Arabic Language Blog

Question Words in Levantine Arabic Posted by on Aug 19, 2020 in Uncategorized

مرحبا! 🙂 In this post, we’ll be looking at the question or interrogative words (who, what, where, why, when, how, which) in Levantine Arabic with examples along with a reminder of what the question words are in اللُغة العَرَبية الفُصحى Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

First, can you recall which Arabic speaking countries use the Levantine dialect اللَّهْجَةُ الشَّامِيَّة?  (and can you name these countries in Arabic?) 😁

سوريا، لبنان، الأردن، فلسطين     Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine

✨Keep in mind though that the official language in these countries remains فُصحى which is used for official purposes, such as education, media, and for written communication. اللَّهْجَةُ الشَّامِيَّة is used in all informal settings, that is at home, at work, among friends, and within the community.

Before we begin, do you remember any of the question words in فُصحى?

You’ll find that a few are a bit similar to MSA and a couple are exactly the same but can sound slightly different when speaking Levantine Arabic.

✨Who: ميْن (in MSA مَنْ)

Sometimes مين can be used on its own to mean “Who is it?” if someone knocks on the door.

مين مَعي؟  Literally, this translates to “Who is with me?” but it is used to mean “Who is speaking?” if someone wants to know who their speaking to on the phone.

مين هاد؟ “Who is this?” (masculine)

مين هاي؟ “Who is this?” (feminine)

هدا ابن مين؟ “This is the son of whom?” In Arabic culture, it is very normal for people to ask who someone’s father is to help them pinpoint who that person is and to which family he belongs.

هدا أبو مين؟ “This is the father of whom?” As you may have noticed, fathers in Arabic speaking countries usually go by “Abu (first son’s name)” meaning “Father of (first son’s name)”. For example, أبو أحمد or أبو خالد.

✨What: شو/أيْش (in MSA ماذا / ما)

While in MSA, ماذا is followed by verbs and ما is followed by nouns, Levantine Arabic makes no such distinction. شو is used more frequently in the Levant, yet you may here أيش as well, especially in Jordan and Palestine.

Let’s begin with a couple greetings:

شو أخبارك؟  Literally, “What’s your news?” used to mean “What’s new with you?”.

شو لونك؟ Literally, “What’s your color?” used to mean “How are you?”.

شو/أيش صار؟ “What happened?”

شو/أيش هاد؟ “What is this?”

شو/أيش في؟ “What’s going on?”

شو/أيش اسمك؟ “What’s your name?”

✨Where: وَيْن (in MSA أيْن)

وين رايح؟ “Where are you going?”

مِن وين أنت؟ “Where are you from”?

وين أقرب كازية؟ “Where is the closest gas station?”

✨Why: لَيْش/لَيه (in MSA لِماذا)

You might occasionally hear the word ليه instead of the word ليش , but they both mean “why”.

ليش ما عَم تاكل؟ “Why aren’t you eating?”

ليه زَعْلان؟ “Why are you upset?”

هدا ليش هون؟ “Why is this here?”

✨When: ايْمتى (in MSA مَتى)

أيمتى عندك محاضرة؟ “When do you have a lecture?”

مِن أيمتى أنت هون؟ “Since when have you been here?”

أيمتى لازِم نروح؟ “When should we go?”

How: كيف (in MSA كَيْفَ)

كيف حالك؟ “How are you?”

كيف عَرِفْت؟ “How did you know?”

مُمْكِن تَحكيلي كيف أنَزِل هاد البَرنامِج؟

“Could you tell me how to download this program?”

✨Which: أيّ (in MSA أَيُّ)

أي واحِد بِدك؟ “Which one do you want?”

أي يوم بِتكون فاضي؟ “Which day will you be free?”

أي كتاب إلك؟ “Which book is yours?”

Here are two short videos comparing question words in فصحى and اللهجة الشامية with pronunciation and example sentences to help solidify what we’ve learned above.

How to Ask Questions in Arabic – Levantine Arabic Dialect

Questions in Levantine Arabic – Question Words ِArabic Lesson Part 2

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.