Persian grammar (Persian: دستور زبان پارسی) is similar to that of many other Indo-European languages, especially those in the Indo-Iranian family. By the time of Middle Persian, the Persian language had become more analytical, having no grammatical gender and few case markings, and New Persian has inherited such characteristics.
- 1 Word order
- 2 Nouns
- 3 Pronouns
- 4 Adjectives
- 5 Verbs
- 6 Prepositions
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
While Persian has a 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, and thus the end of the sentence.
Ketāb-e ābi-ro didam. I saw the blue book.
Ketāb-e ābi-ro didid. You saw the blue book.
In this way, Persian in some ways resembles an object-verb-subject language, especially for second language learners. If thought of in this way, the verb endings in Persian can be thought of as a form of pronoun.
The main clause precedes a subordinate clause, often using the familiar Indo-European subordinator keh.
Be man gof-t keh emruz nemiyād. He told me that he isn't coming today.
The interrogative particle āyā (آیا), which asks a yes/no question in written Persian, appears at the beginning of a sentence. Modifiers, such as adjectives, normally follow the nouns they modify, using the ezāfe, although they can precede nouns in limited uses. The language uses prepositions, uncommon to many SOV languages. The one case marker, in the written language rā (را), (in the spoken language ro or o) follows a definite direct object noun phrase.
Ketāb-e ābi rā az ketābxāneh geref-t. She got the blue book from the library.
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. Imported words with the Arabic feminine ending<ة-> reduce to a genderless Persian <ه-> which is pronounced -e. Many imported Arabic feminine words retain their Arabic feminine plural form <-āt>, but Persian descriptive adjectives modifying them remain genderless. Arabic adjectives also lose their gender in Persian usage.
All nouns can be made plural using a separate word, ‹hā›, which follows a noun and does not change its form. Plural forms are used much less often than in English, and are not used after numbers or ziād 'many'. The plural word <hā> is only used when the noun has no numbers in front of it and is definite (i.e. 'the _______s').
se tā ketāb three books
ziād ketāb many books
ketāb-hā the books
Man ketab-o dust dāram. I like books.
Unā dāneshju hastan. They are students.
Unā dāneshju hā hastan. They are the students (i.e., the ones I was talking about before)
note: in the spoken language, in cases where nouns end with a consonant, ‹hā› is reduced to ‹ā› .
Written: ānhā they Spoken: unā they
While in the literary language animate nouns generally pluralize using the suffix ‹-ān› (or variants ‹-gān› and ‹-yān›), ‹-hā› is more common in the spoken language.
Literary: parandegān birds
Spoken: parande-hā the birds
Nouns borrowed from Arabic usually have special plurals, formed with the ending -āt or by alternating the vowels. Arabic nouns can generally take Persian plural endings, too, but the original form is sometimes more common. Which plural form is the commonest depends on the individual word. Common Arabic plurals should be learnt by heart.
There are two cases in Persian: nominative case and accusative case. The nominative is the non-marked form of a noun, while when the noun is followed by a ‹rā› or suffix ‹-o› it is in the accusative. The other oblique cases are marked by prepositions.
- nominative: Ketāb ānjāst/ ketābhā ānjāyand (the book is there/ the books are there).
- It should be noted that inanimate subjects do not require pluralized verb forms, especially in the spoken language. Ketābhā unjāst. (The books is there.)
- accusative: Ketab-o (Ketab rā) bede be man. (Give me the book).
- Possession using ezāfe: Ketab-e Arash (Arash's book).
The Definite and Indefinite Articles
In the literary language, no definite article is used; rather, it is implied by the absence of the indefinite article. However, in the spoken language, the stressed suffix <-e> is used as a definite article.
Literary: Ketāb ruye miz ast. The book is on the table.
Spoken: Ketāb-e ruye miz e. The book is on the table.
For plural nouns, the definite plural marker <hā> functions as both the plural marker and the definite article.
The indefinite article in both spoken and literary Persian is the number one, yek, often shortened to ye.
Ruye miz yek ketāb hast. On the table there is a book.
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 man rā "me" can be shortened to marā, or in the Spoken language, mano. Pronominal genitive enclitics (see above) are different from the normal pronouns, however.
|1st||man مَن||mā ما|
|2nd||to تو||shomā شُما|
|3rd||u او (human) ān آن (non-human),
vey وِى* (human only, literary)
|ānhā آنها (non-human/human),
ishān ایشان (human only and formal)
* rarely used
|1st||man مَن||mā ما|
|2nd||to تو||shomā شُما|
ishun ایشان* (honorary)
|unhā/unā آنها (normal),
ishun ایشان (honorary)
* uses 3rd person plural verb form
Persian resembles French in that the 2nd person plural pronoun 'shomā' is used as a polite form of address. Persian 'to' is used among intimate friends. C.f. T–V_distinction. However, Persian also resembles Hindi/Urdu in that the 3rd person plural form can also be used in the 3rd person singular when talking about an honored subject, such as an ayatollah or the king.
Bebakhshin, shomā āmrikāyi hastin? 'Excuse me, are you an American?'
Ishun be man goftan, berim tu. 'He said to me, "Let's go in."
Possession is often expressed by adding suffixes to nouns. These same suffixes are also used as object pronouns.
Ketābetun ruye miz e. 'Your book is on the table.'
Ketābam ruye miz ast. 'My book is on the table.'
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/-e stem from the possessive marker. For example, 'my cars' could be translated as either ماشین هایم (māshin hāyam) with the y-stem or ماشین هام (māshin hām). Or it can be even more simplified to the colloquial spoken form by dropping "h," for ease of pronunciation to ماشینام (māshinām). Sometimes ها is attached to the word, like ماشینها.
Expressing Possession with ezāfe
Another way of expressing possession is by using the Subject Pronouns, or a noun phrase, with ezāfe.
Ketāb-e shomā ruye miz e. 'Your book is on the table.'
Ketāb-e man ruye miz e. 'My book is on the table.'
Ketāb-e ostād ruye miz ast. 'The professor's book is on the table.'
The object pronouns are the same as the possessive pronouns, but are attached to verbs instead of nouns. For example: "Yesterday I saw him."
|diruz u rā didam||دیروز او را دیدَم||Yesterday I saw him.|
|diruz didamesh||دیروز دیدَمَش||Yesterday I saw him.|
Adjectives typically follow the nouns they modify, using the ezāfe construct. However, adjectives can precede nouns in compounded derivational forms, such as khosh-bakht (lit. good-luck) 'lucky', and bad-kār (lit. bad-deed) 'wicked'. Comparative forms ("more ...") make use of the suffix tar (تَر), while the superlative form ("the most ...") uses the suffix tarin (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: na - changes to ne before the Imperfective prefix (mi)
- 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. 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 harche bādā bād (هرچه بادا باد) "come what may" and dast marizād (دست مريزاد) lit. "May that hand not spill [what it is holding]", meaning "well done".
* In the past tense, the past stem alone is used without any ending (e.g. raft رفت, not *raftadرفتد)
* In the past tense, the past stem alone is used without any ending (e.g. raft رفت, not *rafte رفته)
These are the most common tenses:
Infinitive: The infinitive ending is formed with -ن (an), e.g. خوردن (khordan) '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'(khord),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 ام' (khorde am), I have eaten. As with the past tense, the third person singular ending is also irregular, i.e. it's -است. Thus, 'خوردن' would become 'خورده است' (khorde ast). However, in the spoken form, ast is omitted. 'خورده' (khorde) s/he has eaten.
Pluperfect: The pluperfect is formed by taking the stem of the perfect, e.g. 'خورده,' adding 'بود'(bud),and finally adding the conjugations to the end, thus 'خورده بودم'(khorde budam), I had eaten. In the third person singular, either simply no conjugation or -است is accepted. 'بود' means 'was,'.
Future: The future tense is formed by first, taking the present tense form of 'خواستن' (khāstan), to want, and conjugating it to the correct person; this verb in third person singular is 'خواهد' (mi khāhad). 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' (tamiz kardan), 'to clean, refresh,' خواهد goes in between both words, and 'کردن' is reduced to its stem, thus تمیز خواهد کرد (tamiz khāhad kard), 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'(mi), 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'(khor), so the present first person singular would be 'می خورم'(mi khoram), I eat, am eating, do eat. The negative -ن is pronounced 'ne' before 'mī,' but in all other tenses is pronounced 'na.'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 is 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' (sākhtan),'to make, build' the -ختن is replaced with ز, thus the root is 'ساز' (sāz). Sometimes the present tense is used together with an adverb (for example: فردا - tomorrow) instead of the future tense explained by خواستن.
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 khāham bekhoram).'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 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. For example:
- dāram goftegu mikonam (دارم گفتگو میکنم) ("I am speaking")
- goftegu karde am (گفتگو کرده ام) ("I have spoken")
- goftegu khāham kard (گفتگو خواهم کرد) ("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:
- farāmush 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. Subordinating clause is subjunctive
- shāyad (شاید) - 'might': Not conjugated. Subordinating clause is subjunctive
- tavānestan (توانستن) - 'can'(literally 'to be able to'): Conjugated. Subordinating clause is subjunctive
- khāstan (خواستن) - 'want': Conjugated. Subordinating clause is subjunctive
- khāstan (خواستن) - 'will': Conjugated. Main verb is tenseless
Simplified Spoken Verbs
In the spoken language, certain verbs have been reduced to a one letter form.
- raftan, 'to go' (Literary present form -rav-) Spoken present form -r-. Eg. Mi-r-am. 'I go.' Mi-r-i. 'You go.' Be-r-im. 'Let's go.'
- dādan, 'to give' (Literary present form -deh-) Spoken present form -d-. Eg. Mi-d-am. 'I give.' Mi-d-im. 'We give.'
- goftan, 'to say' (Literary present form -gu-) Spoken present form -g-. Eg. Mi-g-am. 'I say.' Mi-g-id. 'You say.'
Spoken Verbs in ā
There is another class of spoken verbs whose present tense form ends in ā. These verbs take a reduced form of the verb ending as outlined in the following table.
- umadan, 'to come' Spoken present form -ā-.
- khāstan, 'to want' Spoken present form -khā-
Prepositions in Persian generally behave similarly to those in English – they precede their object. They include the following:
|andar (اندر)||in (literary)|
|bar (بر)||on, upon|
|chon (چون)||like (formal)|
|dar (در)||at, in|
|tā (تا)*||till, until|
|ham-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 shab), from morning to night, as a substitute for a counter, e.g. دو تا فرش (do tā farsh) instead of دو تخته فرش (do takhteh farsh), 'two carpets,' and is used idiomatically in an expression such as سه هفته طول کشید تا از کارم جدید لذت برم (seh hafteh tul keshid tā az kāram e jadid lazat baram), 'it took me three weeks to enjoy my new job.'
- 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 Con
versation-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) (2nd edition 2014) (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 by Navid Fazel (English; German)
- 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
- Persian Verb Conjugator
- Another Persian verb conjugator with multilingual interface
- Boyle's Persian verb classifications