FuSHa to Shami 34: Subjunctive triggers

Expressions of desire:

بدي روح
béddi ruu7
I want to go

بدي ياك تروح معي
béddi yaak @truu7 ma3i
I want you to go with me

حابب امشي
7aabeb émshi
I’d like to leave

يا ريت تعرفلي وقت الموعد
yaa reet ta3réf-li wa2t él-moo3ed
I’d really like you to find out the time of the appointment for me

Fear, expectation and anticipation:

خايف تروح عليي الفرصة
khaayef @truu7 3aleyyi élférSa
I’m scared I’ll miss/to miss the opportunity [= that the opportunity will go on me]

كان متوقع يصير كلشي الا هاللحظة
kaan métwaqqe3 ySiir kéll shi élla hal-la7Za
He had anticipated anything but this [expected everything to happen except this moment]

اذا دخلت ع جهنم مين اول حدا بتتوقع تشوفو؟
iza dakhal@t 3a jahannam miin 2awwal 7ada btétwaqqa3 @tshuufo?
If you end up going to [= enter] Hell, who’s the first person you expect to see [there]?

انا ماني مصدق ايمت يجي يوم وارجع على سوريا
ana maani msadde2 eemat yéji yoom w-érja3 3ala suurya
I can’t wait for the day to come when I go back to Syria [= I don’t believe when will come the day and I go back…]

Ability and inability:

ماني قدران نام تعبان مابعرف شبني
maani 2édraan naam ta3baan maa ba3ref shébani
I can’t sleep, I’m worn out, I don’t know what’s wrong with me

معي وقت اتمشى شوي
ma3i wa2@t étmashsha shweyy
I’ve got time to walk around for a bit

ما عم اعرف افتح الباب
maa 3am a3ref éfta7 élbaab
I can’t work out [I’m not knowing] how to open the door

Compulsion, necessity:

لازم تنساني
laazem ténsaani
you have to forget me

اضتريت انو ارجع ع البيت
@DTarreet énno érja3 3albeet 
I was forced to go back home

جبرني روح جبلو الكتب
jabarni ruu7 jéblo élkétob
He forced me to go and get him the books

Commands, permission etc:

قالتلي انسى عنك
2aalétli énsa 3annek
She told me to forget about you

شو يلي بيمنعك تكون من أوائل الدفعة تبعتك
shuu yalli byémna3ak @tkuun mén 2awaa2el éddéf3a tab3etak?
What’s stopping you from being one of the top students in the class?

ما بسمحلك تحكيلي على شهري الجميل اللي بحبو
maa bésma7lak té7kiili 3ala shahri ljamiil élli b7ébbo
I won’t let you talk [that way] about my beautiful month that I love so much!

شو هو هالموضوع الخطير اللي مخليك تأجل الصلاة؟
shuu huwwe halmawDuu3 élkhaTer élli mhalliik @t2ajjel éSSalaat?
What is it that’s so urgent it made you delay your prayers? [= this urgent issue that’s made you…]

Starting and stopping:

بلش يضيق خلقي من تمثيلك
ballash ydii2 khél2i mén tamsiilek
Your acting has started getting on my nerves [my temper started to narrow]

ما عاد اعرف مثل دور المجامله
maa3aad a3ref massel door lémjaamle
I can’t flatter people anymore [= I no longer know how to act the role of flatterer]

حاج تكشر
7aaj @tkashsher
Stop frowning

نص شباب الحارة تابت وقتها وبطلت تدخن من الخوف
néSS shabaab él7aara taabet wa2ta w baTTalet tdakhkhen mn élkhoof
Half the kids of the neighbourhood repented that moment and stopped smoking out of fear

Expressions of opinion about (e.g.) activities:

بحب اتماشى بالشوارع
b7ébb étmaasha bishshawaare3
I like walking around in the streets

ما بحب حدا يضحك علي
maa b7ébb 7ada yéD7ak 3aleyyi
I don’t like anyone taking advantage of me

With verbs of motion, expressing purpose

The subjunctive often appears after certain verbs – particularly verbs of motion – to express purpose. A similar construction exists in fuSHa with the jussive.

بدي روح شوف الدكتور
béddi ruu7 shuuf éddoktuur
I want to go and see/to see the doctor

انا فايت نام
ana faayet naam
I’m going to bed [= going in to sleep]

انا جايه قللك شغلة
ana jaaye 2él-lak shéghle
I’ve come to tell you something

Purpose more broadly

More broadly, it is triggered by the various conjunctions expressing purpose:

منعني من الروحة ع بيروت مشان ما شوفك
mana3ni mén érroo7a 3a beeruut méshaan maa shuufak
he forbade me/stopped me from going to Beirut so I wouldn’t/couldn’t see you

جاي عبالي اركض بهالشوارع ل دوّر عليك
jaay 3abaali érkoD bi-hash-shawaare3 la-dawwer 3aleek
I feel like running in the streets to look for you

Conjunctions with -ma

It is also used very commonly with expressions combining a preposition with ma and meaning for example ‘without’, ‘instead of’, ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘until’ etc (the equivalent of fuSHa من دون أن and other expressions). For more of these see the conjunctions section:

بلا ما يفوت ع البيت
bala ma yfuut 3a-lbeet
without coming inside

بعد ما ينام
ba3@d ma ynaam
after he goes to sleep

In the past

It is used with كان to form a past habitual, as in fuSHa:

كان يروح كل يوم
kaan yruu7 kéll yoom
he used to go every day

In a possibly related usage, it commonly appears in past narratives (without kaan) expressing repeated action. In this sentence we could insert Saar but not kaan:

قعدت ورا الشوفر, كل شوي تمد ايدا وتعطيه حبة فستق
2é3det wara shshoofeer, kéll @shweyy tmédd iida w ta3Tii 7abbet fésto2
She sat behind the driver – every little while, she stretched out her hand and gave him a peanut

Wishes and prayers, suggestions

It is used without any triggering word commonly in prayers (‘may/let X happen’). This is the only construction in colloquial (other than the negative imperative) which is normally negated by laa (as in MSA) rather than maa:[6]

يعطيك العافية
ya3Tiik él3aafye
[God] give you health

لا تكون راجع لهون
laa tkuun raaje3 lahoon
(I hope) you’re not coming back here

A relatively common use related to this which is not easy to directly translate is approximately similar to the biblical English ‘let him’ (not in the sense of ‘allow’ but as a kind of third person imperative) suggesting a course of action:

اذا ضاع منو المفتاح يفوت من الباب التاني
iza Daa3 ménno lméftaa7 yfuut mn élbaab éttaani
If he’s lost the key, he can [= let him] get in through the other door

انا هيك اللي عاجبو عاجبو واللي ما عاجبو ينساني
ana heek. élli 3aajbo 3aajbo wélli muu 3aajbo yénsaani
this is how I am – those who it pleases it pleases and those who it doesn’t please should forget me


This form is also used for suggestions for first-person action similar to English ‘shall’:

سمعك الغنية؟
samm3ak élghénniyye?
shall I play you the song?

بلش من اول وجديد؟
ballesh mén awwal w @jdiid?
Shall I start again from the beginning [= from first and new]?

In Lebanese however the b- form is used for suggestions where the question does not have a yes or no answer but has a question word or presents answers, as in the second example above (where Lebanese speakers would say شو بعملك  shu ba3mél-lak).

In Pal/Jor, the subjunctive form is also used in suggestions to another person. In Syr/Leb, the b-present is used here:

تشرب شاي؟ tishrab shaay? – (would you like to) drink some tea?


  1. but also compare Syrian: شو بتشرب؟ and Egyptian تشرب ايه؟
    Is there a typo at the very end? Or did you put the P/J form on purpose:
    “In Pal/Jor, the subjunctive form is also used in suggestions to another person. In Syr/Leb, the b-present is used here:

    تشرب شاي؟ tishrab shaay? – (would you like to) drink some tea?”

    1. It was on purpose, but the wording is not very clear – it’s supposed to be giving this (regionally specific) usage of the subjunctive with a note that Syrian and Lebanese don’t use it this way.

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