Anybody who has studied fuSHa will probably have torn at least a little bit of hair out over the uses and abuses of أنّ إنّ and أنْ. You’ll be happy to know that in colloquial there is only one ‘that’, إنّو énno/inno, which is used in place of all of these. إنو can take other pronoun suffixes in place of the -o, like fuSHa anna, but the form with -o can stand in for other pronouns as well.
Statements of fact
For normal statements of fact or assertions, all tenses can appear in that-clauses:
مش متأكد بس بعتقد انو هيدا المحل ببرج حمود mish mit2akked bass bé3ta2ed énno heeda lma7all bbérj 7ammuud ‘I’m not sure but I think this shop is in Burj Hammoud’
بدي قللك انو بحبك béddi 2él-lak énno b7ébbak – I want to tell you that I love you
مين قللك انو راح؟ miin 2él-lak énno raa7 – who told you that he’s gone?
Unlike English, spoken Arabic does not have ‘backshifting‘ or sequence of tenses where the tense in a that-clause changes depending on the tense of the main clause – ‘he says he’ll come’ but ‘he told me he would come’.
قللي رح ييجي بعد ساعة 2él-li ra7 yiiji ba3@d saa3a – he told me he‘d come after an hour
قال انو مرضان 2aal énno marDaan – he said he was ill
حلمت انو عم نظم و نظف غرفة نوم جدتي 7lém@t 2énno 3am naZZem w naZZef ghérfet noom jéddti ‘I dreamt I was tidying and cleaning my grandma’s bedroom’
There are quite a lot of cases where énno comes before an expression of a wish or a hope or something similarly subjunctive-y and is thus followed by the subjunctive:
بتمنى انو يعجبكم batmanna inno yi3jebkom – I hope you like it
الى حابب انو يتعلم بيت بوكس يحكي معي illi 7aabeb inno yit3allam biit boks yi7ki ma3i – those who want to learn to beatbox should speak to me
عبوده خايف انو ناكلو 3abbuude khaayef énno naaklo! – Abboude is worried we’re going to eat him!
‘For X to…’
انو plus a b-less verb is also used very commonly in a construction which is similar in usage to fuSHa’s أن an + subjunctive. This structure replaces a maSdar and can be used with adjectives:
بس انك تفوت ع البيت بلا ما اعرف bass énnak @tfuut 3albeet bala ma a3ref – but for you to come into the house without me knowing…
كتير صعب إنو حدا منحبو كتير.. يسقط من عيننا فجأة ktiir Sa3b énno 7ada mén7ébbo ktiir yés2oT mén 3eenna faj2a – it’s very difficult for someone we really love to suddenly [do something to] lose our respect
Obviously this same structure is not always best translated with English ‘for X to’. Sometimes there are more elegant ways of doing it, especially when the adjective comes first:
مستحيل انك تجي musta7iil énnak tiiji – it’s impossible that you’ll come
Generally the énno can be dropped when comes after the adjective:
ما اصعبها نهاية غرامك تكتبها بايدك ma2aS3aba nihaayet gharaamak téktéba b2iidak – how difficult it is to write your love’s end with your own hand
In expressions with comparatives, énno is used with a b-less verb to compare sentences (in English we have to use a gerund for this):
احسن من انو تدفع المبلغ كلو دفشة واحدة a7san mén énno tédfa3 élmablagh kéllo dafshe waa7de – better than paying the whole thing all in one go
When comparing two actions, however, the form منما ménma is used instead:
بحكي احسن منما بفهم bé7ki a7san ménma béfham – I speak better than I understand
Exceptions with élli
Although élli is almost exclusively a relative pronoun, with a few adjectives expressing feelings it can be used instead of إنو:
منيح اللي ذكرتني mnii7 élli zakkartni – it’s good you reminded me
مبسوط اللي جيت mabsuuT élli jiit – I’m happy you came