Introduction to Arabic (Modern Standard): Lesson 2

Welcome back! So, I promised we’d be discussing questions this time, so here goes:

In English we have complicated system for forming yes-or-no questions, using words like "do" and auxiliary verbs. In Arabic, making such questions is one of the very few things that are simpler than English. To make a sentence into a yes-or-no question, you just add the word hal to the start.

?You (f.) have a cat.|Indaki qittatun.

?Do you (m.) have a cat?|Hal indaka qittatun?

It’s as easy as that! Now, to answer a question affirmatively, you say na’am. It sounds just like saying "nom" as you bite into a delicious doughnut, except with a brief pause in the middle, as notated by the apostrophe.

?Yes, I have a cat.|Na’am, indee qittatun.

Saying no is a bit more complicated. The word for no is easy, though: la. However, in order to say the rest of the sentence, you need something else, the equivalent of not in English. For any verb, this would also be la, but if you remember from last lesson, indee and its relatives are NOT verbs, but prepositions! So instead, they use a different word. This word is laysa, and it’s placed at the start of the negative sentence.

?No, I don’t have a dog.|La, laysa indee kalbun.

You know know how to make negative sentences! Of course, unless you’re answering a question, you don’t need to put la at the start. So, to just say I don’t have a dog, you would say laysa indee kalbun.

Now, you’re almost ready to learn your first actual verb. A couple things to keep in mind:

Firstly, this is where case endings start getting important. Remember how they work, as it will save you a lot of trouble! Secondly, Arabic, like many other languages, has conjugations. These will be important to keep in mind. Finally, similar to indee and its buddies, writing the subject is not necessary if it’s a pronoun. The conjugation itself is enough to determine this.

The verb you’ll be learning is "to drink," so first let’s learn the names of three very common drinks. The first is, of course, water, the Arabic word for which is ma’. Imagine pouring water into your maw. Remember case endings; ma’ is a masculine noun!

?I have water.|Indee ma’un.

The second word is haleeb, which means milk. Haleeb is also masculine.

?The boy has milk.|Al-walad indahu haleebun.

Finally, we have shay, which means tea. This is a cognate (or similar-sounding word) to English "chai," so it should be easy. It is also masculine.

?This is tea.|Hadha shayun.

Now, for the verb! We’ll start with the word for I drink, which is ashrabu. It sounds a little bit like shrub, which has no relevance to drinking, but shrubs are funny. There is no difference in Arabic between "I drink" and "I am drinking."

Remember what I said about case endings being important? Well, Arabic has something called the accusative case. Basically, in the sentence "I am drinking tea," there are two nouns/pronouns: "I" and "tea." "I" am the one doing something, while "tea" is the one with something being done to it. In Arabic, the noun in the place of "tea" has the accusative case ending, which is marked by -an or -a, or, with feminine nouns -tan or -ta instead of -un et al.

?I am drinking tea.|Ashrabu shayan.

Now, let’s learn the words for you drink. Again, there are two. The one corresponding to anta is tashrabu, which is just ashrabu with an extra t. The feminine one is a little different; it’s tashrabeena!

?You (m.) are drinking water.|Tashrabu ma’an.

?You (f.) are drinking milk.|Tashrabeena haleeban.

The word for he drinks is also very simple. It’s yashrabu. Many of these forms sound quite similar. The word for she drinks isn’t just similar, it’s exactly the same as the anta form; in other words, tashrabu. Think of the -t- inserted in the feminine ending for this prefix. If there could be confusion, you can always add anta or hiya to clear things up, but these pronouns are, as previously stated, almost always omitted.

?The dog is drinking water.|Al-kalbu yashrabu ma’an.

?The woman is drinking tea.|Al-imra’atu tashrabu shayan.

Now, consider your knowledge from before and answer these:

?Is the cat drinking milk?|Hal al-qittatu tashrabu haleeban?

?You (f.) are not drinking water. You are drinking tea.|La tashrabeena ma’an. Tashrabeena shayan.

Excellent! Hope to see you again in the next lesson, where we discuss question words and some common objects you may find, along with more verbs!

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