We often instinctively reach for filler words when struggling to string sentences together in a foreign language. These are some of the filler words that I hear most often each day that Egyptian Arabic learners can start using right away to make their speech sound more natural. This post does come with two warnings attached: one, don’t depend on يعني too much because it will harm your capacity for quick-thinking in Arabic / you will start to sound like the Egyptian equivalent of a valley girl, and two, these words WILL make their way into your English speech patterns if you get really good.

1. يعني – ‘ya3ny’

This is the Arabic equivalent of ‘like’–this goes for Shami as well. Just put it wherever you’d put ‘like’ in a normal sentence, and you’re good.

Use يعني in moderation. Please.

2. بس – ‘bas’

بس both means ‘but’ and ‘only/just’ in Egyptian Arabic, and it is a wonderful little word that you will quickly start using no matter what language you’re speaking. Here you can find some usage examples.

3. هو – ‘hwa’

This is a good one for starting sentences. It’s difficult to pin down an exact meaning but ‘It’s just that…’ is kind of an equivalent. You start a sentence this way more often when you’re explaining the ‘why’ behind something, and it can be combined with بس too. It’s especially useful when you’re trying to soften a request or be extra polite. For example:

هو بس كنت عايزة اتأكد أنه المدير موجود = I just wanted to check that the Director is in.

4. ماشي – ‘mashy’

This word is basically the Arabic version of okay–if someone asks you to do something, they’ll often end the sentence with ماشي and you can also respond with a ماشي. Ex: أنا عايزاكي تقراي الصفحة, ماشي؟ ماشي = I want you to read the page, okay? -Okay.

But this is also a filler word in the sense that you can pepper your speech with ماشي while telling a story to make sure the other person is following For example, you could say:

طب انا كنت في شارع التحرير, ماشي؟ = Okay, I was on Tahrir St. Okay? …and then continue on with your riveting narrative.


I know there are other good ones out there, but these are the first I could think of–add your suggestions in the comments!

As we all know, literally no one on the planet speaks Modern Standard Arabic as their native language, and as such, using MSA in normal, daily sounds unnatural and strange. Following is a list of words that FusHa learners often use in conversation while transitioning to colloquial Arabic that are quite abrasive on Egyptian ears.

What I’m really trying to say is: you literally sound like you are reciting Canterbury Tales right now. Stop. Please.

1. من فضلك

This means ‘please’ in MSA, but in Egypt, it is not often used. If you’re trying to get someone’s attention or order something, you can say لو سمحت. If you’re trying to say please in the “please come in,” sense, you can say تفضل to a man and تفضلي to a woman. (Anote: Arabic is a SUPER gendered language which can present d obvious ifficulties for trans* and gender non-conforming folks. Power to you for navigating this language.)

2. س or سوف to mark future tense

NOPE. Nope nope nope.

In Egyptian, you can talk about the future by adding a هح (I’ve seen it written out both ways) before a conjugated verb.

Example: هنسافر المانيا في ديسمبر = We’ll travel to Germany in December.

Levantine does almost the exact same thing to mark future tense, but using راح instead of هح. So: راح اروح = I’m going to go…

3. أعطيني

This word works just fine in Levantine Arabic, but in Egyptian, if you want you say ‘give me’ you should say اديني or هات (the latter also appears alongside أعطيني in Levantine). Anything else sounds off.

4. ولكن

I know, I know, it really does just roll off the tongue…but you hear this word only very rarely in Egyptian Arabic. بس is the widely accepted translation for ‘but,’ and also conveniently means ‘only.’

An example: sentence انا جعانة بس هاطلب واحد بس = “I’m hungry, but I’ll just order one.” The first بس here means ‘but’ while the second means ‘only/just.’

A note: This is an extremely versatile word that has been known to infiltrate Arabic learners’ English speech patterns (aka, I somehow produce this word ALL THE TIME no matter what language I’m speaking). Even when highly educated Egyptians–and other Arabs of different nationalities–speak English, their speech is often littered with ‘bs.’ It’s fantastic, I think.

5. هل

Albeit a very useful question word, هل is virtually non-existent in Egyptian colloquial Arabic. Most questions, in fact, don’t involve a question word at all–if you want to say “Are you going?” All you have to say is: هتروح؟

One exception, though, includes questions that start with “Weren’t you…”

Example: “Weren’t you going to read this book?” امش كنت هتقرا الكتاب دا؟ –In this case, امش marks ‘were you not.’ This is a very useful little tip it took me a while to internalize

6. الى for ‘to’

This sounds super weird when you say it in Egyptian. In MSA, to say that you’re going to go the university, for example, you would say سوف اذهب الى الجامعة. In Egyptian, the same thought is expressed as: “هاروح للجامعة”

ل is most often used to replace الى in the ‘going to’ sort of sense, although this is a bit flexible. In Levantine, على replaces الى for this specific context.



Stay tuned for more of these types of lists as I encounter more foreigners awkwardly speaking FusHa while ordering stuff.

Tell me what you would add to this list in the comments!

أنا بموت فيك

Ana bamoot fiik” (‘fiiky’ when said to a girl)

“I love you! / You are so great!”

If you’ve been searching for a phrase at just the right crossroads of creepy and disturbing to let your loved ones know that you appreciate them, this one’s for you!

يستعبط استعباط رهيب

yasta3bat isti3bat raheeb

aka, something to the effect of: “He really tried to pull the wool over our eyes”

Potent combination of my favorite verb form, Form IX, and most ridiculous grammar structure, المفعول المطلق.

[Yasta3bat is a great word that usually means someone is playing dumb. A synonym would be يستهبل and the roots of these verbs, عبيط and اهبل, mean stupid/idiot.]

!يا حاج

Ya hagg!

“Hey, person that appears to be over fifty years old and thus most likely visited Mecca to perform the Hajj once.”

Why yes, those 21 words DID just condense themselves into two syllables.