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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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ALIF – Arabic Learning Game

ALIF is an online Arabic learning game. It takes the learners through a number of levels to master different aspects for learning Arabic. Specifically, this game addresses: reading, writing, and listening.

alif game screenshot
An example for one of the levels in ALIF, to show the letters in the word kalb كلب , which means dog in Arabic

Arabic Learning Game Levels

The game consists of a number of levels that form a tree. Therefore, when you finish a level, you unlock higher levels.

  • The Arabic Alphabet: learning the names and shapes of Arabic letters and characters and their combinations
  • Diacritics and Arabic sounds: learning diacritics (short vowels) and how they combine with Arabic letters to create sounds
  • Arabic keyboard: Learn how to type different Arabic letters on the keyboard, as a first step to write in Arabic
  • Recognize letters in words: learn to identify letters in any word in Arabic
  • Read Arabic words: identify letter-diacritic combinations, and sound out any word in Arabic
  • Write Arabic words: From the sound of the word, build words and type them on the keyboard
  • Vocabulary 1: Learn 50+ common words in Arabic, by reading, writing and listening
  • Vocabulary 2: Learn 50+ names of animals in Arabic, by reading, writing and listening

You can take a test to determine your level.

ALIF Game Features

ALIF game combines a number of features, to allow for both fun and effective learning experience:

  • Different question types: The game includes multiple choice questions, and drag and drop questions. It also includes questions with different types of interaction
  • Customize your avatar: choose a character that will be your companion in the game
  • Audio: All learning materials are supported with audio. The audio is recorded by native speakers to learn the correct pronunciation
  • Romanization: All learning materials include also consistent romanization scheme (how to write Arabic letters in English letters)
  • Typing: The game includes levels and questions to teach typing on Arabic keyboard.
  • Score board: When you achieve high score, you will be on high score board, and you can unlock more avatars and other items.

See all our games and apps:

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Learn Arabic Videos with Subtitles (1) – Alice Opens the box

Let’s learn Arabic language through Arabic Videos with translation subtitles. It is possible to find Arabic videos with subtitles either in Arabic script or translated into Arabic. In our videos here, we focus on providing videos with both the original spoken content in Arabic, in addition to the transliteration of what is being said in English letters, to help learners who are yet comfortable enough with the Arabic script. The subtitles also include the English translation. In addition, all the three-line subtitles are color-matched, in order to allow the learners to glean the meaning of words and expressions.

videos with Arabic subtitles/transliteration in English letters, and English translation. We will watch a videos from the animation series “Alice in Wonderland أليس في بلاد العجائب”, which are dubbed in Arabic.

Alice Opens the box – أليس تفتح الصندوق

Dialogue – subtitles Arabic/Transliteration/Translation

أَتَسْمَح بِأَنْ أنْظُر دَاخِل الصُّنْدُوق؟

a-tasma7 bi-an andhur daakhil as-sundooq

Would you allow that I look inside the box?

بِكُل سُرُور، فَلَا يُوجَد مَا يُتْلَف

bi-koll suroor, fa-laa yoojad maa yutlaf

With pleasure, as there is nothing that can be damaged

هَذَا جَمِيل

haadhaa jameel

This is beautiful

 إِنَّهُ صُنْدُوق سَاحِر

innahu sundooq saa7ir

It’s a magician’s box

 إِنَّهُ يُعْجِبُنِي

innahu yu3jibunee

I like it

Explanation of the dialogue and language used

When requesting permission to do something, we use:

أتسمح لي a-tasma7 lee?

and the response is:

bi-kul suroor-بكل سرور

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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.


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.


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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Learn Arabic Reading with Basic Arabic Reading Course

Learning Arabic reading skills is an important starting point to learn Arabic Language. Therefore, this course focuses on building the skills to read any Arabic word. Specifically, it teaches the alphabet, including learning the name, sound, and shapes of each letter. In addition, the course explains the diacritics that guide the pronunciation of words. It also introduces major prefixes and suffixes that are attached to Arabic words. After you complete this course, you will be able to recognize the letters of any word and sound it out. This is the first step to read Arabic script.

An image of the Arabic Reading course on Udemy
Udemy Course – Basic Arabic Reading

The course consists of four parts to help you learn Arabic reading. These parts are:

  • Arabic Letters
  • Arabic diacritics (known as harakaat or tashkeel)
  • simple Arabic prefixes and suffixes
  • sounding out words.

Learn Arabic Alphabet

This part includes an introduction to letters of the Arabic alphabet for the absolute beginners. Initially, it introduces the Alphabet characters in English letters, and it shows the letter shapes and their appearance in actual words, helping you learn many Arabic words along the way.

Learn Arabic Diacritics

Diacritics are characters that apply to words to guide their pronnciation. They include dammah, kasrah and fat7ah (fat-hah) which are short vowels. They also include sukoon which indicates no vowel at the letter. In addition, they also include shaddah, which means that the sound of the letter is doubled.

This part explains Arabic diacritics, and how they combine with Arabic letters to make the sounds of the language. It also includes examples for using these diacritics in Arabic words.

Learn Arabic Prefixes and Suffixes

Now you are able to identify the letters that make up any Arabic word. In this part, you will earn simple prefixes and suffixes which very frequently attach to Arabic words.

Sounding out Arabic Words

Now that we know the letters and diacritics, we can start to “sound out” any words. Simply, if you see any Arabic word, you will recognize its pronunciation. This will help you in exercises such as identifying foreign names written in Arabic letters. This is the first step into Arabic reading.