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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Nora here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Arabic questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: How come Arabic doesn’t use verb "to be?"
If I were to introduce myself in Arabic, I would say
Ismi Nora
اسمي نورا
If we translate this literally, it’d be something like "Name-my Nora." Have you noticed that the verb “to be” isn’t in this sentence?
In this lesson, we’ll see how the Arabic sentence structure allows sentences to form without needing the verb “to be.” We’ll see what a noun-plus-adjective sentence looks like in Arabic.
Let's see how to say your nationality in Arabic.
“I am American”
أَنا أمريكي
ʾanā ʾamrīkī
“I am French”
أَنا فرنسي
ʾanā ferensī
“I am Mexican “
أَنا مِكسيكي
ʾanā miksīkī
“I am Turkish”
أنَا تُركي
ʾnaā turkī
“I am Spanish”
أنا أسباني
ʾnā ʾsbānī
“I am Canadian”
أَنا كَنَدي
ʾanā kanadī
For a female, you would add an -iyyah sound to the end of the nationality, soأمريكي (ʾamrīkī) would become أمريكية (ʾamrīkīyyah), and so on.
Now let's see some other commonly used sentences that contain the verb “to be” in English, but not in Arabic.
“The sky is clear”
السَماءُ صافِيَة
al-samāʾu ṣāfiyah
“The weather is cold”
الجَوُّ بارِد
al-ǧawwu bārid
“The house is big”
البَيْتُ كَبير
al-baytu kabīr
“I am hungry”
أَنا جائِع
ʾanā ǧāʾiʿ
“The road is long”
الطَريقُ طَوْيل
al-ṭarīqu ṭawīl
“The food is delicious”
الأَكلُ لَذيذ
al-ʾaklu laḏīḏ
You must be wondering, what about the past tense? The auxiliary verb كان (kana) and its variations are the closest thing to the past tense verb “to be.” For example:
كانَ الأكلُ لذيذاً.
Kāna al-ʾaklu laḏīḏan
“The food was good.”
Note how the past tense verb to be “kana” in Arabic comes in the beginning of the sentence, unlike English.


You can learn more about this subject by checking out lesson 8 of our Intermediate series on Arabicpod101.com,
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
Bye! إلى اللقاء (ʾilā al-liqaāʾ)

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