beginning, intermediate

Shaykh Munaf’s Arabic conversations: Episode 4

In this article I’ll be guiding you through the third episode in Shaykh Munaf’s series of Arabic conversations. This episode starts with Shaykh Munaf (مناف munaaf) telephoning Abdur Rahman (عبد الرحمان ʕabd ir-raḥmaan). Here’s the video:

The action in these videos takes place in Trinidad, which is why Abdur Rahman answers the phone with an English “hello”. In an Arabic-speaking country you could answer the phone with this word, which is borrowed from the French word allô (which explains why there is no h in it).

‘Hello!’ (only on the phone)

The following expression used can be used for any holiday—Islamic, Christian, secular, or otherwise:

عِيد مُبارَك!
ʕiid mubaarak!
‘Happy holiday!’

This expression is used in the same way:

كُلّ عام وَأَنْتَ بِخَيْر.
kull ʕaam wa ’anta bi khayr.
‘Happy holiday!’ (similar to ‘many happy returns’)

You can find lots of fancy images of this expression on the using Google images. This one uses the plural form أنتم ’antum instead of أنتَ ’anta:

kull ʕaam wa antum bi khayr

A standard response to this expression is this:

وَأنْتَ بِخَيْر.
wa ’anta bi khayr

There is also a common variant of this expression:

كُلّ سَنَة وَأَنْتَ طَيِّب.
kull sana wa ’anta ṭayyib.
‘Happy holiday!’ (variant, similar to ‘many happy returns’)

These expressions use different Arabic words for ‘year’:

سَنَة عام
sana ʕaam

So, both كلّ عام kull ʕaam and كلّ سنة kull sana mean ‘every year’.

The response used in the video is more complicated. I won’t go into it, but here it is:

مِنْ الْعائِدِين، إِنْ شاءَ الله.
mina l-ʕaa’idiin, ’in shaa’a l-laah.
‘And may you be among those returning, if God wills.’

Shaykh Munaf emphasizes how well he is doing by adding this common word, which is an oath:

wa l-laahi
‘by God; I swear to God; really’

This word is very often used in the sense of ‘really’, ‘I’m serious’, or ‘I really mean it’. It is so commonly used that it is not actually a very strong oath. Don’t assume someone is telling you the truth just because they say والله wa l-laahi.

Munaf asks Abdur Rahman what he’s going to do today:

ماذا سَتَفْعَل الْيَوم؟
maadhaa sa tafʕal il-yawm?
more formal: maadhaa sa tafʕalu l-yawm?
‘What will you do today?’

In this video, we will see several instances of the particle sa, which is combined with a verb in the present tense to express the future:

سَيَفْعَل يَفْعَل
sa yafʕal yafʕal
‘he will do’ ‘he does, he is doing’

Abdur Rahman explains that he is going to his uncle’s:

سَأَذْهَب إِلى بَيْت عَمِّي.
sa ’adhhab ’ilaa bayt ʕamm-ii.
more formal: sa ’adhhabu ’ilaa bayti ʕamm-ii.
‘I will go to my uncle’s house.’

Arabic uses distinct words for paternal and maternal aunts and uncles:

خالة خال عَمّة عَمّ
khaala khaal ʕamma ʕamm
‘(maternal) aunt’ ‘(maternal) uncle’ ‘(paternal) aunt’ ‘(paternal) uncle’

If you want to practice the words for the various family members using a very easy children’s video, look here.

To explain where he is going, Abdur Rahman uses the following adjective. Note the preposition that is used in combination with it:

قَرِيب مِنْ
qariib min
‘near, close to’

You certainly already know the word بيت bayt ‘house’, but do you also know the dual and plural forms?

بُيُوت بَيْتان/بَيْتَيْن بَيْت
buyuut baytaan/baytayn bayt
‘houses (pl.)’ ‘houses (dual)’ ‘house’

The plural form is used in this sentence:

بُيُوتهُم قَرِيبة مِن الْمُسْتَشْفى الْعامّ.
buyuut-hum qariiba min al-mustashfaa l-ʕaamm.
more formal: buyuutu-hum qariibatun min al-mustashfaa l-ʕaamm.
‘Their houses are near the public hospital.’

The word عام ʕaamm means either ‘general’ or ‘public’. Here are two other common phrases in which it occurs:

مَكْتَبة عامّة حَدِيقة عامّة
maktaba ʕaamma ḥadiiqa ʕaamma
‘public library’ ‘park’ (lit. ‘public garden’)

You may have noticed that the word for ‘public; general’ (ʕaamm) sounds very similar to one of the words we saw above for ‘year’ above (ʕaam). They are indeed very close! If these phrases come at the end of a phrase or before a pause, you will not hear any difference at all, but in other contexts you will clearly here the double mm in ʕaamm.

Here are another couple of words you will need at this point in the conversation:

‘with her’

Here are the masculine and feminine forms of ‘colleague’, a word which is used:

زَمِيل / زَمِيلة
zamiil / zamiila
‘colleague, classmate, coworker’

This word is used more frequently in Arabic than the English word ‘colleague’ (especially as the latter is used in American English). It is also a safer word to use than صديق/صديقة ṣadiiq/ṣadiiqa to refer to casual male–female relationships.

Here’s another question Munaf asks:

هَلْ تَذْهَب لِلْغَداء؟
hal tadhhab li l-ghadaa’?
more formal: hal tadhhabu li l-ghadaa’?
‘Are you going for lunch?’

To say that he’s not going to anyone’s house, Abdur Rahman says the following:

لا أَذْهَب إِلى بَيْت أَحَد.
laa ’adhhab ’ilaa bayt ’aḥad.
more formal: laa ’adhhabu ’ilaa bayti ’aḥad.
‘I’m not going to anyone’s house.’

The word أحد ’aḥad can also much ‘someone’, but in a negative context, such as in this sentence, it means ‘no one, not… anyone’.

Abdur Rahman refers to having lunch, using the following expression:

سَأَتَناوَل الْغَداء.
sa ’atanaawal il-ghadaa’.
more formal: sa ’atanaawalu l-ghadaa’.
‘I will have lunch.’

If you would like to know more about expressions about meals and eating, take a look at the following article.

In explaining that he will be going to his uncle’s house, Abdur Rahman uses the following phrase, pronouncing it in formal/Classical Arabic:

إِلى بَيْتِهِ
’ilaa bayti-hi
‘to his house’

In informal Arabic this would be simply ’ilaa bayt-uh. In formal Arabic, the suffix for ‘him/his’ is normally pronounced -hu, but when an i, ii, or y sound precedes it, it is pronounced as -hi instead. You can see that in the three different case forms of بيت bayt ‘house’, combined with this pronominal suffix:

بَيْتَهُ بَيْتِهِ بَيتُهُ
bayta-hu bayti-hi baytu-hu
‘his house (acc.)’ ‘his house (gen.)’ ‘his house (nom.)’

Here is the word for ‘dinner’ and the expression ‘for dinner’:

لِلْعَشاء الْعَشَاء
li l-ʕashaa’ ’al-ʕashaa’
‘for (the) lunch’ ‘(the) lunch’

This is a very common filler word:

‘okay, well’

Munaf has some spare time:

عِنْدِي فَراغ بَعد الْمَغْرِب.
ʕind-ii faraagh baʕd il-maghrib.
more formal: ʕind-ii faraaghun baʕda l-maghrib.
‘I have some free time after evening prayers.’

The word فراغ faraagh ‘free time’ (literally ‘void, vacuum, gap’) is often combined with the word وقت waqt ‘time’, to form an expression that also means ‘free time’:

ماذا تَفْعَل في وَقْت فَراغك؟
maadhaa tafʕal fii waqt faraagh-ak?
more formal: maadhaa tafʕalu fii waqti faraagh-ik?
‘What do you do in your free time?’

Munaf refers to the evening prayers as a way of saying when he is free. This is a very common way to refer to times of day, even for people who don’t regularly pray. Here are the names of the five obligatory daily prayer times:

الْعِشاء الْمَغْرِب الْعَصْر الْظُّهْر الْفَجْر
’al-ʕishaa’ ’al-maghrib ’al-ʕaṣr ’aḍh-ḍhuhn ’al-fajr
‘Isha (late evening)’ ‘Maghrib (early evening)’ ‘Asr (afternoon)’ ‘Zuhr (noon)’ ‘Fajr (dawn)’

For more information about prayer times, look at this Wikipedia page.

Munaf asks a somewhat impertinent question:

هَلْ يُمْكِن أنْ أَذّهَب مَعَكُم؟
hal yumkin ’an ’adhhab maʕa-kum?
more formal: hal yumkinu ’an ’adhhaba maʕa-kum?
‘Can I go with you (pl.)?’

Here the word يمكن yumkin ‘is possible’ is a verb. It is never conjugated to other persons. That is, it always appears in the هو huwa form. That is somewhat like English ‘It is possible (for me) to go’; we would never say ‘I am possible to go.’

Abdur Rahman mumbles to himself in English trying to think of how he should handle this request for an invitation. Munaf can’t understand him:

ما فَهِمْتك.
maa fahimtu-k(a)
‘I didn’t understand you.’

The expression appropriately translated here as ‘it’s nothing’ literally means ‘there’s nothing.’

لا شَيْء.
laa shay’.
‘There’s nothing.’

I hope you found this explanation useful. Be sure to check out the other videos in in this series.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.