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Words in Arabic are classified into three parts of speech: a noun اِسْم, a verb فِعْل, and a particle حَرْف. Essentially, particles have no meaning by themselves, that is, they must be added to another word or be part of a context. They modify the meaning of other words, help with sentence transition (i.e. style), and make speech and prose more concise. Therefore, they can have multiple meanings. This post gives a list of these particles, their meanings, and how they are used.
Not to be confused with أَجَّلَ ‘to postpone’ which has double ج, the word أَجَلْ is a functional word that has the same meaning as نَعَمْ ‘yes’. It used to respond to a yes-no questions that begins with هَلْ or with أَ (the hamzah of interrogation), as in the turn-taking examples below. The difference between أَجَلْ and نَعَمْ lies in the degree of formality. The first is more formal.
أَحَضَرَ الأُسْتَاذ؟ did the teacher come?
هَلْ تُشَاهِد مُبَارَاة اليَوْم؟ are you watching today’s match?
Written as إِذًا (with tanween) or as إِذًنْ (with ن), إِذًا is a functional word that is used to respond to a declarative sentence to mean ‘OK’, as in example (1). It is also used as a response to indicate a word of an action. In this case it means ‘then’ or ‘therefore’, as in example (2).
(1) سَأَحْضُر إِلَى الجَامِعَة غَدًا. I will come to the university tomorrow.
إِذَنْ، سَأَنْتَظِرك. OK, I will wait for you.
(2) ذَاكَرْتُ كَثِيْرًا اللَّيْلَة المَاضِيَة. I studied a lot last night.
إِذًا / إِذَن، سَتَنْجَ فِي الاِمْتِحَان. Then, you will pass (in) the test.
With doubled ل, إِلَّا is used to make an exception; it is means ‘except’, as in example (1). Also, it is used for restriction to mean ‘only’. In this case, it is used with مَا, as in example (2). There are other meanings, but these two are the most common.
(1) أَكَلْنَا الفَوَاكِه إِلَّا التُّفَّاح. We ate the fruits except the apples
يَلْعَبُ الأَوْلاد إِلَّا نَاصِر. The boys are playing except Nasser.
غَادَرَ المُوَظَّفُوْن الشَّرِكَة إِلًّا وَاحِد. The employees left the company except one.
(2) مَا كَتَبْتُ إِلَّا قِصَّة وَاحِدَة. I wrote only one story.
مَا نَحْنُ إِلَّا بَشَر، لَا نَسْتَطِيْع فِعْلَ ذَلِك. We are only human; we cannot do that.
Meaning ‘or’, أَمْ is a coordinating conjunction that is primarily used in yes-no questions that begin with the interrogative hamzah, as in these examples:
أَأَنْتَ مُدْرِّس أَمْ طَالِب؟ Are you a teacher or a student?
أَتَعْرِف الإِجَابَة أَمْ لَا؟ Do you know the answer or not?
أَتَتَكَلَّم العَرَبِيَّة أَمَ الإِنْجِلِيْزِيَّ؟ Do you speak Arabic or English?
قَدْ is a functional particle that precedes perfective or imperfective forms of verbs. With perfective verbs الأَفْعَال المَاضِيَة, it stresses or confirms that an action was completed / done. It means ‘already’, as in these examples:
قَدْ كَتَبْتُ الوَاجِب. I (have) already complete the homework.
قَدْ فَازَ فَرِيْقُنَا. Our team (has) already won.
قَدْ شَاهَدُوا هَذَا الفِيْلم. They (have) already watched this film.
With the imperfective verbs, it used to indicate the possibility / probability that an action may take place, as in these examples:
قَدْ لا يَحْضُر المُدِيْر اليَوْم. The manager may not come today.
قَدْ أَحْتَاجُ إِلَى بَعْضِ الفُلُوس. I may need some money.
قَدْ تَسْتَمِرُ الحَرْبُ فِي اليَمْن سِنْيْن. War in Yemen may last for years.
بَعْض means ‘some / part of a group’. It is used as a noun modifier most in genitive constructions; hence, it is mainly indefinite, as in these examples:
بَعْضُ الطُّلاب مُجْتَهِدُون. Some students are industrious.
أَكَلْنَا بَعْضَ الفَاكِهَة. We ate some fruit.
بَعْضَ اللَّاعِبِيْن جَيِّدُون وَبَعْضُهُم سَيِّئون. Some players are good, and some are bad.
بَعْضَ الأَوْقَات أَذْهَبُ إِلى الشَّاطِئ. Sometimes I go to the beach.
بَلَى is a functional particle that is used to answer a negative yes-no question. Responding to a negative yes-no question with بَلَى makes it positive, while responding with نَعَم confirms the negation, as in these exchanges:
(1) أَمَا أَكَلَ عَلِي؟ Didn’t Ali eat?
بَلَى! No. (he ate)
أَلَم تَحْضُر اليَوم؟ Didn’t you come today?
بَلَى! No. (I came)
(2) أَلَسْتَ مُحَمَّد؟ Aren’t you Mohammed?
نَعَم. Yes. (I’m not Mohammed).
أَلَنْ يُسَافِر غَدًا؟ Won’t he travel tomorrow?
نَعَم. Yes. (he won’t)
سَوْفَ is a functional particle that is use with the imperfective form of the verb to mean ‘will’. It is call future particle. By placing it before the imperfective form of the verb change it time from present to future, as in these examples:
سَوْفَ أَدْرُس الفِيْزِيَاء. I will study physics.
سَوْفَ نُسَافِر إِلَى القَرْيَة نَهَايَة الأُسْبُوع. We will travel to the countryside on the weekend.
Comparing it to سَـ that is added to the imperfective form of the verb, it implies far future; سَـ implies near future.
غَيْر, with sukuun on the ي, is functional particle that is use to make exceptions. It is always used in a genitive construction, namely the first word of this construction. It means ‘except’, as in these examples:
جَاء المُوَظَّفُون غَيْرَ مُحَمَّد. The employees came except Mohammed.
أَكَلَتْ البِنْت التُّفَّاح غَيْرَ وَاحِدَة. The girl ate the apples except one.
It could also mean ‘other than’ if it follows an indefinite noun, as in these examples:
أُرِيْدُ غُرْفَةَ غَيْرَ هَذِه. I want a room other than this.
سَأَسْأَلُ (شَخْصًا) غَيْرَك. I will ask (a person) other than you.
سَيَطْلُبُ طَبَقًا غَيْرَ هّذَا. He will order a dish other than this.
If غَيْر is followed by an adjective, it means not. In fact, it is often used to give opposite meanings of many adjectives, just like the prefix un- in English (important vs. unimportant), as in these examples:
هَذَا غَيْرُ مُهِم. This is not important
إِجَابَتُكَ غَيْرُ صَحِيْحَة. Your answer is not correct
سَامِي غَيْرُ سَعِيْدٍ بَعْدَ الزَّوَاج. Sami is not happy after marriage
هَذَا الأَكْلُ غَيْرُ صَحِّي. This food is not healthy
It is composed of two words: فَـ and قَطْ. It means ‘only’. It is always used with numbers or count nouns to indicate a limit, as in these examples:
مَشَيْتُ مِيْلًا فَقَطْ. I walked one mile only
بِعْتُ خَمَسَةَ كُتُبٍ فَقَطْ. I sold five books only.
حَضَرَ الحَفْلَ عِشْرُون طَالِبًا فَقَطْ. Only twenty students attended the ceremony.
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