Persian grammar (Persian: دستور زبان فارسی) is the grammar of the Persian language, whose dialectal variants are spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan (in Samarqand, Bukhara and the Surxondaryo Region) and Tajikistan. It is similar to that of many other Indo-European languages. The language became a more analytical language around the time of Middle Persian, with fewer cases and discarding grammatical gender. The innovations remain in Modern Persian, which is one of the few Indo-European languages to lack grammatical gender.
While Persian has a standard subject-object-verb (SOV) word order, it is not strongly left-branching. However, because Persian is a pro-drop language, the subject of a sentence is often not apparent until the end of the verb, at the end of a sentence.
- کتاب آبی را دیدم ketāb-e ābi-rā didam 'I saw the blue book'
- کتاب آبی را دیدید ketāb-e ābi-rā didid 'you (all) saw the blue book'
The main clause precedes a subordinate clause, often using the familiar Indo-European subordinator ke ("which").
- به من گفت که امروز نمی آمد be man goft ke emruz nemi āmad 'he told me that he wasn't coming today'
The interrogative particle āyā (آیا), that asks a yes-no question, in written Persian, appears at the beginning of a sentence. Grammatical modifiers, such as adjectives, normally follow the nouns they modify by using the ezāfe, but they occasionally precede nouns. Persian is one of the few SOV languages to use prepositions. The only case marker in the written language, rā (را) (in the spoken language, ro or o), follows a definite direct object noun phrase.
- کتاب آبی را از کتابخانه گرفت ketāb-e ābi-rā az ketābxāne gereft 'she got the blue book from the library'
Normal sentences are subject-prepositional phrase-object-verb. If the object is specific, the order is '(S) (O + rā) (PP) V'. However, Persian can have a relatively free word order, often called scrambling, because the parts of speech are generally unambiguous, and prepositions and the accusative marker help to disambiguate the case of a given noun phrase. The scrambling characteristic has allowed Persian a high degree of flexibility for versification and rhyming.
In the literary language, no definite article (the) is used; rather, it is implied by the absence of the indefinite article (a, an). However, in the spoken language, the stressed suffix -e or -a is often used as a definite article. -e is mostly used in urban areas and -a is mostly used in rural areas. The first one is in newer dialect and the second one is in older dialect. The consonants and vowels changed in the years throughout history.
- Literary: کتاب روی میز است ketāb ru-ye miz ast 'the book is on the table'.
- Spoken: کتابه روی میزه ketābe ru-ye miz 'e 'the book is on the table'
For plural nouns, the definite plural marker ها hā functions as both the plural marker and the definite article.
The indefinite article in both spoken and literary Persian is the number one, یک yek, often shortened to ye.
- روی میز یک کتاب است ru-ye miz yek ketāb ast 'on the table there is a book'
Persian nouns and pronouns have no grammatical gender. Arabic loanwords with the feminine ending ة- reduce to a genderless Persian ـه/-ه which is pronounced -e in Persian and -a in Arabic. Many borrowed Arabic feminine words retain their Arabic feminine plural form ات- (-āt), but Persian descriptive adjectives modifying them have no gender. Arabic adjectives also lose their gender in Persian.
All nouns can be made plural by the suffix ها-‹hā›, which follows a noun and does not change its form. Plural forms are used less often than in English and are not used after numbers or زیاد ziād 'many' or (بسیاری) besyār(ī). -hā is used only when the noun has no numbers before it and is definite.
- سه تا کتاب se tā ketāb 'three books'
- بسيارى کتاب besyārī ketāb 'many books'
- کتابهای بسیار ketāb-hāye-besyār 'many books'
- کتابها ketāb-hā 'the books'
- من کتابی را دوست دارم man ketab-o dust dāram 'I like the book'
- آنها دانشجو هستند unā dānešju hastand 'They are students'
- آنها دانشجوها هستند unā dānešjuhā hastand 'They are the students'
In the spoken language, when nouns or pronouns end with a consonant, -hā is reduced to -ā .
- Literary: آنـها ānhā 'they'
- Informal spoken: unā 'they'
In the literary language, animate nouns generally use the suffix -ān (or variants -gān and -yān) for plurals, but -hā is more common in the spoken language.
- Literary: پرندگان parandegān 'birds'
- Spoken: پرندهها parandehā 'birds'
Nouns adopted from Arabic usually have special plurals, formed with the ending -āt or by changing the vowels. (E.g. ketāb/kotob for "book/books".) Arabic nouns can generally take Persian plural endings, but the original form is sometimes more common. The most common plural form depends on the individual word. (Cf. "indexes" vs. "indices" in English for the plural of a word adopted from Latin.)
There are two cases in Persian: nominative (or subject) case and accusative (or object) case. The nominative is the unmarked form of a noun, but when the noun is followed by a را (rā) or suffix -o, it is in the accusative. The other oblique cases are marked by prepositions.
- Nominative: کتاب آنجاست ketāb ānjāst / کتابها آنجایند ketābhā ānjāyand ('the book is there/ the books are there')
Inanimate subjects do not require plural verb forms, especially in the spoken language: ketābhā unjāst ('the books "is" there').
- Accusative: کتاب را بده به من ketāb-o (ketāb-rā) bede be man 'give me the book'
- Possession using ezāfe: کتاب آرش ketāb-e Āraš 'Āraš's book'
Persian is a null-subject or pro-drop language, so personal pronouns (e.g. 'I', 'he', 'she') are optional. Pronouns add rā when they are used as the object but otherwise stay the same. The first-person singular accusative form من را man rā 'me' can be shortened to marā or, in the spoken language, mano. Pronominal genitive enclitics (see above) are different from normal pronouns, however.
|1st||man مَن||mā ما|
|2nd||to تو||šomā شُما|
|3rd||u او (human)
ān آن (non-human),
vey وِى* (human only, literary)
|ānhā آنـها (non-human/human), |
išān ایـشان (human only and formal)
* rarely used
|1st||man مَن||mā ما|
|2nd||to تو||šomā شُما|
išun ایـشان* (honorary)
|ounhā/ounā آنـها (normal), |
išun ایـشان (honorary)
* uses 3rd person plural verb form
Persian resembles French in that the second person plural pronoun 'šomā' is used as a polite form of address. Persian 'to' is used among intimate friends (the so-called T–V distinction). However, Persian also resembles Indo-Aryan languages like Hindustani in that the third person plural form, with the pronoun išun, is used for politeness to refer to one person, especially in the presence of that person:
- ببخشید شما آمریکایی هستید؟ bebaxšid, šomā āmrikāyi hastid? 'excuse me, are you an American?'
- ایشان به من گفتند برویم تو išun be man goftan, berim tu 'he said to me, "Let's go in." '
Possession is often expressed by adding suffixes to nouns; the same suffixes can also be used as object pronouns. For the third person these are ambiguous (unlike in English); for example, کتابش (ketābaš) could mean 'his book' or 'her book'.
|1st||-am ـَم||-emān ـِمان|
|2nd||-at ـَت||-etān ـِتان|
|3rd||-aš ـَش||-ešān ـِشان|
|1st||-am ـَم||-emun ـِمون|
|2nd||-et ـِت||-etun ـِتون|
|3rd||-eš ـِش||-ešun ـِشون|
- کتابتان روی میزه ketābetun ru-ye miz e 'your book is on the table'
- کتابم روی میز است ketābam ru-ye miz ast 'my book is on the table'
When the stem to which they are added ends in a vowel, a y is inserted for ease of pronunciation. However, with the plural marker ها, it is also common in Iranian dialects to drop the -a/-e stem from the possessive marker. For example, 'my cars' could be translated as either ماشین هایم (māšinhāyam) with the y-stem or ماشین هام (māšinhām). It can be simplified even more to the colloquial spoken form by dropping h, for ease of pronunciation, to ماشینام (māšinām). Sometimes, ها is written attached to the word: ماشینها.
Another way of expressing possession is by using subject pronouns or a noun phrase with ezāfe. Although in the third person this implies a change of person. These can also never be used as a possessive or direct object within a clause in which the same is the subject of the verb.
- کتاب شما روی میزه ketāb-e šomā ru-ye miz e 'your book is on the table'
- کتاب من روی میزه ketāb-e man ru-ye miz e 'my book is on the table'
- کتاب استاد روی میز است ketāb-e ostād ru-ye miz ast 'the professor's book is on the table'
- اکبار برادر اورا دید akbar barādar-e u-rā did 'Akbar saw his(ie: someone else's) brother'
- اکبار برادرش را دید akbar barādaresh rā did 'Akbar saw his(ie: his own or someone else's) brother'
- Correct: برادرم را دیدم barādar-am rā didam 'I saw my brother'
- Incorrect: برادرِ من را دیدم barādar-e man rā didam Since the subject pronoun is used as a possessive pronoun as well with ezafe construction.
Object pronouns are the same as subject pronouns (followed by the postposition را rā), but objects can also be marked with the possessive determiners described above, which get attached to the verbs instead of nouns and don't need the postposition; consider the example "Yesterday I saw him" shown below.
|diruz ou rā didam||دیروز او را دیدَم||Postposition را rā needed when using a subject pronoun as an object pronoun.|
|diruz didameš||دیروز دیدَمَش||No postposition needed; possessive determiner attached to the verb.|
The demonstrative pronouns are این (in, this) and آن (ān, that) respectively. Their plural forms can be اینها (inhā, these) and آنها (ānhā, those) for inanimate nouns, or اینان (inān, these) and آنان (ānān, those) for animate nouns. Note that آن and آنها are also used as third-person subject pronouns.
Demonstratives can also be combined with the indefinite pronouns یکی (yeki, one) and یکی ها (yeki hā, ones) to give: این یکی (in yeki, this one), آن یکی (ān yeki, that one), این یکی ها (in yeki hā, these ones) and آن یکی ها (ān yeki hā, those ones).
Adjectives typically follow the nouns they modify, using the ezāfe construct. However, adjectives can precede nouns in compounded derivational forms such as xoš-baxt (literally 'good-luck') 'lucky', and bad-kār (literally 'bad-deed') 'wicked'. Adjectives can come in any different orders after a noun and in this case adjectives that come at the end have more emphasis. Comparative forms ('more ...') make use of the suffix -tar (تَر), and the superlative form ('the most ...') uses the suffix -tarin (تَرین).
Comparatives used attributively follow the nouns they modify, but superlatives precede their nouns.
The word 'than' is expressed by the preposition از (az):
- سگ من از گربهٔ تو کوچکتر است sag-e man az gorbe-ye to kučektar ast 'my dog is smaller than your cat'
Normal verbs can be formed using the following pattern:
NEG - DUR or SUBJ/IMPER - root - PAST - PERSON - OBJ
- Negative prefix: na, which changes to ne before the Imperfective prefix (mi)
- Imperfective or durative prefix: mi
- Subjunctive/Imperative prefix: be
- Past suffix: d, which changes to t after unvoiced consonants
- Personal suffix: e.g. -am 'I', -i 'you (sg.)' etc.
- Object suffix: the most commonly used is -aš or -eš 'him/her/it'
|1st||-am ـَم||-im ـیم|
|2nd||-i ـی||-id ـید|
|3rd||-ad* ـَد||-and ـَند|
* In the past tense, the past stem alone is used without any ending (e.g. raft رفت , not *raftad رفتد)
* In the past tense, the past stem alone is used without any ending (raft رفت, not *rafte رفته)
|1st||-am ـَم||-emān ـِمان|
|2nd||-at ـَت||-etān ـِتان|
|3rd||-aš ـَش||-ešān ـِشان|
Here are the most common tenses:
The infinitive ending is formed with ن- (-an): خوردن (xordan) 'to eat'. The basic stem of the verb is formed by deleting this ending: خورد (xord).
The past tense is formed by deleting the infinitive ending and adding the personal endings to the stem. In the third person singular, however, there is no personal ending so خوردن (xordan) would become خورد (xord), 'he/she/it ate'.
The imperfect tense is made by taking the past tense as described above and prefixing it with 'می' (mi-), thus میخوردم (mixordam) 'I was eating', 'I used to eat'. This tense can also have a conditional meaning: 'I would eat', 'I would have eaten'.
The perfect tense is formed by taking the stem of the verb, adding ه (e) to the end and then adding the different persons of the present tense of 'to be'. So خوردن (xordan) in the perfect first person singular would be خورده ام (xorde am) 'I have eaten' and the 3rd person singular would become خورده است (xorde ast). However, in the spoken form, ast is omitted, making خورده (xorde) 's/he has eaten".
The pluperfect tense formed by taking the stem of the perfect, e.g. خورده (xorde), adding بود (bud), and finally adding the personal endings: 'خورده بودم' (xorde budam), 'I had eaten'. In the third person singular, بود bud is added (with no ending).
The future tense is formed by taking the present tense form of 'خواستن' (xāstan), to want, and conjugating it to the correct person; this verb in third person singular is 'خواهد' (xāhad). Next, it is put in front of the shortened infinitive of the verb, e.g. خورد (xord), thus خواهد خورد (xāhad xord) 'he/she/it will eat'. For compound verbs, such as تمیز کردن (tamiz kardan) 'to clean', خواهد goes in between both words, and کردن is reduced to its stem, thus تمیز خواهد کرد (tamiz xāhad kard) 'he/she/it will clean'. In the negative, 'خواهد' receives ن. na- to make نخواهد خورد naxāhad xord 'he will not eat'. The future tense is generally avoided in colloquial Persian.
The present tense is formed by taking the present stem of the verb, adding the prefix 'می' (mi-), and conjugating it. The present stem is often not predictable from the infinitive and so is to be learnt separately. The present stem of the verb خوردن (xordan) 'to eat' for example, is خور (xor), so the present first person singular would be می خورم (mixoram) 'I eat, am eating, do eat'. The third person singular ending is د- (-ad). The negative -ن is pronounced ne before mī, but in all other tenses, it is pronounced na. Frequently the present tense is used together with an adverb (for example: فردا fardā 'tomorrow') instead of the future tense described above.
- فردا به سينما مى رود - fardā be sinemā miravad 'tomorrow he will go to cinema'
The present subjunctive is made by changing the prefix mi- of the present tense to be- or bo- (before a verb with the vowel o): بخورم boxoram 'I may eat', 'let me eat', بنويسم benevisam 'I may write', 'let me write'.
Light verbs such as کردن (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 گفتگو (goftegu) means 'conversation', while گفتگو کردن (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:
- dāram goftegu mikonam (دارم گفتگو میکنم) ('I am speaking')
- goftegu karde am (گفتگو کرده ام) ('I have spoken')
- goftegu xāham kard (گفتگو خواهم کرد) ('I will speak')
Other examples of compound verbs with kardan:
- farāmuš kardan (فراموش کردن), 'to forget'
- gerye kardan (گریه کردن), 'to cry'
- telefon kardan (تلفن کردن), 'to call, to telephone'
- bāzsāzi kardan (بازسازی کردن), 'to fix'
- bāyad (باید) - 'must': Not conjugated. Dependent clause is subjunctive
- šāyad (شاید) - 'might': Not conjugated. Dependent clause is subjunctive
- tavānestan (توانستن) - 'can' (literally 'to be able to'): Conjugated. The dependent clause is subjunctive
- xāstan (خواستن) - 'want': Conjugated. Dependent clause is subjunctive
- xāstan (خواستن) - 'will': Conjugated. Main verb is tenseless
Simplified spoken verbs
In the spoken language, certain commonly used verbs are pronounced in a shortened form:
- رفتن raftan, 'to go' (Literary present form -rav-) Spoken present form -r-. E.g. mi-r-am 'I go.' mi-r-i 'You go.' be-r-im 'Let's go.'
- دادن dādan, 'to give' (Literary present form -deh-) Spoken present form -d-. E.g. mi-d-am. 'I give.' mi-d-im. 'We give.'
- گفتن goftan, 'to say' (Literary present form -gu-) Spoken present form -g-. E.g. mi-g-am. 'I say.' mi-g-in 'You say.'
- آمدن āmadan, 'to come' (Literary present form -āy-) Spoken present form -ā-. E.g. mi-yā-m, 'I am coming'
- خواستن xāstan, 'to want' (Literary present form -xāh-) Spoken present form -xā-. E.g. mi-xā-m 'I want'
Prepositions in Persian generally behave like in English and precede their object. They come in two kinds: the basic prepositions such as dar 'in', which are placed directly before the noun or pronoun without an ezāfe, and a more numerous class, made from nouns or adverbs joined to the following noun by an ezāfe (-e or -ye). They include the following:
- az (از) 'from'
- bā (با) 'with'
- bar (بر) 'on'
- barā-ye (برای) 'for'
- be (به) 'to'
- bi (بی) 'without'
- dar (در) 'in'
- mānand-e (مانندِ) 'like'
- mesl-e (مثل) 'like'
- ru-ye (روی) 'on'
- tā (تا) 'till, until'
- tu-ye (توی) 'in'
- zir-e (زير) 'under'
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