Moroccan Arabic Lesson: The Past Progressive and Past Perfect Tenses

The Past Progressive and Past Perfect Tenses

The Past Progressive describes actions that happen in the past for a period of time. In Moroccan Arabic this is expressed with kan + the present tense (without k or t) or the active participle.

 ملي شفتها كنت نمشي ل الخدمة
melli shuftha kunt nimshi li lkhidma

When I saw her, I was going to work.

هو ضربني و كنت ناعس
kunt na3s w howa drbni 

He hit me when I was sleeping.

The Past Progressive can also expressed actions that used to occur in the past:

ملي كنت طفل كنت نقرى بزاف
mlli kunt tifl kunt nqra bzaf

When I was a kid, I used to read a lot.

The Past Progressive can also express actions that were going to happen in the past but never occured. This is expressed with kan + the future tense:

كنت غادي نسكن في فاس و لكن لقيت شي خدمة في مكناس
kunt ghadi nskun f Fes w lakin laqit shi khidma f Meknes 

I was going to live in Fes but I found a job in Meknes.

The Past Perfect expressed actions that occurred in the past, and we completed before another action happened. In Moroccan Arabic this expressed using kan + the past tense:

كنّا صلينا قبل ما جيتي
kunna sallina qbl ma jiti 

We had prayed before you came.

كنت كليت قبل ما مشيت ل الحفلة
kunt klit qbl ma mshit li l7afla 

I'd eaten before I went to the party

The Present Perfect Progressive

The Present Perfect Progressive tense describes actions that began in the past and have continued until the present. This is expressed used the phrase sh7al hadi - شحال هادي - and the present tense:

شحال هادي و أنت كتقري العربية؟
sh7al hadi w anta katqri al-3rabiyya? 

How long have you been studying Arabic?

And the response follows this form:

هادي عامين و أنا كنقرى العربية
hadi 3amain w ana kanqra al-3rabiyya

I've been studying Arabic for two years.


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  1. First senstence, I don't get it, would that be be أَمْشِي instead نمشي

    1. Thanks for your comment, and I understand your confusion. In Moroccan Arabic the first person singular, "I", takes the letter 'n' as in 'nimshi' in the sentence you refer to. This is different from Standard Arabic and other Arabic dialects. For more on this verb conjugation, see the Present Tense Verbs page, and especially the section on the Subjunctive Mood:


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