learn arabic online
arabic newsletter
facebooktwitter google plusYou Tube


Start free Arabic Lessons

The Circumstantial Adverb

Introduction

What is the Circumstantial Adverb & Where Does it Fit in?

The circumstantial adverb (حال) is that component of a verbal sentence that describes the state under which the verb is enacted. The canonical example is “Zaid came to me riding,” in which the word “riding” is حال because it describes the state under which the “coming” occurred.

 

The governing agent for the حال is a verb (or verb-like entity) and حال is actually considered one of the details of the verb. However, there is a difference between this and other types of verb details. Cognate adverbs describe the how-aspect of the verb, objects describe the what-aspect, causative adverbs describe the why-aspect, locative adverbs describe the when- and where-aspects, and so forth. Now حال describes the circumstantial-aspect, but not of the verb itself. In the sentence “Zaid came to me riding,” for instance, the حال describes the state of the subject Zaid, not of the verb. It was Zaid who was riding, not the act of coming that was riding. Similarly, in the sentence “I hit Bakr while he was tied up,” the حال describes the state of the object Bakr. It was Bakr that was tied up, not the act of hitting. This is why حال is not a type of مفعول (adverb) in Arabic despite the translation “Circumstantial Adverb” we use in this tutorial.

 

Because حال is one of the details of the verb but it is not a type of مفعول, it falls under a category of verb details referred to as the مشبهات بالمفاعيل. There are two other details in this category which will have dedicated tutorials.

 

Moreover, unlike the مفاعيل, حال does not have the potential to constitute a top-level component in a sentence. When we parse a verbal sentence like “Zaid came to me riding,” “Zaid” and “riding” will connect to form a compound subject. Hence this compound structure is a type of phrase in Arabic.

 

Some Basics About the Circumstantial Adverb

Definitions

 

حال

circumstantial adverb – that detail of the verb which describes the circumstances of the subject and/or the object under which the verb was enacted

 

ذو الحال /

صاحب الحال

the entity (subject and/or object) whose circumstances are being described

 

Some general rules of حال include the following.

 

1.       The حالwill be in the accusative state and its governor will be a verb or verb-like entity (visible or assumed)

2.       The حال will usually be a participle

3.       The ذو الحال will usually be definite and the حال indefinite

4.       The حال usually closely follows the ذو الحال

5.       The حال can describe the state of the subject, the object, or even both and together the حال and ذو الحال will form a phrasal structure

 

جاءني زيد راكبا

Zaid came to me riding

 

In the example above, the word زيد is the ذو الحال and the word راكبا is the حال. Notice that the حال is accusative, indefinite, it is an active participle, and it follows the ذو الحال. Notice further that the ذو الحال is definite. The ذو الحال and حال will connect to form a phrasal structure which in turn becomes the subject of the verb جاء.

 


 

Meanings

Translating the Circumstantial Adverb

Based on context, the translation may vary slightly. Below are a few examples that illustrate the various translations that can be employed for حال structures.

 

Translation

Example

Zaid came to me riding

جاءني زيد راكبا

I was laughing while eating

كنت أضحك آكلا

I hit Bakr while he was tied up

ضربت بكرا مشدودا

We met while we were both riding

لاقينا راكبين

I met my friend as we walked by

صادفت صديقي مارين

 

Notice that there may be some ambiguity between whether the حال is describing the state of the subject or the object. When we say “I hit Bakr tied up,” we may intend “I hit Bakr while he was tied up” as well as “I hit Bakr while I was tied up.” The same ambiguity exists in English and the correct interpretation is determined through context. The rule of thumb, however, is that the حال describes the state of the object if there is an object. Thus it is less likely that “I hit Bakr tied up” means “I hit Bakr while I was tied up.”

 

Difference Between the Circumstantial Adverb and Adjectives

Adjectives and circumstantial adverbs share a lot in common. Both are attributes expressed as participles that describe an entity. But there are extremely significant differences between the two. A حال describes the state of the subject/object only while the sentential verb is under enactment. When we say “Zaid came to me riding,” for instance, we are claiming that Zaid is riding but only as long as he is coming. We are not attributing ‘riding’ to Zaid beyond his coming; he may very well stop riding once he has arrived. Thus the attribute expressed through a حال is limited to the scope of the verb. And this is why حال, although not a مفعول, is considered one of the details of the verb.

 

Compare the two sentences below.

 

Translation

Example

Zaid came to me riding

جاءني زيد راكبا

Zaid, the rider, came to me

جاءني زيد الراكب

 

In light of this, حال should almost always be an attribute that can be separated from the entity it describes. For instance, the act of riding an animal is separable from Zaid; he may be riding one moment and not riding the next. Hence the word ‘riding’ is appropriate as حال. But a word like ‘barber’ would not be suitable as حال in the example “Zaid came to me as a barber.” This is because Zaid’s being a barber is not confined to the scope of the verb; it is unlikely that he is a barber only while he is coming.

 

Having said that, there are numerous instances in which a non-separable attribute is used as حال anyways. In other words, there are cases where the like of “Zaid came to me as a barber” is completely valid and sensible. Although Zaid was a barber before he came and will likely remain a barber even after he has arrived, we can limit the attribute ‘barber’ to the scope of the verb ‘came’ in order to highlight the fact that Zaid came in his capacity as a barber.

 

To take another example, we may say دعوت الله سميعا, where سميعا is حال for the word الله. One may consider the mentioned rules for حال and claim that this sentence is invalid; we have taken God’s attribute of ‘all-hearing’, which was previously inseparable from Him, and limited it to the scope of supplication. In other words, we are saying that God is all-hearing only as long as we supplicate to Him and He may or may not be all-hearing beyond that. But this is not what we are saying at all. On the contrary; what we mean is that we supplicated to God in His capacity as the all-hearing.

 

There are some rhetorical benefits to using this type of non-separable حال as well. When we take an attribute that is inherently linked to an entity and make it حال, we are signifying the renewal of that attribute within that entity. For instance, if Zaid is an equestrian by profession, we may still say “Zaid came to me as a rider” in order to renew the knowledge that he is a rider.

 

Difference Between the Circumstantial Adverb and Using بينما

Apart from the حالية phrase, there is at least one other way to express the circumstances under which something occurs. And that is through the word بينما. For example, compare the use of حال and بينما below:

 

بينما أنا أمشي إذ سمعت صوتا

As I was walking, I suddenly heard a voice

 

سمعت صوتا وأنا أمشي

I heard a voice while I was walking

 

Here the word بينما is a مفعول فيه while أنا أمشي is a حال in the form of a sentence (this will be discussed later). But they both describe the state of something during the occurrence of a verb. However, there are some differences between these structures insofar as their meanings and connotations are concerned.

 

1.       First of all, it is very rare to find a حال coming before its verb, whereas بينما precedes its verb in the vast majority of cases.

What this does is delays the main verb of the sentence thereby creating anticipation for its mention. In the example “I heard a voice while I was walking,” the fact that I heard a voice has been mentioned at the very beginning. Therefore it has lost any interestingness; it is just a bland fact now. Whereas in the example “as I was walking I heard a voice,” there is anticipation: “While I was walking....” “Yes! What happened while you were walking?!”

2.       بينما has a sense of randomness that حال does not quite afford.

In the sentence “As I was walking, I suddenly heard a voice,” the word بينما indicates that the hearing of a voice was completely random, unexpected, and came out of the blue. Whereas in the example “I heard a voice while I was walking,” there is a sense of casualness as if the voice was not very surprising or unexpected.

3.       A sentence with بينما has a condition-and-consequence sense to it.

4.       When using a حال phrase, the حال is attributed to the ذو الحال for the entire duration of the enactment of the verb, typically. When we say “Zaid came to me riding,” the general conception should be that Zaid was riding throughout his approach. And in the example “I heard a voice while I was walking,” the default assumption should be that the voice was heard throughout the walking (although context would rule this out).

 

بينما, however, is a مفعول فيه for the main verb of the sentence. As such, the attribution is not valid throughout the enactment of the verb; rather, it is valid at some point during the enactment. In the example “As I was walking I heard a voice,” the hearing of a voice happened at some point during the walking and not throughout it.

 

Functions of the Circumstantial Adverb

Definitions

 

حال حقيقية

the type of حال that directly describes the state of the ذو الحال

حال سببية

the type of حال that describes the state of something other than the ذو الحال

 

Based on what exactly the circumstantial adverb describes, the adverb is divided into two types. The first type is where the حال describes the state of the ذو الحال . In the example جاءني زيد راكبا, the adverb ‘riding’ is an attribute for the ذو الحال, Zaid. And this is the standard usage for حال. The second type is where the adverb describes the state of, not the ذو الحال, but something else – usually something associated to the ذو الحال. In the example جاءني زيد راكبا أبوه (Zaid came to me while his father was riding), the حال is describing the state of Zaid’s father although his father is not the grammatical ذو الحال.

 

Translation

Example

Zaid came to me riding

جاءني زيد راكبا

Zaid came to me while his father was riding

جاءني زيد راكبا أبوه

 

Definitions

 

حال مؤسِّسة/مبينة

the type of حال that conveys new information

حال مؤكِّدة

the type of حال that is used primarily for emphasis

 

Based on how much additional meaning the circumstantial adverb contributes to the sentence, it is divided into two types. The first is the standard usage where the adverb actually provides an informatively meaningful description. And the second is where the adverb is used for emphasis – whether that emphasis be on the verb, the ذو الحال, or the gist of the entire sentence. Below are a few examples of the circumstantial adverb being used for emphasis.

 

Explanation

Translation

Example

The word أرسلنا already contains the meaning of رسولا. Therefore, the word رسولا is simply a حال acting as emphasis for the verb.

We sent you to the people as an emissary

وأرسلناك للناس رسولا

The phrase كلهم already means “all of them.” Thus the word جميعا is extra emphasis for the ذو الحال.

All of them together brought faith

... آمن ... كلهم جميعا

The entire sentence “Zaid is your father” is merely being emphasized by the fact that this is happening lovingly. “Lovingly” is not adding much extra meaning.

Zaid is lovingly your father

زيد أبوك عطوفا

 

Definitions

 

حال مقارنة

the type of حال that affords an action performed throughout the enactment of the verb

حال مقدّرة

the type of حال that affords an action performed after the verb has been enacted

 

Based on when the action afforded by the circumstantial adverb is performed, the adverb is divided into two types. The first is the standard type where the action afforded by the حال occurs throughout the scope of the verb that governs the حال. In the example جاءني زيد راكبا (Zaid came to me riding), the riding occurs throughout the coming. The second type of adverb is where the action does not occur in the scope of the verb, rather after the verb has been enacted. The typical translation for this type of حال is along the lines of “taking to” as in فتبسم ضاحكا (he smiled, taking to laughter). The action afforded by the verb leads to the action afforded by the حال. The action of the verb paves the way for the action of the حال and foreshadows it.

 

Translation

Example

Zaid came to me riding

جاءني زيد راكبا

He smiled, taking to laughter

فتبسم ضاحكا

 

Definitions

 

حال موطِّئة

the type of حال that is used only to facilitate the use of an adjective

 

Consider the following example.

 

إنا أنزلناه قرآنا عربيا

Verily We revealed it as an Arabic recitation

 

An intent of the verse – and Allah knows best – is to describe the Qur’an as being Arabic. Normally, this would be accomplished by means of an adjective, as in إنا أنزلناه عربيا. But pronouns cannot (or should not) be موصوف. If we do utilize the structure إنا أنزلناه عربيا, the word عربيا would not be an adjective attributed to the Qur’an; rather, it would have to be a circumstantial adverb for it as dictated by the rules of grammar. And the rhetorical benefits of adjectives over adverbs would be lost – adverbs are limited to the scope of verbs whereas adjectives permeate those scopes. In short, the Qur’an needs to be attributed with being Arabic and this needs to be done using an adjective, yet the reference to the Qur’an here is by means of a pronoun and pronouns cannot take adjectives.

 

To solve this problem, the explicit noun قرآن was used. It was brought as a circumstantial adverb because these are types of attributes (unlike adjectives) that pronouns actually can take. And the attribution of being Arabic was applied to this adverb as an adjective as originally desired. Thus the adverb is acting as a medium between an adjective and an entity that cannot natively take adjectives. This type of circumstantial adverb is termed جال موطئة.


 

Grammatical Rulings

In a sentence that contains a حال, there will be at least three components: the verb, the ذو الحال, and the حال. The ذو الحال and حال will connect to become either the subject of the verb, the object, or the حال will apply to both.

 

Translation

Example

Zaid came to me riding

جائني زيد راكبا

I hit Bakr while he was tied up

ضربت بكرا مشدودا

I passed by Zaid while we were riding

مررت بزيد راكبين

 

The verb need not be a verb per se. It may be one of the verb-like entities in the language such as a gerund, active participle, passive participle, hyperbolic participle, and resembling participle. In fact, it may even be a comparative/superlative noun. Some examples follow.

 

Translation

Example

I will come riding

أنا جاءٍ راكبا

His approach while riding pleased me

أعجبني مجيءه راكبا

 

If the sentence has no such verb or verb-like entity, one will be assumed. For instance, in the example هذا زيد قائما (this is Zaid, standing), a generic verb will be assumed which will render the حال accusative.

 

As for the ذو الحال, it is definite in most cases. If it does happen to be indefinite, however, the order of the ذو الحال and حال must be switched.

 

Translation

Example

Zaid came to me riding

جائني زيد راكبا

A man came to me riding

جاءني راكبا رجل

 

This is because the حال would cause confusion as to whether it is really a حال or an adjective in the case where the ذو الحال is accusative. For instance, in the example رأيت رجلا راكبا, it is unknown whether راكبا is حال or صفة. To eliminate this confusion, reordering the structure was necessitated, and this necessity carried over to the nominative and accusative cases for consistency.

 

As for the حال itself, it will be either a word or a phrase in the accusative case. And it will be indefinite most of the time. There are cases where the حال will be definite. In such cases, it will be interpreted indefinite. For example:

 

جئني وحدَك

Come to me alone

 

This will be interpreted as جئني منفردا. Another very idiomatic example of the حال being definite is the following.

 

ادخلوا الأول فالأول

Enter first-come-first-serve

 

Moreover, the حال will usually be a participle as already mentioned. However, there are profuse instances in which the حال comes as a gerund or a static/frozen noun. In these cases, it will be interpreted as a participle. Actually, there are approximately eight or so situations in which a حال will usually not be a participle. Some of these have been mentioned in the chart below because they are somewhat common.

 

Reason for not being a participle

Translation

Example

The adverb indicates on price

Sell it at one per Dirham

بعه واحدا بدرهم

The adverb is for resemblance

Zaid came to me as a lion

جاءني زيد أسدا

The adverb indicates on sequence

Enter step by step

ادخلوا رجلا فرجلا

The adverb is described by a participle

We revealed it as an Arabic Quran

أنزلناه قرآنا عربيا

The adverb is a number

His lord’s term was completed as 40 nights

فتم ميقات ربه أربعين ليلة

Other, idiomatic cases

Zaid came to me suddenly

جاءني زيد بغتة

 

Now, aside from a single word or phrase, a حال may be brought as a sentence. It stands to reason that the حال may be intricate enough that it cannot be expressed sufficiently as a single word or phrase; thus sentences are permitted. One may use verbal sentences that begin with either a ماضي or مضارع verb, and one may use nominal sentences as well.

 

But there are some rules pertaining to this type of sentence (جملة الحال). There are cases where the sentence needs a pronoun referring back to the ذو الحال and/or a واو preceding the sentence (واو حالية), and there are cases where this is optional and others where it is prohibited. The chart below summarizes these rules.

 

 

Nominal Sentence

Verbal Sentence

 

Imperfect Tense

perfect Tense

Affirmative

a pronoun and/or a واو

a pronoun

a pronoun and/or a واو AND قد

Negative

a pronoun and/or a واو

a pronoun and/or a واو

a pronoun and/or a واو AND قد

 

Some examples follow. Also pay attention to the translations for an understanding of how the connotations vary depending on the structure of the حال.

 

Translation

Example

Zaid came to me, hands on head

جاءني زيد يداه على رأسه

Zaid came to me with his hands on his head

جاءني زيد ويداه على رأسه

Zaid came to me while Amr was playing

جاءني زيد وعمرو يلعب

 

جاءني زيد عمرو يلعب

Zaid came to me while riding

جاءني زيد يركب

 

جاءني زيد ويركب

Zaid came to me, not having ridden

جاءني زيد لم يركب

Zaid came to me while not even having ridden

جاءني زيد ولم يركب

Zaid came to me, having ridden

جاءني زيد قد ركب

Zaid came to me, while having ridden

جاءني زيد وقد ركب

 

As for the multiplicity of the circumstantial adverbs and the entities they describe, the relationship may be one-one, one-many, many-one, and many-many.

 

1.       A one-to-one relationship is the most common, where there is one ذو الحال and one حالdescribing its state. For example, جاءني زيد راكبا (Zaid came to me riding).

 

2.       A one-to-many relationship is also possible where one حال describes multiple أولو الحال. For example, لاقيته مارين (I met him while we were riding).

In this case, if one of the أولو الحال is masculine and the other feminine, the حال will inflect for the one mentioned last. If one of the أولو الحال is definite and the other indefinite, the حال will still follow both of them; no order will be reversed.

3.       A many-to-one relationship is also possible where a single ذو الحال has multiple أحوال. For example, جاءني زيد راكبا مسرعا (Zaid came to me riding and rushing).

4.       And finally, a many-to-many relationship is also permitted. For example, رأيت امرأة راقصة متعجبا (I surprisingly saw a woman dancing).

If there is enough variation between the subject and object by way of gender, plurality, etc so as to easily differentiate which حال belongs to which ذو الحال, then order is irrelevant. But if there is chance for confusion, then the default is that the first حال refers to the object and the second refers to the subject. For example, جاءني زيد راكبا مشدودا (Zaid came to me riding while I was tied up).

 

Finally, as for the order of the حال, it is permissible to bring it before the verb. For example, راكبا جاءني زيد. This is appropriate provided no confusion results and the entity governing the حال has capacity for this behaviour (usually just a verb). Furthermore, the حال may precede the ذو الحال. For example جاءني راكبا زيد. The only time where this is not permitted is when the ذو الحال is genitive by means of a non-extra preposition.

 



Start free Arabic Lessons

facebooktwitter google plusYou TubeBlog
Support | Privacy Policy | Terms Of Service