Useful Phrases in Arabic
Here are some key useful phrases from the award-winning ArabicOnline which you can use for ice-breaking and travel.
First listen to the Arabic greetings and the expressions. Then you can read more about the meaning of the phrases below.
ahlan wa sahlan.
In Arab society a warm welcome is always expected. This Arabic greeting is from Classical Arabic with a history which goes back to the days of nomadic living in the desert. It means, literally, ‚family and easy circumstances‘, implying that you have come to your family (after being among strangers) and to easy circumstances (after toiling through the desert).
This greeting is used in all Arab countries. Other greetings are:
marHaban (welcome), which is popular amongst young people, or
as-salaamu 3aleikum (peace be with you).
May God protect you!
The Arabic name for God is allah. The name is used by Christians and Muslims alike.
All Arabs use the name of God a great deal in everyday speech, far more than is normal in most other cultures.
The phrase allah yusallmak is a standard reply to almost anything that is said which is pleasant. It can be a reply to ‚Thanks!‘, to someone saying, ‘Thank God for your safe arrival!‘ and to someone saying ‚Goodbye‘ to you as you leave. You can also say, may God be with you in Arabic!
Praise be to God!
This phrase is also used far more than is normal in other cultures. It is similar to the phrase ‚God save all here‘, which was very common in Ireland in the past. In both Christian and Muslim society in the Arab world the phrase is very frequently on people’s lips on receiving good news or welcoming someone home.
In some Arab societies praise is given even for something unwelcome or even hurtful because of the belief that everything is due to the will of an omnipotent God.
When a plane touches down, it is very common for Arab passengers to say to each other, al-Hamdu lillah 3ala-s-salaama (Praise be to God for your safety).
كيف حالَك ؟
How are you?
In Arab society it is impossible to overdo enquiring after someone’s health. You can use this phrase whenever you meet somebody, no matter how well or little you know them.
You will hear these forms:
kayf Haalak? (to a man)
kayf Haalik? (to a woman)
kayf Haalkum? (to more than one person)
Another possibility for asking how somebody is:
shloonak? (to a man)
shloonik? (to a woman)
shloonkum? (to more than one person)
This literally comes from ‚What is your colour?‘. This question is used in Iraq and many parts of Syria, including Damascus, but it is also used in some regions of the Gulf.
I’m fine, thank you.
The Arabic conveys much more. Firstly, one always replies in the positive even if one’s health is not all that great. Secondly, one always gives praise to God in saying that one is ‚in a state of well-being‘, the true meaning of bikhair.
Other possible answers are tamaam or mabsuuT (if you are in Syria) or la baa’s (if you are in Tunisia).
When one is on friendly terms, use of the personal name is normal. However, in all situations the name or the title is preceded by the word ya. The phrase ya sami means roughly ‚O Sami‘, a phrase found in old English literature.
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