This one is quite straightforward. ‘Anymore’ (in one of its senses anyway) expresses that there has been a change from something happening to it no longer happening: I don’t go there anymore.

ما عاد maa3aad مابقى maaba2a

There are two direct equivalents to ‘anymore’/’no longer’, both of them derived from verbs: ما بقى maa ba2a and ما عاد maa 3aad (this one is used in a fuSHa-y form in MSA too). Although they look pretty straightforwardly like negated past tense verbs, they don’t behave much like verbs – for a start, they’re usually invariable, not conjugating for person or number or gender:

ما عاد فيني اتحمل
maa 3aad fiini ét7ammal
I can’t cope anymore/any longer

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]

مابقى اعرف شو بدي احكي
maaba2a a3ref shu béddi é7ki
I don’t know what to say anymore/I no longer know what to say

There are exceptions to this, though. Sometimes they do take normal verbal suffixes. Cowell suggests it’s particularly common for this to happen in the third person feminine singular, as in this example:

بحس انو اوجاعي ما عادت تنحمل
b7éss énno 2awjaa3i maa 3aadet tén7amel
I feel that my pain [= pains] is no longer bearable

Despite looking like pasts, they can also appear with negative imperatives:

ما بقى تحكي معي
maaba2a té7ki ma3i
never talk to me again/don’t talk to me anymore

It can also be used in sentences like the following where the reference is to the future. Although English ‘anymore’ can no longer be used here, if my Sunday School acquaintance with Biblical English is anything to go by it used to be possible to, and the meaning is fundamentally very similar even if we have to use a different English phrasing:

معقول ما عاد نرجع؟
ma32uul maa 3aad nérja3?
Can it be true that we’ll never go back [= we’ll not return anymore?]

بطل baTTal

This one literally means ‘stop’ or ‘stop being’. It can be used with either a subjunctive verb or with a noun/adjective, and sometimes can be translated nicely with ‘anymore’:

بطلنا نكيف
baTTalna nkayyef
We’re not having fun anymore [= we’ve stopped having fun]

طيب… رح يصنعو أدوية ويوزعوها ع الجوعانين يسفوها وتسد نفسهن ويبطلو جوعانين؟Tayyib… ra7 yiS@n3u ad@wye w ywazz3uwwa 3a ljoo3aaniin ysiffuwwa w tsidd nafson w ybaTTlu joo3aaniin?
OK… they’re going to produce medicines and hand them out to the starving that they can down and they’ll lose their appetites and won’t be hungry anymore?

Thanks to Aaron for reminding me of this one!

صار Saar

Another less explicit option that you often have is to use صار Saar which we’ve previously written about here and which often expresses a change of state in much the same way that ‘anymore’ does. See that post for more examples, but here’s one:

الواحد صار ما الو خاطر يبتسم من كتر ما قلبو عم يحترق
élwaa7ed Saar maa 2élo khaaTer yébtésem mén két@r ma 2albo 3am yé7tére2
You don’t [= one doesn’t] feel like smiling anymore because of how bad you feel inside [= from how much his heart is burning]

I somehow managed to forget about حالs when writing this series, which considering how many interminable hours you have to spend learning to identify them when studying fuSHa (and how many ‘underline the 7aal‘ exercises I must have done) is quite some feat. To be fair to both me (for forgetting) and your teachers (for harping on about it for so long), 7aals are so omnipresent and so useful in both speech and writing that they’re almost hiding in plain sight. Hopefully this post will clarify some of the ~mysteries~ of the 7aal in spoken Levantine.

Unmarked 7aal

The main difference between the 7aal in fuSHa and its equivalent in 3aammiyye is that, like the related construction tamyiiz, the total disappearance of case marking from the spoken language means there is no accusative ending or other suffix marking the vast majority of 7aals in colloquial (although the old waaw of 7aal often does appear, for which see below).

The exact semantics of 7aals are actually a bit tricky to pin down or describe pithily, and I’m mainly preceding on the assumption you’re familiar with the construction from fuSHa to save me the trouble of doing a decent summary. Usually they’re adverbs of manner, which is to say that a 7aal construction (whether a verb, adjective, noun or participle) expresses an action or state taking place at the same time as the main verb and which gives us more detail about the action. 7aals usually answer, more or less, the question ‘how’.

A lot of these examples overlap with what we discussed in the tamyiiz post, possibly because these phenomena aren’t that distinct to start with and possibly because I’m just not very good at distinguishing them, but as long as you can do them both I don’t think it’s particularly important to be able to separate them analytically.

Verbs and participles generally must agree with the subject, just like elsewhere:

اجو من بعيد عم يركضو حاملين كيسا
éju mén ba3iid 3am yér@gDu 7aamliin kiisa
They came from afar, running, carrying her bag

راح راكب رجع ماشي
raa7 raakeb réje3 maashi
He went riding, he came back walking

جيت مبكر اليوم
jiit @mbakker élyoom
You’ve come early today

قعدت قريبة مني
2é3det 2ariibe ménni
She sat down near to me

واو الحال waaw él7aal 

Probably slightly more common than unmarked 7aals are 7aals formed with the conjunction w- ‘and’. This is always followed directly by a pronoun or a noun, and the sentence always has to be present in structure. If the subject of the 7aal clause is the same as that in the main clause, an appropriate pronoun must be used:

كأنها ميتة وهي عم تمشي بالشوارع
ka2énna mayyte w hiyye 3am témshi béshshawaare3
It’s as if she’s died while walking around in the street[s]

It can also have a different subject, in which case it is almost inevitably translated with ‘when’:

المكياج بدو ساعتين والكهربا قاطعة
élmékyaaj béddo saa3teen w élkahraba 2aaT3a
Makeup takes two hours when the power’s out [= cut]

Sometimes this weird English ‘with’ is a better translation as in the second 7aal here:

كنا نروح عالمدرسة مشي والشتي نازلة ونرجع وجواربنا مي ومبسوطين
kénna @nruu7 3a lmadrase mashi w éshshéte naazle w nérja3 w jawaarébna moyy w mabsuuTiin
We used to go to school on foot during the winter [= when winter had come down] and come back with our socks [soaked with] water, happy

Although the following sentence keeps to our rule by being present in structure, it shows how the use of resultative participles (which express a present state which is the result of an action in the past) can give a sort-of past meaning:

رجع وهو فاتح محاماة
réje3 w huwwe faate7 mu7aamaah
He came back having opened a lawyer’s practice

Alongside this general waaw 7aal there is another, much more specific kind of waaw which is less common and has freer syntax whilst looking at first glance fairly similar. This one can be followed by a sentence in any tense, and means ‘when’ in a way that suggests incompatibility between the action described by the main verb and the action described in the 7aal-like clause. I discussed this in the conjunctions post, but here’s the example sentence given there just for contrast:

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?

This typically appears in a rhetorical question where the answer is expected to be in the negative (‘you can’t’ here). A similar construction like رجع من برطانيا وراتبو خلص where there is no rhetorical meaning of this kind is wrong – you’d need a participle here (وراتبو خالص).


I said above that case marking was not used in 7aals in spoken Levantine Arabic, and that is mainly true. There are however a huge number of adverbs (or rather a very productive adverb-forming suffix -an) which look like fuSHa 7aals and would probably be interpreted as one in fuSHa because of their function and accusative ending. This is particularly common with, but not exclusive to, nisbe endings.


No direct equivalent to ‘already’ exists in Arabic, which is probably why a growing number of speakers familiar with English (and even some who aren’t!) use the borrowed form orredi (or older speakers in Lebanon deeja). This is not yet widespread enough or unstigmatised enough to recommend using, though, so for the moment let’s have a look at some of the partial equivalents you might want to familiarise yourself with instead. Each of these can be used in some of the circumstances ‘already’ can be used in.

من هلق mén halla2 

Literally ‘from now’. Often used to mean ‘from now on’, this is also used to translate a specific, present sense of ‘already’ which expresses surprise at or the unlikeliness of what you’re discussing. This is perhaps not a particularly helpful description, so here’s a couple of examples:

من هلق جعت وعطشت وبلشت نق, عن جد الصيام متعب كتير
mén halla2 jé3@t w 3aTash@t w ballash@t né22, 3anjadd éSSiyaam mét3ib @ktiir
I’m already hungry and thirsty [= got hungry and thirsty] and [I’ve already] started complaining, fasting really is very tiring!

 خلص المسلسل, مين راح يشتاق؟ انا من هلق اشتقت
khéleS élmusalsal, miin ra7 yéshtaa2? ana mén halla2 @shta2@t
The series is over – who’s going to miss it? I miss it already 

The meaning of ‘already’ comes pretty straightforwardly from its literal meaning of ‘from now’, and like the translations of ‘just’ we discussed last time prevents it from being used in non-present contexts.

سبق و sébe2 w

One option quite commonly used in Syrian is the fuSHa-esque (but Shami-pronounced) sebe2 w-. This literally means something like ‘it previously happened that’, and so can be used in circumstances where ‘already’ can be replaced with ‘previously’ or ‘formerly’:

في داعي روح شخصيا علما انو انا سبق ورحت مرتين واخدو بصمات الاصابع؟
fii daa3i ruu7 shakhSiyyan 3ilman énno ana sébe2 w ré7@t marrteen w akhadu baSamaat él2aSaabe3?
Do I need to go in person, given that I’ve already been twice and they’ve taken my fingerprints?

سبق وقلتلك انو كتير صعب قراءة الفيديو بهادا اللون
sébe2 w 2éltéllak énno ktiir Sa3b qiraa2t élviidyo bhaada lloon
I’ve already told you (I told you before) that it’s very difficult to read the video in this colour

صرت + resultative participle

An active participle with resultative meaning (e.g. كاتب  ‘having written’) can sometimes be used in conjunction with the verb صار ‘to become’ with a meaning similar to a certain use of ‘already’. It is much less common than ‘already’ in English, however, at least in Syrian – although it seems to be used more in Palestinian. It usually gives a connotation of weariness or frequency, comes along with a number (usually of times) and from personal experience it occurs most frequently by a long way with قال (but perhaps people have to repeat themselves at me more than the average person):

انا كم مرة صرت قايتلك ومفهمتك هي الحركات الولدنة بلاها
ana kam marra Sér@t 2aayéltak w @mfahhémtak hayy 7arakaat élwaldane balaaha!
How many times have I told you – stop it with this childish nonsense [= movements of childishness, without them!]

صرت شايف نفس الصورة شي عشر مرات
sér@t shaayef nafs éSSuura shi 3ashar marraat
I’ve seen the same photo about ten times already…

من الاصل, بالاصل bil2aS@l, mn él2aS@l

This one literally means something like ‘to start with’, but in some specific contexts it can translate ‘already’:

لا يلي بالاصل حلو ومو عامل تجميل بيبقا حلو
la2 yalli bil2aS@l 7élu w muu 3aamel tajmiil byéb2a 7élu
No, the ones who are already pretty [= pretty to start with] without getting surgery are still pretty

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.

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?

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


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.

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)


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).