Punctuation in Arabic1

Posted on 10. Sep, 2010 by in Grammar

Punctuation marks (علامات الترقيم) are not always used correctly in Arabic. In this post, I explain some of the rules related to the use of punctuation marks. First of all, it should be noted that some punctuation marks in Arabic look different from the English counterparts, e.g. the English comma is (,) while the Arabic comma (الفاصلة) points the opposite way (،) and it is written on top of the line. The English question mark is (?) while the Arabic question mark (علامة الاستفهام) looks like this (؟).

The full stop (النقطة) is used at the end of declarative sentences, and the question mark (؟) is used at the end of questions, e.g.

أين المدير؟

المدير في المكتب.

“Where is the manager?”

“He is in the office?”

The comma (،) is used to between different clauses in compound sentences, e.g.

أحب السفر كل صيف، ولكن هذا العام لن أسافر بسبب انشغالي بالدراسة.

“I like to travel every summer, but this year I will not travel for being busy with my study.”

It should be noted that we should not use a comma between basic parts of the sentence like the subject and the predicate, or the subject and the verb.

The colon (:) is used to introduce a quotation, and the quotation marks “” are used before and after the quotation e.g.

قال المدير: “عندنا اجتماع بعد قليل.”

The manager said: “we have a meeting after a short while.”

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12 Responses to “Punctuation in Arabic1”

  1. كاثرين 15 September 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    This is very helpful! I wonder, do you also use a comma before a name at the end of a sentence or question?

    Example:
    اين كابوتك، يا ساميرة؟

    Thanks so much!

  2. aziza 16 September 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    yes, you can do!

  3. Jason 29 November 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    Hi, I found this page very useful. I just want to confirm one thing. When using quotation marks, your example shows that the “ symbol is used at the beginning of the quote, and the ” symbol is used at the end. This is how it is in English, with the tails of the quotes pointing inward (toward the quoted text). But in a RTL language like Arabic, if you use the same symbols, the tails of the quotes end up pointing outwards (away from the quoted text). Is this the way it is supposed to be? It is how I currently implement the quote marks at http://www.GPS.gov, but I’ve never been sure if it was correct. To my eye, the quotes ought to be reversed so the tails point inward. If you can provide a definitive answer, I would be most appreciative!

  4. aziza 30 November 2010 at 4:42 am #

    Ahlan Jason, thank you for your comment. Yes, the direction of quotation marks in Arabic and in English points inward towards the quote, but the software we use to write the posts is very hard to manipulate. It may be one of its anomalies.

  5. DANISH AFROZ KHAN 26 September 2011 at 10:43 am #

    I WANT TO LEARN ARABIC PANCTUATION MARKS.

  6. aziza 28 September 2011 at 3:40 am #

    Ahlan,
    Please read my latest post about punctuation marks.
    Salaam,
    Aziza

  7. Md Danish Afroz khan 14 May 2012 at 7:50 am #

    what is the meaning of ahlan wa sahlan.And ya habibi

  8. saira 5 October 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    can anyone who is familier with arabic help me in speaking correct letters of arabic i have some words which has not , ِ , ُ these signs so kindly help me

  9. Farhana 18 February 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Thank you SOOOO much for this information. As someone designing a children’s book with Arabic text, this has been very, very helpful. Appreciate the explanation…and you answer to Jason’s question. :)

  10. Ammar Anas 15 March 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    I believe the punctuation system of English has influenced many languages including Arabic to adapt some symbols in their writing systems. It has happened in my L1 that is Hindi language and I believe it is same in Arabic. The evidence of my concern is that Quran which is considered the most standard writing text does not have punctuation system. Second, the meaning is tried to make visible through words itself rather than depending upon punctuation. I can see in the modern text of Arabic also that English punctuation is being followed. A very good work on Arabic punctuation. Make it further advanced.

  11. amber 30 May 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    How do you write “I suffered, I learned, I changed.” grammatically correct in Arabic?

  12. Afifi 24 July 2013 at 5:07 am #

    in response to Amber:

    تعذبت، فتعلمت، فتغيرت
    3 2 1
    changed, learned, suffered

    in Arabic to make correct sense it has to be said as: “I suffered, SO I learned, SO i changed”

    adding the “so” in Arabic (represented by the “ف” before the second and third words) gives the phrase its needed string of cause and effect.

    for the FIRST word; it literally means “i was tormented”…the other possible word would be “تألمت” which translates to “i was hurt”…i personally find the first choice to be more profound in meaning in relation to the quote.


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