Thursday, December 16

Irregular verbs in the Present and Future Tense

In the last grammar post, we talked about conjugating regular verbs in the present and future tense. But, as with every language, not every word is 'regular'. I always used sigh in despair when I heard this 'irregular' word in my studies of other languages in high school, but you need not! Luckily, Arabic is pretty simple regarding all verbs, even the irregular ones and what makes an irregular verb is very easy to remember.

Most irregular verbs occur when one of the root letters of the word is a waw (و) or a yeh (ي) or a hamza (ء). This is because these sounds can mutate into long vowels which makes the pattern of the word change (i.e. a و can sound like -ou- depending on where it is in the word, a ي can sound like -ee- etc.).

There are 3 main types of irregular verbs:

1. Defective verbs - the present stem of the word starts with a long vowel.
i.e. yaakol ياكل - to eat (aakol - present stem)
yaa5od ياخد- to take (aa5od - present stem)

The only thing this irregularity changes is that when you are conjugating the verb (adding the extra letters to make the verb refer to he, she, I, it) then you only add the first letter of the prefix, leaving out the vowel (t-, n- etc.).

So naakol ناخل- we eat. Simple as that!

2. Hollow verbs - there is a long vowel in the middle of the present stem.

yerou7 يروح- to go (present stem - rou7)
yezeed يزيد - to increase (present stem - zeed)
yenaam ينام - to sleep (present stem - naam)

The only difference this type of irregularity makes is that you stress the last syllable of the word after conjugating. Example yerou7. Compare this with, for example, the verb, yenzel ينزل (to alight, to go down).

3. Weak verbs - there is a long vowel at the end of the present stem (see the pattern here?)

yeS7a يصحا - to wake up (present stem - S7a)
yeb2a يبقا- to remain (present stem - b2a)

In a weak verb, we remove the final vowel before adding a prefix. For example:
yes7o يصحو- they wake up
tes7y تصحي - you wake up (to a female)

.. and that's it!

Wednesday, December 15

Arabic Songs: Amr Diab (Ne2oul Eih?)

Here is Egypt's and perhaps the Arab world's biggest superstar, who has been in the charts since 1983 and still going strong (and still looking good!), Amr Diab! He's won numerous awards and is known worldwide for his Mediterranean-Arabic music and strong voice. The above clip (translated by Youtube's RasiRasi) is one of my favourites, from 2007 and reminds me of sunny Cairo summers where this song would play everywhere.

Here are the Arabic lyrics in both the Arabic and Latin alphabet, then a glossary of some of the most important vocabulary in the song that haven't been covered before in the song section of this blog. It's a nice simple one with lots of repitition.

عمرو دياب
نقول ايه؟

نقول ايه خلاص انا و انت حبيبي مفيش حاجة نقولها
واصلين لدرجة حب محدش في الدنيا وصلها
انا ليك و عمري ما اكون يا حبيبي غير ليك روحي شاغلها
دي الثانية و انت بعيد ازاي قلبي هيستحملها
انا ليك و عمري ما اكون يا حبيبي غير ليك روحي شاغلها
دي الثانية و انت بعيد ازاي قلبي هيستحملها
يا حبيبي أوصف فرحتي بيك ازاي صعب عليا
أكتر يا قلبي ما بحلم بقى ملكي و بقى في إيديا
انا ليك و عمري ما اكون يا حبيبي غير ليك روحي شاغلها
دي الثانية و انت بعيد ازاي قلبي هيستحملها
انا ليك و عمري ما اكون يا حبيبي غير ليك روحي شاغلها
دي الثانية و انت بعيد ازاي قلبي هيستحملها
انا ليك و عمري ما اكون يا حبيبي غير ليك روحي شاغلها
دي الثانية و انت بعيد ازاي قلبي هيستحملها

Amr Diab
Ne2oul eih?

ne2oul eih 5alaas ana we enta 7abeby mafeesh 7aga ne2olha
wasleen le darget 7ob ma7edesh fe el donia weslha
ana leek we 3omry makoun ya 7abeby gheer leek ro7y shaghelha
de es-sanya we enta ba3eed ezay 2alby hayst7melha
ana leek we 3omry makoun ya 7abeby gheer leek ro7y shaghelha
de es-sanya we enta ba3eed ezay 2alby hayst7melha
ya 7abeby awsef far7ety beek ezay sa3b 3alya
akter men 2alby ma ba7lem ba2a melky fe edaya
ana leek we 3omry makoun ya 7abeby gheer lek ro7y shaghelha
de es-sanya we enta ba3eed ezay 2alby hayst7melha
ana leek we 3omry makon ya 7abeby gheer lek ro7y shaghelha
de e-sanya we enta ba3eed ezay 2alby hayst7melha
ana leek we 3omry makoun ya 7abeby gheer lek ro7y shaghelha
de es-sanya we enta ba3eed ezay 2alby hayst7melha

ye2oul يقول - to say
ne2oul نقول - we say

5alaas خلاص - enough, finished
keffiyeh كفيا - enough!

feeh فيه - there is
mafeesh مفيش - there's not

darga درجة - level

7ad حد - somebody, one
ma7adesh محدش - nobody

el-donya الدنيا - the world
waSl وصل - arrive, reach

gheer غير - except, strange from
leek ليك - for you

ru7 روح - soul
es-sanya الثانية - the second, the moment
ba3eed بعيد - faraway

yewSef يوصف - to describe
ye7lam يحلم - to dream

far7a فرحة - joy, happiness 
(can also mean wedding. Very happy occasions in the Arabic world you can see!) 

Tuesday, December 14

Regular Verbs in the Present and Future

In this post, we'll focus on the basics of the present and future tesess of Arabic verbs. It's really quite simple!

To refer to the verb in general, we use the masculine howwa form because it's the simplest. Let's look at two verbs:

yel3ab يلعب - to play
yu5rug يخرج - to go out

We add some letters at the start, and some letters at the end of this stem (prefixes and suffixes) to change the meaning.

yel3ab (stem - l3ab)
ana (I)
e7na (we)
enta (you, m)
enty (you, f)
ento (you, pl)
howwa (he)
heyya (she)
homma (they)

ana (I)
e7na (we)
enta (you, m)
enty (you, f)
ento (you, pl)
howwa (he)
heyya (she)
homma (they)


yu5rug (stem - 5rug)

Verbs fit into either of the above patterns, the only difference is the vowel used in the prefix (e, or u). The most common is the prefix vowelled with -e-, the first pattern used with yel3ab.

The final step is to decide whether you want the verb to be present or future. For the present, add a be- onto the forms above. For the future, add 7a- to the correct form (shortened to b- and 7- before a vowel).

benel3ab بنلعب - We play
7anel3ab حنلعب - We will play

bu5rug بخرج - I go out
7a5rug حخرج - I will go out

You don't need to use pronouns (ana, enta etc.) because the verb will make it clear what or who you are talking about.

bu5rug men el-beet es-saa3a setta we rob3
بخرج من البيت الساعه سته و ربع
I leave the house at 6:15

el-5amees we el-7ad benesaafer aswaan
الخميس و الحد بنسافر اسوان
On Thursday and Sunday we travel to Aswaan

eg-gom3a 7ayerooh en-naady ma3a as7aabo
الجمع حيروح النادي مع الصابو
On Friday he goes to the club with his friends

You'll have noticed that the enta and heyya forms are identical. So for clarification, sometimes we do use the pronoun in this case.

bokra heyya 7atel3ab basketball
بكره هي حتلعب بسكتبول
Tomorrow she'll play basketball

And the pronoun is sometimes used for emphasis, like in a comparison or contrast.

howwa beyel3ab basketball bass ana bal3ab tennis
هو بيلعب بسكتبول بس اتا بلعب تنس
He plays basketball but I play tennis.

Arabic Songs: Asalah (Aktar)

My favourite Arabic singer is the beautiful singer Asalah. She's Syrian but she often sings in the Egyptian dialect and is hugely popular throughout the middle east - if you're reading this blog I'm sure you'll already have heard of her, or you're already a fan, as she even has a massive non-Arab fan base all over the world. I love this video, translated by MeroMusicTv of Youtube. She just seems so happy and likeable here! I'll put up the Arabic lyrics here with a few important vocabulary words from the song, since it's a really easy song this might be best for beginners.


اكتر من اللى انا بحلم بيه..مش قادره اخبى انا تانى عليه..ده انا من اول ما 
قابلت عنيه..نادانى
حبيبى معاك
حياتى وعمرى اللى انا عايشاه ... واجمل واصعب قولة اه..يسيبني واحس انى انا 

اكتر من اللى انا بحلم بيه..مش قادره اخبى انا تانى عليه..ده انا من اول ما 
قابلت عنيه..نادانى
حبيبى معاك
حياتى وعمرى اللى انا عايشاه ... واجمل واصعب قولة اه..يسيبني واحس انى انا 

وداريت على قلبي واتمنيت
قلبك يجيني ويقول
كل اللي حاسس بيه

و اهو بان الشوق عليا اهو بان
و اهو كل شيء بأوان
قال إيه بخبي عليه

وياك .. لو حتى وانت بعيد .. الشوق إليك بيزيد .. وافضل أفكر فيك
لو أقول .. عنك كلامي يطول .. وافضل سنين وأيام .. أوصف غرامي أنا بيك

اكتر من اللى انا بحلم بيه..مش قادره اخبى انا تانى عليه..ده انا من اول ما 
قابلت عنيه..نادانى
حبيبى معاك
حياتى وعمرى اللى انا عايشاه ... واجمل واصعب قولة اه..يسيبني واحس انى انا 


Aktar men elly ana ba7lam beeh
mish 2adra a5aby ana taany 3leeh
dana men awwel ma 2abelt 3eeneh nadaany
7abeby ma3ak 7ayaty we 3omry elly ana 3aysha
wa agmal we as3ab 2oulet ah
yseebny w a7ess eny ana wayah sawaany

we dareet 3ala 2alby we atmaneet
2albak ygeeny we y2oul
kol elly 7ases beeh

w aho ban, el-shou2 3leeh aho baan
w aho kol shee2 b 2awaan
2oul eih ygeeny 3leeh

wayak, law 7atta wenta ba3eed el-shou2 aleek bezeed
we afdal afaker feek
law a2oul 3enak klaamy ytoul we afdal sneen w 2ayaam, awsef gharamy ana beek

kteer, كتير  -  a lot
 aktar, اكتر  -  more

kol, كل  - every, all

shee2, شئ  - thing (sometimes used in Egyptian, but not exclusively Egyptian)
7aga حاجه  - thing (very Egyptian) 

7elm, حلم  - dream
a7laam, احلام  - dreams
ba7lam, بحلم  -  I'm dreaming, I dream

مش - not

2adra, قادره  - able (female)
2ader, قادر  - able (male)

taany, تاني  - again, 2nd

7abeeb, حبيب  -  beloved
7ayah, حياة  -  life
3omr, عمر  -  age, life

gmeel, جميل  - beautiful
agmaal, اجمال  - most beautiful

sa3b, صعب  -  difficult
asa3b, اصعب  - most difficult

el-shou2, الشوق  - passion, longing

sana, سنه - year
sneen, سنين - years

gharam, غرام  - love

There are others ways to say love in Arabic, the most common usually being

الحب - el-7ob (most common of all)
الهوه - el-hawah

Monday, December 13

Shankaboot and Distinguishing Dialects (Focus on Lebanese)

If you're learning Egyptian Arabic, or a dialect of any language, part of your learning process will be trying to understand what seperates your chosen dialect from the others. You want to be able to hear a clip and say whether it's Egyptian or not - and as your knowledge of Arabic grows, you may be able to name a dialect upon hearing it. You won't understand everything in every dialect even if you're fluent in Egyptian Arabic, not even native speakers can do that - but some dialects are closer to others and you will pick up words in different dialects as you learn. In this post, I'll go over some of the main features of Lebanese Arabic in this post as it is one of the most popular and understandable dialects, and how to distinguish it from other dialects.
 You can use the brilliant Lebanese Youtube series Shankaboot to see if you can recognize a couple of differences in the dialect, and you might be able to follow along since a lot of the words used are very similar to words in MSA and Egyptian.

Some Simple Features of Lebanese Arabic

  • Lebanese is a type of Levantine Arabic, the name for the group of dialects spoken in the area called the Levant. The Levant is the Mediterranean coastal regions of Lebanon, Palestine & Israel, Syria and Jordan. Levantine is called شامي (shaamy, shami) in Arabic.
  • Like Egyptian, the q (ق) is usually replaced by a glottal stop (2, ء). So like Egyptian, most Lebanese pronounce قلب (qalb, heart) as ('alb, 2alb). 
  • Another feature, which might be the biggest giveaway that you're listening to the Lebanese dialect, is the pronunciation of a final (ة) ta marbouta. While in Egyptian, it is pronounced -ah, or -a, it is pronounced as -eh or -e (as in wet) in Lebanese. Take the word for Coffee in Arabic, قهوة.  In MSA, it would be pronounced qahwa, in Egyptian it would be 2ahwa, and in Lebanese it would be 2ahwe. 
I always find interrogatives (why, when, how, what etc.) to be quite useful in trying to recognise dialects, because they are used commonly and often are used in different combinations in different countries. Here's a quick comparison of interrogatives in Egyptian and Lebanese.

Egyptian - eih? ايه؟
Lebanese - shou? شو؟

Egyptian and Lebanese - meen? مين؟

Egyptian - ezzay? ازاي؟
Lebanese - keef? كيف؟

Egyptian - leeh? ليه؟
Lebanese - leeh? ليه؟ or lesh? ليش؟

Egyptian - emta? امتى
Lebanese - eymtan? ايمتا

Egyptian - feen? فين
Lebanese - wayn? وين

Let's move on to Shankaboot, I absolutely LOOOVE this web series. It's about a delivery boy called Suleiman who rides about on his moped (the Shankaboot), he gets into lots of adventures on the streets of Beiruit and in this first episode meets a pretty runaway girl. It's really addictive, well made and interactive. Use the red CC button to enable English subtitles. A new episode comes out every Monday - and there's 32 episodes up currently. They'll really help you understand the variety of the Arabic language!

Sunday, June 27

Dialogue 2: Where are you from?

For a grammatical explanation of the concepts used in this lesson, please read this lesson.

Samy: enta mnein?
John: ana men kanada
Samy: ya3ny enta kanady?
John: aywa, ana kanady.
Samy: wenty mnein?
Kate: ana men 2amreeka.
Samy: ya3ny enty 2amreekeyya?
Kate: aywa Sa77, ana 2amreekeyya.

Samy: enta mnein ya samya?
Samya: ana men maSr.
Samy: wenty kamaan men maSr ya maha?
Maha: aywa, ana kamaan men maSr.
Samy: ya3ny ento letnein men maSr?
Samya: aywa Sa77, e7na letnein men maSr. e7na maSreyeen.

Mirvat: dol mnein ya samy?
Samy: dol Talaba engeleez
Mirvat: esmohom eih?
Samy: da esmo Mike, w di esmaha Janet.
Mirvat: ya tara homma mnein?
Samy: men durham w men manchester

Samya: afandem? ma-fhemtish! homma mnein?
Samy: homma ltnein men maSr.
Samya: w dol? dol mnein?
Samy: dol mesh men maSr, dol agaaneb.
Samya: ya tara homma kwayyeseen fel3araby?
Samy: kwayyeseen w shaTreen 2awy.

سامي: انت منين؟
جون: انا من كندا
سامي: يعني انت كندي؟
جون: ايوه, انا كندي
سامي: و انتي منين؟
كيت: انا من أمريكا
سامي: يعني انتي أمريكية؟
ايوه صح, انا أمريكية

سامي: انت منين يا سمية؟
سمية: انا من مصر
سامي: و انتي كمان من مصر يا مها؟
مها: ايوه, انا كمان من مصر
سامي: يعني انتو لتنين من مصر؟
سنية: ايوه صح, احنا لتنين من مصر. احنا

سامي: دول منين يا سامي؟
سامي: دول طلبا انجليز
ميرفت: اسمهم ايه؟
سامي: ده اسمه مايك و دي اسمها جانت
ميرفت: يا طره هم منين؟
سامي: من درهام و من مانشستير

سمية: افندم؟ مافهمتش! هم منين؟
سامي: هم لتنين من مصر
سمية: و دول؟ دول منين؟
سامي: دول مش من مصر, دول اجانب
سمية: يا طرة, هم كويسين في العربي
سامي: كويسين و شطرين قوي
I'll include the translation at the end of the post, because I feel that trying to understand first with the given vocabulary is a better exercise.


افندم afandem pardon
اجنبي agaaneb foreigner; foreign
اجانب agaaneb foreigners
قهوه 2ahwa coffee
امريكا amreeka America
امريكي amreeky American
قوي 2awy very
بكلم bekallem I speak
بيكلم beyekallem he speaks
دول dol those
جميل gameel beautiful, pretty
جبنه gebna cheese
هم homma they
احنا e7na we
انجليز engeleez English people
انتو ento you (plural)
كندا kanada Canada
كندي kanady Canadian
كويس kwayyes good
لتنين letnein both
لغة lugha language
مافهمتش ma-fahemtesh I didn't understand
مصر maSr Egypt; Cairo
مصري maSry Egyptian
مع ma3a with
من men from
منين mnein where from?
صح sa77 right
شاطر shaaTer clever
ترابيزة ~ تربيزات tarabeza ~ tarabeezat (pl.) table ~ tables
تلفون ~ تلفونات telefon ~ telefonaat (pl.) telephone ~ telephones
طلبا Talaba students (irregular plural)
يا تره ya tara I wonder
يعني ya3ny that means
عربي 3araby Arabic


Samy: Where are you from?
John: I'm from Canada
Samy: That means you're Canadian?
John: Yeah, I'm Canadian
Samy: And where are you from?
Kate: I'm from America.
Samy: That means you're American?
Kate: Yes that's right. I'm American.

Samy: Where are you from Samya?
Samya: I'm from Egypt 
Samy: And are you also from Egypt Maha?
Maha: Yes, I'm also from Egypt.
Samy: That means you are both from Egypt?
Samya: Yes that's right. We're both from Egypt, we're Egyptians.

Mirvat: Where are they from Samy?
Samy: They're English students.
Mirvat: What are their names?
Samy: His name is Mike and her name is Janet
Mirvat: I wonder where they're from?
Samy: From Durham and Manchester.

Samya: Pardon? I didn't understand! Where are they from?
Samy: They're both from Egypt.
Samya: And them? Where are they from?
Samy: They're not from Egypt. They're foreigners.
Samya: I wonder if they are good at Arabic?
Samy: They're good and very smart.

Saturday, June 26

Personal and Possessive Pronouns

Independent Personal Pronouns

In Arabic, there are two types of personal pronouns. There are independent pronouns, that can stand alone, for example as the subject of a sentence:

أنا مدرس  ana mudarris - "I'm a teacher"

Below are the list of all independent personal pronouns:

أنا ana I
احنا e7na we
انت enta you (masculine)
انتي enty you (feminine)
انتو ento you all (plural)
هو howwa he
هي heyya she
هم homma they

Dependent Personal Pronouns

Dependent personal pronouns consist of a suffix added to the end of nouns, prepositions and verbs. When added to a noun, it acts like a possessive adjective in English (my, his, her). The suffix is a couple of letters joined the end of the noun which changes depending on how many consonants the noun ends in.

  • If the noun ends in TWO consonants "-CC", (for example اسم esm = "name") the dependent personal pronouns are as follows:

انا ana ي- -y
esmy my name
احنا e7na نا- -ena
esmena our name
انت enta ك- -ak
esmak your name (masculine)
انتي enty ك- -ek
esmek your name (feminine)
انتو ento كم- -uku(m)*
esmuku your name (plural)
هو howwa ه- -o
esmo his name
هي heyya ها- -aha
esmaha her name
هم homma هم- -ohom
esmohom their name

* You can use -ukum instead of -uku but the ending -ohom never changes.


اسمك ايه؟  - esmak eih? - what's your name? (to a male)
اسمها ايه؟  - esmaha eih? - what's her name? (to a female)

ينت - bent - girl/daughter
ينتي - benty - my girl/my daughter

اخت  - ukht -  sister
اختك فين؟  - ukhtak fein? - where's your sister? (to a male)

  •  If the noun ends in just ONE consonant  "-C", (example بيت beit = "house") the dependent personal pronouns are as follows:

انا ana ي- -y بيتي beity my house
احنا e7na نا- -na بيتنا betna* our house
انت enta ك- -ak بيتك beitak your house (masculine)
انتي enty ك- -ek بيتك beitek your house (feminine)
انتو ento كم- -kum بيتكم betkum* your house (plural)
هو howwa ه- -o بيته beito his house
هي heyya ها- -ha بيتها betha* her house
هم homma هم- -hom بيتهم bethom* their house

بيتنا كبير  -  betna kbeer -  our house is big
بيتها فين   -  betha fein?  -   where is her house?

* In Egyptian Arabic, as a rule, there is never a long vowel before 2 consonants "-CC" so the "ei/ي" sound in beit becomes a short 'e' sound. 

  • If the noun ends in a VOWEL, "-V", the dependent personal pronouns are as follows.

*Note: the words abb اب "father" and akh اخ "brother" take the form abo and akho when they are used with suffixes. The final vowel is lengthened, as is the rule with all words which end in a vowel when used with suffixes. 

انا ana ي- -ya
akhoya my brother
احنا e7na نا- -na
akhona our brother
انت enta ك- -k
akhok your brother (masculine)
انتي enty ك- -ky
akhoky your brother (feminine)
انتو ento كم- -kum
akhokom your brother (plural)
هو howwa ه- -o
akho his brother
هي heyya ها- -ha
akhoha her brother
هم homma هم- -hom
akhohom their brother

اخوك طويل  -  akhok Taweel  -  your brother is tall (to a male)
اخوكي فين؟  -  akhoky feen?   -  where is your brother? (to a female)

Friday, June 25

The Feminine Ending

To make a noun, adjective or participle feminine in Arabic we add the letter ة on the end which is called ta marbuta. Ta marbuta means 'tied-up t' because it resembles a ت (t) with it's two dots. It is the shape of ه (h) and it is pronounced as (ah) or just (a) on it's own or at the end of a word.

A male teacher is مدرس  (mudarris).
So a female teacher is مدرسة (mudarrisa).

A male engineer is مهندس (mohandis).
So a female engineer is مهندسة (mohandisa).

It's really as simple as that, just add an 'a'!

The same goes for adjectives.

For example:
كويس (kwayyes) is an adjective that means 'good'. We can use it to describe a male person:

مدرس كويس  (mudarris kwayyes)  -- a good (male) teacher.

The adjective agrees with the noun. The teacher is male, so the adjective is male. So what if there is a female teacher? We say:

مدرسة كريسة (mudarrisa kwayyesa) --- a good (female) teacher.

We just add an 'a' on the end of the adjective too!

Remember that arabic doesn't have words for 'a' or 'is'. They're just left out.

This, That and These

da, di & dol

In Arabic there are three words meaning this, that and these.

da - this, that (masculine)
di - this, that (feminine)
dol - these, those (plural)

For example:

طالب - Taleb - Student (male)
ده طالب - da Taleb - That's a (male) student

طالية - Taleba - Student (female)
دي طالبة - di Taleba - That's a (female) student

طلبا - Talaba - Students (plural)
دول طلبا - dol Talaba - Those are students

ده حسن - da 7assan - That's Hassan
دي مها - di maha - That's Maha

If you want to use da, di and dol as demonstratives (i.e. this thing. Referring to a particular thing) there are two rules you must follow:

1) The noun it is referring to must be defined (i.e. el 'the' must be attached to the noun)
2) da, di and dol come after the noun

الراجل ده - er-raagel da - This man
الكلمة دي - ek-kilma di - This word
المدرسين دول - el-mudarriseen dol - These teachers
البنت دي - el-bent di - This girl

Did you remember that the plural of objects are in the feminine plural and are treated as feminine singular words? The adjective comes after the noun, and di, da, dol. For example:

المطرات  دي  كويسة  - el-motoraat di kwayyisa - These engines are good
السعات دي جميلة - es-sa3aat di gameela - These watches are beautiful.

Aho, Ahe, Ahom

There are three words used to point something out with emphasis.

aho - Masculine
ahe - Feminine
ahom - Plural

If you say aho, ahe or ahum before a word, you should stress the first vowel (a) in the sentence. If you use it after a word, you should stress the last vowel (o, e or um).

For example:

أهو جي - aho gayy - here he comes!
أهي جية - ahe gayya - here she comes!
أهم جيين - ahom gayyeen - here they come!

المدرس أهو - el-mudarris aho - the (male) teacher is over there
المدرسة أهي - el-mudarrisa ahe - the (female) teacher is over there
المدرسين أهم - el-mudarriseen ahom - the teachers are over there

ماشي - maashy.
Egyptians use maashy to mean 'okay' very often. You can say أهو ماشي (aho maashy) to reply to the question ازي الحال؟  ezzay el-7aal (how are you?). 

Tuesday, June 15

'The', Sun & Moon Letters

The, El-

In Arabic, there is one word for 'the', the definite article. This word is ال 'el-' and is used in front of both male and female words. It is attached at the beginning of the word and forms one word. For example:

مدرس — mudarris — teacher
المدرس — el-mudarris — the teacher*
بنت — bent - girl
البنت — el-bent — the girl

Sun Letters

If a word begins with a Sun Letter, then the 'l' of the 'el-' assimilates to that letter. For example, if a word begins with ش 'sh', then the ال 'el-' will be pronounced like 'esh-', like in the word الشمس  'esh-shams' meaning the Sun, which this concept is named after. Remember, that even though it is pronounced differently, it is still spelled with ال in Arabic.

There are two ways to easily remember the Sun Letters, or 'el-7orouf el-shamseyya'   الحروف الشمسية  as they are called in Arabic.:

1) Memorize. The 14 Sun Letters are;

ﻥ ,ﻝ ,ﻅ ,ﻁ ,ﺽ ,ﺹ ,ﺵ ,ﺱ ,ﺯ ,ﺭ ,ﺫ ,ﺩ ,ﺙ ,ﺕ

n, l, Z, T, D, S, sh, s, z, r, z, d, s, t

In Egyptian Arabic, ج (g) and ك (k) also act the same as Sun Letters.

2) Think about how you are pronouncing the letters. If you pronounce it with the tip of your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, then it's a sun letter. The letters ج and ك do not follow this rule, but in Egyptian Arabic treat them as sun letters.

All other letters are called Moon Letters, or 'el-7orouf el 2amareyya'  الحروف القمرية


الناس — el-naas — the people
الطفل — eT-Tifl - the children
 الكلمة — ek-kelma — the word
الزيت — ez-zeit - the oil
الضهر — eD-Duhr - the noon
اللون — el-loun — the colour
الكرسي — ek-kursi — the chair 

* I write the el with a hyphen '-' attached to the word in the Latin alphabet just to avoid confusion and emphasise that we are using the definite article, rather than writing a word beginning with the letters 'el'. It would be just as correct to omit the hyphen and write simply 'elmudarris'. Either way, it is pronounced as one word.

I have written all letters with an Egyptian accent. In formal Arabic, ث is pronounced as a soft 'th' as in think. ذ is prounced similarly to a hard 'th' as in 'this' and is often transcribed as 'dh'. In Egypt, they are pronounced 's' and 'z' respectively.

Monday, June 14

Regular Plurals (Masculine & Feminine)

The masculine plural is: ين -een
The feminine plural is:  ات - aat

The Masculine Plural

The masculine plural is added to the end of singular words and is used for people, NOT objects. For example:

مدرس - mudarris - teacher
مدرسين - mudarriseen - teachers

مهندس - mohandis - engineer
مهندسين - mohandiseen - engineers*

This plural is used for a group of people who are a) all males or b) a mix of males and females. Even if there are 20 women and 1 man, we would use the masculine plural here.

It is also used for adjectives when referring to more than one person, whether those people are all male, mixed, or all female. For example:

كويس - kwayyes - good
صغير - Sughayyar - small, young
هم كويسين - humma kwayyeseen - they are good (people)
دول مش صغيرين - dol mesh Sughayyareen - these (people) are not young
ندى و سامية دول مش صغيرين - nada we samya, dol mesh Sughayyareen - Nada and Samya are not young.

The Feminine Plural

The feminine plural is used for people when referring to a group of FEMALES ONLY. For example:

مدرسات - mudarrisaat - Female Teachers
طلبات - Talebaat - Female Students

The feminine plural is NEVER used with adjectives, even if the group is female only. The masculine plural is used in this case. See the example above (Nada we Samya dol mesh sughayyereen).

The feminine plural is used for the object nouns of any gender (inanimate objects). For example:

متور - motour - engine
متورات - motoraat - engines

ساع - saa3a - hour
ساعات - sa3aat - hours

The plural of objects are feminine, and are treated as singular feminine words grammatically. So, we use a feminine single adjective to describe it.

جميل - beautiful
سعات جمبلة - sa3aat gameela - pretty watches

* Extra Info: There is a well known area of Cairo called Mohandiseen, meaning engineers. Parts of Cairo were traditionally built for people of different professions and the engineers lived in Mohandiseen. Nowadays areas with names like this are inhabited by a range of different people of many professions.