Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

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 do I sound polite in Arabic?
Many languages have honorific speech as a whole different level of speech. Arabic honorifics are much easier than that.
Much like English, MSA and almost all Arabic dialects have certain words and titles that you can add to sentences to make your speech sound more polite.
First, let's start with honorific terms and see what they look like in action.
The first one is مِن فَضلِك (min faḍlik), meaning “please.” Min faḍlik is usually used with requests and orders. Adding min faḍlik to any request will make you sound more polite, and people will take you more seriously. For example:
الحِساب, مِن فَضلِك.
al-ḥisāb, min faḍlik.
“The tab/check, please.”
The next honorific term is لو سمحت (law samaḥt), literally meaning “If you may allow.”
This one means “Pardon me” or “excuse me,” it’s a little like min faḍlik, but is more often used with questions. Adding it to any question you ask will make you sound more polite. For example:
لَوْ سَمَحت, أَيْنَ المَدخَل؟
law samaḥt, ʾayna al-madḫal
“Excuse me, where is the entrance?”
The next honorific term is حضرتك (Hadratuk). Hadratuk or in the Egyptian dialect “hadretak” is the polite alternative of “you.” Replace “you” with hadratuk in a sentence and you’ll immediately sound more polite. For example, أَيْنَ أَنت؟ (ʾayna ʾant) is the casual way to ask “Where are you?” In the polite version, this becomes أَيْنَ حَضرَتُك؟ (ʾayna ḥaḍratuk), which also means “Where are you?”
Next are أستاذ/أستاذة (ʾustāḏ/ ʾustāḏah), which mean “Mr.” and “Ms.”
Use ʾustāḏ (for masculine) and ʾustāḏah (for feminine) before people’s names to sound more polite. These are typically used for teachers and to address people in a business setting. For example, سامي (Sāmī) (which is a man’s name) should become أُستاذ سامي (ʾustāḏ sāmī), meaning “Mr. Sami.” هِبَة (Hibah) (which is a woman’s name) should become, أُستاذَة هِبَة (ʾustāḏah hibah), meaning “Ms. Hiba.”
Lastly we have تفضل (Tafaddal).
Tafaddal is the polite way of saying "come over," "come in," or "go ahead."
It’s a very useful word and is used in many contexts as you can tell from its many different meanings. You might use it to invite someone in, invite them to start eating, and many other things. Keep in mind that it changes slightly according to the gender.
For example, the casual singular masculine form of this word is اِدخُل\ تَعال (idḫul\ taʿal). It means “Go ahead” or “come in.” The polite singular masculine is تَفَضَّل (tafaḍḍal). The casual singular feminine is اِدخُلي \ تَعالي (idḫulī \ taʿal-ī), and the polite singular feminine is تَفَضَّلي (tafaḍḍalī).
Singular Masculine اِدخُل\ تَعال(idḫul\ taʿal)
Singular Feminine اِدخُلي \ تَعالي (idḫulī \ taʿal-ī)
Singular Masculine تَفَضَّل (tafaḍḍal)
Singular Feminine تَفَضَّلي (tafaḍḍalī)


If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
Bye! إلى اللقاء (ʾilā al-liqaāʾ)