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100 Arabic Verbs for Every Action You Can Think of

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Verbs are the meat and potatoes of language. They’re in every sentence, and pretty much every fragment too.

If you’re putting together a dinner plate of communication, the verb is the main course.

For that reason, we’ve put together a massive list of 100 Arabic verbs that cover pretty much anything anyone could ask for, including some examples that show how Arabic verbs work.

Read this list through and watch as you slowly absorb verbs in Arabic and their structures without even having to work at it! 

Let’s go!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. The Basic Tourist Set—The 20 Most Important Verbs
  2. Abstract Yet Important
  3. Interacting with Others
  4. Move Your Body
  5. Follow That Car!
  6. Hobbies and Pastimes
  7. Using Your Words
  8. In the Kitchen
  9. Conclusion

1. The Basic Tourist Set—The 20 Most Important Verbs

Top Verbs

Step right up and take your pick. These are the key Arabic verbs you need when you’re traveling in an Arabic-speaking country—they’ll get you where you need to go, and even let you make small talk on the way.

 اِلتَقَطَ صورَة (iltaqaṭa ṣūrah) — take a photo 

هَل يُمكِنُني أَن أَلتَقِط صورَة لَك؟

hal yumkinunī ʾan ʾaltaqiṭ ṣūrah lak? 

Can I take a photo of you?

مَشَيَ (mašaya) — walk 

أُريدُ أَن أَمشي إلى الفُندُق.

ʾurīdu ʾan ʾamšī ʾilā al-funduq.

I want to walk to the hotel.

أَقامَ  (ʾaqāma) — stay overnight 

سَأُقيمُ في الفُندُق الَّذي بِجانِب النَهر. 

saʾuqīmu fī al-funduq allaḏī biǧānib al-nahr. 

I’m staying at a hotel near the river.

أَكَلَ (ʾakala) — eat 

أُريدُ أَن آكُلَ الأَكل المَحَلّي.

ʾurīdu ʾan ʾākula al-ʾakl al-maḥallī.

I want to eat local food.

شَرِبَ (šariba) — drink 

أَنا لا أَشرَبُ الخَمر.

ʾanā lā ʾašrabu al-ḫamr.

I don’t drink alcohol.

ذَهَبَ (ḏahaba) — go 

إلى أَيْنَ يُمكِنُنا الذَهاب؟

ʾilā ʾayna yumkinunā al-ḏahāb?

When can we go?

اِشتَرى (ištarā) — buy 

أَيْنَ يُمكِنُني شِراء فُرشاةِ أَسنان؟

ʾayna yumkinunī širāʾ furšāẗi ʾasnān?

Where can I buy a toothbrush?

نَظَرَ (naẓara) — look 

اِنظُر إلى ذاك الرَجُل!

inẓur ʾilā ḏāk al-raǧul!

Look at that man!

وَجَدَ (waǧada) — find 

لَم أَجِد مُفتاح غُرفَتي.

lam ʾaǧid muftāḥ ġurfatī.

I can’t find my room key.

غادَرَ (ġādara) — leave 

سَنُغادِرُ غَداً.

sanuġādiru ġadan.

We’re going to leave tomorrow.

وَصَل (waṣal) — arrive 

مَتى يَصِل باص القاهِرَة؟

matā yaṣil bāṣ al-qāhirah?

What time does the bus to Cairo arrive?

تَحَدَّث (taḥaddaṯ) — speak 

يُمكِنُني تَحَدُّث القَليل مِن العَرَبِيَّة و القَليل مِن الفِرِنسِيَّة.

yumkinunī taḥadduṯ al-qalīl min al-ʿarabiyyah wa al-qalīl min al-firinsiyyah.

I can speak a little Arabic and a little French.

قالَ (qala) — say 

كَيْفَ تَقول هَذا بِالعَرَبِيَّة؟

kayfa taqūl haḏā bilʿarabiyyah?

How do you say this in Arabic?

قَرَأَ (qaraʾa) — read 

هَل تُجيدُ أَن تَقرَأَ الإنجليزِيَّة؟

hal tuǧīdu ʾan taqraʾa al-ʾinǧlīziyyah?

Do you know how to read English?

نَطَقَ (naṭaqa) — pronounce 

لا يُمكِنُني نُطق هَذِهِ الكَلِمَة.

lā yumkinunī nuṭq haḏihi al-kalimah.

I can’t pronounce this word.

اِستَخدَمَ الحَمّام (istaḫdama al-ḥammām) — use the bathroom 

أَحتاجُ أَن أَستَخدِم الحَمّام.

ʾaḥtāǧu ʾan ʾastaḫdim al-ḥammām.

I need to use the bathroom.

سَبَحَ (sabaḥa) — swim 

أُريدُ أَن أَسبَحَ في المُحيط.

ʾurīdu ʾan ʾasbaḥa fī al-muḥīṭ.

I want to swim in the ocean.

رَكِبَ دَرّاجَة (rakiba darrāǧah) — ride a bike 

هَل يُمكِنُكَ رُكوب دَرّاجَة في المَدينَة؟

hal yumkinuka rukūb darrāǧah fī al-madīnah?

Can you ride a bike in the city?

2. Abstract Yet Important

More Essential Verbs

Here’s a short Arabic verbs list of words that are more abstract, but that you should know nonetheless.

أَحَبَّ (ʾaḥabba) — love 

أُحِبُّ زَوْجَتي.

ʾuḥibbu zawǧatī.

I love my wife.

ّفَكَّرَ ّ((fakkara) — think 


بِما تُفَكِّر؟

bimā tufakkir?

What are you thinking about?

أَصَرَّ  (ʾaṣarra) — persist 

 لَقَد أَصَرّوا عَلى أَن يَتَجادَلوا حَوْلَ الأَشيَاء البَسيطَة.

 laqad ʾaṣarrū ʿalā ʾan yataǧādalū ḥawla al-ʾašyaʾ al-basīṭah.

They persisted in arguing about tiny things.

وَضَعَ (waḍaʿa) — put 

ضَع القَلَم عَلى الطاوِلَة.

ḍaʿ al-qalam ʿalā al-ṭāwilah.

Put the pen on the table.

جَرَّبَ (ǧarraba) — try 

خُذ، جَرِّب هَذا الشاي.

ḫuḏ, ǧarrib haḏā al-šāī.

Take, try this tea.

فَعَلَ (faʿala) — do 

يُمكِنُهُ دائِماً أَن يَفعَل الصَوَاب.

yumkinuhu dāʾiman ʾan yafʿal al-ṣawab.

He can always do the right thing.

صَنَعَ (ṣanaʿa) — make 

لَيْسَ مِن الصَعب أَن تَصنَع سَندَويتش.

laysa min al-ṣaʿb ʾan taṣnaʿ sandaūītš.

It’s not hard to make a sandwich.

أَحَسَّ (ʾaḥassa) — feel 

أَحَسَّ بِالمَرَض

ʾaḥassa bilmaraḍ

I feel sick.

فَهِمَ (fahima) — understand 

يُمكِنُني أَن أَفهَم إن تَحَدَّثتَ بِبُطء.

yumkinunī ʾan ʾafham ʾin taḥaddaṯta bibuṭʾ.

I can understand if you speak slowly.

اِتَّفَق (ittafaq) — agree 

هَل تَتَّفِق مَعي؟

hal tattafiq maʿī?

Do you agree with me?

3. Interacting with Others

Women Looking Over Paperwork

These are super-useful Arabic verbs for beginners. It’s a bit of a strange name for a category, sure, but whether you’re doing business or hanging out with friends, these verbs are the ones that will come up again and again.

أَعطى (ʾaʿṭā) — give 

اِعطِني تِلكَ القارورَة.

iʿṭinī tilka al-qārūrah.

Give me that bottle.

أَخَذَ (ʾaḫaḏa) — take 

هَل يُمكِنُكَ أَن تَأخُذَ هَذا إلى الطابِق العُلوِي؟

hal yumkinuka ʾan taʾḫuḏa haḏā ʾilā al-ṭābiq al-ʿulwi?

Can you take this upstairs?

أَحضَرَ (ʾaḥḍara) — bring 

أَحضَرَ أَحذِيَتي.

ʾaḥḍara ʾaḥḏiyatī.

Bring me my shoes.

ساعِد (sāʿid) — help 

مِن فَضلِك ساعِد إبني في وَاجِباتِه المَنزِلِيَّة.

 min faḍlik sāʿid ʾibnī fī waǧibātih al-manziliyyah.

Please help my son with his homework.

صَلّى (ṣallā) — pray 

فَلنَذهَب لِنُصَلّي مَعاً.

falnaḏhab linuṣallī maʿan.

Let’s go pray together.

عَمِلَ (ʿamila) — work 

لا يُمكِنُني أَن أَعمَلَ مَع الآخَرين.

lā yumkinunī ʾan ʾaʿmala maʿ al-ʾāḫarīn.

I can’t work with other people.

بَحَثَ (baḥaṯa) — look for 

أَنا أَبَحَثُ عَن المُدير.

ʾanā ʾabaḥaṯu ʿan al-mudīr.

I’m looking for my boss.

أَنصَتَ (ʾanṣata) — listen to

هَل تُنصِتُ إلَيّ؟

hal tunṣitu ʾilayy?

Are you listening to me?

وَعَدَ (waʿada) — promise 

أَعِدُكَ أَنّني لَن أَقومَ بِذَلِك مُجَدَّداً.

ʾaʿiduka ʾannnī lan ʾaqūma biḏalik muǧaddadan.

I promise (directed to a male) I won’t do it again.

وَظَّفَ (waẓẓafa) — hire 

و أَخيراً, جوجِل وَظَّقَتني.

wa ʾaḫīran, ǧūǧil waẓẓaqatnī.

Finally, Google hired me.

4. Move Your Body

Family Running through Park Together

Are you a kid at heart or traveling with little ones? These are the Arabic action verbs you’re looking for. You’d be surprised how useful a lot of these are, even if it seems like you’re in a kindergarten class!

قَفَزَ (qafaza) — jump 

يَجِبُ عَلَيْكَ أَن تَقفِزَ فَوْقَ البَرَكَة.

yaǧibu ʿalayka ʾan taqfiza fawqa al-barakah.

You have to jump over the puddle.

جَرَى (ǧaraā) — run 

بِأَيِّ سُرعَة يُمكِنُكَ أَن تَجري؟

biʾayyi surʿah yumkinuka ʾan taǧrī?

How fast can you run?

اِستَلقى (istalqā) — lie down 

  أَنا أُريدُ فَقَط أَن أَعودَ إلى المَنزِل و أَستَلقي.

ʾanā ʾurīdu faqaṭ ʾan ʾaʿūda ʾilā al-manzil wa ʾastalqī.

I just want to go home and lie down.

وَقَفَ (waqafa) — stand up 

فَليَقِف الجَميع مِن فَضلِكُم.

falyaqif al-ǧamīʿ min faḍlikum.

Everybody stand up, please.

جَلَس (ǧalas) — sit down 

ظَهري يُؤلِمُني حينَما أَجلِس.

ẓahrī yuʾulimunī ḥīnamā ʾaǧlis.

My back hurts when I sit down.

صَفَّقَ (ṣaffaqa) — clap 

الجُمهور صَفَّقَ لِمُدَّةٍ طَوِيلَة.

al-ǧumhūr ṣaffaqa limuddaẗin ṭawilah.

The audience clapped for a long time.

تَمَرَّنَ (tamarrana) — exercise  

لا أُحِبُّ التَمَرُّن حين أَكونُ مَريضاً.

lā ʾuḥibbu al-tamarrun ḥīn ʾakūnu marīḍan.

I don’t like to exercise when I’m sick.

مارَسَ الرِيَاضَة (mārasa al-riyaḍah) — play sports 

لَقَد تَعَوَّدتُ أَن أُمارِسَ الكَثير مِن الرِيَاضَة عِندَما كُنتُ صَغيراً.

laqad taʿawwadtu ʾan ʾumārisa al-kaṯīr min al-riyaḍah ʿindamā kuntu ṣaġīran.

I used to play a lot of sports when I was young.

رَقَصَ (raqaṣa) — dance 

فَلنَرقُص اللَّيْلَة كُلَّها.

falnarquṣ al-llaylah kullahā.

Let’s dance all night.

أَخَذَ حَمّاماً (ʾaḫaḏa ḥammāman) — take a shower 

أُريدُ أَن آخُذَ حَمّاماً غَداً صَباحاً.

ʾurīdu ʾan ʾāḫuḏa ḥammāman ġadan ṣabāḥan.

I want to take a shower tomorrow morning.

5. Follow That Car!

In this section, we’ll learn all the verbs you need for driving in Arabic, as well as some handy phrases you can use when somebody is driving you around.

قادَ (qāda) — drive  

يُمكِنُني أَن أَقودَ أَيَّ نَوْعٍ مِن السَيَّارات.

yumkinunī ʾan ʾaqūda ʾayya nawʿin min al-sayyaārāt.

I can drive any kind of car.

قِف (qif) — stop 

أَوْقِف السَيَّارَة، مِن فَضلِك.

ʾawqif al-sayyaārah, min faḍlik.

Stop the car, please!

اِنعَطَفَ (inʿaṭafa) — turn 

اِنعَطِف يَساراً،  ثُمَّ اِنعَطِف يَميناً عِندَ الشارِع المُقبِل.

inʿaṭif yasāran, ṯumma inʿaṭif yamīnan ʿinda al-šāriʿ al-muqbil.

Turn left, and then turn right at the next street.

أَسرَعَ (ʾasraʿa) — speed up 

سَيَّارَةُ الشُرطَة أَسرَعَت لِكَيّ تَقبِضَ عَلى المُتَّهَم.

sayyaāraẗu al-šurṭah ʾasraʿat likayy taqbiḍa ʿalā al-muttaham.

The police car sped up to catch the suspect.

أَبطَأَ (ʾabṭaʾa) — slow down 

هَل يُمكِنُكَ أَن تُبطِئَ مِن فَضلِك؟

hal yumkinuka ʾan tubṭiʾa min faḍlik?

Can you please slow down?

عَمِل (ʿamil) — turn on / start 

سيارتي لا تَعمَل.

sīārtī lā taʿmal.

My car won’t start.

أَطفَأَ (ʾaṭfaʾa) — turn off 

هَل يُمكِنُكَ إطفاء المُكَيِّف الهَوَائي؟

hal yumkinuka ʾiṭfāʾ al-mukayyif al-hawaʾī?

Could you turn off the air conditioning?

رَكِبَ الحافِلَة (rakiba al-ḥāfilah) — catch a bus 

.ِ  إذا كُنتَ عَلى عَجَلَة، يُمكِنُكَ رُكوب الحافِلَة

ʾiḏā kunta ʿalā ʿaǧalah, yumkinuka rukūb al-ḥāfilah.

If you hurry, you can catch the bus.

6. Hobbies and Pastimes

Lovely Red Flowers

What do you like to do (besides learning Arabic, of course)? I bet you’ll find it on this list of hobby-related Arabic language verbs.

اِلتَقَطَ صُوَراً (iltaqaṭa ṣuwaran) — take photos 


.أُحِبُّ إلتِقاطَ صُوَر لِلطَبيعَة

ʾuḥibbu ʾiltiqāṭa ṣuwar lilṭabīʿah.

I like to take photos of nature.

تَستَمِعُ إلى الموسيقى (tastamiʿu ʾilā al-mūsīqā) — listen to music 

أُمّي تَستَمِعُ إلى الموسيقى الأَفريقِيَّة.

ʾummī tastamiʿu ʾilā al-mūsīqā al-ʾafrīqiyyah.

My mom listens to African music.

عَزَفَ عَلى الجيتار (ʿazafa ʿalā al-ǧītār) — play guitar 

أَنا أَعزُفُ عَلى الجيتار مُنذُ عَشَرَ سَنَوَات.

ʾanā ʾaʿzufu ʿalā al-ǧītār munḏu ʿašara sanawat.

I’ve been playing guitar for ten years.

رَكَضَ (rakaḍa) — go jogging 

هَل تُريدُ أَن تَركُضَ مَعي عِندَما يَتَحَسَّن الطَقس؟

hal turīdu ʾan tarkuḍa maʿī ʿindamā yataḥassan al-ṭaqs?

Want to go jogging with me when the weather is nicer?

شاهَدَ الأَفلام (šāhada al-ʾaflām) — watch movies 

أَكرَهُ مُشاهَدَةِ الأَفلام الحَزينَة.

ʾakrahu mušāhadaẗi al-ʾaflām al-ḥazīnah.

I hate watching sad movies.

اِستَرخى (istarḫā) — relax 

مِن المُهِمِّ أَن تَستَرخِيَ بَعد العَمَل بِجِد.

min al-muhimmi ʾan tastarḫiya baʿd al-ʿamal biǧid.

It’s important to relax after working hard.

أَخَذَ غَفوَة (ʾaḫaḏa ġafwah) — take a nap 

هَل مِن المُمكِنِ أَن آخُذَ غَفوَة في السَيّارَة؟

hal min al-mumkini ʾan ʾāḫuḏa ġafwah fī al-sayyārah?

Is it okay to take a nap in the car?

مارَسَ اليوغا (mārasa al-yūġā) — do yoga 

عادَةً ما أُمارِس اليوغا كُلَّ يَوْم أَحَد.

ʿādaẗan mā ʾumāris al-īūġā kulla yūm ʾaḥad.

I usually do yoga every Sunday.

دَرَسَ (darasa) — study 

هَل يُمكِنُنا أَن نَدرُسَ مَعاً؟

hal yumkinunā ʾan nadrusa maʿan?

Can we study together?

7. Using Your Words

Negative Verbs

As a language learner, you’re probably dialed in to communication in a general sense. These verbs help you talk about that communication, and help you describe how others are communicating around you.

دَردَشَ (dardaša) — chat 

إنَّهُما يُدَردِشان حَوْل السَيَّارات.

ʾinnahumā yudardišān ḥawl al-sayyaārāt.

They’re chatting about cars.

تَجادَل (taǧādal) — argue  

هَل عادَةً ما تَتَجادَل مَع وَالِدَيْك؟

hal ʿādaẗan mā tataǧādal maʿ walidayk?

Do you often argue with your parents?

أَهان (ʾahān) — insult 

لَقَد أَهانَتني أَمامَ زَوْجي!

laqad ʾahānatnī ʾamāma zawǧī!

She insulted me in front of my husband!

8. In the Kitchen

Cooking in the Kitchen

Cuisine across the Arab world is as diverse as it is delicious. Ideally, you’ll get a chance to not only sample this cuisine yourself, but also to cook it for others!

طَبَخَ (ṭabaḫa) — cook 

أَطبُخ الغَداء لِعائِلَتي مَرَّة في الأُسبوع.

ʾaṭbuḫ al-ġadāʾ liʿāʾilatī marrah fī al-ʾusbūʿ.

I cook lunch for my family once a week.

رَمى (ramā) — throw away 

هَل يُمكِنُكَ أَن تَرمي ذَلِكَ البَيْض؟

hal yumkinuka ʾan tarmī ḏalika al-bayḍ?

Can you throw away those eggs?

نَظَّفَ (naẓẓafa) — clean 

نَحنُ بِحاجَةٍ إلى تَنظيف هَذا المَطبَخ.

naḥnu biḥāǧaẗin ʾilā tanẓīf haḏā al-maṭbaḫ.

We need to clean this kitchen.

مَسَحَ (masaḥa) — mop 

حاوِل أَن تَمسَح الأَرضِيَّة بِسُرعَة.

ḥāwil ʾan tamsaḥ al-ʾarḍiyyah bisurʿah.

Try to mop the floors fast.

مَسَحَ (masaḥa) — wipe 

إمسَح الطاوِلَة بِمِنشَفَة.

ʾimsaḥ al-ṭāwilah biminšafah.

Wipe the table with a towel.

غَسَلَ (ġasala) — wash 

فَلنَغسِل الأَوَاني مَعاً.

falnaġsil al-ʾawanī maʿan.

Let’s wash the dishes together. 

قَطَّعَ (qaṭṭaʿa) — cut 

قَطَّعَ اللَحم إلى قِطَع صَغيرَة.

qaṭṭaʿa al-laḥm ʾilā qiṭaʿ ṣaġīrah.

Cut the meat into small pieces.

قَلى (qalā) — fry 

اِقلي الدَجاج لِمُدَّةِ حَوَالي خَمس دَقائِق.

iqlī al-daǧāǧ limuddaẗi ḥawalī ḫams daqāʾiq.

Fry the chicken for about five minutes.

غَلى (ġalā) — boil 

اِغلي المِيَاه و أَضِف المَعكَرونَة.

iġlī al-miyah wa ʾaḍif al-maʿkarūnah.

Boil the water and add the noodles.

9. Conclusion

Whew! What a list!

Arabic verbs do have some interesting grammar points about them, but as you can see, you can already pick up quite a bit just from reading all of these examples.

Simply reading and listening to a language is one of the best ways to acquire a really great feel for how it looks and sounds, and after enough of that, you’ll have an intrinsic sense for grammar.

ArabicPod101 just so happens to offer a huge amount of text and audio content precisely for that reason! On the same note, be sure to keep watching for our upcoming article on Arabic verb conjugation.

Before you go, let us know in the comments how you feel about Arabic verbs now. Are there any you still  want to know, or grammar points you’re not quite clear on? We look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Arabic learning! 

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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! 

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Prior to learning full Korean sentences, my online Korean language tutor assigned the “Hana Hana Hangul” pathway to me. It demonstrated the writing and pronunciation of Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Throughout this pathway, I submitted recordings of my Hangul character pronunciations to my language teacher for review.

I was given a similar task on JapanesePod101.com with the “Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide” pathway. My Japanese language teacher tested my pronunciation of the Japanese characters kana. My completion of the two pathways boosted my confidence in speaking.

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“Where do you live?”

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Tokyo-e salgo isseumnida.

“I live in Tokyo.”

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eunhaeng gyejwaleul mandeulgo sip-eoyo.

I want to open a bank account.

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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!

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

Every Minute Counts When Telling Time in Arabic

Thumbnail

Are you planning a trip to an Arabic-speaking country?

When do you leave?

And how do you say that in Arabic?

Yup, you’ll need to know about telling time in Arabic to get around very well and be on time. 

You wouldn’t believe how many tourists get confused and frustrated at bus stations, taxi stands, airports, and train terminals all over the world simply because they don’t understand how to talk about time in the local language.

That’s pretty surprising, to be honest, because you’d think that time words would be one of the things you would prioritize in a new language. 

But it still always just seems like something to learn later—until your taxi driver is laughing at you because you misheard what time the bus leaves, and now you’re four hours too late for the last bus out of town.

Been there.

So that’s why we’ve put together this article. It includes everything you need to know about asking for the time in Arabic, plus some interesting things you might not have considered before. Also keep in mind that we have an article about how to talk about dates in Arabic—another important topic you’ll want to know for your trip.

Let’s go!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Time Phrases in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Asking for the Time
  2. Talking about Hours
  3. Talking about Minutes and Seconds
  4. Throughout the Day
  5. Time Zones
  6. Expressions and Phrases about Time
  7. Conclusion

1. Asking for the Time

Woman Asking the Time

We don’t have a lot of different ways to ask for the time in English, and in Arabic the same principle holds true. Here are some of the most common phrases for asking about time in Arabic:

  • كَم الساعَة؟

 kam al-sāʿah? 

You’re literally asking “How much hour?” This is important, because in Arabic, the question word kam is used to ask for prices:

  • كَم الساعَة؟

kam al-sāʿah?

How much is the watch?

Pretty similar, right?

Fortunately, this doesn’t cause a whole lot of confusion. Imagine you’re sitting with a friend and chatting, and it’s getting a little late. If you ask him for the time, he’s not going to think you’re asking about his accessories out of the blue!

To be a little more clear with your words, though, you could also ask:

  • كَم الساعَةُ الآن؟

kam al-sāʿaẗu al-ʾān? 

What time is it now?

Al-aan, meaning “now,” is just to eliminate any chance of confusion.

To be a little more polite when asking a stranger, try out this phrase as well:

  • الساعَةُ كَم مَعَك؟

 al-sāʿaẗu kam maʿak?

The word for “when” in Arabic is mata, but it works just like in English.

  • مَتى سَتَتَخَرَّجُ في الجامِعَة؟

matā satataḫarraǧu fī al-ǧāmiʿah?

 When will you graduate from university?

You can also ask specifically for “what time” certain things are going to happen. This sentence pattern follows the same logic as the others, so we don’t need to see a ton of examples.

  • مَتى يُغلِق هَذا المَتجَر؟

matā yuġliq haḏā al-matǧar?

What time does the store close?

2. Talking about Hours

Hourglass

One big difference between talking about the time in Arabic as opposed to other languages is that in Arabic, the ordinal numbers are used to count the hours.

That means you’re literally counting the hours—saying the equivalent of “first hour,” “second hour,” “third hour,” and so on.

Talking about time is one really great way to practice your ordinal numbers. If you’ve forgotten what they look like, here they are now:

EnglishArabicRomanization
one o’clockالساعَة الوَاحِدَةal-sāʿah al-waḥidah
two o’clockالساعَة الثانِيَةal-sāʿah al-ṯāniyah
three o’clockالساعَة الثالِثَةal-sāʿah al-ṯaliṯah
four o’clockالساعَة الرابِعَةal-sāʿah al-rābiʿah
five o’clockالساعَة الخامِسَةal-sāʿah al-ḫāmisah
six o’clockالساعَة السادِسَةal-sāʿah al-sādisah
seven o’clockالساعَة السابِعَةal-sāʿah al-sābiʿah
eight o’clockالساعَة الثامِنَةal-sāʿah al-ṯāminah
nine o’clockالساعَة التاسِعَةal-sāʿah al-tāsiʿah
ten o’clockالساعَة العاشِرَةal-sāʿah al-ʿāširah
eleven o’clockالساعَة الحادِيَةَ عَشَرَةal-sāʿah al-ḥādiyaẗa ʿašarah
twelve o’clockالساعَة الثانِيَةَ عَشَرَةal-sāʿah al-ṯāniyata ʿašarah

Different Arab countries use the twelve-hour clock or the twenty-four-hour clock. For example, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco use the twenty-four-hour clock, while Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar use the twelve-hour clock.

Therefore, when saying the time in Arabic, you’ll need to know these words as well:

  • a.m. — صَباحاً (ṣabāḥan)
  • p.m. — مَسائاً (masāʾan)

And now some question and answer phrases to help you internalize these patterns:

  • A: كَم الساعَة؟

A: kam al-sāʿah?

A: What time is it?

B: إنَّها الثانِيَةَ عَشَرَة.

B: ʾinnahā al-ṯāniyaẗa ʿašarah.

B: It’s twelve o’clock.

  • A: عُذراً, هَل مَعَكَ ساعَة؟

A: ʿuḏran, hal maʿaka sāʿah? 

A: Excuse me, do you have a watch? 

B: أَجَل، إنَّها الساعَة الثالِثَةَ مَسائاً

B: aǧal, ʾinnahā al-sāʿah al-ṯaliṯaẗa masāʾan.

B: Yes, it’s three o’clock p.m.

  •  A: هَل الساعَة الخامِسَة؟

A: hal al-sāʿah al-ḫāmisah?

A: Is it five o’clock yet?

B: لا، إنَّها لازالَت الساعَة الرابِعَة.

B: lā, ʾinnahā lāzal-at al-sāʿah al-rābiʿah.  

B: No, it’s only four o’clock.

3. Talking about Minutes and Seconds

Clock

When discussing minutes after the hour, we use the ordinal time as well. More occasions to practice your Arabic numbers!

  • إنَّها الثالِثَة و خَمس وعِشرونَ دَقيقَة.

 ʾinnahā al-ṯaliṯah wa ḫams wa ʿišrūna daqīqah.

It’s three twenty-five.

However, there are some intricacies—and yes, shortcuts too—that make telling time in Arabic an exciting intellectual challenge.

For the first minute after the hour, English speakers just read out the digits: 5:01 becomes “five oh one.” In Arabic, though, the equivalent is “hour fifth minute.” “Minute” in Arabic is daqiiqah.

  • إنَّها الخامِسَة و دَقيقَة.

ʾinnahā al-ḫāmisah wa daqīqah.

It’s 5:01.

Arabic has a handy grammatical feature called the “dual,” which counts exactly two of something. So when we say “five oh two,” we don’t need to specify the number either. Using the dual form of “minute” is a way to say that explicitly.

  • إنَّها الخامِسَة و دَقيقَتان.

ʾinnahā al-ḫāmisah wa daqīqatān.

It’s 5:02.

After that, it follows the natural pattern that you might expect.

  • الآن الساعَة السادِسَة و تِسع و ثَلاثونَ دَقيقَة.

al-ʾān al-sāʿah al-sādisah wa tisʿ wa ṯalāṯūna daqīqah.

Right now it’s 6:39.

Of course, not everybody is as exact when telling the time in Arabic as to say the precise minute. Many people may respond more vaguely, so these are also some phrases you should know.

  • الساعَة حَوَالَيْ الثانِيَة و ثَلاثونَ دَقيقَة.

al-sāʿah ḥawalay al-ṯāniyah wa ṯalāṯūna daqīqah.

It’s about two-thirty.

In many languages, you can express the time as an hour plus or even minus a certain fraction. Arabic is no exception. The most commonly used fractions are “quarter,” “half,” and “third.”

  • سِأِراكِ غِداً عِندَ السادِسَة و النِصف.

siʾirāki ġidan ʿinda al-sādisah wa al-niṣf.

I’ll see you tomorrow at half past six.

  • أُريدُ أَن أَحجُز طاوِلَة لِلساعَة الوَاحِدَة و الرُبع.

ʾurīdu ʾan ʾaḥǧuz ṭāwilah lilsāʿah al-waḥidah wa al-rubʿ.

I want to reserve a table for a quarter past one.

When we want to express the time until the next hour (“ten minutes to two”) we use the word illa.

  • إنَّها الخامِسَة إلّا عِشرونَ دَقيقَة.

ʾinnahā al-ḫāmisah ʾillā ʿišrūna daqīqah.

It’s twenty minutes to five. (Literally: Five short twenty minutes.)

Colloquial dialects use cardinal numbers for the hours and minutes, so they’ll be a little different from the numbers listed above, but not too different.

So if you’re pressed for time and going to speak a particular Arabic dialect, simply learn the numbers and the words for half and quarter, and you’re pretty much all set!

4. Throughout the Day

Time

There are several words to describe the general time of day in Arabic. However, the underlying culture of these words may be rather different than what you’ve gotten used to in your own language.

 A “day” in Arabic is a nahaar. This refers to “daytime,” basically the hours that the sun is in the sky providing light. The opposite of that is lail, which means “nighttime,” or the hours between the sun dipping below the horizon and coming back up again.

In English, we tend to divide the day into a morning, an afternoon, an evening, and a night. In Arabic, there are five words for this.

Ṣabāḥ is the word for morning, when the sun is rising and the day is new. Around eleven o’clock the day turns into ẓuhr, or “noontime.” That refers to exactly twelve o’clock noon in English, but in Arabic it’s a looser concept, covering about four hours from 11:00 to 15:00.

Next is, logically, afternoon, or baʿd al-ẓuhr. Again, we’re talking about a roughly four-hour period here when the sun is beginning to get a little lower in the sky, and people are generally finishing up their work day.

Finally is masā’. This refers to the evening, when shadows get longer and people have dinner or go out for walks in the cooler air.

Let’s look at some examples of phrases that we can use in conjunction with these words.

  • هَل تُريد المَشي مَعي هَذا المَساء؟

hal turīd al-mašī maʿī haḏā al-masāʾ?

Do you want to walk with me this evening?

  • لَدَيَّ إجتِماعَيْن غَداً مَسائاً.

ladayya ʾiǧtimāʿayn ġadan masāʾan.

I have two meetings tomorrow afternoon.

  • إلى اللَقاء! أَراكَ غَداً صَباحاً!

ʾilā al-laqāʾ! ʾarāka ġadan ṣabāḥan! 

Goodbye! I’ll see you tomorrow morning!

5. Time Zones

Airplane in Sky

The Middle East is big, real big. And in other places where people often study Arabic, like in Southeast Asia or India, there’s even more geographical diversity.

For that reason, we have to deal with time zones. The common Arabic word for “time zone” is تَوقيت.

The Middle East as a geographic entity spans four time zones from UTC+2 to UTC+4, and North Africa also includes UTC+0 and UTC+1. As a point of interest, Iran—though not an Arabic-speaking country—sets its time zone a half-hour off from neighboring Iraq and UAE.

If you’re doing a tour of several Arabic-speaking countries, you should of course be aware of these differences and perhaps even become acquainted with these helpful phrases:

  • هَل الجَزائِر في نَفس تَوْقيت مِصر؟

hal al-ǧazāʾir fī nafs tawqīt miṣr?

Is Algeria in the same time zone as Egypt?

  • الإمارات تَسبِق قَطَر بِساعَة.

al-ʾimārāt tasbiq qaṭar bisāʿah.

UAE is one hour ahead of Qatar.

  • كَم الساعَة في الرِيَاض الآن؟

kam al-sāʿah fī al-riyaḍ al-ʾān?

What’s the time in Riyadh right now?

6. Expressions and Phrases about Time

Improve Listening

When you talk about time, you don’t always talk about the numbers on the clock. In fact, look at that previous sentence—”always” is a time word!

To really get a native-like flow to your speech, you have to be aware of the different phrases you can use to add time-related detail to whatever you’re saying.

We’ve put these into the context of simple sentences so that you can see how the concepts are expressed in Arabic. You’ll find out pretty soon that not everything translates directly between Arabic and English!

الآن (al-ʾān) — Now 

أَنا مُستَعِدٌ الآن.

ʾanā mustaʿidun al-ʾān.

I’m ready now.

لاحِقاً (lāḥiqan) — Later 

أُريدُ أَن أَبدَأ الإجتِماع لاحِقاً.

ʾurīdu ʾan ʾabdaʾ al-ʾiǧtimāʿ lāḥiqan.

 I want to start the meeting later.

قَريباً (qarīban) — Soon 

قَريباً سَتَفهَم العَرَبِيَّة بِشَكلٍ مُمتاز. 

qarīban satafham al-ʿarabiyyah bišaklin mumtāz. 

Soon you’ll understand Arabic perfectly.

In time, over time, out of time—it seems like you can make phrases out of any preposition in English! But notice, though, that in Arabic things are often worded differently.

في الوَقت المُحَدَّد (fī al-waqt al-muḥaddad) — On time 

لَم يَبدَأ المَشروع في الوَقت المُحَدَّد.

lam yabdaʾ al-mašrūʿ fī al-waqt al-muḥaddad.

He didn’t start the project on time.

مُتَأَخِّرون (mutaʾaḫḫirūn) — Out of time 

نَحنُ مُتَأَخِّرون! يَجِب أَن نَذهَب!

 naḥnu mutaʾaḫḫirūn! yaǧib ʾan naḏhab!

We’re out of time! We have to go!

في الوَقت المُحَدَّد (fī al-waqt al-muḥaddad) — In time 

لَقَد وَصَلَت إلى المَحَطَّة في الوَقت المُحَدَّد لِقِطارِها.

laqad waṣalat ʾilā al-maḥaṭṭah fī al-waqt al-muḥaddad liqiṭārihā.

She arrived at the station in time for her train.

مَع الوَقت (maʿ al-waqt) — Over time 

تَعَلُّم العَرَبِيَّة عَمَلِيَّة تَحدُث بِبُطء مَع مُرور الوَقت.

taʿallum al-ʿarabiyyah ʿamaliyyah taḥduṯ bibuṭʾ maʿ murūr al-waqt.

Learning Arabic is a process that happens slowly over time.

7. Conclusion

Basic Questions

What you’ve just read in this article (especially if you followed all the links) is going to cover virtually every situation you’ll have when talking about time in Arabic.

Yes, the word order and the bit about ordinal/cardinal numbers is probably pretty different from what you’re used to. But it’s really not objectively harder or easier than English.

And the best part about learning to tell time in another language is that you get opportunities for practice literally every day. 

Ask someone what the time is and they’ll tell you. Then ask somebody else, and they’ll tell you too. It’s the least-stressful conversation possible!

When you think of it that way, there’s no time to lose!

In fact, why not practice giving the time in Arabic right now? Drop us a comment with the current time in Arabic below!

Happy Arabic learning!

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Master Directions in Arabic: Every Phrase You’ll Ever Need



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Did you ever just kinda…skip over the directions chapter in a language book?

Sitting at home or in your classroom, it’s hard to imagine yourself in the position of actually needing to know how to say these phrases.

But I actually just went traveling to a new country where I barely spoke the language, and I noticed right away that I needed to talk about directions if I wanted to find out where anything was.

Now, just for you, we’ve arranged the most critical directions in Arabic: right to left, the cardinal directions, and handy phrases you’ll be glad you know! We’ve also included some ways you can expand your knowledge and end up speaking more Arabic than you thought possible!

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Table of Contents
  1. Basic Cultural Notes and Phrases
  2. The Compass Points: A Bird’s Eye View of a City
  3. City Vocabulary and Reference Points
  4. Phrases for Directions in Arabic, Part 1: Asking Others
  5. Phrases for Directions in Arabic, Part 2: Giving Directions
  6. Travel Time
  7. How to Use Directions as Language Practice
  8. Conclusion

1. Basic Cultural Notes and Phrases


Asking Directions

Since the system of etiquette in Arab countries may be different from what you’re used to, let’s very quickly go over a bit of cultural background.

On the street, men should avoid directly talking to women who are strangers, and vice-versa. You should instead find someone of your own gender to stop and ask directions of.

Police in Arab countries will happily give you directions, but they don’t often hang out on the street unless they’re directing traffic or something. Definitely don’t stroll up to a police car to ask the people inside, as they’ll be quite surprised.

When you want to get someone’s attention, you can say:

  • عَفواً!
    ʿafwan!
    Excuse me!

Or maybe:

  • هَل يُمكِنُكَ مُساعَدَتي؟
    hal yumkinuka musāʿadatī?
    Could you help me?

2. The Compass Points: A Bird’s Eye View of a City


Compass with Notes and Plans

Let’s start out with the fundamental compass directions in Arabic. Some people are really good at keeping their cardinal directions straight, and others strongly prefer to just speak in relative terms.

A lot of cities are built around rivers, and so if you keep in mind which way the river flows, all you have to do is look at the river to find out your general orientation.

The cardinal directions in Arabic are:

EnglishArabicTransliteration
north شَمالšamal
southجَنوبǧanūb
eastشَرقšarq
westغَربġarb
northwestشَمال غَربšamal ġarb
northeastشَمال شَرقšamal šarq
southwestجَنوب غَربǧanūb ġarb
southeastجَنوب شَرقǧanūb šarq


Now, you’ll pretty much never use these by themselves. No conversations sound like: “Where’s the bus stop?” “East.”

Instead, you’ll need something to anchor you. How about the city itself?

  • الحَيُّ الَّذي أَسكُنُ بِه في الجُزء الشَرقِيّ مِن المَدينَة.
    al-ḥayyu allaḏī ʾaskunu bih fī al-ǧuzʾ al-šarqiyy min al-madīnah.
    My neighborhood is in the eastern part of the city.

  • المَصنَعُ في الجُزء الجَنوبِيّ مِن المَدينَة.
    al-maṣnaʿu fī al-ǧuzʾ al-ǧanūbiyy min al-madīnah.
    The factory is in the southern part of the city.


3. City Vocabulary and Reference Points


Directions

You’ll find that when you’re talking about cities, there are so many little holes to fill in your vocabulary. I used to live in a suburb and commute by metro, and simply describing my commute to friends was challenging at first since I didn’t know what really counted as a “suburb.”

Here are some turns of phrase for talking about parts of cities in Arabic. You’ll note that we’ve also put them in sentences for you to practice using them with prepositions. Don’t worry, “in” is the most common preposition here, by far.

وَسَط المَدينَة (wasaṭ al-madīnah) — downtown


مَكتَبي في وَسَط المَدينَة.
maktabī fī wasaṭ al-madīnah.
My office is downtown.

كُلُّ أَصدِقائي يَعيشون في وَسَط المَدينَة.
kullu ʾaṣdiqāʾī yaʿīšūn fī wasaṭ al-madīnah.
All my friends live in the city center.

المَنطِقَة التُجارِيَّة (al-manṭiqah al-tuǧāriyyah) — business district


هَل توجَدُ أَيِّ شُقَق جَيِّدَة قُرب المَنطِقَة التُجارِيَّة؟
hal tūǧadu ʾayyi šuqaq ǧayyidah qurb al-manṭiqah al-tuǧāriyyah?
Are there any good apartments near the business district?

Apartment complex Building

في ضَوَاحي المَدينَة (fī ḍawaḥī al-madīnah) — on the edge of town


كُنتُ أَعيشُ خارِجاً في ضَوَاحي المَدينَة.
kuntu ʾaʿīšu ḫāriǧan fī ḍawaḥī al-madīnah.
I used to live way out on the edge of town.

مَركَزُ تَسَوُّق (markazu tasawwuq) — shopping center


يُوجَد مَركَز تَسَوُّق في الجُزء الشَمالي و في الجُزء الجَنوبي مِن المَدينَة.
yuūǧad markaz tasawwuq fī al-ǧuzʾ al-šamal-ī wa fī al-ǧuzʾ al-ǧanūbī min al-madīnah.
There’s a shopping center in the north and south parts of town.

All set with those? You’ll probably need some more fundamental words, because we’re about to start talking about landmarks.

These are useful when giving taxi directions in Arabic. If you know the way to where you want to go, you will absolutely impress your driver and may even get a great conversation out of it.

تِمثال (timṯal) — statue


فُندقي قُرب ذَلِك التِمثال.
fundqī qurb ḏalik al-timṯal.
My hotel is near that statue.

مَيْدان (maydān) — square


أَستَطيعُ أَن أَرى الساحَة مِن مَكتَبي.
ʾastaṭīʿu ʾan ʾarā al-sāḥah min maktabī.
I can see the square from my office.

شارِع (šāriʿ) — street


عَفواً, أَيُّ شارِعٍ هَذا؟
ʿafū, ʾayyu šāriʿin haḏā?
Sorry, what street is this?

عَلامَةُ تَوَقُّف (ʿalāmaẗu tawaqquf) — stoplight


اِنعَطِف يَساراً عِندَ الإشارة.
inʿaṭif yasāran ʿinda al-ʾišārh.
Turn left at the stoplight.

Stoplight

مَكتَب البَريد (maktab al-barīd) — post office


اِنعَطِف يَميناً عِندَ مَكتَب البَريد ذو السَقف الأَخضَر.
inʿaṭif yamīnan ʿinda maktab al-barīd ḏū al-saqf al-ʾaḫḍar.
Turn right at the post office with the green roof.

بَنك (bank) — bank


اِستَمِر إلى الأَمام حَتّى تَرى البَنك.
istamir ʾilā al-ʾamām ḥattā tarā al-bank.
Keep going straight until you see the bank.

مُستَوْدَع (mustawdaʿ) — warehouse


المُستَوْدَع وَراء المَكتَب.
al-mustawdaʿ warāʾ al-maktab.
The warehouse is behind the office.

4. Phrases for Directions in Arabic, Part 1: Asking Others


Basic Questions

Body language can be quite helpful here, as you may need to show the other person that you’re kind of lost and confused. There are two basic ways of asking for directions in Arabic here: asking where something is and asking how you can get there.

If you’re a beginner, you should avoid fancy phrases like:

هَل يُمكِنُ أَن تُخبِرَني كَيْفَ أَصِلُ إلى …
hal yumkinu ʾan tuḫbiranī kayfa ʾaṣilu ʾilā …
Could you tell me how to get to…

Or

كُنتُ أَتَساءَلُ أَيْن …
kuntu ʾatasāʾalu ʾayn …
I was wondering where … is.

They’ll be more likely to tongue-tie you. Advanced learners, go for it!

Otherwise, use these two sentence patterns to get directions.

أَيْنَ (المَتحَف الفَنّي)؟
ʾayna (al-matḥaf al-fannī)?
Where is (the art museum)?

Couple Looking at Painting

هَل هُناكَ (مَحَطَّة لِلحافِلات) في القُرب؟ أَيْن هِيَ؟
hal hunāka (maḥaṭṭah lilḥāfilāt) fī al-qurb? ʾayn hiya?
Is there (a bus stop) nearby? Where is it?

By the way, you can of course always resort to what I like to call “Tarzan Arabic.” This involves pointing at a spot on a map or saying one word related to what you want to get to, and adding “Where?” Take a look:

الحَمّام، أيْن؟
al-ḥammām ʾayna?
The bathroom, where?

It’s not grammatically correct, it’s not pretty, but it works. But if you switch this expression around, it becomes “Where (is) the bathroom?”, which is grammatically correct and just as easy.

أيْن الحَمّام؟
‘ayna al-ḥammām?

5. Phrases for Directions in Arabic, Part 2: Giving Directions


Let me tell you, nothing makes you feel more like a local than giving directions to people in a foreign language, in a foreign country. And with all the Arabic-speakers from different parts of the world traveling more and more, you may run into this situation in your own town!

When you’re speaking in a foreign language and trying to communicate useful information, be concise. Now is not the time to show off fancy words or practice new sentence structures. Be clear and helpful so that people will understand you the first time. Here’s some examples of how to give directions in Arabic:

إنَّهُ قَريب جِدّاً. / إنَّهُ بَعيد جِدّاً.
ʾinnahu qarīb ǧiddan. / ʾinnahu baʿīd ǧiddan.
It’s very close. / It’s very far away.

اِذهَب مُباشَرَةً عَلى هَذا الطَريق.
iḏhab mubāšaraẗan ʿalā haḏā al-ṭarīq.
Go straight on this road.

اِنعَطِف يَميناً عِندَ ضَوْء الإنارَة التالي.
inʿaṭif yamīnan ʿinda ḍawʾ al-ʾinārah al-talī.
Turn right at the next streetlight.

لَيْسَ عَلى هَذا الطَريق، بَل عَلى الطَريق التالي.
laysa ʿalā haḏā al-ṭarīq, bal ʿalā al-ṭarīq al-talī.
It’s not on this road, but it’s on the next road.

Accompany these with some good old pointing, and you’ll have no trouble being understood.

6. Travel Time


Now for a brief section on time. This isn’t directions specifically, but instead it’s a description that often comes along with directions in conversation. Check it out:

إنَّهُ عَلى بَعد عِشرين دَقيقَة سَيْراً عَلى الأَقدام.
ʾinnahu ʿalā baʿd ʿišrīn daqīqah sayran ʿalā al-ʾaqdām.
It’s a twenty-minute walk.

سَوْفَ يَستَغرِق الأَمر ساعَتَيْن بِالحافِلَة.
sawfa yastaġriq al-ʾamr sāʿatayn bilḥāfilah.
It’ll take two hours by bus.

رِحلَةُ القِطار مِن الجَزائِر العاصِمَة إلى وَهران تَستَغرِق أَربَع إلى خَمس ساعات.
riḥlaẗu al-qiṭār min al-ǧazāʾir al-ʿāṣimah ʾilā wahrān tastaġriq ʾarbaʿ ʾilā ḫams sāʿāt.
The train trip between Algiers and Oran takes four to five hours.

We’ve included this because, often, when you ask a stranger, they may assume you’re traveling by a particular means of transport common to the area. In many Arab countries, for instance, it’s not at all common for ordinary people or tourists to walk from town to town. That’s why you should always be ready with these questions and answers as well.

كَيْفَ تَتَنَقَّل إلى هُناك؟
kayfa tatanaqqal ʾilā hunāk?
How are you getting there?

هَل مِن المُمكِن المَشي؟
hal min al-mumkin al-mašī?
Is it possible to walk?

Walking Shoes

7. How to Use Directions as Language Practice


If you’re reading an article as detailed as this one, chances are you’re interested in more than just survival. There are a couple of things you can do to make the ho-hum topic of directions into a conversation-starter that you can control at your own pace.

First, ask for directions that you already know. Sounds obvious, right? Go out of your hotel and go right into another hotel a few hundred meters away. Ask how to get to your hotel, and pay attention to the way they answer. Then go to another one, and see how the two answers are different.

Look at that! Fifteen minutes at most, and you’ve gotten two helpful language lessons that will increase how much you understand directions in Arabic.

The second thing is a little bit more advanced, but it can lead to really interesting conversations. Ask questions about how things used to be in the city.

هَل هَذِهِ المِنطَقَة كَما كانَت قَبل عَشر سَنَوَات؟
hal haḏihi al-minṭaqah kamā kānat qabl ʿašr sanawat?
Is this area the same as it was ten years ago?

هَذا المَبنى جَميل. مُنذُ مَتى و هُوَ هُنا؟
haḏā al-mabnā ǧamīl. munḏu matā wa huwa hunā?
This building is beautiful. How long has it been here?

There are a million questions in this vein, and locals will be thrilled that a visitor is curious about their city’s history. I personally like to ask these questions of taxi drivers, because they’re full of stories about how their cities have changed.

8. Conclusion





Do you still have questions about asking directions in Arabic? Don’t worry, that’s normal. This isn’t the type of thing that becomes automatic after just one lesson. You can also check our video above about street signs in Arabic for some extra vocabulary.

Read through this article again in a few days to refresh your memory. In addition, you can check out the lessons on directions that we’ve included in this article; since you’ve been primed for the content, you can probably understand a lot the very first time!

Also try switching your Google Maps into Arabic, or if that sounds like a big stretch, opening it up in a private browsing tab to just change the language for one session. In thirty seconds, you can be reading Arabic directions for anywhere in the world and reinforcing what you’ve learned.

Happy Arabic learning!

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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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