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Find the Beauty in Grammar Through Arabic Pronouns

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Did anybody ever tell you that grammar is beautiful?

Not the sounds of a language, nor the calligraphy on a page, but the grammar itself?

Then clearly nobody has told you about Arabic grammar.

In this lesson, we’re going to show you the ins and outs of Arabic pronouns—the words for saying “I,” “you,” “this,” “that,” “he,” “she,” and so on.

English only takes it a little bit beyond there. Arabic, by contrast, takes it significantly further. There are subtle distinctions and possibilities in Arabic that go well beyond what English is capable of.

Did you know, for instance, that in Arabic there’s a special pronoun for talking to just two people? It’s called the dual pronoun, and it’s just one of the surprises waiting for you.

The reason we say “beautiful” instead of “scary” is that once you notice how it all comes together, you’ll have no choice but to marvel at its perfection.

Ready? Let’s learn Arabic pronouns, how to use them, and what makes them so unique.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. The Lowdown on Arabic Pronouns
  2. Arabic Subject Pronouns
  3. Arabic Object Pronouns
  4. Arabic Possessive Pronouns
  5. Arabic Prepositional Pronouns
  6. Arabic Demonstrative Pronouns
  7. Pronouns in Arabic Dialects
  8. Conclusion

1. The Lowdown on Arabic Pronouns

Introducing Yourself

As we’ve mentioned, a pronoun in general is a word referring to a specific person, place, thing, or idea after it’s been mentioned. In English, it sounds weird to say “He’s a nice guy” just out of the blue. 

But if you instead say “I have a new math teacher. He’s a nice guy,” then that’s the perfect place for a pronoun.

Arabic makes distinctions with its pronouns that English absolutely does not. Colloquial dialects, like Egyptian Arabic, aren’t quite as complicated, but they still count as more complicated than English.

2. Arabic Subject Pronouns

The subject pronouns are the easiest, by far. Check out this Arabic pronouns chart first:

EnglishArabic Romanization
Iأَناana
you (masculine)أَنتَanta
you (feminine)أَنتِanti
heهُوَhuwa
sheهِيَhiya

Those are called the singular pronouns because they refer to one single person. You can see that Arabic is explicit about whether you’re talking to a man or a woman.

Now have a look at these Arabic pronouns with examples:

Male Physics Teacher
  • أَنا أُستاذ.

 ʾanā ʾustāḏ.

I am a (male) teacher.

  • أَنا أُستاذَة.

ʾanā ʾustāḏah.

 I am a (female) teacher.

  • أَنتِ مُهَندِسَة.

ʾanti muhandisah.

You (feminine) are an engineer.

  • أَنتَ مُهَندِس.

ʾanta muhandis.

 You (masculine) are an engineer.

  • يُمكِنُها تَكَلُّم العَرَبِيَّة و الهِندِيَّة.

yumkinuhā takallum al-ʿarabiyyah wa al-hindiyyah.

She can speak Arabic and Hindi.

  • يُمكِنُهُ تَكَلُّم العَرَبِيَّة و الهِندِيَّة.

yumkinuhu takallum al-ʿarabiyyah wa al-hindiyyah.

He can speak German and English.

Now we move up in number:

EnglishArabic Romanization
you twoأَنتُماantuma
they twoهُماhumaa

Whoa, what’s this?

If you can believe it, an ancestor of English used to have this same grammatical feature—the dual pronoun, specifically marking two of something instead of just singular/plural.

As you can see, though, pronouns in Arabic won’t distinguish male from female in the dual.

  • هُما يَتَكَلَّمان عَن السِيَاسَة.

humā yatakallamān ʿan al-siyasah.

They (two of them) are talking about politics.

  • هُما يُحِبّان الموسيقى و الرَقص.

humā yuḥibbān al-mūsīqā wa al-raqṣ.

They (two of them) like music and dancing.

  • أَنتُما عَلَيْكُما الوُصول إلى العَمَل غَداً مُبَكِّراً.

ʾantumā ʿalaykumā al-wuṣūl ʾilā al-ʿamal ġadan mubakkiran.

You (both of you) should arrive to work early tomorrow.

  • أَنتُما لَم تَعُدا جُزءاً مِن هَذا المَشروع.

ʾantumā lam taʿudā ǧuzʾan min haḏā al-mašrūʿ.

You (both of you) are no longer a part of this project.

Let’s move up one more step to the last set of subject pronouns in Arabic:

EnglishArabicArabic
weنَحنُnaḥnu
you (plural masculine)أنتمantum
you (plural feminine)أنتنantun
they (plural masculine)همhum
they (plural feminine)هنhun

Here, it’s obvious that Arabic wants to be as crystal-clear as possible about the number and gender of the people involved in the conversation. Well, not quite—for talking about mixed groups of men and women, the masculine pronoun is used. You’ll have to guess based on context. That’s what we do in English all the time!

  • نَحنُ في مَركَز التَسَوُّق.

naḥnu fī markaz al-tasawwuq.

 We are in the mall.

  • أَنتُن تَبدُنَّ مُمتازات.

ʾantun tabdunna mumtāzāt.

 You (to several women) look excellent.

  • هُم يَحتاجونَ إلى المَزيد مِن التَمرين.

hum yaḥtāǧūna ʾilā al-mazīd min al-tamrīn.

They (about several men) need to work out more.

  • هُنَّ مُمِلّات.

hunna mumillāt.

 They (to several women) are boring.

In the first paragraph, though, we mentioned beauty. This list of Arabic pronouns might not seem beautiful yet, but watch what happens to pronouns when we start talking about verbs.

3. Arabic Object Pronouns

So this is where you may have heard that Arabic verbs are complicated. When a verb has an object, we include it as a pronoun slapped onto the end of the verb. If you know any Indonesian or Malay, the same thing happens with pronouns in those languages.

Each pronoun takes the form of a different suffix. Sadly, these suffixes barely look connected at all to our full subject pronoun paradigm.

Time for another chart to explain:

EnglishArabic Romanization
me-y
you (masculine)-كَ-k(a)
you (feminine)-كِ-k(i)
him-هُ-h(u)
her-h(a)

So when you say “Ahmed sees him,” you’re really sticking the words together like “Ahmed seesim.” The vowels in the parentheses aren’t pronounced if the suffix is part of a word that happens to be at the end of a sentence, or if the word is pronounced independently without a sentence. 

These vowels are also dropped in most dialects of Arabic, including Egyptian and Levantine. This is the case with all final diacritics in Arabic words, not just pronouns.

Father and Son Looking Up with Binoculars
  • أَحمَد يَراه.

ʾaḥmad yarāh.

Ahmed sees him.

  • الأُستاذُ يُناديك.

al-ʾustāḏu yunādīk.

The teacher is calling you (masculine).

  • أُمّي تَشتاقُ إلَيّ عِندَما أَكون في المَدرَسَة.

ʾummī taštāqu ʾilayy ʿindamā ʾakūn fī al-madrasah.

My mother misses me when I’m at school.

Here’s a chart with the rest of the object construction.

EnglishArabic Romanization
you (dual)-كُما-kumā
them (dual)-هما-humā
us-نا-nā
you (plural masculine)-kum
you (plural feminine)-kunn(a)
them (plural masculine)-هم-hum
them (plural feminine)-هن-hunn(a)

That’s a little better! These Arabic pronoun suffixes, being a little less frequent, are more regular and therefore remind you more of the subject forms.

  • جَمال يَكرَهُنا.

ǧamal yakrahunā.

 Jamal hates us.

  • حَميد يَعرِفُهُم.

ḥamīd yaʿrifuhum.

Hamid knows them (several men).

  • هَل يَجِبُ أَن نَدعوهُم إلى الحَفلَة؟

hal yaǧibu ʾan nadʿūhum ʾilā al-ḥaflah?

Should we invite them (several women) to the party?

Women

The object pronoun suffixes are extremely important. Why’s that? Well, because they get used over and over again!

Take a look.

4. Arabic Possessive Pronouns

Basic Questions

The possessive pronouns in Arabic also take the form of suffixes. Much like how we might say “Malik’s hammer,” adding a suffix to the person who owns it, in Arabic we add the suffix to the thing being owned.

And congratulations, you basically know them all! Here’s the chart:

EnglishArabicRomanization
my-i
your (masculine)-k(a)
your (feminine)-k(i)
his-h(u)
her-ها-hā
your (dual)-كما-kumā
their (dual)-هما-humā
our-نا-nā
your (plural masculine)-كم-kum
your (plural feminine)-كن-kun
their (plural masculine)-هم-hum
their (plural feminine)-هن-hun

The chart above is virtually identical to the Object Pronouns chart. Just pay attention to the suffix for the first person singular, the equivalent of “my.” That was -ni as an object suffix for verbs, but when we slap it on a noun to show possession, it turns into -i.

As for the rest, throw those onto a noun and see what happens!

  • هَذِهِ حَقيبَةُ سَفَري.

haḏihi ḥaqībaẗu safarī.

This is my suitcase.

  • أَيْنَ سَيَّارَتُها؟

ʾayna sayyaāratuhā?

Where is her car?

  • سائِقُهُم مُتَأَخِّر.

sāʾiquhum mutaʾaḫḫir.

Their (plural masculine) driver is late.

Memorized that chart yet? You’ve still got one more chance…

5. Arabic Prepositional Pronouns

Yes, that’s right. In Arabic, a pronoun can attach to a verb, a noun, or a preposition.

And some news you’re probably dying to hear is that the schema for pronouns on prepositions is exactly the same as the chart for possessive pronouns. 

We’re not even going to print it again—we’ll jump straight to some examples.

  • هَل يُمكِنُني المَشي مَعَك؟

hal yumkinunī al-mašī maʿak?

Can I walk with you (singular masculine)?

  • هَذِهِ هَدِيَّة مِن عِندِهُن.

haḏihi hadiyyah min ʿindihun.

This is a present from them (two women).

  • وَجَدتُ رِسالَة مَكتوبَة مِن طَرَفِها.

waǧadtu risal-ah maktūbah min ṭarafihā.

I found a letter written by her.

  • المَطَر كانَ يَسقُطُ عَلَيّ.

al-maṭar kāna yasquṭu ʿalayy.

The rain was falling on me.

Woman in Heavy Rain

Note here that the word for “on,” which is ‘ala, has an irregular form, ‘alay, when it gets combined. So does li-, meaning “to.”

  • تَدَحرَجَت الكُرَة إلَيْها و اِلتَقَطَتها.

tadaḥraǧat al-kurah ʾilayhā wa iltaqaṭathā.

The ball rolled to her and she picked it up.

Arabic, like all languages, has quite a wide array of prepositions.The irregularities are simply due to how often they’re used. That’s actually good news for you, since you’ll get the memories reinforced many times!

6. Arabic Demonstrative Pronouns

Tired of those charts? Don’t worry, just a few more. The demonstrative pronoun is for pointing out specific objects. It corresponds to the English words “this” and “that.” Naturally, the plural is equivalent to “these” and “those.”Arabic nouns have gender, and therefore the demonstrative pronouns do as well. Let’s look at a chart of the demonstrative pronouns in Arabic before diving a little bit deeper into the analysis.

EnglishArabic Romanization
this (masculine)هَذاhaḏā
these (masculine/feminine)هؤلاءhā’ulā’
that (masculine)ذلكḏālik(a)
those (masculine/feminine)أولئك‘ulā’ik(a)
this (feminine)هذهhāḏih(i)
that (feminine)تلكtilka

Your eyes don’t deceive you. The plural form of these demonstrative pronouns is, in fact, identical for both masculine and feminine nouns. Let’s see some examples.

  • اِحضِر ذَلِكَ الكُرسي إلى هُنا.

iḥḍir ḏalika al-kursī ʾilā hunā.

Please bring that chair over here.

  • اِحضِر تِلكَ الكَراسي إلى هُنا.

iḥḍir tilka al-karāsī ʾilā hunā.

Please bring those chairs over here.

  • هَذِهِ الكَعكَة غالِيَة جِدّاً, لَكِن تِلكَ الكَعكَة رَخيصَة.

haḏihi al-kaʿkah ġal-iyah ǧiddan, lakin tilka al-kaʿkah raḫīṣah.

This cake is very expensive, but that cake is cheap.

Slice of Strawberry Cake

We’ve omitted something here. The dual is back—but only for super, super formal Arabic. Most people speaking MSA in real life to you, or to speakers from other regions, won’t use it.

One more complication, though, is that in the dual form, demonstrative pronouns in Arabic decline for case as well. There’s a tiny distinction made between simply saying “those two” (the nominative case) and “to those two / of those two” (the accusative and genitive cases, respectively). 

Does this sound like a very uncommon thing to say? It definitely is—and that’s why it’s only used in the most formal of situations.

7. Pronouns in Arabic Dialects

So as you may know, Modern Standard Arabic is a slightly artificial language. That means it has rules that people try to follow as they speak, instead of natural rules that come from everybody speaking the same way in one area.

Dialects, on the other hand, have those natural rules, and people speak without feeling any pressure to follow rules that were laid down by any language authorities.

How does this relate to pronouns? For you, the learner, it’s good news. You have to remember less!

First, the dual is gone. Colloquial Arabic varieties don’t retain the dual form anymore, instead replacing it with the plural.

Second, the plural forms usually don’t distinguish between masculine and feminine. The masculine plural is sufficient for speaking about men, women, or a group of both men and women.

As a foreign learner, balancing your speech between perfect grammatical correctness and colloquial idiomatic language is an endless task, so you should be aware of these possible changes and adjust your speech to the environment you find yourself in.

8. Conclusion

Improve Listening

Understanding Arabic pronouns is no easy feat, but hopefully these Arabic pronoun rules and examples will shed some light on why Arabic grammar is considered to be beautifully intricate.

Can you appreciate that beauty? Or would you rather pick up the language by example instead of by rule?

At ArabicPod101.com, you can do both. Just from learning by yourself, you can lay a strong foundation of grammar rules and then back it up with the experience of listening to real spoken Arabic by native speakers.

Those are two pieces of the same puzzle—and using both in conjunction is what’s going to get you to the highest possible level in the Arabic language. 

If you found this Arabic pronouns lesson helpful, you may want to read the following articles on ArabicPod101 as well:

Happy Arabic learning! 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic

Never Be Confused About Arabic Word Order Again

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Imagine a profile in a world-class international journal. The subject? You.

“Speaks near-perfect Arabic,” reads the article. “Listeners remark not only on the rich word choice, but also the extremely accurate pronunciation.”

“The only flaw is that the actual order of words is incomprehensible, requiring all listeners to rack their brains in order to understand the intended meaning.”

Would that be very flattering? No. And that’s why you absolutely must study Arabic word order if you want to be remembered for your Arabic.

As in every question about learning Arabic, the differences between Modern Standard Arabic and colloquial varieties do pop up here.

Word order is yet another one of the distinctions, with some pretty hefty differences between the two.

In this article, you’ll start to see why that’s the case. You’ll also see some of the big differences between syntax in MSA and in colloquial Arabic varieties.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. The Simplest Arabic Sentences
  2. The Simplest Arabic Questions
  3. Sentences with More Components
  4. The Genitive Construction or idafah
  5. Conjunctions to Link Sentences and Ideas
  6. Conclusion

1. The Simplest Arabic Sentences

Man Lying in the Grass with a Hat Over His Face

Let’s break things way down. What’s the simplest sentence you can make in Arabic?

To begin with, you don’t even need a verb. Arabic sentences can be as simple as a noun and a matching adjective, which is a type of nominal sentence. Nominal sentences are those that start with a noun.

Adjectives do take particular endings in Arabic based on word gender, but right now, we’ll skip over explaining those rules so you can focus only on the sentence structure.

First, look at some examples of word order in Arabic sentences, and see if you can spot a pattern.

“The teacher is tall.”

الأُستاذُ طَوِيل.

al-ʾustāḏu ṭawil.

“The engineer is tall.”

المُهَندِسُ طَوِيل.

al-muhandisu ṭawil.

“The manager is tall.”

المُديرُ طَوِيل.

al-mudīru ṭawil.

Even if this is your very first article about Arabic, you can see what’s going on. There’s no word for “is” in Arabic, not when we’re simply dealing with nominal sentences!

Even better, we can use exactly the same pattern for other nominal sentences with prepositional phrases. We just start with the subject and then say where it is—no verb necessary. Here are examples of this type of word order in Arabic:

“The hat is on the desk.”

القُبَّعَة عَلى المَكتَب.

al-qubbaʿah ʿalā al-maktab.

“The hat is on my head.”

القُبَّعَة عَلى رَأسي.

al-qubbaʿah ʿalā raʾsī.

Of course, there are lots of Arabic verbs to learn as well. Again, see if you can find the pattern.

“Raquel is reading.”

راكيل تَقرَأ.

rākīl taqraʾ.

“Raquel is sleeping.”

راكيل تَنام.

rākīl tanām.

“Raquel is eating.”

راكيل تَأكُل.

rākīl taʾkul.

Correctly conjugating Arabic verbs, especially in the present tense, is a fairly complicated endeavor. Again, don’t worry about the word forms. When we have a real verb like “read,” “sleep,” or “eat,” it’s actually possible to invert the sentence in order to put more emphasis on what the subject is actually doing. This converts it to a verbal sentence, or one that starts with a verb.

“Raquel is eating.”

تَأكُل راكيل     

taʾkul rākīl.

2. The Simplest Arabic Questions

A Physics Teacher in Front of a White Board

Now, if basic sentences could be so easy, how about questions?

For yes/no questions, we do need to add one word, right at the beginning. That word is هل (hal), and it’s similar to putting “is” or “are” at the beginning of yes/no questions in English.

“Is the teacher tall?”

هَل الأُستاذُ طَوِيل؟

hal al-ʾustāḏu ṭawil?

“Is the hat on the desk?”

هَل القُبَّعَةُ عَلى المَكتَب؟

hal al-qubbaʿaẗu ʿalā al-maktab?

“Is Rachel sleeping?”

هَل راكيل نائِمَة؟

hal rākīl nāʾimah?

In colloquial Arabic, هل (hal), meaning “is,” becomes optional, and the only difference between a question and a statement is intonation.

There are more types of questions in Arabic than just yes/no. English has “who,” “where,” “what,” “when,” and “why,” and Arabic doesn’t skimp on them either.

The remaining question words all come at the beginning of the sentence. Here are just three to start you off:

“Who is at the door?”

مَن عِندَ الباب؟

man ʿinda al-bāb?

“What is kefir?”

ما هُوَ الـ”kefir”؟

mā huwa al-“kefir”?

“Where is my cat?”

أَيْنَ قِطَّتي؟

ʾayna qiṭṭatī?

3. Sentences with More Components

A Bowl of White Rice

Now that we’ve gotten to know some basic Arabic sentence patterns, let’s try and combine what we’ve learned so far about Arabic language word order into some longer sentences.

First, a reprise of the themes from last time:

“Raquel is eating rice.”

راكيل تَأكُل الأَرُز.

rākīl taʾkul al-ʾaruz.

“Raquel is reading a book.”

راكيل تَقرَأُ كِتاباً.

rākīl taqraʾu kitāban.

The object of these sentences comes after the verb, just like in English!

Let’s make things one step more complicated, adding the adjectives from before back in.

“Raquel is reading a new book.”

راكيل تَقرَأُ كِتاباً جَديداً.

rākīl taqraʾu kitāban ǧadīdan.

“You are eating my rice.”

أَنتَ تَأكُلُ أَرُزّي.

ʾanta taʾkulu ʾaruzzī.

“My new hat is in the mud.”

قُبَّعَتي الجَديدَة في الطين.

 qubbaʿatī al-ǧadīdah fī al-ṭīn.

Even though we haven’t explicitly gone over the words “new” and “mud,” you were probably able to decode that last Arabic example as long as you were paying attention.

That’s it for basic sentence structures. There are two more things that count as “intermediate,” but you’ll soon see that they’re nothing too serious.

4. The Genitive Construction or idafah

S Cup of Honey

When you’re going through Arabic grammar resources and you keep coming across Arabic terms that haven’t been translated to English, your palms may begin to sweat.

What kind of terrible madness could this be, if it’s something that English doesn’t even have a word for?

The word idafah is one such grammatical term, but it’s really nothing crazy at all. All it is is one more pattern.

Idafah is the term for two nouns stuck together to indicate possession. No verbs or any other particles.

Any time you have a phrase in English, such as “X of Y,” it’s more than likely that your phrase can be translated to Arabic with an idafah construction. The “of” gets blended into the “Y” section of the phrase using something called the genitive case. Again, just focus on the word order here instead of the cases.

“I work at the Faculty of Arts.”

أَعمَلُ في كُلِّيَّةِ الفُنون.

ʾaʿmalu fī kulliyyaẗi al-funūn.

“I work at the Faculty of Science.”

أَعمَلُ في كُلِّيَّةِ العُلوم.

ʾaʿmalu fī kulliyyaẗi al-ʿulūm.

“This is a cup of honey.”

هَذا كَأسُ عَسَل.

haḏā kaʾsu ʿasal.

Based on the pattern above, can you figure out which word means “cup” and which “honey?”

5. Conjunctions to Link Sentences and Ideas

Group of Friends with Their Arms Around Each Other

The following sentences look quite advanced, but it turns out that they’re some of the most useful sentence patterns across languages.

Let’s take “because” for example. This is li’anna in Arabic, and it conjugates similar to how a verb does. That is, it takes a verb ending.

“I like you because you are friendly.”

أَنا مُعجَبٌ بِكَ لِأَنَّكَ وَدود.

ʾanā muʿǧabun bika liʾannaka wadūd.

Here, the verb “like” and the conjunction “because” both have the same ending. Once you know this pattern, you can combine it with what you learned before about adjectives never needing the verb “to be.”

With a few more examples, it’s easy to see how to make this relatively complex sentence!

“I like Arabic because it is beautiful.”

تُعجِبُني العَرَبِيَّةُ لِأَنَّها جَميلَة.

tuʿǧibunī al-ʿarabiyyaẗu liʾannahā ǧamīlah.

“I like Egypt because it is hot.”

أُحِبُّ مِصرَ لِأَنَّها حارَّة.

 ʾuḥibbu miṣra liʾannahā ḥārrah.

This is stuff that would be taught in the second or third semester of many Arabic classes, and here you’re picking it up right away. How about a different semi-complex sentence, say, one with a helping verb?

“I am speaking Arabic.”

أَتَكَلَّمُ العَرَبِيَّة.

ʾatakallamu al-ʿarabiyyah.

“I can speak Arabic.”

أَستَطيعُ أَن أَتَكَلَّمَ العَرَبِيَّة.

ʾastaṭīʿu ʾan ʾatakallama al-ʿarabiyyah.

“I can’t speak Arabic.”

لا أَستَطيعُ أَن أَتَكَلَّمَ العَرَبِيَّة.

lā ʾastaṭīʿu ʾan ʾatakallama al-ʿarabiyyah.

6. Conclusion

Improve Listening

It’s tough to get a big-picture view of a language from an article like this.

In fact, it’s impossible.

The only way to get an intuitive sense of what areas you need to focus on in Arabic is to actually experience Arabic.

If reading is hard for you, then that means doing lots of listening. If listening is hard for you, then it means doing lots of reading.

Absorb the language, and the patterns will start sticking out, one by one. All you have to do is pay attention when they do.

Jumping right into “real” Arabic is daunting, though. You need something that can guide you, something that can show you the steps for learning Arabic from beginner to advanced and beyond.

You need ArabicPod101.

Right now, you can sign up for a trial and find out what we’re all about. (Hint: it’s Arabic.)

With our podcasts, articles, and vocabulary resources, you’ll have everything you need to make sense of the beautiful and intricate Arabic language, and start using it for yourself.

In the meantime, let us know in the comments how you feel about Arabic word order so far. We’ll do our best to answer any questions you may still have!

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Open Ears and Minds with a Great Compliment in Arabic

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Have you gotten a nice compliment recently?

The right compliment, delivered genuinely, can make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

That’s exactly the feeling you want to be giving locals when you’re speaking to them in Arabic. A polite and well-placed compliment in Arabic is going to be an absolute hit anywhere, from the boardroom to the hotel lounge. So why is a word of praise in Arabic so highly valued?

First, Arab culture values expansive and literary-sounding compliments. If you can take care of the language side, you’ll come across as very well-read and educated.

Second, a foreigner who can speak good Arabic is still a rarity in today’s world. You’ll very much stand out from the crowd and make yourself remembered.

So how do you go about actually giving compliments in Arabic?

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Table of Contents

  1. What to Say and What not to Say When Complimenting Appearance
  2. What to Say Back
  3. Compliments are Business as Usual
  4. Complimenting the Family
  5. Complimenting People on What They’ve Done
  6. Conclusion

1. What to Say and What not to Say When Complimenting Appearance

Woman Smiling

Something interesting about Arabic culture is that you should try not to compliment others’ possessions.

That’s because it may cause the person receiving the compliment to feel as though you’d really like to have what they have (i.e. that you’re envious). It puts them in an awkward place where it’s not quite polite to just accept the compliment; it’s better for them to either downplay it or laugh it off.

Close friends and family members, though, may compliment each other on clothing or accessories. The reason is simply that with more context between the two people, there’s no risk of misunderstanding.

Suppose someone has a new dress. Her sister might say:

“It looks like the moon.”

.شَكلُهُ مِثلَ القَمَر

šakluhu miṯla al-qamar.

“How nice is it!”

ما أروعه!

mā ʾarwaʿuh!

How about smell? In English, it’s acceptable to say that someone “smells good.” But in Arabic, this can be taken in very much the wrong way.

Saying the equivalent in Arabic can only be used for complimenting someone’s perfume, and if they aren’t actually wearing perfume, the phrase is going to be taken very sarcastically.

“What a lovely smell!”

يَالَها مِن رائِحَةٍ جَميلَة.

yalahā min rāʾiḥaẗin ǧamīlah.

There are also some Arabic compliment categories that don’t really exist in English. Think about it: In English, we might compliment someone’s clothing, their hair, their makeup, or perhaps even their physical features if we’re being flirty.

Speaking of flirty, strangers of the opposite sex should, as a rule, avoid paying each other compliments like these about their appearances. The bar for what’s considered flirting is much, much lower in Arab culture.

In Arabic, though, the concept of cleanliness is considered very important and worthy of respect. That’s why there’s a separate compliment specifically for someone who’s gotten a nice haircut!

“Nice haircut!”

نَعيماً!

naʿīman!

2. What to Say Back

Compliments

When you learn a language, you’ve really got to fix it in your mind, imagining yourself in the position of the people in the sample dialogues.

And how can you imagine taking compliments if you don’t know how to respond?

There are generally three ways that people in the Arab world respond to compliments, and each has its own connotations.

First, you can simply accept the compliment graciously with a simple “Thank you.” This is probably the most common response in the Western world.

Thank you.”

شُكراً

šukran

Perhaps even more common, though, is deferring or deflecting the compliment. This shows your humility, and doing it skillfully is a major way to win points in a conversation.

“Oh, it’s nothing really.”

أوه، هَذا لا شَيْء حَقاً.

ʾūh, haḏā lā šayʾ ḥaqan.

And one last thing to keep in mind: Be specific, and be sincere.

Anyone can tell when you’re just fishing for words, though of course, you’ll get a little leeway as a foreign speaker of Arabic. Save your compliments until you’re ready to speak from the heart, and you know they’ll be treasured.

The best way to do this is to be specific about what you’re complimenting, so that the person you’re talking to understands that you’re paying attention to them. Check out these compliments, tailor-made for these different situations!

3. Compliments are Business as Usual

Business Professionals Complimenting Each Other

In Arab business culture, as in the West, it can be seen as “trying too hard” for someone to compliment their superior. Compliments and gifts should generally flow downwards.

In addition, Arab business culture is generally more conservative than Western business culture. Therefore, when the compliments do come, it usually means much more than it does in English-speaking countries.

Let’s take an example of a boss who’s asked a new employee to work overtime.

“You put in such long hours!”

لَقَد عَمِلتَ لِساعاتٍ طَوِيلَة!

laqad ʿamilta lisāʿātin ṭawilah!

The employee might then respond politely with:

“It’s nothing, don’t bother to mention it!”

هَذا لا شَيْء, لا تُكَلِّف نَفسَكَ عَناء ذِكرِ ذَلِك!

haḏā lā šayʾ, lā tukallif nafsaka ʿanāʾ ḏikri ḏalik!

The business world is a good place to mention compliments for specific things that employees might create, such as a resume, a project, or an award.

“Your resume is impressive.”

سيرَتُك الذاتِيَّة مُدهِشَة.

sīratuka al-ḏātiyyah mudhišah.

“Congratulations on winning ‘Employee of the Month!’”

تَهانينا بِالفَوْزِ بـ”مُوَظَّفِ الشَهر”.

tahānīnā bilfawzi bـ”muwaẓẓafi al-šahr”.

If you happen to be in charge of several Arabic-speaking employees, you can pay them a very deep compliment by humbling yourself in your praise of them.

You shouldn’t ignore the hierarchy that you belong to, so don’t directly put yourself in their places, but do show that you’re impressed. Doing this, especially as a foreigner, means a lot.

“You have all done great work for this quarter, and I am proud to have worked with you.”

لَقَد أَنجَزتُم جَميعاً عَمَلاً رائعاً في هَذا الرُبع، و أَنا فَخورٌ بِالعَمَلِ مَعَكُم

laqad ʾanǧaztum ǧamīʿan ʿamalan rāʾʿan fī haḏā al-rubʿ, wa ʾanā faḫūrun bilʿamali maʿakum.

4. Complimenting the Family

Positive Feelings

In Arab culture, family is something to be very proud of. It’s always a good idea to find something nice to say about someone’s family or children.

Note that “spouse” was not mentioned! As in English, saying nice things about another man’s wife or another woman’s husband is a recipe for disaster.

The typical Arabic compliment when someone shows you a picture of their kids is just one word:

“God has willed it.”

ما شاء الله

mā šāʾ al-llah

This has a sense of “Look at this beautiful thing in the world, isn’t God’s will grand?” It’s very much a set phrase, so you’d do well to learn it by heart.

You can also use these Arabic compliments that sound more like what you’d say in English:

“You must be proud of your children.”

لا بُدَّ أَن تَكونَ فَخوراً بِأبنائِك.

lā budda ʾan takūna faḫūran biʾbnāʾik.

“Your children look healthy and strong!”

أَطفالُكَ يَبدونَ بِصِحَّةٍ و قُوَّةٍ جَيِّدَتَيْن!

ʾaṭfaluka yabdūna biṣiḥḥaẗin wa quwwaẗin ǧayyidatayn!

“May your children be successful!”

أَتَمَنّى أَن يَكونَ أَطفالُكَ ناجِحين!

ʾatamannā ʾan yakūna ʾaṭfal-uka nāǧiḥīn!

With the right compliments here, you may find yourself invited to an Arab wedding!

5. Complimenting People on What They’ve Done

Friends

If you get invited over to someone’s home for dinner, it’s the perfect chance to compliment their cooking. In fact, it’s expected that you’ll praise the food from your host. Remember to take your shoes off after entering!

Naturally, there’s one catch-all word for “tasty” that you can use, and you should.

“Delicious!”

لَذيذ!

laḏīḏ!

Remember, you should be specific about what you’re complimenting. Do you remember your food vocabulary?

“This is fantastic rice.”

هَذا أَرُزٌّ رائِع!

haḏā ʾaruzzun rāʾiʿ!

“The flavors all come together beautifully.”

النَكَهات كُلَّها مُجتَمِعَة بِشَكلٍ جَميل

al-nakahāt kullahā muǧtamiʿah bišaklin ǧamīl.

One classic Arabic format for complimenting something that someone else has done is to compare it to your own abilities, painting your own efforts as hopelessly inadequate.

“You make soup so well, it’s far better than my own soup.”

أَنتَ تُعِدُّ حَساءاً جَيِّداً، إنَّهُ أَفضَل بِكَثير مِن حَسائي

ʾanta tuʿiddu ḥasāʾan ǧayyidan, ʾinnahu ʾafḍal bikaṯīr min ḥasāʾī.

We can practice this same sentence pattern with other skills and hobbies that people like to do.

“Your penmanship is beautiful! My own is just scribbles.”

خَطُّكَ جَميل! خَطّي هُوَ مُجَرَّدُ خَربَشات

ḫaṭṭuka ǧamīl! ḫaṭṭī huwa muǧarradu ḫarbašāt.

6. Conclusion

There are endless situations in addition to these in which a compliment in Arabic might be warranted. And as we’ve shown, there are situations where compliments from some people (such as close friends) are welcome, but from others (strangers of the opposite sex) are far from it.

This kind of thing simply can’t be studied.

No matter how many articles you read about etiquette and communication, they’re all poor substitutes for real experience with the language.

And that’s what you get here with ArabicPod101.com. You get real cultural notes, targeted vocabulary lists, and engaging native-speaker audio content with our podcast.

Why wait? Try out our sample lessons today in the links above, and sign up for a free lifetime account now!

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments section with any questions you may have, or compliment phrases you still want to know!

Happy Arabic learning!

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Your Ultimate Guide to Mastering Word Gender in Arabic

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Many foreigners throughout the years have gotten high praise for speaking “correct” Arabic.

And many others have spoken “broken” Arabic.

Obviously, there are a lot of things that could go into that distinction, but one of the most important is grammatical gender. If you get those word endings wrong on nouns, adjectives, and verbs, you’ll still be understood—but it’ll sound strange.

That’s not a word you want to associate with your Arabic level!

If you’re not yet comfortable with word gender in Arabic, don’t worry. Simply read on, and let the knowledge come to you.

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Table of Contents

  1. What is Grammatical Gender?
  2. The Arabic Noun Gender System: See a Word, Guess its Gender
  3. Gender in Arabic Pronouns and Verbs
  4. Plural Nouns
  5. Noun Gender Plus Adjectives
  6. Memorizing Gender from the Beginning
  7. Conclusion

1. What is Grammatical Gender?

Gender Signs on Chalkboard

First, let’s solve a quick problem of nomenclature. Quit thinking of this “gender” as it relates to the English word “gender.” Instead, think of it more like a “category.”

Noun gender is just a secondary feature of a noun that determines which form other adjectives or articles need to take. Some nouns in some categories have adjectives with X ending, and some with Y ending.

Most languages with grammatical gender have just two, called “masculine” and “feminine.” Some languages have a third one, called “neuter” or sometimes “common.” Some languages have quite a few more!

In the European linguistic tradition, we have a habit of calling these categories “genders” because they usually line up with living beings of different genders.

For example, the word for “boy” has a masculine grammatical gender, while the word for “girl” has a female gender. Other words are up in the air. There’s usually no consistency between languages as to what inanimate objects will be masculine or feminine.

In Arabic, there are two grammatical genders, and every noun has one. And there’s good news and bad news here. Most Arabic words have a clearly-guessable gender, with certain verb endings that we’ll talk about in a moment. However, there are a lot of exceptions. There are masculine-looking nouns that take feminine adjectives, and there are feminine-looking nouns that take masculine adjectives. There are even unmarked nouns that simply must be memorized. But don’t worry—we’ll talk about that later, too.

2. The Arabic Noun Gender System: See a Word, Guess its Gender

Woman Deep in Thought

So, how do you know if a word is masculine or feminine in Arabic?

In Arabic, the masculine form is the “unmarked” form. That means there’s no special ending.

Therefore, it’s the feminine form that’s “marked.” That is, it has an ending. By far, the most common ending is ة. This letter is called taa marbuuta, and it only appears at the end of a word. It’s always preceded by fatha, so feminine nouns generally end in -a.

This is what’s called a “productive suffix,” meaning that you can add it to words and generate a new word that people will accept as correct. That’s how we get the feminine forms of different occupations. For instance:

president (male)
رَئيس
raʾīs

president (female)
رَئيسَة
raʾīsah

scientist (male)
عالِم
ʿalim

scientist (female)
عالِمَة
ʿal-imah

Some more endings are ʾalif maqsūrah and ʾalif hamzah. But watch out—some of the words ending with these two forms don’t have a predictable gender.

desert
صَحراء
Ṣaḥrāʾ

hospital
مُستَشفى
mustašfā

Lastly, there are some words that are accepted as either feminine or masculine. Here are three relatively common ones:

road
طَريق
ṭarīq

souq
سوق
sūq

knife
سِكّين
sikkīn

Was that really so hard? Unfortunately, now we’ll look at some exceptions to these Arabic gender rules.

First, there are a handful of names with feminine endings that are actually masculine. Muawiya and Talha are two male figures from the Quran whose names end in taa marbuuta. But such names aren’t popular anymore.

There are also some mass nouns in Arabic that use the taa marbuuta to signify just one of that thing. For example, the words “ants” and “trees” are usually referred to in the plural, but to refer to just one ant or one tree, we can use the taa marbuuta to make it a singular (masculine) noun.

Trees give the world oxygen and shade.
الأَشجار تُعطي العالَم الأوكيسيجين والظِل.
al-ʾašǧār tuʿṭī al-ʿalam al-ʾūkīsīǧīn ūlẓil.

The floor is covered in ants.
الأَرضِيَّة مَليئَة بِالنَمل.
al-ʾarḍiyyah malīʾah bilnaml.

The ant slowly climbs up the tree.
النَملَة تَتَسَلَّق الشَجَرَة بِبُطء.
al-namlah tatasallaq al-šaǧarah bibuṭʾ.

3. Gender in Arabic Pronouns and Verbs

Let’s take a brief detour from nouns to talk about gender in other parts of Arabic, namely the pronoun system and the verb system.

Some languages have just one third-person gender, covering “he,” “she,” and “it.” English, of course, has three, for masculine, feminine, and neuter. Arabic has the same, but Arabic speakers also distinguish that for the second person, that is, “you.”

Where are you? (to a man)
مِن أَيْنَ أَنتَ؟
min ʾayna ʾanta?

Where are you? (to a woman)
مِن أَيْنَ أَنتِ؟
min ʾayna ʾanti?

There’s also a distinction made for the plural form, both in the equivalents of “you all” and “they.”

Are you all alright? (to several women)
هَل أَنتُنَّ بِخَيْر؟
hal ʾantunna biḫayr?

Are you all alright? (to several men)
هَل أََنتُم بِخَيْر؟
hal ʾantum biḫayr?

These example sentences are a little unwieldy, so we won’t write out all the differences here. Instead, there are plenty of great charts and grammar lessons online!

You may have heard of Arabic verbs also being inflected for gender in some way. That’s sort of true, but it’s not as bad as you might have thought.

Object pronouns (“him,” “her,” “me,” “them” ) just get attached to the verb instead of staying as separate words. So you could think of verbs as just linking up with a gendered pronoun, not having a complex gender system of their own.

I am helping Anna.
أَنا أُساعِد آنا.
ʾanā ʾusāʿid ʾānā.

I am helping her.
أَنا أُساعِدُها.
ʾanā ʾusāʿiduhā.

Again, this is something that deserves an article of its own, but we included it here to show you how word gender across all of Arabic simply works differently than in English. It’s not only the nouns!

4. Plural Nouns

Many Dishes and Glasses

The most important overarching concept to remember with Arabic plurals is that non-human nouns in the plural are treated as singular feminine nouns. If you happen to know any German, it’s a similar concept.

Take a look at the following sentences.

The new (female) teacher is eating.
الأُستاذَة الجَديدَة تَأكُل.
al-ʾustāḏah al-ǧadīdah taʾkul.

This city has new streets.
لَدى المَدينة شَوَارِع جَديدَة.
ladā al-madīnh šawariʿ ǧadīdah.

David has four new cars.
لَدى داوُود أَربَع سَيّارات جَديدَة.
ladā dāwūd ʾarbaʿ sayyārāt ǧadīdah.

Here, the adjective for “new” stayed the same, even though we first talked about one female teacher, then many new streets, then four new cars.

5. Noun Gender Plus Adjectives

Adjectives in Arabic have to match their nouns. This is commonly known as “agreement,” so if there’s a mistake in your adjective endings, you can say that they’re not agreeing.

To get them to cooperate with each other, we have to make sure that we match feminine nouns with feminine adjectives.

Fortunately, this is simple in principle. Just as we added the taa marbuuta to some masculine job occupations to get the feminine form, we’ll add the taa marbuuta to adjectives in order to modify feminine nouns.

The brown cat is walking.
القِطَّة البُنِّيَّة تَمشي.
al-qiṭṭah al-bunniyyah tamšī.

The brown mouse is walking.
الفَأر البُنّيُّ يَمشي.
al-faʾr al-bunniyyu yamšī.

Brown Mouse

Since “cat” is feminine and “mouse” is masculine, the word for “brown” has to change.

Naturally, we can’t just have one adjective agree and the rest disagree. What happens when we include two adjectives?

My uncle is a short and funny man.
عَمّي/خالي رَجُل قَصير و مُضحِك.
ʿammī/ḫal-ī raǧul qaṣīr wa muḍḥik.

My aunt is a short and funny woman.
عَمَّتي/خالَتي إمرَأَة قَصيرَة و مُضحِكَة.
ʿammatī/ḫal-atī ʾimraʾah qaṣīrah wa muḍḥikah.

Same sentence structure, different adjective forms.

There are many adjectives that follow slightly different rules for noun gender, and some that don’t change at all. For example, the words “sick” and “tolerant” don’t change.

When I first saw him, he was an old and sick man.
عِندَما رَأَيْتُهُ لِأَوَّلِ مَرَّة, كانَ رَجُلاً مُسِنّاً و مَريضاً.
ʿindamā raʾaytuhu liʾawwali marrah, kāna raǧulan musinnan wa marīḍan.

Have you talked to the sick woman in room 7?
هَل تَحَدَّثتَ إلى اللمَرأَة المَريضَة في غُرفَة رَقَم سبِعة؟
hal taḥaddaṯta ʾilā al-lmarʾah al-marīḍah fī ġurfah raqam sbiʿh?

It is good to have tolerant (female) teachers.
مِن الجَميلِ أَن يَكونَ لَدَيْكَ أُستاذَة مُتَسامِحَة.
min al-ǧamīli ʾan yakūna ladayka ʾustāḏah mutasāmiḥah.

Jacques is a tolerant man.
جاك رَجُلٌ مُتَسامِح.
ǧāk raǧulun mutasāmiḥ.

6. Memorizing Gender from the Beginning

Woman Trying to Memorize Words

Research shows that Arabic learners in particular have a hard time with getting perfectly accurate word gender, even if the learners have spent years in Arabic-speaking countries.

And if you happen to come from a European background, no luck there either—there’s no benefit from being a native speaker of another language with grammatical gender!

That particular study revealed that even advanced learners have “incomplete” models of grammatical gender in their minds, where they may know all the rules but fail to apply them correctly.

So here are a couple of different techniques you can use to train yourself to remember the Arabic word gender as often as possible!

First, you can use memory tricks. Some people are really great at visualizing things in their mind’s eye, and those people will probably prefer this method.

Imagine the word حرب (harb) meaning “war.” Although it doesn’t end with taa marbuuta, it’s a feminine word which takes feminine adjectives:

That was a long and terrible war.
لقد كانَت حَرباً طَوِيلَة و رَهيبَة.
laqad kānat ḥarban ṭawilah wa rahībah.

One memory trick is to imagine a room full of women generals, with coats covered in medals of valor.

Take a moment to look around that boardroom in your mind’s eye—is it open and well-lit or are the generals hunched over war plans on a table? Fix that image in your head, and you’ll think of it whenever you need to say “war” in Arabic (which hopefully won’t be too often!).

Since you probably can’t forget that one if you tried, let’s think of another mnemonic for another irregular Arabic word.

The word راديو (radiu) is a loanword meaning “radio.” Like many loanwords about technology, راديو is masculine.

I don’t need that old radio.
لا أَحتاجُ إلى ذَلِكَ الراديُو القَديم.
lā ʾaḥtāǧu ʾilā ḏalika al-rādyuū al-qadīm.

Other methods that people use include writing masculine and feminine words in different-colored ink in a notebook. This may get tedious, though, because as you know, most Arabic words are regular.

One of the most effective ways to learn to produce Arabic word gender correctly in fluent speech is to simply practice set phrases that are likely to come up.

Look at your own writing or listen critically to a recording you make of yourself. Then write down some of the words you’re having trouble with, and come up with some example sentences where you’d like to use it.

Practice those set phrases aloud, even recording your own voice again to listen back. This will really help stick those patterns into your memory, and because they’re tailored for you, your exercises will be extremely efficient.

7. Conclusion

In addition to those targeted noun and adjective exercises, sometimes the best way to learn a language is simply through exposure. That means native Arabic materials, whether it be TV soap operas, audiobooks, or even podcasts. You can also check out our video about gender in Arabic.

Here at ArabicPod101, you have access to some of the best Arabic learning material on the internet for all levels, including study guides and vocabulary lists.

With all of these tools right at your fingertips, you’ll never fail. Start speaking excellent Arabic today!

Before you go, let us know in the comments how comfortable you feel about Arabic word gender so far. Practice will help you get better, but feel free to let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Make Your Point Crystal-Clear with Angry Arabic Phrases

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A lot of people stereotype Arabic as an “angry language.” What does that even mean?

They’re only talking about how it sounds. Anybody who knows any Arabic understands that it’s a language famous for its poetry and scripture, with elegant, untranslatable words for love and beauty.

But Arabs get angry too.

And in this article, we’ll guide you through the process of using the Arabic language to talk about frustration and anger, and even share with you some juicy insults. You won’t find any vulgar curse words here—those are members-only at ArabicPod101.com. This is just a list of angry Arabic phrases to get you started.

Since this topic is personal and emotional, we’re using a lot of colloquial Arabic phrases. It may not all be perfect MSA, but it’s certainly something that communicates straight to the heart.

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Table of Contents

  1. Talking About Your Anger
  2. Talk to the Hand
  3. This is Your Last Warning
  4. Ordering People Around
  5. Blame it All on Them
  6. De-Escalate the Situation
  7. Re-Escalate the Situation
  8. Apologizing
  9. Calming Down
  10. Conclusion

1. Talking About Your Anger

Couple Conversing

Your emotions are important. Most people don’t like to talk about their feelings, so when you come out and directly state how you feel, you might be taken seriously. Here are different ways you can say “I am angry” in Arabic, or describe other negative emotions to those around you.

  • I’m angry.
    أَنا غاضِب.
    ʾanā ġāḍib.
  • That’s annoying.
    هَذا مُزعِج.
    haḏā muzʿiǧ.

Looking for more words about feelings in Arabic? Look no further—they’re right here.

  • What you said made me angry.
    ما قُلتَهُ أَغضَبَني.
    mā qultahu ʾaġḍabanī.
  • I don’t feel good when you do that.
    أنزَعِجُ عِندَما تَفعَلُ ذَلِك.
    ʾnzaʿiǧu ʿindamā tafʿalu ḏalik.
  • It makes me frustrated when we disagree.
    أُحِسُّ بِالإحباط عِندَما لا نَتَّفِق.
    ʾuḥissu bilʾiḥbāṭ ʿindamā lā nattafiq.

2. Talk to the Hand

Talk to the Hand

Is somebody bugging you and not getting the hint? You’ve got permission to be direct. In many cultures, including Arab cultures, these phrases for directly saying that you don’t want to talk to someone are taken rather seriously. Many people aren’t used to communicating in this way. Here are some perfect angry Arabic phrases for communicating this feeling to people.

  • I don’t want to talk to you.
    لا أُريدُ التَكَلُّمَ مَعَك.
    lā ʾurīdu al-takalluma maʿak.
  • It’s none of your business.
    هَذا لَيْسَ مِن شَأنِك.
    haḏā laysa min šaʾnik.
  • This doesn’t concern you.
    هَذا لا يَخُصُّك.
    haḏā lā yaḫuṣṣuk.
  • What are you looking at?
    إلى ما تَنظُر؟
    ʾilā mā tanẓur?
  • Whatever.
    مَهما يَكُن.
    mahmā yakun.

3. This is Your Last Warning

Negative Verbs

Are things heating up in your conversation? You can use these angry phrases in Arabic to get across the idea that if the other person doesn’t stop while they’re ahead, things might get bad.

  • Don’t start anything.
    لا تَبدَأ أَيَّ شَيْء.
    lā tabdaʾ ʾayya šayʾ.
  • You’re in trouble now.
    أَنتَ في مُشكِلَةٍ الآن.
    ʾanta fī muškilaẗin al-ʾān.
  • I’m not going to take that from you.
    لَن أَتَقَبَّل ذَلِكَ مِنك.
    lan ʾataqabbal ḏalika mink.
  • I won’t tell you again.
    لَن أُخبِرُكَ نَفس الشَيْء مُجَدَّداً.
    lan ʾuḫbiruka nafs al-šayʾ muǧaddadan.
  • That’s enough.
    هَذا يَكفي.
    haḏā yakfī.
  • Watch your mouth.
    اِنتَبِه لِكلامِك.
    intabih liklāmik.
  • Back off.
    اِبتَعِد
    ibtaʿid
  • What did you say to me?
    ماذا قُلت لي؟
    māḏā qult lī?

There’s one more phrase that’s particularly hard to translate. Tayyeb is a word with many meanings. Usually, it’s fairly positive or noncommittal, like “fine” or “not bad.” However, it’s very easy to use in a sarcastic or even threatening way. It can mean “Yeah, so what?” and in an annoyed tone, “Watch it.”

4. Ordering People Around

Woman Screaming into Megaphone

Nobody likes to be ordered around, but sometimes when people are pushing your buttons, you just have to snap.

Here we’ve got three great phrases for telling people to just be quiet. First, an all-purpose one:

  • Shut up!
    اِخرَس!
    iḫras!

These next two come from Levantine Arabic, and they’re quite similar on the surface. We’ve translated them both here as “shut your face” because what you’re supposed to shut is actually not the mouth.

Nee’ak refers to the entire cheek, jaw, and mouth area, while boozak is quite similar to “beak” or “snout” in English—thus, the animal connotations make it harsher.

  • Shut your mouth.
    اَغلِق فَمَك.
    aġliq famak.
  • Get out of my face.
    اُغرُب عَن وَجهي.
    uġrub ʿan waǧhī.
  • Get out of my sight.
    اِبتَعِد عَن أَنظاري.
    ibtaʿid ʿan ʾanẓārī.

Here’s a particularly Arab variant of the last two phrases we just heard. This one pops up on lists of “untranslatable words” a lot, but in this context, the message is clear.

  • Go tile the ocean. (Lebanese Arabic)
    روح بَلَّط البَحر.
    rūḥ ballaṭ al-baḥr.
  • Get out and never come back! (Maghrebi Arabic)
    روح بَلا رَجعَة.
    rūḥ balā raǧʿah.

Here’s one last variant, this time from Morocco. Many people say that the Moroccan dialect is the hardest to learn, but one look at your face and everybody will understand what you mean with this phrase:

  • Go away!
    سير بحالَك.
    sīr bḥalak.

5. Blame it All on Them

Complaints

Something’s gone wrong in your life, and you’re not to blame. When another person’s bad decisions have really let you down, you can use these phrases to tell them how much they’ve messed up.

First, we’ll start off with a great pair of lines from Levantine Arabic. Even if you’re not very comfortable with the Arabic language yet, hopefully you can see the difference here and internalize it, because the meaning is quite important!

  • May God forgive you (for what you’ve done).
    الله يِسامحَك.
    Allah yisāmḥak.
  • May God NOT forgive you (for what you’ve done).
    الله لا يِسامحَك.
    Allah la yisāmḥak.

See the difference? One thing was acceptable enough for my prayer, and the other thing? Definitely not, and in fact, I hope it comes back to bite you!

Now for some more all-purpose phrases. First, some declarations of surprise at the sheer audacity of the action.

  • I can’t believe you did that.
    لا أَستَطيعُ أَن أُصَدِّق أَنَّكَ فَعَلتَ ذَلِك.
    lā ʾastaṭīʿu ʾan ʾuṣaddiq ʾannaka faʿalta ḏalik.
  • This is your fault.
    هَذا خَطَؤُك.
    haḏā ḫaṭaʾuk.
  • How could you do this?
    كَيْفَ لَك أَن تَفعَل ذَلِك؟
    kayfa lak ʾan tafʿal ḏalik?
  • I’m disappointed in you.
    أَشعُرُ بِخَيْبَةِ أَمَلٍّ مِنك.
    ʾašʿuru biḫaybaẗi ʾamallin mink.
  • What were you thinking?
    ماذا كُنتَ تَظُن؟
    māḏā kunta taẓun?

These next two phrases sound like a parent chiding their kid in Western culture, but in Arab culture, the concept of shame and dignity is quite different than you may be used to.

  • You should be ashamed of yourself.
    يَجِبُ أَن تَستَحي مِن نَفسِك.
    yaǧibu ʾan tastaḥī min nafsik.
  • You shouldn’t have done that.
    لَم يَكُن عَلَيْكَ القِيَام بِهَذا.
    lam yakun ʿalayka al-qiyam bihaḏā.

6. De-Escalate the Situation

Woman Meditating

Alright, take a deep breath here. I know you’re angry, but violence isn’t the answer. Here are some things you can try saying or doing to calm down and make up.

  • I don’t want any trouble.
    لا أُريدُ أَيَّ مَشاكِل.
    lā ʾurīdu ʾayya mašākil.
  • You’re right, I’m sorry.
    أَنتَ عَلى حَق، أَعتَذِر.
    ʾanta ʿalā ḥaq, ʾaʿtaḏir.
  • Tell me how you feel about it.
    قُل لي كَيْفَ تَشعُرُ حِيَال ذَلِك.
    qul lī kayfa tašʿuru ḥiyal ḏalik.
  • We don’t have to fight about this.
    لَيْسَ عَلَيْنا المُشاجَرَة حَوْلَ هَذا.
    laysa ʿalaynā al-mušāǧarah ḥawla haḏā.
  • I shouldn’t have said that.
    لَم يَكُن عَلَيَّ قَوْلُ ذَلِك.
    lam yakun ʿalayya qawlu ḏalik.
  • Let’s agree to disagree.
    فَلنَتَّفِق عَلى أَنَّنا لَم نَتَّفِق.
    falnattafiq ʿalā ʾannanā lam nattafiq.
  • This isn’t worth fighting over.
    هَذا لا يَستَحِق المُشاجَرَة.
    haḏā lā yastaḥiq al-mušāǧarah.
  • Calm down.
    إهدَأ.
    ʾihdaʾ.

Note: Most people hate being told to calm down in any language! If you don’t use this one at the right moment, it might really wind someone up. Speaking of which…

7. Re-Escalate the Situation

Kid Threatening Another Kid

Couldn’t de-escalate? Whatever. Now it’s time for some words and phrases designed to provoke—so you’d better be ready to back them up with action if need be.

  • Idiot!
    !غَبي
    ġabī!
  • Ugly moron!
    يَالَكَ مِن قَبيح مَعتوه!
    yalaka min qabīḥ maʿtūh!
  • Are you ugly AND stupid?
    هَل أَنتَ قَبيح وغَبِيّ؟
    hal ʾanta qabīḥ ūġabiyy?
  • You are a shoe! (Egyptian Arabic)
    إنتَ جَزمَة!
    ʾinta ǧazmah!

Thrown off by that one? Shoes and feet are considered particularly unclean in Arab culture, and so this insult is pretty low-down.

  • You are a donkey!
    إنتَ حمار.
    ʾinta ḥmār.

From Egypt, here’s a phrase that can come off as quite threatening in some contexts.

  • May your house be destroyed!
    يِخرِب بيتَك.
    yiḫrib bītak.

You should know that there are lots of things that don’t translate well between cultures. In Arab culture, calling somebody a liar or crazy is considered a big deal. You might think you’re just joking around, but these feelings go very deep into the culture.

In fact, a lot of these insults might sound pretty silly in English! But that doesn’t mean you can use them freely. Many people have lost friends over arguments stemming from “I didn’t mean it!” / “Then why did you say it?!”

So although some of these might seem fun to say, remember that as an outsider, you’ll never really grasp what it’s like to be on the receiving end of these.

8. Apologizing

So in that case, you should also be well-equipped with some apology words. We have a couple of different lessons on apologies in Arabic, so don’t forget to check those out. This section is just to cool you off after reading the rest of the article!

Did you go too far with your insults? Try these phrases.

  • I don’t know what came over me.
    لا أَعرِف ما حَدَث بي.
    lā ʾaʿrif mā ḥadaṯ bī.
  • I know that I hurt you.
    أَعرِفُ أَنَّني قَد آذَيْتُك.
    ʾaʿrifu ʾannanī qad ʾāḏaytuk.
  • I’m sorry.
    عُذراً.
    ʿuḏran.
  • Words can’t express how much I regret what I said.
    الكَلِمات لا تَستَطيعُ أَن تُعَبِّرَ عَن نَدَمي عَلى ما قُلتَه.
    al-kalimāt lā tastaṭīʿu ʾan tuʿabbira ʿan nadamī ʿalā mā qultah.
  • Will you forgive me?
    هَل يُمكِنُكَ أَن تُسامِحَني.
    hal yumkinuka ʾan tusāmiḥanī.

None of these is guaranteed to work, but if you’re lucky, you might just hear:

  • It’s no problem at all.
    لا مُشكِلَة عَلى الإطلاق.
    lā muškilah ʿalā al-ʾiṭlāq.
  • Forget it.
    إنسى الأَمر.
    ʾinsā al-ʾamr.

9. Calming Down

Getting Over a Fight

Everybody pretty much agrees that it’s not good to fight with others. If you’re angry, there are lots of things you can do to calm down instead. You can use these phrases to either invite others to calm down, or simply do them yourself.

  • I’m gonna go take a little walk.
    سَأَخرُج لِأَتَمَشّى قَليلاً.
    saʾaḫruǧ liʾatamaššā qalīlan.
  • Take some deep breaths.
    خُذ بَعض الأَنفاس الطَوِيلَة.
    ḫuḏ baʿḍ al-ʾanfās al-ṭawilah.
  • Try to see it from my point of view.
    حاوِل أَن تَرى ذَلِك مِن وِجهَةِ نَظَري.
    ḥāwil ʾan tarā ḏalik min wiǧhaẗi naẓarī.
  • Let’s come back to this in a few minutes.
    فَلنَعُد إلى هَذا بَعد بِضع دَقائِق.
    falnaʿud ʾilā haḏā baʿd biḍʿ daqāʾiq.
  • Let me try to forget about this.
    دَعني أُحاوِل أَن أَنسى الأَمر.
    daʿnī ʾuḥāwil ʾan ʾansā al-ʾamr.

You’ll note that a lot of these phrases can be applied in many situations, from the boardroom to your personal life. That’s because the sentiments of tolerance and understanding are recognized anywhere.

Last, here’s an Arabic idiom that means “You have no bad feelings inside of you.” Say this to remind people that it’s true.

  • Your heart is white.
    قَلبُكَ أَبيَض.
    qalbuka ʾabyaḍ.

10. Conclusion

You may be wondering, “Is that it?”

Arabic is ancient, Arabic is poetic, Arabic is beautiful, but doesn’t it have anything stronger than that?

Yes. Very much yes. But we didn’t want to print it here.

Members of ArabicPod101 enjoy many benefits—fantastic grammar explanations, vocabulary exercises, and a world-class podcast course.

And a bunch of dirty words.

Arabic curse words are vibrant and full of life, and if you really want to understand Arab culture like a local, you’ve got to know some of them.

Plus, after you sign up on our website and access the word list, you’ll be able to keep learning Arabic with the other materials, in the best way possible!

What’s your favorite angry Arabic phrase on this list? Feel ready to use them when the time comes, or to let someone know you’re angry in Arabic? Let us know in the comments.

Just remember to use your new powers of language responsibly. We’re not liable for any trouble you get into—and we hope that you use your fluent Arabic to navigate any tricky situation respectfully.

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Life Event Messages: Happy Birthday in Arabic & Beyond

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Language is really about making connections.

If you know how to chat with somebody about the weather or the food you’re eating, well, good for you. That might lead to an interesting conversation.

But when you know a little bit more about your target language culture, and you can pull out the right phrase for the right situation (like how to wish a happy birthday in Arabic), you show that you’ve gone beyond just knowing a handful of words.

And when that phrase is about some major life event, something that really has an emotional effect on somebody? That’s when you make a fantastic impression.

So that’s what this article is all about: the absolute essential phrases that you need in Arabic to show somebody that you care, no matter what they’re going through.

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Table of Contents

  1. Birthdays
  2. Holidays
  3. Weddings and Anniversaries
  4. Babies
  5. Graduation and Academic Success
  6. Workplace Success
  7. Bad News in General
  8. Good News in General
  9. Conclusion

1. Birthdays

Happy Birthday

Although birthdays can seem like a big deal at times, there’s actually not a very solid tradition of celebrating birthdays in Arab culture. It’s not necessarily related to religion either—Christian and Muslim holy texts say little about birthdays one way or another.

Some people say that the lack of “birthday culture” is because Arabs tend to be very close to their extended families. In that case, getting a gift and going to parties for your scores of cousins would end up taking a big chunk out of your time and money every year!

That said, many Arabic-speakers do celebrate their birthdays, particularly those living in Western countries. If you’re invited to such a party, you should remember to bring a gift.

But what should you say? Don’t worry: you only really need one phrase of Arabic congratulations:

    عيد ميلاد سعيد
    ʿīdu mīlādin saʿīd
    Happy birthday!

It doesn’t matter whether you’re speaking to a man or a woman when you use this phrase. For something more poetic, try these two:

    كُلُّ عام وَأَنتَ بِخَيْر
    kullu ʿāmin waʾanta biḫayr
    May each year be happy.

    كُلُّ سَنَة وأَنتَ سالِم
    kullu sanah waʾanta salim
    May you be fine every year.

These are two very similar ways to basically say “and many more!”

2. Holidays

Basic Questions

Anyone with a little bit of knowledge about the Middle East and Islam knows that Ramadan is the number-one holiday of the year. Even if you’re not a Muslim, it’s impossible not to notice as stores close early, prayer calls ring through the streets, and businesses do their best to turn it into a shopping holiday. It’s celebrated at a different time each year, lasting one lunar month and leading up to Eid al-Fitr, the day of celebration.

As with every holiday, there are a lot of things you could say. Many people write cards with poetry or other intricate well-wishings. Here, we’ll just give you the one magic Arabic congratulation you need:

    رَمَضان مُبارَك
    ramaḍān mubārak
    Happy Ramadan!

However, there’s a lot more to religion in the Arab world than Islam, and therefore a lot more holidays than Ramadan. Christmas is widely celebrated, even by non-Christians, thanks to its prominence as an international Western holiday. In Egypt, it’s actually celebrated on January 7, as opposed to the December 25 you often see in other parts of the world.

    عيد ميلاد مجيد مبارك!
    ʿiīd miyilād maǧīd mubaārak!
    Merry Christmas!

The last of the major Middle Eastern religions is, of course, Judaism. Although Judaism is often associated with the Hebrew language, there are large communities of Arabic-speaking Jews in many countries as well, especially Morocco. The major holiday in Judaism is Hanukkah, celebrated in November or December each year according to the Jewish calendar.

    عيد هانوكة سعيد
    ʿiīdu hānūkkah saʿīd
    Happy Hanukkah!

3. Weddings and Anniversaries

Marriage Proposal

In Islamic culture, most people think of weddings a little differently than Westerners from a Christian or secular background might. Most wedding wishes in English are simply some variant of “Congratulations!”

But from an Islamic point of view, the wedding is the result of Allah’s guidance through life. And there are a lot of ways to say that. For that reason, these three common phrases all kind of translate to “Congratulations” and also kind of translate to “Praise Allah!”

ما شاء الله!
mā šāʾ allah!
Praise Allah!

سُبحان الله!
subḥān allah!
Thanks to Allah!

الحَمدُ لله!
al-ḥamdu lillah!
Allah is great!

There’s one more quick phrase of congratulations in Arabic that you can use for a wedding that explicitly acknowledges the event:

زَوَاج مُبارَك!
zawaǧ mubārak!
Happy wedding!

Yes, it may sound a little strange in English, but it’s a perfectly common wish in Arabic!

If you’d like to be more poetic, here’s a slightly longer phrase for weddings:

أَلف مَبروك لِلعَروس والعَريس عَلى زَوَاجِهِما السَعيد.
ʾalf mabrūk lilʿarūs ūlʿarīs ʿalā zawaǧihimā al-saʿīd.
Congratulations to the happy bride and groom.

Lastly, we’ve got one last phrase for another love-related event: the anniversary. Although it’s common and expected for people to bring gifts to a wedding, friends and family would only be expected to acknowledge “big” anniversaries like ten years, twenty-five years, and so on. Don’t worry—the couple will tell you, so you don’t have to remember by yourself!

عيدُ ميلادٍ سَعيد!
ʿīdu mīlādin saʿīd!
Happy anniversary!

4. Babies

Talking about Age

First comes love, then comes marriage…then comes a baby in a baby carriage!

In Islam, traditionally there’s no “baby shower” before the birth. Instead, the child is welcomed into the world with a ceremony called ʿaqiqah. This generally happens on the seventh, fourteenth, or twenty-first day after birth. There’s a sacrifice of a sheep or goat, the child’s hair is cut for the first time, and a large feast is prepared afterward.

As the child is already born by the time of this ceremony, the things people say are naturally slightly different depending on whether the couple has a son or a daughter, like so:

تَهانينا بِوِلادَةِ المَوْلود الجَديد!
tahānīnā biwilādaẗi al-mawlūd al-ǧadīd!
Congratulations on the arrival of your new beautiful baby boy/girl!

In this next phrase, you’re specifically addressing the mother. This is often seen in a card addressed to her directly.

لِلأُم الجَديدَة. أَطيَبُ التَمَنِّيات لَكِ ولِابنِك/اِبنَتِك.
lilʾum al-ǧadīdah. ʾaṭyabu al-tamanniīāt laki ūliābnik/ibnatik.
To the new mother: Best wishes for you and your son/daughter.

5. Graduation and Academic Success

Although more and more people are graduating from universities each year around the world, it’s still cause for celebration. Particularly in the Arab world, where economic development has made it possible for significantly more people to attend university now than ever before.

First, here’s a cute phrase you can use for a good friend when they’ve done well on some exam or test.

ما أَذكاك!
mā ʾaḏkāk!
Look at you, clever bunny!

More formally, for instance if you’ve already graduated but someone you know is still in school, you can use this phrase of congratulations in Arabic for graduation:

أَلف مَبروك عَلى النَجاح في الاِمتِحانات.
ʾalf mabrūk ʿalā al-naǧāḥ fī al-imtiḥānāt.
Congratulations on your success with the exams.

With such good exam results, a graduation is probably coming up! You can use this phrase in speech or in a card:

أَلف مَبروك عَلى حُصولِكَ عَلى الشَهادَة الجامِعِيَّة!
ʾalf mabrūk ʿalā ḥuṣūlika ʿalā al-šahādah al-ǧāmiʿiyyah!
Congratulations and happy graduation!

6. Workplace Success

Man Calculating Numbers at Work

A foreigner in the Arab business world is already going to be expected to work hard to not only excel at their job, but also to fit in culturally.

A lot of businesses in the Middle East work at breakneck speed already, and so if you know how to compliment your coworkers correctly, you’ll make great strides in assimilating into the company culture.

حَظّاً سَعيداً في مَنصِبِك الجَديد!
ḥaẓẓan saʿīdan fī manṣibik al-ǧadīd!
Best of luck in your new position!

Outside of moving up in the same company, people you know outside of work are naturally going to go on their own career paths. Here’s a phrase of congratulations in Arabic for success you can say when someone really nails the interview and lands a nice job:

تَهانينا عَلى الوَظيفَة الجَديدَة!
tahānīnā ʿalā al-waẓīfah al-ǧadīdah!
Congratulations on your new job!

Here’s a slightly more formal way to say the same thing, used when you might not know the person well. In that case, you’ll want to add on the actual name of the company at the end.

نَتَمَنّى لَكَ الحَظ الجَيِّد في وَظيفَتِك الجَديدَة عِندَ…
natamannā laka al-ḥaẓ al-ǧayyid fī waẓīfatik al-ǧadīdah ʿinda…
Best of luck at your new job at…

7. Bad News in General

Time for a brief downer section. If someone you know has received bad news, then you can reach out and comfort them with some heartfelt words. Of course, it will come off as a bit superficial or rude if you use stock phrases—try your best to modify these phrases to fit the actual situation.

Particularly when it comes to events related to death, religious people often use passages from holy texts. There are a number of resources online for Quranic quotes about life and death, and if you use them appropriately, the effort will be strongly appreciated in this trying time.

With that said, in this section we’ll stick to simpler Arabic condolences messages instead of direct scripture quotations.

Funerals

When somebody you know has lost someone close to them, a sympathetic card, letter, or even a phone call is the perfect gesture. Use these Arabic condolences to show your kind feelings.

تَقَبَّّلوا مِنّا خالِص التَعازي لِوَفاةِ المَرحوم
taqabbalū minnā ḫaliṣ al-taʿāzī liwafāẗi al-marḥūm
I am very sorry to hear of your loss.

قَلُبنا مَعَكُم ومَع عائِلَتِكُم بِما أَلَمَّ بِكُم مِن مِحنَة في هَذا الوَقت الصَعب.
qalubnā maʿakum ūmaʿ ʿāʾilatikum bimā ʾalamma bikum min miḥnah fī haḏā al-waqt al-ṣaʿb.
Our thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.

نُقَدِّم إلَيْكُم أَخلَص عِبارات التَعازي
nuqaddim ʾilaykum ʾaḫlaṣ ʿibārāt al-taʿāzī
Please know that we would like to offer our deepest sympathy.

Poor Health

Little Girl Sick in Bed

Naturally, in Arabic as well as in English, people would much rather send “get-well” messages instead of discussing the particulars of the illness. The standard messages for this situation sound a lot like their English equivalents.

These condolences in Arabic are what you’d normally write on cards to the sick person’s home or hospital bed.

تَمَنِّيَاتي لَك بِالشِفاء العاجِل
tamanniyatī lak bilšifāʾ al-ʿāǧil
Get well soon.

If your coworker is suffering from an illness and you’d like to send a message of support from the whole office, you can phrase it this way:

نَرجو لَك الشِفاء العاجِل. الجَميع هُنا يُفَكِّرُ فيك.
narǧū lak al-šifāʾ al-ʿāǧil. al-ǧamīʿ hunā yufakkiru fīk.
Get well soon. Everyone here is thinking of you.

In a more personal way, you can make a phone call or send a text, and say this phrase:

.أَتَمَنّى لَكَ الشِفاء العاجِل
ʾatamannā laka al-šifāʾ al-ʿāǧil.
I hope you make a speedy recovery.

8. Good News in General

And in order to end on a happy note, let’s look at just a few more phrases you can use for any kind of catch-all good stuff.

First, remember those phrases from the wedding section about praising Allah? Those are excellent for when something good happens, no matter what it is.

To be honest, these may seem super-religious to some people, but they’ve entered the Arabic language as set phrases and are used by everyone. I remember one time it took me a long time to order at a restaurant, and the impatient waiter said al-hamdullilah under his breath once I finally made my choice!

We’ve also seen the word mubarak a couple times. A related word is مبروك (mabruuk), or “blessed”, which comes from the root بَرَكة (barakah), or “blessing.”

So when something’s gone very well for someone, and you want the perfect Arabic phrase for congratulations, you can simply wish them mabruuk! To emphasize it, you can say:

ألف مَبْرُوك
alf mabrūk
A thousand blessings!

And if a thousand blessings aren’t enough to make them happy, nothing will.

Silhouette of Man Against Sunset

9. Conclusion

Although this article may seem comprehensive, the only way to really get a deep understanding of what to say and how to say it for different life events in Arabic is to get more experience.

Watch Arabic movies and read Arabic books—and check out the Arabic material here on ArabicPod101.com. Each episode comes with can’t-miss culture notes, so you’ll never be lost for words again.

Before you go, let us know in the comments what you learned today. Are there any life events or messages that you still want to learn? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Outstanding Arabic Shows on Netflix to Learn Arabic

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There are two things that make for a fantastic language-learning environment.

The first is people chatting naturally, as actual people do, without any kind of stilted usage meant for learners. No “How are you?” “I’m fine, thank you.” You want: “Hey, what’s up?” “Hey.” Or, you know, that in Arabic.

The second is to have something interesting to care about. If you’re not interested in what’s happening, and you don’t care which way it ends up at the end, your mind won’t be focused enough to really remember what you’re picking up language-wise.

Watching Arabic shows on Netflix—long and engaging—is seriously one of the best things you can do for yourself. And when you think of great television in 2019, you probably think of Netflix.

So what’s the deal with Arabic Netflix, anyway? Why should you take the plunge to watch Netflix shows in Arabic? Can you really learn Arabic on Netflix?

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Table of Contents

  1. Netflix Arabic Content: Why is Arabic Netflix Different?
  2. The Ten Best Arabic Netflix Offerings
  3. Hey, All of These are TV Shows!
  4. Using Dubbed Media in Arabic to Enjoy Another World of Content
  5. Be the First to Leverage Arabic Audio Descriptions for Your Learning
  6. Conclusion

1. Netflix Arabic Content: Why is Arabic Netflix Different?

Improve Pronunciation

Ever gone on a vacation overseas and fired up your Netflix, only to be told that what you were watching was no longer available because you’d crossed a border? Or discussed a great show with a friend abroad who wasn’t able to find it on their own Netflix catalog?

Netflix changes the shows available to different people based on their geographic location. This is because of different licensing deals, and this is also one of the reasons they’re producing original content—so they can get to distribute it to whatever market they want.

Unfortunately, the bottom line for you is that unless you’re living in an Arabic-speaking country or have VPN access to one, you’re unlikely to get the true and complete catalog of Arabic Netflix offerings.

But supposing you’re able to circumvent that problem, get an Arabic Netflix app, or simply gain access to the Arabic Netflix series… Here are what Arabic shows are on Netflix!

2. The Ten Best Arabic Netflix Offerings

1- The Writer (Lebanese and Syrian Arabic)

Imagine this: You’re a well-known novelist in your community, best known for writing books on crime. Then, mysterious things start happening around you that sound an awful lot like your stories. Is somebody being inspired by you in the worst of ways? Or are your books coming true for some unknowable reason?

Starting right off, the Arabic Netflix series The Writer will expose you to plenty of words and phrases related to crime, police, and investigations. It moves pretty fast, so don’t worry about rewinding or skipping around in order to follow what’s going on.

Ready to watch one of the best Arabic Netflix shows? Head to the Arabic Netflix sign in and prepare to binge!

2- al Hayba (Lebanese and Syrian Arabic)

If you’re not familiar with Middle Eastern geography, you may not realize at first that al-Hayba is the name of an area right on the border of Syria and Lebanon. But that’s where this story takes place, as a young, intensely motivated arms dealer comes to grips with the death of his brother while handling the conflicts in his community.

In a border region, people tend to be bilingual from necessity or just sheer force of habit. Native speakers of Arabic won’t have too much trouble following the dialogue that’s in both Syrian and Lebanese Arabic, but as a learner, you’ll have to work hard to understand the nuances of what’s going on.

If you’re serious about your Arabic-learning, Netflix Arabic programs like this are essential!

3- The Secret of the Nile (Egyptian Arabic)

So in Arabic, this series is just called The Grand Hotel. But that doesn’t fly too well in English since there’s already another with the same name—the Spanish series that this one was based on. In this plot, a man talks his way into the staff of a luxurious Egyptian hotel in order to investigate the disappearance of his sister, finding out quite a lot more about Egypt’s most powerful people along the way.

People absolutely loved this show when it came out. In addition, the Egyptian dialect used in the show reflects the high-society schmoozing that could only take place in a beautiful period drama production. When it comes to Netflix shows in Arabic, you can’t miss this one!

4- I Have a Script (Kuwaiti Arabic)

Here’s a social comedy Netflix Arabic TV series with a unique angle: It’s about a woman pursuing her passion for writing television scripts. If you have a dream, sometimes it might never come to fruition without some big event that pushes you to make a leap of faith. In this show, that event is a death in the family—enough to give anyone pause about what they’re doing with their own life.

5- Black Crows (Various Dialects)

This one is intense.

Black Crows tells the story of women living under the rule of the Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria. It’s not a documentary, but rather a Sopranos-style look at the lives of a slave, an undercover journalist, child soldiers, and a woman who was recruited because of ISIS propaganda.

The thirty-episode Arabic Netflix series was released during Ramadan, and only a few episodes in, the actresses involved began to get death threats from the real ISIS for the show’s strongly anti-Islamic State viewpoint. Fortunately, none of the threats have materialized into any kind of real danger, but it certainly lends an incredible sense of realism to watching the series.

Be sure to watch this show with Netflix subtitles (Arabic) for the best learning results!

6- Justice (Emirati Arabic, MSA)

This series from the United Arab Emirates is a fascinating legal drama about Farah, an ambitious lawyer who has just returned home with an American law degree. Her father is already one of the most successful lawyers in the whole UAE and, naturally, he has big plans for his daughter. But her plans don’t necessarily fall in line—and in fact, she aims to carve a new path for women in law.

This Arabic series on Netflix isn’t necessarily a courtroom drama, so you won’t be spending every episode hearing from witnesses and defendants. But at the same time, it’s a great, detailed look at the legal system in a country you might not know much about in the first place.

7- What If? (Kuwaiti Arabic)

Another Ramadan series from 2019, and of the best Arabic Netflix series for learners, this show is about four young people at a crossroads in life. This show actually sparked a bit of controversy because of a single scene in which a woman gives a kiss to a man as she breaks up with him. The fact that this caused a stir on social media should clue you in to what kind of standards are usually upheld in Ramadan series. Nevertheless, the Arabic Netflix series still remains quite popular.

8- Jinn (Multiple Dialects)

Jinn was Netflix’s very first Arabic-language original series. It broke ground in more ways than one, as it’s one of very few Arabic series that focuses on the lives of teenagers instead of adults. The teenagers in the story find themselves tasked with the heavy burden of understanding and investigating the malevolent jinn (a type of spirit in classical Arabic mythology capable of possessing people) in their midst.

Also, because of the multiple dialects, you may find it useful to watch it with Netflix subtitles (Arabic). If you’re up to the challenge, head over to the Arabic Netflix sign in to watch!

9- Hidden Worlds (Egyptian Arabic)

This is a very interesting Arabic show on Netflix when examined in its larger cultural context. The story is about a journalist investigating corruption and finding that the evidence from a murder case points to bigger problems in society as a whole. It even stars the famous Egyptian actor Adel Imam. You might not recognize him, but call up an Egyptian friend and they certainly will.

However, the show is clearly influenced by a particular set of cultural norms and, overall, may be rather shocking to some viewers in the opinions it holds. Watch it critically, or take it as it is: both are good options for your Arabic learning.

10- In the Bosom of a Thorn (Kuwaiti Arabic)

In the year 1990, Kuwait was invaded by the Iraqi Army, triggering the Gulf War. This dramatic Arabic Netflix show tells the story of a baby who was separated from her family during that time and, years later as an adult, must try to make it home to find her mother. It’s not all heartbreaking and it’s not all funny either; this show has a large cast of characters that are more complex than you might realize at first.

3. Hey, All of These are TV Shows!

Best Ways to Learn

You’re right! The thing about using native media to learn another language is that TV shows are actually better than movies for that goal. Thus, to learn Arabic, Netflix TV shows should your first choice.

In a movie, you’ve got two, maybe three hours of story to deal with. There’s going to be action scenes, suspenseful silences, and long, loving gazes. That’s great for cinema, but less great for learning.

TV lets you get used to a relatively small cast over many more hours. You’re likely to hear similar references and turns of phrase over and over, reinforcing your learning each time.

What’s interesting about Arabic TV shows compared to others is that the highest-quality ones are often made to be binge-watched.

During Ramadan, it’s a tradition to follow a particular TV special every day during the entire holy month. Some specials are produced to have exactly as many episodes as that year’s Ramadan has days, while others gamble a bit and make their shows longer or shorter.

Thanks to Netflix’s expansion into the Arabic-speaking market, they’re happy to purchase and distribute Ramadan specials each year.

All this said, if you’re still more of a movie person, we have another article on the best Arabic movies that you can check out!

4. Using Dubbed Media in Arabic to Enjoy Another World of Content

Okay, we just said that TV shows are better than movies for learning. And we’re not taking that back. But if you have a movie from childhood that you’ve watched a zillion times and practically know by heart, you may just have a chance to watch it in Arabic right now.

At the time of this writing, classic animated films like Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, The Bee Movie, and the sequels to Shrek and Madagascar are all available on Netflix with Modern Standard Arabic audio in some regions like Egypt or the UK. Using Netflix Arabic subtitles can be a useful addition to your learning, especially when it comes to movies you already love! This also makes it more than worth the Arabic Netflix price (and you get thirty days free, anyway…).

And of course, there are dubbed shows as well. Most of them are kids’ shows like Puffin Rock and Peppa Pig (with plenty of cartoons for older kids, too), but there are a handful of Netflix-distributed documentaries that come with Arabic audio tracks or Netflix Arabic subtitles.

Although the language used in kids’ cartoons might seem to be simple at first listen, you might be surprised at the range of vocabulary and grammar that they utilize. Just because they’re not describing adult situations doesn’t mean they’re not using the language correctly.

And besides, shows or movies that come from a Western cultural background are probably going to be easier to understand for Westerners because they share the same general principles of narrative structure or cultural references. Using Netflix Arabic subtitles with these movies is a great way to ease yourself into Arabic media if the shows on this list are too advanced for you at the moment.

5. Be the First to Leverage Arabic Audio Descriptions for Your Learning

Another cool thing about Netflix?

If you take a look at some of the most popular TV shows and movies on Netflix, you can see that there’s a second audio track beyond all the dubbed tracks. It’s an “audio description,” meaning that there’s a narrator talking between the lines of dialogue to let you know what’s happening on the screen.

This is extremely useful for language learners.

For example, when you see someone open a refrigerator and there’s nothing to eat, chances are they’re not going to say “The fridge is empty.” So you won’t know how that’s expressed naturally in Arabic until you look it up.

But with an audio description, the seamless narration will fill that tiny gap in the audio, saying exactly what happens. You not only get more Arabic exposure per minute of TV show, you get to learn how everyday things are described by native speakers. It’s immersion turned up to eleven.

As of this writing, there’s just one thing on Netflix that has an audio description in Arabic. It’s Justice, the legal drama mentioned earlier, and the narrator speaks MSA. In order to turn it on, you need to have your account language set to Arabic in the settings.

However, the more viewers turn on that audio description, the more Netflix’s algorithms report that such a thing is popular, meaning that they’re likely to invest more into that type of feature. In regions where Netflix has been around for longer, there are tons of audio description tracks available already for all kinds of shows.

6. Conclusion

As you can see, Netflix is the single biggest platform where you can watch the highest-quality Arabic shows today. This year, there were four big Ramadan releases on Netflix. Next year? The year after that?

An investment in Netflix isn’t for everyone, particularly with the region blocking that goes on (or in some cases, the Arabic Netflix price). But even right now, you can utilize the original series and the dubbed content to get your Arabic media fix, meaning that going ahead to the Arabic Netflix sign in may still be worth your time and money.

The point of using native media to boost your learning is to let yourself escape into another world, driven by another language. When you really want to find out what happens, you’re going to ignore the language difficulties you have and focus on meaning.

That’s when the learning happens.

What did you think about our list of Arabic Netflix shows? Want even more? Check these out, too:

Are there any Arabic Netflix shows we missed that you think are worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments!

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Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.

Your Ultimate Language Guide to Arabic Conjunctions

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When you consider studying a new language, you never really think about all the little bits and pieces you have to learn. For instance, the “conjunction” meaning in Arabic.

Arabic learners think longingly of the beautiful script, the challenging sounds, and the rich literary vocabulary. Mastering all the uses of how to say “and” ranks pretty low on people’s lists.

But here’s the thing—you can change your mindset about this. You can treat these little bits of grammar as stepping stones to producing elegant and elaborate language.

And longer, complex sentences actually tend to be more regular than shorter sentences, which makes sense. More frequent things get repeated so much that the irregularities become natural, while more complicated things have to be built from rules each time.

All that to say, when you master Arabic conjunctions, you’ll immediately be able to speak about the world in way more detail. Thus, in Arabic grammar, conjunctions may just be one of the most essential things you learn. Let’s find out why.

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Table of Contents

  1. What Do Conjunctions Do?
  2. Conclusion

1. What Do Conjunctions Do?

Sentence Patterns

You already know that Arabic has a rich history of poetry, scripture, and literature. What you may not have been aware of is that it has a rich history of grammar, as well.

Ali ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, wrote in the seventh century that there were three types of words in Arabic: names, actions, and particles. Modern linguistics may divide things into a few more shades, but you’ll still find plenty of people discussing the language in these terms.

Arabic conjunction words, being neither noun nor verb, fall into the “particle” category. It may already be clear to you why: The most common conjunction “and” is always attached to the following word in traditional grammar.

The point of conjunctions is also pretty simple to grasp. They simply connect words and ideas to show relationships such as cause and effect, sequence, and relatedness.

Or in simpler terms, they let you stop talking about the world in simple sentences and isolated terms, and open up a whole new universe of possibility.

To clear up any questions you may still have, let’s take a look at some examples of Arabic conjunctions in English, and a short Arabic conjunctions list.

Man Studying Vocabulary

Giving Extra Information

We’ve already mentioned one: the humble particle و (wa) meaning “and.” It shares some similarities to English in the way it’s used. There’s no hierarchy of importance, and there’s no implication of ordering:

  • Ahmad and Rania arrived at work.
    وصل أَحمَد ورانيَة إلى العَمَل.
    waṣal ʾaḥmad wa rānyah ʾilā al-ʿamal.

With this sentence alone, nobody can tell who arrived first, nor can you tell who is whose boss.

But Arabic has words for that, and here we diverge from English. There are two words for “then” that indicate either a short period of time or a long period of time between the two happenings.

First, فَـ is used when it’s not necessary to mention the length of time, or when one thing happens close after another.

  • I entered the room, then I sat down.
    دَخَلتُ الغُرفَة فَجَلَست.
    daḫaltu al-ġurfah faǧalast.

Now look at the word ثُمَّ which means “then,” and has the sense of a longer time delay.

  • She graduated from high school, then from university.
    تَخَرَّجتُ في المَدرَسَةِ الثانَوِيَّة، ثُمَّ في الجامِعَة.
    taḫarraǧtu fī al-madrasaẗi al-ṯānawiّah, ṯumma fī al-ǧāmiʿah.

Another particle in the same vein is ليس (la) meaning “not.” When saying that one person did a thing, but not somebody else, you don’t need to include the verb a second time.

  • Adil was late, not Hamid.
    عادِل تَأَخَّر, لَيْسَ حامِد.
    ʿādil taʾaḫḫar, laysa ḥāmid.

Similarly, the word لَكِنْ (lakin) meaning “but” fits into the same pattern, where you just need a single word after the preposition.

  • The car wasn’t stolen but the bike (was).
    السَيّارَة لَم تُسرَق, لَكِن الدَرّاجَة سُرِقَت.
    al-sayyārah lam tusraq, lakin al-darrāǧah suriqat.

In fact, there are two ways to do this, and here’s the other: بالأحرى bil’ahra meaning “rather.” You can think of it not necessarily as negating the previous mentioned thing (though it can perform this function), but instead it adds clarifying detail.

  • I visited Egypt, or rather, Luxor.
    لَقَد زُرتُ مِصر, أَوْ بِالأَحرى, الأُقصُر.
    laqad zurtu miṣr, ʾaw bilʾaḥrā, al-ʾuqṣur.

Showing Cause and Effect

Improve Listening

So far, we’ve covered some of the most common Arabic coordinating conjunctions, which connect two similar things together. Now, though, we’ll look at Arabic subordinating conjunctions, which connect one idea to a closely related idea.

You can think of it like this: Coordinating conjunctions in Arabic connect two ideas that could stand alone if necessary, while subordinating conjunctions connect ideas that are so close-knit as to require each other to exist.

And one of the most common ways that this relationship can manifest is in cause and effect, also known as conditionals.

(in) إِن is one Arabic word for “if.” It always comes at the beginning of the sentence.

This word is used for simple if-then statements about the present time, and therefore, it’s always followed by a present-tense verb. It’s for things you’re sure about.

  • If you sleep late, you will miss the exam.
    إن نِمتَ مُتأَخِّراً, سَوْفَ تَتَغَيَّب عَن الإمتِحان.
    ʾin nimta mutʾaḫḫiran, sawfa tataġayyab ʿan al-ʾimtiḥān.

Woman Asleep on Study Materials

  • If we see him, we will talk to him.
    سَوْفَ نُكَلِّمُهُ إن رَأَيْناه.
    sawfa nukallimuhu ʾin raʾaynāh.

As you can see, we can’t fully express this cause-effect relationship without directly connecting the two ideas together. Two separate sentences wouldn’t cut it here, in English or in Arabic.

لَوْ (law) is another word with a similar meaning. It’s used to talk about things that might possibly happen—hypothetical statements, in other words.

Similar to English, a past-tense verb follows the word “if.”

  • If I had more money, I would buy a boat.
    لَوْ كانَ لَدَيْ المَزيد مِن النُقود لاشتَرَيْتُ قارِباً.
    law kāna laday al-mazīd min al-nuqūd lāštaraytu qāriban.

Boat in Harbor

  • If I knew Spanish, I would move to Spain.
    كُنتُ سَأَنتَقِل إلى إسبانيَا لَوْ كُنتُ أَعرِف الإسبانِيَّة.
    kuntu saʾantaqil ʾilā ʾisbānya law kuntu ʾaʿrif al-ʾisbāniyyah.

Now we can move from hypothetical statements to actual statements of effects that were caused by something else.

لِأَنَّ (li’ana) is a relatively versatile word. In English, it sounds a bit off to start a sentence with “because” and then give the reason afterward. Not so in Arabic; we can place that part before or after the other part.

  • Because I have no money, I won’t go to the cinema.
    لَن أَذهَبَ إلى السينِما لِأَنَّني لا أَملُكُ أَيَّ نُقود.
    lan ʾaḏhaba ʾilā al-sīnimā liʾannanī lā ʾamluku ʾayya nuqūd.
  • He lives in Marrakesh because he likes the weather.
    نَّهُ يَعيش في مَراكِش لِأَنَّهُ يُحِبُّ جَوْ المَدينَة.
    ʾinnahu yaʿīš fī marākiš liʾannahu yuḥibbu ǧaw al-madīnah.

Unlike “because,” the Arabic equivalent of “so” which is لِذَلِك so, has to go in the middle of the sentence, just like in English.

  • He likes the weather in Marrakesh, so he lives there now.
    إنَّهُ يُحِبُّ الجَوْ في مَراكِش، لِذَلِك يَعيشُ هُناكَ الآن.
    ʾinnahu yuḥibbu al-ǧaw fī marākiš, liḏalik yaʿīšu hunāka al-ʾān.

Some More Notes on Wa

Improve Listening Part 2

Right at the beginning, we introduced و (wa) with the simple translation “and.” But that’s not really the whole truth.

You see, و (wa) is by far the most-used particle and most-used conjunction in the Arabic language. And as your Arabic level increases, you’ll note that you can’t easily translate it to “and” every time.

A simple و (wa) is frequently used repeatedly, where it would sound quite dull to English ears. Whole theses have been written on its use, but we’ll look at just one example.

  • Sulayman Al-Halaby was once walking along a street (wa) with his hands in his pockets when (wa) he stopped for a while to light up a cigarette…
    كان سُلَيْمان الحَلَبي ذاتَ مَرَّة يَمشي في الشارِع و كانَت يَداه في جَيْبِه و حينَ تَوَقَّف لِيُشعِلَ سيجارَة…
    kān sulaymān al-ḥalabī ḏāta marrah yamšī fī al-šāriʿ wa kānat yadāh fī ǧaybih wa ḥīna tawaqqaf liyušʿila sīǧārah…

Here, we see that wa is used twice in this rather literary sentence—once to show the change from “walking along a street” to “with his hands in his pockets,” and once that the translator has chosen to translate as “when.”

Man Lighting Cigarette with Burning Money

2. Conclusion

The subtle detail mentioned above, as well as the overall sense of when to use which conjunctions in Arabic, is really something that has to be picked up slowly over time.

A good writing tutor can go a long way to improve your own writing, but when it comes to a language that has such a deep literary tradition, your best bet is to do your best to work through it yourself.

The good news is that conjunctions are such a common part of language that every single time you read, you’ll expose yourself to a huge number of them. There must be dozens in English in this article alone!

By taking the time to understand Arabic conjunctions, you’ve stepped firmly out of the beginner stages of the language. Congratulations. And keep it up!

Which of these Arabic conjunctions are you ready to practice? Are there any you’re still struggling with? Let us know in the comments!

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Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.

Your Guide to Arabic Customs and Etiquette

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So, why exactly should you learn Arabic customs and etiquette?

Imagine for a moment two foreigners coming to your place of work.

The first one speaks your native language flawlessly—but they’re a total jerk. It’s easy to communicate with them, but it’s just words. You have no evidence that your message is actually getting through to their behavior.

The second has a moderate to thick accent, and sometimes there are things you have to ask them to repeat. But they fit right in with the work culture, and every time you’re able to communicate, things work out exactly as you intended.

Which one do you prefer? Someone who knows your language, or someone who knows your culture?

Since you’re reading this article, it’s clear that you’re interested in languages to some extent. And that’s great! It makes a big difference to speak to someone in their native language.

But actually being polite in that language—fully understanding the different cultural norms that might apply—is a whole new level.

And so we’ve got a great guide right here for any Arabic learner who wants to give a boost to their knowledge of language and culture in the Middle East. By the end of this article, you should have a good grasp of all the Arabic customs and etiquette you should as a tourist or newcomer.

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Table of Contents

  1. Arabic Greeting Etiquette
  2. Arab Business Etiquette
  3. Arabic Table Etiquette
  4. Arab Etiquette for Sightseeing
  5. Arab Etiquette When Visiting Others
  6. Arabic Customs and Etiquette for Public Transportation
  7. How ArabicPod101 Can Help You Master Arabic Etiquette

1. Arabic Greeting Etiquette

It literally all starts with greetings. If you don’t do what’s expected of you during the very first step, you’ll have a rough time recovering.

Fortunately, we have a whole separate article about greetings in Arabic.

For now, just one extra point:

If you’re seated when someone else enters the room, absolutely stand up. Your body language during a greeting is very important. Men should extend handshakes to other men, but don’t be surprised if they’re less firm than they would be in the West.

Shaking Hands

Very nice to meet you.
tašarraftu bimaʿrifatik
تَشَرَّفتُ بِمَعرِفَتِك

2. Arab Business Etiquette

Business

Some of you are, in all likelihood, preparing to use your Arabic on a business trip. Whether that involves having meetings or wooing clients, you should know what to say and how to say it.

Although local dialects and customs are quite different across the Arab world, there are many things that remain consistent. One of the most important is the exchanging of business cards, which has a certain ritual to it.

Your card should have your full department title on it, with one side in Arabic and one in English. Present it with your right hand (or both hands), and say:

Here is my business card.
tafaḍḍal biṭāqaẗu ʾaʿmalī
تَفَضَّل بِطاقَةُ أَعمالي

Exchanging Business Card

There’s also a sort of double standard that can exist for foreign business visitors—and I’m not even talking about the tendency for Arabs to keep foreigners waiting.

During a meeting, you may start to get annoyed if your interlocutor is constantly checking his phone or speaking to other staff. But that’s normal in Arab business culture, and you shouldn’t hold it against them. What you also shouldn’t do is imitate that behavior. As a visitor, you’re expected to have your full attention on the meeting.

Please excuse me, I have to take this call.
aʾrǧū al-maʿḏirah, lābud ʾan ʾuǧrī haḏihi al-mukalamah
َأرجو المَعذِرَة, لابُد أَن أُجري هَذِهِ المُكالَمَة

It’s quite alright.
kullu šaīʾin ʿalā mā yurām
كُلُّ شَيءٍ عَلى ما يُرام

Be prepared for this sort of exchange to occur, and you’ll handle it excellently every time.

3. Arabic Table Etiquette

Hygiene

When it comes to Arabic etiquette, dining is based mostly around body language. For one thing, the feet are considered dirty at all times, so you shouldn’t cross your legs (thus pointing the sole of your foot toward somebody else).

For another, it’s considered bad manners to refuse food from somebody else, particularly if they’re hosting you or paying for the meal. Once you’re full, you’ll have to use a phrase like this to do it politely:

Thank you, but I absolutely can’t eat any more.
šukran, lakinnanī ḥaqqan lā aʾsatṭīʿu ʾan ʾākul ʾakṯar min haḏā.
شُكراً، لَكِنَّني حَقّاً لا َأسَتطيعُ أَن آكُل أَكثَر مِن هَذا.

Man Who Ate Too Much

Of course, you should also return the favor to others. When you offer food, be sure to use your right hand (or both hands), as the left hand is considered unclean.

Here, try some of this. It’s delicious!
hā hunā, ǧarrib baʿḍan min haḏā, ʾinnahu laḏīḏ!
ها هُنا, جَرِّب بَعضاً مِن هَذا, إنَّهُ لَذيذ!

4. Arab Etiquette for Sightseeing

Thanks

With so many governments pouring money into tourism every year, it’s no secret that plenty of people are coming to the Middle East to simply see what it’s like.

One thing that Western visitors may struggle with is the etiquette around taking photos of mosques and Muslim worshippers. Entering a mosque may seem like a major event for a non-Muslim, but in many cases, it’s actually quite encouraged. No matter where you are, an educated and respectful visitor is a welcome guest indeed. Here’s what you should do.

Please take off your shoes.
ʾiḫlaʿ ḥiḏāʾaka min faḍlik
إخلَع حِذائَكَ مِن فَضلِك

Cleanliness is quite important in Islam, as we’ve seen, and as houses of worship, mosques are immaculate. If you don’t want to remove your shoes, stay outside.

May I take photos here?
hal yumkinunī al-taṣūīr hunā?
هَل يُمكِنُني التَصوير هُنا؟

Like churches in Europe, most mosques in the Middle East are perfectly okay with visitors taking photos. Be respectful as you do it, especially if you have a noisy camera. Some mosques will allow tripods, and some won’t—simply point to the tripod, if you have it, as you ask the question.

Unless you’ve specifically asked the individuals beforehand, don’t take photos of people praying or cleaning themselves. These are highly personal moments and aren’t done for performance.

When you’ve finished, it’s good etiquette in Arabic-speaking countries to extend a heartfelt thank you—and perhaps a compliment—as you leave.

Thank you very much. This place is beautiful.
šukran ǧazīlan. haḏā al-makān ǧamīl.
شُكراً جَزيلاً. هَذا المَكان جَميل.

Naturally, there are places to visit besides mosques. At museums, for instance, you’ll certainly want to ask the same questions about photos. And one other phrase I’ve found very helpful at a museum (or any interesting site) is this one:

Is it okay to touch this?
hal yumkinunī lams haḏā?
هَل يُمكِنُني لَمس هَذا؟

Boy Looking at Painting in Museum

Although it can be an interesting experience to enjoy a museum without understanding a thing, this last phrase is probably something you’ll want to ask if your Arabic isn’t quite up to snuff.

Do you have any guides in English / in French?
hal ladaykum ʾayy muršidīn siyaḥiyyin billuġah al-ʾinǧlīziyyah / billuġah al-faransiyyah?
هَل لَدَيْكُم أَيّ مُرشِدين سِيَاحِيِّن بِاللُغَة الإنجليزِيَّة / بِاللُغَة الفَرَنسِيَّة؟

5. Arab Etiquette When Visiting Others

Bad Phrases

So remember when you visited the mosque and took your shoes off? Same deal here, except the stakes are a tiny bit higher; this is because at least big mosques have probably had clueless tourists visit before. When you see a rug (not if) you had better not let your shoes touch it.

You can, and should, bring a small gift, like honey, chocolates, nuts, or dried fruit. During Ramadan, dates are the typical gift to bring to others.

This is for you.
Tafaddal. haḏā lak.
تفضل. هَذا لَك.

Don’t be offended when the recipient rushes to put it away. It’s impolite in Arab cultures to open gifts in front of the sender. If you receive one, give them your sincere thanks:

How lovely! Thank you so much!
kam haḏā laṭīf! šukran ǧazīlan!
كَم هَذا لَطيف! شُكراً جَزيلاً!

While you’re being entertained, you should pay attention to your body language. The same things that signify “I’m having a bad time,” in the West—hands in pockets, slouching against chairs, general sullenness—are understood in the Arab world, but they’re taken much more personally as a sign of the host’s failure. Stay chipper and upbeat as best you can, and treat each interaction with respect.

When the evening is winding down and it’s time to hit the road, there’s one last moment for polite words:

I had an excellent time. Please do visit me someday!
alaqd ʾistamtaʿt biwaqtī hunā, min faḍlik qum biziīāratī yūman mā!
َلَقد إستَمتَعت بِوَقتي هُنا, مِن فَضلِك قُم بِزِيارَتي يَوْماً ما!

6. Arabic Customs and Etiquette for Public Transportation

Arab men will, without hesitation, offer their seats to women on public transportation, especially if the women are older. You should too!

Here, you can have my seat.
hā hunā, yumkinuki al-ǧulūs ʿalā miqʿadī.
ها هُنا, يُمكِنُكِ الجُلوس عَلى مِقعَدي.

If you’re not certain about whether you’re in the right place, you can ask the driver or someone around you. Remember, people you see every day on the street are unlikely to be able to reply to you in good MSA, so keep your ears open for similar words and pay attention to their body language.

Does this bus stop at…?
hal tatawaqqaf haḏihi al-ḥāfilah ʿinda …?
هَل تَتَوَقَّف هَذِهِ الحافِلَة عِندَ …؟

Two Women On a Bus

In the UAE and Dubai, there are some buses and metro trains with women-only sections. If you happen to be a man and miss the pink stickers and sit down anyway, you may hear:

Excuse me, you can’t sit there. That’s for women only.
ʿuḏran , lā yumkinuka al-ǧulūs hunāk. haḏā muḫaṣṣaṣ lilnisāʾ faqaṭ.
عُذراً ، لا يُمكِنُكَ الجُلوس هُناك. هَذا مُخَصَّص لِلنِساء فَقَط.

If you’re obviously very ill and there are no other seats, you may get a pass, but otherwise you’d better get up and respond:

I’m sorry, I didn’t see the sign.
ʾanā ʾāsif , lam ʾara al-ʿalāmah.
أَنا آسِف ، لَم أَرَ العَلامَة.

Pay attention to signs or announcements such as these:

It is forbidden to drink water on the train.
yumnaʿ šurb al-māʾ dāḫil al-qiṭār.
يُمنَع شُرب الماء داخِل القِطار

Don’t risk the fine!

7. How ArabicPod101 Can Help You Master Arabic Etiquette

If this sort of article makes you nervous about traveling to new places, don’t sweat it. Nobody’s going to jump on you for making simple mistakes when in an unfamiliar area.

It’s just that being prepared happens to go a really long way. It changes minds and opens doors.

So right now, you can be prepared on both the language and culture fronts by checking out the additional Arabic material here on ArabicPod101, and you can make sure that there will be no surprises lying in wait once you arrive. You can also take advantage of our MyTeacher program, to learn more about Arabic customs and etiquette, along with the language, with your own personal teacher!

Until next time, let us know if any of these etiquette rules we went over are similar in your own country. Or are they very different? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.

Reading, Writing and Understanding Arabic Dates and Years

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Everybody knows that numbers are just no fun to learn in other languages.

I’ve had plenty of language teachers—fluent, expressive users of English—fall back on their native tongues when quickly counting out handouts.

Boy Frustrated with Homework

Sorry to tell you, but the numbers are easy. It’s dates you have to worry about. Especially Arabic dates.

Ever read through an article in a foreign language, and just mentally read the dates out in your head in English because you didn’t want to figure out how to really say them? Everybody has.

If you’re not used to reading numerals aloud in Arabic, check out our article on numbers in Arabic for a little bit of practice. It’s good to have a strong foundation in number-reading before you tackle date-reading; this way, dates in Arabic numbers will be much easier to pick up.

Table of Contents

  1. Reading and Writing Dates in Arabic
  2. Reading Years Aloud
  3. Reading Months Aloud
  4. The Week in Arabic
  5. Reading Days Aloud
  6. Putting it All Together
  7. Phrases You Need to Talk about Dates in Arabic
  8. Conclusion: How ArabicPod101 Can Help You Master Arabic

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1. Reading and Writing Dates in Arabic

Weekdays

First, the easy part. How are dates written in Arabic?

We’ll start with just the numbers as they appear on paper. Don’t worry about how to actually read them out yet. Baby steps here.

Like most of the world, dates in Arabic format look like this: day/month/year. February 15, 2019, appears as 15/2/2019.

You’re likely already at least passingly familiar with the Arabic alphabet, and when you learned that, you might have learned about the numerals used by many Arabic speakers. In Eastern Arabic numerals (as opposed to the Western Arabic ones that we, confusingly, call “Arabic numerals” in English), that particular date in Arabic would appear like so: ٢٠١٩/٢/١٥/ (15/2/2019).

As you’ll recall, the Western Arabic numerals are widely used in the Arab world, but when the Eastern ones are used, they’re written left-to-right in running text.

All right, so far so good for how to write dates in Arabic. Let’s move on to reading things out loud.

2. Reading Years Aloud

Numbers

Okay, reading dates in Arabic.

Fortunately, as long as you can read numbers, you can read years.

Arabic numbers are read out with lots of “and”s, because as you’ll recall, numbers above twenty are read out with the tens place and the ones place, as follows:

خمسة وعشرون
ḫamsah wa ʿišrūn
twenty-five
five and twenty

تسعة وتسعون
tisʿah wa tisʿūn
ninety-nine
nine and ninety

Years in Arabic are read as if they were long numbers—so 1925 is “one-thousand nine-hundred and five and twenty”:

ألف وتسعمائة وخمسة وعشرون
ʾalf wa tisʿumiʾah wa ḫamsah wa ʿišrūn
one-thousand nine-hundred and five and twenty

Let’s try reading out two more dates for practice.

1956 (the year Morocco gained formal independence from France):

ألف وتسعمائة وست وخمسون
ʾalf wa tisʿumiʾah wa sitt wa ḫamsūn
one-thousand and nine-hundred and two and twenty

2022 (the date the World Cup will be held in Qatar):

ألفان واثنان وعشرون
ʾalfān wa iṯnān wa ʿišrūn
two-thousand two and twenty

By the way, things have been happening in the Arab world for a long time. How do we say BC and AD?

If you’re using the Gregorian calendar (more on that very soon), it’s not difficult at all. After the date, we simply add ق.م for BC and ميلادي (miladi) for AD. Of course, this is only for when you specifically need to distinguish between the two dating systems.

3. Reading Months Aloud

Months

When it comes to months in Arabic, it’s time to relax and savor one of the vanishingly few times that you can transfer your knowledge directly from English. Well, for now.

Take a look at this table and see how you like it:

English           Arabic (Gregorian Names) Arabic Pronunciation
January            يناير yanayer
February           فبراير febrayer
March           مارس mares
April           أبريل ebril
May           مايو mayo
June           يونيو yonyo
July           يوليو yolyo
August           أغسطس ʾuġusṭus
September           سبتمبر septamber
October           أكتوبر oنtober
November           نوفمبر novamber
December           ديسمبر desamber

These are so friendly and familiar because all Arab countries use the Gregorian calendar for official governmental business. When using this calendar system, how to pronounce dates in Arabic is so simple.

Where’s the catch? Well, you’ll still find other calendars (or the same calendar with different etymology) in other countries.

In the Levant, it’s still quite common for people to refer to the months by their Aramaic-derived names instead of the Latin ones. Here’s what those look like.

English           Arabic (Aramaic Names) Arabic Pronunciation
January           كانون الثاني kānūn al-ṯānī
February           شباط šubāṭ
March           آذار ʾāḏār
April           نيسان nīsān
May           أيار ʾyār
June           حزيران ḥazīrān
July           تموز tamūz
August           آب ʾāb
September           أيلول ʾaylūl
October           تشرين الأول tišrīn al-ʾawwal
November           تشرين الثاني tišrīn al-ṯānī
December           كانون الأول kānūn al-ʾawwal

You’ll also find the Islamic calendar in wide use in religious contexts, as well as more secular contexts in Saudi Arabia. It’s a lunar calendar, starting from 622 CE, so both the month and the year are quite different from the solar calendar. For most of 2019, it’s the year 1440 according to this calendar.

You probably already know the holy month of Ramadan—now it’s time for the rest.

Approximate English Meaning Arabic           Arabic Pronunciation
Forbidden محرم           muḥarram
Void سفر           safar
The First Spring ربيع الأول           rabīʿ al-ʾawwal
The Second Spring ربيع الثاني           rabīʿ al-ṯānī
The First of Parched Land جمادي الأول           ǧamādī al-awwal
The Last of Parched Land جمادى الثاني           ǧamādī al-ṯānī
Respect رجب           raǧab
Scattered شعبان           šaʿbān
Burning Heat رمضان           ramaḍān
Raised شوال           šawwal
The One of Truce ذو القعدة           ḏū al-qiʿdah
The One of Pilgrimage ذو الحجة           ḏū al-ḥiǧǧah

That’s a lot of months to keep straight! Don’t stress about memorizing them all right now—just be aware that they’re likely to come up at some point during your Arabic studies, and it’ll be good to understand them when they do.

4. The Week in Arabic

After all those months, you really can breathe a sigh of relief when you turn to the days of the week. The “first day” is Sunday, and the next four follow a simple numbering pattern.

Friday and Saturday get special names, but one might not be too unfamiliar to you.

English      Arabic      Arabic Pronunciation
Sunday      الأحد      al-ʾaḥad
Monday      الإثنين      al-ʾiṯnayn
Tuesday      الثلاثاء      al-ṯulāṯāʾ
Wednesday      الأربعاء      al-ʾarbaʿāʾ
Thursday      الخميس      al-ḫamīs
Friday      الجمعة      al-ǧumʿah
Saturday      السبت      al-sabt

You may have caught it – the word for “Saturday” is quite close to the English “sabbath,” as they both mean “day of rest.”

Man Relaxing

Speaking of rest, when’s the “نهاية الأسبوع” (nihāyatu al-ʾusbūʿ) or “weekend?”

Usually, Friday. In the Middle East, Friday and Saturday (or Thursday and Friday) are the official weekends when schools and offices are generally closed.

In other Muslim-majority countries, Saturday and Sunday are used as the official weekend, while there’s a long break at midday on Friday to allow everyone time to worship. This is the case in Turkey and Indonesia, for example.

5. Reading Days Aloud

If you’re a native English speaker, you might not have ever stopped to think about how we actually say the dates. And if you’ve ever taught English, you know how strange and arbitrary it can be. May 17? The first of August? September third?

Fortunately, saying dates in Arabic is super easy. Take a look at these three examples to see that as long as you know the numbers, you can say the dates too.

الأول من أبريل
al-ʾawwalu min ʾebrīl
April first

التاسع والعشرون من فبراير
al-tāsiʿ walʿišrūn min febrāyer
February twenty-ninth

الأول من فبراير
al-ʾawwalu min febrāyer
The first of October

As you can see, no matter how we write it in English, it’s the same pattern every time in Arabic! Number + “min” + month name. Simple!

6. Putting it All Together

Let’s take what we’ve learned so far and practice reading out the names of dates in Arabic.

When talking about today’s date, you’d use the phrase …اليوم هو (al-yawmu huwa) meaning “Today is…”

اليوم هو الثالث والعشرون من فبراير
al-yawmu hūwa al-ṯaliṯ walʿšrūn min febrāyer
Today is February 23.

Otherwise, you’d say …اليوم كان (al-yawmu kān) meaning “Today was…”

اليوم كان الثالث من أكتوبر
al-yawmu kāna al-ṯaliṯ min oktobar
Today was October 3.

Next, you say the day of the week (optional, naturally), the number, and the month.

اليوم كان الثلاثاء, الثامن عشر من أبريل
al-yawmu kāna al-ṯulāṯāʾ, al-ṯāmin ʿašr min ʾebrīl
Today was Tuesday, the 18th of April.

Next comes the phrase من العام (min al-ʿām) which means “in the year.” And finally, the year.

اليوم هو السبت, الثالث والعشرون من فبراير من العام ألفين وتسعة عشر
al-yawmu hūwa al-sabt, al-ṯaliṯ walʿišrūn min febrāyer min al-ʿām ʾalfayn watsiʿat ʿašar
Today is Saturday, February 23, 2019.

7. Phrases You Need to Talk about Dates in Arabic

Now, how do people actually talk about dates in real life? Let’s look at a couple of phrases to answer that very question.

First, how do we handle concepts such as “next” and “last” when talking about dates?

هل يمكننا اللقاء يوم الثلاثاء المقبل؟
hal yumkinunā al-liqāʾ yawm al-ṯulāṯāʾ al-muqbil?
Can we meet next Tuesday?

ذهبت إلى روما الشهر الماضي
ḏahabtu ʾilā romā al-šahr al-māḍī
I went to Rome last month.

And of course, no matter how often you check your phone for the date and time, you’ll always need to be able to talk to somebody else about the date.

أي يوم هو الغد؟
ʾayyu yawm hūwa al-ġad?
What day is it tomorrow?

في أي يوم يبدأ رمضان هذه السنة؟
fī ʾay yawm yabdaʾ ramaḍān haḏihi al-sanah?
What day does Ramadan start this year?

يبدأ رمضان يوم الأحد في الخامس من مايو.
yabdaʾ ramaḍān yawm al-ʾaḥad fī al-ḫāms min māyo.
Ramadan starts on Sunday, May 5.

8. Conclusion: How ArabicPod101 Can Help You Master Arabic

Woman with Glasses Reading a Book

Did you find our Arabic dates article useful? Do you feel more confident about dates in Arabic writing and speech? Why not practice by dropping us a comment below with today’s date in Arabic? We look forward to hearing from you.

Like any other challenging aspect of language learning, it really just takes practice to get past obstacles like dates in Arabic.

That means when you see dates written down in the text, make a conscious effort to read them aloud instead of skipping over them (or reading them in your head in English). Seriously, put in the work just a handful of times, and it’ll become much easier immediately.

One other good trick is to turn whatever numbers you see into dates. What about car license plates? How many of those do you see on your daily commute? Even if there are only three spaces for digits, just pretend it’s ancient history.

The better your Arabic vocabulary in general, the better your command of dates. This minimal active study combined with your other regular Arabic studies really goes a long way toward building that sort of automatic feeling in your head with Arabic. And it doesn’t matter what day it is—that feeling is a good feeling any time.

In short, with enough hard work and practice, even the toughest aspects of the Arabic language will become second-nature to you. And ArabicPod101.com is here to help you every step of your language-learning journey! If you want to learn Arabic from a native speaker, you can upgrade your account and take advantage of our MyTeacher program for an even more accelerated approach to learning.

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