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Lesson Transcript

Intro

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: What do questions look like in Modern Standard ِArabic?
Explanation
There are 2 types of questions in English commonly known as: yes-or-no questions and "WH" questions. The same applies to Arabic. Let's see what Arabic questions look like.
First, let's look at yes-or-no questions. These are questions that ask whether or not something is true.
In Modern Standard Arabic, we use the question word halهَل to ask yes-or-no questions. This structure is very easy. You add the word hal before the sentence that you want to ask about. For example:
أَكَلَ رامي الكَعك.
ʾakala rāmī al-kaʿk
“Rami ate the cake.”
If we want to ask whether Rami ate the cake, what do you think we'll say?-- that's right!
هَل أَكَلَ رامي الكَعك؟
hal ʾakala rāmī al-kaʿk?
Did Rami eat the cake?
Pretty simple, right? Especially in comparison with English, where you have a different structure for questions.
Now let's see how WH questions look like in Modern Standard Arabic.
First, let's see a list of our question words:
Arabic
Romanization / English
مَن
man / “who”
ماذا
māḏā / “what”
مَتى
matā / “when”
أَيْنَ
ʾayna / “where”
كَيْفَ
kayfa / “how”
Now let's see what they look like in a sentence. Let's ask these 5 questions about this event:
“Rami ate the cake in the house in the morning with the spoon.”
In Arabic this is:
أكَلَ رامي الكَعكَ في البَيْتِ في الصَباحِ بالمِلعَقَة.
ʾakala Rami al-kaʿka fī l-bayti fī l-ṣabāḥi bil-milʿaqah.
Now, let's try to ask all the possible questions about this statement:
من أكل الكعك؟
man ʾakala al-kaʿk?
“Who ate the cake?”
ماذا أكل رامي؟
māḏā ʾakala Rami?
“What did Rami eat?”
متى أكل رامي الكعك؟
matā ʾakala Rami al-kaʿk?
“When did Rami eat the cake?”
أين أكل رامي الكعك؟
ʾayna ʾakala Rami al-kaʿk?
“Where did Rami eat the cake?”
كيف أكل رامي الكعك؟
kayfa ʾakala Rami al-kaʿk?
“How did Rami eat the cake?”
As you can see, in Modern Standard Arabic, question words MUST come at the beginning of a sentence. Then comes the verb ʾakala, then comes the subject “Rami” (unless that’s the information in question, as in the question "who ate the cake?"). Finally, we have the object al ka'k, (again, unless that’s the information we’re asking about, as in the question "What did Rami eat?"). So the order is Verb-Subject-Object.

Outro

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

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