Since I promised some better content, here is some Top Quality breakup music from Syria’s biggest troll (or just worst musician?) Firas Hamzawi, described by Sawt Dimashq as ‘a new kind of shabbii7 and a new model of musical poor quality‘. The song – la-Tiizi ‘screw it’ (literally ‘to my arse’) – is directed at Hamzawi’s ex, who I’m sure was brought to tears by his touching lyrical style.

ما بدي ياكي معي
maa baddi yaaki ma3i
I don’t want you with me

baddi – Mr Hamzawi is from the Syrian coast (saa7el) where they use baddi instead of béddi~biddi.

يلا من راسي طلاعي
yaLLa mén raasi Tlaa3i
Come on, get out of my face

طلاع من راسي  – go away, get out of my face (apparently very Syrian)

ما عاد رح فكر فيكي
maa 3aad ra7 fakker fiiki
I’m not going to think about you anymore

ما عاد – no longer

ما عاد رح فكر فيكي
maa 3aad ra7 fakker fiiki
I’m not going to think about you anymore

لطيزي لطيزي لا ترجعي
laTiizi laTiizi laTiizi laa térja3i
Screw it, screw it, don’t come back

لطيزي – there are a few variants on this which for politeness’s sake I won’t mention, but this is literally ‘to my arse’ and in terms of actual meaning is approximately equivalent to ‘screw it’, ‘forget it’

عطيتك فرصة استينيتك
3aTeetek férSa stanneetek
I gave you an opportunity, I’ve waited for you

من لما تركتي بيتي
mén lamma tarakti beeti
Since you left my house

من لما – literally ‘from when’, used for ‘since’

عم ادعيلك يا ريتك
3am éd3iilek yaa reetek
I’m praying for you, I hope that you

بنارك انتي تولعي
bnaarek énti twalle3i
Burn up in your own fires

عم ادعيلك يا ريتك تولعي بنارك – this is all one sentence. yaa reetek (‘I wish you’d…’) triggers the subjunctive of twalle3i.

لطيزي لطيزي لا ترجعي
laTiizi laTiizi laTiizi laa térja3i
Screw it, screw it, don’t come back

عملتلك احلى اغاني
3méltéllek a7la aghaani
I made great songs for you

احلى اغاني – ‘the finest songs’. We’ve seen this a7la before – which is often idiomatically translated not with a superlative but with ‘really good’, or something.

عن جرحي وعن احزاني
3an jér7i w 3an a7zaani
About my pain and my sadnesses

وما حسيتي بحناني
w maa 7asseeti b7anaani
You didn’t feel my softness

ولا صوتي عم تسمعي
wala Sooti 3am tésma3i
Nor are you hearing what I’m saying

ولا here coordinates with ما – ‘you’ve neither… nor have you’.

لطيزي لطيزي لطيزي لا ترجعي
laTiizi laTiizi laTiizi laa térja3i
Screw it, screw it, don’t come back


ولك حلي عني حلي
wlek 7élli 3anni 7élli
Go away, go away

7éll 3an – go away from X, get out of X’s face

بسرعة من قلبي فلي
bsér3a mén 2albi falli
Get out of my heart, and quickly

فل – fall/yfall is ‘to leave’. It’s not used in Damascene but it does exist in Lebanese and the coastal areas

ما بدي ياكي تضلي
maa béddi yaaki @tDélli
I don’t want you to stay

لو جيتي عم تركعي
law jiiti 3am térka3i
Even if you kneel down to me

لو جيتي – this is the law of ‘even if’

ركع يركع – to prostrate yourself – what you do in prayer

لطيزي لطيزي لطيزي لا ترجعي
laTiizi laTiizi laTiizi laa térja3i
Screw it, screw it, don’t come back

وحياتك عقلك صغير
w@7yaaték 3a2lek @zghiir
Honestly, your mind is small

وحياتك – the w- of oaths

ما جبلك الا التعكير
maa jablak élla tta3kiir
It’s brought you nothing but trouble

ما جبلك الا – ‘it’s only brought you’

حواليي بنات كتير
7awaaleyyi banaat @ktiir
There are girls all around me

وانتي ما عاد تنفعي
wénti maa 3aad ténfa3i
And you’re no use anymore

ما عاد triggering subjunctive here

لطيزي لطيزي لطيزي لا ترجعي
laTiizi laTiizi laTiizi laa térja3i
Screw it, screw it, don’t come back

كتار اللي بدون يحكولي
ktaar élli béddon yé7kuuli
There are lots who want to talk to me

كتار – ktaar (plural of ktiir) is actually relatively unusual because ktiir is generally invariable. This is an inverted structure (common in 3aammiyye) where the adjective is placed before the noun in a nominal sentence: many [are] those who want to talk to me

وبدون نظرة من عيوني
w béddon naZra mén 3ayuuni
Who want to get a look from me

Literally ‘they want a glance/look from my eyes’

دموعك ما بهموني
@dmuu3ek maa bihémmuuni
Your tears don’t bother me

ما بهموني – are not important to, do not interest me

وعمري ما بقلك تعي
w3émri maa b2éllek ta3i
I’ll never tell you to come back

عمري ما – I’ll never (‘my life I won’t…’) – a very common structure

تعي – an alternative to تعالي the imperative of ‘to come’.

لطيزي لطيزي لطيزي لا ترجعي
laTiizi laTiizi laTiizi laa térja3i
Screw it, screw it, don’t come back

BY FAN REQUEST

Even in fuSHa ما is one of those tricky multifunctional particles that can be used in a large number of different ways – relatively (ما الموصولة), negatively (ما النافية), interrogatively (ما الاستفهامية), surprisingly (ما التعجبية) or even pointlessly (ما الزائدة). In (Levantine) 3aammiye most of these uses have been supplanted. As elsewhere, however, what seems like a standard case of ‘whoa man amiye has no grammar, it’s so much easier than fuSHa’ is unfortunately just a matter of 3aamiyye having a different, but also broad, set of uses for ما. We’ve covered most of its uses elsewhere, so this is more of an index than anything, but I hope it will be helpful.

ما of negation

This one is pronounced maa (with a long aa), and is the only one pronounced as such – the others are all short. As you probably know by now, ما is the most common 3aammiyye negator for verbs and verb-like expressions, as well as in a few strange cases where مو or مش would seem more likely (ما هيك maa heek ‘isn’t it?’ for example). For some speakers ما؟ maa? is their general tag question, without anything else.

In some regional dialects it is used as a general negator for nouns as well.

In Southern Levantine (and regionally in Syria + Lebanon) this maa alternates with the prefix-suffix combination (circumflex in linguistics jargon) ma-sh (with a short vowel) and in some areas with simple -sh: ما بقدرش maba2darsh.

This maa is probably also the source (combined with انو énno) of the Syrian and Lebanese negative ‘to be’: maani, maanak, maanek, maano, maana, maanna, maankon, maanon in Syria (or maali, maalak etc) and manni, mannak, mannek, mannu, manna, manna, mannkon, mannon in Lebanon.

I don’t know how much more information on this maa is needed, but for a couple of examples see here and here, as well as basically any video transcription we’ve ever done.

Connecting ما (independent)

This independent ma (short vowel) was discussed already in the conjunction post but we’ll

‘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 المصدرية (suffix)

This one is basically an extended version of the old ما المصدرية you see in fuSHa, which is added to prepositions to make them into conjunctions (i.e. to make it possible for a preposition to be followed by a whole sentence, not just a noun). A list with examples is included in the conjunctions post but here is a quick reference of prepositions followed by ma:

بعد ما ba3@d ma ‘after’

قبل ما ‪2ab@l ma ‘before’ (followed by subjunctive)

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

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

 لحد ما la7add ma ‘until’

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

فوق ما foo2 ma ‘on top of’

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

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

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

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

طول ما Tool ma ‘as long as, while’

Not only prepositions can take this suffix. In an extension of the meaning, it is also possible for normal nouns to take it to produce conjunctions expressing location or time. These are also discussed in the conjunctions 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’

There are at least two other conjunction with -ma that are neither prepositions nor normal nouns:

احسن ما a7san ma ‘lest, in case’

لما lamma ‘when’ (although presumably originally from la- + ma)

Comparative ma (suffix)

This is quite a specific Syrian regionalism. For some speakers, -ma can be suffixed to (at least) a7san and aktar with the meaning ‘than’ in comparisons. This should not be mistaken either for the negative maa (a7san maa ‘it’s better for X not to…’) or the set phrase a7san ma ‘lest, in case’.

Subordinator ما (independent)

You’re relatively unlikely to come across this particular ma, and almost certainly will never have to use it, since it tends to be replaceable with other more common particles in similar functions (or just dropped entirely). It is probably an extension, originally, of the ما المصدرية uses given above – but rather than being a suffix it stands alone:

خايف ما khaayef ma ‘I’m worried that…’

بالنادر ما binnaader ma ‘it’s rare that…’

كل مالو ما kéll maalo ma… ‘he keeps on…’ ‘all the time…’

These are probably related to the ما in e.g. fuSHa سرعان ما. In the first construction it can be dropped entirely, and in the second two it can be replaced with la-.

ما التعجبية (prefix)

This is the old ma of exclamation, still used in colloquial. This is generally prefixed in the form of m(a)- to a superlative:

ماحلاه ma7laa ‘how nice it/he is’

Arguably, the ما in ياما yaama ‘how many…’ is also a ما تعجبية, at least in the sense that it is used in exclamations:

ياما في ناس هيك yaama fii naas heek ‘how many people there are like that!’

Superlative ma (suffix)

Also covered in the conjunctions post – this one attaches to superlatives like a7san and makes them into ‘the Xest possible’ or ‘as X as possible’: احسن ما يمكن ‘the best possible’, for example.

ما الشرطية (suffix)

Just as in fuSHa, ma can be suffixed to question words to produce conditionals with the meaning ‘-ever’. This should be a familiar usage from MSA and is also discussed in the conjunctions post. In Syria, this ma sometimes appears as man, not as ma (but has the same meaning).

ايمتى ما eemta ma, eemat ma ‘whenever’

وين ما ween ma ‘wherever’

شو ما shu ma ايش ما eesh ma ‘whatever’

شلون ما shloon ma, كيف ما kiif ma ‘however’

Also included under this are some of the uses of 2add ma, which stands in for the nonexistent 2addeesh ma in ‘however much’ sentences. Not all 2add ma sentences are ‘conditional’, though.

This is another clip from Buq3at Daw2, this time from this season (which is airing now, catch it kids). This sketch (vignette? idk) is entitled حادث سير ‘traffic accident’ (7aades seer), and it tells the story of a man who is run over by a well-meaning driver who cannot afford to have his identity exposed and as such is an easy target for blackmail. I’m transcribing the first scene – the whole thing is about 12 minutes long, and this whole episode (particularly the other two sketches) was not very good, but it does have a lot of useful language in it.

I promise to find funnier stuff to transcribe in the near future ان شاء الله. BD’s gone kinda downhill.

مرحبا انسة يعطيك العافية
mar7aba aanse ya3Tiik él3aafye
Excuse me, miss.

ya3Tiik él3aafye – literally ‘God give you health/rest’. A polite thing to say to people who are at work, especially when they’ve finished doing work for you or when you greet them.

اهلين يا استاذ اهلين
ahleen yaa éstaaz ahleen
Hello, sir.

The nurse has a particular quality which is usually described using the adjective زنخ zénekh which literally means ‘foul-smelling’ but here is used to describe her particular rude tone and general mannerisms. This is a curious but very common stereotype in Syrian TV that you can literally see everywhere (they’re always chewing gum too) for some unexplained reason.

طمنيني اجا حدا من اهلو؟
Tammniini éja 7ada mén ahlo?
Have any of his family come yet?

Tamman/yTammen – ‘reassure me’, from fuSHa اطمأنّ.

لا ولله ما حدا بين
laa waLLa maa 7ada bayyan

No, nobody’s turned up.

bayyan – ‘appear’, ‘show up’, ‘become clear’. A very good word.

صرت حاكي معا شي خمس مرات. بكل الاحوال هو شو ما احتاج خليكي معو
Sér@t 7aaki ma3a shi kham@s marraat. bkéll él2a7waal huwwe shu ma 7taaj khalliiki ma3o
I’ve already spoken to her five times… In any case, whatever he needs, stick by him.

Sér@t 7aaki ma3a shi kham@s marraat – he means the guy’s wife. This construction (Saar + active participle) is used similarly to English ‘already’ for emphasis, although it’s much rarer than English ‘already’ and doesn’t work for all of its uses.

بكل الاحوال – in all cases (in any case, anyway)

شو ما – whatever (usually followed by past/subjunctive)

ما تاكل هم يا استاذ المهم يعني شايفني كل شوي عم فوت شيك عليه وعم فوت خططلو وافحصو. الشرطة كانت هون من شوي
maa taakol hamm yaa éstaaz élmohumm ya3ni shaayéfni kéll @shwayy 3am fuut shayyek 3alee w3am fuut khaTTétlo wéf7aSo. éshshérTa kaanet hoon mén @shwayy

Don’t worry, sir. As you can see, I’m going in every so often to check on him, to plan things out for him and test him. The police were here a little while ago.

ما تاكل هم – don’t worry (literally ‘don’t eat worry’, a similar use of اكل to that one from the camel post)

المهم – either ‘the important thing’ or sometimes used to mean ‘anyway’, ‘the point is…’ as a filler

عم فوت شيك عليه – shayyak is obviously from English ‘check’. This combination of a verb of motion (fuut) and a subjunctive is a bit like ‘go check on’ in English.

كل شوي – every little while

خططلو وافحصو – not sure whether khaTTaT has some specific medical meaning here.

اوعى تكوني قلتيلون شي
oo3a tkuuni 2éltiilon shi

You’d better not have told them anything.

اوعى ‘don’t you dare’. This can change for gender + number (oo3i, oo3u) but often does not. Literally the whole sentence is ‘don’t you dare have told them anything’.

لا يا استاذ انا عطيتك كلمة. بس المهم هلق تراضيه الو وتعلمو شو يحكي. معلومك الشرطة راحت بس بترد ترجع
laa yaa 2éstaaz 2ana 3aTeetak kélme. bass élmohumm halla2 traaDii élo w@t3allmo shu yé7ki. ma3luumak éshshérTa raa7et bass bétrédd térja3
Of course not, sir. I gave you my word. But the important thing now is for you to satisfy him and tell him what to say. The police have gone, but they’ll come back.

عطى كلمة – give your word

تراضيه الو – satisfy him, keep him happy (i.e. so he won’t talk to the police). This is a double-object construction

تعلمو شو يحكي – literally ‘teach him what to say’. The subjunctive is used in command constructions like this (قلتلو يتركها ‘I told him to break up with her’).

بترد ترجع – radd yrédd (and réje3 can also be used in the same sense) is often used to mean ‘do X again’ or ‘re-X’ – رديت سألتو مرة تانية ‘I asked him again’, رديت قدمت الامتحان ‘I re-did the exam’. Here it’s kind of unnecessary (the meaning is obviously already included in yérja3) but ‘come back again’ works in English too.

ماشي ماشي المهم ما تجيبي سيرة لحدا
maashi maashi élmohumm maa tjiibi siira la7ada

OK, OK. Just don’t say anything to anyone.

تجيب سيرة – ‘bring a story’, i.e. gossip

لا لا يا استاذ اعوذ بالله انت طالما راضيتني ما بتطلع من عندي الا رضيان بس بدي قلك على شغلة جماعة الاسعاف كتير كتير لسانون طويل
laa laa yaa éstaaz a3uuzu billah inte Taalama raaDeetni maa btéTla3 mén 3éndi 2élla réDyaan. bass béddi 2éllak 3ala shaghle. jamaa3t él2is3aaf @ktiir lisaanon Tawiil
Of course not, sir, God forbid! As long as you keep me happy, you’ll be happy too. But I have to tell you something – the ambulance guys are veeeery talkative.

اعوذ بالله – a fuSHa expression meaning literally ‘I take refuge in God’ but used similarly to English ‘God forbid!’ (‘of course not!’) Very useful.

طالما راضيتني – ‘as long as’, triggering past like a conditional expression.

ما بتطلع من عندي الا رضيان – literally ‘you won’t leave my presence except pleased’.

جماعة الاسعاف – jamaa3et + noun is often used in the meaning ‘the guys from X’ or ‘the ones from X’: متل جماعة باب الحارة ‘like someone from Baab il7aara’.

لسانون طويل – literally ‘their tongues are long’, this expression means that they are rude or gossip a lot (presumably the latter in this context).

تطمني هي جيتي من عندون. المهم انتي طمنيني شلون حالتو شلون وضعو
TTammni hayy jayyti mén 3éndon. élmohumm inti Tammniini, shloon 7aalto, shloon waD3o?
Don’t worry, I’ve just come from there. Just tell me how he’s doing. What condition is he in?

تطمني – the passive (or whatever) of طمن, ‘be reassured’, i.e. don’t worry.

هي جيتي من عندون – literally ‘here’s my coming from them’. jayye here is a noun of instance.

حالتو لهلق مستقرة بس منخاف كتير من المضاعفات مشان هيك لازم كل شوي كل شوي روح واجي لعندو
7aalto lahalla2 mustaqerra bass menkhaaf @ktiir mn élmuDaa3afaat. méshaan heek laazem kéll @shwayy ruu7 w2éji la3éndo

Right now he’s stable, but we’re worried about complications. That’s why I have to keep coming to see him.

لهلق – until now

الله يعطيكي العافية وانا رح ضل دائما شوف خاطرك
aLLa ya3Tiiki l3aafye w2ana ra7 Déll daa2eman shuuf khaaTrek

Thanks so much. I’ll always make sure you’re being looked after.

رح ضل دائما شوف خاطرك – lit. ‘I will always carry on seeing your khaaTer‘, i.e. looking after you etc

المهم هلق رح اتركك معو شوي تفوت تحكي معو وتعلمو شو يحكي ماشي
élmohumm halla2 ra7 ét@rkak ma3o shwayy tfuut té7ki ma3o w@t3allmo shu yé7ki, maashi
Anyway, I’ll leave you alone with him now for a bit so you can go in and talk to him and tell him what to say, OK?

ét@rkak… tfuut té7ki, t3allmo – lots of subjunctives here: tfuut because ‘leave you… so you can/to talk to him’, té7ki and t3allmo because they’re in the verb of motion + subjunctive construction we mentioned before.

ماشي ماشي
maashi maashi
OK, sure.

موفق
mwaffa2
Good luck.

الله معك الله معك
aLLa ma3ak aLLa ma3ak
Bye, bye.

اخ اخ يا اصابيعي اخ ما عم حس فيون ما عم حس فيون دخيلك يا دكتور دخيلك اصابيعي ما بحس فيون
aakh aakh yaa aSaabii3i aakh maa 3am 7éss fiyyon maa 3am 7éss fiyyon dakhiilak yaa doktuur dakhiilak aSaabii3i maa 3am 7éss fiyyon
Oh, oh my fingers, I can’t feel them, I can’t feel them… please, doctor, I can’t feel my fingers!

اخ – pretty obvious from the context, an expression of exhaustion, pain etc

ما عم حس فيون – ‘I’m not feeling them’. Unlike English (but apparently like French) in Arabic verbs of sense are not usually accompanied by ‘can’ in expressions like ‘I can’t see it’, ‘I can hear you’, ‘I can’t feel it’

دخيلك – etymologically apparently something like ‘I place myself under your protection’, but now yet another one of the huge number of ways to say ‘please’

سلامتك سلامتك بس الحقيقة انا مو دكتور
salaamtak salaamtak bass él7a2ii2a 2ana muu doktuuur

I hope they get better. But the truth is I’m not a doctor.

سلامتك – literally ‘your health’, said when someone is ill. Unlike in English (where doctors do not usually begin a consultation with ‘get well soon’) it is also a common thing for a doctor to open a discussion with.

ماني – the ol’ negative copula (‘I’m not’)

مين انت لكان
miin inte lakaan?

Who are you then?

لكان – we’ve seen this word before. It means approximately ‘in that case’ or ‘then’ here.

انا اللي… اللي دعستك
ana lli… lli da3astak

I’m… I’m the guy who ran you over.

اللي دعستك – as discussed in the relative clauses post, da3as here takes first person marking where in modern English relative clauses normally default to the third person whatever (I’m the one who‘s going, not who’m or whatever). Note that اللي like its fuSHa equivalent الذي is in part the definite article (i.e. it’s él-li, at least etymologically) and él-.

Apart from the iDaafe the main way of expressing possession is the particle تبع taba3 (or تع ta3), the equivalent of Egyptian bita3. This appears between the noun and its possessor. As with the iDaafe it can express various different types of relationship.

حط الستاتوس تبع الواتس بكومنت
7étt lé-status taba3 élwat@s bkooment
Put [your] Whatsapp status in a comment

اللون تبع جراباتك اللي انت لابسو حاليا هو لون قلبك
élloon taba3 jraabaatak élli inte laabso 7aaliyyan huwwe loon 2albak
The colour of the socks you’re wearing now is the colour of your heart

بيقولك راح ناس تبع جمعيات خيرية يشوفو اللاجئين
bi2éllak raa7 naas taba3 jam3iyyaat kheeriyye yshuufu llaaji2iin…
They say that people from charity organisations went to see the refugees…

What triggers use of تبع as opposed to the iDaafe is not always clear. It’s common with compounds and with loanwords (like the first example here). But it is also often used in contexts where the iDaafe would also be fine.

For some speakers تبع agrees with the possessed noun. In Syrian this is optional, but in Palestinian for example it is compulsory. The feminine is تبعت taba3et. The plural has various different forms, including تبعون tab3uun and تبعوت tab3uut.

Taba3 differs from the iDaafe in that it can be used independently, providing the only easy way to translate expressions like ‘Ahmad’s’  or ‘mine’ where the possessed noun is dropped. As with its normal use, taba3 here can express all sorts of relationships:

كسرت تبعتو
kassar@t taba3to
I broke his [one]

بدكن لايف متل تبع امبارح
béddkon laayv mét@l taba3 @mbaare7?
You want a Live (video) like yesterday’s?

بس تبع اللون الاخضر وبنات العمارة شغلة
bass taba3 élloon él2akhDar, wbanaat él3emaara shéghle
Only the green one, [because] the architecture girls are something else [in response to a question about which university canteen students prefer]

طلع تبع الضابط
Téle3 taba3 éDDaabeT
It turned out to belong to the officer/be the officer’s!

وينهم تبعون الإنجلش؟
weenhom tab3uun élinglish?
Where are the English crew?

You have to be careful with this usage, however, because تبع is also a euphemism for genitalia.

You are probably familiar with the fun (or not-so-fun) phenomenon of so-called tamyiiz (تمييز, sometimes translated into English as ‘specification’). In fuSHa, tamyiiz is one of the many uses of the accusative – you take a noun, stick it in the accusative, and it turns into something that can be (often clunkily) translated as ‘in terms of’ or ‘by way of’. This handy PDF gives some nice examples: يزداد ايمانًا ‘increase in belief’, يختلف علوًا ‘differ in height’, اجمل اسلوبًا ‘more pleasant with regard to style’. You’re probably most familiar with it from the last usage, with superlatives and comparatives.

Some arguable examples of the fuSHa forms are occasionally used in speech too (كتابةً kitaabatan ‘in writing’ for example) especially in higher registers, but productively tamyiiz constructions are formed in 3aammiyye without any case ending. This makes them more difficult to spot, but lots of examples of similar constructions do occur – and it’s important to understanding that you can recognise them.

Modifying verbs:

Tamyiiz constructions often appear modifying verbs in an adverbial sense. They can frequently but not always be translated with English ‘as’:

بشتغل مهندس béshtéghel muhandes – I work as an engineer (كـ here sounds funny and is a common non-native mistake)

جيت لجوء jiit lujuu2 – I came as a refugee [= I came refuge]

المصاري بجو شيكات élmaSaari biju sheekaat – the money comes in cheques

Sometimes they modify not the verb itself, but the object:

عطاني ياه هدية ‭3aTaani yaa hdiyye – he gave me it as a present

انت زودت الطين بلة اه inte zawwadt éTTiin bille aah – you’ve made the situation worse [increased the clay in terms of wetness]

They can modify participles, too – as in the following:

الكاس مليان مي élkaas mélyaan moyy – the glass is full of water

مبلول مي mabluul moyy – wet (with water)

compare:

عبيتو مي ‘I filled it with water’

انبليت مي ‘I got wet’

They can also modify the subject:

انقسمو قسمين n2asamu 2ésmeen – they were divided (into) two groups

I’m not sure my divisions into modifying the subject, object and verb are particularly scientific, but hopefully these examples give a decent impression of the breadth of possible semantics.

With question words

With questions with 2addeesh (‘how much’) and shu (‘what’), there is often a tamyiiz which narrows the specification of the question word. Unlike in English (‘what houses’, ‘how much change’), the tamyiiz typically appears later on:

قديش معك فراطة؟ 2addeesh ma3ak @fraaTa? – how much change do you have? [how much do you have (by way of) change?]

شو عندك افكار لتطوير البلد shu 3éndak 2afkaar la-taTwiir élbalad? – what ideas do you have for developing the country

They don’t necessarily have to be actual questions, either:

الله وحدو بيعلم شو ممكن تجيني أحاسيس و مشاعير aLLa wa7do bya3lem shu mémken tijiini a7aasiis w mashaa3iir – only God knows what feelings I might have [= what can come to me (by way of) feelings and feelings]

These are of course a subset of the versions above with subjects and objects.

Other uses in fuSHa

In fuSHa tamyiiz is also used for expressions of quantity (‘a glass of water’, ‘a kilo of sugar’) and for superlatives/comparatives where an afDal noun cannot be readily used (اكثر تعقيدًا ‘more complicated’ for example). In 3aammiyye the former is usually expressed with an iDaafe (kaasét moyy, kaast élmoyy) and the latter with a combination of a normal adjective and an afDal (معقد اكتر mu3aqqad 2aktar).

Saar-ySiir is another one of those very, very common verbs that appear all the time but that are rarely treated in detail. I said ages ago I was going to write a post about صار, and now seems like a good time to put it out. So here goes!

Happen

One of the core meanings of صار is ‘to happen’. Although حصل and the fuSHa حدث (pronounced 7adas) are also occasionally used, صار is by far the most common verb to appear with this meaning:

شو صار؟ shu Saar? – what happened?

The participle has resultative meaning:

شو صاير؟ shu Saayer? – what’s happened?

بدك تفهم شو اللي صاير بسوريا؟ béddak téfham shu 2élli Saayer bsuurya? – do you want to understand what’s happened in Syria?

The expression ‘it happens’, where ‘it’ refers to a situation or an occurrence, is translated with the feminine:

هي هيك بتصير hiyye heek bétSiir – it happens like that, that’s how it happens

بتصير بحسن العائلات bétSiir b2a7san él3aa2elaat – it happens to the best of us [= in the best of families]

For ‘happen to’, both -la- and 3ala are used:

شو صارلك؟ shu Saarlak? – what’s happened to you?

خايف يصير عليه شي khaayef ySiir 3alee shi – I’m scared that something will happen to him

مع also occurs in a sense similar to the one we see in طلع مع and sometimes can be translated with ‘to’:

شو صار معك؟ shu Saar ma3ak? – so what happened [with you/to you]?

صار معي كذا مرة Saar ma3i keza marra – it’s happened to me (I’ve seen it happen, etc) several times

Become

صار is also the most common verb used in the meaning of ‘become’.

قال ما تضحك على حدا احسن ما تصير متلو ‪2aal maa téD7ak 3ala 7ada a7san ma tSiir métlo – he said don’t laugh at anyone, in case you end up like them [= become like them]

مبارح حلمت انو شجر التوت صار كتير عالي mbaare7 7alamt énno shajar éttuut Saar @ktiir 3aali – yesterday I dreamt that the berry tree’d become really tall

Of course Arabic has a huge class of verbs which include the meaning ‘become’ or ‘get’ (مرض ‘become ill’, طول ‘become long(er)’, etc etc), which are very common and are often a more idiomatic choice than صار. But صار makes up for this by being used in lots of contexts where in English ‘become’ would be unidiomatic but where a change of state is implied:

وين صرت؟ ween Sér@t? – where’ve you got to? where are you?

صار عمرا تلت سنين اليوم Saar 3émra tlét @sniin élyoom – she turned three today [= her age became]

صارت احسن الحمد لله Saaret a7san él7amdulilla – she’s better [now], thank God

قديش صارت الساعة؟ ‪2addeesh Saaret éssaa3a? – what time is it?

It very commonly appears with verbs (usually subjunctive) expressing this same change of state. Depending on context it might be nicely translated as ‘these days’:

صار كلو بدو يتجوز Saar kéllo béddo yétjawwaz – (nowadays, all of a sudden, these days etc) everyone wants to get married

صار عم يبكي كتير بالليل Saar 3am yébki ktiir billeel – (nowadays) he’s crying a lot at night

صار الواحد اذا بدو يسلم ع ابوه يعمل فيديو ويشهر حاله ع الفيسبوك   Saar élwaa7ed iza béddo ysallem 3ala abuu ya3mel fiidyo w yshahher 7aalo 3alfeesbuuk – nowadays when people [=one] are gonna say hi to their dad they make a video (of it) and make themselves famous on Facebook

In some cases though it expresses a much more sudden change, in which case it is often best translated as ‘begin’ or ‘start’:

محشش مات أبو وهو بالعزا رن تلفونو وبعد ماخلص حكي صار يبكي m7ashshesh maat abuu, bél3aza rann telefoono w ba3@d ma khallaS 7aki Saar yébki – once there was a stoner whose dad died. At the wake his phone rang and after he finished talking he started crying

صار سنو يوجعو Saar sénno yuuja3o – his tooth started to hurt

There is a related usage with participles which have resultative meaning:

كام مرة صرت قايللك؟ kam marra Sér@t 2aayéllak?! – how many times have I told you?!

هلق صرت دافع تلت مرات halla2 sér@t daafe3 tlét marraat – now I’ve paid three times

صرلي etc

Saar is also used with -la- pronouns in the sense of ‘have been Xing’, etc (literally ‘it has become X time to me that…). This is a variant of an equivalent construction with الـ (e.g. الي سنتين هون ‘I’ve been two years’). Normally the r assimilates to l.

قديش صرلك هون؟ 2addeesh Sallak hoon? – how long have you been here?

صرلي سنة ماني شايفو؟ Salli séne maani shaayfo – It’s been a year since I last saw him, I haven’t seen him in a year

صرلي ساعة عم دقلو بس ما عم يرد Salli saa3a 3am dé22éllo bass maa 3am yrédd – I’ve been ringing him (repeatedly) for an hour but he’s not answering

In the above examples (which show off the different kinds of sentences that can be combined with Salli) the structure is Salli [X amount of time] + a verbal or nominal sentence. Rather than a noun expressing duration, you can also use a similar structure with من:

صرلي بالشركة من 2003 Salli bishshérke mn élalfeen w@tlaate – I’ve been at the company since 2003

This example also shows the occasional reordering of the constituents, though the Salli + time ordering is much more common.

Sometimes it may lend itself to being translated as something like ‘it’s been (X amount of time) since’ or something along these lines depending on the stress of the sentence:

قديش صرلك؟ 2addeesh Sallak? – how long’s it been? [since something]

قديش صرلك ما اكلت 2addeesh Sallak maa 2akal@t? – how long has it been since you last ate?

بصير biSiir

This means ‘it is permissible (right, etc)’ or ‘it is possible’. It can be combined with a subjunctive verb:

ما بصير تحكي هيك قدام الضيوف maa biSiir té7ki heek 2éddaam léDyuuf – it’s not right for you to talk like that in front of the guests

بصير الواحد يزعل على رفيقو؟ biSiir élwaa7ed yéz3al 3ala rfii2o? – is it allowed for someone to be upset for his friend?

It can also be used with noun subjects:

التنتين بصيرو étténteen biSiiru – both work (sentences for example)

One point we didn’t cover in any of the previous posts is the very basic issue of how to express doing something to yourself (reflexives) and doing something to one another (reciprocals). Both of these are quite important and differ (to some extent) from fuSHa, so let’s cover them here!

Reflexives

The reflexive pronoun

In English we have the reflexive pronouns formed with possessives and ‘self’, and in fuSHa we have basically the same system with نفس ‘spirit’. Whilst there are contexts in which you might hear نفس with reflexive meaning in colloquial, far and away the most common reflexive pronoun in Shami is not formed with نفس but with حالـ plus possessive pronouns:

احكي عن حالك é7ki 3an 7aalak – speak for yourself!

ليش عم تجاكر حالك؟ leesh 3am @tjaaker 7aalak? – why are you spiting yourself?

مفكر حالو شي خرية كبيرة mfakker 7aalo shi kharye kbiire – he thinks he’s the shit [some big shit]

With plural pronouns 7aal remains the same and does not pluralise like English ‘self’:

شايفين حالون shaayfiin 7aalon – they’re arrogant [they’ve seen themselves]

Reflexives without 7aal

In some limited situations normal pronouns are used with a reflexive meaning:

غصبن عنك ghaSbin 3annakin spite of yourself

Reflexive-style verbs

There are some verbs which in and of themselves are often best translated as reflexive despite the absence of a reflexive pronoun:

احترقت  ‪7tara2@t – I burnt myself

انتحر nta7ar – he killed himself (نحر ‘to slaughter)

Reciprocals

These are expressions like ‘they hit one another’ where the action is being carried out by two parties on one another at the same time.

The reciprocal pronoun

Lining up with English ‘one another’ or ‘each other’, fuSHa has various expressions formed with بعض, probably originally in the sense of ‘some’ (like the long fuSHa structure, ضرب بعضُهم البعضَ, which probably originally meant ‘some of them hit some [others]’ or ‘one of them hit the [other]’). In Syrian the most common way of phrasing it is just to use بعض ba3@D on its own as a catchall ‘one another’ or ‘each other’:

ضربو بعض Darabu ba3@D – they hit one another

متل بعض mét@l ba3@D – like one another, similar

نفس بعض naf@s ba3@D – the same thing, the same as one another

طلعو ببعض TTalla3u bba3@D – they looked at one another

Reciprocal verbs

As in fuSHa, some verbs are inherently reciprocal, typically form V or form VI:

تصالحو tSaala7u – they made up (with one another – compare صالحو Saala7o  ‘he made up with him’)

تحاكو t7aaku – they spoke (with one another compare حاكاه ‘he spoke to him’)

When they are really reciprocal the subject is usually plural. However, there are lots of cases where these reciprocals actually may appear with a singular subject and an object expressed with مع. Here, of course, ‘one another’ is not an appropriate translation.

تصالحت معو tSaala7@t ma3o – I made up with him (functionally a synonym of صالحتو)

This transcription is of a scene from حلاوة الروح (‘sweetness/beauty of the soul’, though a literal translation doesn’t quite cover the meaning), which if I remember correctly came out a couple of years ago during peak musalsal season. In it our two heroes, Sara and Isma’il, meet in a Beirut bar by chance. Isma’il is the brother of a childhood friend of Sara’s, Nisreen. Sara, an aspiring filmmaker, has just got back to Beirut after months staying at her father’s house in Dubai. She has left without telling her father, who runs a TV station there and had promised her a job, after months of disappointment in which she has not even seen him once. She tells her Lebanese friend (whose name I have forgotten) about her plans, and halfway through the conversation Isma’il comes over to introduce himself.

 

وحياة الله انتي مجنونة. حدا بصيرلو يعيش بدبي بجي بهالوضع ع لبنان؟
wé7yaat aLLa énti majnuune. 7ada biSérlo y3iish b-dubayy biji b-ha-lwaD@3 3a lébnaan?
I swear to God, you’re mad. What kind of a person who’s able to live in Dubai comes to Lebanon with the way the situation is now?

وحياة الله – ‘by God’s life’ (w of oaths again). You might notice the e-like aa that this character has. This is because she’s Lebanese – one of the most marked features of the Lebanese dialect is this high aa sound.

حدا بصيرلو يعيش… بجي… this sentence is literally ‘would someone for whom it is possible (بصيرلو) to live in Dubai come to Lebanon in this situation?’ بصرلو يعيش بدبي is a relative clause attached to 7ada. As you can see, the long vowel in biSiir is shortened to biSér-lo when -lo is attached (as discussed here). Rhetorical questions using this structure are very common – في حدا بينسى لغتو الام؟ ‘what kind of a person forgets their native language?’

اي
ee
Someone like me.

Literally ‘yes’ (in answer to the rhetorical question in the sentence before, but translated liberally by me so that the English makes sense).

لإنك حمارة
la2énnek @7maara
Because you’re an idiot.

حمارة – both 7maar and ja7@sh (literally ‘donkey’) are used liberally to mean ‘idiot’, as in that Lindsay Lohan post.

لك لأ ولي. بس ناوية اعمل فيلمي الاول وشارك فيه بمهرجان المحطة اللي بديرها سيد الوالد واخد الجائزة الدهبية
lak la2 wlee. bass naawye a3mel filmi l2awwal w shaarek fii bmahrajaan élma7aTTa lli bidiira sayyed élwaaled w 2aakhod éjjaa2ize ddahabiyye.
Mate, no. But I’m planning on making my first film, entering it in the competition that father dearest’s TV channel is putting on, and winning gold.

ولي – the feminine equivalent of ولو, which is a familiar term of address similar here to saying ‘no, man’ (though obviously gendered).

ناوية اعمل… شارك… واخد – naawi and its feminine and plural variants are used in the meaning of ‘intending, planning to’, and of course are followed by subjunctive like other expressions of desire and intention. Here there are three verbs, all in firstp person singular: a3mel ‘(I) make’, shaarek ‘(I) participate’ and aakhod ‘(I) take’.

شارك فيه بمهرجان المحطة اللي بديرا سيد الوالد – ‘participate with it in the [film] festival of the [TV] station which sayyed élwaaled runs’. fii is ‘with it’, referring to the film. élli bidiira is ‘that (he) runs’ or ‘that he manages’ (he’s the مدير) – the -a, of course, refers back to the ma7aTTa.

سيد الوالد – a polite, Syrian way of referring to a father (feminine ست الوالدة). Here Sara is presumably using it to emphasise the distant relationship she has with her dad.

ليش نكاية يعني؟
leesh, nkaaye ya3ni?
What, to get back at him?

نكاية nkaaye (pronounced by Sara nikaaye) is literally an act of defiance or spite. In fuSHa the expression نكايةً فيه means ‘to spite him’.

اي نكاية
ee nikaaye.
Yeah, to get back at him.

ومعك تدفعي حقا لهلنكاية؟
w ma3ek tédfa3i 7a22a la-ha-lénkaaye?
And have you got enough money to get back at him?

معك تدفعي – ma3i, ma3ek etc followed by a subjunctive means ‘to have enough (money) to…’

حقها لهالنكاية – ‘the price of this act of defiance’? حق often appears in iDaafa meaning ‘the price of’ (presumably originally ‘the right [price] of’, ‘the [fair] cost of’). The -a la- construction is the same one mentioned here.

جمعت شوي من المصاري اللي اغدقها عليي سيد الوالد تعويضا عن اني ما شفتو بدبي ورح اشتري كامريا وقولي يا معين
jama3@t shwayy mn élmaSaari élli aghdaqa 3aleyyi sayyed élwaaled, ta3wiiDan 3an énni maa shéfto bdubayy, w ra7 éshteri kaamera w 2uuli yaa mu3iin.
I saved up some of the money that father dearest rained down on me to make up for the fact that I didn’t see him in Dubai, and I’m going to buy a camera, and… say good luck!

المصاري اللي اغدقها عليي سيد الوالد – the money that sayyed élwaaled poured [it] down on me. The -a here refers to مصاري, which can be plural or singular feminine depending on the context. اغدق is a fuSHa word – form IV – and Sara pronounces it with a qaaf although a colloquial form ghada2 from the same root also exists.

تعويضا عن اني ما شفتو – ta3wiiDan is a مفعول لأجله, a distinctly fuSHa construction that we see most commonly in speech in a few set phrases (محبةً بـ ‘out of love for’, خوفًا من ‘for fear that’ etc), especially when somebody is trying to be a bit more eloquent than usual. This whole sentence is a bit fuSHa-y, probably again to emphasise how distant her dad was being. تعويضا عن انو is literally ‘to make up for/as compensation for [the fact] that’.

قولي يا معين – literally ‘say O Helper’, literally a request for help from God – in usage something like ‘wish me luck’.

موفقة اي
mwaffa2a ee
Yeah, good luck.

اجى
éja
He’s coming.

Literally ‘he’s come’.

معناتا هو كمان بيعرفك
ma3naata huwwe kamaan bya3rfek
Then he must recognise you too…

معناتا – literally ‘its meaning’.

بيعرفك – as we’ll see below 3éref is often better translated with ‘recognise’ than ‘know’.

مسا الخير
masa lkheer
Good evening.

مسا النور
masa nnuur
Hi.

عفوا بس… سارا مو؟
3afwan bass saara muu?
Sorry, but… it’s Sara, right?

عفوا – pardon, excuse me, sorry.

اي
ee
Yes.

تذكرتيني؟
tzakkartiini?
Do you remember me?

Like lots of other verbs mentioned in this post, tzakkar is often used in the past when in English a present would be used – literally ‘have you remembered me?’

بصراحة طول الوقت كنت عم شبه عليك بس لأ ما تذكرت
bSiraa7a Tool élwa2@t ként 3am shabbeh 3aleek bass la2a maa tzakkar@t
To be honest, I’ve been trying to work out where I know you from this whole time, but no, I don’t remember.

شبه عليك – literally something like ‘making similar with someone’, i.e. trying to work out who it is you look like, comparing you with other people in my mind

اسماعيل اسماعيل اخوها لنسرين الاحمد
smaa3iil, smaa3iil, akhuwwa la-nisriin él2a7mad
Isma’il – Nisreen al-Ahmad’s brother.

اه اهلين اهلين اسماعيل كيفك؟ لك متغير كتير عن جد ما عرفتك. كيفا نسرين, وين صارت, شو الاخبار؟
aah 2ahleen 2ahleen smaa3iil! kiifak? lak métghayyer @ktiir, 3an jadd maa 3réftak! kiifa nisriin, ween Saaret, shu l2akhbaar?
Right! Hi, hi – how are you doing? You’ve changed so much – I honestly didn’t recognise you! How’s Nisreen? Where is she these days, what’s she up to?

متغير – ‘having changed’. This is a participle with resultative meaning.

عن جد – seriously, honestly.

ما عرفتك – the word عرف here is in the meaning of ‘come to know’ or ‘recognise’ and not ‘to know’. ما عرفتك can mean both ‘I don’t recognise you’ (with 3éref here working like tzakkar above) or ‘I didn’t recognise you’.

نسرين… عطتك عمرا.
nisriin… 3aTétek 3émra.
Nisreen… passed away.

عطتك عمرا – a euphemism for ‘died’, literally ‘gave you her life’. The etymological logic here is similar to the one you get in the expression العمر الك when somebody dies.

شو؟ كيف يعني, بالاحداث؟
shu? kiif ya3ni… bil2a7daas?
What? How? In the ‘situation’?

الاحداث – a euphemism you will hear all the time if you talk to Syrians. Literally ‘the events’ (plural of حدث), referring to the situation in Syria.

هي اي بالاحداث. من شي سنة تقريبا. انا اسف, ما كان بدي ديقك بهيك موضوع. قوليلي انتي كيفك؟
ان شاء الله تمام؟ مستقرة هون ببيروت؟
hiyye… ee, bil2a7daas. mén shi séne ta2riiban. 2ana 2aasef, maa kaan béddi dayy2ék bheek mawDuu3. 2uuliili énti kiifek? nshaLLa tamaam? méstaqérra hoon bbeeruut?
Uhh… yeah, in the situation. About a year ago. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to bother you with something like that. Tell me, how are you – good I hope? Are you living here in Beirut?

شي سنة – shi often appears with singular nouns meaning ‘some’ or acting like an indefinite article. With expressions of time it usually means ‘about’.

بهيك موضوع – ‘with that sort of subject’

مستقرة – literally ‘settled’

اي. من وقت طلعنا من الشام  اجينا لهون على بيروت. بعد فترة رحت لعند ماما على مصر وبعدين رحت لعند ابي بدبي. قعدت شي تلت تشر واليوم اجيت اليوم وصلت.
ee… mén wa2t @Tlé3na mn éshshaam éjiina lahoon 3ala beeruut. Ba3@d fatra ré7@t la3énd maama 3ala maS@r w ba3deen ré7@t la3énd 2abi 3ala dubayy. 23édt shi tlét téshor w élyoom éjiit, élyoom wSél@t.
Yeah… When we left Damascus, we came here to Beirut. After a while I went to stay with Mum in Egypt, and afterwards I went to stay with my father in Dubai. I was there about three months and I came back today, I arrived today.

لهون على بيروت, لعند ماما على مصر, لعند ابي على دبي – all of these are examples of two directional phrases appearing together in a way that cannot be literally translated into English since we would prefer ‘in’ for the second one: (‘to here to Beirut’, ‘to by mum to Egypt’, ‘to by my father to Dubai’). Another example is فات لعندي ع الغرفة ‘he came into my room’ or اجى لعنا ع البيت ‘they came to see us at home’.

قعدت شي تلت تشر – the verb 2é3ed is literally ‘to sit’ but is used to mean ‘stay’ (usually temporarily) – وين قاعدة؟ ‘where are you staying?’ shi tlét téshor shows off the special plural used with numbers in téshor ‘months’, and has another shi (here we can say ‘some three months’ in English).

حمد لله ع السلامة
7amdélla 3assalaame.
I’m glad you arrived safely.

Maybe a more natural equivalent might be ‘welcome back’. A polite thing to say to someone who’s just got back off a journey – ‘thanks be to God for your safety’.

طب يلا تفضل عود معنا
Tabb yaLLa tfaDDal 3ood ma3na.
OK, well – sit down, come and sit with us!

تفضل عود معنا – go ahead, sit with us. 3ood is the irregular imperative of قعد.

لأ معليشي انا بس حبيت هيك… شفتك وقلت بسلم عليكي
la2 ma3leeshi. 2ana bass 7abbeet heek… shéftek w2él@t bsallem 3aleeki
Ah, don’t worry about it, uhh… I just wanted to… I saw you and I thought I’d say hi.

معليشي – a variant of the more common ma3leesh, used for various purposes including ‘don’t worry about it’, ‘pardon’, ‘never mind’ and here a (semi-sincere?) refusal of the invitation.

حبيت هيك – an incomplete sentence. ‘I wanted to… you know…’ heek is a filler, ‘that sort of thing’.

قلت بسلم عليكي – ‘I said’ (قلت) is used with a subjunctive or a b-present to mean idiomatically ‘I thought I would’. sallam 3ala – originally ‘say salaam to’ – now means ‘say hi to’, or by extension ‘shake hands with’. When someone leaves you can say سلملي على… ‘say hi to… for me’.

اذا كان عندك وقت خلينا نشرب شي شغلة
iza kaan 3éndak wa2@t khalliina néshrab shi shéghle
If you’ve got time why don’t we have a drink?

اذا كان عندك وقت – the kaan here arguably adds an element of reasonable doubt here for Isma’il to back out (rather than just saying iza 3éndak, which is equally grammatical). ‘If you happen to have the time…’

خلينا نشرب شي شغلة – let’s drink something. shi shéghle is that shi yet again (‘some’) plus ‘thingy’ or ‘thing’, shéghle.

تفضل
tfaDDal
Go ahead.

He gets the literal go-ahead from her friend.

طيب اوكي. لو سمحت
Tayyeb oke. law sama7@t!
OK then. Excuse me!

طيب – OK then.

اوكي – used mainly in the sense of ‘agreed’, indicating acceptance.

لو سمحت – the usual way to say ‘excuse me’ to waiters, for example.

This should probably have come much earlier, but better late than never!

Possibility

ممكن mumken/mémken

This one literally means ‘is possible’ and is usually best translated as ‘can’, ‘could’ or ‘might’ depending on context. As an auxiliary, it is followed by a subjunctive verb:

ممكن تروح معنا اذا بدك mémken @truu7 ma3na iza béddak – you can go with us if you want

بتعرف انه الواحد احيانا ممكن يطلع خلقه bta3ref énno ilwaa7ed a7yaanan mumken yéTla3 khél2oyou know that sometimes, a person can lose their temper… [= that one sometimes their temper can rise]

الله وحدو بيعلم شو ممكن تجيني أحاسيس و مشاعير aLLa wa7do bya3lem shu mémken tijiini a7aasiis w mashaa3iir – only God knows what feelings I might have [= what feelings and feelings might come to me]

For the past, we have to use كان as an auxiliary. This gives a counterfactual meaning (could have, but didn’t).

كان ممكن يعمل فتنة بيني وبين امي kaan mémken ya3mel fitne beeni wbeen émmi – it could’ve caused real trouble between me and my mum

كان ممكن يعمل اي شي بدو ياه kaan mumken ya3mel eyy shi béddo yaa – he could have done anything he wanted

It can also be used with subjunctive kaan plus a past verb:

ممكن يكون راح يجيب بيكيت دخان mémken ykuun raa7 yjiib baakeet dékhkhaan – he might have gone to get a packet of cigarettes

It can be used in requests as well, like English ‘could’:

لو سمحت ممكن تسكر الشباك؟ law sama7@t mumken tsakker éshshébbaak? excuse me, could you close the window?

In this sense it can appear without a verb:

ممكن قلم؟ mumken 2alam? – could I have a pen?

It appears on its own as well:

ولا ممكن! wala mumken! – it’s just not possible (anymore!)

اي ممكن ee mumken – yeah, possibly (or yes, I can/could, yes it can/could etc)

كل شي ممكن kéll shi mémken – anything’s possible

اذا ممكن iza mumken – if that’s possible (if you can, etc etc)

يمكن yémken

Yémken is a frozen verbal form without a b- prefix. It is an adverbial form and often means ‘perhaps’ or ‘possibly’. In this sense it is much freer in terms of where it can go in the sentence than mémken is:

يمكن اكتريت المشاكل اللي بتصير بالحياة سببها انو… yémken aktariit élmashaakel élli bétSiir bi-l7ayaat sababa énno… – perhaps the reason for most of the problems that happen in life is…

لحتا تترجمها بدك يمكن تكتب هامش صفحتين شرح لالها حتا يفهمها القارئ la7atta ttarjémha béddak yémken téktob haamesh Séf@7teen shar@7 la2ilha 7atta yéfhamha lqaare2 – in order to translate it you’d need to write maybe a two-page long footnote explaining it for the reader to understand…

مو مكتوبة بصيغة صح يمكن muu maktuube bSiigha Sa77 yémken – it might not be written right

يمكن عمر بن الخطاب كان ناجح نوعا ما yémken 3omar bin al-khaTTaab kaan naaje7 naw3an ma – I guess/maybe (the TV series) Umar bin al-Khattab was sort of good

You can use it with the past too:

يمكن راح يمكن ما راح yémken raa7 yémken maa raa7 – maybe he went, maybe he didn’t

It is also used like mémken as an auxiliary with a subjunctive:

يمكن ما يتوفر معي yémken maa yétwaffar 3éndi – I might not be able to get it (= the money) [= it might not become available with me]

It occasionally acts like a proper verb meaning ‘be possible’:

اكتر ما يمكن aktar ma yémken – as much as possible

بصير biSiir

This is typically an auxiliary and means approximately ‘is it possible/acceptable?’ It appears with subjunctive verbs:

ما بصير تحكي هيك قدام الضيوف maa biSiir té7ki heek 2éddaam léDyuuf – it’s not right for you to talk like that in front of the guests!

بصير احكيلك اشتقتلك ولا الجديدة للي عندك بتغار؟ biSiir é7kiilak @shta2téllak wélla léjdiide lli 3éndak bétghaar? – am I allowed to tell you I missed you or is your new (girlfriend) the jealous type?

بصير احول خطي من اجتماعي لخط زين الجديد؟ biSiir a7awwel khaTTi min ijtimaa3i la-khaTT zeen lijdiid? – is it possible to change my (phone) contract from the ‘sociable’ one to Zain‘s new contract? [‘sociable’ was the name of one of Zain’s phone contracts]

Like mémken it can be used with nouns too:

بصير سؤال صغير؟ biSiir su2aal @zghiir? – can I just ask one question? [= a small question]

Generally this form is invariable (and should not be confused with other uses of Saar like ‘become’ and ‘happen’ which conjugate normally) but some Syrians accept the plural form with nouns like in the following sentence:

التنين بصيرو létneen biSiiru – both are possible, both work

بجوز bijuuz

بجوز is another frozen verbal form used similar to يمكن, meaning ‘possibly’ or ‘might’:

في منن بجوز اصلن من السويدا fii ménnon bijuuz aSlon mn éssweeda – there are some of them who might be originally from Sweida [= that their origin might be from Sweeda]

بجوز قلون رح يشتكي عليون bijuuz 2éllon ra7 yéshtéki 3aleyyon – maybe he told them he was going to make a complaint about them

It can appear with normal b-presents like this – if the verb refers to something general or actually present (as opposed to future):

بجوز بيرمز لشي او لشخص bijuuz byérmoz la-shi aw la-shakh@S – it might be a reference to a thing or a person

It can also appear in counterfactuals meaning ‘might have’ or ‘perhaps’ (depending on context):

لو هربو بجوز كانو نفدو law hérbu bijuuz kaanu nafadu – if they’d run away perhaps they’d have escaped/they might have escaped

Or it can act like mémken with future reference:

كمان في كلمة بجوز تفكرها مشابهة… kamaan fii kélme bijuuz tfakkérha mushaabiha – there’s another word you might think is similar…

بجوز احتاج مساعدتك bijuuz é7taaj musaa3adtak – I might need your help

بركي, بلكي bérki, belki

This one is a loanword from Turkish belki. In Damascus bérki (presumably a corruption) is more common but you will hear both. Belki is the normal form in Jordan and Palestine, I think. It is used almost exclusively with future reference, most commonly with b-present verbs:

بركي جبلك كل يوم بيتزا  bérki jéblak kéll yoom biitza – maybe I’ll bring you pizza every day

بركي منشوفك عن قريب bérki ménshuufak 3an 2ariib – maybe (hopefully) we’ll see you sometime soon

It is sometimes used with a past tense verb, but this also has future reference and carries a very specific meaning which is something like ‘but what if…’:

بركي انمسكت؟ bérki nmasak@t? – what if you get caught?!

وبركي ما قدرت ترجع؟ w-bérki maa 2dér@t térja3 – and what if you can’t come back?!

It is also used to connect two clauses with a sense that is sort of difficult to translate concisely into English. Usually the format is like this: ‘do X, bérki you’ll do Y’ and it means something like ‘so that you might’ in archaic English:

احكيلو بركي بزورنا é7kiilo bérki bizuurna – talk to him and maybe he’ll visit us

This joke illustrates this use well even if it doesn’t say much about marital life:

وحدة قالت لزوجها : حلمت انك علمتني السواقة و جبتلي سيارة كمان ، قلها زوجها ؛ كملي نومك بركي بتعملي حادث والله بياخدك wa7de 2aalet la-zoojha: 7alam@t énnak 3allamtni léswaa2a w-jébtélli siyyaara kamaan! 2éllha zoojha kammli noomek bérki bta3mli 7aades w-aLLa yaakhdik! – a woman said to her husband: ‘I dreamt you’d bought me a car and taught me to drive too!’ Her husband said: ‘go back to sleep and maybe (hopefully) you’ll have an accident!’ [= that you might have an accident, and God take you!]

مستحيل musta7iil

‘Impossible’, ‘it’s impossible’. Used with a subjunctive verb:

مستحيل انساكي musta7iil énsaaki – it would be impossible for me to forget you

The passive

The passive is often used to express general possibility/ability:

الزلمة ما بينمشى معو ézzalame maa byénmasha ma3o – you can’t get along with the guy [= he is not walked with]

ما بينهرب من هالسجن maa byénhareb mén has-séj@n – you can’t escape from this prison

Likelihood

اكيد akiid,  ع الاكيد ‪3al2akiid

Certainly, definitely, surely.

انتي اكيد مالك مقتنعة بيلي عم تقوليه inti akiid maalek méqtan3a byalli 3am t2uulii – you definitely/surely don’t believe what you’re saying

بيجي ع الاكيد خلال اسبوع byiji 3al2akiid khilaal ésbuu3 – it’ll definitely come within a week

ع الاغلب 3al2aghlab

Probably, most likely.

ع الاغلب ما في دوام لاول الشهر ‪3al2aghlab maa fii dawaam la-2awwal éshshah@r – most likely there’ll be no work ’til the beginning of next month

بكون bikuun

Bikuun is often used to express judgements about likelihood in a way similar to ‘must be’.

بدو يكون béddo ykuun

This construction is used to express judgements about likelihood in a way similar to ‘he must be’:

هلق بدو يكون مشي halla2 béddo ykuun méshi – by now he’ll have left

اجباري ijbaari

Literally ‘compulsory’, but used to mean ‘certainly’, ‘definitely’.

Ability

قدر / بيقدر ‪2éder/byé2der

This is the normal equivalent to ‘can’, but typically expresses ability of a person rather than possibility. It uses subjunctive:

بتقدر تقول مثلا بطلت من الشغل bté2der @t2uul masalan baTTal@t mn éshshégh@l – you can say for example ‘I stopped working…’

It can be used in the past to mean ‘couldn’t’, if it refers to one specific time:

بس ولله ما قدرت اعمل شي bass waLLa maa 2dér@t a3mel shi – but I swear, I couldn’t do anything

It can also be used in participle form (2édraan) referring to a specific time-delimited period:

متل اللي تعبان ومو قدران يمشي mét@l élli ta3baan w-muu 2édraan yémshi – like someone who’s worn out and can’t walk (normally)

With the preposition على it can also be used with nouns and pronouns:

اللي بتقدر عليه élli bté2der 3alee – what you can do, what you’re capable of

احسن بيحسن a7san byé7sen

Sometimes 7asan instead of a7san. In fuSHa this means ‘to do well’ or ‘do properly’ but in Syrian it’s used for simple ‘be able to’ or ‘can’ as a slightly less common synonym of 2éder:

ما احسنت نام maa a7san@t naam – I couldn’t sleep

Its participle is حسنان ‪7asnaan:

مو حسنان نام  muu 7asnaan naam – I can’t sleep

عرف / بيعرف ‪3éref bya3ref

Literally ‘to know’. Used with a subjunctive verb to indicate ‘know how to’:

انا بعرف سوق ana ba3ref suu2 – I know how to drive

Its semantics however often cover things we use ‘can’ for in English:

ما عم اعرف افتح الباب maa 3am a3ref éfta7 élbaab – I can’t work out how to open the door

لو سمحت وطي صوتك شوي! خليني اعرف كمل شغلي law sama7@t waTTi Sootak shweyy, khalliini a3ref kammel shéghli – please lower your voice and let me do my job [= know how to finish my work]

فيـ fii-

The pronominal forms of the preposition b- or a slightly different variation with an n added (fiini, fiik/fiinak, fiiki/fiinek, fii/fiino, fiyya/fiina, fiina, fiikon, fiyyon/fiinon) can be used with a subjunctive verb to express ability:

فينك تقول انو fiinak @t2uul énno – you could say that…

ما فيني امشي maa fiini émshi – I can’t walk

For the past, it requires kaan:

ما كان فيني اعمل شي maa kaan fiini a3mel shi – I wasn’t able to do anything

Obligation

لازم laazem

‘Must’, ‘have to’, ‘should’. Used with a subjunctive verb:

لازم تروح laazem @truu7 – you have to go, you should go

With a negative (either muu or maa works, though maa is more common) it usually means ‘you shouldn’t/mustn’t’ etc and not ‘you don’t have to’:

ما لازم تروح maa laazem @truu7 – you shouldn’t go

It can be used in the past, but then its meaning is almost always counterfactual ‘should have (but didn’t)’. In order to say ‘I had to’ or ‘I was forced to’ you have to make use of other verbs (e.g. njabar@t). Laazem can either be placed into the past with كان or have a past verb used directly after it:

كان لازم تروح kaan laazem @truu7 – you should have gone

لازم رحت laazem ré7@t – you should have gone

لازم can also be used as a normal adjective meaning ‘necessary’:

هي الورقة مو لازمة hayy élwara2a muu laazme – this one’s not necessary

In this sense it can take a direct pronominal object:

المصاري لازمينني élmaSaari laazmiinni – I need the money [note maSaari is plural]

Often laazem + object suffix is used almost like a verb meaning ‘to need’ which then takes direct objects normally and uses yaa- with pronoun objects:

لازمني ياهون laazémni yaahon – I need it (the money) [= I need them]

ضروري Daruuri

Usually ‘urgent’ or ‘absolutely necessary’, used with a subjunctive verb:

ضروري تضوج هيك دغري؟ Daruuri TDuuj heek déghri? – do you have to get upset like that straight away??

اضطر مضطر DTarr méDTarr

Stronger than laazem. Often appears with انو:

اضطريت اني اشتري واحد جديد DTarreet énni éshtéri waa7ed @jdiid – I had to buy a new one

It can take a nominal object with على:

ماني مضطر عليون maani méDTarr 3aleyyon – I don’t need them urgently

انجبر مجبور majbuur njabar

‘Obligated’, ‘forced’. Majbuur is the participle, انجبر is the verb.

مجبور سافر majbuur saafer – I have to/I’m obliged to go abroad

كانت الطريق مسدودة فانجبرت ارجع kaant éTTarii2a masduude fa-njabar@t érja3 – the road was blocked so I had to come back

Quadriliteral verbs are those verbs with roots consisting of four consonants. Although these verbs are less common than their triliteral equivalents, there are a lot of them in both fuSHa and colloquial.

‘Quadriliteral’ is not a pattern per se like form V or form VI. Some quadriliteral verbs are derived from nouns or adjectives with four consonants, typically although not exclusively loanwords (تلفن talfan ‘telephone’ < telefoon). Some are derived from native words with triliteral roots but incorporate part of the original pattern of that word (تمركز tmarkaz ‘centre on’ < markaz ‘centre’). Some of them are onomatopoeia (زقزق za2za2 ‘squeak’, فرفر farfar ‘flutter’). Some of them are modified forms of triliteral verbs with an additional sound added, adding an additional nuance to the verb (ترقوص tra2waS ‘dance about, dance around’ < ra2aS ‘dance’). Finally, some of them belong to less common derivational patterns like tfa3lan ‘act like’ (تحيون t7eewan ‘act like a moron’ < 7eewaan, تزلمن tzalman ‘act like a man’ < zalame) or fa3la (طعمى Ta3ma ‘feed’ < Ta3m, فرجى farja ‘show’ < tfarraj 3ala).

Regardless of the underlying pattern they belong to, however, all quadriliteral verbs fall under a small number of conjugation patterns. These are similar (but not identical) to form II and form V sound verbs. All transitive quadriliterals form their passive using the equivalent t- form (fa3fa3 > tfa3fa3, fa3fa > tfa3fa etc).

Fa3fa3, yfa3fe3

زقزق za2za2
‘squeak’
Active Participle Passive Participle
مزقزق mza2ze2 N/A
MaSdar Noun of Instance
زقزقة za2za2a N/A
Imperative:
زقزق زقزقي زقزقو

za2ze2 za2@z2i za2@z2u

Present Past
Ana za2ze2 bza2ze2 زقزق بزقزق za2za2@t زقزقت
Inte tza2ze2 bétza2ze2 تزقزق بتزقزق za2za2@t زقزقت
Inti tza2@z2i bétza2@z2i تزقزقي بتزقزقي za2za2Ti زقزقتي
Huwwe yza2ze2 biza2ze2 يزقزق بزقزق za2za2 زقزق
Hiyye tza2ze2 bétza2ze2 تزقزق بتزقزق za2za2et زقزقت
Né7na nza2ze2 ménza2ze2 نزقزق منزقزق za2za2na زقزقنا
Intu tza2@z2u bétza2@z2u تزقزقو بتزقزقو za2za2Tu زقزقنا
Hénnen yza2@z2u biza2@z2u يزقزقو بزقزقو za2za2u زقزقو

 

Tfa3lal yétfa3lal

تدحرج tda7raj
‘roll’
Active Participle Passive Participle
متدحرج métda7rej N/A
MaSdar Noun of Instance
دحرجة da7raje N/A
Imperative:
تدحرج تدحرجي تدحرجو

tda7raj tda7raji tda7raju

Present Past
Ana étda7raj bétda7raj تدحرج بتدحرج tda7raj@t تدحرجت
Inte tétda7raj btétda7raj تتدحرج بتتدحرج tda7raj@t تدحرجت
Inti tétda7raji btétda7raji تتدحرجي بتتدحرجي tda7rajTi تدحرجتي
Huwwe yétda7raj byétda7raj يتدحرج بتدحرج tda7raj تدحرج
Hiyye tétda7raj btétda7raj تتدحرج بتتدحرج tda7rajet تدحرجت
Né7na nétda7raj mnétda7raj نتدحرج منتدحرج tda7rajna تدحرجنا
Intu tétda7raju btétda7raju تتدحرجو بتتدحرجو tda7rajTu تدحرجنا
Hénnen yétda7raju byétda7raju يتدحرجو بتدحرجو tda7raju تدحرجو

 

Fa33a, yfa33i

طعمىTa3ma
‘feed’
Active Participle Passive Participle
مطعمي mTa3mi مطعمى mTa3ma
MaSdar Noun of Instance
N/A N/A
Imperative:
طعمي طعمي طعمو

Ta3mi Ta3mi Ta3mu

Present Past
Ana Ta3mi bTa3mi طعمي بطعمي Ta3meet طعميت
Inte tTa3mi bétTa3mi تطعمي بتطعمي Ta3meet طعميت
Inti tTa3mi bétTa3mi تطعمي بتطعمي Ta3meeti طعميتي
Huwwe yTa3mi biTa3mi يطعمي بطعمي Ta3ma طعمى
Hiyye tTa3mi bétTa3mi تطعمي بتطعمي Ta3met طعمت
Né7na nTa3mi ménTa3mi نطعمي منطعمي Ta3meena طعمينا
Intu tTa3mu bétTa3mu تطعمو بتطعمو Ta3meetu طعميتو
Hénnen yTa3mu biTa3mu يطعمو بطعمو Ta3mu طعمو

 

Tfa3la yétfa3la

تفرشى tfarsha

‘be brushed’

Active Participle Passive Participle
متفرشي métfarshi N/A
MaSdar Noun of Instance
N/A N/A
Imperative:
تفرشى تفرشي تفرشو

tfarsha tfarshi tfarshu

Present Past
Ana étfarsha bétfarsha اتفرشى بتفرشى tfarsheet تفرشيت
Inte tétfarsha btétfarsha تتفرشى بتتفرشى tfarsheet تفرشيت
Inti tétfarshi btétfarshi تتفرشي بتتفرشي tfarsheeti تفرشيتي
Huwwe yétfarsha byétfarsha يتفرشى بيتفرشى tfarsha تفرشى
Hiyye tétfarsha btétfarsha تتفرشى بتتفرشى tfarshet تفرشت
Né7na nétfarsha mnétfarsha نتفرشى منتفرشى tfarsheena تفرشينا
Intu tétfarshu btétfarshu تتفرشو بتتفرشو tfarsheetu تفرشيتو
Hénnen yétfarshu byétfarshu يتفرشو بيتفرشو tfarshu تفرشو

 

Foo3an, yfoo3en

Some verbs have ee instead of oo, like نيشن neeshan ‘aim at’ or Lebanese طيلع Teela3.

دوزن doozan
‘tune’
Active Participle Passive Participle
مدوزن mdoozen N/A
MaSdar Noun of Instance
دوزنة doozane N/A
Imperative:
دوزن دوزني دوزنو

doozen doozni dooznu

Present Past
Ana doozen bdoozen دوزن بدوزن doozan@t دوزنت
Inte tdoozen bétdoozen تدوزن بتدوزن doozan@t دوزنت
Inti tdoozni bétdoozni تدوزني بتدوزني doozanti دوزنتي
Huwwe ydoozen bidoozen يدوزن بدوزن doozan دوزن
Hiyye tdoozen bétdoozen تدوزن بتدوزن doozanet دوزنت
Né7na ndoozen méndoozen ندوزن مندوزن doozanna دوزننا
Intu tdooznu bétdooznu تدوزنو بتدوزنو doozantu دوزننا
Hénnen ydooznu bidooznu يدوزنو بدوزنو doozanu دوزنو

 

Tfoo3an, yétfoo3an

Some verbs have ee instead of oo, like تحيون t7eewan ‘act like a moron’.

 

تدوزن tdoozan
‘be tuned’
Active Participle Passive Participle
متدوزن métdoozen N/A
MaSdar Noun of Instance
دوزنة doozane N/A
Imperative:
تدوزن تدوزني تدوزنو

tdoozan tdoozani tdoozanu

Present Past
Ana étdoozan bétdoozan تدوزن بتدوزن tdoozan@t تدوزنت
Inte tétdoozan btétdoozan تتدوزن بتتدوزن tdoozan@t تدوزنت
Inti tétdoozani btétdoozani تتدوزني بتتدوزني tdoozanti تدوزنتي
Huwwe yétdoozan byétdoozan يتدوزن بتدوزن tdoozan تدوزن
Hiyye tétdoozan btétdoozan تتدوزن بتتدوزن tdoozanet تدوزنت
Né7na nétdoozan mnétdoozan نتدوزن منتدوزن tdoozanna تدوزننا
Intu tétdoozanu btétdoozanu تتدوزنو بتتدوزنو tdoozantu تدوزننا
Hénnen yétdoozanu byétdoozanu يتدوزنو بتدوزنو tdoozanu تدوزنو

 

Foo3a, yfoo3i

This is a very rare pattern. Booya, the only example I can think of, is derived from the noun بويا ‘polish’ (also pronounced booya), a loan from Turkish boya.

بويى booya
‘polish’
Active Participle Passive Participle
مبويي mbooyi مبويى mbooya
MaSdar Noun of Instance
N/A N/A
Imperative:
بويي بويي بويو

booyi booyi booyu

Present Past
Ana booyi bbooyi بويي ببويي booyeet بوييت
Inte tbooyi bétbooyi تبويي بتبويي booyeet بوييت
Inti tbooyi bétbooyi تبويي بتبويي booyeeti بوييتي
Huwwe ybooyi bibooyi يبوي ببوي booya بويى
Hiyye tbooyi bétbooyi تبويي بتبويي booyet بويت
Né7na nbooyi ménbooyi نبويي منبويي booyeena بويينا
Intu tbooyu bétbooyu تبويو بتبويو booyeetu بوييتو
Hénnen ybooyu bibooyu يبويو ببويو booyu بويو

 

 

tfoo3a, yétfoo3i

 

تبويى tbooya

‘be polished’

Active Participle Passive Participle
متبويي métbooyi N/A
MaSdar Noun of Instance
تبويي takhabbi N/A
Imperative:
تبويى تبويي تبويو

tbooya tbooyi tbooyu

Present Past
Ana étbooya bétbooya اتبويى بتبويى tbooyeet تبوييت
Inte tétbooya btétbooya تتبويى بتتبويى tbooyeet تبوييت
Inti tétbooyi btétbooyi تتبويي بتتبويي tbooyeeti تبوييتي
Huwwe yétbooya byétbooya يتبويى بيتبويى tbooya تبويى
Hiyye tétbooya btétbooya تتبويى بتتبويى tbooyet تبويت
Né7na nétbooya mnétbooya نتبويى منتبويى tbooyeena تبويينا
Intu tétbooyu btétbooyu تتبويو بتتبويو tbooyeetu تبوييتو
Hénnen yétbooyu byétbooyu يتبويو بيتبويو tbooyu تبويو