FuSHa to Shami 15: Conditionals

In Levantine إن is restricted to classicisms and dialectalisms, but the distinction between اذا iza and لو law that fuSHa has is largely maintained. The syntax, however, is a bit different.

Open conditionals: iza

As in fuSHa, iza is used for ‘open conditionals’ like ‘if it rains, we can go’ or ‘if he’s not happy, let him come and see me’. Unlike fuSHa, any tense form can appear in the conditional clause:

اذا بدك فيني احكي معو iza béddak fiini é7ki ma3o ‘if you want I can talk to him’

اذا بتشوفو بكرا خبرني iza bétshuufo bukra khabbérni ‘if you see him tomorrow tell me’

The past can be used with future meaning in the conditional clause as in fuSHa. For some people at least this implies a less certain emphasis on likelihood (allowing for more politeness – ‘if you happen to be free [but no pressure]’):

اذا فضيت خبرني iza fDiit khabbérni ‘if you’re free (= become free) then tell me’

It can also be used with actual past meaning, as in the following:

اذا طلع امبارح بوصل بكرا iza Téle3 @mbaare7 biwaSSel élyoom ‘if he left yesterday, he’ll get there today’

In the literal opposite of fuSHa, the result clause cannot (typically) be in the past directly. As in English – where we have to say ‘if he left yesterday, he’ll have arrived today’ (and ‘if he left yesterday he arrived today’ is a bit odd) we have to use a construction with بكون to express an assumption:

اذا طلع امبارح بكون وصل اليوم iza Téle3 @mbaare7 bikuun waSSal élyoom ‘if he left yesterday he’ll’ve got there today’

Closed conditionals: law

Law is used for ‘closed’ or hypothetical conditionals, which are very unlikely to be fulfilled (or in some cases impossible). Law has slightly complicated syntax in colloquial. When the conditional clause refers to a single, one-time action expressed by a verb, it is always followed by a past tense verb:

لو درس بينجح law daras byénja7 ‘if he studied, he’d do well’

However, a number of semi-verbal expressions can appear after law without a verb or be preceded by kaan:

لو معي بعطيك law ma3i ba3Tiik ‘if I had [money] I’d give it to you’

لو بدي ارجع law béddi érja3 ‘if I wanted to come back’

Similarly, generalisations with the b- present can follow law directly or be preceded by kaan:

لو بيحكو الحيوانات law byé7ku l7eewaanaat ‘if animals could talk/talked’

In Leb/Syr, this includes nominal sentences:

لو اينشتين لبناني…  law aaynshtaayn lébnaani ‘if Einstein was Lebanese’

These principles are the same regardless of whether the sentence is a hypothetical situation in the past or in the present. This is different from English where we say ‘if X had happened’ for the former and ‘if X happened/were to happen’ for the latter. The difference in Arabic comes in the result clause. For sentences with present/general reference, we use the b- present, optionally preceded by كان:

لو معي بعطيك law ma3i ba3Tiik ‘if I had [money] I’d give it to you’

لو كنتي مشتاقتيلي كنتي بتيجي لعننا law kénti mushtaa2tii-li kénti btiiji la-3éndi ‘if you [really] missed me you’d come and see me’

لو كان المناخ انشف بشوي بكون احسن بكتير law kaan ilmanaakh anshaf bi-shwayy bikuun a7san bi-ktiir ‘If the climate was a bit drier, it would be much better’

For sentences with past reference, we use the past, usually combined with the past tense of كان:

لو طلعت امبارحة كانت وصلت اليوم law Tél3et @mbaar7a kaanet wéSlet ilyoom ‘If she’d left yesterday she would have got here today’

لو قلتلي كنت رحت معك law 2élt-élli kén@t ra7@t ma3ek ‘If you’d told me I’d’ve gone with you’

لو بدي رجع من زمان رجعت law béddi érja3 mén zamaan rjé3@t ‘if I wanted to come back I’d’ve done it a long time ago’

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