, 2010)
- Modern Persian Colloquial Grammar: Containing a Short Grammar, Dialogues and Extracts from Nasir-Eddin Shah's Diaries, Tales, Etc., and a Vocabulary by Friedrich Rosen (Paperback - Mar. 9, 2010)
- A Grammar Of The Persian Language: To Which Are Subjoined Several Dialogues; With An Alphabetical List Of The English And Persian Terms Of Grammar by Meerza Mohammad Ibraheem (Hardcover - May 23, 2010)
- Media Persian (Essential Middle Eastern Vocabulary) by Dominic Parviz Brookshaw (Paperback - Dec. 15, 2010)
- Modern persisk grammatik by Ashk Dahlén (Paperback - 2010) (Swedish)
- A New Persian Grammar (1828) by Duncan Forbes and Sandford Arnot (Hardcover - reprinted on May 22, 2010)
- Higher Persian Grammar V1: For The Use Of The Calcutta University (1919) by D. C. Phillott (Hardcover - reprinted on June 2, 2008)
- Higher Persian Grammar V2: For The Use Of The Calcutta University (1919) by D. C. Phillott (Hardcover - reprinted on June 2, 2008)
- A New Grammar Of The Persian Tongue, Part 1, Accidence: For The Use Of The Higher Classes In Schools And Colleges (1875) by Sorabshaw Byramji Doctor (Hardcover - reprinted on May 22, 2010)
- Modern Persian Conversation Grammar by William Tisdall (Hardcover - June 1959)
- Elementary Persian Grammar by L. P. Elwell-Sutton (Paperback - Jan. 1, 1963)
- Persian Grammar: Students Edition by Ann K. S. Lambton (Paperback - Jan. 1, 1971)
- Spoken Persian (Spoken Language Ser) by Serge Obolensky, Kambiz Yazdan Panah, and Fereidoun Khaje Nouri (Paperback - July 1973)
- Persian Grammar: History and State of Its Study (Trends in Linguistics State of the Art Reports, No 12) by Gernot L. Windfuhr (Hardcover - June 1979)
- Persian Grammar Sketch (pdf)
- Persian Grammar and Resources
- Introduction to Persian grammar (in Persian)
- A brief Persian grammar (in Persian)
- Learning Persian grammar: an introduction (in Persian)
- A brief Persian grammar course written by Ahmad Shamlou (in Persian)
- BBC's complete guide to Persian grammar (in Persian)
- "Grammar and Its Standards" is a manuscript, in Arabic, about Persian grammar. It dates from 1553.
Online Persian Verb Conjugators