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Forming Questions in MSA and Levantine Arabic Posted by on Dec 2, 2020 in Arabic Language, Grammar

Questions الأسْئِلة are straightforward in Arabic. There is no special form of the verb used with questions. In this post, we’ll look at the way to form questions in Arabic in both MSA اللُغة العَرَبية الفُصحى and Levantine اللَّهْجَةُ الشَّامِيَّة using the appropriate question words. I have provided examples for practice and audio to help with pronunciation.

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First, here are some words you should know in Arabic:

question: سُؤال

answer: إِجابة

question mark: عَلامة اِسْتِفْهام

to ask: سَألَ

to answer: أجابَ

Let’s begin with simple questions that can be formed by adding a question mark to the end of a sentence or by putting the word هَل or less often أ in front of it.

For example:

This is my pen.   .هذا قَلَمي

Let’s make this into the question “Is this my pen?” in three ways.

هذا قَلَمي؟

هل هذا قَلَمي؟

أهذا قَلَمي؟

In Levantine, هذا is said as هدا and the ق in قلمي is pronounced either as a glottal stop (ء) or a “g” sound as in the word “good”.

هل is not used in Levantine and neither is أ at the beginning to form a question which leaves us with using the same sentence with a question mark in the end. هدا قلمي؟

Moving on to question words. Can you try and name some before looking below? 😊

Question word MSA Levantine
Who مَنْ مين
What ماذا followed by verb and ما followed by noun شو/أيش Doesn’t matter what follows.
Where أيْنَ وَيْن
How كَيْفَ كَيف
When مَتى أيمتى
Why لِماذا لَيش/ليه
How much بِكَم بِكَم/كَم/ قديش/قديه

Examples:

What are you doing?

  ماذا تَفْعَل؟

شوعَم بِتساوي؟

Who took my key?

مَن أخَذَ مِفْتاحي؟

مين أخَدْ مُفْتاحي؟

When are you going to the meeting?

مَتى ذاهِب إلى الإجتماع؟

أيمتى رايِح عَلإجتماع؟

Why are you laughing?

لِماذا تَضْحَك؟

ليش عَم تَضْحَك؟

How much is a kilo of apples?

بِكَم كيلو التُّفاح؟

قديش كيلو التُّفاح؟

What is the account number?

ما رَقم الحِساب؟

شو رَقم الحِساب؟

How are you today?

كَيْفَ حالُكَ اليَوم؟

كَيفْ حَالَك اليَوم؟

Here are four sentences in MSA. Can you think of potential questions that would match these answers?

.المُسْتَشْفى عَلى يَمين البَنْك  The hospital is on the right of the bank.

.الحَمدُالله، أمي بِخَيْر   Thanks be to God, my mother is doing well.

.لأنَني كُنْتُ نَعْسان   Because I was sleepy.

.لا أشْرَبُ القَهْوَة   I don’t drink coffee.

I hope you found this post helpful in forming questions in Arabic. Till next week, happy Arabic learning! 😊

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About the Author: yasmine

MarHaba! I am half Jordanian of Circassian descent and half American. I have a Master's in Second Language Teaching and I teach Arabic as a foreign language here in the US, both MSA and Levantine Arabic. I hope to help you become more familiar and interested in the Arabic language and culture.