beginning, intermediate

Shaykh Munaf’s Arabic conversations: Episode 2

In this post I’ll be guiding you through the second episode in Shaykh Munaf’s series of Arabic conversations. This episode starts with Shaykh Munaf (مناف munaaf) running into Abdur Rahmaan (عبد الرحمان ʕabd ir-raḥmaan), who is dragging a suitcase. Here’s the video:

You probably already know the greeting السلام عليكم ’as-salaamu ʕalay-kum ‘peace be on you’, but this video starts off with a more elaborate version:

الْسَّلامُ عَلَيْكُم وَرَحْمَةُ الله.
’as-salaamu ʕalay-kum wa raḥmatu l-laah.
‘Peace be on you and God’s mercy.’

This version is very common, as is the even more elaborate version here:

الْسَّلامُ عَلَيْكُم وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكاتُه.
’as-salaamu ʕalay-kum wa raḥmatu l-laah wa barakaat-uh.
‘Peace be on you and God’s mercy and His blessings.’

You are sure to wow your friends if you use this phrase with them!

What Abdur Rahman has with him turns out not to be a book, but an album of family photos. The word for ‘family’ here is this one:

‘(nuclear) family’

This word is used in the following phrase:

أَلْبُوم لِأُسْرَتِي
’albuum li ’usrat-ii
‘an album of my family’

You may know a different word for ‘family’:


While أسرة ’usra is generally used in the sense of ‘nuclear family’ (parents and children, living under a single roof), the word عائلة ʕaa’ila can also be used in a wider sense, including aunts, uncles, and so forth.

After seeing the photo of Abdur Rahman’s sister, Munaf feels an impulse to compare ages:

أَنا عُمْرِي خَمْسَة وَأَرْبَعين سَنَة.
’anaa ʕumr-ii khamsa wa ’arbaʕiin sana.
‘I’m 45 years old.’

In this phrase, عمري ʕumr-ii literally means ‘my age’. So, the whole phrase is literally ‘Me my age is 45 years’. In correct formal or Classical Arabic, the number in this sentence would need to be in nominative case أربعون ’arbaʕuun. Munaf’s use of the form أربعين ’arbaʕiin reflects the fact that colloquial difference doesn’t have any case distinctions. The two forms of this word in Standard Arabic are these:

أَرْبَعِين أُرْبَعون
’arbaʕiin ’arbaʕuun
‘forty (gen./acc.)’ ‘forty (nom.)’

Alas, Abdur Rahman’s sister is already married, dashing Munaf’s hopes. How does Abdur Rahman say this? If you have used the Bite-Size Arabic book, you will already know these two words:

زَوْجة زَوْج
zawja zawj
‘wife’ ‘husband’

The word for ‘married’ is related to these words:


And that word is derived from an important verb you might want to learn

‘to get married’

The next photo is of Abdur Rahman’s grandmother. The words for ‘grandmother’ and ‘grandfather’ are related in the same way as most masculine/feminine pairs:

جَدّة جَدّ
jadda jadd
‘grandmother’ ‘grandfather’

The word Abdur Rahman uses for ‘retired’ is this one:


A common tag question, which is used at this point is this:

أَلَيْسَ كَذَلِكَ؟
’a laysa kadhaalika?
‘Isn’t that so?’

Let’s pull this phrase apart a bit, starting at the end. You probably already know that ذلك dhaalika means ‘that (masc.)’. To that we can add the particle ك ka, which means ‘as, like’, giving us كذلك kadhaalika ‘so, like that’ (note: it can also mean ‘also’). The word ليس laysa is a verb meaning ‘(he) is not’. So,
ليس كذلك laysa kadhaalika would mean ‘it isn’t so’. The particle أ ’a at the beginning turns this statement into a yes/no-question. (You may know the particle هل hal, which does the very same thing. Before a negative word such as ليس laysa, ’a is used instead of hal.)

The word used for ‘yes’ here may be unfamiliar to you. It is only used to respond to negative questions (or contradict negative statements):

‘yes (in response to negative question)’
ماتَ قَبْلَ عَشَر سَنَوات.
maata qabla ʕashari sanawaat.
less formal: maat qabl ʕashar sanawaat.
‘He died ten years ago.’

The verb مات maat(a) ‘he died’ here is the past tense of يموت yamuut ‘he dies’. And here are the singular and plural forms of ‘year’:

سَنَوات سَنَة
sanawaat sana
‘years’ ‘year’

Abdur Rahman goes on to comment on his grandfather:

كانَ رَجُلًا مَحْبُوبًا بَيْنَ الّنّاس.
kaana rajulan maḥbuuban bayna n-naas.
‘He was beloved man among the people.’

The phrase رجلًا مَحْبوبًا rajulan maḥbuuban ‘beloved man’ is accusative here, with the typical -an ending, because it is the complement of كان kaan(a) ‘(he) was’. The preposition بين bayna used in this sentence generally means ‘between’:

أَسْكُن بَيْنَ المَدْرَسة وَالْدُّكّان.
’askun bayna l-madrasa wa d-dukkaan.
more formal: ’askunu bayna l-madrasati wa d-dukkaan.
‘I live between the school and the shop.’

The phrase Munaf uses to comment on Abdur Rahman’s loss of his grandfather is long and complicated. Here is the most imporant part of it, which is a useful phrase to know:

الله يَرْحَمه.
’al-laah yarḥam-uh.
‘God have mercy on him.’

This phrase is the equivalent to the English ‘May he rest in peace.’ If we were talking about a deceased woman, we would modify the sentence accordingly:

الله يَرْحَمها.
’al-laah yarḥam-haa.
‘God have mercy on her.’

I hope this was helpful. Until the next episode, إن شاءَ الله ’in shaa’ al-laah!


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