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Lesson 10 – Question Words in Arabic

Let’s learn about question words in Arabic. In this lesson, we will discuss interrogative sentences in Arabic. Mainly, we will introduce the main question words and the corresponding structure.

Arabic Question Words Example

In this video, let’s learn about question words in Arabic.

Question Words Lesson on Youtube

Question Words أدَوات الاسْتِفْهَام

مَن؟
man?
Who?
مَا؟
maa?
What?
مَاذَا؟
maadhaa?
What?
أيْنَ؟
ayna?
Where?
مَتَى؟
mataa?
When?
كَيْفَ؟
kayfa?
How?
كَم؟
kam?
How many?
لِمَاذَا؟
limaadhaa?
Why?
هَل؟
hal?
…? Yes/No

Yes/No Questions

The word “hal” is a word we use for forming Yes/No questions in MSA.
In classical Arabic, sometimes the letter alif is used before the verb in a similar way:
Did you want to eat?
a-tureed an ta’akol?
أتريد أن تأكل؟

هَلْ؟
hal?
For asking Yes/No Questions
هَل نِمْتَ جَيِّداً؟
hal nimta jayyidan?
Did you sleep well?
هَل أنْت مِصْرِيّ؟
hal anta misreyy?
Are you Egyptian?
هَل تُرِيد أَنْ تَأكُل؟
hal tureed an ta’kol?
Do you want to eat?
هَل وَصَلَ الضُّيُوف؟
hal wasala ad-duyoof?
Did the guests arrive?
نَعَم
na’am
yes
لا
laa
no

Where = ayna = أينَ

أيْنَ الحَقِيبَة؟
ayna al-haqeebah?
Where is the bag?
أيْنَ المُدِير؟
ayna al-mudeer?
Where is the manager?
أيْنَ تَسْكُن؟
ayna taskun?
Where do you live?
أيْنَ أَنْت؟
ayna ant?
Where are you?

Who = man = مَن

مَن هُوَ؟
man huwa?
Who is he?
مَن قَالَ لَكَ هَذَا؟
man qaala laka haadhaa?
Who told you so?
مَن هُوَ مُؤَلِّف الكِتَاب؟
man huwa mu’allif al-kitaab?
Who is the author of the book?
مَن هُوَ مُخْتَرِع الهَاتِف؟
man huwa mukhtare’ al-haatif?
Who is the inventor of the phone?

When = mataa = متى

مَتَى وَصَلْتُم؟
mataa wasaltum?
When did you (pl-m) arrive?
مَتَى حَدَث هَذَا؟
mataa hadatha haadhaa?
When did this happen?
مَتَى سَافَرُوا؟
mataa saafaroo?
When did they travel?
مَتَى وُلِدْت؟
mataa wulidt?
When were you born?

What = maa = ما

مَا مَعْنَى هَذِهِ الكَلِمَة؟
maa ma’naa haadhihi al-kalimah?
What is the meaning of this word?
مَا هِيَ عَاصِمَة فَرَنْسَا؟
maa hiya ‘aasimat faransaa?
What is the capital of France?
مَا هِيَ المُشْكِلَة؟
maa hiya al-mushkilah?
What is the problem?
مَا هَذَا؟
maa haadhaa?
What is this?

How = kayfa = كَيفَ

كَيْفَ عَرَفْت؟
kayfa ‘araft?
How did you know?
كَيْفَ نُصْلِح الهَاتِف؟
kayfa nuslih al-haatif?
How do we fix the phone?
كَيْفَ يُمْكِن أَنْ أُسَاعِدَك؟
kayfa yumkin an usaa’idak?
How can I help you?
كَيْفَ حَالُك؟
kayfa haaluk?
How are you?
(Literally: How is your condition)

How much/many = kam = كَم

كَم عُمْرُك؟
kam ‘umruk?
How old are you?
(Literally: how much is your age)
كَم شَخْصَاً قَابَلْت؟
kam shakhsan qaabalt?
How many people did you meet?
كَم تُرِيد؟
kam tureed?
How much do you want?
كَم تَكَلَّفَت الرِّحْلَة؟
kam takallafat ar-rihlah?
How much did the trip cost?

What = maadhaa = ماذا

مَاذَا حَدَث؟
maadhaa hadath?
What happened?
مَاذَا قُلْت؟
maadhaa qult?
What did you say?
مَاذَا تُرِيد؟
maadhaa tureed?
What do you want?
مَاذَا فَعَلُوا؟
maadhaa fa’aloo?
What did they do?

Why = limaadhaa = لِمَاذا

لِمَاذا تَبْكِي؟
limaadhaa tabkee?
Why are you crying?
لِمَاذا وَقَعَت الحَادِثَة؟
limaadhaa waqa’at al-haadithah?
Why did the accident happen?
لِمَاذا فَعَلْتَ ذَلِك؟
limaadhaa fa’alta dhaalik?
Why did you do so?
لِمَاذا تَأَخَّرْوا؟
limaadhaa ta’akhkharoo?
Why are they late?

Other Question Words in Arabic

There are other question words that will be covered in later lessons.

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Lesson 9 – Prepositions in Arabic حروف الجر

In this lesson, we will talk about prepositions in Modern Standard Arabic.

In Modern Standard Arabic, prepositions are very important. Therefore, in this lesson, we will introduce Arabic prepositions with examples. In fact, prepositions can be best understood in context. For example, the preposition ” min مِن” usually means “from”, but it can have different meanings. For instance, the famous expression “min fadlik مِن فَضلِك” means simply “please”.

Let’s start by introducing a list of widely used Arabic prepositions. Then, we will go deeper into each preposition. In addition, we will contrast the use of different prepositions. In the beginning, these are the most widely used Arabic prepositions:

مِنْ، إلَى، عَنْ، عَلَى، فِي، بـ ، لـ ، كـ

Arabic Prepositions – Google Slides

In these slides, we will see more explanation for these prepositions.

Arabic prepositions – example phrases and sentences

مِنْ الَبَيْت
min al-bayt
From home
إِلَى الَمَطَار
ilaa al-mataar
To the airport
عَلَى الأَرْض
‘alaa al-ard
On the floor/on earth
فِي الحَدِيقَة
fee al-hadeeqah
In the garden
عَنْ المُشكِلَة
‘an al-mushkilah
About the problem
بِالقَلَم
be-l-qalam
With the pen
مَعَ صَدِيقِي
ma’a sadeeqy
with my friend
لِسَلَامَتِكُم
le-salaamatikum
For your (pl) safety

The preposition “min مِن”

مِنْ أَيْنَ أَنْت؟
min ayna ant?
Where are you (m) from?
أَنَا مِنْ الهِنْد 🇮🇳
ana min al-hind
I am from India
نَحْنُ مِنْ نَيْجيريا 🇳🇬
nahnu min Nigeria
We are from Nigeria
مِنْ أَيْنَ أَنْتُم؟
min ayna antum?
Where are you (pl) from?
مِنْ
min
from

Arabic Expressions with “min مِن”

Expressions with “min مِن”
مِنْ فَضْلِك
min fadlik
Please
مِنْ البِدَايَة
min al-bidaayah
From the beginning
مِنْ
min
from

The preposition “ilaa إلى”

إلَى أَيْنَ تُسَافِر فِي الصَّيْف؟ 🏖
ilaa ayna tusaafir fee as-sayf?
Where do you (m) travel in summer?
أنَا أُسَافِر إلَى لُبْنَان 🇱🇧
ana usaafir ilaa lubnaan
I travel to Lebanon
إِلَى
ilaa
to

إلَى اللِّقَاء
ilaa al-liqaa’
Goodbye
مِنَ الألِف إلَى اليَاء
min al-alif ilaa al-yaa’
From A to Z
إلَى النِّهَايَة
ilaa an-nihaayah
To (till) the end
Expressions with “ilaa إلى”

The preposition “‘alaa عَلى”

عَلَى
‘alaa
on
عَلَى المَائِدَة
‘alaa al-maa’idah
On the table
The preposition “ ‘alaa عَلَى” can simply mean “on”
عَلَى الكُرْسِي
‘alaa al-kursee
On the chair

عَلَى الأَقَلّ
alaa’ al-aqall
At least
عَلَى أَيْ حَال
alaa’ ayy haal
Anyway
Expressions with “‘alaa عَلَى”
عَلَى
‘alaa
on

فِي
fee
in/at
فِي المَغْرِب 🇲🇦
fee al-maghrib
In Morocco
فِي مِصْر 🇪🇬
fee misr
In Egypt
The preposition “fee فِي” is used as the English prepositions “in/at”

فِي
fee
in/at
في أكتوبر *
fee October
In October
في الصَّيف
fee as-sayf
In summer
The preposition “fee فِي” can also be used with time

  • Note that month names differ between Arab countries

مَعَ
ma’a
with (person)
أنَا أَعِيش مَعَ أُسْرَتِي
ana a’eesh ma’a usratee
I live with my family
سَافَرْتُ مَعَ أصْدِقَائِي
saafartu ma’a asdiqaa’ee
I travelled with my friends

مَعَ السَّلامَة
ma’a as-salaamah
Goodbye
Literally: with safety
مَعَ تَحِيَّاتِي
ma’a tahiyyaatee
Best regards
Literally: with my greetings
Expressions with “ma’a مَعَ”
مَعَ
ma’a
with (person)

قَرَأتُ كِتَابَاً عَنْ العُلُوم
qara’tu kitaaban ‘an al-’uloom
I read (past) a book about science
عَنْ
‘an
about
تَكَلَّمَ المُدِير عَنْ المُشْكِلَة
takallama al-mudeer ‘an al-mushkilah
The manager spoke about the problem

When the preposition “le- لـ” comes before “al- الـ”,
it becomes “lel- للـ”
لِـ
le-
to/for
البيت 🏠
al-bayt
The house
لـ البيت ← للبيت
lel-bayt
To the house

لِـ
le-
to/for
لِلأَسَف
lel-asaf
unfortunately
لِلعِلْم
lel-’ilm
For information
Expressions with “le- لـ”

When the preposition “be- بـ” comes before “al- الـ” , it is pronounced as “bel-” instead of “be- al-”
الكتاب
al-kitaab
The book
بـ الكتاب ← بالكتاب
bel-kitaab
With the book
بِـ
be-
with/by
(object)

بِـ
be-
with/by
(object)
The preposition “be- بـ” can be used to make adverbs
ثِقَة
thiqah
confidence
بِثِقَة
be-thiqah
confidently

بِـ
be-
with/by
(object)
The preposition “be- بـ” can be used to make adverbs
أَنْتَ تَتَكَلَّم بِسُرْعَة
anta tatakallam be-sor’ah
You (m) speak fast
مِن فَضْلك تَكَلَّم بِبُطْء
min fadlik takallam be-bot’
please speak slowly

The preposition “fee في”

أيْنَ الكَلْب؟
ayna al-kalb?
Where is the dog?


الكَلْب فِي السَّيَّارَة
al-kalb fee as-sayyaarah
The dog is in the car


الكَلْب عَلَى السَّيَّارَة
al-kalb ‘alaa as-sayaarah
The dog is on the car

The prepositions “ma’a مع” is for people, while “be- بـ” is for objects

أنَا ألْعَب مَعَ أصْدِقَائِي
ana al’aab ma’a asdiqaa’ee
I am playing with my friends
أنَا ألْعَب بِالكُرَة
ana al’aab be-l-kurah
I am playing with the ball

The prepositions “ilaa إلى” and “le- لـ” can sometimes be used interchangeably

أَنَا أذْهَب إِلَى المَكْتَب
ana adh-hab ilaa al-maktab
I am going to the office
أَنَا أذْهَب للمَكْتَب
ana adh-hab lel-maktab
I am going to the office
What is the preposition “to” in Arabic: إلى لـ

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Lesson 8 – Arabic Tanween التنوين

Arabic tanween is quite important in Modern Standard Arabic. You might have noticed that some important words in Arabic end with an “n” sound, although there is no actual letter noon ن at the end. For example, you can see this in words (shukran – thanks – شكرا) and (ahlan – hello – أهلا). This is because of tanween.

Tanween is a group of diacritics that come at the end of the word, to give the sound of noon /n/. It mainly exists for grammatical reasons.

It occurs at the end of undefined nouns and adjectives. It is combined with fat-hah, kasrah or dammah, which we explained in diacritics lesson #2. When combined with fat-hah, an alif is added before it.
Now you should be able to understand and sound out almost all Arabic diacritics, and start to understand the grammatical significance for them.

What’s the function of the tanween? What’s the difference between the three versions?

Arabic Tanween التنوين
tanween in Arabic, as applied to the word “lion=asad أسد”

The main function of tanween is to mark the grammatical case of indefinite words. The -un version ـٌ is for words in subject position, or by default. The -an version ـً is for the direct objects, and the -in version is for words after prepositions.

Therefore, tanween is quite important for both Arabic grammar and pronunciation.

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Lesson 7 – Demonstratives in Arabic أسماء الإشارة

In this lesson we will introduce demonstratives in Modern Standard Arabic. Demonstratives are words such as “this”, “that”, “these”, “those” in English. Specifically, we will learn the different demonstratives, and how to build simple phrases and sentences with them.

The main demonstratives in Modern Standard Arabic are the following:

هَذَا  haadhaa = This (masculine)

هَذِهِ haadhihi = This (feminine)

هَذَان haadhaan= These (2- masculine)

هَذَان haadhaan = These (2- masculine)

هَؤُلَاء haa-olaa’ = These (plural)

ذَلِكَ  dhaalika = That (masculine) – far

تِلْكَ  tilk = That (feminine) – far

أُولَئِكَ  ulaa-ika = Those – far

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Lesson 6 – Arabic Sun and Moon Letters الحروف الشمسية والقمرية

Our lesson today is about Arabic sun and moon letters, which are important for pronouncing and understanding Arabic words. In Lesson # 3, we have seen how to use the article al- before words to make them definite, such as “the” in English. However, since al- becomes part of the word, its pronunciation sometimes changes according to the first letter of the word.

This pronunciation can change by removing the “L” sound from al-, and doubling the sound of the next letter, using shaddah, which we learned in Lesson # 2. 

Example: al-nahr (the river) >> an-nahr

When does this happen? It happens when the first letter of the word belongs to a group of letters called al-huroof ash-shamseyyah (sun letters). However, if the first letter is from the other group (al-huroof al-qamareyyah), al- is pronounced normally.

In this lesson, we will see which letters are sun letters and which are moon letters, and we will show an example sentence for a word beginning with each letter, together with al- .

Arabic Sun & Moon Letters
List of sun and moon letters in Arabic

A phrase for memorizing moon letters:

ابغ حجك وخف عقيمه

(roughly meaning “pursue your pilgrimage, and be concerned about it being futile”)

Any letter among these is a moon letter:

alif أ

baa’ ب

ghayn غ

haa’ ح

jeem ج

kaaf ك

waaw و

khaa’ خ

Faa’ ف

‘ayn ع

qaaf ق

yaa’ ي

meem م

haa’ ه

The rest are sun letters

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Lesson 4 – Arabic Personal Pronouns

Learning Arabic personal pronouns is an important step in learning Arabic grammar. In Modern Standard Arabic, personal pronouns are along three axes: person, number, and gender. In this regard, Person means either first person (such as “I” and “we” in English), second person (e.g. “you”), and third-person (he/she/it/they). On the other hand, “number” means either singular or plural, while gender means male or female.

First Person Pronouns (Singular (I): anaa أنا – Plural (we): nahnu نحن)

In Arabic, there are two first-person pronouns, similar to English.

Second Person Singular Pronouns (you) (Male: anta َأنت- Female: anti أنتِ )

Second Person Dual Pronouns (you) (antuma أنتُما)

Second Person Plural Pronouns (you/y’all) (Male: antum أنتُم – antunna أنتُنَّ)

Third Person Singular Prounoun (Male (he): huwa هُوَ – Female (she): hiya هِيَ)

Third Person Dual Pronouns (they) (humaa هُما)

Third Person Plural Pronouns (they) (Male: hum هُم – Female: hunna هُنَّ)

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Lesson 5 – Possessive Pronouns in Modern Standard Arabic

Possessive Pronouns in Arabic are not separate words but are added to the end of nouns. They follow the same distribution of person, number, and gender as personal pronouns that we learned last week. Today we will learn possessive pronouns with examples.

Possessive Pronouns in Arabic (ضمائر الملكية)
Possessive Pronouns in Arabic

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Lesson 3 – Arabic Prefixes and Suffixes

One important challenge in reading Arabic is to identify prefixes and suffixes. We are referring here to letters or groups of letters that attach to the beginning or the end of a word to give additional meaning. In linguistics, these letters can sometimes be referred to as “clitics”, which are words that cannot be used separately, but have to depend on another word. An example for this in English is (‘s), that is used to indicate possession as in “the teacher’s dog”, but you cannot have it separately. In Arabic, we have a number of these.

Prefixes

We can divide prefixes into the following categories:

  • Prefix “al- الـ” , which is the definite article in Arabic. It turns an indefinite nouns and adjectives into definite
  • Prefix “wa- و” , which is a coordinating conjunction (equivalent to the word “and”), but is attached to the second word. It can be used in the beginning of the sentence
  • Prefix “fa- فـَ”, which is also a coordinating conjunction, but it implies order. It can be also used in the beginning of the sentence to meaning something like “so/therefore”
  • Prefix “le- لـِ”, which is a preposition that means “to”, and can take different meanings if it is used with different verbs
  • Prefix “be- بـِ”, which is also a preposition that means “with”, and can also have different meanings when used with different verbs
  • Prefix “ka- كـَ”, which means “as/like/such as”, and it is more commonly used in classical Arabic than Modern Standard Arabic
  • Prefix “sa- سـَ”, which means “will”, and is used with present tense verbs to indicate the future.

We will cover here the first three, since prepositions are covered in the lesson about prepositions, and the ka- prefix isn’t frequently used. The sa- prefix will be covered in the verbs lesson.

Suffixes

In Arabic, we use the following suffixes”

  • Suffix “-ah”, indicating the female version of nouns and adjectives.
  • Possessive pronouns: These are attached to the end of words to indicate possession (e.g. my/your/his .. etc). These are covered in the lesson about possessives.
  • Object pronouns: These are attached to the end of verbs to indicate a pronoun in object position (e.g. me/him/them .. etc).

The common factor among all of prefixes and suffixes in Arabic is that there is no space between them and the word. So it is important to learn them early on while starting to read Arabic words. There are other grammatical items that attach to words, such as object pronouns and possessive pronouns, but we will cover them in later lessons.

The Arabic prefix al- ال – definite article

It is important to observe that a noun in Arabic by default is indefinite, unless it is a proper noun. This means that there is no indefinite article in Arabic similar to “a/an” in English. Therefore, there is only the definite article “al-” is used, for both nouns and adjectives.

The prefix alif-laam al- ال represents the definite article in Arabic. It is attached before nouns and adjectives
If an adjective describes a definite word, al- is added before both of them

The Arabic prefix wa- و

The prefix wa- is the quivalent to “and” in English.

The letter waaw (wa-) is attached at the beginning of the word to mean “and”

The Arabic suffix -ah ة (the letter taa’ marbootah)

The letter taa’ marbootah can be added to words and adjectives to indicate a feminine form
Taa’ marbootah is commonly used with adjectives to create the feminine equivalent

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Lesson 2 – Learn Arabic diacritics/harakaat/tashkeel

In this lesson, we will learn Arabic diacritics/harakaat/tashkeel which give more information about the pronunciation of letters. Harakaat mainly include short vowels on letters (fat-hah = “a” sound; kasrah = “e” or “i” sound; and dammah = “o” or “u” sound). They also include sokoon which means there is no vowel after the letter. In addition, they include shaddah, which means doubling of the sound of the letter, which can be combined with either fat-hah, kasrah, or dammah.

In this album, we show each of these harakaat combined with each letter. It is important to know that these harakaat are mostly optional in Arabic writing, so it is useful to memorize the harakaat of each new word while learning it. Let us know about your questions and the challenges in your Arabic learning journey.

Arabic diacritics: fat-hah (fat7ah), kasrah, dammah, and sukoon
Shaddah signifies the doubling of the sound of any letter, and it can be combined with other diacritics.

In this lesson, we can see the different diacritics when they apply to the Arabic letters.

Arabic harakaat in words

Diacritics with the letter alif

These above slides are part of our Arabic Reading Guide, and can be downloaded from there.

How to read Arabic without harakaat?

In the above, we learned how to read each letter when there are diacritics/harakaat. However, in most real-life written Arabic, these diacritics are rarely used. This can be a problem as some words can be ambiguous without harakaat. However, there are a few factors that can be helpful:

  • The context: when you read a word, the context will easily indicate whether the ambiguous word is a noun or verb or something else.
  • Vocabulary acquisition: when you learn a new word, learn it with its pronunciation (either by listening to its audio, read it with transliteration to latin characters, or find it in an Arabic dictionary with its harakaat)
  • Learning grammar: when you learn grammar and morphology, you will learn that there are some standard templates used for Arabic words. When you identify the templates, you will be able to know the harakaat involved.
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Lesson 1 – Arabic Alphabet

A very important starting points for beginners is to learn the Arabic alphabet. Here is a comprehensive list of all Arabic letters and how they are written. We should notice the different shapes of each letter, and also the sounds. Learn them well so that you can start recognizing the letters in any word in Arabic. One way to refer to the Arabic writing system is “Abjad“, which refers to how each Arabic letter corresponds to a consonant sound.

In general, there are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet (alif baa taa). In addition, it is necessary to learn a number of additional characters or letter combinations, such as:

  • Hamzah (sounds as a glottal stop, as in the expression uh-oh) ء
  • alif with hamzah above or below أ إ
  • alif with maddah آ
  • taa2 marbootah ة ـة
  • alif layyenah ى ـى
  • laam-alif لا لأ

In this lesson, we will cover the core 28 letters of Arabic, in addition to these extended characters and combinations. The lesson will show these Arabic letters in English writing to make it easier for beginners.

Arabic Alphabet to English
A list of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, showing the name of each Arabic letter in English. Some of the sounds are not in English, so numbers where used instead. Some letters have an emphatic sound, so the letter corresponding to the main sound is repeated.

Arabic Alphabet – Letter by Letter

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Conclusion

With this material, you should be able to know all the letters of Arabic, and recognize each letter, character, or character combination in any word in Arabic. In the coming lessons, we will introduce the diacritics, which are important to learn in order to pronounce Arabic words. For now, you can do the quiz below in order to practice what you have just learned. Make sure to subscribe to the email list below to be notified with all the exciting updates.

You may also want to check our course on Udemy: Basic Arabic Reading

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