Arabic Language Blog

Coordinating Conjunctions in Arabic Posted by on Mar 22, 2018 in Grammar, Vocabulary

A coordinating conjunction is a word that connects two equivalent words, phrases, or sentences. Good examples of this in English are words, such as and, but, and so. In Arabic, coordinating conjunctions are called حُرُوفُ العَطْف. Besides coordination, some have additional meanings. This post is about the Arabic coordinating conjunctions—list and examples.

  • وَ ‘and’

It is the most common coordinating conjunction in Arabic. It means that the things, persons, or actions that are coordinated by و accompany each other or happen alongside each other, as in these examples:

The book and the notebook are on the table. الكِتَاب والدَّفْتَر فَوْق الطَّاوِلَة.
Mohammed and Ali went. ذَهَبَ مَحمَّد وعَلِي.
I work and listen to tranquil music. أَعْمَل وَأَسْمَع مُوسِيْقَى هَادِئَة.
Don’t drink wine and eat pork. لا تَشْرَب الخَمْر وتَأكُل الخِنْزِيْر.
  • فَـ  ‘then’ ‘so’

فَـ is used for ordering and sequencing, that is the order in which two things, persons, or actions occur/happen. It is also use for expressing a consequence, as in these examples:

خَرَجَ مُحَمَّد فَــعَلَي. Mohammed went out then Ali.
أَكَلْنَا السَّلَطَة فَـالَّلحْم. We ate the salad then the meat.
اِقْرَأ القِصَّة فَـالرِّوَايَة. Read the story then the novel.
اِجْتَهَدَ الطَّالِب فَـنَجَحَ. The student work hard, so he succeeded.
لَعِبْنَا جِيْدًا فَــفُزْنَا. We played well, so we won.
  • لا ‘not’ … ‘(neither) ….. nor’

Besides being a negative particle (used to negating present verbal sentence), لا coordinates two nouns in an affirmative sentence, affirming that the action was done by the first person/thing and not the second, as in these examples:

Mohammed went out not Ali. خَرَجَ مُحَمَّد لا عَلِي.
My father shot a hyrax not a rabbit. اِصْطَادَ أَبِي وَبْرًا لا أَرْنَبًا.
The minister came not the president. جَاء الوَزِيْر لا الرَّئِيْس.

If لا is used after و in a negative sentence, it for negation rather than coordination, and و becomes for coordination. In such sentences, لا is added to emphasizes negation, as in these example:

The minister didn’t come and nor the president. مَا جَاء الوَزِيْر وَلا الرَّئِيْس.
The patient didn’t eat and nor he drank. مَا أَكَلَ المَرِيْض وَلا شَرِب.
I don’t want this and nor that. لا أُرِيْد هَذَا ولا ذاك.
  • ثُمَّ      ‘later, then later’

ثُمَّ is used for sequencing but with a kind of delay in the subsequent action, as in these examples:

Mohammed came then later Ali. جَاءَ مُحَمَّد ثُمَّ عَلِي.
I did the homework, then later I watched TV. كَتَبْتُ الوَاجِب ثُمَّ شَاهَدتُ التِّلْفَاز.
The ambassador visited Sana’a and later Aden. زُارَ السَّفِيْر صَنْعَاء ثُمَّ عَدَن.
  • حَتَّى ‘even’

Besides being a preposition and a particle used with present tense to indicate a future action, حَتَّى is a coordinating conjunction used for glorification or abasement, as in these examples:

The people sat down even the king. جَلَسَ النَّاس حَتَّى المَلِك.
The students failed even Ali (who’s the best). رَسِبَ الطُّلاب حَتَّى عَلِي.
The students passed even Khalid (who’s the worst). نَجَحَ الطُّلاب حَتَّى خَالِد.
The employees greeted the CEO even the janitor. سَلَّمَ المُوَظَّفُوْن عَلَى المُدِيْر حَتَّى المُنَظِّف.
  • أَوْ ‘or’

أَو has different uses: (1) to express doubt, (2) to express ambiguity, (3) for choice, and (4) for permission, as in these examples:

Someone entered, Mohammed or Ali. شَخْصٌ دَخَلَ، مُحَمَّد أَو عَلِي. Doubt
That’s a man or a woman, I’m not sure. ذَلِك رَجُل أَوْ اِمْرَأْة، لا أَدْرِي.
This is your book or this. هَذَا كِتَابُك أَوْ هَذَا. Ambiguity
Eat an apple, an orange, or a banana. كُلْ تُفَّاحة أَوْ بُرتُقالَة أَوْ مَوْزَة! Choice
The boy wants to play or go to the park. يُرِيْد الوَلَدُ أَنْ يَلْعَبَ أو يَذْهَبَ إِلَى الَحَدِيْقَة.
You can stay or leave. تَسْتَطِيع أَنْ تَجْلِس أَو تُغَادِر. Permission
Go to the party or the movies. اِذْهَب إِلَى الحَفْلَة أَو السِّيْنَما.
  • لَكِنْ ‘but’

لَكِنْ is used for correcting what is being said, that is one says one thing and you correct it by providing a different noun/action verb in a negative statement, as in these examples:

The boy didn’t go out but the girl (did) مَا خَرَجَ الوَلَد لَكِنْ البِنْت.
Don’t drink the water but (drink) the milk. لا تَشْرَب المَاء لَكِنْ الحَلِيْب.
Salim didn’t travel but Abdullah (did). لَم يُسَافِر سَلِيْم لَكِن عَبْد الله.
  • بَلْ ‘rather’ ‘more accurately’

بَلْ is used for rejecting what is mentioned in the first instance and approving what is mentioned second, and it is used in affirmative and negative sentences, as in these examples:

 I read the newspaper, rather the magazine. قَرَأتُ الجَرِيْدَة بَل المَجِلَّة.
He didn’t drink water, rather juice. مَا شَربَ مَاءً بَل عَصِيْرًا.
I visited America, more accurately San Diego. زُرْتُ أَمْرِيْكَا بَل سَان دِيِيْغُو.
  • أَمْ ‘or’

أَمْ is used with the yes-no interrogative statement to mean ‘or’, that is with yes-no question that begins with هَل (less formal) or أ (formal), which both mean (do/does, did, is/are) in a yes-no question, as in these examples:

Did you drink water or juice? أشَرِبْتَ مَاءً أَمْ عَصِيْرًا؟
Is this Ali or Mohammed? هَلَ هَذَا عَلِي أَم مُحَمَّد؟
Is Khalid at home or Sami? أَخَالدٌ فِي البَيْتَ أَم سَامِي؟
Do you want tea or coffee? هَل تُرِيد شَاي أَم قَهْوَة؟
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About the Author: Ibnulyemen اِبْنُ اليَمَن

Marhaban! I am from Yemen. I am a language teacher. I teach English and Arabic. In this blog, I will be leading you through Arabic language learning in a sequential fashion. I will focus on Modern Standard Arabic. To learn more, you can also visit my website Ibnulyemen Arabic or my facebook page.