Team Nisreen: I was just going to… I’ve just…

In English ‘just’ can be used to indicate something happened very recently (‘just now’). In Arabic the idiomatic equivalent is by using ‘now’ with the simple past. The most neutral dialect word for ‘now’ is halla2 :

هلق فقت
halla2 fé2@t
I’ve just (now) woken up

انا هلق خلصت جلي
ana halla2 khallaS@t jaly
I’ve just finished washing up [jaly is the maSdar of jala yejli ‘wash up’]

In the present, ‘just about to…’ has a similar effect but in reverse: it expresses that the action is in the very near future. هلق works here too, usually with béddi (which itself often expresses a ‘near future’):

انا هلأ بدي اخلص بكالوريا
ana halla2 béddi khalleS bakoloorya
I’m just about to finish undergrad

You can push this construction into the past with kaan, meaning ‘was just about to…’, as in this common barefaced lie:

كنت هلق بدي دقلك
ként halla2 béddi dé22éllak
I was just (now) about to call you [= tap to you]

Note however that these only work when the reference is approximately to the current time. It’s possible in English to say ‘in those days I was just about to start school’ or ‘at the end of the month I’ll be just about to finish my job’. Intuitively, using halla2 this way in Arabic is incorrect. Our only possibility then is with béddi or ra7, which means we can’t distinguish ‘I was just about to start school’ and ‘I was going to start school’ in this context.

3 comments

  1. I know this is لسه usually paired with an active participle for just in Egyptian (also sometimes يادوب with the perfect tense). Is this also true for Palestinian/Jordanian? What about بعده ? I’ve also heard of دوبه in Saudi..
    Examples:
    انا لسه واكل I’ve just eaten
    كنت لسه هقوللك I was about to tell you

    1. Hi 3abdo,

      No, it’s not true of Palestinian or Jordanian. As far as I’m aware, the only structures they permit are the same ones found in Syrian.

      You can say for example (in Syrian or Palestinian) بعدني هلق آكل ‘I’ve just now eaten’, but the important word is still هلق. Neither لسا nor its synonyms as far as I’m aware can ever be used alone to mean ‘just’.

      يا دوب exists in Levantine but it usually means strictly speaking ‘barely’, though of course ‘barely’ can often basically carry the same meaning as ‘just’.

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