Persian grammar

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Persian grammar (Persian: دستور زبان فارسی, Dastur-e Zabân-e Fârsi lit. Grammar of the Persian language) is the grammar of the Persian language, whose dialectal variants are spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Caucasus, 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 analytic 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, even in pronouns.

Word order[edit]

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 ketâb-e âbi râ didam "I saw the blue book"
  • کتاب آبی را دیدید ketâb-e âbi râ didid "you(plural) 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 âmad "he told me that he wasn't coming today"

The interrogative particle âyâ (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 ezâfe, but they occasionally precede nouns. Persian is one of the few SOV languages to use prepositions. The only case marker in the written language, (را) (in the spoken language, ـ رو ro or ـو o), follows a definite direct object noun phrase.

  • کتاب آبی را از کتابخانه گرفت ketâb-e âbi râ az ketâbxâne 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 + ) (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 ـه -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 dialects and the second one is in older dialects. The consonants and vowels changed throughout history.

  • Literary: کتاب روی میز است ketâb ru-ye miz ast "the book is on the table".
  • Spoken: کتابه روی میزه ketâbe ru-ye mizé "the book is on the table"

For plural nouns, the definite plural marker ـ‌ها -hâ 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 یه ye.

  • روی میز یک کتاب است ru-ye miz yek ketâb ast 'on the table there is a book'



Persian nouns and pronouns have no grammatical gender. Arabic loanwords with the feminine ending ـة reduce to a genderless Persian ـه which is pronounced -e in Persian and -a in Arabic. Many borrowed Arabic feminine words retain their Arabic feminine plural form ـات (-ât), 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 ـ‌ها -hâ, 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 ziyâd "many" or بسیار(ی) besyâr(i). ـ‌ها -hâ is used only when the noun has no numbers before it and is definite.

  • سه تا کتاب se tâ ketâb "three books"
  • besyâr-i- ketâb "X'many books"
  • کتاب‌های بسیار ketâbhâ-ye besyâr "many books"
  • کتاب‌ها ketâbhâ "the books"
  • من کتاب را دوست دارم man ketâb râ dust dâram "I like the book"
  • آنها دانشجو هستند ânhâ dânešju hastand "They are students"
  • آنها دانشجوها هستند ânhâ dânešjuhâ hastand "They are the students"

In the spoken language, when nouns or pronouns end with a consonant, -hâ is reduced to .

  • Literary: آنها ânhâ 'they'
  • Informal spoken: unâ 'they'

In the literary language, animate nouns generally use the suffix ـان -ân (or variants ـگان -gân and ـیان -yân) for plurals, but ـ‌ها -hâ is more common in the spoken language.[1]

  • Literary: پرندگان parandegân 'birds'
  • Spoken: پرنده‌ها parandehâ 'birds'

Nouns adopted from Arabic usually have special plurals, formed with the ending ـات -ât or by changing the vowels. (E.g. کِتاب ketâb / کُتُب 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 or suffix ـ رو ro or ـو o, it is in the accusative. The other oblique cases are marked by prepositions.

  • Nominative: کتاب آنجاست ketâb ânjâst / کتاب‌ها آنجایند ketâbhâ ânjâyand ('the book is there / the books are there')

Inanimate subjects do not require plural verb forms, especially in the spoken language: ketâbhâ unjâst ('the books "is" there').

  • Accusative: کتابو(/کتاب را) بده به من ketâbo(/ketâb râ) bede(h) be man 'give me the book'
  • Possession using ezâfe: کتابِ آرش ketâb-e Âraš 'Âraš's book'


Subject pronouns[edit]

Persian is a null-subject or pro-drop language, so personal pronouns (e.g. 'I', 'he', 'she') are optional. Pronouns add when they are used as the object but otherwise stay the same. The first-person singular accusative form من را man râ 'me' can be shortened to marâ or, in the spoken language, mano. Pronominal genitive enclitics (see above) are different from normal pronouns, however.

Literary forms
Person Singular Plural
1st man مَن ما
2nd to تو šomâ شُما
3rd u او (human)
ân آن (non-human),
vey وِى* (human only, literary)
ânhâ آنها (non-human/human),
išân ایشان (human only and formal)

* rarely used

Spoken forms
Person Singular Plural
1st man مَن ما
2nd to تو šomâ شُما
3rd u او
išun ایشان* (honorary)
unhâ/unâ آنها (normal),
išun ایشان (honorary)

* uses 3rd person plural verb form

Persian resembles Romance languages like French in that the second person plural pronoun šomâ 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:[2]

  • ببخشید شما آمریکایی هستید؟ Bebaxšid, šomâ Âmrikāyi hastid? 'excuse me, are you an American?'
  • ایشان به من گفتند برویم تو Išun be man goftand, berim tu 'he said to me, "Let's go in." '

Possessive determiners[edit]

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 gender-neutral (unlike in English); for example, کتابش ketâbaš could mean 'his book' or 'her book'.

Possessive Determiners (Literary Forms)
Person Singular Plural
1st -am ـَم -emân ـِمان
2nd -at ـَت -etân ـِتان
3rd -aš ـَش -ešân ـِشان
Possessive Determiners (Iranian Dialectal Forms)
Person Singular Plural
1st -am ـَم -emun ـِمون
2nd -et ـِت -etun ـِتون
3rd -eš ـِش -ešun ـِشون


  • کتابتان روی میزه ketâbetun ru-ye miz e 'your book is on the table'
  • کتابم روی میز است ketâbam 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 ـ‌ها -hâ, 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 ماشین‌هایم mâšinhâyam with the -y- or ماشین‌هام mâšinhâm. It can be simplified even more to the colloquial spoken form by dropping h, for ease of pronunciation, to ماشینام mâšinâm. Sometimes, ها -hâ is written attached to the word: ماشینها mâšinhâ.


Another way of expressing possession is by using subject pronouns or a noun phrase with ezâfe. 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 ketâb-e šomâ ru-ye miz e 'your book is on the table'
  • کتاب من روی میزه ketâb-e man ru-ye miz e 'my book is on the table'
  • کتاب استاد روی میز است ketâb-e ostâd ru-ye miz ast 'the professor's book is on the table'
  • اکبار برادر اورا دید akbar barâdar-e u râ did 'Akbar saw his(i.e.: someone else's) brother'
  • اکبار برادرش را دید akbar barâdaresh râ did 'Akbar saw his(i.e.: his own or someone else's) brother'
  • Correct: برادرم را دیدم barâdaram râ didam 'I saw my brother'
  • Incorrect: برادرِ من را دیدم barâdar-e man râ didam Since the subject pronoun is used as a possessive pronoun as well with ezafe construction.

Object pronouns[edit]

Object pronouns are the same as subject pronouns (followed by the postposition را ), 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.

Direct object incorporation
Transliteration Persian Notes
diruz u râ didam دیروز او را دیدَم Postposition را needed when using a subject pronoun as an object pronoun.
diruz didam دیروز دیدَمَش No postposition needed; possessive determiner attached to the verb.

Demonstrative pronouns[edit]

The demonstrative pronouns are این (in, this) and آن (ân, that) respectively. Their plural forms can be اینها (inhâ, these) and آنها (ânhâ, those) for inanimate nouns, or اینان (inân, these) and آنان (ânân, 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 یکی‌ها (yekihâ, ones) to give: این یکی (in yeki, this one), آن یکی (ân yeki, that one), این یکی‌ها (in yekihâ, these ones) and آن یکی‌ها (ân yekihâ, those ones).


Adjectives typically follow the nouns they modify, using the ezâfe construct. However, adjectives can precede nouns in compounded derivational forms such as xoš-baxt (literally 'good-luck') 'lucky', and bad-kâr (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.[citation needed] 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:


  • Negative prefix: na, which changes to ne before the Imperfective prefix (ne-mî-)
  • Imperfective or durative prefix: mî-
  • 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'
Person Suffixes (Literary Forms)
Person Singular Plural
1st ـَم -am ـیم -im
2nd ـی -i ـید -id
3rd ـَد -ad* ـَند -and

* In the past tense, the past stem alone is used without any ending (e.g. رفت raft, not رفتد *raftad)

Person Suffixes (Spoken Forms)
Person Singular Plural
1st ـَم -am ـیم -im
2nd ـی -i ـید/ـین -id/-in
3rd ـه -e* ـَن -an

* In the past tense, the past stem alone is used without any ending (رفت raft, not رفته *rafte)

Object suffixes (Literary Forms)
Person Singular Plural
1st ـَم -am ـِمان -emân
2nd ـَت -at ـِتان -etân
3rd ـَش -aš ـِشان -ešân
Object suffixes (Spoken Forms)
Person Singular Plural
1st ـَم -am ـِمون -emun
2nd ـِت -et ـِتون -etun
3rd ـِش -eš ـِشون -ešun


Here are the most common tenses:


The infinitive ending is formed with ـَن (-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 mî-, thus می‌خوردم xordam '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 ـه 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 خورده‌ام xordeam '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 is 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 xâstan 'to want', and conjugating it to the correct person; this verb in third person singular is خواهد xâhad. Next, it is put in front of the shortened infinitive of the verb, e.g. خورد xord, thus خواهد خورد xâhad xord 'he/she/it will eat'. For compound verbs, such as تمیز کردن tamiz kardan 'to clean', خواهد xâhad goes in between both words, and کردن kardan is reduced to its stem, thus تمیز خواهد کرد tamiz xâhad kard 'he/she/it will clean'. In the negative, خواهد xâhad receives نـ na- to make نخواهد خورد naxâhad 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 mî-, 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 می‌خورم mîxoram 'I eat, am eating, do eat'. The third person singular ending is ـد -ad. The negative نـ is pronounced ne- before mî-, but in all other tenses, it is pronounced na-. Frequently the present tense is used together with an adverb (for example: فردا fardâ 'tomorrow') instead of the future tense described above.

  • فردا به سينما می‌رود fardâ be sinemâ mîravad 'tomorrow he will go to cinema'

Present subjunctive[edit]

The present subjunctive is made by changing the prefix mî- of the present tense to بـ 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'.

Compound verbs[edit]

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:

  • دارم گفتگو می‌کنم dâram goftegu mîkonam 'I am speaking'
  • گفتگو کرده‌ام goftegu kardeam 'I have spoken'
  • گفتگو خواهم کرد goftegu xâham kard 'I will speak'

Other examples of compound verbs with kardan:

  • فراموش کردن farâmuš kardan 'to forget'
  • گریه کردن gerye kardan 'to cry'
  • تلفن کردن telefon kardan 'to call, to telephone'
  • بازسازی کردن bâzsâzi kardan 'to fix'

Auxiliary verbs[edit]

  • باید bâyad 'must': Not conjugated. Dependent clause is subjunctive
  • شاید šâyad 'might': Not conjugated. Dependent clause is subjunctive
  • توانستن tavânestan 'can' (literally 'to be able to'): Conjugated. The dependent clause is subjunctive
  • خواستن xâstan 'want': Conjugated. Dependent clause is subjunctive
  • خواستن xâstan 'will': Conjugated. Main verb is tenseless

Simplified spoken verbs[edit]

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. ram 'I go', ri 'you go', berim 'let's go'
  • دادن dâdan 'to give' (Literary present form deh-) Spoken present form d-. E.g. dam 'I give', dim 'we give'
  • گفتن goftan 'to say' (Literary present form gu-) Spoken present form g-. E.g. gam 'I say', gin 'you say'
  • آمدن âmadan 'to come' (Literary present form ây-) Spoken present form â-. E.g. mîyâm 'I am coming'
  • خواستن xâstan 'to want' (Literary present form xâh-) Spoken present form xâ-. E.g. 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 ezâfe, and a more numerous class, made from nouns or adverbs joined to the following noun by an ezâfe (-e or -ye). They include the following:

  • az (از) 'from'
  • (با) 'with'
  • bar (بر) 'on'
  • barâ-ye (برای) 'for'
  • be (به) 'to'
  • bi (بی) 'without'
  • dar (در) 'in'
  • mânand-e (مانند) 'like'
  • mesl-e (مثل) 'like'
  • ru-ye (روی) 'on'
  • (تا) 'till, until'
  • tu-ye (توی) 'in'
  • zir-e (زير) 'under'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mahootian, Shahrzad (1997). Persian. London: Routledge. p. 190. ISBN 0-415-02311-4.
  2. ^ Obolensky et al. (1963), p.87.


  • Abrahams, Simin (2005). Modern Persian: A Course-Book. Routledge.
  • Bleeck, Arthur Henry (1857). A Concise Grammar of the Persian Language.
  • Brookshaw, Dominic Parviz (2010). The Routledge Introductory Persian Course: Farsi Shirin Ast. Routledge.
  • Boyle, John Andrew (1966). Grammar of Modern Persian. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden.
  • Dahlen, Ashk (2010). Modern persisk grammatik (2nd edition 2014) (Swedish)
  • Doctor, Sorabshaw Byramji (1875). A New Grammar Of The Persian Tongue, Part 1, Accidence: For The Use Of The Higher Classes In Schools And Colleges (reprinted 2010).
  • Elwell-Sutton, L.P. (1963). Elementary Persian Grammar.
  • Forbes, B. (1985). A Grammar of the Persian Language (reprinted 2003).
  • Forbes, Duncan (1869). A Grammar of the Persian Language (4th edition).
  • Ibrahim, Meerza Mohammad (1841). A Grammar Of The Persian Language: To Which Are Subjoined Several Dialogues; With An Alphabetical List Of The English And Persian Terms Of Grammar.
  • Johnson, Edwin Lee (1917). Historical Grammar of the Ancient Persian Language.
  • Jones, Sir William (1771). A Grammar of the Persian Language.
  • Kent, Roland G. (1950). Old Persian: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon.
  • Lambton, Ann K.S. (1953) Persian Grammar. Cambridge University Press.
  • Lazard, Gilbert; Lyon, Shirley A. (1993). A Grammar of Contemporary Persian (Persian Studies, No 14) (paperback).
  • Mace, John (2003). Persian Grammar: For Reference and Revision. Routledge Curzon.
  • Mahootian, Shahrzad (1997). Persian (Descriptive Grammars).
  • Obolensky, Serge; Yazdan Panah, Kambiz; Khaje Nouri, Fereidoun (1963). Persian Basic Course units 1–12. Foreign Service Institute, Washington. (Republished as Spoken Persian in 1973.)
  • Phillott, D. C. (1919) Higher Persian Grammar: For The Use Of The Calcutta University, vols, 1 and 2. (reprinted 2008)
  • Platts, John T. (1894). A Grammar of the Persian language, Part I, Accidence.
  • Rafiee, Abdi (1975). Colloquial Persian. Routledge.
  • Rosen, Friedrich (reprinted 2010). Modern Persian Colloquial Grammar: Containing a Short Grammar, Dialogues and Extracts from Nasir-Eddin Shah's Diaries, Tales, Etc., and a Vocabulary (originally written in German in 1890).
  • St. Clair-Tisdall, William (1902). Modern Persian Conversation-Grammar; With Reading Lessons, English-Persian Vocabulary and Persian Letters.
  • Stilo, Donald L.; Clinton Jerome (1994). Modern Persian: Spoken and Written.
  • Thackston, Wheeler M. (1993) An Introduction to Persian (3rd edition). IBEX.
  • Windfuhr, Gernot L. (1979). Persian Grammar: History and State of Its Study (Trends in Linguistics State of the Art Reports, No 12).
  • Windfuhr, Gernot L. (1980). Modern Persian: Intermediate level 1. University of Michigan Press.
  • Yousef, Saeed & Torabi, Hayedeh (2012): Basic Persian: A Grammar and Workbook. Routledge.
  • Yousef, Saeed & Torabi, Hayedeh (2013): Intermediate Persian: A Grammar and Workbook. Routledge.

Further reading[edit]

  • Perry, John R. "Persian morphology." Morphologies of Asia and Africa 2 (2007): 975–1019.
  • Paul, Ludwig (2018). "Persian grammar". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (3rd ed.). Brill Online. ISSN 1873-9830.
  • Windfuhr, Gernot L. Persian grammar: History and state of its study. Vol. 12. Walter de Gruyter, 2011.

External links[edit]

Online Persian verb conjugators[edit]