Homsood is an internet presence (originally, I think, a youtuber) who produces a weekly 20 minute review dealing with media, usually recent musalsalaat, with a tone of eternal incredulity. He does an excellent job of spearing the often tortured plots and heavy-handed propagandising involved in Arabic-language drama, and his episodes are always pretty funny – especially, of course, if you’ve watched the TV shows in question. He’s always worth a watch, both for language and for content.

This particular clip is taken from an episode about a Syrian TV initiative to bring in a flow of ‘new blood’ and rejuvenate the news. I chose it because he makes a couple of interesting observations about language (allowing me to make interesting observations about the language he uses to make interesting observations about language), and as part of a broader attempt to look at the use of language outside scripted domestic contexts that we began with al-Ittijah al-Mu3aakisAlthough Homsood is obviously not a political show discussing the issues of the day in highfalutin language, this is not at all to say that he speaks exclusively in 3aammi style. Like anyone else presenting an argument, he uses fuSHa for comic and rhetorical effect – and is a useful example of how people do that in real life.

As is suggested by his name, Homsood is from Homs. Although he doesn’t have a super strong accent, his way of speaking is certainly different from Damascenes. Something else to look out for!


كمان نحنا لازم نكون حياديين
kamaan ni7na laazem @nkuun 7ayaadiyyiin
But we should also be neutral

nkuun, obviously, subjunctive because of laazem. He’s referring here to a previous section.

هاي اخطاء فريق الاعداد
haay 2akhTaa2 farii2 il2i3daad
These are mistakes made by the production team.

هاي – not for presentation, but the feminine (less commonly haadi)

الاعداد – literally ‘preparation’

يمكن فريق الاعداد ما فيو ضخ دماء جديدة
yumken farii2 il2i3daad maa fiyyo Dakhkh dimaa2 jadiidi
Maybe the production team hasn’t had this ‘infusion of new blood’.

ما فيو – in Damascene this would probably be maa fii, but lots of people have this either as their exclusive form for bi-o or as an alternative form. This is a sort of pseudoverbal use – ‘to have in it’. You couldn’t say maa bfarii2 il2i3daad Dakhkh – you have to use a form with a pronoun on it.

ضخ – the maSdar from ‘pump’ (ضخ يضخ Dakhkh yDekhkh)

دماء – the somewhat poetic plural of ‘blood’

jadiidi – in Damascene this would be jdiide. I’m not sure whether the a is a Homsi thing or a fuSHa thing.

ما دخل فيه المذيعين! لإنو انا متأكد انو في عندون مذيعين جيدين يليقو بهذه الانطلاقة الجديدة
maa dakhal fii lmuzii3iin! la2enno 2ana mit2akked 2inno fii 3indon muzii3iin jayyidiin yaliiqu bihaazi l2inTilaaqa ljadiidi
What do the presenters have to do with it? Because I’m sure that they’ll have good presenters worthy of this ‘new start’

maa dakhal X b- Y – ‘X has nothing to do with Y’. Easiest not to try and break down the exact role of dakhal here – it’s a frozen form that also appears in shu dakhal X b- Y ‘what’s X got to do with Y’ but not, that I can think of, anywhere else, and never changes shape (shu dakhalni ‘what’s it got to do with me?’) Here the normal order is switched around because b-, rather than being followed by a noun, has a pronoun (though maa dakhal ilmuzii3iin fii sounds okay too).

yaliiqu bihaazi – a mixed fuSHa-colloquial form. It doesn’t have a b- and the prefix is ya-, not y-, but the plural ending is a simple -u (rather than yaliiquun(a) as in fuSHa). Note as well the pronunciation of هذه as haazi.

هلق اخبارنا بقول تنتج حرير العنكبوت بعد تعديل دودة القز جينيا
halla2 2akhbaarna bi2uul tuntej 7ariir al3ankabuut ba3da ta3diil duudet ilqazz jiiniyyan
We now have news that spiders are producing silk after genetic modification of silkworms…

Note the weird shaamified fuSHa pronunciation – duudet not duudatil- not al-. This is a presenter who probably didn’t do very well in their fuSHa classes in school.

تنتج حرير العنكبوت – the subject here is العنكبوت, which is feminine (the suffix -uut, apparently from Aramaic, is feminine)

دودة القز – silkworm. Note the use of the singular + definite here for generic (whereas ‘the silkworm’ in English would usually be a specific silkworm)

التعديل جينيا – literally ‘modification, genetically’

يعني واذا اذا المذيعة خربطت وما قالت الخبر كامل ونقصت اهم شي؟
ya3ni w2iza 2iza lmuzii3a kharbaTet w maa 2aalet ilkhabar kaamel w na22aSet 2ahamm shi?
I mean, so what if the presenter got mixed up and didn’t say the whole story, and missed out the most important thing?

واذا wiza, w2iza –  Literally ‘and if…?’ With this specific intonation, though, it means ‘so what?’ Followed by a normal 2iza which allows for the ‘if the presenter got mixed up’.

خربط – a very useful verb. خربط بين سين وصاد = he got confused/mixed up between X and Y.

كامل – obviously an adverb here, ‘in full’

نقص – a causative, literally ‘to make fall short/to make miss’, but here obviously ‘miss out, leave out’.

عزيزي المشاهد, هنه بيكتبولك الخبر كمان حتى انت تحركلي حالك وتقرى كمان
3aziizi lmushaahed. hinne bik@tbuulak ilkhabar kamaan 7atta 2inte t7arrikli 7aalak w ti2ra kamaan
My dear viewer. They write the news for you as well so that you can be a bit proactive and read it too!

حرك حالك – ‘move yourself’, i.e. be proactive, be active, make a bit of effort.

يعني ما منطق المذيعة تعمللك كل شي
ya3ni maa manTeq ilmuzii3a ta3millak kull shi
I mean, it wouldn’t make sense for the presenter to have to do everything for you!

ما متطق – it wouldn’t be logic. ما is used by Homsis (and people from other parts of Syria) as an all-purpose negator, standing in for muu/mish as well as negating verbs.

يعني كمان انت لازم تقرى الخبر الموجود بالشاشة
ya3ni kamaan 2inte laazem ti2ra lkhabar ilmawjuud bishshaashe
You have to read the story written on the screen as well!

حنكون معكون مع اشرائة الشمس كل يوم
7ankuun ma3kon ma3 2ishraa2et éshshams kéll yoom
We’ll be with you from daybreak every day

حـ – a variant of course on رح, رايح, لح etc

اشراقة الشمس – literally ‘the shining of the sun’

حنحاول اكيد نوصل لاعماق قلوبكون ونبعث بضوها لنخترق عباق السما
7an7aawel 2akiid nuuSal la2a3maa2 @2luubkon w néb3ath biDawwa lanékhtere2 3abaa2 éssama
We’ll try of course to reach the depths of your hearts, and spread its light until we pierce the cloak of the sky

عباء – maybe? Homsood also isn’t sure what she’s trying to say here!

عزيزتي المذيعة انا بعرف انو المخرج قايللك انو لازم بالتليفزيون العالم تحكي اللهجة البيضا
3aziizti lmuzii3a 2ana ba3ref 2inno lmukhrej 2aayillek 2inno laazem bittelefizyoon il3aalem ti7ki llahje lbeeDa
My dear presenter, I know that the director told you that on TV people are supposed to speak with a nice accent

قايللك – participle of قال, of course. ‘Has told you’

العالم – ‘people’. عالم and خلق khél@2 are both used to mean ‘people’, usually with feminine singular agreement.

اللهجة البيضا – ‘white dialect’, or maybe ‘pure dialect’. Refers more or less to the equivalent of what we call BBC English – the fancy, soft way of talking that is characteristic of TV presenters and certain other social groups.

بس اشرائة الشمس ما حدا بيحكيها
bass ‘2ishraa2et ishshams’ maa 7ada byi7kiiha
But nobody pronounces it 2ishraa2et ishshams 

He’s objecting to overuse of the glottal stop in place of qaaf. In Syrian many, many higher-register words retain qaaf rather than losing it, and changing them into a hamze risks making you (a learner or especially a native) sound a) silly, b) childish, c) effeminate and cutesy, or d) Lebanese (and unfortunately for Lebanese people, the three former stereotypes get applied to them, too).

ما حدا بيحكيها – note that the object of this (2ishraa2et ishshams) is moved to the beginning of the sentence as topic and replaced by a feminine object pronoun on the verb. I don’t think this has anything to do with the fact that 2ishraa2a is itself feminine, but that sentences and words are generally treated as feminine when referred to paralinguistically like this.

اسمها  اشراقة الشمس. قد ما حبيتي تطلعي بيضا
2isma 2ishraaqet ishshams. 2add ma 7abbeeti tiTla3i beeDa
It’s2ishraaqet ishshams, no matter how nice you want to sound.

اسمها – ‘its name is’ can be used much more broadly than its literal English equivalent.

قد ما حبيتي – ‘no matter how much you want to…’ This is 2add ma, ‘however much’, which typically triggers past, followed by 7abb in its meaning of ‘would like’ or ‘want’.

تطلعي – this is one of the many meanings of Tile3, similar to how you say طلعت كتير حلو بالصورة to someone you’ve just taken a photo of.

اشراقة الشمس. واعماق قلوبكون هادا ما هادا ما حديث ما قصة مانو لغة هادا ما منطق
2ishraaqet ishshams. w 2a3maa2 @2luubkon… haada ma, haada ma 7adiis maa 2iSSet maano lugha haada maa manTiq
2ishraaqet ishshams. And as for 2a3maa2 @2luubkon… This isn’t a matter, this isn’t a case of it not being proper language, this isn’t even logical

قصة – literally, as every Arabic student knows, ‘story’, but very common in colloquial to mean ‘a matter of’ (among other things – ما عندي هيك قصص ‘I wouldn’t do that sort of thing’, وكذا وقصص ‘and so on and so forth’, القصة مو هيك ‘it’s not like that’). It can be placed in iDaafe, in defiance of fuSHa logic, with a normal full sentence, here maano lugha ‘it isn’t (proper) language’.

اسما اعماق قلوبكم او اعماق قلوبكون بتمشي على حالا هيك
2isma 2a3maaq quluubikum 2aw 2a3maaq 2uluubkon btimshi 3ala 7aala heek
It’s 2a3maaq quluubikum. Or 2a3maaq 2uluubkon, that’s how it works

Either the fuSHa form fully, or the fuSHa pronunciation of اعماق with the 3aami pronunciation of قلوب.

ونخترئ اعماق السما بصراحة ما في هيك قصة
w nikhtere2 2a3maa2 issama bSaraa7a maa fii heek 2iSSa
And nikhtere2 2a3maa2 issama… Seriously, there’s no such thing.

بصراحة – honestly, sincerely

ما في هيك قصة – another related meaning of قصة.

اعماق السما – I actually hear her saying عباء السما ‘the coat of the sky’, but this doesn’t seem to be a common expression even if it could be a poetic stretch.

هي نخترق كلمة نخترق كلمة نخترق فبدا كل حروفها بدها الخيه والكيه الخاء والقاء
hiyye nikhtereq, kilmet nikhtereq… nikhtereq. fa bidda kull 7uruufa. bidda lkhee wilqee, ilkhaa2 wilqaa2
Nikhtereq, the word nikhtereq, it’s… nikhtereq. It needs all its letters pronouncing. It needs the khee and the qee, the khaa2 and the qaa2.

خيه وقيه – it is common for Syrians, particularly those who’ve lived in Turkey, to use the sound of the letter plus ee to describe a letter alongside the real names (qaa2 of course isn’t the real name of the letter qaaf either)

بدها – ‘it needs’. A very useful use of biddha.

اعماق هاي ليكي نحنا ما منعرف يا اعباء يا اعماق يا عباء بصراحة ما مفهومة
2a3maa2… haay leeki ni7na maa mna3ref yaa 2a3baa2 yaa 2a3maaq yaa 3abaa2 biSaraa7a maa mafhuumi
And a3maa2… this, well, we don’t know it. Either 2a3baa2, or 2a3maaq, or 3abaa2 – honestly, it’s not comprehensible.

ليك, ليكي, ليكو – ‘look’, or ‘here is’, or ‘here comes’. Here it’s feminine for the presenter.

يا… يا… – ‘either… or…’ or just a string of ors.

ما مفهومة – this is a use of the passive participle with an -able meaning – ‘incomprehensible’.

بدنا نفهم عليكي الله يخليلي ياكي
biddna nifham 3aleeki aLLa ykhalliili yaaki
We want to understand you, please!

نفهم عليكي – in Shaami fihem typically takes 3ala with people, but can take direct objects with other things – بدي افهم عليك حديثك ‘I want to understand what you’re saying’.

الله يخليلي ياكي – literally ‘may God keep you for me!’ but ‘for me’ makes the English sound stronger, I think, than the Arabic. This is here just a slightly dramatic way of saying ‘please’, similar to ‘for goodness’ sake!’ You can do this with a lot of formulaic good wishes – another common one is الله يرضى عليك ‘may God be pleased with you’.

حنكون معكون مع اشرائة الشمس كل يوم
7ankuun ma3kon ma3 2ishraa2et éshshams kéll yoom
We’ll be with you from daybreak every day

حنحاول اكيد نوصل لاعماق قلوبكون ونبعث بضوها لنخترق عباق السما
7an7aawel 2akiid nuuSal la2a3maa2 @2luubkon w néb3ath biDawwa lanékhtere2 3abaa2 éssama
We’ll try of course to reach the depths of your hearts, and spread its light until we pierce the cloak of the sky

طيب ما في مذيعين غير هدول؟ معقول؟
Tayyeb maa fii muzii3iin gheer hadool? ma32uul?
OK, are there no other presenters? really?

طيب – here in its meaning ‘OK’. Some people say طب Tabb (I think this is mainly southern Levantine)

غير – ‘other than’

معقول – ‘[is it] reasonable?’ a very common expression


‘Think’ is another one of these words that translates to several different things in other languages, so here’s a post on all the different ways you can talk about what’s goin’ on in the old grey matter:

فكر fakkar

This one we all know from fuSHa (in fact this is true of most of the words here). It has two major meanings. The first is thinking about something, which takes b- for a noun or a subjunctive for a verb:

عم فكر سافر ع اروبا
3am fakker saafer 3ala 2oorubba
I’m thinking about/of going to Europe

ضليتني طول الليل عم فكر فيكي
Dalleetni Tool élleel 3am fakker fiiki
I was thinking about you all night long [= I stayed the whole night thinking about you]

The second one is thinking that X is Y. This one is very common. Note that this is one of those verbs which in Arabic usually appears in the past or as a participle (perhaps on the basis that fakkar is considered to constitute one single non-drawn out action, like ‘arrive at the conclusion that’). The present بفكر is not used as an equivalent to English ‘I think’:

فكرتك مو جايه اليوم
fakkartak muu jaayye lyoom
I thought you weren’t coming today [= I thought you aren’t coming today]

مين مفكر حالك؟
miin @mfakker 7aalak?
Who do you think you are? [= who do you think yourself?]

ان شاء الله مفكرتيني عم ابكي
nshaLLa mfakkértiini 3am 2ébki!
I hope you [don’t] think I’m crying! [= God willing you think me crying!]

وليش لحتى فكرك اهبل؟
wleesh la7atta fakkrak 2ahbal?
Why would I think you’re an idiot?

As you can see, in most of these cases the most common natural choice is with a direct object and a tamyiiz (or whatever you want to interpret the second object as), i.e. a second object which is either a verbal sentence (like in 3am 2ébki), a participle sentence, or a noun etc. Sentences with 2énno can also follow fakkar, though:

اللي مفكر إنو الاحتفالات خلصت بكون غلطان
élli mfakker 2énno l2i7tifaalaat khélSet bikuun ghalTaan!
Anyone who thinks that [ = the one who thinks that] the celebrations are over is wrong!

فكرت انو وصلنا
fakkar@t 2énno waSSalna
I thought we’d got there

فكرـ fékr-

This is used with pronominal suffixes and is probably classifiable as a pseudoverb: fékrak. It’s generally pretty similar in meaning to فكّر:

يا حبيبي إذا فكرك تخوّفنا بحب ذكرك نحنا ما منخاف الا من ربنا.
yaa 7abiibi 2iza fikrak @tkhawwéfna b7ébb zakkrak né7na maa ménkhaaf 2élla mén rabbna
Listen, pal, if you think you’re going to scare us I’d like to remind you that we fear only God

إذا شايفني مُش عم بشكي فكرك يعني مُش موجوع
2iza shaayifni mish 3am babki fikrak ya3ni mush mawjuu3?
If you see that I’m not crying do you think that means I’m not in pain?

بإنتخابات الجاي فكري أعمل رئيس قلم وإنتخب قبل بيومين تلاته من كل الناس
bil2intikhaabaat ijjaay fikri 2a3mel ra2iis qalam w2antekheb 2abel yoomeen @tlaate min kull innaas
In the next elections I’m thinking of being a returning clerk and casting my vote two or three days before everyone else

ظن يظن Zann yZénn

This one occasionally appears without b- (2aZunn), which is a fuSHaism. In Palestine and Jordan you might hear baZunn-ni with a repeated pronoun on the end (similar to ضل ‘stay, keep’). It usually appears with إنو, or with a full sentence without 2inno. It is used to say ‘I think [it is likely that]’:

سياسي بظن
siyaasi bZenn
He’s a politician I think
He’s probably a politician

بظن غير شي
bZenn gheer shi
I think it’s (probably) something else

والله بظن يوجد اهم من قضية محمد صلاح
waLLa bZenn yuujad 2ahamm min 2aDiit @m7ammad Salaa7
To be honest I think there are more important things than the Mohammed Salah issue

بظن انو هي وقفت حسابها معناتو، لأن حتى عندي هيك
baZunn 2inno hiyye wa22afet 7isaabha ma3naato, la2enn 7atta 3indi heek
I think she [must have] closed her account then, because [it looks] like that even for me

It is also used very commonly on its own:

ما بظن
maa bZenn
I don’t think so

اعتقد i3ta2ad, i3taqad

A possibly slightly more high-register variant of Zann (especially if you use it with the qaaf). Used in the same way syntactically:

لازم ينشال لان غير انو المنظر بشع بعتقد كمان ضيق على الطريق
laazem yinshaal la2enn gheer 2inno lmanZar bishe3 bi3te2ed kamaan dayye2 3a TTarii2
They have to get rid of it, because on top of it being an eyesore I think it’s blocking the road [= it’s narrow on the road]

اعتبر i3tabar

Probably best translated as ‘consider’ or ‘think X to be’:

صادقة وكلشي فيا حلوو وهي عنيدة صح بس انا ما بعتبر هالشي سلبي لاني انا كمان عنيدة
saad2a w kill shi fiyya 7ilw w hiyye 3aniide Sa77 bass 2ana maa bi3teber hashshi salbi la2enni 2ana kamaan 3aniide
she’s honest and everything about her is lovely, and it’s true that she’s stubborn but I don’t consider that to be a bad thing because I’m stubborn too

خطرلو, خطر ع بالو khaTarlo, khaTar 3abaalo

These two both mean ‘it occurred to him’ – the second one with an extra بال baal ‘mind’ (so ‘it occurred to his mind’).

غريب بعرفش كيف خطر ع بالي
ghariib ba3rafesh kiif khaTar 3a baali
Weird – I don’t know how I thought of it/how it occurred to me

خطر على بالي أني روح قول للمدير أني الأنترنت رح يقطع
khaTar 3a baali 2inni ruu7 2uul lalmudiir 2inni l2internet ra7 yi2Ta3
I thought about telling/it occurred to me that I could tell the boss that the internet was going to be cut off

سؤال خطر ع بالي
su2aal khaTar 3a baali
A question that I just thought of

It has a causative:

ما بعرف شو خطرلي اسمع اوبريت الحلم العربي
maa ba3ref shu khaTTarli 2isma3 2oobreet il7ilm il3arabi
I don’t know what made me think to watch the Arab Dream operetta

Verbs with specific ‘think X’ meanings

There’s a type of verb, mostly form X (staf3al) verbs, which typically means ‘deem/think X Y’, where X is the object and Y is an adjective incorporated into the verb by means of a root. These verbs are only occasionally best translated with ‘think’:

 شو هالكام الف استكترتون عليي يعني؟
shu halkaam 2alf @staktarton 3aleyyi ya3ni?
What, you don’t think I deserve a few thousand lira? [= what, this few thousand you think are too much for me?]

لا هادا مستبعد تماما
la2 haada mustab3ad tamaaman
No, that’s completely ruled out [= thought to be بعيد, i.e. very unlikely]

The English word ‘time’ means about a thousand different things, and working out which of the apparently endless list of Arabic words you should use when talking about ‘time’ when your own native language covers everything with one enormous semantic umbrella can be tricky. Here’s a rough guide that might help a bit.


زمان zamaan

The usual conceptual term for talking about ‘time’ as an idea:

مفاهيم الزمان
mafaahiim ézzamaan
concepts of time

Also means ‘a long time (ago)’:

ولله زمان عنك يا زلمة
waLLa zamaan 3annak ya zalame
It’s been such a long time, man! [= by God, a long time away from you man!]

بس هالحكي من زمان ما عاد في منو
bass hal7aki mén zamaan ma3aad fii ménno
But this was [= this talk is] a long time ago, nowadays there’s none of that

صارلي زمان ماني شايفتا
saLLi zamaan maani shaayéfta
I haven’t seen her for a long time [= it’s become for me a long time I’m not having seen her]

ايام زمان means ‘the old days’ or ‘in the olden days’, etc:

سألله على ايام زمان
s2aLLa 3ala 2éyyaam zamaan
How I miss the old days!

Often appears in iDaafe with quantities of time:

كلو جمعة زمان وبتخلص
kéllo jém3et zamaan w btékhloS
Another week and it’ll all be over [= it’s all a week of time and it’ll finish]

And in these fixed expressions:

اخر زمان
2aakher zamaan
the end times, end of days

على مر الزمان
3ala marr izzamaan
With the passing of time

وقت wa2@t

Generally meaning something like ‘amount of time’. In the expressions 3indo/ma3o wa2@t ‘to have time to’, plus subjunctive:

ما معي وقت روح
maa ma3i wa2@t ruu7
I don’t have time to go

In other expressions referring to personal amounts of time that you have or don’t have:

وقتي مضغوط
wa2ti maDghuuT
‘I’m pressed for time’

بأسرع وقت
b2asra3 wa2@t
As soon as possible [= in the fastest time]

قديش بدك وقت لتوصل
2addeesh béddak wa2@t latwaSSel?
How long will it take you to get here [how much time do you want to arrive?]

عطيني شوية وقت بس
3aTiini shweyyet wa2@t bass
Just give me a little bit of time

In expressions meaning ‘the time for something’ (with iDaafe):

مو وقتو هلق
muu wa2to halla2
Now’s not the right time [for this conversation]

وقت الانتظار
wa2t él2intiZaar
waiting time

جيت بوقتك
jiit bwa2tek
You came at exactly the right time

A couple of other generic expressions:

طول الوقت
Tool élwa2@t
all the time

الوقت متأخر
élwa2@t mét2akhher
it’s late

مع الوقت
ma3 élwa2@t
With time, with the passing of time

الوقت عم يزيد سرعة
ilwa2t 3am yziid sur3a
Time is getting faster

بنفس الوقت
bnafs élwa2et
At the same time…

بالوقت اللي بيتسارع فيه المسؤوالين الغربيين لـ
bilwa2t élli byétsaara3 fii lmas2uuliin élgharbiyyiin la…
At a time [= the time] that Western officials are making haste to…

Also used in plural to mean ‘sometimes’ (اوقات aw2aat) and with or without ma to mean ‘when’ (وقت ما wa2@t, wa2@t ma).

ساعة saa3a

This obviously literally means ‘hour’ but translates as ‘time’ when talking about clock time:

قديش صارت الساعة
2addeesh Saaret éssaa3a?
What time is it? [= how much has the hour become?]

On its own or with ع to express times:

الساعة تلاتة الصبح
éssaa3a tlaate SSeb7
three in the morning

اي ساعة اتفقتو؟
2eyy saa3a ttafa2tu?
What time did you agree [to meet]?

This one is also used for ‘sometimes’ in the plural: ساعات saa3aat, and for ‘when’ (ساعة ما saa3et ma).

توقيت tawqiit, taw2iit

You probably know this one for talking about timezones:

الساعة وحدة ونص بتوقيت القاهرة
éssaa3a wa7de wnéSS btawqiit élqaahira
at 1.30 Cairo time

It can also be used in contexts like ‘the time of the appointment’:

يا ريتك تعرفلي توقيت الموعد
yaa reetak ta3réfli tawqiit élmoo3ed
If you could possibly [= I wish you’d, a polite request] find out the time of the appointment for me

مرة marra

‘Time’ as in ‘one occasion’, ‘one time’, ‘another time’. There are various other nouns of instance that occasionally appear in this meaning, but this is by far the most common, derived obviously from مر marr ‘pass’.

مرة كنت بالشام
marra ként bisshaam
This one time/once I was in Damascus

هديك المرة
hadiik élmarra
This one time… [= that time]

بصير معي كل مرة
biSiir ma3i kéll marra
It happens to me every time

غير مرة ان شاء الله
gheer marra nshaLLa
maybe another time

كمان مرة
kamaan marra
one more time

اول مرة جاية لهون؟
2awwal marra jaaye lahoon?
Is this the first time you’ve been here? [= first time coming to here?]

وقررتي تروحي هيك مرة واحدة؟
w qarrarti truu7i heek marra wa7de?
And you decided to go just like that, all of a sudden? [= one time]

This is also one of the various words used for ‘sometimes’, in its various plurals: marraat, miraar, maraari. There’s also the fuSHa expression مرارا تكرارا miraaran tikraaran ‘time and time again’.

حين ‭7iin

In (non-rural) dialect, limited to the classicisms 2a7yaanan ‘sometimes’ and min 7iin la7iin ‘from time to time’.

زمن zaman

Typically ‘the times’:

تغير الزمن
tghayyar ézzaman
Times have changed

الزمن قاسي
ézzaman 2aasi
Times are hard

لحّق la77a2

This is a verb (in southern Levantine and regionally form I: li7e2) meaning, among other things, ‘have time to’:

لا هيك ما بلحق اجي
la2 heek maa bla77e2 2éji
No, that way I won’t make it/have time to come

مشغول بشغلي لدرجة انو ما عم لحق ادرس
mashghuul bshéghli ladarajet 2énno maa 3am la77e2 2édros
I’m so busy with work I can’t keep up with my studies [= I’m not finding time to study]

maa bla77e2 can also refer to other similar situations, like not having enough money.

طول Tawwal

This is another verb meaning ‘to take a long time’:

شو مطوله هنيك؟
shu mTawwle hniik?
Are you going to be there for a long time?

بطول ليوقف نزف
biTawwel la-ywa22ef naz@f
It takes a long time to stop bleeding

لا تطول اه
laa TTawwel aa?
Don’t be long, OK?


This short post is on a song which everybody wrongly attributes to Ziad Rahbani (Fayrouz’s son) – as you can see from the enormous picture of him on the video – but which is apparently actually by one of the Bandali brothers, whose voices are apparently very similar to Ziad’s. I’ll let you guess what the song is about based on the smoky clouds in the video and the fairly on-the-nose lyrics.

The lyrics are fairly repetitive, so I’ve only translated lines which are repeated the first time they come up.

اهلا بالشباب الطيبة اهلا
2ahlan bishshabaab éTTayybe 2ahlan
It’s so good to see you guys…

اهلا بالشباب الطيبة – a set phrase you’ll probably hear quite a bit if you ever hang out with Syrian or Lebanse guys

هيدي خيي القصة طوييييلة
haydi khayyi l2éSSa Tawiiiiiiile
This story, man, it’s a really long one…

خيي – a Lebanese/Syrian form of ‘bro’, with various other Syrian equivalents (خيو khayyo is the one that leaps to mind)

اي دورها خيي
ee dawwéra khayyi
Pass it round, man

دورها – pass it round (fem probably because it’s سيكارة sigara). One of the various meanings of dawwar (including ‘turn over’ and ‘turn around’, and occasionally ‘turn on’), from دور door ‘turn’.

دورها دور دور وعطيني شحطة
dawwérha dawwer dawwer w@3Tiini sha7Ta
Pass it round, pass it round, let me have a drag

شحطة – a noun of instance from شحط (sha7aT yésh7oT sha7@T) ‘drag’, literally meaning ‘a drag’ and lining up nicely with the English as a result (since we also say ‘a drag on a cigarette’)

قبل ما تجي تجي تجينا الشرطة
2abel ma téji téji téjiina shshérTa
Before the police come and get us

تجي is subjunctive because of 2abel ma, of course. In 3aamiyye 2éja normally takes a direct object – téjiina = come to us. Feminine agreeing with شرطة.

دورها دور دور
dawwérha dawwer dawwer
Pass it round, pass it round

دورها دور دور
dawwérha dawwer dawwer
Pass it round, pass it round

ما بدي اصحى
maa baddi 2éS7a
I don’t want to wake up

صحى Sé7i yéS7a means both ‘wake up’ and ‘sober up’.

ناس بتحكيني قاسي
naas @bté7kiini 2aasi
People talk to me harshly…

بتحكي – feminine agreeing with naas. For Damascenes حكى can’t take a direct object like this (بتحكيلي bté7kiili with la- pronoun) but it’s normal in lots of places in Syria as well as in Lebanon.

قاسي – literally ‘hard, solid’, but used to describe people in the sense of ‘harsh, strict, mean’.

اه يا قاسي
aah ya 2aasi
Ah, you cruel person!

ناس بتحكيني فصحى
naas @bté7kiini fuS7a
People speak to me in fuSHa…

قلوب الصفحة
2loob éSSéf7a
Turn the page!

قلوب – imperative of قلب ‘turn over’

فتل راسي يا راسي
fatal raasi yaa raasi
My head’s spinning… oh, my head!

فتل fatal yéftol ‘spin’, both intransitive and transitive. fatal raasi

مش رح بالحكي اصحى
mésh ra7 bil7aki 2éS7a
Talking isn’t going to make me sober

رح اصحى – I’ll wake up, I’ll get sober – future negated with مش here instead of ما

بالحكي – literally ‘by talking’.

قاسي والزمن قاسي ضاعت الفرحة
2aasi w@zzaman 2aasi Daa3t élfar7a
Harsh, and the times are harsh, there’s no joy left

الزمن – usually ‘the times’ (note the difference from زمان zamaan which has a lot more uses)

ضاعت الفرحة – literally ‘joy has got lost’. This is a sort of stereotyped phrase. The of -et has been dropped as you can see.

يا حبيبي شفطة بتكفيني
yaa 7abiibi shafTa btékfiini
One draw’ll be enough

حبيبي – there is absolutely no way you don’t already know this word from every single Arab pop song ever. As you may be aware, in lots of Arabic-speaking countries it’s commonly used between friends (although you can certainly overuse it in this context).

شفطة – another word for ‘drag [on a cigarette]’. This one’s another noun of instance, this time from شفط shafaT yéshfoT ‘suck on’, ‘take a draw on’.

بتكفيني – literally ‘will suffice me’, ‘will be enough for me’. It’s probably more common in 3aamiyye to hear the form II bitkaffi here (and in fact I think that’s the only form used in the southern Levant),

ضيعني ضيع ضيع حالي نسيني
Dayyé3ni Dayye3 Dayye3 7aali nassiini
Make me zone out, make me forget everything

ضيع – causative of ضاع ‘get lost’, in this case literally ‘make me get lost’. ضايع here though means something like staring into space, zoned out, or stoned.

حالي نسيني – under normal circumstances would be nassiini 7aali, with the form II causative of nési yénsa nasy (‘forget’), nassa. ناسي حالي is an idiom (‘forgotten myself’) which again means ‘out of it’, ‘not with it’ etc.

ديرني ديرني تنحكي صيني
dayyérni dayyérni ta-né7ki Siini
Spin me round, spin me round, until we’re speaking Chinese

ديّر – causative of daar yduur ‘turn’

تنحكي ta-né7ki – ta– is a Lebanese/Palestinian equivalent to لـ, probably a shortening of 7atta.

مشان شو ما مشان شي
méshaan shu? maa méshaan shi
Why? No reason…

مشان شو؟ – literally ‘for what’. The way he pronounces it is supposed to sound like Chinese.

ما مشان شي – literally ‘not for anything’, i.e. for no reason, negated with ما here (in Syrian مو also works). This is a common expression meaning ‘oh, no reason’ or ‘not for any real reason’.

يلعن هالعيشة
yél3an hal3iishe
Screw this life

يلعن – literally ‘let Him curse’, i.e. God

هلعيشة – ‘this life’, ‘this way of living’ (noun of instance from عاش يعيش ‘live’)

ديرني دير دير هاي احسن فرصة
dayyérni dayyer dayyer hayy 2a7san férSa
Spin me round, spin me round, this is our best opportunity

هي – ‘this is’, ‘here is’ to present something (not ‘this’ as in the demonstrative pronoun

شوف ملا جرصة
shuuf malla jérSa
See, there’s nothing wrong with it…

ملا – another Lebanese variant on the maan- negative (maanhamaalha, mannha, mallha are all alternatives with the latter two more Lebanese).

جرصة – something you become infamous for, a scandal, a bad act etc

Pinning down patterns in word order and the exact subtle or not-so-subtle implications that different kinds of word-scrambling can produce in colloquial Arabic (or for that matter MSA) is a tricky business and one that we’ve so far completely avoided delving into. I’m going to ambitiously try and address that a little bit in this post. Wish me luck!

Verbal sentences

I’ve almost certainly moaned elsewhere about how teaching materials misguidedly present Arabic dialects as simpler versions of MSA (sometimes even derivable directly from the MSA they teach you properly through a series of simple rules). At least in materials for an English-speaking audience, ‘simple’ is often actually code for ‘more like English’, and one of the outcomes of this is that it is often said that Arabic dialects, unlike MSA (or sometimes MSA, unlike Classical Arabic) has a word order that Puts The Subject First And The Verb Second, Just – Like – English!

As far as Levantine is concerned, though, this is basically nonsense. In fact, although subject-initial word order is also very common (we’ll come to this later), verbal sentences where the subject follows the verb are also very, very common indeed. Where the subject is indefinite – with a few exceptions discussed below – it basically has to follow the verb:

راح ناس تبع جمعيات خيرية يشوفو اللاجئين
raa7 naas taba3 jam3iyyaat kheeriyye yshuufu llaaji2iin…
People from charity organisations went to see the refugees…

اجا حدا من اهلو؟
2éja 7ada mén ahlo?
Has anybody from his family come yet?

Where the subject is definite, it can and often does appear before the verb in a جملة اسمية. But it can equally appear after the verb (just like in fuSHa):

اجت الشرطة ع المشفى
2éjet éshshérTa 3a lmashfa
The police came to the hospital

In relative clauses too a جملة فعلية is probably more common:

المحطة اللي بديرها ابي
élma7aTTa lli bidiira 2abi
The station my dad runs

The main difference between verbal sentences in fuSHa and in Shami is that in the latter, verbs usually agree fully with their subjects (instead of only for gender):

راحو الرجال
raa7u lirjaal
The men went

Simple nominal sentences

The most basic kind of nominal sentences, those with an adjective or another noun as khabar, don’t need a huge amount of discussion since they work mostly as you’d expect them to from fuSHa. However, unlike in fuSHa, in nominal sentences the mubtada2 and the khabar can be switched around, in which case adjectives optionally do not take agreement of any kind:

اي حلو الاردن
2ee 7élw él2érdon
Yeah, Jordan‘s nice

منيح هدولة
mnii7 hadoole
These ones are good

Nominal sentences with verbal khabar

Nominal sentences consisting of a topic (مبتدأ) and a verbal sentence as predicate (خبر) are a bit more complicated. When the mubtada2 is the subject of the verbal sentence, as a general rule only definite nouns can appear:

الشرطة كانت هون من شوي
éshshérTa kaanet hoon mén @shwayy

The police were here a little while ago

امي بس تمرض ما بتركها
émmi bass témroD ma bétrékha
when my mother gets ill I don’t abandon her

An exception is 7ada, which can appear before verbs:

حدا بيعرف شو نوع الحشيش اللي عم يضربو هالزلمة؟
7ada bya3ref shu noo3 él7ashiish élli 3am yéD@rbo hazzalame?
Does anybody know what kind of weed this guy is smoking?

لا ولله ما حدا بين
laa waLLa maa 7ada bayyan

No, nobody’s turned up.

Another exception is in the introduction to jokes, where an indefinite noun can appear before a verb:

مرة حمصي راح ع الحج
marra 7émSi raa7 3al7ajj
Once upon a time a guy from Homs went on Hajj…

Sometimes, the mubtada2-ised subject is a possessor, in which case it needs a pronoun to take its place in the verbal sentence:

يمكن اكتريت المشاكل اللي بتصير بالحياة سببها انو…
yémken 2aktariit élmashaakel élli bétSiir bi-l7ayaat sababa 2énno…
perhaps the reason for most of the problems that happen in life is… [= most of the problemstheir reason is that]

جماعة الاسعاف كتير لسانون طويل
jamaa3t él2is3aaf @ktiir lisaanon Tawiil
The ambulance guys are huge gossips [= the ambulance guys, their tongues are very long]

A pronoun is also required if the mubtada2 is a definite direct object or the object of a preposition:

الغسالة شغلتا مرة واحدة بس
élghassaale shaghghalta marra waa7de bass
The washing machine I’ve only turned on once [= I’ve only turned it on once]

اصابعي ما عم حس فيون
2aSaabii3i maa 3am 7éss fiyyon
I can’t feel my fingers [= my fingers, I can’t feel them]

Indefinite direct object mubtada2s, on the other hand, do not require a pronoun.

انا فشخة برات هالبيت ماني فاشخة
2ana fashkha barraat halbeet maani faashkha
I’m not taking a single step outside this house!  [= a step… I’m not stepping – faaskha, not faaskhétha]

The same applies to pseudoverbs (ma3i, biddi etc) as to normal verbs, although in their case the pronoun has to be carried by yaa  (note since haada is definite the second example needs a direct object pronoun):

ليرتين ما معي
liirteen maa ma3i
I don’t even have two liras [= two lira I don’t have]

هادا ما بدي ياه
haada maa béddi yaa
I don’t want this one [= this one I don’t want it]

Unlike in fuSHa, the mubtada2 position can also be occupied by various different kinds of adverbial construction, including normal adverbs, adverbs of time, location etc:

اي من هلق موقع عليه
ee mén halla2 mwaqqe3 3alee
I’ve already signed it

بعدين بتعرف
ba3deen @bta3ref
You’ll find out afterwards

اليوم وصلت
élyoom wSél@t
I arrived today

Words and phrases in this position can be made negative with muu/mish etc:

لا مو اليوم وصلت
la2 muu lyoom wSél@t
No, it wasn’t today I arrived… 

الطير شك لعندك هيك بالغلط يعني مو بشطارتك سحبتو لك رح تجنني
éTTeer shakk la3éndak heek bélghalaT, ya3ni muu bshaTaartak sa7abto!
The bird came down on your side by accident. It wasn’t through your cleverness that you caught it!

Note that regardless of the role that the mubtada2-ised noun has in the underlying sentence, interrogative pronouns come between it and the verbal khabar:

الزلمة وين شافني؟
ézzalame ween shaafni?
Where did the guy see me? [not ween ézzalame… as in the English sentence]

Also note that although this kind of shifting of parts of the sentence away from where they would normally appear is more common with verbal sentences it can also happen with simple nominal sentences, just like in English:

هلق انا كوضعي المالي تمام
halla2 2ana ka-waD3i lmaali tamaam
now I’m – money-wise – fine

Two elements can be brought to the front of the sentence together, in which case they appear in the same relative order that they would normally, i.e. subject, object, adverbial:

احمد بعينو ضربتو
a7mad b3eeno Darabto
As for Ahmad, I hit him in the eye

سارا شغلة بسيطة ما بتاكل
saara shéghle basiiTa maa btaakol
As for Sara, she won’t eat simple things

Why scramble the sentence?

There a few different reasons to use a nominal sentence (i.e. to bring part or parts of the sentence into the space before the verb). In many cases the nuance is so subtle the form with the noun moved to the front is nearly synonymous with the normal form, especially where moving the subject is concerned, and in any case it would be impossible to cover all of the reasons it can possibly happen. But here are three important ones:


Putting something before the verb can sometimes signal a change in topic similar to ‘as for’. Often this is preceded by هلق halla2 ‘now…’:

هلق احمد زلمة كتير منيح
halla2 2a7mad zalame ktiir @mnii7
Now Ahmad’s a really good guy…

Sometimes it can be accompanied by the particle اما amma ‘as for’, particularly in higher registers:

اما ما يسمى بالقانون رقم عشرة انا رح اتساءل قبل ما ندخل بصلبو
2amma maa yusamma bilqaanuun raq@m 3ashara 2ana ra7 2étsaa2al 2ab@l ma nédkhol bSulbo
As for the so-called Law Number 10, I’d just like us to consider before we talk about it in detail…

A more colloquial equivalent is perhaps achieved by using a pronoun before the noun in question:

هنه قطر ما بفوتوك بدون فيزا
hénne qaTar maa bifawwtuuk biduun viiza
Qatar won’t let you in without a visa [= they Qatar won’t…]


In sentences where different things are being contrasted, explicitly or implicitly, the noun in question is usually brought to the front:

سارا ما بتروح, بس احمد بروح
saara maa bitruu7, bass 2a7mad biruu7
Sara doesn’t go, but Ahmad goes

انا ع برطانيا ما بروح
2ana 3a briTaanya maa bruu7
I wouldn’t go to Britain [but I would go to some other places]

هادا ما بدي ياه بس هداكه باخدو
haada maa béddi yaa bass hadaake baakhdo
I don’t want this one, but that one I’ll take



A second related reason is to add emphasis to something that seems important, with or without حتى ‘even’:

انا كلمة واحدة ما بقول
2ana kélme waa7de maa b2uul
I won’t say a single word!

نحنا الغسالة ما شغلناها
né7na lghassaale maa shaghghalnaaha!
we haven’t even turned on the washing machine [which is such a basic thing to want to turn on!]

تلاتين يوم ما دخنت ولا حبة سيكارة
tlaatiin yoom maa dakhkan@t wala 7abbet sigaara
in thirty days I haven’t smoked a single cigarette

ربطة خبز ما عرفنا اشترينا
rabTét khéb@z maa 3réfna shtareena
We couldn’t even buy a packet of bread…


‘Actually’ is another useful word used quite a lot in English (and not just at the beginning of patronising lectures about politics delivered by that person at a party nobody wants to talk to). Like the other words we’ve been looking at in this series, however, it defies attempts to find a single Arabic equivalent, which can often leave you grasping for a word you really need in the middle of a sentence.

بالحقيقة bil7a2ii2a
بالواقع bilwaaqe3

The first of these in particular is one of the first expressions many people learn in Arabic for some reason. You can use them to make a statement of fact contrary to, for example, a misconception:

كيف بسمي حالو مثقف و هو بالحقيقه جملتين ما بعرف يقول
kiif bisammi 7aalo muthaqqaf w huwwe bil7a2ii2a jumelteen maa bi3raf y2uul
How can he call himself an intellectual when actually/in reality he can’t string a sentence together [= two sentences he doesn’t know how to say]?

بالحقيقة هو اختي اللي عملت هيك مو انا
bil7a2ii2a huwwe 2ékhti lli 3émlet heek muu 2ana!
Actually it was my sister who did that, not me!

ولا لقلك wélla la2éllak, wélla la2éllek
ولا قلك wélla 2éllak, wélla 2éllek

Literally something like ‘or tell you what…’ (from قال). This is used in a particularly difficult sense of ‘actually’ to pin down or describe – that use which allows you to express a sudden change of heart or contrary thought. There’s a famous Buq3at Daw2 episode titled ولا قلك about a woman who is simultaneously indecisive and impulsive.

شو رأيك نفتح انا وياكي مطعم؟؟ ولا لقللك..انا مابحب الشراكة روحي فتحيلك شي تاني
shu ra2yek néfta7 2ana wéyyaaki maT3am? wélla la-2éllek… 2ana maa b7ébb léshraake ruu7i fta7iilik shi taani
How about we open a restaurant together? Actually… I don’t like cooperating with other people, go and open something else.

عزيزي المواطن .. ولا قلك ، خلص ولاشي الي فيك مكفيك
3aziizi lmuwaaTen… wélla 2éllak, khalaS, wala shi, élli fiik @mkaffiik
Dear fellow citizens… actually, never mind, nothing. You’ve got enough on your plate.

ما بدي قهوة حاشرب نسكافه… ولا لقلك, بشرب قهوة معك مالي خلق اعمل نسكافة
maa béddi 2ahwe 7a2éshrab neskaafe…. wélla 2éllek, béshrab 2ahwe ma3ik. maali khél@2 2a3mel neskaafe
I don’t want Turkish coffee, I’m going to have instant… actually, I will have some coffee with you, I can’t be bothered making instant.

ولله, بالله waLLa/waLLaahi, billa/balla

waLLa is literally ‘[swear] to God’, with the so-called ‘waaw of oaths’. Although religious people (and children, who’re always telling each other to swear to God) may thus consider it binding, in normal usage it’s pretty omnipresent meaning ‘really!’ and ‘I swear!’ and can typically be safely used even when you’re joking (i.e. lying), although you might get some mild disapproval. Stronger variants include ولله العظيم waLLaahil3aZiim ‘by almighty God’ and اقسم بالله uqsum billaa and قسما بالله ‭qasaman billaa, ‘I swear to God’.

You will also hear اي ولله eewaLLaa and اه ولله aawaLLaa (corresponding to the areas where aa and ee are used for ‘yeah’) and simple ولله on its own in the meaning of ‘yeah, you’re telling me’. This might be the etymology of the omnipresent eewa.

With a question intonation, ولله؟ can also be either a highly sceptical ‘oh really?’ or a more normal, positive-feedback kinda ‘really?’, just like the English word. In its question function – but not in its other functions – you may also hear بالله؟ billa/balla?

فعلا fi3lan

A (possibly more polite) alternative to waLLa in questions:

بحكي عربي – اه فعلا؟
ba7ki 3arabi – aa, fi3lan?
I speak Arabic – oh, really?

Fi3lan can also be used in normal sentences:

لو المشكلة فعلا بالتهجئة ماكان وصل محرك البحث غوغل لهالمرحلة
law ilmushkile fi3lan bittahji2a maa kaan waSSal mu7arrek ilba7eth googel la-halmar7ale
If it really was a problem with spelling [= if the problem was really in spelling], the search engine Google would never have got so far

كتير, جدا ktiir, jiddan

You know these, but I’m including them for the sake of completeness. Both of them modify adjectives (‘really good’, ‘really bad’. They can either precede or follow the adjective they modify, more commonly preceding them (unlike in fuSHa where they can only follow the adjective). jiddan is higher-register:

منطقة كتير حلوة
manTi2a ktiir 7élwe
A really nice area

موضوع جدا مهم
mawDuu3 jiddan mohumm
A very important issue

تقريبا ta2riiban

The most useful and all-purpose word for ‘almost’. This works for quantities:

وتميتني هنيك شي اربع سنين تقريبا
w tammeetni hniik shi 2arba3 @sniin ta2riiban
and I stayed there for about four years…

Vaguer things:

تقريبا نفس اللي اشتريتو المرة الماضية
ta2riiban nafs élli shtareeto lmarra lmaaDye
Almost the same as the one [= the same of the one that] I bought last time

It can also be used for expressions of time like the following:

البيبي غفل تقريبا
élbeebe ghafal ta2riiban
The baby’s almost asleep [= has gone to sleep almost]

حاخلص تقريبا
7a2ékhloS ta2riiban
I’m almost done [= I’ll finish, almost]

It can also be used as a vague filler word.


Although it looks like (and can be) a causative, 2arrab (like its opposite ba33ad, or wa22af) can also be an intransitive verb meaning ‘get nearer’ or ‘come nearer’. On its own it can often translate ‘it’s nearly’ in examples like the following – straightforwardly given its literal meaning:

قربت المباراة الاولى
2arrabet élmubaaraat él2uula
The first match is nearly here [= has got close]

رمضان قرب ما حدا يبعتلي رسائل اعتذار وهـيك إللي بدو أسامحه يعملي ورق عنب و اكل زاكي غير هـيك ما بقبل
ramaDaan garrab – maa 7ada yib3atli rasaayel i3tidhaar w heek, illi biddo 2asaam7o yi3melli warag 3enab w 2akel zaaki gheer heek maa bagbal!
Ramadan’s nearly here – nobody send me apology messages or anything. If you want me to forgive you for something make me [= he who wants me to forgive him let him make me] stuffed vine leaves or some tasty food – I’ll accept nothing else!

2arrab can also be used as an auxiliary verb followed by a subjunctive, with a similar effect:

خلاص قربت تنحل
khalaS 2arrabet ten7all
Forget it, it’s almost solved

المسلسل قرب يخلص
elmusalsal 2arrab yekhloS
The series is nearly over

حطيت راسي عا المكتب في الشغل لإني كنت تعبانه و كنت قربت اغفل
7aTTeet raasi 3almaktab bishshegh@l la2enni kent ta3baane w kent 2arrab@t 2eghfol
I put my head on the desk in work because I was tired and I’d almost fallen asleep

For some people this can be replaced with قريب:

الاكل قريب يخلص
él2ak@l 2ariib yékhloS
The food’s almost finished



In one specific context you can use ként plus a past verb to mean ‘nearly’ (or alternatively ‘could have’): when somebody narrowly avoided doing something (usually bad). This is a counterfactual situation and similar to the result clause in a law conditional.

كنت موتتني!
kén@t mawwattni!
You nearly killed me [= you would have killed me]!

شوي تاني كان ضربني كف
shwayy taani kaan Darabni kaff
He almost slapped me [= a bit more he would have hit me a slap]

Some ways to say ‘still’.

لسا lissa

Clearly derived from lissaa3a ‘up to now, up to this hour’, this is the most common word (along with various regional variations such as اسا issa etc). Works for most uses of ‘still’ in English (as well as ‘yet’):

لسا ما اخدت قرار
léssa maa 2akhad@t qaraar
I still haven’t made a decision
I haven’t made a decision yet

لسا ما مبين
léssa muu mbayyen
It’s not clear yet

مين لسا هون؟
miin léssa hoon?
Who’s still here?

Pronouns can be added to léssa, producing a pseudoverbal construction. The most common form with pronouns added is لساتـ léssaat- (léssaatni, léssaatak etc) although other variants exist:

شو لساتك هون؟
shu léssaatak hoon?
Oh, are you still here?

لساتو بالبيت
léssaato bilbeet
He’s still at home

Like forms of كان, léssa can be used on its own to mean ‘still [there], still [here]’:

مشيت ولا لساتك؟
@mshiit wélla lissaatak?
Have you gone home or are you still there?

بعد ba3d

In fuSHa بعد ba3du can mean ‘yet’, and in 3aamiyye this meaning has been extended considerably. In Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian, ba3d is used as a more or less common synonym of lissa, particularly with pronoun suffixes. It is perhaps most commonly used in Lebanese:

بعدك هون؟
ba3dak hoon?
Are you still here?

بعدني عم اجلي بالمطبخ
ba3dni 3am 2éTbokh bilmaTbakh
I’m still cooking in the kitchen

Note that while ba3d ma means ‘after’, ba3d maa with a long vowel thus means ‘hasn’t… yet’:

الجريدة بعد ما اجت
éjjariide ba3@d maa 2éjet
The newspaper hasn’t come yet, still hasn’t come

بضل biDall, 

Used in contexts like ‘he might be X, but he’s still Y’. As in the meaning of ‘carry on’, it can take (meaningless) additional object pronouns:

قد ما كان قلبو طيب الزلمة بضل اهبل
2add ma kaan 2albo Tayyeb ézzalame biDall 2ahbal
No matter how good-hearted he is, he’s still an idiot

بالاخير مهما كبرت بس بضلني إنسان متلي متلكون
bil2akhiir mahma kbér@t bass @bDallni 2insaan métli mét@lkon…
At the end of the day no matter how big I get I’m still a person just like you…

مع هيك ma3 heek, بالرغم من هيك birragh@m mén heek

This one only works in those awkward contexts where ‘still’ basically means ‘nonetheless’ or ‘in spite of that’:

انا صراحة ما بحب المانيا بس بالرغم من هيك متعاطف معا نكاية بانكلترا
2ana Séraa7a maa b7ébb 2almaanya bass birragh@m mén heek mét3aaTef ma3a nikaaye b2ingiltera
Honestly I don’t like Germany much, but I still sympathise with them out of spite for England

ماهو تمام كان لازم يجو ما اختلفنا بس مع هيك ما توقعت منك تسحبي ع التصويت
ma huwwe tamaam kaan laazem yéju maa khtalafna bass ma3 heek maa twaqqa3@t ménnek tés7abi 3attaSwiit
I agree with you that they should have come, but I still didn’t expect that you’d withdraw your vote!


This is another one of those tricky constructions – ‘I was so tired that…’ that we like a lot in English but that it’s not immediately obvious how to form in Arabic. There are basically two ways to do it which I’m going to cover briefly in this post:

لدرجة انو la-darajet 2énno

This literally means ‘to such a degree that’, and it’s used pretty straightforwardly:

وعندو المسلسل فانز لدرجة انو مستغني عن حبك
w 3éndo lmusalsal faanz ladarajet 2énno mésteghni 3an 7ubbak
… and the series has so many fans that it can do without your love

يا ترى شو صاير معو اليوم لحتى يعصب لدرجة انو بدو يطلع من التليفون ويضربني
yaatéra shu Saayer ma3o lyoom la7atta y3aSSeb ladarajet 2énno béddo yéTla3 mn éttelefoon w yéDrébni?
I wonder what’s happened to him today that he’d get so angry he wants to pop out of the phone and beat me up?

الناس بطلت تستحي بالمرة لدرجة انو الواحد عم يعترف انو بدو يتابع باب الحارة
énnaas baTTalet téste7i bilmarra ladarajet 2énno lwaa7ed 3am yé3teref 2énno béddo ytaabe3 baab él7aara
People have so little shame these days that [people have stopped feeling shame at all, to a degree that] you can admit you want to watch Bab il Hara

There is a related expression, لهلدرجة la-had-daraje ‘to this degree’, which is used predictably in a way corresponding to the examples above:

حضرتك اخدت على خاطرك لهالدرجة ليش؟
7aD@rtak 2akhad@t 3ala khaaTrak la-had-daraje leesh?
And you’ve taken such offence [= offence to this degree] why?

هل الحب مجنون لهلدرجة؟
hal él7ubb majnuun la-had-daraje?
Is love so mad [= mad to this degree]?

Like other adverbs modifying adjectives, it can also appear before the adjective in question:

اذا لهالدرجة حلو لازم ياخد جزائر
2iza lahaddaraje 7élw laazem yaakhod jazaayer
If it’s that good, it should get prizes

La-had-daraje is also used independently, usually with an implied ‘bad’. This is particularly common in the negative:

لك مو لهلدرجة
lak muu lahaddaraje!
Come on, it’s not that bad!
You’re exaggerating!

هلقد hal2add

Hal2add (or more emphatically kéll hal2add) is a combination of hal- ‘this’ and 2add, which is a preposition-ish thing whose other uses have been covered here. Its use is similar to lahaddaraje:

ولو الجريمة هلقد هينة عندكن نحنا مو هيك
wlaw ljariime hal2add heyyne 3éndkon né7na muu heek
Even if crimes mean so little [= are this amount unimportant] to you, we’re different

اذا هلقد قوايا ليش ما وصل دغري
2iza hal2add 2awaaya leesh maa waSSal déghri?
If they’re so strong, why didn’t he get there straight away?

لإنك هلقد بتفهم…
la2énnak hal2add @btéfham…
Since you understand so much

Some people accept a usage similar to la-darajet 2énno:

انتي هلقد مكبرتيها للقصة انو ما عاد تنحل بسهولة
inti hal2add @mkabb@rtiyya lal2éSSa 2énno maa3aad tén7all bshuule
You’ve made the problem so much worse [= you’ve embiggened the problem this much] that it can no longer be solved easily


The idiomatic phrase ما بدها هلقد maa bédda hal2add ‘‘it doesn’t need this much’ is used to express that someone is overreacting:

روق روق شوي الله يرضى عليك ما بدها كل هلقد
rawwe2 rawwe2 shweyy maa bédda kéll hal2add
Calm down a bit, you’re overreacting! / It’s not that serious!