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How to Ask Questions in Arabic

By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set


6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Arabic Words and Phrases for Traveling
How do you ask basic questions in Arabic? Well, Arabic interrogative words mean the same as they do for
English: who, what, when, where, why, and how. By knowing basic Arabic interrogatives, you'll be able to
express your questions, even without an extensive vocabulary.
For example, say you're visiting a street market and find a jacket you want to buy. You could ask the vendor
"bi-kam al- qubba'a?" ("How much is this jacket?"). But if you don't know enough vocabulary, you could simply
point to the jacket and say "bikam?" and the seller will understand.

man? (Who?)

maa? (What? [without a verb])

maadhaa? (What [with a verb])

mataa? (When?)

ayna? (Where?)

limaadhaa? (Why?)

kayfa? (How?)

kam? (How many?)

bikam (How much?)

ayy/ayya? (Which?)

hal hunaaka (Is there?) (Are there?)

In addition to the question words above, you can put a hal in front of the sentence to create a question in
Arabic that would elicit a yes(na'am) or no (laa) response.
Here's a look at some different ways to put all these question words to practice in some useful phrases.

bi-kam al-biTaaqa? (How much is the ticket?)

ayna-l-baab? (Where is the gate?)

kayf Haalak? (How are you?)

maa ismuka? (What is your name?)

maa waDHiifatuka? (What is your profession?)

ayna al-mustashfaa? (Where is the hospital?)

mataa taSil aT-Taa'ira? (When does the plane arrive?)

hal hunaaka markaz bariid qariib min hunaa? (Is there a post office nearby?)

Working with Verbs in Arabic


You'll be very pleased to know that verb tenses in Arabic, when compared to other languages, are fairly
straightforward. Basically, you only need to be concerned with two proper verb forms: the past and the present.
A future verb tense exists, but it's a derivative of the present tense that you achieve by attaching a prefix to the
present tense of the verb.

Digging up the past tense


The structural form of the past tense is one of the easiest grammatical structures in the Arabic language.
Basically, every regular verb that's conjugated in the past tense follows a very strict pattern. First, you refer to
all regular verbs in the past tense using the huwa (hoo-wah; he) personal pronoun. Second, the overwhelming
majority of verbs in huwa form in the past tense have three consonants that are accompanied by the same
vowel: the fatHa (fat-hah). The fatHa creates the "ah" sound.
For example, the verb "wrote" in the past tense is kataba (kah-tah-bah); its three consonants are "k," "t," and
"b." Here are some common verbs you may use while speaking Arabic:

'akala (ah-kah-lah; ate)

fa'ala (fah-ah-lah; did)

dhahaba (zah-hah-bah; went)

qara'a (kah-rah-ah; read)

ra'a (rah-ah; saw)

The following table shows the verb kataba (kah-tah-bah; wrote) conjugated using all the personal pronouns.
Note that the first part of the verb remains constant; only its suffix changes depending on the personal pronoun
used.
Table 1: Kataba, Conjugated Using All the Personal Pronouns

Form

Pronunciation

Translation

'anaa katabtu

ah-nah kah-tab-too

I wrote

'anta katabta

an-tah kah-tab-tah

You wrote (MS)

'anti katabtii

an-tee kah-tab-tee

You wrote (FS)

huwa kataba

hoo-wah kah-tah-bah

He wrote

hiya katabat

hee-yah kah-tah-bat

She wrote

naHnu katabnaa

nah-noo kah-tab-nah

We wrote

'antum katabtum

an-toom kah-tab-toom

You wrote (MP)

'antunna katabtunna

an-too-nah kah-tab-too-nah

You wrote (FP)

hum katabuu

hoom kah-tah-boo

They wrote (MP)

hunna katabna

hoo-nah kah-tab-nah

They wrote (FP)

antumaa katabtumaa

an-too-mah kah-tab-too-mah

You wrote (dual/MP/FP)

humaa katabaa

hoo-mah kah-tah-bah

They wrote (dual/MP)

humaa katabataa

hoo-mah kah-tah-bah-tah

They wrote (dual/FP)

Every personal pronoun has a corresponding suffix used to conjugate and identify the verb form in its specific
tense. Table 2 outlines these specific suffixes.
Table 2: Personal Pronoun Suffixes for Verbs in the Past Tense

Arabic Pronoun

Pronunciation

Translation

Verb Suffix

'anaa

ah-nah

I/me

-tu

'anta

an-tah

you (MS)

-ta

'anti

an-tee

you (FS)

-tii

huwa

hoo-wah

he/it

-a

hiya

hee-yah

she/it

-at

naHnu

nah-noo

we

-naa

'antum

an-toom

you (MP)

-tum

'antunna

an-too-nah

you (FP)

-tunna

hum

hoom

they (MP)

-uu

hunna

hoo-nah

they (FP)

-na

'antumaa

an-too-mah

you (dual)

-tumaaa

humaa

hoo-mah

they (M/dual)

-aa

humaa

hoo-mah

they (F/dual)

-ataa

Anytime you come across a regular verb you want to conjugate in the past tense, use these verb suffixes with
the corresponding personal pronouns.
Not all regular verbs in the past tense have three consonants. Some regular verbs have more than three
consonants, such as:

tafarraja (tah-fah-rah-jah; watched)

takallama (tah-kah-lah-mah; spoke)

Even though these verbs have more than three consonants, they're still considered regular verbs. To conjugate
them, you keep the first part of the word constant and only change the last consonant of the word using the
corresponding suffixes to match the personal pronouns.
When you know how to conjugate verbs in the past tense, your sentence-building options are endless. Here
are some simple sentences that combine nouns, adjectives, and verbs in the past tense:

'al-walad dhahaba 'ilaa al-madrasa. (al-wah-lad zah-hah-bah ee-lah al-mad-rah-sah; The boy went to
the school.)

al-bint takallamat fii al-qism. (al-bee-net tah-kah-lah-mat fee al-kee-sem; The girl spoke in the
classroom.)

'akalnaa Ta'aam ladhiidh. (ah-kal-nah tah-am lah-zeez; We ate delicious food.)

Examining the present tense


Conjugating verbs in the past tense is relatively straightforward, but conjugating verbs in the present tense is a
bit trickier. Instead of changing only the ending of the verb, you must also alter its beginning. You need to be
familiar not only with the suffix but also the prefix that corresponds to each personal pronoun.
To illustrate the difference between past and present tense, the verb kataba (wrote) is conjugated as yaktubu
(yak-too-boo; to write), whereas the verb darasa (studied) is yadrusu (yad-roo-soo; to study).
Here's the verb yaktubu (to write) conjugated using all the personal pronouns. Notice how both the suffixes and
prefixes change in the present tense.
Table 3: Yaktubu, Conjugated Using All the Personal Pronouns

Form

Pronunciation

Translation

'anaa 'aktubu

ah-nah ak-too-boo

I am writing

'anta taktubu

an-tah tak-too-boo

You are writing (MS)

'anti taktubiina

an-tee tak-too-bee-nah

You are writing (FS)

huwa yaktubu

hoo-wah yak-too-boo

He is writing

hiya taktubu

hee-yah tak-too-boo

She is writing

naHnu naktubu

nah-noo nak-too-boo

We are writing

'antum taktubuuna

an-toom tak-too-boo-nah

You are writing (MP)

'antunna taktubna

an-too-nah tak-toob-nah

You are writing (FP)

hum yaktubuuna

hoom yak-too-boo-nah

They are writing (MP)

hunna yaktubna

hoo-nah yak-toob-nah

They are writing (FP)

antumaa taktubaani

an-too-mah tak-too-bah-nee

You are writing (dual/MP/FP)

humaa yaktubaani

hoo-mah yak-too-bah-nee

They are writing (dual/MP)

humaa taktubaani

hoo-mah tak-too-bah-nee

They are writing (dual/FP)

As you can see, you need to be familiar with both the prefixes and suffixes to conjugate verbs in the present
tense. Table 4 includes every personal pronoun with its corresponding prefix and suffix for the present tense.
Table 4: Personal Pronoun Prefixes and Suffixes for Verbs in the Present Tense

Arabic Pronoun

Pronunciation

Translation

Verb Prefix

Verb Suffix

'anaa

ah-nah

I/me

'a-

-u

'anta

an-tah

you (MS)

ta-

-u

'anti

an-tee

you (FS)

ta-

-iina

huwa

hoo-wah

he/it

ya-

-u

hiya

hee-yah

she/it

ta-

-u

naHnu

nah-noo

we

na-

-u

'antum

an-toom

you (MP)

ta-

-uuna

'antunna

an-too-nah

you (FP)

ta-

-na

hum

hoom

they (MP)

ya-

-uuna

hunna

hoo-nah

they (FP)

ya-

-na

'antumaa

an-too-mah

you (dual)

ta-

-aani

humaa

hoo-mah

they (M/dual)

ya-

-aani

humaa

hoo-mah

they (F/dual)

ta-

-aani

Aside from prefixes and suffixes, another major difference between the past and present tenses in Arabic is
that every verb in the present tense has a dominant vowel that's unique and distinctive. For example, the
dominant vowel in yaktubu is a damma (dah-mah; "ooh" sound). However, in the verb yaf'alu (yaf-ah-loo; to

do), the dominant vowel is the fatHa (fat-hah; "ah" sound). This means that when you conjugate the verb
yaf'alu using the personal pronoun 'anaa, you say 'anaa 'af'alu and not 'anaa 'af'ulu.
The dominant vowel is always the middle vowel. Unfortunately, there's no hard rule you can use to determine
which dominant vowel is associated with each verb. The best way to identify the dominant vowel is to look up
the verb in the qaamuus (kah-moos; dictionary).

Peeking into the future tense


Although Arabic grammar has a future tense, you'll be glad to know that the tense has no outright verb
structure. Rather, you achieve the future tense by adding the prefix sa- to the existing present tense form of the
verb. For example, yaktubu means "to write." Add the prefix sa- to yaktubu and you get sayaktubu, which
means "he will write."

Creating Simple, Verb-Free Sentences in Arabic


There are two ways to form sentences in Arabic: You can manipulate definite and indefinite nouns and
adjectives, or you can pull together nouns, adjectives, and verbs. In Arabic, it's possible to create a complete
sentence with a subject, object, and verb without actually using a verb! This concept may seem a little strange
at first, but this article helps you see the logic and reasoning behind such a structure.

To be or not to be: Sentences without verbs


Before you can construct verb-free sentences, you need to know that there's actually no "to be" verb in the
Arabic language. The verb "is/are" as a proper verb simply doesn't exist. That's not to say that you can't create
an "is/are" sentence in Arabic you can. "Is/are" sentences are created without the use of an actual verb. In
other words, you create "to be" sentences by manipulating indefinite and definite nouns and adjectives, similar
to what's covered in the article "Understanding the Interaction between Nouns and Adjectives."
When you put an indefinite noun with an indefinite adjective, you create an indefinite phrase. Similarly, when
you add a definite adjective to a definite noun, you end up with a definite phrase. So what happens when you
combine a definite noun with an indefinite adjective? This combination defined noun and undefined
adjective produces an "is/are" sentence similar to what you get when you use the verb "to be" in English.
For example, take the defined noun al-kitaab (the book) and add to it the indefinite adjective kabiir (big). The
resulting phrase is al-kitaab kabiir, which means "The book is big." Here are some more examples to illustrate
the construction of "is/are" sentences:

al-walad mariiD. (al-wah-lad mah-reed; The boy is sick.)

al-bint SaHiiHa. (al-bee-net sah-hee-hah; The girl is healthy.)

as-sayyaara khadraa'. (ah-sah-yah-rah kad-rah; The car is green.)

aT-Taaliba dakiiya. (ah-tah-lee-bah dah-kee-yah; The student is smart.) (F)

al-mudarris qaSiir. (al-moo-dah-rees kah-seer; The teacher is short.) (M)

al-'ustaadh Tawiil. (al-oos-taz tah-weel; The professor is tall.) (M)

If you want to use additional adjectives in these verb-free sentences, you simply add the conjunction wa. Here
are some examples of "is/are" sentences with multiple adjectives:

al-walad mariiD wa Da'iif. (al-wah-lad mah-reed wah dah-eef; The boy is sick and weak.)

al-bint SaHiiHa wa qawiiya. (al-bee-net sah-hee-hah wah kah-wee-yah; The girl is healthy and strong.)

as-sayyaara khadraa' wa sarii'a. (ah-sah-yah-rah kad-rah wah sah-ree-ah; The car is green and fast.)

aT-Taaliba dakiiya wa laTiifa. (ah-tah-lee-bah dah-kee-yah wah lah-tee-fah; The student is smart and
nice.) (F)

al-mudarris qaSiir wa dakiiy. (al-moo-dah-rees kah-seer wah dah-kee; The teacher is short and smart.)
(M)

al-'ustaadh Tawiil wa Sa'b. (al-oos-taz tah-weel wah sahb; The professor is tall and difficult.) (M)

This construct is fairly flexible, and if you change the nature of one of the adjectives, you radically alter the
meaning of the jumla (joom-lah; sentence). For instance, the examples all show a defined noun with two
indefinite adjectives. What happens when you mix things up and add an indefinite noun to an indefinite
adjective and a definite adjective?
Consider the example al-bint SaHiiHa wa qawiiya (The girl is healthy and strong). Keep al-bint as a definite
noun but change the indefinite adjective SaHiiHa into its definite version, aS-SaHiiHa; also, drop the wa, and
keep qawiiya as an indefinite adjective. The resulting phrase is al-bint aS-SaHiiHa qawiiya, which means "The
healthy girl is strong."
You can grasp what's going on here by dividing the terms into clauses: The first clause is the definite
noun/definite adjective combination al-bint aS-SaHiiHa (the healthy girl); the second clause is the indefinite
adjective qawiiya (strong). Combining these clauses is the same as combining a definite noun with an
indefinite adjective the result is an "is/are" sentence. Here are more examples to help clear up any
confusion you have regarding this concept:

al-walad al-mariiD Da'iif. (al-wah-lad al-mah-reed dah-eef; The sick boy is weak.)

as-sayyaara al-khadraa' sarii'a. (ah-sah-yah-rah al-kad-rah sah-ree-ah; The green car is fast.)

aT-Taaliba ad-dakiiya laTiifa. (ah-tah-lee-bah ah-dah-kee-yah lah-tee-fah; The smart student is nice.)
(F)

al-mudarris al-qaSiir dakiiy. (al-moo-dah-rees al-kah-seer dah-kee; The short teacher is smart.) (M)

al-'ustaadh aT-Tawiil Sa'b. (al-oos-taz ah-tah-weel sahb; The tall professor is difficult.) (M)

Notice that a simple change in the definite article changes the meaning of the phrase or sentence. For
example, when the noun is defined and both adjectives are indefinite, you create an "is" sentence, as in "The
boy is big." On the other hand, when both noun and adjective are defined, the adjective affects the noun
directly, and you get "the big boy."

Building sentences with common prepositions


In grammatical terms, prepositions are words or small phrases that indicate a relationship between substantive
and other types of words, such as adjectives, verbs, nouns, or other substantives. In both English and Arabic,
prepositions are parts of speech that are essential in the formation of sentences. You can add them to "is/are"
sentences to give them more specificity. Table 1 lists the most common prepositions you're likely to use in
Arabic.
Table 1: Common Prepositions

Arabic

Pronunciation

Translation

min

meen

from

fii

fee

in

'ilaa

ee-lah

to

ma'a

mah-ah

with

'alaa

ah-lah

on

qariib min

kah-reeb meen

close to

ba'iid min

bah-eed meen

far from

'amaama

ah-mah-mah

in front of

waraa'a

wah-rah-ah

behind

taHta

tah-tah

underneath

fawqa

faw-kah

above

bijaanibi

bee-jah-nee-bee

next to

You can use these prepositions to construct clauses and phrases using both indefinite and definite nouns and
adjectives. Here are some examples:

al-bint 'amaama al-madrasa. (al-bee-net ah-mah-mah al-mad-rah-sah; The girl is in front of the school.)

aT-Taawila fii al-ghurfa. (ah-tah-wee-lah fee al-goor-fah; The table is in the room.)

al-'ustaadha fii al-jaami'a. (al-oos-tah-zah fee al-jah-mee-ah; The professor is in the university.) (F)

al-maT'am bijaanibi al-funduq. (al-mat-ham bee-jah-nee-bee al-foon-dook; The restaurant is next to the
hotel.)

ar-rajul min 'amriika. (ah-rah-jool meen am-ree-kah; The man is from America.)

al-madiina qariiba min ash-shaaTi'. (al-mah-dee-nah kah-ree-bah meen ah-shah-teeh; The city is close
to the beach.)

as-sayyaara al-bayDaa' waraa'a al-manzil. (ah-sah-yah-rah al-bay-dah wah-rah-ah al-man-zeel; The


white car is behind the house.)
al-walad al-laTiif ma'a al-mudarris. (al-wah-lad ah-lah-teef mah-ah al-moo-dah-rees; The nice boy is
with the teacher.)

In addition, you can use multiple adjectives with both the subject and object nouns:

al-'imra'a al-jamiila fii as-sayyaara as-sarii'a. (al-eem-rah-ah al-jah-mee-lah fee ah-sah-yah-rah ah-sahree-ah; The beautiful woman is in the fast car.)

al-mudarissa ad-dakiyya 'amaama al-madrasa al-bayDaa'. (al-moo-dah-ree-sah ah-dah-kee-yah ahmah-mah al-mad-rah-sah al-bay-dah; The smart teacher is in front of the white school.) (F)

al-kursiiy aS-Saghiir waraa'a aT-Taawila al-kabiira. (al-koor-see ah-sah-geer wah-rah-ah ah-tah-weelah al-kah-bee-rah; The small chair is behind the big table.)

How to Pronounce Arabic Sounds


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
5 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Arabic Words and Phrases for Traveling
To be understood in Arabic, you need to recognize and know how to pronounce some distinct
sounds that differ from English, or don't exist in English at all. The Arabic sound system isn't as
different from English as you may think.
In fact, the Arabic alphabet consists of 28 letters, most of which have English equivalents. These
letters are pronounced essentially the same as their English counterparts: b, d, f, h, j, k, m, n, s, t,

w, y, z. There are also some Arabic sounds that exist in English, although we don't use a separate
letter for them: sh, th (as in bath), dh (as in these), l (as in hello).
In Arabic, vowels come in both long and short. However, unlike in English, in Arabic, you actually
hold a long vowel twice as long as a short vowel. In addition, Arabic vowel can sound different
depending on the consonants around them.
Vowel

Sound

Example

short

"bet" or "bad"

aa

long

"father"

short

"bit" or "spin"

Ii

long

"keep" or "teeth"

short

"foot" or "cook"

uu

long

"Ruth" or "food"

ay

compound

"bait" or "shake"

aw

compound

"cow" or "how"

A number of Arabic consonants have emphatic or hard versions that are pronounced deeper in
the throat. Emphatic consonants can make the vowels around them harder and deeper too.
Emphatic
Consonant

Sounds Like

Example

"d"

The word mariiD

"h"; imagine exhaling a strong and deep


breath

The wordmarHaban

"s"

The phrase SabaaH alkhayr

"t"

The word 'aTshaan

DH

"dh" sound

The word DHuhr

Pronounced like "k," but deeper in the

The phrase ilaliQaa'

throat

Pay close attention to the letters in the following table. The consonants here are distinctly Arabic
in the way they sound.
Uniquely
Arabic
Consonant

Sounds Like

Example

kh

The "ch" in "Bach" or "loch"; has a raspy sound

The
phraseSabaaH
al-khayr

A rolled "r" sound, similar to the Spanish R

The
wordmarHaban

gh

A "gargling" kind of sound between "g" and "r,"


produced deep in the throat

The
wordghaDbaan

'

No equivalent in English, produced by contracting the


muscles in the throat; sometimes compared to a
"choking" sound

The
word'aTshaan

'

A "glottal stop," found at the beginning of "uh-oh!"

The phrase ila


liqaa'

Common Conversational Words and Phrases in Arabic


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
4 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Arabic Words and Phrases for Traveling
By mastering the basics of polite conversation in Arabic, you put yourself and the person you're
talking to at ease. Everyone should learn essential Arabic conversational words and phrases
before traveling to an Arabic-speaking country. These words and expressions are sure to come
up in most everyday conversations.

Courteous phrases
Being polite is just as important in Arabic-speaking countries as they are anywhere else in this
world. The following words and phrases cover most of the pleasantries required for polite

conversation. After all, learning to say the expressions of common courtesy in Arabic before
traveling is just good manners.
na'am (yes)
min faDlik (please)
tafaDDal (go ahead, be my guest)
shukran. (Thank you.)
shukran jaziilan. (Thank you very much.)
'afwan (Youre welcome.)
aasif (Sorry.)
'afwan (Excuse me.)
mara thaaniya, min faDlik? (Please repeat.)
laa (no)
In the Middle East, "Yes" and "no" can be confusing for Americans. In many Arab countries, the
gesture for "yes shaking the head side to side looks like the American gesture for "no" "No"
in those areas is indicated by throwing the head back and looking upward. You may be further
confused if the Arab recognizes you as an American and is trying to use the American gesture.
Rest assured, in any Arab country, laa means "no."

References to people
Once you've mastered the common pleasantries, the next important thing to learn is how to refer
to people. When meeting people in Arabic-speaking countries, be sure to use the appropriate
formal title. A man would be called as-sayyid, which is the same as Mr. or Sir. An older or married
woman is called as-sayyida, and a young lady is called al-aanisa.
The next most common way to refer to people is by using personal pronouns. In Arabic, the
pronouns (you and they) are complicated by gender and formality. You'll use slightly different
variations of these words depending on the person you are referring to and how well you know
them.
anaa (I)
huwa (he)
hiya (she)
naHnu (we)
anta/anti (you [M/F])

antum (you [plural])


hum (they)

Phrases for travelers


There are some phrases that are particularly helpful to international travelers. Below are several
phrases that might come in handy during your stay in an Arabic-speaking country.

hal tatakallam al-arabiya? (Do you speak Arabic?)

hal tatakallam al-injliiziya? (Do you speak English?)

atakallam al-'arabiya. (I speak Arabic.)

laa atakallam al-'arabiya. (I do not speak Arabic.)

atakallam qaliilan. (I speak a little.)

afham. (I understand.)

laa afham. (I do not understand.)

hal tafham? (Do you understand? [M])

hal tafhamiin? (Do you understand? [F])

Arabic Greetings and Good-Byes


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
3 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Arabic Words and Phrases for Traveling
When traveling in Arabic-speaking countries, you'll find that the words and phrases you use most
frequently will be the common Arabic greetings. These words and phrases will quickly become
second nature to you because you use them day in and day out with everyone you come across.

Saying hello and good-bye


Polite greetings are just as important in Arabic-speaking countries as they are in America. In fact
when greeting a group of people, it is best to greet each person in the group individually to ensure
that everyone gets a proper greeting. Some of the most common ways to greet someone in
Arabic are

ahlan (hello)

marHaban (hello; greetings)

ahlan wa sahlan (welcome)

Keep in mind that because of the conservative nature in many Arabic-speaking countries it is
considered rude for men and women to greet each other in public.
In addition to the initial greetings, there are a number of Arabic greetings that have a specific
traditional response.
Greeting

Pronunciation

Traditional
Response

Pronunciation

Peace be upon you.


(formal/group)

assalaam'alayku
m

Upon you be peace

wa 'alaykum
salaam

Good morning

SabaaH alkhayr

Morning of light

SabaaH an-nuur

Good evening

Masaa' alkhayr

Evening of light

Masaa' an-nuur

When meeting someone for the first time or greeting someone in a formal situation, it is common
for members of the same sex to exchange handshake. However, if they're close friends or family,
the standard greeting is a handshake and a kiss on each cheek.
Always shake hands with your right hand. The left hand is considered unclean.
Farewells can vary depending on where you're visiting, but two common ways to say goodbye to
someone are ma'a as-salaama (goodbye) and ila-liqaa'(until we meet again).

Asking and responding to "How are you?"


How are you? How's it going? How many times a day do we hear or say these brief greetings at
the beginning of our conversations? So many times, in fact, that we rarely even think about the
response, we often respond with a standard "fine" or "good" regardless of who we are actually
feeling. The same is true in Arabic. The question "kayf Haalak?" (How are you?) usually calls for
a formulaic response "Fine, praise God" (bi-khayr, al-Hamdu lillah) rather than an actual
description of your current condition. However, if you have a real need or are speaking to a friend,
you can give a more realistic response. You can use "anaa . . ." (I am . . . ) followed by one of
these conditions:
sa'iid/sa'iida (happy [M/F]) .(Arabic adjectives have masculine and feminine forms. So, if you
need to change these adjectives to feminine, just add an a.)
Haziin/Haziina (sad)
ta'baan/ta'baana (tired)

ghaDbaan/ghaDbaa (angry)
'aTshaan/'aTshaa (thirsty)
jaw'aan/jaw'aa (hungry)
bardaan/bardaana (cold)
Harraan/Harraa (hot)
mashghuul/mashghuula (busy)
mariiD/mariiDa (sick)
muta'akhkhir/muta'akhkhira (late)

Arabic Travel-Related Words and Phrases


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
1 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Arabic Words and Phrases for Traveling
Traveling in Arabic-speaking countries can be confusing especially if you can't read the signs or
understand the instructions you're given. Learning a few useful Arabic travel-related words and
phrases before you begin traveling can save you time and reduce your frustration level.
Here are a few general travel-related terms that everyone should know before making the big trip.
Hajz (reservation)
riHla (flight, trip)
Haqiiba, Haqaa'ib (suitcase(s))
jawaaz safar (passport)
ta'shiira (visa)
dukhuul (entry)
khuruuj (exit)
maTaar (airport)
baab (gate)
al-jumruk (customs)
istilaam al-amti'a (baggage claim)
Saalat al-wusuul (arrivals area)
Saalat al-intiDHaar (waiting [departure] area)

Haafila (bus)

Tickets and reservations


While traveling in an Arabic-speaking country, you often need to make or change your travel
arrangements. The following words can help you with the reservation and ticket-buying process.
biTaaqa (ticket)
maw'id ar-riHla (departure time)
ad-daraja al-uulaa (first class)
ad-daraja ath-thaaniya (second class)
The following phrases are some of the most common questions that you might need to ask when
making travel arrangements in Arabic-speaking countries.

'uriid an ashtarii biTaaqa. (I would like to buy a ticket.)

'uriid an usaafar ilaa . . . (I would like to travel to . . .)

'indii Haqiibatayn. (I have two suitcases.)

'indanaa thalaath Haqaa'ib. (We have three suitcases.)

mataa taSil aT-Taa'ira? (When does the plane arrive?)

hunaa jawwaz safarii. (Here is my passport.)

hunaa biTaaqatii. (Here is my ticket.)

'uriid an usaafar bi-Taa'ira. (I want to travel by plane.)

'uriid an usaafar bi-sayyaara. (I want to travel by car.)

bi-kam al-biTaaqa? (How much is the ticket?)

ayna-l-baab? (Where is the gate?)

Hotels
Although many of the larger hotels in Arabic-speaking countries have English-speaking staff, you
rarely find that in the smaller hotels and in the smaller towns. It will be helpful to learn a few
Arabic words that can help you with booking a room at a hotel.
funduq (hotel)

ghurfa (room)
HawD as-sibaaHa (pool)
Taabiq (floor)
mukayyifa al-hawaa' (air conditioning)
balkuun (balcony)
sariirayn (two beds)
Hammaam (bathroom)
haatif (phone)
tilfaaz (television)
The following phrases can help you make or change your hotel reservations.

'indii Hajz. (I have a reservation.)

hal 'indakum ghurfa? (Do you have a room?)

'ufaDDil ghurfa bi . . . (I prefer a room with . . .)

bikam al-ghurfa? (How much is the room?)

How to Ask for and Understand Directions in Arabic


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
7 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Arabic Words and Phrases for Traveling
Exploring Arabic-speaking countries can be quite an adventure, but you need to know how to ask
for directions in Arabic and to understand what you're told. After all, if you don't understand the
directions, you might miss the very things you hoped to see.
The first thing you need to know is how to ask for directions. To get help you can say Men
fathlek/fathleki [F] (Excuse me) or Hal beemkanek mosa'adati? (Can you help me?).
If you're standing around looking confused, someone might ask youHal beemkani
mosa'adatuk? (Can I help you?)
The following words can help you to understand the directions you hear in Arabic-speaking
countries.
sharq (east)
gharb (west)

shamaal (north)
januub (south)
yamiin (right)
yasaar (left)
The following phrases might come in handy with asking for and receiving directions in Arabic.

ayna-l-baab? (Where is the gate?)

ayna maHaTTa matruu? (Where is a subway station?)

hal hunaaka markaz bariid qariib min hunaa? (Is there a post office nearby?)

huwa fii shaari' tuunis. (It is on Tunis Street.)

ayna as-sifaara al-amriikiiya? (Where is the American Embassy?)

hal haadhaa shaari'as-saadaat? (Is this Sadat Street?)

uriid an adhab ilaa . . . (I want to go to . . .)

anaa biHaaja ilaa taaksii. (I need a taxi.)

al-matHaf qariib min al-kaniisa. (The museum is near the church.)

Knowing the names of some common places or locations is often helpful when asking for
directions.
maHaTTa qiTaaraat (train station)
maTaar (airport)
mustashfaa (hospital)
funduq (hotel)
masjid (mosque)
kaniisa (church)
maT'am (restaurant)
suuq (market)
maktab (office)
bank (bank)

sifaara (embassy)
markaz ash-shurTa (police station)
maktab as-siyaaHa (tourist office)
matHaf (museum)
madrasa (school)
jaami'a (university)
madiina (city)
shaari' (street)
muftaraq (intersection)
taaksii, sayyaarat ujra (taxi)
matruu (subway)
maHaTTa (station)
markaz bariid (post office)
Hallaaq (barber)
shurTa (police)
maktab as-siyaaHa (tourist office)
baqqaal (grocery store)
sifaara (embassy)
markaz (center)
maktaba (bookstore)
matHaf (museum)
masjid, jaami' (mosque)
kaniisa (church)
kulliya (college)
Specific locations are formed with the name following the type of place, as in funduq Hilton (the
Hilton Hotel) or maTaar bayruut(Beirut Airport).

How to Ask For Help in Arabic


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set

10 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Arabic Words and Phrases for Traveling


Know how to ask for help in Arabic before you have an actual emergency. By learning a few
simple Arabic words and phrases for emergencies, you can save valuable time in a crisis.
The simplest way to ask for assistance is to say saa'adinii!, which means Help me! Of course,
different situations require different kinds of help. For example, if you're experiencing a legal
emergency of some kind, you want to ask for the police (shurTa), a police officer (shurTii), or the
police station (markaz ash-shurTa). If you're experiencing a serious legal emergency you might
also want to say "Where is the American Embassy?" (ayna as-sifaara al-amriikiiya?).
Most emergencies that happen in foreign countries, however, are medical. The most efficient way
to get the help you need is to know how to ask for the right kind of help and to be able to explain
what's wrong.
Getting the right kind of help usually depends on getting to the right person. You can use the
following vocabulary words help you get to the right person for the situation.

To ask for a doctor say Tabiib.

To ask for a dentist say Tabiib al-isnaan.

To ask for a hospital say mustashfaa.

To ask for a pharmacist say SayDalii.


In most Arab countries, pharmacists often have medical training and can recommend and
provide suitable medicines for common ailments, so people often go directly to the
pharmacist for common problems, instead of a doctor.

To ask for a nurse say mumarriD (M), mumarriDa (F).

Once you are able to talk to the right person, you can use the following words to explain what's
wrong.
Sudaa' (headache)
Huruuq ash-shams (sunburn)
zukaam (a cold)
alam (pain)
iltihaab (inflammation)
al-is-haal (diarrhea)
mariiD (sick)

The following phrases might come in handy when you need medical help in an Arabic-speaking
country.

anaa mariiD. (I am sick.)

'indii zukaam. (I have a cold.)

ayna al-mustashfaa? (Where is the hospital?)

hal hunaaka Tabiib hunaa? (Is there a doctor here?)

anaa biHaaja ilaa Tabiib. (I need a doctor.)

anaa biHaaja ilaa dawaa' li . . . (I need medicine for . . .)

hal 'indakum dawaa' li . . . ? (Do you have a medicine for . . . ?)

ayna aqrab SayDaliya? (Where is the nearest pharmacy?)

How to Make Introductions in Arabic


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
Learning the proper way to make introductions in Arabic can help you get off to the right start. The
Arabic language tends to be a bit more formal than American English. Consequently,
introductions in Arabic follow more of a pattern than they sometimes do in the United States.
Don't worry, its not complicated just good manners.

Introducing yourself
First impressions are important they can start a friendship and set the tone for your entire
meeting.
1.

Start with a greeting.


The simplest greeting is ahlan (hello) or marHaban (hello; greetings).

However, because of the conservative nature in many Arabic-speaking countries it is considered


rude for men and women to greet each other in public.
1.

Introduce yourself.
The most common way to introduce yourself is to say ismii Name (My name is Name).

2.

Ask their name.

Ask the other person their name by saying maa ismuka/maa ismuki?[M/F] (What is your
name? [literally: What is your noble name?]).
3.

After they tell you their name you should respond.


After they tell you their name, it is customary to acknowledge the introduction by
saying tasharrafnaa (Pleased to meet you).

Where are you from?


To tell someone where you are from you can say anaa min place name (I am from place name)
or anaa (I am . . .) in then list your nationality. For example, if you're from the United States,
you can say anaa amriikii/ amriikiya (I am American? [M/F]). To ask where the other person is
from, you can say anta min ayna?/ayna (Where are you from? [M/F])?

anaa min lundun. (I am from London.)

huwa min kalifuurniia. (He is from California.)

ayna taskun?/ayna taskuniin? (Where do you live? [M/F])

askun fii . . . (I live in [at] . . .)

askun fii shaari' mayn. (I live on Main Street.)

askun fii bustun. (I live in Boston.)

If you want to talk about where you or your Arab counterpart lives on the other hand, you would
use aksun (I live . . .) and taskun (you live.)

Introducing a friend or spouse


The second most common type of introduction is to introduce someone else, such as your
spouse, child, or friend:

ismuhu ahmad. (His name is Ahmad.)

ismuhaa layla. (Her name is Layla.)

maa ismuhuu? (What is his name?)

maa ismuhaa? (What is her name?)

The pattern for expressing your nationality is the same as for expressing conditions. Simply use
the pronoun followed by the nationality.

anaa amriikii. (I am American. [M])

anaa amriikiya. (I am American. [F])

hiya biriiTaaniya. (She is British.)

About nationalities
Most nationalities in Arabic are formed by adding ii to the end of the country name for masculine
constructions and iya for feminine ones. If the name of the country starts with al- (the), then al- is
dropped when the word for the nationality is made. Here are some examples.
al-wilaayaat al-muttaHida (The United States)
amriikaa (America)
amriikii/amriikiya (American [M/F])
maSr (Egypt)
maSrii/maSriya (Egyptian)
suuriyaa (Syria)
suurii/suuriya (Syrian)
lubnaan (Lebanon)
lubnaanii/lubnaaniya (Lebanese)
as-sa'uudiia (Saudi Arabia)
sa'uudii/sa'uudiya (Saudi)
al-kuwayt (Kuwait)
kuwaytii/kuwaytiya (Kuwaiti)
'umaan (Oman)
'umaanii/umaaniya (Omani)
filasTiin (Palestine)
filasTiinii/filasTiiniya (Palestinian)
al-urdunn (Jordan)
urdunnii/urdunniya (Jordanian)
faransaa (France)

faransii/faransiya (French)
biriiTaaniyaa (Britain)
biriiTaanii/biriiTaaniya (British)

Arabic Vocabulary for Shopping


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
8 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Arabic Words and Phrases for Traveling
One of the best ways to explore another country is to go shopping. Whether you're shopping for
clothes, food, or souvenirs, you can use the following phrases in any Arabic-speaking country to
help you find just the right thing.
There are some fabulous deals to be found in the Middle East. In most Arabic-speaking countries,
there are street markets (called souqs) where you can buy anything from fruits and vegetables to
antiques and collectibles. If you need more specific grocery items, you want to visit
a Baqqaal (grocery store).
Bargaining in these marketplaces is one of the great cultural activities in the Arab world and one
of the best opportunities for a visitor to practice speaking. Good-natured haggling is expected in
the street markets (but not in fixed-price stores). Expect the salesperson to start at twice the
expected price or higher.
The following words can be used in a variety of shopping situations.
baa'i' (salesperson)
thaman, si'r (price)
ghaalii (expensive)
rakhiiS (cheap)
maqbuul (acceptable)
ghayr maqbuul (unacceptable)
tanziilaat (sale [discount])
sajjaada (rug)
nuHaas (brass)
Sunduuq (box)
ibriiq (coffee urn)
finjaan (cup)

'iTr (perfume)
Hariir (silk)
jild (leather)
The following phrases will be useful no matter what kind of shopping you plan on doing.

bikam? (How much?)

haadhaa ghaalii. (That is expensive.)

haadhaa thaman jayyid. (That is a good price.)

uriid haadhaa. (I want this (one).)

uriid an ashtarii . . . (I want to buy . . .)

uriid an adfa' bishiik. (I want to pay by check.)

hal yumkinnii an ashtarii . . . hunaa? (May I buy . . . here?)

hal anta tabii' . . . ? (Do you sell . . . ?)

uriid shay'an arkhaS, min faDlik. (I want something less expensive, please.)

ufaDDil haadhaa. (I prefer this [one].)

haadhaa si'r maqbuul. (That price is acceptable.)

sa'dfa' . . . (I will pay . . .)

laa uriid an adfa' akthar min . . . (I don't want to pay more than . . .)

How to Make Small Talk in Arabic


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
Making small talk in Arabic is just the same as in English. Touch on familiar topics like jobs,
sports, children just say it in Arabic! Small talk describes the brief conversations that you have
with people you don't know well. Small talk is where friendships are made. If you know how to
make small talk in Arabic you'll be able to "break the ice" and get to know some of the people you
meet during your trip.
Small talk generally consists of greetings and introductions and descriptions of personal
information and interests. If you are able to hold your own in each of these areas, you'll be able to
handle most small talk situations.

Greetings and Introductions


Although people in Arabic-speaking countries are often more formal than those in the United
States, you don't need to wait around to be introduced to someone. Take the initiative to walk up
to someone and say hello (ahlan) or (marHaban).
As you'd expect, it is considered polite to greet people you meet, whether you know them well or
not. In fact when a greeting a group of people, it is most polite to greet each person in the group
individually. However, because of the conservative nature in many Arabic-speaking countries it is
considered rude for men and women to greet each other in public.
The next thing to do is make introductions. The following phrases are all you need to get a
conversation started.

ismii . . . (My name is . . .)

ismuhu ahmad. (His name is Ahmad.)

ismuhaa layla. (Her name is Layla.)

maa ismuka? (What is your name? [masculine] [literally: What is your noble name?])

maa ismuki? (What is your name? [feminine])

In Arabic, as in English, the question How are you? (kayf Haalak?) usually comes up after a
greeting. If someone asks you how youre doing, you should respond with the formulaic response
"Fine, praise God" (bi-khayr, al-Hamdu lillah) rather than a detailed inventory of your condition.
People in the Middle East tend to stand closer to each other during conversations than
Westerners are used to. Try to resist the temptation to step back to increase your personal space.
It is considered rude.

Personal information
After the necessary introductions, making small talk is really just a question of talking about
yourself and asking the other person questions about themselves. The following phrases will
come in handy when you're chitchatting with someone new.

anaa min. . . (I am from . . .)

anta min ayna?/anti min ayna? (Where are you from? [M/F])

maa waDHiifatuka? (What is your profession?)

ayna taskun?/ayna taskuniin? (Where do you live? [M/F])

anaa Taalib fii jaami'a . . . (Im a student in [university].)

Personal Interests
Many friendships are forged on the bond of common interests. To talk about your hobbies or
interests you can insert any of the following nouns into the sentences uHibb . . . (I like . . . )
or ul'ab . . . (I play . . . ).
kurat al-qadam (soccer)
kurat al-qadam alamriikiya (football [American])
kurat al-maDrib (tennis)
al-baysbuul (baseball)
as-sibaaHa (swimming)
al-jarii (running)
at-tajdhiif (rowing)
riyaaDa (sport)
al-muusiiqaa (music)
qiithaar (guitar)
biyaanuu (piano)
film, aflaam (movie[s])
masraH (plays, theater)
al-qiraaa (reading)
ar-raqS (dancing)
Terms for an entire category or an abstract concept, like "swimming" or "music" require a definite
article in Arabic, unlike English. Literally, you say in Arabic "I like the swimming" (uHibb assibaaHa).
You can use the following phrases to give you some guidelines to when making small talk in
Arabic.

uHibb an ushaahid kurat al-qadam. (I like to watch soccer.)

nuHibb an nal'ab kurat al-maDrib. (We like to play tennis.)

yuHibb al-qiraaa. (He likes reading.)

maadhaa tuHibb an tal'ab? (What do you like to play?)

How to Say Dates and Times in Arabic


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set
When making plans, appointments, and travel arrangements in Arabic-speaking countries, you
need to be able to state dates and other calendar terms in Arabic. Understanding the days of the
week, the months of the year, and how to tell time in Arabic can help you to avoid confusion.

Calendar terms
In Arabic, the week always starts on Sunday and the names of the days of the week are based
(mostly) on numbers.
yawm al-aHad (Sunday)
yawm al-ithnayn (Monday)
yawm ath-thulaathaa' (Tuesday)
yawm al-arbi'aa' (Wednesday)
yawm al-khamiis (Thursday)
yawm al-jum'a (Friday)
yawm as-sabt (Saturday)
When using the names of the days in conversation, the word yawm(day) is often dropped.
Other terms used to describe days in more general terms include
al-yawm (today)
ams (yesterday)
ghadan (tomorrow)
taariikh (date)
The Arab world uses three different systems for the names of the months. The two most common
ones are one based on the French months (used commonly in North Africa) and one that is used
in the Fertile Crescent area (Syria, Iraq, and Jordan).
North African
yanaayir

Fertile Crescent
kaanuun ath-thaanii

English
January

fabraayir

shubaaT

February

maaris

aadhaar

March

abriil

niisaan

April

maayuu

ayyaar

May

yuuniyuu

Haziiraan

June

yuuliyuu

tammuuz

July

aghusTus

aab

August

sibtambir

ayluul

September

uktuubir

tishriin al-awwal

October

nuufimbir

tishriin ath-thaanii

November

diisambir

kaanuun al-awwal

December

The last system is based on the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar and doesn't
correspond to the months used in our calendar.

Telling time
The time of day can be described in general terms or specific times. The following words can be
used to describe the general time of day.
SabaaH (morning)
DHuhr (noon)
ba'd-aDH-DHuhr (afternoon)
masaa' (evening)
layl (nighttime)
nahaar (daytime)
When you want to know a specific time of day, you can ask as-saa'a kam?(What time is it?).
Remember that time expressions use ordinal (first, second, and so on) numbers rather than
cardinal numbers (one, two, and so on), such as the following:

as-saa'a al-waaHida (one o'clock)


as-saa'a ath-thaaniya (two o'clock)
as-saa'a ath-thaalitha (three o'clock)
as-saa'a ar-raabi'a (four o'clock)
as-saa'a al-khaamisa (five o'clock)
as-saa'a as-saadisa (six o'clock)
as-saa'a as-saabi'a (seven o'clock)
as-saa'a ath-thaamina (eight o'clock)
as-saa'a at-taasi'a (nine o'clock)
as-saa'a al-'aashira (ten o'clock)
as-saa'a al-Haadiya 'ashra (eleven o'clock)
as-saa'a ath-thaaniya 'ashra (twelve o'clock)
When expressing time between the hours, use the following terms to break things down.
saa'a (hour/time/clock/watch)
daqiiqa (minute)
thaaniya (second)
nuSf (half)
rub' (quarter)
thulth (third [20 minutes])
To give a specific time, you would state the hour and then add the minutes, quarters, etc. to the
end of the phrase, as in the following examples.
as-saa'a ar-raabi'a illaa rub' (quarter 'til four)
as-saa'a al-waaHida wa nuSf fii-SabaaH (1:30 a.m.)
as-saa'a as-saabi'a wa rub'fii-l-masaa' (7:15 p.m.)

Speaking Arabic at Work and School


By David F. DiMeo from Arabic For Dummies Audio Set

Speaking Arabic at work and school doesn't have to be complicated. Whether you're looking for a
job in an Arabic-speaking country or just need to talk with your coworkers or classmates there,
you'll need to know some key words and phrases to help ease your way.

Using Arabic at work


The following are some common words that you'll hear at work on a daily basis.
ijtimaa' (meeting)
mu'tamar (conference)
maktab (office)
waDHiifa (job)
kull yawm (every day)
kull usbuu' (every week)
qalam (pen)
qalam ar-raSaaS (pencil)
kursii (chair)
kumbuutur, Haasuub (computer)
makaatib (desks)
daftar (notepad)
haatif (telephone)
Some common job-related phrases include:

adhhab ilaa-l-ijtimaa' (I am going to the meeting.)

maa waDHiifatuka? (What is your profession?)

maadhaa ta'mal? (What do you work [at]?)

You can answer this question by saying anaa . . .) (I am a . . .) and then add the noun for your
profession, such as anaa mudarris (I am a teacher). The following words describe many
common jobs. Just add an -a to the following words to change it to feminine.
muwaDHDHaf (white-collar worker)
shurTii (police officer)
muHaamin/muHaamiya (lawyer)

SiHaafii (journalist)
jundii (soldier)
najjaar (carpenter)
kahrabaa'ii (electrician)
saa'iq (driver)
Hammaal (porter)
musaa'id (assistant)
muHaasib (accountant)
mudiir (chief, director)
kaatib (writer)
bawaab (doorman)
The doorman (bawaab) plays an important role in running an apartment building and is,
therefore, an important person to know.

Using Arabic at school


The following are some common words that might come in handy if you're studying abroad in an
Arabic-speaking country.
madrasa (school)
madrasa thaanawiya (high school)
kulliya (college)
jaami'a (university)
Taalib (student)
mudarris (teacher)
ustaadh (professor)
Saff (class)
ghurfat Saff (classroom)
imtiHaan (test)
al-'uluum (sciences)
al-'uluum as-siyaasiya (political science)

al-handasa (engineering)
at-taariikh (history)
al-adab (literature)
Some common school-related phrases include:

anaa Taalib fii jaami'a . . . (I am a student in . . . [university].)

adrus at-taariikh. (I study history.)

huwa ustaadhii. (He is my professor.)

'indii imtiHaan. (I have a test.)

hiya fii Saffii. (She is in my class.)

uHibb al-handasa. (I like engineering.)

Forming the Past Tense Verb in Arabic


By Keith Massey
Part of the Intermediate Arabic For Dummies Cheat Sheet
In Arabic, the past tense is produced with a system of suffixes. You use the same suffixes
regardless of which of the ten verb forms you're using. Here's a table showing the past tense of
typical Form I verb so you can spot the suffixes in a pinch.