Egyptian Arabic Grammar


Adjectives

Adjectives can be used in two ways: to describe something, or to specify which one of several you are talking about.

English Egyptian
describea cherry is red kireeza hamrakiryzao Hamrao
كـِريز َة حـَمر َة
describethe ball is red ilkoora hamraiil-kwrao Hamrao
ا ِلكور َة حـَمر َة
describeI want a red ballaayiz koora hamraaoayiz kwrao Hamrao
َة َيـِز كور َة حـَمر َة
specifyI want the red ballAaayiz ilkoora ilhamraAaayiz iil-kwrao iil-Hamrao
عا َيـِز ا ِلكور َة ا ِلحـَمر َة
describethe book is bigilkitaab kibeeriil-kitaab kibyr
ا ِلكـِتا َب كـِبير
describeI have read a big book'ara't kitaab kibeerqaraaCt kitaab kibyr
قـَرا َءت كـِتا َب كـِبير
specifyI have read the big book'ara't ilkitaab ilkibeerqaraaCt iil-kitaab iil-kibyr
قـَرا َءت ا ِلكـِتا َب ا ِلكـِبير
describethe man is blindilraagil 'aAmaiil-raagil aacAmY
ا ِلرا َجـِل أعمى
describea blind man is outsideraagil 'aAma barraraagil aacAmY barraa
را َجـِل أعمى بـَرّاَ
specifythe blind man is outsideilraagil il'aAma barraiil-raagil iil-aacAmY barraa
ا ِلرا َجـِل ا ِلأعمى بـَرّاَ

In English, when you use an adjective to specify which one of several you are talking about, you put the word the in front of the adjective. It is almost the same in Egyptian, but you put iliil_ ا ِلـ before both the adjective and the noun: the iliil_ ا ِلـ before the adjective is the one that means that the adjective is specifying which one you mean. Note that adding iliil_ ا ِلـ to a word affects the pronunciation if it begins with a sun letter.

Masculine, feminine, plural

In english, there is only one form of an adjective, but in Egyptian, most adjectives must agree in gender and number with the noun that they relate to. Here are some examples:

EnglishEgyptian
the man is clever ilraagil shaaTiriil-raagil shaaTir
ا ِلرا َجـِل شا َطـِر
the woman is clever ilsitt shaTraiil-sitt shaaTrao
ا ِلسـِتّ شا َطر َة
the children are clever il'aTfaal shaaTireeniil-aacTfaal shaaTiryn
ا ِلأطفا َل شا َطـِرين

The following table shows some typical feminine and plural forms:

EnglishEgyptian
masculinefeminineplural
a_ao
ــَة
yn_yn
ـين
big kibeerkibyr
كـِبير
kibeerakibyrao
كـِبير َة
kubaarkubaar
كـُبا َر
good kuwayiskuwayis
كـُو َيـِس
kuwayisakuwayisao
كـُو َيـِس َة
kuwayiseenkuwayisyn
كـُو َيـِسين
red 'ahmaraacHmar
أحمـَر
hamraHamrao
حـَمر َة
humrHumr
حـُمر
easy sahlsahl
سـَهل
sahlasahlao
سـَهل َة
sahleensahlyn
سـَهلين
nice laTeeflaTyf
لـَطيف
laTeefalaTyfao
لـَطيف َة
luTaafluTaaf
لـُطا َف
free faaDifaaDy
فا َضي
faDyafaaDyao
فا َضي َة
faDyyinfaaDyyin
فا َضييـِن
brown bunnibunny
بـُنّي
bunnibunny
بـُنّي
bunnibunny
بـُنّي

The feminine form of most adjectives is made by adding the suffix a_ao ــَة, and the plural is formed by adding the suffix yn_yn ـين. Note that adding a suffix may affect the pronunciation.

The plural form of an adjective is normally only used for many people: for many things, the feminine form is used. Animals are half-way between: in the same way as an English person might say 'he' or 'it' about a dog, Egyptians could use either the plural or the feminine form to talk about a group of animals

EnglishEgyptian
thing pluralperson plural
the dogs are bigilkilaeb kibeeraiil-kilaeb kibyrao
ا ِلكـِلا َب كـِبير َة
ilkilaeb kubaariil-kilaeb kubaar
ا ِلكـِلا َب كـُبا َر
the dogs are good ilkilaeb kuwayisaiil-kilaeb kuwayisao
ا ِلكـِلا َب كـُو َيـِس َة
ilkilaeb kuwayiseeniil-kilaeb kuwayisyn
ا ِلكـِلا َب كـُو َيـِسين

Some nouns, for example dibbaendibbaen د ِبّا َن (flies) are collective nouns- a singular form is used to talk about a group of them. When an adjective is applied, the singular form of the adjective is used, for example:

the flies are disgusting
ildibbaen mu'rifiil-dibbaen muqrif
ا ِلد ِبّا َن مـُقر ِف

We will look at some of the common exceptions later. Note that some words, for example brown bunnibunny بـُنّي are invariable- you use the same form for masculine, feminine and plural.

Countries

A country name is usually converted to an adjective by adding i_y ـي. This can be used to refer to a person, a language or something from a country.

EnglishCountrym fpl
i_y
ـي
iya_iyao
ــِيـَة
iyyin-iyyin
ِييـِن
Egypt maSrmaSr
مـَصر
maSrimaSry
مـَصري
maSriyamaSriyao
مـَصر ِيـَة
maSriyyinmaSriyyin
مـَصر ِييـِن
Greece ilyoonaaniil-ywnaan
ا ِليونا َن
yoonaaniywnaany
يونا َني
yoonaaniyaywnaaniyao
يونا َنـِيـَة
yoonaaniyyinywnaaniyyin
يونا َنـِييـِن
Italy 'ieeTalyaiicyTaalyaa
إيطا َلياَ
'ieeTaaliiicyTaaly
إيطا َلي
'ieeTalyaiicyTaalyao
إيطا َليـَة
'ieeTalyyiniicyTaalyyin
إيطا َلييـِن
Sweden ilsiweediil-siwyd
ا ِلسـِويد
siweedisiwydy
سـِويدي
siweedyasiwydyao
سـِويديـَة
siweedyyinsiwydyyin
سـِويدييـِن
the North ilshimaaliil-shimaal
ا ِلشـِما َل
shimaalishimaaly
شـِما َلي
shimaaliyashimaaliyao
شـِما َلـِيـَة
shimaaliyyinshimaaliyyin
شـِما َلـِييـِن
Europe 'uoorubbauucwrubbaa
أ ُور ُبّاَ
'uooroobbiuucwrwbby
أ ُوروبّي
'uooroobbiyauucwrwbbiyao
أ ُوروبّـِيـَة
'uoorubbiyyinuucwrubbiyyin
أ ُور ُبّـِييـِن
Irregular ones...
India ilhindiil-hind
ا ِلهـِند
hindihindy
هـِندي
hindyahindyao
هـِنديـَة
hunoodhunwd
هـُنود
America 'amreekaaacmrykaa
أمريكاَ
'amreekiaacmryky أمريكي(people)
'amrikaaniaacmrikaany أمر ِكا َني(things)
amrikiyaaamrikiyao
ا َمر ِكـِيـَة
amreekaanaamrykaan
ا َمريكا َن

For some countries eg England, the adjective is made from the collective noun. Here are some examples:

EnglishCountrym fcollective noun
i_y
ـي
iya_iyao
ــِيـَة
England'ingiltiraiicngiltiraa
إنجـِلتـِراَ
'ingileeziiicngilyzy
إنجـِليزي
'ingileeziyaiicngilyziyao
إنجـِليز ِيـَة
'ingileeziicngilyz
إنجـِليز
Arabia AarabiAaraby
عـَر َبي
AarabiAaraby
عـَر َبي
AarabiyaAarabiyao
عـَر َبـِيـَة
AarabAarab
عـَر َب
Russia roosyarwsyaa
روسياَ
roosirwsy
روسي
roosyarwsyao
روسيـَة
roosrws
روس
Germany 'almanyaaaclmaanyaa
ألما َنياَ
'almaaniaaclmaany
ألما َني
'almanyaaaclmaanyao
ألما َنيـَة
'almaanaaclmaan
ألما َن
Spain 'asbanyaaacsbaanyaa
أسبا َنياَ
'asbaaniaacsbaany
أسبا َني
'asbanyaaacsbaanyao
أسبا َنيـَة
'asbaanaacsbaan
أسبا َن

For countries ending in two consonants and alif, the ending is aawi_aawy ـا َوي.

EnglishCountrym fpl
aawi_aawy
ـا َوي
aawiya_aawiyao
ـا َو ِيـَة
aawiyyin_aawiyyiin
ـا َو ِييا ِن
Austria ilnimsaiil-nimsaa
ا ِلنـِمساَ
nimsaawinimsaawy
نـِمسا َوي
nimsawiyyanimsawiyyao
نـِمسـَو ِييـَة
nimsawiyyinnimsawiyyin
نـِمسـَو ِييـِن
France faransafaransaa
فـَر َنساَ
faransaawifaransaawy
فـَر َنسا َوي
faransawiyafaransawiyao
فـَر َنسـَو ِيـَة
faransawiyyinfaransawiyyin
فـَر َنسـَو ِييـِن

One common usage of the country adjective is to talk about a person from that country. Here are some examples:

EnglishEgyptian
an Egyptian man waahid maSriwaaHid maSry
وا َحـِد مـَصري
an Egyptian woman wahda maSryawaaHdao maSryao
وا َحد َة مـَصريـَة
an englishman waahid 'ingiliziwaaHid iicngilizy
وا َحـِد إنجـِلـِزي
an englishwoman wahda 'ingileezyawaaHdao iicngilyzyao
وا َحد َة إنجـِليزيـَة
a frenchman waahid faransawiwaaHid faransawy
وا َحـِد فـَر َنسـَوي
a frenchwoman wahda faransawiyawaaHdao faransawiyao
وا َحد َة فـَر َنسـَو ِيـَة

The feminine and plural are used only for people. For inanimate objects, the masculine form only is used. Here are some examples:

EnglishEgyptian
a greek boat markib yoonaanimarkib ywnaany
مـَركـِب يونا َني
French cheese gibna faransaawigibnao faransaawy
جـِبنـَة فـَر َنسا َوي
american cars ilAarabiyaat 'amrikaaniiil-Aarabiyaat aacmrikaany
ا ِلعـَر َبـِيا َت أمر ِكا َني

Colours

The main colours follow a pattern. Here are some examples:

English m f pl
C=consonant aCCaC CaCCao CuCC
white 'abyaDaacbyaD
أبيـَض
biyDabiyDao
بـِيضـَة
biyDbiyD
بـِيض
black 'iswidiicswid
إسو ِد
soodaswdao
سود َة
suwdsuwd
سـُود
yellow 'aSfaraacSfar
أصفـَر
SafraSafrao
صـَفر َة
SufrSufr
صـُفر
blue 'azra'aaczraq
أزر َق
zar'azarqao
ز َرقـَة
zur'zurq
ز ُرق
green 'aKDaraacKDar
أخضـَر
KaDraKaDrao
خـَضر َة
KuDrKuDr
خـُضر
red 'ahmaraacHmar
أحمـَر
hamraHamrao
حـَمر َة
humrHumr
حـُمر

Colours derived from a material or thing just have a i_y ـي added. They are invariable: the feminine and plural form is the same as the masculine form.

English m/f/pl
brown
coffee
bunnibunny
بـُنّي
golden zahabidhahaby
ذ َهـَبي
silver faDDifaDDy
فـَضّي
copper nahaasinaHaasy
نـَحا َسي
light grey rumaadirumaady
ر ُما َدي
dark grey
lead
ruSaaSiruSaaSy
ر ُصا َصي
dark green
olive
zeetizyty
زيتي
dark blue kuhlikuHly
كـُحلي
pale blue labanilabany
لـَبـَني
dark red
wine
nibeetinibyty
نـِبيتي
chestnut kastanaa'ikastanaaycy
كـَستـَنا َئي
light brown
honey
AasaliAasaly
عـَسـَلي
purple
violet
banafsigibanafsigy
بـَنـَفسـِجي
orange burtu'aaliburtuqaaly
بـُرتـُقا َلي
deep purple
aubergine
bitangaanibitangaany
بـِتـَنجا َني

Personal attributes

Personal attributes or disabilities follow the same pattern as the basic colours:

English m f pl
C=consonant aCCaC CaCCao CuCC
foolish 'ahbalaachbal
أهبـَل
hablahablao
هـَبلـَة
hublhubl
هـُبل
squinting 'ahwalaacHwal
أحو َل
hoola'HwlaaC
حولا َء
huwlHuwl
حـُول
bald 'a'raAaacqraA
أقر َع
'arAaqarAao
قـَرعـَة
'urAqurA
قـُرع
bald 'aSlaAaacSlaA
أصلـَع
SalAa'SalAaaC
صـَلعا َء
SulASulA
صـُلع
fair skin
blonde
'ash'araacshqar
أشقـَر
sha'arashaqarao
شـَقـَر َة
shu'rshuqr
شـُقر
dark skin
brunette
'asmaraacsmar
أسمـَر
samrasamrao
سـَمر َة
sumrsumr
سـُمر
frizzy haired 'akrataackrat
أكر َت
kartakartao
كـَرتـَة
kurtkurt
كـُرت
left handed 'ashwalaacshwal
أشو َل
shoolashwlao
شولـَة
shoolshwl
شول
right handed 'aeemanaacyman
أيمـَن
yimnayimnao
يـِمنـَة
yumnyumn
يـُمن
lame 'aAragaacArag
أعر َج
AargaAargao
عـَرجـَة
AurgAurg
عـُرج
blind 'aAmaaacAmY
أعمى
AamyaAamyao
عـَميـَة
AumiAumy
عـُمي
deaf 'aTrashaacTrash
أطر َش
Tursha'TurshaaC
طـُرشا َء
TurshTursh
طـُرش
deaf 'aSamaacSam
أصـَم
Sama'SamaaC
صـَما َء
SummSumm
صـُمّ
mute 'aKrasaacKras
أخر َس
KarsaKarsao
خـَرسـَة
KursKurs
خـُرس

Slightly, Very... Extremely...

The following adverbs can be placed after the adjective:

English Egyptian
slightly shwayashwayao
شو َيـَة
moderately bi'iAtidaalbi-iicAtidaal
بـِإعتـِدا َل
very 'awiqawy
قـَوي
extremely KaaliSKaaliS
خا َلـِص
giddangiddaaN
جـِدّاً
Aail'aKirAa-iil-aacKir
عـَا ِلأخـِر
too 'awiqawy
قـَوي

Here are some examples:

English Egyptian
the car is slightly damaged ilAarabiya 'itDarrarit shwayaiil-Aarabiyao iictDarrarit shwayao
ا ِلعـَر َبـِيـَة إتضـَرّ َر ِت شو َيـَة
the carpet was very expensive ilsigaada kaanit Galya 'awiiil-sigaadao kaanit Gaalyao qawy
ا ِلسـِجا َد َة كا َنـِت غا َليـَة قـَوي
he is extremely rich huwwa Gani giddanhuwwa Gany giddaaN
هـُوّ َ غـَني جـِدّاً
this house is too big ilbiyt dih kibeer 'awiiil-biyt dih kibyr qawy
ا ِلبـِيت د ِه كـِبير قـَوي

You may have noticed that the word qawy has two meanings: very and too. This sometimes causes confusion when Egyptians speak english: they say, for example, too much when they mean very much.

Comparatives

In english we take an adjective like big and add suffixes -er to make comparative bigger and -est to make the superlative biggest. In Egyptian there is one word, a comparative, that is used for both. The context indicates the meaning.

We can compare two things using minmin مـِن:

EnglishEgyptian
Ahmad is taller than me 'ahmad 'aTwal minniaacHmad aacTwal minny
أحمـَد أطو َل مـِنّي
he is more stupid than I thought huwwa 'aGba min makunt faakirhuwwa aacGbY min makunt faakir
هـُوّ َ أغبى مـِن مـَكـُنت فا َكـِر

We can also make comparison without specifying the second thing like this:

EnglishEgyptian
Ahmad is a lot taller 'ahmad 'aTwal bikiteeraacHmad aacTwal bi-kityr
أحمـَد أطو َل بـِكـِتير
the weather will be a little better tomorrow ilgaww haykoon 'ahsan shuwaya bukraiil-gaww Haykwn aacHsan shuwayao bukrao
ا ِلجـَوّ حـَيكون أحسـَن شـُو َيـَة بـُكر َة

For the superlative (best, biggest) the comparative is used immediately before a noun:

EnglishEgyptian
mohammed is the tallest student muhammad 'aTwal TaalibmuHammad aacTwal Taalib
مـُحـَمّـَد أطو َل طا َلـِب
he is the youngest boy huwwa 'aSGar waladhuwwa aacSGar walad
هـُوّ َ أصغـَر و َلـَد
the tallest student is 1m90 ilTaalib il'aTwal Toolooh mitr 1 wa 90 santiiil-Taalib iil-aacTwal Twlwh mitr 1 wa 90 santy
ا ِلطا َلـِب ا ِلأطو َل طولوه مـِتر ١ و َ ٩٠ سـَنتي
the most expensive drink is 20 pounds ilmashroob il'aGla 20 gineehiil-mashrwb iil-aacGlY 20 ginyh
ا ِلمـَشروب ا ِلأغلى ٢٠ جـِنيه
this is the prettiest dress in the shop dih 'ahla fustaan fi ilmahaldih aacHlY fustaan fy iil-maHal
د ِه أحلى فـُستا َن في ا ِلمـَحـَل
it was the best day in my life kaan 'ahsan yoom fi hayaatikaan aacHsan ywm fy Hayaaty
كا َن أحسـَن يوم في حـَيا َتي

Making comparatives

As you may have noticed from the previous examples, the comparative is often derived from the adjective as follows:

Englishadjectivecomparative
big kibeerkibyr
كـِبير
'akbaraackbar
أكبـَر
easy sahlsahl
سـَهل
'ashalaacs-hal
أسهـَل
tall TaweelTawyl
طـَويل
'aTwalaacTwal
أطو َل
classy raaQiraaQy
را َقي
'arQaaacrQY
أرقى
exceptions
good kuwayyiskuwayyis
كـُو َييـِس
'ahsanaacHsan
أحسـَن

For adjectives with two consonants and ending in i_y ـي or w_w ـو, the final letter changes to alif-layena a_Y ـى.

Englishadjectivecomparative
pretty hilwHilw
حـِلو
'ahlaaacHlY
أحلى
expensive GaaliGaaly
غا َلي
'aGlaaacGlY
أغلى
loud/high AaaliAaaly
عا َلي
'aAlaaacAlY
أعلى
rich GaniGany
غـَني
'aGnaaacGnY
أغنى
healthy SahiSaHy
صـَحي
no comp
stupid GabiGaby
غـَبي
'aGbaaacGbY
أغبى
clever zakidhaky
ذ َكي
'azkaaacdhkY
أذكى

For adjectives with three consonants where the last two consonants are the same, the middle vowel is replaced with a fatha a_a ـَ.

Englishadjectivecomparative
serious gaddgadd
جـَدّ
no comp
new gideedgidyd
جـِديد
'agdadaacgdad
أجد َد
important muhimmmuhimm
مـُهـِمّ
'ahammaachamm
أهـَمّ
numerous AadeedAadyd
عـَديد
no comp
lucky mahZooZmaHZwZ
مـَحظوظ
no comp
popular mahboobmaHbwb
مـَحبوب
'ahabbaacHabb
أحـَبّ
light KafeefKafyf
خـَفيف
'aKaffaacKaff
أخـَفّ
delicious lazeezladhydh
لـَذيذ
'alazzaacladhdh
ألـَذّ
few 'alayilqalayil
قـَلـَيـِل
'a'aalaacqaal
أقا َل

In English, it is not possible to make a comparative in the usual way from some adjectives, for example interesting: instead, we say more interesting. The same is true in Egyptian: the words 'aktaraacktar أكتـَر - more and 'a'aalaacqaal أقا َل - less are used with the adjective. Here are examples of adjectives that are handled this way

GroupEnglishEgyptian
participles
beginning with mm_ مـ
the contract is more acceptable like this ilAa'd ma'bool 'aktar kidahiil-Aaqd maqbwl aacktar kidah
ا ِلعـَقد مـَقبول أكتـَر كـِد َه
participles
beginning with tata_ تـَ
I am less traditional than you 'ana ta'lidi 'a'aal minnakaacnaa taqlidy aacqaal min-nak
أنا َ تـَقلـِدي أقا َل مـِنّـَك
adjectives
beginning with 'aaac_ أـ
he gets more selfish every day huwwa biyib'a 'anaani 'aktar kul yoomhuwwa biyibqaa aacnaany aacktar kul ywm
هـُوّ َ بـِيـِبقا َ أنا َني أكتـَر كـُل يوم
adjectives
ending with an_aaN ـاً
Sarah is more tired than Ahmed saara taAbaana 'aktar min 'ahmadsaarao taAbaanao aacktar min aacHmad
سا َر َة تـَعبا َنـَة أكتـَر مـِن أحمـَد

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