Arabic Language Blog

Alif and Hamza Posted by on Apr 15, 2009 in Grammar

Some grammarians regard alif (ا) and hamza (ء) as two distinct letters, while others regards them as two realizations of the same letter. They are a problematic aspect of Arabic writing and are often confusing to native and non-native speakers alike. In this posting, I hope to summarize some of the rules related to writing of alif and hamza.

At the beginning of a word, hamza and alif are written together to make the sound of a glottal stop. They can be associated with a short vowel. When the alif comes with a short /a/ or a short /o/, the hamza is written on top of the letter, and when alif comes with a short /i/, the hamza is written under the letter, e.g. “father” (أَب), “mother” (أُم), “Islam” (إسلام)

At the beginning of certain words, the hamza should not be written on the alif. This is called /hamzat alwaSl/ (همزة الوصل), e.g. in words like two (اثنان), Monday (الاثنين), woman (امرأة), etc. The alif at the beginning of the definite article (ال) must never be written with a hamza.

When two alifs are found at the beginning of a word, a special type of alif /alf mamdouda/ is used with a special shape of hamza on, e.g. hopes (آمال), Adam (آدم), sorry (آسف).

In the middle of a word, a hamza is written in association with a short vowel with a short /a/ (أ), with a short /o/ (ؤ), or with a short /i/ (ئـ), e.g. the words “ask” (سأل), “enquirer” (سائل), “question” (سؤال).Alif mamdouda can also occur in the middle of the word, e.g. “Quran” (قرآن).

When you type in Arabic, this is where you will find the different hamzas on your keyboard:



Shift + h


Shift + y


Shift + n








That’s not the end of the story, there is more to follow on hamza … visit the Arabic blog again soon!

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  1. Margaret:

    Mac keyboard works differently from that of PC. Could you give different functions to obtain similar results? Thank you!

    • sumayya:

      @Margaret for mac keyboard what im using you need to copy and paste from internet


  2. Aziza:

    I am very sorry I never use Mac. I hope one of the readers who uses Mac can help!
    سلام، عزيزة

  3. usman:


  4. العاب:

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    there are some useful games that can be used for this purpose it means the children are excitingly use to play games so we can teach them through their interest.
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  5. Aziza:


  6. Tyler Jenish:

    Excellent explanation, exactly the clarification I was looking for.

  7. Scheich Josef:

    /alf mamdouda/ – thousand mamdouda 😉

    سلام، يوسف

  8. ebrahim ethiopia:

    U have told us that ء can be written over ي و ا when it comes at the middle of words.pls tell when to use with each of them

  9. Lucia:

    Very helpful and clear, thank you 🙂

  10. Super girl:

    I want to know if we get 2 alifs at the end of a word like قَرَأَا the pair of قَرَأَ . Can we right the 2 alif as one and a madd on top of it ?