Four more MSA words you need to stop using in conversation yesterday

Following up on our earlier explanation of a bunch of MSA words that sound ridiculous when used in real life, here are a few more:

1. بدون

Albeit a nice sounding word, no one says this in real life. In some dialects of Shami you might order your coffee من دون سكر (without sugar) but in Egypt من غير is most common.

2. أحيانا

The Egyptian word used to express ‘sometimes’ is actually ساعات (sa3at) which literally means ‘hours.’ Which sort of makes sense.

3. ادرس

If you’re trying to say that you want to study a bit, this would fly in Jordan if I’m not mistaken, but in Egypt, it sounds off. Instead, you would say: عايزة اذاكر شوية (ayza azaker shwaya). However, the root of this word appears in questions like, دراستك ايه؟ which means ‘What do you study/What is your field of study?’ The word اذاكر refers more to the actual act of sitting in the library and studying for a test rather that the more general concept of going to college and taking classes, if that makes sense.

4. كيف حالك \ انا بخير

Unless you are the real-life incarnation of Maha or Khaled or committed some horrible crime and were sentenced to a life of expressing yourself only in Al-Kitaab sentences, please spare us. Pro tip: Before you visit whatever Arab country you’re headed to, TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN THE GODDAMN GREETINGS. It will literally take twenty minutes, and you won’t sound like a dick. (Ala fekra, ya gam3a, stay tuned for a post on ‘How Not To Be An Asshole In Egypt,’ which will cover similar topics.)



  1. Ha all these fly in the Levant, except احيانا is usually مرّات. I mean كيف حالك is a little formal but to an older, respectable person it’d be my go to (in Jordan, Leb/Syr is probably is little less formal). كيف حالك عمو؟. Oh I guess you wouldn’t answer بحير though. My Palestinian co-worker went on an al-Kitaab rant the other day about ذاكر, claiming it was totally worthless unless you’re speaking Egyptian.

  2. كيف حالك is probably least formal in Jordan, slightly more formal in Syrian/Lebanese, then v weird in Egyptian right? مرات feels very Jordanian to me, في بعض الاحيان or أوئات are more common in Syrian. and yeah ذاكر is v Egyptian, I remember getting very confused when somebody asked me about ذاكرing in Egypt!

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