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.

clock

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?

hqdefault

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:

Topicalisation

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…]

Contrast

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

 

Emphasis

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.

قرّب 

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

 

كنت…

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!

All of the videos we’ve looked at so far, with the exception perhaps of that Camel song everybody liked so much, have been from TV and have represented a kind of scripted conversational language which represents more or less (minus the drama) the way that people speak in normal everyday situations. Obviously this is important – if you’re going on a year abroad, or want to learn Arabic to communicate with people in normal situations, this is the kind of language you need to become familiar with.

However, 3aamiyye is obviously not just used in the home, in bars, or anywhere people gather to discuss the details of their lives to the backdrop of vaguely ominous music. It’s also used in the workplace, to give presentations, and to talk more or less formally about issues like science or politics. This is a side of 3aamiyye which is often neglected simply because it is generally assumed that these areas of life are more or less the domain of fuSHa. In reality, outside prepared speech, it is more common for educated people to make use of a high-register form of 3aamiyye incorporating many fuSHa-isms unusual in regular speech within a basically 3aamiyye structure than it is to find people ad libbing in ‘pure’ fuSHa.

With this in mind, here’s a transcription of a brief clip from الاتجاه المعاكس al2ittijaah almu3aakis (‘the Opposite Direction’), a famous TV political debate show presented by Faisal al-Qassem on al Jazeera in which two dramatically opposed figures are invited to debate a controversial topic.

The episode is titled Is Asad Planning to Seize the Property of Millions of Refugees? and the speaker is Dr. Abdulmon’em Zaineddeen, ‘Coordinator of the Brigades of the Revolution’. The topic is Law 10 of 2018 (a common format for laws in Arab countries for some reason) which made it mandatory for property owners to prove their ownership of that property by early May or risk forfeiture, triggering accusations that the state was making a land grab.

The language used by the speaker throughout – despite the fact that his Arabic Wikipedia page informs me he holds a doctorate in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) – is basically 3aamiyye in character. Pronouns, prefixes and suffixes are consistently 3aamiyye. Verbal morphology – outside a few set expressions – is consistently in line with 3aamiyye too. But his word choices lean much more towards the faSii7. Keep an ear out for both.

اما ما يسمى بالقانون رقم عشرة
2amma maa yusamma bilqaanuun raq@m 3ashara
As for the so-called Law Number 10

اما – ‘as for’. This is a fuSHa-esque construction, though note there’s no fa-

ما يسمى بـ – this is obviously a fuSHa structure. You’ll notice throughout the video that although the majority of verbs, even ones which we associate more with fuSHa, appear in a more 3aammiyye form, there are a few set phrases like this one which appear just as in fuSHa.

انا رح اتساءل قبل ما ندخل بصلبو
2ana ra7 2étsaa2al 2ab@l ma nédkhol bSulbo
I’d just like us to consider before we talk about it in detail

ندخل بصلبو – another fuSHa expression, meaning ‘enter into the heart of’. Notice though that the 3aamiyye prefix is used (né-) and that it is missing b- not because it’s a fuSHa expression but because it is subjunctive, triggered by 2ab@l ma. Notice also that he uses 3aammiye pronouns throughout.

ناهيك عن  انو اللي اصدرو نظام غير شرعي فاقد الشرعية لا يترتب عليه اثر
naahiik 3an 2énno 2élli 2aSdaro niZaam gheer shar3i faaqed éshshar3iyye laa yatarattab 3alee 2athar
Put aside the fact that it was passed by an illegitimate regime which has lost its legitimacy with no legal force

ناهيك عن – another fuSHa-ism. Combining a preposition with énno is also fairly fuSHa (see below where he ditches it in naahiik énno).

اللي اصدرو – transparently ‘the one who passed it/promulgated it is…’, but I translated it a bit differently to preserve the rhythm in English.

فاقد الشرعية – faaqed (not faa2ed), but the participle is used in an arguably more 3aamiyye sense (‘having lost’).

لا يترتب عليه اثر – another set phrase, this time from legal jargon, meaning something like ‘which has no effect’. Even though the verb is in a recognisably fuSHa form (yatarattab not yétrattab) it still has no final short vowel, and 3alee is pronounced as in 3aamiyye.

ناهيك انو اصلا حتى مجلس الشعب اللي قام بـ بـ يعني بإقرارو ايضا غير شرعي
naahiik 2énno 2aSlan 7atta majles éshsha3b élli qaam b-, b-, ya3ni b2iqraaro 2ayDan gheer shar3i
Forget that to start with, even the People’s Council which, which, uhh, passed it was also illegitimate

قام بـ – another common fuSHaism you’ll be used to from media Arabic, used by this guy quite a few times in the course of his piece

نحنا عم نتحدث عن يعني نظام فاقد الشرعية كل ما يبنى على قراراتو فهو باطل
né7na 3am nét7addas 3an ya3ni niDHaam faaqed éshshar3iyye kull maa yubna 3ala qaraaraato fahuwwa baaTel
We’re talking about, uhh, a regime which has lost legitimacy – anything based on its decisions is meaningless

عم نتحدث – a high-register equivalent to حكى obviously based on the fact it’s fuSHa – but rendered entirely 3aamiyye in structure: 3amné-t- instead of ta-, and for ث despite the fact that he goes on to say niDHaam with a dh sound only seconds later. Pronouncing these sounds (called لثوي in Arabic) in fuSHa is a mark of education, but lots of Syrians struggle with it or even in high register contexts do it inconsistently.

كل ما يبنى على قراراتو فهو باطل – this is a variation on a fiqh expression, كل ما نبي على باطل فهو باطل ‘anything based on an invalid thing is therefore invalid’. Note again the fuSHa-ness of the verb.

رح نتساءل تساؤلات سريعة: اذا كانت الفكرة انو هذا النظام بعد ما قتل مليون واحد وبعد ما هجر وبعد ما
ra7 nétsaa2al tasaa2ulaat sarii3a: iza kaanet élfikra énno haadha nniZaam ba3@d ma 2atal mélyoon waa7ed w ba3@d ma hajjar w ba3@d ma
Let’s just consider quickly: If the idea is that this regime, after it has killed a million people, and driven out others, and so much else…

اذا كانت – this is probably a case of the past being used with اذا to add a further element of doubt from the speaker’s perspective.

هذا – note the switch up to the fuSHa form of ‘this’.

مليون واحد – a pretty 3aamiyye form

بعد ما هجر وبعد ما – literally ‘after it displaced and after it -‘. Unlike in English, however, it’s idiomatic to repeat an expression like this to produce an effect similar to ‘and so on and so on‘. Also note the lack of need for an object in many cases in Arabic where English would need one.

الآن صار قلبو حنون عليون بدو يعدلون الاعمار
al2aan Saar 2albo 7anuun 3aleyyon béddo y3édlon él2i3maar
Is now feeling sorry for them and wants to reconstruct the country for them

صار controls both 2albo 7anuun (‘its heart has become soft’) and béddo (‘now wants’ or ‘now is going to’)

يعدلون الاعمار – again, 3aamiyye forms of fuSHa verbs. You’re probably familiar with the use of the verb أعاد ‘do again’ with a maSdar to calque European words with re-, as in ‘reconstruct’ here. This doesn’t have an object either where in English we need one. It does, however, have a nice -l- pronoun expressing ‘for their benefit’, attached onto the 3aamiyye equivalent of 2a3aad (3aad y3iid), with the resulting shortening of the vowel that normally happens in these cases.

هادا مشروع اعادة الاعمار اللي عم يتكلم عليه بيحتاج بيئة آمنة مستقرة
haada mashruu3 2i3aadt él2i3maar élli 3am yétkallam 3alee byé7taaj bii2a 2aamne méstaqérra
This reconstruction project that they’re talking about needs a safe, stable environment

اعادة الاعمار – note that even though this is a fairly fuSHa expression we still have 3aamiyye definite articles and forms of the taa marbuuTa (which are almost omnipresent in speech – al and -at are often replaced with él- and –ét even when people read)

يتكلم على – again, a fuSHa-ish verb but in an entirely colloquial form, as well as a colloquial use of على in the meaning of ‘about’.

وين البيئة الآمنة؟ الطيران عم يقصف نص المدن, تلت المساكن مهدمة, نصف المدن خارج سيطرة الـ, النظام
ween élbii2a l2aamne? éTTeeraan 3am yéqSof néSS élmédon, tult élmasaaken mhaddame, nuSf élmédon khaarej seeTart él-, énniZaam
Where is the safe environment? The air force are striking half the cities, one third of all homes have been destroyed, half of the cities are outside the control of the, the regime

نص and نصف – a mixture of 3aamiyye and fuSHa forms in the same sentence!

تلت – a weird in-between form – not télt, but also not thulth.

سيطرة النظام – note the contraction of –ét to -t in anticipation of the upcoming vowel.

نحنا عم نتحدث عن استمرار للقصف, اكثر من الشعب, تلت تشر مليون, اكثر من نص الشعب مهجر
né7na 3am nét7addas 3an istimraar lalqaS@f, 2akthar mén éshsha3@b, tléTTashar mélyoon, 2akthar mén néSS éshsha3b @mhajjar
We’re talking about continuing strikes – more than the people, thirteen million, more than half of the people are displaced

اكثر من الشعب – perhaps the thought he put into saying 2akthar instead of 2aktar made him briefly forget what he was going to say, because it seems like he misspoke here

تلت عشر – can most people even produce fuSHa numbers without a run-up? Anyway, 3aamiyye numbers are common in this sort of context.

نحنا عم نتحدث هاي البيئة الآمنة اللي بيحتاـ
né7na 3am nét7addas – hayy élbii2a l2aamne lli byé7taa…
We’re talking… This is the safe environment that it nee…

Seems like he gets so eager about the next sentence here that he lets this one trail off in the middle of the last word.

ومين اللي بدو يعمر هو نفسو اللي ما بيعرف غير الدمار والقتل واللي دمر مدن ومسحها
w miin élli béddo y3ammer huwwe nafso lli maa bya3ref gheer éddimaar w él2at@l w élli dammar médon w masa7a
And who’s going to be doing the rebuilding? It’s the same guy, who only knows destruction and killing and who’s destroyed and levelled cities

نفسو اللي – the English needs something a bit more specific than the Arabic, which just means ‘the same (masculine) thing or person’. It could well be referring to the regime rather than to its leader as implied by my English translation.

مسحها – note the 3aamiyye pronunciation

نتساءل ايضا يعني اذا كانت حقوق المالكين اللي هنه ثابتة لإلون بشكل نظامي في السجل العقاري ثابتة
nétsaa2al 2ayDan ya3ni iza kaanet 7uquuq élmaalikiin élli hénne thaabte la2élon bshek@l niZaami fii sijill él3aqaari thaabte
Let’s also consider – if the rights of property owners, which are set down officially in their name in the property register, are indeed fixed

اذا كانت – probably again implying doubt, something like ‘if it is indeed the case that’

ثابت – used here to mean ‘fixed’ or ‘established’, and pronounced with th. Note though that ثبت يثبت sébet yésbat is used commonly in colloquial to mean ‘stand/sit/hold still’ (e.g. to a child).

اللي هنه – élli huwwe, élli hiyye and élli hénne are fairly commonly used in the meaning of ‘which is’ in this sort of context (so-called ‘non-restrictive relative clauses’)

ليش الآن تطالبهون بوثائق جديدة وليش تعطيهون مهل ما زال هنه مالكين واصليين
leesh al2aan TTaalébhon bwasaa2eq @jdiide w leesh ta3Tiihon méhal maa zaal hénne maalikiin w 2aSliyyiin?
Why would you demand new documents now, and why would you give them time limits – as long as they’re property owners and genuine?

ليش – obviously the colloquial form, but notice also the use of the subjunctive on TTaaleb and ta3Ti to form a structure meaning ‘why (would you) demand… why (would you) give?’

ما زال – fairly fuSHa.

ليش, ليش تقوم بالهالأمر هاد؟
leesh, leesh tquum bhal2am@r haad?
Why would you do this?

ليش تقوم بـ – another use of leesh + subjunctive with the qaam b- construction we talked about before.

هالامر هاد؟ – haad here put after 2am@r (again a fairly fuSHa choice of word) emphasises ‘this’ when paired with هالـ.

واذا في قوانين اصلا سابقة لموضوع إعادة الإعمار, ليش تسن قوانين جديدة؟
w 2iza fii qawaaniin 2aSlan saabiqa limawDuu3 2i3aadt él2i3maar, leesh @tsénn qawaaniin @jdiide?
And if there are already laws prior to the issue of reconstruction, why would you pass new laws?

لكن السؤال الاهم فوق كل هاد: ما جدوى اصلا إصدار هاي القوانين ونحنا في شريعة الغاب نعيش فيه بسوريا
laakin éssu2aal él2ahamm foo2 kéll haad: maa judwa 2aSlan 2iSdaar hayy élqawaaniin w né7na fii sharii3ét élghaab n3iish fii bsuurya
But the more important question, above all of this: what is the point of passing these laws when we’re under the law of the jungle that we’re experiencing in Syria

ما جدوى – ‘what is the point?’ ‘what is the benefit?’ also fuSHa.

ونحنا في – ‘when we are’ – this of course is a واو الحال.

يعني ما في عندون قانون اصلا هي العصابة هي اجت اصلا بالدوس على القانون
ya3ni maa fii 3éndon qaanuun 2aSlan hayy él3iSaabe hiyye 2éjet 2aSlan béddoos 3ala lqaanuun
I mean – they believe in law to start with. This gang came to power to start with by stamping all over the law

ما في عندون قانون – this feels like a similar idiomatic use of عند to for example ما عندو مزح ‘he can’t take a joke’ – there’s no such thing as law where they’re involved.

الدوس على القانون – uncontracted 3ala is very unusual in speech, even odd, before the definite article but here is fuSHa-ish (and the whole thing sounds a bit elevated)

كلياتنا منعرف كيف عدلو القانون ليصير من عمرو اربعين سنة إلى عمرو اربعة وتلاتين
kélliyyaatna mna3ref kiif 3addalu lqaanuun laySiir mén 3émro 2arba3iin séne 2ila 3émro 2arba3a w tlaatiin
We all know how they amended the law so it changed from someone aged 40 to someone aged 34

كيف عدلو القانون – This is a reference to the constitutional amendment made during the late years of Hafiz al-Asad to lower the minimum age of any presidential candidate from 40 to 34, allowing Bashar to succeed his father at the head of the Syrian government. The structure of this sentence is almost entirely 3aamiyye, with the exception of a lone 2ila in the middle where لـ would normally appear.

الدستور؟
éddustuur?
You mean the constitution?

ليناسب الدستور يناسب مقاسو. نحنا عم نتحدث عن القانون رقم تلاتة وستين اللي سمح لوزارة المالية بمصادرة كل املاك ما يسمى عليه منطفق وصف الارهاب حتى يشيلو املاك كل شي معارضين
la ynaaseb éddustuur, ynaaseb maqaaso. né7na 3am nét7addas 3an élqaanuun raqm @tlaate w sittiin élli sama7 lawizaart élmaaliyye bmuSaadart kéll 2amlaak maa yusamma 3alee munTafeq waSf él2érhaab 7atta yshiilu 2amlaak kéll shi mu3aariDiin
So that the Constitution would suit, would fit him. We’re talking about Law 63, which permitted the Finance Ministry to confiscate all the property of those to whom they say the description of ‘terrorist’ is applicable, so they could take the property of all the opposition

ليناسب مقاسو – seems to be intended to mean ‘fit his size’.

سمح لوزارة المالية بمصادرة – using a slightly fuSHa structure, perhaps because he’s talking about a law – rather than سمح لوزارة المالية تصادر.

منطفق – probably misspoken, since it isn’t a word. As you’ve probably noticed his brain sometimes gets ahead of his mouth. Seems fairly clear he means something like ما ينطبق عليه.

اذن هذا القانون تم وضعو لاهداف محددة
izan hadha lqaanuun tamm waD3o la2ahdaaf @m7addade
So this law has been put in place for specific purposes.

اذن – a fuSHa/high-register ‘so’ not used in normal conversation

تم وضعو – this isn’t waD3 ‘situation’, it’s the maSdar of وضع ‘put’, appearing in the common Media Arabic passive construction tamm + maSdar. As in many other languages, وضع (and its 3aamiyye equivalent حط) can be used without a specific place: while we can’t say ‘put it!’, you can say حطو in Arabic and leave the place implied. Here to ‘put a law’ means ‘put in place a law’, ‘put out a law’, or if you want to go a bit further away from the literal ‘pass a law’.