Egyptian Arabic Grammar


Questions

There are four main groups of questions.

  • Direct- what, when, why
  • Indirect- courteous question and whether
  • Confirmation - isn't it so?
  • Suggestions - Why don't you...?
  • Rhetorical- you are making a point and don't expect an answer

English quirks

In english, it is possible to ask a question in many different ways. some of these translate easily into Egyptian: others require a little thought. The ones you need to watch out for are:

  • sentences with 'do' where you are not doing anything
  • sentences with 'got' where you are not getting anything
  • sentences with how followed by an adverb or adjective (see adverbal question)

For all english verbs except is and have, you can turn a statement into a question by putting do in front of it.

you know John
do you know John?
.

In egyptian, you can either add huwwahuwwa هـُوَّ at the start of the sentence or use inflection you know john?

The word have is somewhat overused in english, and English speakers often reduce the risk of confusion by saying have you got rather than the older form, still used by most americans, do you have...?. There is no equivalent in egyptian, so inflection is used.

Direct questions

It is possible to frame a direct question in several ways:

  • using a query word at the end of the sentence
  • preceding a sentence with huwwahuwwa هـُوَّ
  • by inflection

Query words

In english, a query word normally start the sentence: in egyptian it is normally at the end of the sentence. For example

where are you going?
raayiH fyn?

The following query words can be used:

English Egyptian
what 'ieehiicyh
إيه
when 'imtaiicmtY
إمتى
where feenfyn
فين
where from mineenminyn
مـِنين
how 'izzaiiiczzay
إزّ َي
which 'anhwaacnhw
أنهو
how many kaamkaam
كا َم

followed by singular noun
what (number) kaamkaam
كا َم
how much (of something)'add ieehqadd iiyh
قـَدّ ا ِيه
how much (money) bikaambi-kaam
بـِكا َم
why leehlyh
ليه

The simple imperfect ('aAamil, tiAooz, yiroohaacAamil, tiAwz, yirwh أعـَمـِل، تـِعوز، يـِروه is often used in questions. Here are some examples:

English Egyptian
how are you? 'izzayak?iiczzay-ak?
إزّ َي َك؟
how are you?
lit. what are you doing?
'aAamil 'ieeh?aacAamil iicyh?
أعـَمـِل إيه؟
what are you doing? bitaAamil 'ieeh?bitaAamil iicyh?
بـِتـَعـَمـِل إيه؟
when will I see you? 'ashoofak 'imta?aacshwf-ak iicmtY?
أشوفـَك إمتى؟
where is the station? ilmahaTTa feen?iil-maHaTTao fyn?
ا ِلمـَحـَطّـَة فين؟
where can I buy flowers from?mumkin 'ashtiri ward min feen?mumkin aacshtiry ward min fyn?
مـُمكـِن أشتـِري و َرد مـِن فين؟
where can I buy flowers from?mineen mumkin 'ashtiri ward?minyn mumkin aacshtiry ward?
مـِنين مـُمكـِن أشتـِري و َرد؟
where are you from? 'inta mineen?iicnta minyn?
إنت َ مـِنين؟
how do I charge this phone?'ashhan iltileefoon dah 'izzay?aacshHan iil-tilyfwn dah iiczzay?
أشحـَن ا ِلتـِليفون د َه إزّ َي؟
which book (m) do you(m) want? Aaawiz ilkitaab 'anhw?Aaawiz iil-kitaab aacnhw?
عا َو ِز ا ِلكـِتا َب أنهو؟
which glass (f) is yours(m)? 'anhw ilkubaaya bitaAitak?aacnhw iil-kubaayao bitaAitak?
أنهو ا ِلكـُبا َيـَة بـِتـَعـِتـَك؟
how much milk would you like?Aaawiz laban 'add ieeh?Aaawiz laban qadd iiyh?
عا َو ِز لـَبـَن قـَدّ ا ِيه؟
how much is this bag? ilshanTa di bikaam?iil-shanTao dy bi-kaam?
ا ِلشـَنطـَة دي بـِكا َم؟
why is he going? huwwa raayih leeh?huwwa raayiH lyh?
هـُوّ َ را َيـِح ليه؟

Here are some common answers to questions

English Egyptian
How much? This much'add ieeh? 'add kidahqadd iiyh? qadd kidah
قـَدّ ا ِيه؟ قـَدّ كـِد َه
Why? Because. leeh? Aalashaanlyh? Aalashaan
ليه؟ عـَلـَشا َن
Why? It's like that leeh? kidahlyh? kidah
ليه؟ كـِد َه
Why? Better like this leeh? 'ahsan kidahlyh? aacHsan kidah
ليه؟ أحسـَن كـِد َه
Why? Why not? leeh? leeh laa'?lyh? lyh laaC?
ليه؟ ليه لا َء؟

To ask how many people or things, you should use kaamkaam كا َم before the noun. To ask for a sequence or reference number (what or which, you put the kaamkaam كا َم after the noun. In all of these cases, the noun is singular.

English Egyptian
How many children do you have?Aandak kaam walad?Aandak kaam walad?
عـَند َك كا َم و َلـَد؟
How many days will you stay?hatinizil kaam yoom?hatinizil kaam ywm?
هـَتـِنـِز ِل كا َم يوم؟
How many guests tomorrow?kaam ziboon bukrah?kaam zibwn bukrah?
كا َم ز ِبون بـُكر َه؟
What is your telephone number?nimritak kaam?nimritak kaam?
نـِمر ِتـَك كا َم؟
What time is it?ilsaaAa kaam?iil-saaAao kaam?
ا ِلسا َعـَة كا َم؟
What time is the meeting?il'igtimaaA ilsaaAa kaam?iil-iicgtimaaA iil-saaAao kaam?
ا ِلإجتـِما َع ا ِلسا َعـَة كا َم؟
What is your apartment number?sha''itak ra'am kaam?shaqqit-ak raqam kaam?
شـَقّـِتـَك ر َقـَم كا َم؟
Which is your apartment?sha''itak 'anhw?shaqqit-ak aacnhw?
شـَقّـِتـَك أنهو؟
Which floor do you want?Aaayiz door kaam?Aaayiz dwr kaam?
عا َيـِز دور كا َم؟

Pronoun questions

In english, it is possible to make a question by swapping the subject and verb. For example,

he is english
is he english?

The equivalent in Egyptian arabic is to put the query pronoun huwwahuwwa هـُوَّ or, less frequently, hallhall هـَلّ at the start of the sentence. You should think of this as "Is it so that..."

huwwa iicnta gaay maAa-naa?
Is it so, that you are coming with us?
hall iicnta raaDy Aan aacfaAel-ak?
Are you satisfied with your actions?

Inflection

In english, you can make a statement by saying she is coming. or turn it into a question, she is coming? just by the tone of your voice: the pitch rises a little at the end of the sentence to indicate a question. You can do exactly the same thing in Arabic. hiya gayyahiya gayyao هـِي َ جـَييـَة is a statement and hiya gayya?hiya gayyao? هـِي َ جـَييـَة؟, with a rising pitch on the last syllable, is a question.

Indirect questions (whether)

An indirect question is made up of two clauses: the first clause is often a courtesy clause "Could you possibly..." and the second clause is the real question. Here are some examples of direct and indirect questions.

Direct Indirect
where is the station? Can you tell me where the station is?
what is the time? Do you know what the time is?
is he coming? Do you know whether he is coming?

The query-word whether is used only in indirect questions: in egyptian, 'izaiicdhaa إذاَ is used for this.
English Egyptian
Could I have a lemon juice?mumkin Aaseer laymoon?mumkin Aasyr laymwn?
مـُمكـِن عـَسير لـَيمون؟
Can you tell me where the station is?mumkin ti'uli feen ilmahaTTa?mumkin tiqul-y fyn iil-maHaTTao?
مـُمكـِن تـِقـُلي فين ا ِلمـَحـَطّـَة؟
Do you know what the time is?'inta Aaarif ilsaaAa kaam?iicnta Aaarif iil-saaAao kaam?
إنت َ عا َر ِف ا ِلسا َعـَة كا َم؟
Do you know whether he is coming? 'inta Aaarif 'iza huwwa gayy?iicnta Aaarif iicdhaa huwwa gayy?
إنت َ عا َر ِف إذا َ هـُوّ َ جـَيي؟

Confirmation questions

If you are pretty sure about something but want to check, you can use one of the following methods:

English Arabic
he's coming, isn't he?huwwa mish gaay?huwwa mish gaay?
هـُوّ َ مـِش جا َي؟
he's coming, isn't that so?huwwa gaay, mish kidah?huwwa gaay, mish kidah?
هـُوّ َ جا َي، مـِش كـِد َه؟
he's coming, right? huwwa gaay, Sahh? huwwa gaay, SaHH?
هـُوّ َ جا َي، صـَحّ؟

Suggestions

In English, you can suggest something by saying "Why don't you..." in Egyptian, you can get the same effect by putting mimi_ مـِ on the front of a verb. For example:

ma__tsally-ny shuwayao
Why don't you entertain me for a while?

Rhetorical questions

A rhetorical question is used to make a point: you don't expect an answer. Any of the above methods can be used to ask rhetorical questions.

English Arabic
wouldn't it be better if you(m) shut up?mish tiskut 'ahsan?mish tiskut aacHsan?
مـِش تـِسكـُت أحسـَن؟
you(m) must be kidding!bithazzar, mish kidah?bit-hazzar, mish kidah?
بـِتهـَزّ َر، مـِش كـِد َه؟
you(m) are an idiot, right? 'inta 'ahbal, Sahh?iicnta aachbal, SaHH?
إنت َ أهبـَل، صـَحّ؟

Adverbal and adjectival questions

In english, it is possible to ask a question using how followed by an adjective or adverb. There is no similar construction in Egyptian, so it is necessary to re-phrase the question, usually so that you are asking for a number. Here are some examples:

Englishre-phrasedEgyptian
How fast were you driving? how many kilometers an hour..kaam keeloomitr fi ilsaaAakaam kylwmitr fy iil-saaAao
كا َم كيلومـِتر في ا ِلسا َعـَة
How often do you go to the gym?how many times a week...kaam marra fi il'usbwaA...kaam marrao fy iil-uucsbwaA...
كا َم مـَرّ َة في ا ِلأ ُسبو َع٫٫٫
How hot is the oven? what is the temperature?ilharraara kaamiil-Harraarao kaam
ا ِلحـَرّا َر َة كا َم
How difficult was the exam? was the exam difficulthuwwa il'imtihaan kaan SaAb?huwwa iil-iicmtiHaan kaan SaAb?
هـُوّ َ ا ِلإمتـِحا َن كا َن صـَعب؟

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