FuSHa to Shami 23: Conjunctions

This ~bonus post~ is a list of the most commonly used conjunctions in Shami. Some of them are probably not by any technical definition conjunctions (and some of them have e.g. prepositional uses that I’ve included here for completeness’s sake), so if you prefer the term ‘linking words’ you can go with that too.

احسن ما a7san ma

Means ‘in case’ or more precisely ‘lest’ (but obviously English stylistic concerns prevent us from translating it that way):

ما تضحك على حدا احسن ما تصير متلو maa téD7ak 3ala 7ada a7san ma tSiir métlo – don’t laugh at/trick anyone lest you become like them

This is a fixed meaning of a7san ma. But like other superlatives, a7san can also combine with ma in the meaning of ‘the best that’:

احسن ما يمكن a7san ma yémken – as good as possible, the best possible

For some Syrian speakers it can also be used in a way synonymous with احسن من انو ‘better than…’ with a following sentence.

أصبح aSba7

Syrian. Means ‘in that case’, ‘then’ (and NOT ‘became’ as in fuSHa):

أصبح بكرا بشوفك aSba7 bukra bshuufak – then I’ll see you tomorrow

او aw

‘Or’, as in fuSHa. However in colloquial aw almost never coordinates nouns, only sentences:

او فينك تحكي معها انت اذا بدك aw fiinak té7ki ma3ha inte éza béddak – or you can talk to her yourself if you want

بعدين ba3deen

Literally ‘afterwards’ or ‘later’ and often used in this meaning:

بعدين بتعرف ba3deen @bta3ref – I’ll tell you know [= you’ll find out later]

طب ممكن تطلع من قبرك تاخدني بحضنك وترجع بعدين؟ Tabb mémken téTla3 mén 2abrak taakhédni b-7aDnak w-térja3 ba3deen? – OK, can you please come back from the grave and just hug me and go back later? 

Also commonly expresses ‘then’, ‘in that case’, and ‘anyway’:

بعدين انا شو ذنبي؟ ba3deen 2ana shu zanbi? – in any case, what have I done? [= what’s my sin?]

وبعدين؟ w-ba3deen? – yeah, and what then? / so what?

بقى ba2a

Syr/Leb. Generally means ‘then, in that case’:

بقى شو بدنا نعمل؟ ba2a shu béddna na3mel – so, what are we going to do?

It can also be attached after imperatives and similar expressions. In this context it has no direct English translation but adds force to the imperative (maybe it’s equivalent to American ‘already’?):

لك خلصني بقى lak khalleSni ba2a – stop it already! [= save me already]

بس bass

The normal word for ‘but’ or ‘just’, much more common than classicising لكن:

بس ما بحبو bass maa b7ébbo! – ‘but I don’t love him!’

هدول بس hadool bass – ‘just these’

It also commonly mean ‘as soon as’, ‘when’. In this case it is usually followed by a subjunctive or a past:

امي بس تمرض ما بتركها émmi bass témroD ma bétrékha – when my mother gets ill I don’t abandon her

بس بدك تيجي لعندي اتصل فيني bass béddak tiiji la-3éndi ttaSel fiini – when you want to come here tell me

ف fa-

Used commonly for ‘so’. Can trail off at the end like English ‘so…’:

بعدين ما شفتو, فـــــ ba3deen maa shéfto, faaaaaaa – anyway, I didn’t see him, so…

كإنو ka2énno

Means ‘as if’:

كإنو مبارح تركنا ka2énno mbaare7 tarakna – [it’s] as if we broke up yesterday

Like la2énno it can be shifted to the end of the sentence:

ما حنشوفو اليوم كإنو maa 7a-nshuufo élyoom ka2énno – seems like we’re not going to see him today

It can be used on its own or with a sentence to mean something like ‘looks like…’, ‘looks that way’.

اي كإنو ee ka2énno – yeah, it looks that way

لا لا laa… laa

The structure laa… laa or لا ولا laa.. wala means ‘neither… nor’:

لا شاي ولا قهوة laa shaay wala 2ahwe – neither tea nor coffee

لا رحت ولا حروح laa ré7@t wala 7aruu7 – I didn’t go, nor will I

لإنو la2énn(o)

The equivalent to fuSHa li2anna and the normal word for ‘because’ in Syrian. Unlike in fuSHa it can be shifted to the end of the sentence as a kind of afterthought:

كل هاد لإنو قللا انو شعرا مو مظبط kéll haad la2énno 2élla énno sha3ra muu mZabbaT – all that because he told her her hair didn’t look good!

ما رح شوفو اليوم لإنو maa ra7 shuufo lyoom la2enno – because I’m not going to see him today

لـ, لحتى la-, la7atta

Both of these mean ‘until’ and ‘in order to’. The latter is distinctively Syrian:

نستنى لييجي néstanna la-yéji – let’s wait ’til he comes back

نكشت البيت لحتى جبتها nakasht élbeet la7atta jébta! – I had to turn the house upside down to get it [= I rifled through the house until I got it]

ليش لحتى لحكي معو؟ leesh la7atta é7ki ma3o? – why should I speak to him?

La- is also sometimes affixed to first person subjunctives meaning ‘let’s’ or ‘let me’:

لشوف واحد تاني lashuuf waa7ed taani – let’s speak to [= see] someone else

ما ma

On its own, ma is used to link together two sentences with a kind of causal relationship (this should not be mistaken for the occasional use of maa, with a long vowel, in various negative meanings). It is always followed by a noun or a pronoun:

ناميين فوق. ما هنن ما نامو من امبارح naaymiin foo2 – ma hénnen maa naamu mén @mbaare7 – they’re asleep upstairs. I mean, they haven’t slept since yesterday

Here ma adds the nuance that the listener and the speaker both understand the obvious intuitive causal connection between what was said before and the sentence prefixed with ma. The same applies in the following sentence although here it can be translated with ‘but’:

مو صايم؟ ما الدنيا رمضان muu Saayem? ma éddénye ramaDaan – you’re not fasting? but it’s Ramadan!

ما عاد maa3aad, مابقى maaba2a

‘No longer’, ‘not anymore’. Clearly etymologically ‘he did not return’ and ‘he did not remain’. These typically trigger subjunctive. For some people they conjugate, especially with third person feminine, though they are often invariable:

ماعاد اعرف شو بدي احكي maa3aad a3ref shu béddi é7ki – I don’t know what to say anymore/I no longer know what to say

They can also mean ‘never again’, including in negative imperatives:

ما بقى تحكي معي maaba2a té7ki ma3i – never talk to me again/stop talking to him’

معقول ما بقى نرجع؟ ma32uul maaba2a nérja3? – can it be we’ll never go back? [= is it reasonable we’ll no longer return?]


مادام maadaam 

‘Since’ or ‘while’. Takes pronoun suffixes:

مبسوط مدامك معي موجود mabsuuT maadaamak ma3i mawjuud – I’m happy as long as you’re with me

مادامك بالبيت maadaamak bilbeet – since you’re at home

مشان, منشان, عشان méshaan ménshaan 3ashaan

Méshaan, ménshaan, 3ashaan all mean ‘in order to’:

منشان تروح معو ménshaan @truu7 ma3o – so you (can) go with him

They are also prepositions which can be used with nouns to mean ‘because of’ or ‘for the benefit of’:

مشان هيك méshaan heek – for that reason

منشان الله ménshaan aLLah – for God’s sake

In Jor/Pal (like Egyptian) these words can be used in the sense of ‘because’ (i.e. equivalent to لإنو). This is not found in Syria.

كرمال kurmaal/kérmaal

Probably originally derived from the fuSHa kurma(tan) la- ‘in X’s honour’ this is a less common alternative to ménshaan meaning ‘in order to’, ‘for the sake of’, ‘because of’ etc. Like ménshaan it is mainly a preposition but is worth mentioning here because like ménshaan it can be used with subjunctive verbs to mean ‘in order to’.

شي, شي shi… shi

This means approximately ‘sometimes like… and sometimes…’ or ‘some… and some…’ Effectively it expresses two exclusive, alternative, but related situations:

عندون اعلى مؤهلات, شي عندو شهادة, شي عندو دكتوراه 3éndon a3la mu2ahhilaat, shi 3éndo shihaade, shi 3éndo doktuuraa… they had the highest qualifications – some of them have degrees, some of them doctorates…

هلق كتير مهم وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي لانو كل واحد صار بمكان شي بالشام شي بحلب halla2 ktiir mohumm wasaa2el éttawaaSul él2ijtimaa3i la2énno kéll waa7ed Saar b-makaan, shi b-éshshaam, shi b-7alab… – nowadays social media is very important because everybody’s in a different place, some in Damascus, some in Aleppo…

ماني عايش هون طول حياتي, انا شي باسطنبول, شي بالشام maani 3aayesh hoon Tool 7ayaati. ana shi b-IsTanbuul shi bi-shshaam – I haven’t lived here all my life – sometimes in Istanbul, sometimes in Damascus

و w-

Used as ‘and’ to coordinate sentences, nouns etc:

خبز وملح khébz w-mél@7 – bread and salt

As in fuSHa, it can be used to form 7aal sentences with present tense sentences, including verbs and participles. In this case it must be followed by a noun:

بغني وانا سايق bghanni w-2ana saaye2  – I sing when I’m driving

وهو ماشي سمع صوت w-huwwe maashi séme3 Soot – as he was walking along he heard a sound

انا وصغير كنت اقرى كتير ana w-@zghiir ként é2ra ktiir – when I was young I used to read a lot

It can also be used with all tenses in a very specific meaning of ‘when’, ‘given that’, when the first clause is a a rhetorical question:

كيف بدي ادفع عنك وراتبي خلص من يومين؟ kiif béddi édfa3 3annak w-raatbi khéleS mén yoomeen? – how am I supposed to pay for you when I used up my salary [= my salary finished] two days ago?

ولا wélla, willa

‘Or’. Used to offer two contradictory options:

بدك شاي ولا قهوة؟ béddak shaay wélla 2ahwe? – do you want tea or coffee?

Also used to mean ‘or else’, sometimes triggering the past:

سكوت ولا بضربك skoot wélla beD@rbak – shut up or [else] I’ll hit you

يا yaa, يإما ya2émma

Yaa/ya2émma means ‘or’, and offers two contradictory options. It is most commonly used in the structure يا… يا yaa… yaa ‘either… or’:

يا بتروح معي, يا بتضل هون yaa bétruu7 ma3i, yaa bétDéll hoon – either you go with me or you stay here


Structures with إنو

بما انو bima 2énno ‘since, given that’

بسبب إنو bésabab énno ‘because’

مع إنو ma3 énno ‘although’

لدرجة انو la-darjet énno ‘to the extent that’

Prepositions with -ma

A number of prepositions can be transformed into conjunctions by adding -ma. Many of these commonly trigger the subjunctive. Some can take pronoun suffixes, producing a form identical to the maan- or maal- negative but without a negative meaning:

متل مانك شايف mét@l maanak shaayef ‘as you see’

بعد ما ba3@d ma ‘after’

بعد ما تقرأ عن الله ba3@d ma té2ra 3an aLLah – after you read about God

قبل ما ‪2ab@l ma ‘before’

This is usually followed by a subjunctive, even when the meaning is past, e.g. قبل ما يوصل 2ab@l ma yuuSal ‘before he arrived/arrives’

لبين ما labeen ma ‘until’ or ‘by the time’

لبين ما ييجي منكون خلصنا labeen ma yiiji ménkuun khallaSna – by the time he gets here we’ll be finished

 لحد ما la7add ma ‘until’

لحد ما تموت من الضحك la7add ma tmuut mn éDDa7@k – until you die of laughing

حسب ما ‪7asab ma ‘according to how’, ‘depending on’, ‘as’

بس حسب ما شفت bass 7asab ma shéf@t – but as far as I know [= as I’ve seen]

فوق ما foo2 ma ‘on top of’

فوق ماني كذاب foo2 maani kazzaab – on top of me being a liar

متل ما mét@l ma ‘like, as’ (in Jor/Pal زي ما zayy ma)

متل ما بدك mét@l ma béddak – as you like

متل مانك عرفان mét@l maanak 3arfaan – as you know

زي ما قلت zayy ma 2ult – as I said

بلا ما bala ma, بدون ما biduun ma, من دون ما mén duun ma ‘without’

مسموح يأرغل بس بلا ما يطلع دخان بالغرفة masmuu7 y2argel bass bala ma yéTla3 dékhkhaan bé-lghérfe – he’s allowed to smoke shisha but [only] without smoke filling up the room

واحدة نزلتو بالصفحة من دون ما تتأكد من مصدر الخبر waa7de nazzaléto béSSéf7a mén duun ma tét2akkad mén maSdar élkhabar – someone uploaded it to the page without making sure of its source


بدال ما badaal ma, عواض ما ‪3awaaD ma ‘instead of’

بدال ما تعمل مظاهرات وتوقف بالشوارع … روح وقف ع باب دار النائب الي انتخبته وخليه يمثلك badaal ma ta3mel muZaaharaat w-@twa22ef bé-shshaare3… ruu7 wa22ef 3a baab daar énnaa2eb élli ntakhabto w khallii ymasslak – instead of demonstrating and standing around in the street, go and stand at the door of the MP you elected and make him represent you

الا ما élla ma ‘certainly’, ‘it is always the case that’

المجرم الا ما يرجع ع مسرح الجريمة élmujrem élla ma yérja3 3a masra7 éljariime – the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime

طول ما Tool ma ‘as long as, while’

طول مانك عم تتنفس عندك فرصة لواقع افضل Tool maanak 3am tétnaffas 3éndak férSa la-waaqe3 afDal – as long as you’re breathing you have the opportunity for a better reality

لما lamma ‘when’

لما شفتو استغربت lamma shéfto staghrab@t – when I saw him I was surprised


ياما yaama ‘how much!’

ياما في ناس هيك yaama fii naas heek – there are so many people like that

Nouns with -ma

We’ve seen a couple of these in the relative clauses post:

مكان ما makaan ma, محل ما ma7all ma, مطرح ما maTra7 ma, قرنة ما ‪2érnet ma ‘(in, from etc) the place that’

لحظة ما la7Zet ma ‘the moment that’

مجرد ما mjarrad ma ‘as soon as’, ‘the very moment that’

وقت ما wa2@t ma ‘(at) the time when’, ‘when’

ساعة ما saa2et ma ‘(at) the time when’, ‘when’

يوم ما yoom ma ‘(on) the day when’, ‘when’

Question words with -ma

These are typically combined with a past form or a subjunctive:

ايمتى ما eemta ma, eemat ma ‘whenever’

كنا ايمتى ما فتحنا الراديو الصبح نلاقيهن حاطين فيروز عكل القنوات kénna eemta ma fata7na rraadyo éSSéb@7 nlaa2iyyon 7aaTTiin feeruuz 3a-kéll élqanawaat – whenever we turned on the radio in the morning we’d find they’d put Feyrouz on all the channels

وين ما ween ma ‘wherever’

الله يسعد صباحكن وين ما كنتوا يا سوريين  aLLa yis3ed Sabaa7kon ween ma kéntu tkuunu yaa suuriyyiin – God make your morning happy wherever you might be, o Syrians!

شو ما shu ma ايش ما eesh ma ‘whatever’

شو ما صار عليكي انا حدك موجود  shu ma Saar 3aleeki 2ana 7addek mawjuud – whatever happens to you, I’ll be there

قد ما ‪2add ma ‘however much’, ‘as much as’, ‘as long as’

قد ما احكي عن ريال مدريد ما بوفي حقك 2add ma é7ki 3an reyaal madriid maa bwaffi 7aqqak – however much I talk about RM I won’t be doing you justice

شلون ما shloon ma كيف ما kiif ma ‘however’


  1. Yeah, I love this. I haven’t been here in a while and now wow. So much useful new stuff. Thanks a bunch for all the hard work with this and everything else! It’s most certainly appreciated.

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