Another example of the difference in meaning between different families is portrayed in these two ayaat in Surah Al Baqarah, ayat 49 and ayat 50. The words in both ayaat share the same root (ن ج ي). But they’re in different forms (different families), so their meanings also slightly differ from each other, though we are not able to see that from the English translation. In the English translation, they’re both translated as saved.
And [recall] when We saved your forefathers from the people of Pharaoh, who afflicted you with the worst torment, slaughtering your [newborn] sons and keeping your females alive. And in that was a great trial from your Lord. (2:49)
The word in Ayat 49 is نَجَّيْناكُمْ. It comes from the Family II (عَلَّمَ يُعَلِّمُ تَعْلِيماً), which gives the general meaning of being transitive (something done on something/someone), repetitive, and long term. Here Allah is saying “Remember when we have been saving you all again and again throughout the years from the people of Pharaoh….”. This was at the time when Pharaoh were massacring the baby boys from the Children of Israel in alternate years, and letting the girls live. This was what was happening to the Israelites for a while. And here, Allah uses the word that denotes something that happens over a period of time, and is repetitive. Even though it was a mass killing, it didn’t entirely wipe out the Israelites, and it happened in alternate years too. So, the ‘saving’ from Allah is repetitive and long term in that on those alternate years where no Israeli baby boys were taken and slaughtered, the Bani Israel were somewhat saved from Pharaoh’s manic killing spree.
In the next ayah though, ayat 50, Allah uses the word انْجيْناَكُمْ that falls into the pattern from family IV (أسلَمَ يُسلِمُ إسلاماً) which gives the general meaning of being transitive (something done on someone/something), immediate and complete. This ayah is talking about when Musa a.s. and all the Bani Israel had escaped from the Pharaoh in secret at night, and they found themselves at the shore of the Red Sea in the morning. By this time however, Pharaoh had realized their escape, and he was furious and gathered all his army to go after them. So now, Musa a.s. and Bani Israel were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh and his army. They couldn’t turn back, nor could they move forward. This was the moment when Allah told Musa a.s. to strike his staff on the sea and by His will, the Red sea parted, cleaving a dry path for the continuation of Bani Israel’s escape through the Red Sea. This dry path was flanked by mountainous walls of ocean water, and the Bani Israel were able to walk and cross the Red Sea away from Pharaoh and his army.
And [recall] when We parted the sea for you and saved you and drowned the people of Pharaoh while you were looking on. (2:50)
In this ayah, the meaning that is given by this family form, is that of immediate and complete rescue. The nature of the rescue here is such that all of the Bani Israel were saved at once by Allah through the parting of the Red Sea. It was a one time thing, unlike the repetitive and long term nature of the rescue in the previous ayah. In fact, the word for ‘drowned‘ (أغْرَقْناَ) also came in this family form, thus meaning ‘Allah drowned Pharaoh and his army all at once, completely‘.
Subhaanallah, indeed, ‘the best of speech is that which is succint and informative’ (خَيرُ الكلامِ قَلَّ و دَلَّ). With one set of root letters plugged into different patterns that have specific meanings to them, different effects and meanings are implied. Allahu Akbar!