English sentences are nominal, i.e., they start with a noun followed by a verb. Arabic sentences, on the other hand, are mostly verbal; they start with the verb. Arabic has two types of nominal sentences, however. The first type is composed of a subject and a predicate, which corresponds to English sentences where the verb is verb to be. The other type of nominal sentences in Arabic has a regular verb. This type of sentence is rare and coveys a special meaning, such as emphasis.
To illustrate, let's consider three examples:
1. A regular verbal Arabic sentence:
سمع الله لمن حمده
"God listens to whom praises Him."
If we were to translate it literally, we'd have to say, "Listens God to whom praises Him." Translating a verbal sentence is straightforward; we transpose the noun and the verb.
2. A common nominal Arabic sentence:
"God is greater."
If we were to translate it literally, we'd have to say, "God greater."
Translating a regular nominal Arabic sentence is straightforward; we insert verb to be between the subject and the predicate.
3. An uncommon nominal Arabic sentence:
الله يجمع بيننا
"God brings us together."
While that would be a correct translation, it loses the fact that it was a nominal sentence in Arabic and not a verbal sentence. The challenge therefore is to convey that bit of information in the translation somehow.