FuSHa to Shami 3: Basics (pronouns, questions, negatives)

Whenever a poorly-written Wikipedia article wants to demonstrate the differences between dialects or dialects and fuSHa, it usually lists the forms of the pronouns, the question words, the negative particle and a few basic items of vocabulary to illustrate their diversity. Shami is not the furthest dialect from fuSHa here, but there are important differences.


The independent (منفصل) pronouns in Shami are as follows:

انا ana

انت inta/inte

انتي inti

هو huwwe

هي hiyye

نحنا, احنا ni7na, i7na

انتو intu

هنن, هنه, هن, هم, همه hinnen, hinne, hin, hum, humme

As you can see, most of the forms are pretty close to fuSHa. There are no dual pronouns and no plural feminine – the form hin(ne) is simply plural despite its similarity to the fuSHa feminine plural. The forms i7nahum and humme are only used in Jor/Pal. Jordanian does not have the forms hinnen, hinne, hin, but I believe Palestinian does.

We will discuss the suffixed pronouns later.

Definite article

The definite article is (@)l- (Syr/Leb) or (i)l- (Jor/Pal) before single consonants. The initial vowel often drops, especially after other vowels:

البسة él-bisse ‘the cat’

بالبيت bi-l-beet ‘in the house’

As in fuSHa the l of the article assimilates to sun letters. The only difference is that ج j is (optionally) a sun letter in Shami:

الجو éjjoww ‘the weather’

Before consonant clusters, the article is lé/li:

الكتاب lé-ktaab ‘the book’

الكبير lé-kbiir ‘the big one’


The demonstrative pronouns have a lot of regional variation. Here we will list only a few very common variants:

هاد هادا هيدا haad haada heeda – this (masc)

هي هادي هيدي heyy haadi heedi – this (fem)

هدول هول hadool hool – these (pl)

هداك hadaak – that (masc)

هديك hadiik – that (fem)

هدولاك هدوليك hadolaak hadooliik – those (pl)

The hee- forms and hool are Lebanese. Hadooliik is Leb/Syr, hadolaak Jor/Pal. All of these forms can be used on their own or in combination with nouns. They can also be contracted into هـ ha-, which can stand in for all of them and can only appear with nouns:

هالبيت ha-lbeet ‘this house’

Using the full forms allows for emphasis, whilst ha- sometimes carries additional nuance that the full forms do not. You don’t need to worry about this for now, though.

Here and there

The most common forms are:

هون hoon – here

هناك هنيك hunaak huniik – there

Huniik is Leb/Syr, hunaak Jor/Pal.

Question words

شو, ايش shu, eesh ‘what’

مين miin ‘who’

كام kam ‘how many’

قديش addeesh ‘how many, how much, how long’

وين ween ‘where’, منين mneen ‘from where’

اي, انو, اني eyy, anu, ani ‘which’

ليش leesh ‘why’

كيف, شلون kiif, shloon ‘how’

The forms kiif, shu, and eyy are used in all dialects. Shloon is only used in Syria, eesh is confined to Jor/Pal, and anu/ani I think are not used in Jordanian. Anu/ani in theory are masculine and feminine and agree with the noun they precede. In Syria, however, both anu and ani are used with masculine and feminine nouns.

Weenkiif and shloon all very commonly take pronoun suffixes: weenak ‘where are you’, kiifak ‘how are you’, shloonak ‘how are you’.

Kam is used with a following singular noun to mean ‘how many’:

كام ليرة؟ kam leera? how many lira?

كام شخص؟ kam shakh@S? ‘how many people?’

addeesh usually (but not always) means ‘how much’:

بقديش الجزدان؟ b2addeesh éjjézdaan? – how much is the purse?

Note that قديش is also the normal, idiomatic way of requesting any answer which contains a number, even in cases where in English we usually use ‘what’:

قديش مواليدك؟ ‭‭2addeesh mawaaliidak? – what year were you born in?

قديش رقم تليفونك؟ ‭‭2addeesh ra2@m telefoonak? – what’s your phone number?


As a general rule, verbs in Shami are all negated with maa (no laa, lam, lan etc):

ما بحبك maa b7ébbak – I don’t love you

ما راح maa raa7 – he didn’t go

In Jor/Pal, they can also be negated with the suffix ـش -(e)sh. 

راحش raa7esh – he didn’t go

Sometimes, the object of a negative verb is preceded by wala in a double negative structure:

ما شفت ولا شي maa shéf@t wala shi – I didn’t see anything

Nouns and adjectives are typically negated with mish (Jor/Pal/Leb) or muu (Syr):

مو منيح muu mnii7 – not good

مو رجال muu réjjaal – not a man

There are exceptions to these rules but at this point they are not very important.

There is also a construction using the semi-verb maan- (or maal-) which is used in Syr/Leb: maani maanak maanek maano maan(h)a maanna maankon maan(h)on.

مالي رايح maali raaye7 – I’m not going

مانو مظبوط maano maZbuuT – it’s not right

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