Egyptian Arabic Grammar


Nouns

A noun represents a person, thing or concept. Here are some examples:

TypeEnglishArabic
personAhmed'ahmadaacHmad
أحمـَد
personmanraagilraagil
را َجـِل
personplayerlaaAiblaaAib
لا َعـِب
thingleathergildgild
جـِلد
conceptwisdomhikmaHikmao
حـِكمـَة
conceptappointmentmeeAaadmyAaad
ميعا َد

Masculine and feminine

In arabic, nouns can be masculine or feminine. This does not necessarily mean that they belong to male and female persons. Most words that end with a_ao ــَة are feminine. Egyptian spelling is somewhat whimsical: some people use ah_ah ــَه at the end of feminine words.

In addition, there are a small number of words that do not end in a_ao ــَة that are also feminine. Some of these words are obvious: others less so. Here are some examples of feminine nouns:

Feminine nouns
EnglishArabic
ideafikrafikrao
فـِكر َة
womansittsitt
سـِتّ
daughterbintbint
بـِنت
firenaarnaar
نا َر
headraasraas
را َس
legriglrigl
ر ِجل
earwidnwidn
و ِدن
France
and all other countries
faransafaransaa
فـَر َنساَ
Tunis
and some other cities
ToonisTwnis
طونـِس

Plurals

If there is more than one of something, the noun becomes a plural. For the majority of English words, we make a small change to the ending - book/books, story/stories: there are a few exceptions, for example child/children. The same is true in Egyptian: for many nouns, only the ending changes, though for quite a few the word itself changes. Here are some of the simple ones:

Gender Ending Singular Plural
masculine yn_yn
ـين
muhaasibmuHaasib
مـُحا َسـِب
muhaasibynmuHaasib-yn
مـُحا َسـِبين
feminine aat_aat
ـا َت
muhasbamuHaasb-ao
مـُحا َسب َة
muhaasibaatmuHaasib-aat
مـُحا َسـِبا َت

For the majority of masculine nouns and for a few feminine nouns, the plural is formed by re-arranging the vowels- usually converting short vowels for long: it's probably easiest just to remember the plural when you learn a new word, rather than trying to work out the rules. Here are some examples:

EnglishSingular Plural
manraagilraagil
را َجـِل
rigaelarigaelaa
ر ِجا َلاَ
dogkalbkalb
كـَلب
kilaebkilaeb
كـِلا َب
fingernailDufrDufr
ضـُفر
DawaefirDawaefir
ضـَوا َفـِر
bookkitaebkitaeb
كـِتا َب
kutubkutub
كـُتـُب
storyQiSSaQiSSao
قـِصّـَة
QiSaSQiSaS
قـِصـَص
kingmalikmalik
مـَلـِك
mulookmulwk
مـُلوك
typeSanfSanf
صـَنف
'aSnaafaacSnaaf
أصنا َف
brokersimsaarsimsaar
سـِمسا َر
samasrasamasrao
سـَمـَسر َة


A very small number of nouns have a different plural when you are talking about between 3 and 10 of them. These are:

EnglishSingular Plural
dayyoomywm
يوم
tiyaemtiyaem
تـِيا َم
montshahrshahr
شـَهر
tushhoortushhwr
تـُشهور
personnafarnafar
نـَفـَر
tinfaartinfaar
تـِنفا َر
plateTaba'Tabaq
طـَبـَق
tiTbaa'tiTbaaq
تـِطبا َق
thousand'alfaaclf
ألف
talaaftalaaf
تـَلا َف

Occupations

Generally speaking, the plural for trades ends with either yn_yn ـين or aya_ayao ــَيـَة, but for professions there are different endings for men yn_yn ـين and women aat_aat ـا َت.

English Singular Plural
carpenter naggaarnaggaar
نـَجّا َر
naggaarynnaggaar-yn
نـَجّا َرين
greengrocer KuDariKuDary
خـُضـَري
KuDariyyaKuDariy-yao
خـُضـَر ِييـَة
male teacher mudarrismudarris
مـُد َرّ ِس
mudarrisynmudarris-yn
مـُد َرّ ِسين
female teacher mudarrisamudarris-ao
مـُد َرّ ِس َة
mudarrisaatmudarris-aat
مـُد َرّ ِسا َت

Collective nouns

In english, fish can mean pieces of fish or one fish or several: the former is described as a collective noun. In Egyptian, many foods- and some other things- have a collective noun. You can talk about one item, for example one fish, by adding a_ao ــَة ending


EnglishCollectiveone
eggsbiyDbiyD
بـِيض
biyDa biyDao
بـِيض َة
fishsamaksamak
سـَمـَك
samaka samakao
سـَمـَك َة
fliesdibbaandibbaan
د ِبّا َن
dibbaana dibbaanao
د ِبّا َن َة

Many materials- things that can be used to make something from, like leather or cloth, are treated in the same way: you add a_ao ــَة to give the meaning a piece of...


EnglishCollectivea piece
woodKashabKashab
خـَشـَب
KashabaKashabao
خـَشـَب َة
soapSaboonSaabwn
صا َبون
SaboonaSaabwnao
صا َبون َة

Pairs

The egyptian word for shoes (gazmagazmao جـَزمـَة) relates to a pair. For a single shoe, it is necessary to say fardit gazmafardio gazmao فـَرد ِة جـَزمـَة. Note that Egyptians do not consider trousers to be a pair.


EnglishEgyptian
shoesgazmagazmao
جـَزمـَة
sockssharaabsharaab
شـَرا َب
glovesguwantiguwaanty
جـُوا َنتي

Duals

If you want to talk about two people, or specify a quantity of two, see the section on two in numbers.

If you want to talk about two things (not people or quantities), you should use the dual suffix yn_yn ـين. This is equivalent to a couple which can mean exactly two, or approximately two. There are slightly different forms for feminine nouns and words ending in i_y ـي. Here are some examples:

EnglishEgyptianSuffixEnglishEgyptian
book (m)kitaabkitaab
كـِتا َب
yn_yn
ـين
two bookskitaabyn
chair
(ends with y)
kursikursy
كـُرسي
iyyin_iyyin
ــِييـِن
two chairskursiyyin
minute (f) di'ee'adiqyqao
د ِقيقـَة
teen_tyn
ـتين
a couple of minutes diqiqtyn

Genitive form

In English, one way to express ownership is to put an apostrophe-s on the end of the owned noun, for example John's house. You can do the same in Egyptian. For masculine nouns, the ending does not change: for feminine nouns that end with a_ao ــَة, the ending changes to it_io ــِة which is written the same but the t-marbuta at the end is pronounced as a t.

EnglishEgyptian
Ahmed's bookkitaab 'ahmadkitaab aacHmad
كـِتا َب أحمـَد
the book's coverGulaef ilkitaebGulaef iil-kitaeb
غـُلا َف ا ِلكـِتا َب
Sarah's toyliAba saraliAbao sarao
لـِعبـَة سـَر َة

You can also express the genitive using the word of. For example, you could say the house of John, although the 's form is usually preferred when expressing ownership. of can also be used to express a quantity or a package of something: the genitive is also used in Egyptian.

EnglishEgyptian
a bottle of water'izzazit mayyahiiczzazio mayyah
إزّ َز ِة مـَييـَه
a kilo of potatoeskeelw baTaaTiSkylw baTaaTiS
كيلو بـَطا َطـِص
a pack of cigarettesbakw seegaayarbaekw sygaayar
با َكو سيجا َيـَر
a box of matchesAilbit seegaayarAilbio sygaayar
عـِلبـِة سيجا َيـَر

Possessive pronouns

In English, you can also express ownership with a possessive pronoun, for example my, your, his. In Egyptian, you add a posessive pronoun suffix to the end of the owned noun. When you add a suffix to a feminine noun, the a_ao ــَة if converted to a _at, both in writing and speech. Here are some examples:

Englishon its ownwith pronoun
his bookkitaabkitaab
كـِتا َب
kitaabuhkitaab-uh
كـِتا َب ُه
my wifedoes not exist on its ownmiraatimiraat-y
مـِرا َتي
your(m) ideafikrafikrao
فـِكر َة
fikritakfikrit-ak
فـِكر ِت َك

See Pronouns for more information about possessive pronouns, and ownership for information about other methods of expressing ownership.

Compound nouns

You can describe a noun using another noun, for example to say what material it is made from. The qualifying noun is always singular. If the main noun is preceded by iliil_ ا ِلـ the qualifying noun is also preceded by iliil_ ا ِلـ. Note that adding iliil_ ا ِلـ to a word affects the pronunciation if it begins with a sun letter.

EnglishArabic
a plastic bagkees blastikkys blaastik
كيس بلا َستـِك
the plastic bagilkees ilblastikiil-kys iil-blaastik
ا ِلكيس ا ِلبلا َستـِك
plastic bags'akyaas blastikaackyaas blaastik
أكيا َس بلا َستـِك
the plastic bagsil'akyaas ilblastikiil-aackyaas iil-blaastik
ا ِلأكيا َس ا ِلبلا َستـِك


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