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Archive for the 'Arabic Phrases' Category

Is Arabic Hard to Learn? Yes and No.

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“You’re learning Arabic? Wow, I could never do that!”

You’ve probably heard that sentiment, or something like it, dozens of times. Or perhaps you’ve become intimidated hearing it said to other people. 

For English-speakers, Arabic has a reputation for being an incredibly tough language to learn. Nobody offers Arabic classes in middle school, and nobody talks about picking up Arabic from watching cartoons.

But does Arabic deserve such a reputation? Is Arabic hard to learn? Could it be that there’s more to a language than its perceived difficulty? Let’s find out!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Is Arabic Really the Hardest Language?
  2. Why Arabic is Hard to Learn
  3. Why Arabic is Easier Than You Think
  4. What Every New Arabic Learner Should Know
  5. How to Start Learning Arabic
  6. What ArabicPod101 Can Do for You
  7. Conclusion

1. Is Arabic Really the Hardest Language?

A Boy Listening to Music After Getting a Good Grade

The United States government seems to think so.

The Department of State in the U.S. has spent decades teaching languages to people who want to go abroad and serve in the military or as part of the diplomatic corps. According to them, it takes the average motivated learner about eighty-eight weeks of full-time study to become proficient in Modern Standard Arabic.

That’s on the same level as Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean—languages which are also famous for not being a walk in the park.

And when you consider that you might not be quite as motivated as a future diplomat, nor have the resources available to you to study full-time, you might start to get a little worried about your chances.

There’s one more thing that should give you pause. Think about how many Arabic language classes there are available to you, compared to language classes for other, “easier” languages. If Arabic were easier, wouldn’t more people be studying it?

But wait—if Arabic is so hard, how come it’s one of the most-spoken languages on the planet? How come you can go to a mosque in practically any city in the world and find people who can comfortably explain what Classical Arabic scripture means?

As it turns out, the Arabic language is hard in some areas, but it has some easy parts too, which balance out the load. 

2. Why Arabic is Hard to Learn

A Kid Stressed Out with His Homework

First, though, some details on why Arabic has its reputation.

The first impression that most people have is that Arabic sounds hard. For people used to the consonant-vowel rhythm of Spanish or Japanese, the numerous consonant clusters and rare sounds in Arabic can cause learning difficulty.

Arabic has some “pharyngeal” consonants that are literally made by constricting the throat. Now, it’s important to note that there’s nothing inherently difficult about sounds made from the throat—little children who grow up speaking Arabic do it all the time.

But you probably aren’t used to it if you grew up with a European or East Asian linguistic background (though Danish does actually have some pharyngeal sounds). That means it takes some serious conditioning to make these sounds in isolation, and even more to speak fluently with these sounds in the middle of words.

Another thing that makes the Arabic language hard to learn is the case system.

Cases are word endings that give additional information about which words in the sentence are the subjects, objects, and direct objects. This information is invisible in English, but it’s clear in languages with cases.

For instance, look at these simple sentences:

“The house is hot.”
البَيْتُ جَميل.
al-baytu ǧamīl.

“I entered the house now.”
دَخَلتُ البَيتَ الآن.
daḫaltu al-bayta al-ʾān.

As you can see, the word البيت (al-bayt), meaning “house,” changes in the second sentence because it’s the direct object, as opposed to the first sentence where it was the subject. Modern Standard Arabic-learners have to remember these changes for every noun and adjective—and for both genders!

If all of this has been putting you off, don’t run away just yet. It’s not all bad news when it comes to learning Arabic! 

3. Why Arabic is Easier Than You Think

A Woman All Finished with Her Homework

Fortunately, there are definitely some parts of Arabic that are easier to learn than others.

Chief among these is probably the loanwords. In today’s Arabic-speaking world, there’s nobody going around saying that you absolutely must use pure Arabic vocabulary dating back centuries. Take a look at any of the Arabic vocabulary lists floating around, and you’ll see plenty of loanwords, like al-intarnet for “Internet.”

There are also dozens upon dozens of Arabic words that you already know, thanks to language transfer happening in the opposite direction.

Words like سبانخ (sabanekh), or “spinach,” and مطرح (matrah), or “mattress,” have changed over the centuries, but they’re just a few examples of the rich vocabulary brought to Europe from the Middle East.

Another pretty cool thing about learning Arabic is the triliteral root system. Most everybody who’s thought about learning Arabic has heard of how words tend to be formed with three (sometimes up to four or five) consonants, which then stay consistent as vowels and consonants are added in-between the root letters to make other words.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you fully understand the system, you’ll see that there’s actually a lot of value in it.

Take a word like ‘-l-m, which has to do with “knowing.” You could learn the words ‘alima (“to know”) and ‘allama (“to teach”) as separate words, but that might be pretty confusing.

However, the consonant being doubled is actually a pattern (called the second form), and it refers to causation and verb transitivity. Teaching is “causing to know,” and that pattern will hold true for tons of other Arabic verbs! 

4. What Every New Arabic Learner Should Know

Casablanca in Morocco

The big question for most Arabic learners is “MSA or dialect?”

That’s because there are many, many articles out there with strong opinions on one side of the debate or the other.

People just learning Arabic should be aware of the fact that Modern Standard Arabic isn’t used day-to-day in Arabic-speaking countries. It’s considered the formal language appropriate for writing and news broadcasts, not for chatting with others.

On the other hand, it’s tough to find good, comprehensive resources for the dialects of Arabic that are actually spoken everywhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

For that reason, ArabicPod101 focuses on both Modern Standard Arabic and spoken dialects of Arabic. This allows you to have a strong base, but also be able to communicate with locals in a natural spoken dialect.

MSA is much more difficult than any dialect, by the way. A lot of grammatical features (such as the cases) have been simplified considerably in actual spoken dialects.

You won’t need to actually speak or write MSA unless you find yourself taking a job in Arabic media, or if you really want to make an impression of formality.

So don’t worry about learning how to produce the complexities of MSA that you see. You’ve just got to be able to understand them. 

5. How to Start Learning Arabic

A Man Listening to Music with Headphones

Given the difficult sounds that exist in the Arabic language, you should definitely focus on pronunciation first.

If you can’t correctly hear and produce each sound, then you’ll go through your whole Arabic career with two big problems—you’ll have a heavy accent and you’ll have a really hard time telling similar words apart.

Next, use a good course like ArabicPod101 to guide you through the process of slowly building up your vocabulary and learning to understand the nuances of grammar.

At the same time, make sure to listen to a lot of Arabic through kids’ shows and news broadcasts. It’s totally fine if you don’t understand everything at first, because you’ll notice yourself starting to understand more and more over time. 

6. What ArabicPod101 Can Do for You

ArabicPod101 has a huge library of content in excellent MSA. A typical lesson breaks down a conversational topic and introduces a new grammar point as well as a little bit of new vocabulary.

In the supplemental materials, you’ll see related vocabulary with a romanization and a recording of a native speaker pronouncing the word. Once you’ve created an account, you can add these to your flashcards and review them at any time.

This way, when you come across a troublesome word in your daily Arabic study, you can look it up on ArabicPod101 and see if there’s an article or podcast episode about it for you to review.

By the way, there’s a great resource you can take advantage of right now: the ArabicPod101 YouTube channel! Of particular value are the listening comprehension videos, where you can follow along with English, Arabic, and romanized subtitles. 

7. Conclusion

In the end, you’ll find that thinking of Arabic as easy or hard has to do with perspective.

Languages aren’t really learned. They’re acquired.

Sure, a language like Modern Standard Arabic, with its relatively artificial grammar, does have some elements that need to be “learned,” but you can also just lay back and let the language come to you.

Languages are only “easy” or “hard” when you put a time limit on yourself to try learning them. If you want to be speaking Arabic fluently within six months, you’ll find it much harder than if you just enjoy your progress and keep your expectations managed.

And if you have the help of a great learning aid like ArabicPod101, you’ll be well-equipped to make that a fun-filled journey. 

What things in Arabic do you struggle with the most? Which parts are easier for you? Let us, and your fellow Arabic-learners, know in the comments!

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The Most Common Mistakes Arabic Speakers Make

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Wouldn’t it be fantastic to speak flawless Arabic?

It’s a language that flummoxes students around the world daily. Even in Arabic-speaking countries, people are divided on what’s really “correct” and “proper” Arabic.

The truth is, you really don’t have to speak Arabic by the book in order to show your respect for the cultures and languages of Arab people. A little really does go a long way!

In this article, you’ll see some of the most common mistakes Arabic speakers make when learning the language, as well as the best ways to overcome them.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation
  2. Vocabulary Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Arabic Grammar Mistakes
  5. Uniquely Arabic Mistakes
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion

1. Pronunciation

Someone Holding a Microphone

Arabic pronunciation involves trying to get your tongue and mouth to do a lot of things they probably aren’t used to. For that reason, a lot of learners end up imperfectly tackling Arabic pronunciation.

One of the classic giveaways of a heavy foreign accent in Arabic is the vowels.

Modern Standard Arabic has just three vowels: /i/ as in “see,” /u/ as in “you,” and /a/ as in “father.” 

You’ll also need to pay attention to long and short vowels. In English, “long” and “short” mean an actual change in the vowel sound, but in MSA, it’s literally a vowel that’s held longer or shorter like a musical note. This is a matter of rhythm in the word and in the sentence, so be sure to listen to a lot of Arabic content to get comfortable with the intonation.

Vowels are probably the biggest giveaway, but ask any learner what the hard sounds are in Arabic, and they’ll answer “consonants.” Arabic has whole groups of consonants that are totally absent in most European and Asian languages, meaning that no matter how many other languages you speak, Arabic is probably going to challenge you with its sounds.

The hardest one for most speakers is ع, written as “3” in a lot of unofficial transcription systems because of the Arabic letter’s similarity to the digit. Most sounds in most languages are made with the tongue maneuvering around and tapping the roof of the mouth or otherwise shaping the airflow.

The  ع, by contrast, is made by bringing the back of the tongue as far back as possible. In all honesty, it’ll be uncomfortable when you first start doing it, but the more reading and speaking aloud you do, the more natural it will feel.

2. Vocabulary Mistakes

Woman Holding Her Hand to Her Head in Embarrassment

Every language has confusing pairs of words that make learners hem and haw over the right one to use, and this is the type of mistake Arabic-learners need to be cautious of.

In Arabic, these word pairs unfortunately pop up quite frequently. This is especially true if you’re just learning from the written word instead of from audio. You know, the whole vowel-marking thing? Here’s a couple of examples:

الكِليَة  (al-kilyah) “kidney”
الكُلِّيَّة  (al-kulliyyah)“college”

السُكَّر  (al-sukkar) – “diabetes,” “surgot”
السُكر  (al-sukr) – “drunken stupor”

تَوَابِل  (tawabil) – “spice”
تَبَوُّل  (tabawwul) – “urination”

Although the triliteral root system does let you easily learn related words, when unrelated words come up that happen to share the same consonants, they really mess with your memory!

The solution here is to listen to tons of Arabic audio. A word like al-koliya is going to come up a lot earlier than al-kilya in your learning, especially if you follow podcasts like ArabicPod101. 

If you can connect the written word in your reading exercises to the spoken word from your listening, you’ll avoid confusing them because of a lack of vowel diacritics. Thankfully, almost all of our content on ArabicPod101.com has a vowelled version in case you’re unsure of how a word is pronounced.

Other typical vocabulary mistakes stem from the fact that Arabic makes distinctions that other languages might not. Take the simple conjugation for “and” for example.

وَ (wa) is the word for “and” when it connects two clauses or verbs:

أبي مُدَرِّسٌ و أمّي رَبَّةُ بَيْت.
ʾabī mudarrisun wa ʾummī rabbatu bait.
“My father is a teacher and my mother is a stay-at-home mom.”

تُمَّ (ṯumma) can also be translated as “and,” but it connects two actions in a sequence!

أَكَلتٌ ثُمَّ شَرِبتُ.
ʾakaltun ṯumma šaribtu.
“She ate first and then she drank.”

You can think of translating fa as “and then…” Before you get more advanced in Arabic, it’s totally normal to be translating things in your head. As long as you can think in an Arabic sentence structure, you can compose your sentences in English first.

3. Word Order Mistakes

Another type of mistake in Arabic to watch out for is using incorrect word order. For some people, adjusting to a different word order is a cinch; for others, a different word order ties their brain in knots from the get-go.

Prescriptively speaking, the verb always comes first in an Arabic sentence. However, as you watch more and more videos and TV programs in MSA, you’ll see that they occasionally switch the word order around to add emphasis to a certain part of the sentence.

يَذهَبُ اِبراهيم إلى السوق.
yaḏhabu ʾIbrāhīmu ʾila s-sūq.
“Ibrahim goes to the market.”

Note how the verb ذَهَبَ (ḏahaba), meaning “to go,” is conjugated and placed at the beginning of the sentence. In some European languages, placing the verb before the subject is a marker of a question. Not so in Arabic! 

4. Arabic Grammar Mistakes

Someone Writing with a Pen

The most common mistake that even advanced students make in Arabic is failing to correctly make the verb, adjective, and noun agree in a sentence.

So, for instance, a student might write:

مِحوَرُ الشِعر هِيَ الروح. X
miḥwaru al-šiʿr hiya al-rūḥ. X
“The focus of poetry is the soul.” X

When it should actually be:

مِحوَرُ الشِعر هُوَ الروح.
miḥwaru al-šiʿr huwa al-rūḥ.
“The focus of poetry is the soul.”

Modern Standard Arabic has a lot of rules that don’t show up in any of the colloquial dialects that are spoken day-to-day. For that reason, tons of people in Arabic-speaking countries tend to be more comfortable writing in English or French than MSA! A lot of native speakers, for instance, might make mistakes with the dual:

لَدَيَّ أُختان.
ladayya ʾuḫtān.
“I have two sisters.”

لَدَيَّ ثَلاثُ أَخَوَات.
ladayya ṯalāṯu ʾaḫawat.
“I have three sisters.”

Lots of learners end up just using the plural form for two things without thinking. After all, the dual as a grammatical feature is relatively rare in the world’s languages. 

5. Uniquely Arabic Mistakes

Arabic Calligraphy

Up until this point, we’ve been discussing things that might apply to every language in the world. Plenty of languages have hard grammar and pronunciation, after all!

But there are a couple of mistakes that pretty much only Arabic-learners tend to make.

Like the plural forms of words—in Arabic, you kind of just have to memorize them. There are so many exceptions!

Also, numbers tend to trip a lot of people up. The number system in Arabic is beautifully complex (if you’re into that sort of thing), but so complicated that most native speakers tend to ignore its intricacies.

And with colloquial varieties of Arabic spoken in dozens of countries, you’ll often find yourself misunderstood if you use a word from one dialect with speakers of another. You could spend a lifetime learning all the little subtleties of the lexicon, like how دولاب (dulab) means “closet” in Egypt but means “wheel” in most other dialects.

Some people might suggest that you try to “speak Egyptian,” as many people understand Egyptian slang words, but the best way to avoid confusion is to use terms that are as close to MSA as possible if you don’t know the local term.

6. The Biggest Mistake

Man with Tape Over His Mouth

The biggest mistake is perfectionism. As they say, perfect is the enemy of good enough.

Tons of Arabic students end up letting their hard-earned knowledge slip away for fear of offending others.

Suppose you even end up taking the plunge and staying in an Arabic-speaking country for awhile with the goal of pushing yourself into speaking. If you’re anxious about speaking incorrectly, you’re probably going to end up just using English with the internationally minded local community in coffee shops and hip restaurants.

But that isn’t going to improve your Arabic—it’s going to actively harm it.

The more you actually put yourself out there and speak Arabic with others, the more you’ll learn. Sure, you’ll make mistakes from time to time, but everybody does. 

In fact, since most people tend to not be that comfortable with spoken MSA, the fact that you can speak it correctly—even some of the time—is going to be quite impressive! 

7. Conclusion

One of the best ways to avoid being embarrassed about making mistakes is to use your free time to get as prepared as possible.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a hard slog. Just reading about and seeing the examples in this article is a big step on that path to high-quality Arabic.

And when you have a great all-in-one resource at your fingertips, like ArabicPod101, with audio lessons, vocabulary lists, and flashcards, you’ll be able to target your studying.

Try it out now and see for yourself how good your Arabic can become!

Before you go, we would love to hear from you in the comments. What Arabic mistakes do you struggle with the most?

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Arabic Questions and Answers to Start a Great Conversation

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You can learn quite a bit of a language through questions.

Whether you’re traveling or hanging out in your hometown, any conversation you have with a native speaker in Arabic is going to involve a little bit of Q-and-A.

In fact, this is especially true for Arabic, since it’s a language not as commonly learned by foreigners. People are going to be rather curious about you as, in all likelihood, you’re going to be the first Arabic-speaking foreigner they’ve ever met.

Check out these common Arabic questions and answers, so that you have a leg up when the conversation starts!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. What’s your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Do you speak Arabic?
  4. How long have you been studying Arabic?
  5. Have you been to ___?
  6. Can you speak our dialect?
  7. Do you like the food?
  8. What are you doing?
  9. How is your family?
  10. How much is it?
  11. Conclusion

1. What’s your name?

First Encounter

If you make a friend in Arabic, you’ll definitely need to be able to ask for their name!

Talking to a man:

ما اسمُكَ؟
masmuka?
“What’s your name?”

Talking to a woman:

ما اسمُكِ؟
masmuki?
“What’s your name?”

To answer, simply say ʾismī followed by your name. You’ve successfully introduced yourself in Arabic!

2. Where are you from?

Talking to a man:

 من أين أنت؟
min ayna anta?
“Where are you from?”

Talking to a woman:

من أين أنت؟
min ayna anti?
“Where are you from?”

This may be one of your first introductions to the complexities of grammatical gender in Arabic. Fortunately, this is a pretty easy one to deal with!

Literally, you’re saying “From where you?” The last word, “you,” changes its vowel from ‘anta to ‘anti depending on whether you’re speaking to a man or woman. 

And although we end the question with “you” in Arabic, we end the answer with the location:

أنا من نيويورك.
ana min New York.
“I’m from New York.”

3. Do you speak Arabic?

Talking to a man:

 هَل تَتَحَدَّث اللُغة العَرَبِيَّة؟
hal tataḥaddaṯ al-luġah al-ʿarabiyyah?
“Do you speak Arabic?”

This question has an interesting grammatical similarity to the English version: that little word hal. It functions as a dummy particle for questions, just like “You speak Arabic,” turns into “Do you speak Arabic?” with the addition of “do.”

Now, the important thing is that you make an effort. You can do a lot better than saying “No, sorry,” in English and walking away!

عَفوَاً، أَنا أَتَكَلَّمُ فَقَط القَليل.
ʿafwan, ʾanā ʾatakallamu faqaṭ al-qalīl.
“Sorry, I only speak a little.”

That should just about cover it if someone happens to come up and ask you this question (it’s rare, but possible!). You should take a glance at this page of the names for languages in Arabic and imagine yourself asking others!

Introducing Yourself

4. How long have you been studying Arabic?

How’s your accent? The better it is, the better you get to feel when you answer this question about your study habits.

Talking to a man:

كَم مَضى لَكَ في دِراسَةِ العَرَبِيَّة؟
kam maḍā laka fī dirāsaẗi al-ʿarabiyyah?
“How long have you been studying Arabic?”

Talking to a woman:

كَم مَضى لَكِ في دِراسَةِ العَرَبِيَّة؟
kam maḍā laki fī dirāsaẗi al-ʿarabiyyah?
“How long have you been studying Arabic?”

Broken down a little more, the structure of this question is “How much time has passed to you in studying Arabic?”

That “to you/me” structure is crucial, since it will also play an important role in the answer.

مَضى لي شَهر.
maḍā lī šahr.
“For one month.”

The answer is pretty much the same structure: “To me one month has passed.”

5. Have you been to ___?

Glasses Lying on Top of a Map of Europe

Everybody’s got something in the country they want to show you. Definitely get ready for Arabic questions like this as you travel around!

Talking to a man:

هَل ذَهَبتَ إلى ___مِن قَبل ؟
hal ḏahabta ʾilā ___ min qabl ?
“Have you been to ___ before?”

Talking to a woman:

 هَل ذَهَبتِ إلى ___مِن قَبل؟
hal ḏahabti ʾilā ___ min qabl?
“Have you been to ___ before?”

Pay attention to the word order here. We start with that question tag hal, then immediately we have the verb “you went.” In English, that conjugation has two words, and we split them around the pronoun. In Arabic, the verb contains the pronoun, so it gets accomplished in just one word!

لا، لَم يَسبِق لي أَن ذَهَبتُ إلى ___ مِن قَبل.
lā, lam yasbiq lī ʾan ḏahabtu ʾilā ___ min qabl.
“No, I haven’t been to ___ before.”

Add whatever location is necessary here. Truth be told, you could simply say la, meaning “no,” but it’s more polite to use the full sentence.

6. Can you speak our dialect?

Many foreigners in Arabic classes study Modern Standard Arabic, but the vast majority of people you meet and speak Arabic with are going to strongly prefer speaking in their regional dialect.

Earlier, we discussed the Arabic phrase for “Do you speak Arabic?” but now we’ll learn it in Egyptian and Moroccan Arabic (Darija), two very different yet commonly learned Arabic variants.

Talking to a man:

بِتِتكَلِّم عامِّيَّة؟
bititkallim ʿāmmiyyah?
“Do you speak Egyptian Arabic?”

Talking to a woman:

بِتِتكَلِّمي عامِّيَّة؟
bititkallimi ʿāmmiyyah?
“Do you speak Egyptian Arabic?”

 واش كتعرف دارجة؟
waš ktʿref dāriǧah?
“Do you speak Darija?”

As you can see, the dialects naturally have their own words for a “colloquial variety” that isn’t fusha (MSA).  And even from these examples, you can see that the question is quite different in all three—major respect for taking more on!

7. Do you like the food?

Egyptian Maamoul fFood

Talking to a man:

هَل أَعجَبَكَ الطَعام؟
hal ʾaʿǧabaka al-ṭaʿām?
“Do you like the food?”

Back to MSA again. People are always going to want to know how you feel about food in Arab countries, especially because it tends to be so different from place to place.

Again, we’re dealing with that grammatical particle hal for asking a yes-no question.

What if you don’t actually like the food that much? As unlikely as that situation is, you should probably have a pleasant and polite reply handy, just in case.

كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لَذيذ!
kullu šayʾin laḏīḏ!
“It’s all delicious!”

أنا لست متعودا مع الطعام 
Ana lasto motaeawidan maea taeam baead.
“I’m not really used to the food yet.”

8. What are you doing?

If you’re young-looking, people are probably going to assume that you’re a student of some sort, even more so in a city with a big and well-known university.

Talking to a man:

هَل أَنتَ طالِب؟
hal ʾanta ṭalib?
“Are you a student?”

Talking to a woman:

هَل أَنتِ طالِبَة؟
hal ʾanti ṭalibah?
“Are you a student?”

Note how easy questions and answers in Arabic like these are. You just have to remember the feminine and masculine forms of the pronoun and noun, but there’s no verb to worry about!

Here’s an example of a question that might require a verb, though: 

Talking to a man:

ماذا تَعمَل؟
māḏā taʿmal?
“What do you do for a living?”

Talking to a woman:

ماذا تَعمَلين؟
māḏā taʿmalīn?
“What do you do for a living?”

However, the grammar in the answer is just as simple as in the first question. Just throw the words into the sentence!

أنا مُصَوِّر.
ʾanā muṣawwir.
“I am a photographer.”

9. How is your family?

In most Arab countries, asking about another person’s family is considered a polite small talk question. Here’s how you do it!

كَيْفَ حالُ عائِلَتِك؟
kayfa ḥalu ʿāʾilatik?
“How is your family?”

Now, what if you happen to know that the person isn’t married, or is married with no children? Trick question. You still ask the same thing. It’s actually not polite to ask about somebody’s spouse unless you know them personally.

No matter what you ask, the response is very likely going to be something like this:

كُلُّ شَيْءٍ بِخَيْر، الحَمدُ لله.
kullu šayʾin biḫayr, al-ḥamdu lillah.
“All well, praise God.”

It’s common knowledge among Arabic speakers that the phrase ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ‎ (al-ḥamdu lillah), or “thanks be to God,” and other religious phrases are used more commonly in Arabic than in English, by both Muslims and Christians, and even when speaking to people who aren’t religious.

10. How much is it?

Someone Getting Money from Their Wallet

Wrapping up, we have an extremely useful question for everything from shopping to dining out.

بِكَم هَذا؟
bikam haḏā?
“How much is it?”

Asking for the price in Arabic is dead easy. All you have to do is put the question word “how much,” which is bikam, before the pronoun “it,” and you’re already finished!

بِجُنَيْهَيْن.
biǧunayhayn.
“It’s two pounds.”

Egypt calls their currency pounds as the United Kingdom does. The interesting grammar point here is that we’re not actually saying the sentence “It costs two pounds.” Instead, the literal translation is “with two pounds,” and all that gets expressed in a single Arabic word.

11. Conclusion

If you happen to find someone willing to help you practice Arabic (and thanks to the kindness of Arab people, you will, whether or not you offer to help them with English), you can use these simple Arabic questions and answers as a great jumping-off point for fluency practice.

Record answers that start from just the bare minimum that’s required to not be rude, then try expanding. Start with answers that restate the question, such as the examples in this article, and then move on to answers that hold a dash of your own creativity.

And if you want to get a headstart without a speaking partner, sign on to ArabicPod101.com right now and take a look at our lessons about questions!

Before you go, why not start practicing right away in the comments section? Try answering one or more of these questions in Arabic. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Basic Arabic Sentences & Patterns: Your Ticket to Fluency


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Did you know that language is really just patterns?

Even the most complex languages, like Arabic, can be described with a long, long list of rules and patterns.

Of course, we’re talking about multiple research teams working for decades to really tease out all the patterns of a natural language. There are always some unusual things that crop up and extend the research by a couple of years.

Fortunately, the inconsistencies and the exceptions don’t detract from one simple ground truth: to speak Arabic well, you need to master key Arabic sentences and sentence patterns.

That’s one of the best ways to start speaking Arabic quickly, too. Once you have a deep knowledge of a single sentence pattern, you can use that understanding to swap in vocabulary about, well, anything! 

In this article, we’ve prepared a bit of advice and some example patterns for ten different types of very useful Arabic sentences.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Simple Arabic Noun Sentences
  2. Describing Words with Adjectives
  3. Saying “I Want” in Arabic
  4. Saying “I Need” in Arabic
  5. Can You Tell Time in Arabic?
  6. Would You Kindly…?
  7. Comparing Two Things
  8. Review: Asking Questions
  9. If This, Then That
  10. Making “Because” Sentences in Arabic
  11. Conclusion

1. Simple Arabic Noun Sentences


Sentence Patterns

First up is the easiest of all, the simple equivalency of two nouns. This Arabic sentence structure is so simple because “to be” is omitted in the present tense in Arabic. This should be quite familiar to anybody who knows a little Russian. 

So in lieu of the verb “to be,” we just put one noun next to the other and call it a day!

  • “Today is Saturday.”
    اليَوْم السَبت.
    al-yawm al-sabt.

  • “I am a high school teacher.”
    أَنا أُستاذ بِالثانَوِيَّة.
    ʾanā ʾustāḏ bilṯānawiّah.

  • “Health is a blessing.”
    الصِحَّةُ بَرَكَة.
    al-ṣiḥḥaẗu barakah.

  • “My boss is a nice guy.”
    مُديري رَجُلٌ طَيِّب
    mudīrī raǧulun ṭayyib.

  • “This is a textbook from Arabic class.”
    هَذا كِتابٌ مَدرَسِيٌّ مِن دَرس اللُغَةِ العَرَبِيَّة.
    haḏā kitābun madrasiyyun min dars al-luġaẗi al-ʿarabiyyah.

2. Describing Words with Adjectives

Constructing a simple noun-adjective sentence in Arabic couldn’t be easier. You simply put the words in the same order you would in an English sentence. 

The only thing you have to remember for this Arabic sentence construction is that adjectives need to agree with their nouns in number and gender.

  • “Wow, this bag is heavy!”
    هَذا الكيسُ ثَقيل!
    haḏā al-kīsu ṯaqīl!

  • “The sunset is beautiful.”
    الغُروبُ جَميل.
    al-ġurūbu ǧamīl.

  • “Your food is super-tasty!”
    طَعامُكَ لَذيذٌ جِدّاً!
    ṭaʿāmuka laḏīḏun ǧiddan!

  • “Your speech yesterday was brilliant.”
    خِطابُكَ البارِحَة كانَ رائِعاً.
    ḫiṭābuka al-bāriḥah kāna rāʾiʿan.

  • “I heard the new movie was terrible.”
    سَمِعتُ بِأَنَّ الفيلم الجَديدَ كارِثِيّ.
    samiʿtu biʾanna al-fīlm al-ǧadīda kāriṯiyy.

3. Saying “I Want” in Arabic


Pizza, Wings, and Pasta

As a visitor to an Arabic-speaking country, you’ll definitely get a lot of mileage out of this Arabic sentence pattern. Simply take the verb ُأُريد (ʾurīdu) and add a noun or verb after it.

  • “I want that pizza.”
    أُريدُ تِلكَ البيتزا.
    ʾurīdu tilka al-bītzā.

  • I want a cold drink.”
    أُريدُ مَشروباً بارِداً.
    ʾurīdu mašrūban bāridan.

  • “I want to go home.”
    أُريدُ أَن أَذهَبَ إلى المَنزِل.
    ʾurīdu ʾan ʾaḏhaba ʾilā al-manzil.

In English, we use a different verb form (“want” / “would like”) to be more polite. In Arabic, the verb doesn’t change, but we add on extra phrases to pad out the sentence with extra politeness markers.

  • “Please, I want the book about cats.”
    لَوْ سَمَحت، أُريدُ الكِتابَ المُتَعَلِّق بِالقِطَط.
    law samaḥt, ʾurīdu al-kitāba al-mutaʿalliq bilqiṭaṭ.

  • “If you wouldn’t mind, I want another piece of bread.”
    إذا كُنتَ لا تُمانِع، أُريدُ قِطعَةَ خُبزٍ أُخرى.
    ʾiḏā kunta lā tumāniʿ, ʾurīdu qiṭʿaẗa ḫubzin ʾuḫrā.

4. Saying “I Need” in Arabic

أَحْتَاج (ʾaḥtāǧu) is the verb meaning “need” in Arabic, and the sentence pattern is:

ʾaḥtāǧu + ilā + noun

ʾaḥtāǧu means “I need,” ilā  is a preposition meaning “for” or “to,” and then comes the noun of your choice.

  • “I need a new laptop.”
    أَحتاجُ إلى حاسوبٍ جَديد.
    ʾaḥtāǧu ʾilā ḥāsūbin ǧadīd.

  • “You will need a pencil for the exam.”
    سَوْفَ تَحتاجُ إلى قَلَمٍ رَصاص لِلاِمتِحان.
    sawfa taḥtāǧu ʾilā qalamin raṣāṣ lilimtiḥān.

  • “I don’t need anything from the store.”
    لا أَحتاجُ إلى أَيِّ شَيْءٍ مِن المَتجَر.
    lā ʾaḥtāǧu ʾilā ʾayyi šayʾin min al-matǧar.

5. Can You Tell Time in Arabic?

Clock on White Background

Telling time in Arabic is complex enough to deserve its own article, but as a tourist, you might just need to be able to say the different hours of the day. The context (a bus ride, a business closing, and so on) will make the meaning clear for everyone.

  • “It’s four o’clock.”
    الساعَةُ الرابِعَة.
    al-sāʿaẗu al-rābiʿah.

  • “The bus arrived at two o’clock in the morning.”
    الباص وَصَل عِندَ الثانِيَةِ صَباحاً.
    al-bāṣ waṣal ʿinda al-ṯāniyaẗi ṣabāḥan.

  • “By the time we get home, it will be midnight.”
    بِحُلولِ الوَقتِ الَّذي نَصِلُ فيهِ إلى المَنزِل، سَيَكونُ مُنتَصَفِ اللَيْل.
    biḥulūli al-waqti allaḏī naṣilu fīhi ʾilā al-manzil, sayakūnu muntaṣafi al-layl.

  • “He was supposed to leave at three o’clock.”
    كانَ مِن المُفتَرَضِ أَن يُغادِرَ في الساعَةِ الثالِثَة.
    kāna min al-muftaraḍi ʾan yuġādira fī al-sāʿaẗi al-ṯaliṯah.

  • “Tonight, I’ll definitely sleep before ten o’clock.”
    اللَيْلَة حَتماً سَوْفَ أَنامُ في الساعَةِ العاشِرَة.
    al-laylah ḥatman sawfa ʾanāmu fī al-sāʿaẗi al-ʿāširah.


6. Would You Kindly…? 


An Air Conditioner

This Arabic language sentence structure is similar to the polite requests section from earlier, but here we can see how to add verbs in the polite request.

  • “Could you please finish your work faster?”
    لَوْ سَمَحت، هَل يُمكِنُكَ أَن تُنهِيَ عَمَلَك بِشَكلٍ أَسرَع؟
    law samaḥt, hal yumkinuka ʾan tunhiya ʿamalak bišaklin ʾasraʿ?

  • “Would you mind letting me sit down?”
    هَل يُمكِنُكَ أَن تَسمَحَ لي بِالجُلوس؟
    hal yumkinuka ʾan tasmaḥa lī bilǧulūs?

  • “Could you please turn up the air conditioning?”
    هَل يُمكِنُكَ أَن تَرفَعَ دَرَجَةَ تَكيِيف الهَوَاء؟
    hal yumkinuka ʾan tarfaʿa daraǧaẗa takyiīf al-hawaʾ?

  • “Excuse me, could you help me reach that box?”
    لَوْ سَمَحت، هَل يُمكِنُكَ أَن تُساعِدَني عَلى الوُصولِ إلى ذاكَ الصُندوق؟
    law samaḥt, hal yumkinuka ʾan tusāʿidanī ʿalā al-wuṣūli ʾilā ḏāka al-ṣundūq?

Just for fun, let’s try a rude request!

  • “Sit down and shut up right now!”
    اِجلِس واِغلِق فَمَك الآن!
    iǧlis ūiġliq famak al-ʾān!

7. Comparing Two Things


Large, Expensive House

Similarly to English, in Arabic there are two ways to compare things, depending on whether or not the adjective in question has a commonly used comparative form:

1 – More skillful than…
أَكثَر مَهارَة مِن
ʾakṯar mahārah min…

2 – Bigger than…
أَكبَر مِن
ʾakbar min…

Take a look at the following sentences and observe which ones belong to the first type, and which ones belong to the second.

  • “You did better on the exam than I did.”
    كُنتَ أَفضَلَ مِنّي في الاِمتِحان.
    kunta ʾafḍala minnī fī al-imtiḥān.

  • “His house is more expensive than mine.”
    مَنزِلُه أَغلى مِن مَنزِلي.
    manziluh ʾaġlā min manzilī.

  • “Dubai is hotter than Casablanca.”
    دُبَيّ أَكثَر سُخونَة مِن الدار البَيْضاء.
    dubayy ʾakṯar suḫūnah min al-dār al-bayḍāʾ.

  • “The market near my house is dirtier than the market downtown.”
    السوق القَريب مِن مَنزِلي أَكثَر اِتِّساخاً مِن سوق وَسَط المَدينَة.
    al-sūq al-qarīb min manzilī ʾakṯar ittisāḫan min sūq wasaṭ al-madīnah.

  • “I can run faster than you can.”
    يُمكِنُني الجَري أَسرَع مِنك.
    yumkinunī al-ǧarī ʾasraʿ mink.

8. Review: Asking Questions 


Sentence Components

Before we see the last two sentence patterns (which are a tiny bit more difficult), let’s review the basic concepts we learned earlier—only this time, they’ll be in the form of questions.

  • “Is that bag heavy?”
    هَل ذَلِكَ الكيس ثَقيل؟
    hal ḏalika al-kīs ṯaqīl?

  • “Do you want water?”
    هَل تُريدُ ماء؟
    hal turīdu māʾ?

  • “Do you need help?”
    هَل تَحتاجُ إلى المُساعَدَة؟
    hal taḥtāǧu ʾilā al-musāʿadah?

  • “Is his house bigger than yours?”
    هَل مَنزِلُه أَكبَرُ مِن مَنزِلِك؟
    hal manziluh ʾakbaru min manzilik?

  • “Is today Wednesday?”
    هَل اليَوْمُ الأَربَعاء؟
    hal al-yawmu al-ʾarbaʿāʾ?

9. If This, Then That


A Dungeon

Surprise, it’s time for conditional sentences! This pattern is very regular, so once you learn it once, you know it forever.

  • “If you don’t lower the price, I’ll go somewhere else.”
    إذا لَم تُخَفِّض السِعر، سَوْفَ أَذهَبُ إلى مَكانٍ آخَر.
    ʾiḏā lam tuḫaffiḍ al-siʿr, sawfa ʾaḏhabu ʾilā makānin ʾāḫar.

  • “If you do that again, I’ll be angry.”
    إذا قُمتَ بِهَذا مَرَّةً أُخرى، سَأَغضَب.
    ʾiḏā qumta bihaḏā marraẗan ʾuḫrā, saʾaġḍab.

  • “We can escape if the guard falls asleep.”
    يُمكِنُنا الهَرَب إذا خَلَدَ الحارِس إلى النَوْم.
    yumkinunā al-harab ʾiḏā ḫalada al-ḥāris ʾilā al-nawm.

  • “If I buy this camera, I won’t have enough money for rent.”
    إذا اِشتَرَيْتُ هَذِهِ الكاميرا، لَن يَكونَ لَدَيّ المال الكافي لِلإيجار.
    ʾiḏā ištaraytu haḏihi al-kāmīrā, lan yakūna ladayy al-mal- al-kāfī lilʾiīǧār.

  • “If I see you tomorrow, I’ll say hello.”
    إذا رَأَيْتُكَ غَداً، سَأُسَلِّمُ عَلَيْك.
    ʾiḏā raʾaytuka ġadan, saʾusallimu ʿalayk.

10. Making “Because” Sentences in Arabic

Let’s go out with a bang for the last one! These two compound Arabic sentence patterns are included because they sound quite advanced, but you really only have to practice them a few times before you remember them. You could be speaking Arabic at this level within a couple of weeks!

  • “I was late because I slept in.”
    لَقَد تَأَخَّرتُ لِأَنَّني نِمت.
    laqad taʾaḫḫartu liʾannanī nimt.

  • “I need a key because the door is locked.”
    أَحتاجُ إلى مُفتاحٍ لِأَنَّ البابَ مُغلَق.
    ʾaḥtāǧu ʾilā muftāḥin liʾanna al-bāba muġlaq.

  • “He had to pay because she didn’t bring any money.”
    لَزَمَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَدفَعَ لِأَنَّها لَم تُحضِر أَيَّ مال.
    lazama ʿalayhi ʾan yadfaʿa liʾannahā lam tuḥḍir ʾayya mal.

  • “She won a prize because her research was excellent.”
    لَقَد فازَت بِجائِزَةٍ لِأَنَّ بَحثَها كانَ مُمتازاً.
    laqad fāzat biǧāʾizaẗin liʾanna baḥṯahā kāna mumtāzan.

11. Conclusion

The best source of Arabic sentence patterns, of course (outside of a grammar book), is real Arabic language.

You can get that right here on ArabicPod101.com!

As you listen to the podcast episodes and read the transcripts, look for these ten sentence patterns as they show up again and again. Consciously marking them in your mind will really seal them into your memory.

Then see if you can find others! Even if you already know all the verbs and nouns in the sentence, think about how they relate to each other in terms of case, number, and gender. That awareness means that you’ll start speaking Arabic correctly without even thinking.

Take the opportunity right now to review this article and learn Arabic sentence patterns; then, see what you can find in real life!

Before you go, let us know in the comments how many of these sentence patterns are new to you. Did our article answer your questions about how to construct Arabic sentences? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Searching for the Secrets of Arabic Verb Conjugations

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Arabic grammar has an unfair reputation of being needlessly complex and riddled with inconsistencies.

A better word might be intricate. There’s a lot to memorize, but also a lot of patterns that reveal themselves when examined.

One such pattern is within Arabic verb conjugation. Conjugation is the umbrella term for correctly using the different forms of Arabic verbs—which is not something you can just waltz in to. How many other languages can you think of that have different verb forms for talking to women and men?

This article is designed for people who are just starting out with Arabic grammar, and who want to know what makes Arabic verbs so intricate.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Verb Roots in Arabic
  2. Arabic Verbs Love Arabic Pronouns
  3. Conjugating Arabic Verbs in Present Tense
  4. Conjugating Arabic Verbs in the Past and Future Tenses
  5. Can a Verb Be “Defective?”
  6. Conclusion

1. Verb Roots in Arabic

Top Verbs

Arabic, as a Semitic language in the same family as Hebrew and Amharic, has vocabulary based on roots. Most nouns and verbs are formed from twins, triplets, quadruplets, or quintuplets of consonants that then change their vowels or add consonants to make additional words.

The overwhelming majority of words in Arabic have three consonants (called triliteral), and there are barely any two-consonant roots (biliteral) at all. Some linguists propose that there used to be a lot more biliteral roots, but right now, there are only a few very short words like that.

This is good knowledge to have about Arabic in general, but especially when it comes to verbs.

Arabic verbs are usually thought of as belonging to one of fifteen different forms (though only ten get used very much). Form I verbs (they always get described with Roman numerals) are the “base” forms of the verb. 

Other Arabic verb forms have different vowel additions and are usually associated with certain types of verbs. For example, Form II verbs have a doubled middle root letter. They’re usually more intense versions of Form I verbs, like كَسَّرَ, meaning “to shatter,” from the word كَسَرَ, meaning “to break.”

  • لَقَد كَسَرتُ الزُجاج.
    laqad kasartu al-zuǧāǧ.
    “I broke the glass.”
  • لَقَد كَسَّرَت الرَصاصَةُ النافِذَة.
    laqad kassarat al-raṣāṣaẗu al-nāfiḏah.
    “The bullet shattered the window.”

We’ll leave detailed discussion of verb forms for another article. For now, just know that you should think of “verb forms” as corresponding to different words formed by the same root, and “verb conjugations” simply as different forms of the same word.

2. Arabic Verbs Love Arabic Pronouns

Pages Making a Heart

If you’ve already learned European languages like French or Spanish before, it may come as a surprise to you that Arabic verbs fuse together with Arabic pronouns. Each pronoun in Arabic has a suffix form that attaches to the verb to show the direct object.

Therefore, if you say “I saw him,” you’re really saying “Isawhim” all pushed together as one word. Not so far off from how we actually speak the language! How does that look in practice?

We haven’t gotten to Arabic conjugation rules yet, so don’t worry about the actual verb tenses in the following examples.

  • آدَم يَراه.
    ʾādam yarāh.
    “Adam sees him.”
  • إنَّهُ يَرى آدَم.
    ʾinnahu yarā ʾādam.
    “He sees Adam.”
  • لا يُمكِنُني أَن أَجِدَك.
    lā yumkinunī ʾan ʾaǧidak.
    “I couldn’t find you.”
  • لا يُمكِنُكَ أَن تَجِدَها.
     lā yumkinuka ʾan taǧidahā.
    “You couldn’t find her.”

This is very important for you to know, because in different tenses, the attached form of the pronouns will, in fact, change ever so slightly. 

This is one aspect of learning where doing a lot of listening and reading aloud will help you. Native speakers have the muscle memory for what forms of the pronouns go with which Arabic verb tenses, but they didn’t get there through magic.

It’s all practice!

With that said, let’s start looking at Arabic conjugation charts.

3. Conjugating Arabic Verbs in Present Tense

More Essential Verbs

In Arabic, there’s no difference between the present and present progressive tenses. So saying “I run” in Arabic could mean either “I am running” or “I usually run” in English, depending on the context and adverbs.

The present tense is considered one of the most difficult to remember, because it’s the one with both prefixes and suffixes—but only for some of the pronouns! Here’s an Arabic conjugation table for you:

EnglishRomanizationArabic
“I”‘a–أ–
“you” (masculine singular)ta–ت–
“you” (feminine singular)ta–iinaت–ين
“he” / “it”ya–ي–
“she” / “it”ta–ت–
“we”na–ن–
“you” (masculine plural)ta–uunaت–وت
“you” (feminine plural)ta–naت–ن
“they” (masculine)ya–uunaت–ون
“they” (feminine)ya–naي–ن

Yes, it’s definitely quite a bit to memorize. And unfortunately, this is just for Form I verbs! Although Form II and others do share similarities with these patterns, you’ll definitely have to do a fair bit of studying before all of the Arabic verb conjugation patterns make sense to you.

We don’t have space here for fourteen more charts covering each form, but you can definitely turn to some excellent online grammar guides if you wish to know more about conjugating different Arabic verb forms.

One of the best ways to get used to these forms is to read a lot of example sentences. On the one hand, practicing writing out the chart from memory is good for your recall, but it’s only good if you combine it with a strong sense of what “feels right” built up from lots of reading and listening.

  • لا يُمكِنُني أَن أَتَذَكَّرَ ما قالَهُ الأُستاذ.
    lā yumkinunī ʾan ʾataḏakkara mā qal-ahu al-ʾustāḏ.
    “I can’t remember what the teacher said.”
  • مِن فَضلِكَ ذَكِّرني غَداً.
    min faḍlika ḏakkirnī ġadan.
    “Please remind me tomorrow.”
  • أَنا أُعَلِّمُكَ كَيْفَ تَتَحَدَّث العَرَبِيَّة.
    ʾanā ʾuʿallimuka kayfa tataḥaddaṯ al-ʿarabiyyah.
    “I am teaching you to speak Arabic.”

4. Conjugating Arabic Verbs in the Past and Future Tenses

Hourglass and Dark Background

Good news! The past and future tenses are considered much easier than the present. There’s only suffixes, no prefixes. And on top of that, every single verb form has the same suffixes in the past tense!

EnglishRomanizationArabic
“I”–tu–تُ
“you” (masculine singular)–ta–تَ
“you” (feminine singular)–ti–تِ
“he” / “it”–aVowelling sign “a” (fatha ” َ ” )
“she” / “it”–at–تْ
“we”–na–نا
“you” (masculine plural)–tum–تم
“you” (feminine plural)–tunna–تن
“they” (masculine)–uu–و
“they” (feminine)–na–ن
  • .ذَهَبتُ إلى حَفلَةٍ موسيقِيَّة اللَيْلَة الماضِيَة.
    ḏahabtu ʾilā ḥaflaẗin mūsīqiyyah al-laylah al-māḍiyah.
    “I went to a concert last night.”
  • سَرَقتَ مِحفَظَتي، أَلَيْسَ كَذَلِك؟
    saraqta miḥfaẓatī, ʾalaysa kaḏalik?
    “You stole my wallet, right?”
  • لَقَد اِصطادَت قِطَّتي طائِراً.
    laqad iṣṭādat qiṭṭatī ṭāʾiran.
    “My cat caught a bird.”

Wasn’t that a piece of cake? Just wait until you learn how to do Arabic conjugation for the future tense.

The future tense in Arabic is formed by adding the word sa and then the verb in present tense. That’s it! You may also see the word sawfa used in the same way, and you’re right. Both words are interchangeable for creating the future tense in Arabic.

Of course, you still have to conjugate the present tense form. But in a way, that’s even better because you’ll get practice with it every time you hear someone use the future form. Let’s see some examples:

  • هَل سَتَعودُ إلى المَنزِل لِلإحتِفالِ بِرَأسِ السَنَة الجَديدَة؟
    hal sataʿūdu ʾilā al-manzil lilʾiḥtifal-i biraʾsi al-sanah al-ǧadīdah?
    “Will you go back home to celebrate New Year’s?”
  • سَأَدرُسُ لِمُدَّةِ ثَلاثِ ساعات اليَوْم.
    saʾadrusu limuddaẗi ṯalāṯi sāʿāt al-yūm.
    “I’m going to study for three hours today.”

 5. Can a Verb Be “Defective?”

Someone Wearing a Cast on Their Foot

If you do any research at all on Arabic grammar, you’ll find that there’s a concept of “weak,” “defective,” “sick,” and “hollow” verbs. Don’t worry, Arabic is a very healthy language. This is just the way most people refer to the verbs in Arabic that have “weak” letters as part of the roots.

These weak letters are: و (waaw), ا (alif), and ي (yaa’). You can kind of picture that their sounds are indeed a little less distinctive than something like “t” or “j.”

They’re called “weak” because they end up assimilating into the nearby sounds. The rules for this are quite predictable, but at the same time, they’re relatively complicated since there are three weak letters and three places where they could go in a word.

One example is when a و  is the first letter of the root, like “to arrive,” which has the pattern w-s-l. Instead of the first person conjugation being ʾwaṣil, the first sound drops off and you’re left with ʾaṣil. 

Pretty intuitive! The rest of the rules are quite easy to pick up as well, and since they’re based on natural sound changes, they’re easy to remember as long as you do enough speaking practice.

6. Conclusion

Even if it may seem like a lot to take in now, speaking Arabic with correct conjugations is going to be extremely impressive to native speakers.

When you actually start speaking Arabic, try writing down what you say at the same time so you can use all the time you need to get the correct verb forms and pronouns right.

As we mentioned before, reading and listening to lots of Arabic is a great way to build your language skills without a ton of effort. That’s exactly what you can do right here on ArabicPod101.com

This lesson on the Arabic conjugation of verbs should serve as a good starting point for you, especially if you plan to continue discovering the language. If you have any questions on what you’ve learned about Arabic conjugation so far, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Arabic

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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Never Be Confused About Arabic Word Order Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. The Simplest Arabic Sentences

Man Lying in the Grass with a Hat Over His Face

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

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

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

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

“The teacher is tall.”

الأُستاذُ طَوِيل.

al-ʾustāḏu ṭawil.

“The engineer is tall.”

المُهَندِسُ طَوِيل.

al-muhandisu ṭawil.

“The manager is tall.”

المُديرُ طَوِيل.

al-mudīru ṭawil.

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

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

“The hat is on the desk.”

القُبَّعَة عَلى المَكتَب.

al-qubbaʿah ʿalā al-maktab.

“The hat is on my head.”

القُبَّعَة عَلى رَأسي.

al-qubbaʿah ʿalā raʾsī.

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

“Raquel is reading.”

راكيل تَقرَأ.

rākīl taqraʾ.

“Raquel is sleeping.”

راكيل تَنام.

rākīl tanām.

“Raquel is eating.”

راكيل تَأكُل.

rākīl taʾkul.

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

“Raquel is eating.”

تَأكُل راكيل     

taʾkul rākīl.

2. The Simplest Arabic Questions

A Physics Teacher in Front of a White Board

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

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

“Is the teacher tall?”

هَل الأُستاذُ طَوِيل؟

hal al-ʾustāḏu ṭawil?

“Is the hat on the desk?”

هَل القُبَّعَةُ عَلى المَكتَب؟

hal al-qubbaʿaẗu ʿalā al-maktab?

“Is Rachel sleeping?”

هَل راكيل نائِمَة؟

hal rākīl nāʾimah?

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

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

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

“Who is at the door?”

مَن عِندَ الباب؟

man ʿinda al-bāb?

“What is kefir?”

ما هُوَ الـ”kefir”؟

mā huwa al-“kefir”?

“Where is my cat?”

أَيْنَ قِطَّتي؟

ʾayna qiṭṭatī?

3. Sentences with More Components

A Bowl of White Rice

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

First, a reprise of the themes from last time:

“Raquel is eating rice.”

راكيل تَأكُل الأَرُز.

rākīl taʾkul al-ʾaruz.

“Raquel is reading a book.”

راكيل تَقرَأُ كِتاباً.

rākīl taqraʾu kitāban.

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

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

“Raquel is reading a new book.”

راكيل تَقرَأُ كِتاباً جَديداً.

rākīl taqraʾu kitāban ǧadīdan.

“You are eating my rice.”

أَنتَ تَأكُلُ أَرُزّي.

ʾanta taʾkulu ʾaruzzī.

“My new hat is in the mud.”

قُبَّعَتي الجَديدَة في الطين.

 qubbaʿatī al-ǧadīdah fī al-ṭīn.

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

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

4. The Genitive Construction or idafah

S Cup of Honey

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

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

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

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

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

“I work at the Faculty of Arts.”

أَعمَلُ في كُلِّيَّةِ الفُنون.

ʾaʿmalu fī kulliyyaẗi al-funūn.

“I work at the Faculty of Science.”

أَعمَلُ في كُلِّيَّةِ العُلوم.

ʾaʿmalu fī kulliyyaẗi al-ʿulūm.

“This is a cup of honey.”

هَذا كَأسُ عَسَل.

haḏā kaʾsu ʿasal.

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

5. Conjunctions to Link Sentences and Ideas

Group of Friends with Their Arms Around Each Other

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

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

“I like you because you are friendly.”

أَنا مُعجَبٌ بِكَ لِأَنَّكَ وَدود.

ʾanā muʿǧabun bika liʾannaka wadūd.

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

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

“I like Arabic because it is beautiful.”

تُعجِبُني العَرَبِيَّةُ لِأَنَّها جَميلَة.

tuʿǧibunī al-ʿarabiyyaẗu liʾannahā ǧamīlah.

“I like Egypt because it is hot.”

أُحِبُّ مِصرَ لِأَنَّها حارَّة.

 ʾuḥibbu miṣra liʾannahā ḥārrah.

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

“I am speaking Arabic.”

أَتَكَلَّمُ العَرَبِيَّة.

ʾatakallamu al-ʿarabiyyah.

“I can speak Arabic.”

أَستَطيعُ أَن أَتَكَلَّمَ العَرَبِيَّة.

ʾastaṭīʿu ʾan ʾatakallama al-ʿarabiyyah.

“I can’t speak Arabic.”

لا أَستَطيعُ أَن أَتَكَلَّمَ العَرَبِيَّة.

lā ʾastaṭīʿu ʾan ʾatakallama al-ʿarabiyyah.

6. Conclusion

Improve Listening

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

In fact, it’s impossible.

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

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

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

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

You need ArabicPod101.

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

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

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

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Every Minute Counts When Telling Time in Arabic

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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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