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Egyptian Arabic (Arabic: Ma rī, pronounced: ; formally: اللغة المصرية العامية il-luɣa l-ma riyya l-ʕammiyya, pronounced: in Egyptian Arabic) is believed to be a variety of the Arabic language of the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. It originated in the Nile Deltamarker in Lower Egypt around the capital Cairomarker. Descended from the spoken Arabic brought to Egyptmarker during the AD seventh-century Muslim conquest, its development was influenced mainly by the indigenous Copto-Egyptian language of pre-Islamic Egypt, and later by other languages such as Turkish, French and English. The 76 million Egyptians speak a continuum of dialects, among which Cairene is the most prominent. It is also understood across most of the Arab World due to the predominance of Egyptian media, making it the most widely spoken and one of the most widely studied varieties of Arabic.

The terms Egyptian Arabic and Masri are usually used synonymously with "Cairene Arabic", the dialect of the Egyptian capital. The country's native name, Ma r, is used locally to refer to the capital Cairo itself. Similar to the role played by Parisian French, Masri is by far the most dominant in all areas of national life. While it is essentially a spoken language, it is encountered in written form in novels, plays, poems (vernacular literature) as well as in comics, advertising, some newspapers and transcriptions of popular songs. In most other written media and in TV news reporting, a standard register of Classical Arabic is used. The Egyptian vernacular is normally written in the Arabic alphabet for local consumption, although it is commonly transcribed into Latin letters or in the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics text and textbooks aimed at teaching non-native learners.

Geographic distribution

A continuum of varieties of Arabic is spoken by more than 77 million Egyptians in Egypt as well as by immigrant Egyptian communities in the Middle East, Europe, North America, Australia and South East Asia. Accents of all regions of Egypt have been increasingly adapting idioms. This has accelerated with the proliferation of education and central, government-controlled radio and TV during the past 30 years.

Among the spoken varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Cairene is the only one to have become a lingua franca in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world, in addition to within Egypt, for two main reasons: the proliferation and popularity of Egyptian films and other media in the region since the early 20th century; and the great number of Egyptian teachers and professors who were instrumental in setting up the education systems of various countries in the Arabian Peninsula and who also taught there and in other countries such as Algeriamarker and Libyamarker.

Similar occurrences to varying degrees can be found in elsewhere in Arabia, Sudanmarker, the Levant (particularly Palestine) and in Libyamarker. This trend may now be shifting with the recent ascendancy of Lebanesemarker media in the region, though many Lebanese artists choose to sing in Egyptian as well as Lebanese.


The Egyptians slowly adopted the Arabic language following the Arab-Muslim conquest of Egyptmarker in the 7th century AD. Up till then, they were speaking Egyptian in its Coptic form. For more than three centuries, there existed a period of Coptic-Arabic bilingualism in Lower Egypt. This trend would last for many more centuries in the south. Arabic may have been already familiar to Egyptians through pre-Islamic trade with Bedouin Arab tribes in the Sinai and the easternmost part of the Nile Deltamarker. Egyptian Arabic seems to have begun taking shape in Fustatmarker, the first Islamic capital of Egypt, and now part of modern-day Cairomarker. The variety of Arabic spoken by the Muslim military troops stationed in Fustat was already different from Classical Arabic, which in part accounts for some of the unique characteristics of the Egyptian dialect.

One of the earliest linguistic sketches of Egyptian Arabic is a 16th century document entitled ('The Removal of the Burden from the Language of the People of Egypt') by . It contains key information on early Egyptian Arabic and the language situation in medieval Egypt. The main purpose of the document was to show that while the Egyptians' vernacular contained many critical "errors" vis-à-vis Classical Arabic, according to Maġribi, it was also related to Arabic in other respects. With the ongoing Islamization and Arabization of the country, Egyptian Arabic slowly supplanted spoken Egyptian. Local chroniclers mention the continued use of Coptic Egyptian as a spoken language until the 17th century AD by peasant women in Upper Egypt. Coptic is still the liturgical language of the Egyptian Coptic Church.

Official status

Egyptian Arabic has no official status, and to date it is not officially recognized. Standard Arabic, a modernized form of Classical Arabic, is the official language of Egypt (see diglossia). Interest in the local vernacular began in the 1800s as the Egyptian national movement for independence was taking shape. Questions about the reform and modernization of Arabic came to the fore, and for many decades to follow they were hotly debated in Egyptian intellectual circles. Proposals ranged from developing neologisms to replace archaic terminology in Standard Arabic; to the simplification of syntactical and morphological rules and the introduction of colloquialisms; to complete 'Egyptianization' (tam īr) by abandoning the so-called Standard Arabic in favor of Masri or Egyptian Arabic.

Proponents of language reform in Egypt included Qasim Amin, who also wrote the first Egyptian feminist treatise, former president of the Egyptian Universitymarker, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, and noted intellectual Salama Moussa. They adopted a modernist, secular approach and disagreed with the assumption that Arabic was an immutable language because of its association with the Qur'an. For a while, Egyptian Arabic enjoyed a period of rich literary output until the movement was halted with the continuing rise of Islamism and Arab nationalism in Egypt and the Middle East, particularly with Gamal Abdel Nasser's assumption of power in 1954. The first modern Egyptian novel to be written in the vernacular was Muhammad Husayn Haykal's Zaynab in 1913. Other notable novelists such as Ihsan Abdel Quddous and Yusuf Idris, and poets such as Salah Jaheen, Abnudi and Fagoumi, helped solidify vernacular literature as a distinct literary genre.

Nasser undertook an Arabization campaign in Egypt's education system and government administration, which stoutly relegated Egyptian Arabic to secondary status. In the last fifty years, educated Egyptian as a result became heavily influenced by the official language - Standard Arabic. Following Nasser's death, interest in the Egyptian dialect was rekindled by vernacular authors, and calls for making Egyptian Arabic an official language and the language of education reappeared, after it did when Egypt's independence was recognized by the United Kingdommarker in 1922. In the 21st century, the Liberal Egyptian Party was founded by a group of secular activists promoting political reform in Egyptmarker, and calling for the official recognition of both Egyptian Arabic and indigenous Egyptian ('the languages of Egypt'). Some of its views continue to be a source of controversy among Egyptians, particularly with organizations such as the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

As the status of Egyptian Arabic vis-à-vis Classical Arabic can have such political and religious implications in Egypt, the question of whether Egyptian Arabic should be considered a "dialect" or "language" can be a source of debate. In sociolinguistics, Egyptian Arabic can be seen as one of many distinct varieties which, despite arguably being languages on abstand grounds, are united by a common dachsprache in Literary Arabic (MSA).


The Egyptian variants spoken in central and southern Egyptmarker, referred to collectively as Sa'idi Arabic (Upper Egyptian) and given a separate identity in Ethnologue and ISO 639-3, are mainly descended from the northern Egyptian dialect but are distinct from the Cairene sociolect in their phonology due to early contacts with Bedouin Arab dialects. They carry little prestige nationally though continue to be widely spoken, including in the north by rural migrants who have adapted partially to Lower Egyptian dialect. For example, the Sa'idi genitive exponent is usually replaced with Lower Egyptian bitā , but the realization of as is retained. Second and third-generation southern Egyptian migrants are monolingual in Cairene Arabic, but maintain cultural and familial ties to the south.

The traditional division between Lower and Upper Egypt and their respective dialectal differences go back to ancient times. Egyptians today commonly refer to the people of the north as and to those of the south as . The dialectal differences throughout Egypt, however, are more wide ranging and do not neatly correspond to this simple division. There is a linguistic shift from the eastern to the western parts of the deltamarker, and the dialects spoken from Gizahmarker to el Minya are further grouped into a Middle Egypt cluster. Despite these differences, there are features distinguishing all the Egyptian Arabic dialects of the Nile Valley from any other Arabic variety. Such features include reduction of long vowels in open and unstressed syllables, the postposition of demonstratives and interrogatives, the modal meaning of the imperfect, and the integration of the participle.

The dialect of the western desert is different from all forms of Egyptian, as linguistically it forms part of the Maghrebi group of dialects. The same was formerly true of the Egyptian form of Judaeo-Arabic.



Vowel phonemes

The Egyptian Arabic vocalic system has changed from the Classical system. The main system of vowels is as follows:

  1. Main short vowels: , or (usually in emphatic environment), ~ , & (at the end of a word), and ~ . See also Tenseness
  2. Main long vowels: , or (usually in emphatic environment), , , , .
  3. Marginal vowels: In Emphatic environment: (only in primary & medial positions), (only in final position), , , see Retracted tongue root.
  4. Main diphthongs: , , , , , , . ( predominates , though one diphthong of the two may be used instead of the other.)

 and   are derived from the Classical Arabic diphthongs   and  , respectively, when occurring in closed syllables (i.e. not followed by a vowel). Note that the diphthongs   and   also occur in the same environment, due to later deletion of unstressed vowels and resulting contraction, e.g. "consultation"  Classical  . Minimal pairs such as   "carrying (fem. sg.)"  vs   "burden" also occur, both derived from * , from Classical  . In this case, short /i/ and /u/ are regularly deleted from open unstressed internal syllables. Historically, this occurred prior to monophthongization, and   is the expected result;   is an analogical reformation based on masculine  . (Deletion of /a/ in a similar environment is not normal. It regularly occurs only in form III verbal nouns such as   above, and apparently occurred too late for monophthongization to apply.)

Egyptian Arabic maintains in all positions the early post-Classical distinctions between short and . Contrast, for example, Levantine dialects, which merge and into in most positions. In particular, note the different shapes and vowel distinctions between "book", "beautiful (pl.)" vs. "camels", "he chose"; in most dialects, all the short vowels in these words are elided, leading to the identical shapes , , .

Emphasis spreading

Egyptian Arabic is in the process of splitting the two allophones each of and into separate phonemes. In general, the back allophone ( or ) occurs in the vicinity of an emphatic consonant or of /q/, or sometimes also in the vicinity of /r/. This process by which certain (generally "emphatic" consonants) affect the quality of nearby vowels is called "emphasis spreading". Some /r/'s appear to cause emphasis spreading and some don't; hence, some linguists postulate the existence of two separate /r/-like phonemes, which differ mainly in whether they trigger emphasis spreading. Originally, whether the /r/ triggered emphasis spreading was determined by the nature of adjacent vowels: if /r/ was adjacent to /i/, it became "plain" and triggered no emphasis spreading; however, when adjacent to /a/ or /u/, the emphatic version resulted. However, there are many exceptions to this rule, so it is no more than a rough guideline.

The rule works specifically as follows: If the is directly followed by (short or long), or if not followed by a vowel and directly preceded by (short or long), the will be "plain" and trigger no emphasis spreading; in other cases (i.e. the adjacent vowel in question is or ), the will be "emphatic" and trigger emphasis spreading. The is able to "see across" derivational but not inflectional morphemes. For example, ('commerce') but ('commercial'); on the other hand, ('you (masc.) grow') and ('you (fem.) grow'). In this case, the derivational ending (which forms new dictionary entries) is visible to the and changes it to the non-emphatic type, but the inflectional (which in this case indicates the feminine singular form of the word, but does not create a new dictionary entry) is invisible to the .

When emphasis spreading occurs, it generally spreads forward and backward throughout the entire word, including any prefixes and suffixes. Unlike in some other dialects, there are no specific sounds that stop spreading from preceding (as e.g. or in spoken Palestinian Arabic). However, emphasis spreading is not completely reliable in its operation, and sometimes may not extend through to prefixes or suffixes in words of many syllables.

In words of native extraction or borrowed from Classical Arabic that contain the backed allophones and , there is essentially always a consonant of the "emphatic" sort in the word, which can be said to be the cause of the backed allophones. In words borrowed from European languages, however, this is often not the case, with and seeming to lead a separate existence (and in particular, many words containing without any possible emphatic trigger). Hence, can be said to be minor phonemes in that they only occur independently in a small number of words, and incipient phonemes in that a phoneme split is in process of taking place.

Vowel shortening, lengthening, deletion, insertion, elision, linking

Vowel shortening
All long vowels are shortened when followed by two consonants (including geminated consonants), and usually also in unstressed syllables (but note /qa:híra/ "Cairo" and a few other borrowings from Classical Arabic with similar shapes). For some speakers , the long vowels maintain their same quality even when shortened; as a result, ('cheese') is distinguished both from ('bring us!') (from + ) and ('our pocket', from + ). More commonly, shortened and both merge with . Similar variation applies to the back vowels , and .

  • ('he said') + ('to me') (* ) → ('he said to me')

Vowel lengthening
Final short vowels are lengthened when the stress is brought forward onto them as a result of the addition of a suffix:
  • "they wrote" + - "it (fem.)" → "they wrote it (fem.)"

Vowel deletion (syncope)
Unstressed and are deleted (i.e. syncope) when occurring in the context /VCVCV/, i.e. in an internal syllable with a single consonant on both sides. This also applies across word boundaries in cases of close syntactic connection, e.g.:
  • "in" + "a book" → "in a book"

Vowel insertion (epenthesis)
Three consonants are never allowed to appear together, including across a word boundary. When such a situation would occur, an epenthetic short /i/ (often indicated as such by superscripting it) is inserted between the second and third consonants:
  • il-binti di "this girl" (from /il-bint/ + /di/)

Vowel elision, linking
Unlike in most Arabic dialects, Egyptian Arabic has many words that logically begin with a vowel (e.g. ana "I"), in addition to words that logically begin with a glottal stop (e.g. awi "very", from Classical qawiyy "strong"). When pronounced in isolation, both types of words will be sounded with an initial glottal stop. However, when following another word, words beginning with a vowel will often follow smoothly after the previous word, while words beginning with a glottal stop will always have the glottal stop sounded, e.g.:
  • il-wálad áħmar "the boy is red"
  • "the boy is very big" (from 'kibi:r' "big" with deletion of /i/)

The phonetic pronunciations indicated above also demonstrate the phenomenon of linking, a normal process in Egyptian Arabic where syllable boundaries are adjusted across word boundaries to ensure that every syllable begins with exactly one consonant.

Elision of vowels often occurs across word boundaries when a word ending with a vowel is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, especially when the two vowels are the same:
  • int-áħmar "you are red" (ínta + áħmar)

More specifically, elision occurs in the following circumstances:
  • When both vowels are the same
  • With final /i/ is followed by initial /a/, e.g. b-áktib "I write" (bi- + áktib), ná:w-arú:ħ "I intend to go" (ná:wi + arú:ħ), xallí:n-aráwwaħ "let me go home" (xallí:-ni + aráwwaħ, where xallí:-ni is xálli + -ni with lengthening of /i/ before a suffix along with stress movement)
  • When any vowel follows initial /i/, e.g. dá-ll-ana-ʕáwzu "that's what I want" (da + illi + ana + ʕáwz-u, where ʕáwz-u is ʕá:wiz + -u, with deletion of /i/ leading to shortening of /a:/)

Multiple processes
Multiple processes often apply simultaneously. Example of insertion and deletion together:
  • il-binti kbiːra "the girl is big (i.e. grown up)" (from /il-bint/ + /kibiːra/); compare il-walad kibiːr "the boy is big", where neither process applies.
Example of both syncope and long-vowel shortening:
  • (friend m.) + "fem." (* ) → (compare with Classical Arabic )
The operation of the various processes can often produce ambiguity:
  • ana-ʕawz-aːkul "I want to eat", ambiguously masculine or feminine (ana "I" + aːwiz "want (masc.)" + aːkul "I eat", with elision of glottal stop, syncope of /i/ in the resulting open environment, and then shortening of in the subsequently resulting closed environment; or ana "I" + awza "want (fem.)" + aːkul "I eat", with awza from + /a/ by syncope and vowel shortening, followed by elision of the /a/ suffix)


The position of stress is essentially automatic. The basic rule is that, preceding from right to left in a word, the stress goes on the first encountered syllable of any of these types:
  • (1a, 1b) a heavy syllable: i.e. a syllable closed with a long vowel (1a) (i.e. ...C'V:...) or with two consonants (including a geminate) (1b) (i.e. ...C'VCC...)
  • (2a, 2b) a non-final light syllable that directly follows a heavy syllable
  • (3) a non-final light syllable that directly follows two light syllables (i.e. ...CVCVC'VCV...)
  • (4) the first syllable of the word.

Examples, followed by the number of the rule that applies: /kátab/ (4) "he wrote", /katábt/ (1b) "I wrote", /ká:tib/ (1a) "writer", /kátba/ (1b) "female writer", /kitá:b/ (1a) "book", /máktab/ (1b) "desk", /maktába/ (2b) "library", /tíktib/ (1b) "you (masc.) write", /tiktíbi/ (2b) "you (fem.) write", /tiktibí:/ (1a) "you (fem.) write it", /kátabit/ (4) "she wrote", /katabítu/ (3) "she wrote it", /qa:híra/ (2a) "Cairo".


Egyptian Arabic consonant phonemes
  Labial Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyn-
plain emphatic plain emphatic
Nasal ( )1            
Stop voiceless ( )1     ( )1  
voiced ( )1 1      
Fricative voiceless    
voiced ( )1   ( )2    
Tap     ~ 1          
Approximant     ( )1      

  1. , , , , , , , , might be pronounced, depending on the speaker. tends to be Egyptianized & merge with ; example: 'garage' جراش is only pronounced even by educated speakers. , & in loanwords are pronounced by educated speakers.
  2. Few rural speakers pronounce instead of ; away from Cairomarker. Pronouncing instead of is not considered prestigious.

Traditionally the interdental consonants corresponded to the . This is a feature common to all North African Arabic varieties, and is attested in pre-modern words:
  • تعلب ('fox') as opposed to (and never ). Likewise: تلج ('ice'); (price); ('three'); نتاية ('female'); محرات ('plough'); عَتَر ('tripped/found')
  • ديل ('tail') as opposed to and never . Likewise دكر ('male'); كِدِب ('lied'); ديب (wolf)
  • ضفر as opposed to ظُفر ('nail') and never . Likewise ضلمة ('darkness')

Unlike other North African varieties, Egyptian Arabic also shows another feature where correspond to sibilant consonants . This has been specially the result of modernisation and the increase of literacy, and the classicisation practice in official media, as well as a tendency to imperfectly imitate the pronunciation of the Levant and Arabia as it is commonly perceived more suitable for Islamic religious preaching, and as a trait of Egyptian diaspora. But also due to historical influence by Levantine dialects which constitute the eastern influx of the continuum.

  • ثَورة ('revolution') as opposed to
  • إذاعة ('broadcasting') as opposed to
  • بظر ('clitoris') as opposed to

Classical Arabic reflex ج is realized velar in Cairene in the same way as it is in some southern Arabic dialects since antiquity and still present in Yemen and Oman. So that جَبَل ('mountain') is pronounced rather than .

Other consonants are more marginal. In addition to appearing in native words, also appears in loanwords from European languages, such as ('parachute'), and native words with guttural vowels, such as ('my cows'). Labial emphatics and also come from loanwords; minimal pairs include ('pope/pontiff/patriarch') vs ('Paopi'). Classical Arabic became in Cairo and the eastern Delta (a feature shared with Lebanese and other forms of Levantine Arabic), but is retained natively in some dialects of the western Delta outside of Alexandriamarker, and has been reintroduced as a marginal phoneme from Standard Arabic in other dialects. , , and also appear in loanwords, though only the latter is not restricted to more educated speakers, ('jacket'). ~



Verbs in Arabic are based on a stem made up of three or four consonants. The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes and/or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as tense, person and number, in addition to changes in the meaning of the verb that embody grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive.

Each particular lexical verb is specified by two stems, one used for the past tense and one used for non-past tenses along with as subjunctive and imperative moods. To the former stem, suffixes are added to mark the verb for person, number and gender, while to the latter stem, a combination of prefixes and suffixes are added. (Very approximately, the prefixes specify the person and the suffixes indicate number and gender.) The third person masculine singular past tense form serves as the "dictionary form" used to identify a verb, similar to the infinitive in English. (Arabic has no infinitive.) For example, the verb meaning "write" is often specified as kátab, which actually means "he wrote". In the paradigms below, a verb will be specified as kátab/yíktib (where kátab means "he wrote" and yíktib means "he writes"), indicating the past stem (katab-) and non-past stem (-ktib-, obtained by removing the prefix yi-).

The verb classes in Arabic are formed along two axes. One axis (described as "form I", "form II", etc.) is used to specify grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive, and involves varying the stem form. For example, from the root K-T-B "write" is derived form I kátab/yíktib "write", form II káttib/yikáttib "cause to write", form III ká:tib/yiká:tib "correspond", etc. The other axis is determined by the particular consonants making up the root. For example, weak verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant, which is often reflected in paradigms with an extra final vowel in the stem (e.g. ráma/yírmi "throw" from R-M-Y); meanwhile, hollow verbs have a W or Y as the middle root consonant, and the stems of such verbs appear to have only two consonants (e.g. gá:b/yigí:b "bring" from G-Y-B).

Strong Verbs

Strong verbs are those that have no "weakness" (e.g. W or Y) in the root consonants.

Regular verb, form I, fáʕal/yífʕil
Example: kátab/yíktib "write"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st katáb-t katáb-na á-ktib ní-ktib bá-ktib bi-ní-ktib ħá-ktib ħá-ní-ktib
2nd masculine katáb-t katáb-tu tí-ktib ti-ktíb-u bi-tí-ktib bi-ti-ktíb-u ħa-tí-ktib ħa-ti-ktíb-u í-ktib i-ktíb-u
feminine katáb-ti ti-ktíb-i bi-ti-ktíb-i ħa-ti-ktíb-i i-ktíb-i
3rd masculine kátab kátab-u yí-ktib yi-ktíb-u bi-yí-ktib bi-yi-ktíb-u ħa-yí-ktib ħa-yi-ktíb-u
feminine kátab-it tí-ktib bi-tí-ktib ħa-tí-ktib

Note that, in general, the present indicative is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of /bi-/ (/bi-a-/ is elided to /ba-/). Similarly, the future is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of /ħa-/ (/ħa-a-/ is elided to /ħa-/). The /i/ in /bi-/ or in the following prefix will be deleted according to the regular rules of vowel syncope:
  • híyya b-tíktib "she writes" (híyya + bi- + tíktib)
  • híyya bi-t-ʃú:f "she sees" (híyya + bi- + tiʃú:f)
  • an-áktib "I write (subjunctive)" (ána + áktib)

Example: kátab/yíktib "write": non-finite forms

Number/Gender Active Participle Passive Participle Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. ká:tib maktú:b kitá:ba
Fem. Sg. kátb-a maktú:b-a
Pl. katb-í:n maktub-í:n

Regular verb, form I, fíʕil/yífʕal
Example: fíhim/yífham "understand"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st fihím-t fihím-na á-fham ní-fham bá-fham bi-ní-fham ħá-fham ħá-ní-fham
2nd masculine fihím-t fihím-tu tí-fham ti-fhám-u bi-tí-fham bi-ti-fhám-u ħa-tí-fham ħa-ti-fhám-u í-fham i-fhám-u
feminine fihím-ti ti-fhám-i bi-ti-fhám-i ħa-ti-fhám-i i-fhám-i
3rd masculine fíhim fíhm-u yí-fham yi-fhám-u bi-yí-fham bi-yi-fhám-u ħa-yí-fham ħa-yi-fhám-u
feminine fíhm-it tí-fham bi-tí-fham ħa-tí-fham

Boldfaced forms fíhm-it and fíhm-u differ from the corresponding forms of katab (kátab-it and kátab-u due to vowel syncope). Note also the syncope in ána fhím-t "I understood".

Regular verb, form II, fáʕʕil/yifáʕʕil
Example: dárris/yidárris "teach"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st darrís-t darrís-na a-dárris ni-dárris ba-dárris bi-'n-dárris ħa-dárris ħa-'n-dárris
2nd masculine darrís-t darrís-tu ti-dárris ti-darrís-u bi-'t-dárris bi-'t-darrís-u ħa-'t-dárris ħa-'t-darrís-u dárris darrís-u
feminine darrís-ti ti-darrís-i bi-'t-darrís-i ħa-'t-darrís-i darrís-i
3rd masculine dárris darrís-u yi-dárris yi-darrís-u bi-'y-dárris bi-'y-darrís-u ħa-'y-dárris ħa-'y-darrís-u
feminine darrís-it ti-dárris bi-'t-dárris ħa-'t-dárris

Boldfaced forms indicate the primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab:
  • The prefixes /ti-/, /yi-/, /ni-/ have elision of /i/ following /bi-/ or /ħa-/ (all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant behave this way).
  • The imperative prefix /i-/ is missing (again, all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant behave this way).
  • Due to the regular operation of the stress rules, the stress in the past tense forms darrís-it and darrís-u differs from kátab-it and kátab-u.

Regular verb, form III, fá:ʕil/yifá:ʕil
Example: sá:fir/yisá:fir "travel"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st safír-t safír-na a-sá:fir ni-sá:fir ba-sá:fir bi-n-sá:fir ħa-sá:fir ħa-n-sá:fir
2nd masculine safír-t safír-tu ti-sá:fir ti-'sáfr-u bi-t-sá:fir bi-t-'sáfr-u ħa-t-sá:fir ħa-t-'sáfr-u sá:fir sáfr-u
feminine safír-ti ti-'sáfr-i bi-t-'sáfr-i ħa-t-'sáfr-i sáfr-i
3rd masculine sá:fir sáfr-u yi-sá:fir yi-'sáfr-u bi-y-sá:fir bi-y-'sáfr-u ħa-y-sá:fir ħa-y-'sáfr-u
feminine sáfr-it ti-sá:fir bi-t-sá:fir ħa-t-sá:fir

The primary differences from the corresponding forms of darris (shown in boldface) are:
  • The long vowel /a:/ becomes /a/ when unstressed.
  • The /i/ in the stem /sa:fir/ is elided when a suffix beginning with a vowel follows.

Weak Verbs

Weak verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant.

Weak verb, form I, fáʕa/yífʕi
Example: ráma/yírmi "throw"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ramé:-t ramé:-na á-rmi ní-rmi bá-rmi bi-ní-rmi ħá-rmi ħa-ní-rmi
2nd masculine ramé:-t ramé:-tu tí-rmi tí-rm-u bi-tí-rmi bi-'tí-rm-u ħa-tí-rmi ħa-'tí-rm-u í-rmi í-rm-u
feminine ramé:-ti tí-rm-i bi-'tí-rm-i ħa-'tí-rm-i í-rm-i
3rd masculine ráma rám-u yí-rmi yí-rm-u bi-yí-rmi bi-'yí-rm-u ħa-yí-rmi ħa-'yí-rm-u
feminine rám-it tí-rmi bi-tí-rmi ħa-tí-rmi

The primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab (shown in boldface) are:
  • In the past, there are three stems: ráma with no suffix, ramé:- with a consonant-initial suffix, rám- with a vowel initial suffix.
  • In the non-past, the stem rmi becomes rm- before a (vowel initial) suffix, and the stress remains on the prefix, since the stem vowel has been elided.
  • Note also the accidental homonymy between masculine tí-rmi, í-rmi and feminine tí-rm-i, í-rm-i.

Weak verb, form I, fíʕi/yífʕa
Example: nísi/yínsa "forget"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st nisí:-t nisí:-na á-nsa ní-nsa bá-nsa bi-ní-nsa ħá-nsa ħa-ní-nsa
2nd masculine nisí:-t nisí:-tu tí-nsa tí-ns-u bi-tí-nsa bi-tí-ns-u ħa-tí-nsa ħa-tí-ns-u í-nsa í-ns-u
feminine nisí:-ti tí-ns-i bi-tí-ns-i ħa-tí-ns-i í-ns-i
3rd masculine nísi nísy-u yí-nsa yí-ns-u bi-yí-nsa bi-yí-ns-u ħa-yí-nsa ħa-yí-ns-u
feminine nísy-it tí-nsa bi-tí-nsa ħa-tí-nsa

This verb type is quite similar to the weak verb type ráma/yírmi. The primary differences are:
  • The occurrence of /i/ and /a/ in the stems are reversed: /i/ in the past, /a/ in the non-past.
  • In the past, instead of the stems ramé:- and rám-, the verb has nisí:- (with a consonant-initial suffix) and nísy- (with a vowel initial suffix). Note in particular the /y/ in nísyit and nísyu as opposed to rámit and rámu.
  • Elision of /i/ in nisí:- can occur, e.g. ána nsí:t "I forgot".
  • In the non-past, because the stem has /a/ instead of /i/, there is no homonymy between masculine tí-nsa, í-nsa and feminine tí-ns-i, í-ns-i.

Note that some other verbs have different stem variations, e.g. míʃi/yímʃi "walk" (with /i/ in both stems) and báʔa/yíbʔa "become, remain" (with /a/ in both stems). The verb láʔa/yilá:ʔi "find" is unusual in having a mixture of a form I past and form III present (note also the variations líʔi/yílʔa and láʔa/yílʔa).

Verbs other than form I have consistent stem vowels. All such verbs have /a/ in the past (hence form stems with /-é:-/, not /-í:-/). Forms V, VI, X and IIq have /a/ in the present (indicated by boldface below); others have /i/; forms VII, VIIt, and VIII have /i/ in both vowels of the stem (indicated by italics below); form IX verbs, including "weak" verbs, behave as regular doubled verbs:
  • Form II: wádda/yiwáddi "take away"; ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen"
  • Form III: ná:da/yiná:di "call"; dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure"
  • Form IV (rare, classicized): ʔárdˤa/yírdˤi "please, satisfy"
  • Form V: itʔáwwa/yitʔáwwa "become strong"
  • Form VI: itdá:wa/yitdá:wa "be treated, be cured"
  • Form VII (rare in the Cairene dialect): inħáka/yinħíki "be told"
  • Form VIIt: itnása/yitnísi "be forgotten"
  • Form VIII: iʃtára/yiʃtíri "buy"
  • Form IX (very rare): iħláww/yiħláww "be/become sweet", iʕmáyy/yiʕmáyy??? "be/become blind"
  • Form X: istákfa/yistákfa "have enough"
  • Form Iq: need example
  • Form IIq: need example

Hollow Verbs

Hollow have a W or Y as the middle root consonant. Note that for some forms (e.g. form II and form III), hollow verbs are conjugated as strong verbs (e.g. form II ʕáyyin/yiʕáyyin "appoint" from ʕ-Y-N, form III gá:wib/yigá:wib "answer" from G-W-B).

Hollow verb, form I, fá:l/yifí:l
Example: gá:b/yigí:b "bring"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st gíb-t gíb-na a-gí:b ni-gí:b ba-gí:b bi-n-gí:b ħa-gí:b ħa-n-gí:b
2nd masculine gíb-t gíb-tu ti-gí:b ti-gí:b-u bi-t-gí:b bi-t-gí:b-u ħa-t-gí:b ħa-t-gí:b-u gí:b gí:b-u
feminine gíb-ti ti-gí:b-i bi-t-gí:b-i ħa-t-gí:b-i gí:b-i
3rd masculine gá:b gá:b-u yi-gí:b yi-gí:b-u bi-y-gí:b bi-y-gí:b-u ħa-y-gí:b ħa-y-gí:b-u
feminine gá:b-it ti-gí:b bi-t-gí:b ħa-t-gí:b

This verb works much like dárris/yidárris "teach". Like all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant, the prefixes differ in the following way from those of regular and weak form I verbs:
  • The prefixes /ti-/, /yi-/, /ni-/ have elision of /i/ following /bi-/ or /ħa-/.
  • The imperative prefix /i-/ is missing.

In addition, the past tense has two stems: gíb- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and gá:b- elsewhere (third person).

Hollow verb, form I, fá:l/yifú:l
Example: ʃá:f/yiʃú:f "see"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ʃúf-t ʃúf-na a-ʃú:f ni-ʃú:f ba-ʃú:f bi-n-ʃú:f ħa-ʃú:f ħa-n-ʃú:f
2nd masculine ʃúf-t ʃúf-tu ti-ʃú:f ti-ʃú:f-u bi-t-ʃú:f bi-t-ʃú:f-u ħa-t-ʃú:f ħa-t-ʃú:f-u ʃú:f ʃú:f-u
feminine ʃúf-ti ti-ʃú:f-i bi-t-ʃú:f-i ħa-t-ʃú:f-i ʃú:f-i
3rd masculine ʃá:f ʃá:f-u yi-ʃú:f yi-ʃú:f-u bi-y-ʃú:f bi-y-ʃú:f-u ħa-y-ʃú:f ħa-y-ʃú:f-u
feminine ʃá:f-it ti-ʃú:f bi-t-ʃú:f ħa-t-ʃú:f

This verb class is identical to verbs such as gá:b/yigí:b except in having stem vowel /u/ in place of /i/.

Doubled Verbs

Doubled verbs have the same consonant as middle and last root consonant, e.g. ħább/yiħíbb "love" from Ħ-B-B.

Doubled verb, form I, fáʕʕ/yifíʕʕ
Example: ħább/yiħíbb "love"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ħabbé:-t ħabbé:-na a-ħíbb ni-ħíbb ba-ħíbb bi-n-ħíbb ħa-ħíbb ħa-n-ħíbb
2nd masculine ħabbé:-t ħabbé:-tu ti-ħíbb ti-ħíbb-u bi-t-ħíbb bi-t-ħíbb-u ħa-t-ħíbb ħa-t-ħíbb-u ħíbb ħíbb-u
feminine ħabbé:-ti ti-ħíbb-i bi-t-ħíbb-i ħa-t-ħíbb-i ħíbb-i
3rd masculine ħább ħább-u yi-ħíbb yi-ħíbb-u bi-y-ħíbb bi-y-ħíbb-u ħa-y-ħíbb ħa-y-ħíbb-u
feminine ħább-it ti-ħíbb bi-t-ħíbb ħa-t-ħíbb

This verb works much like gá:b/yigí:b "bring". Like that class, it has two stems in the past, which are ħabbé:- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and ħább- elsewhere (third person). Note that /é:-/ was borrowed from the weak verbs; the Classical Arabic equivalent form would be *ħabáb-, e.g. *ħabáb-t.

Other verbs have /u/ or /a/ in the present stem: basˤsˤ/yibúsˤsˤ "to look", sˤaħħ/yisˤáħħ "be right, be proper".

As for the other forms:
  • Form II, V doubled verbs are strong: ħáddid/yiħáddid "limit, fix (appointment)"
  • Form III, IV, VI, VIII doubled verbs seem non-existent
  • Form VII and VIIt doubled verbs (same stem vowel /a/ in both stems): inbáll/yinbáll "be wetted", itʕádd/yitʕádd
  • Form VIII doubled verbs (same stem vowel /a/ in both stems): ihtámm/yihtámm "be interested (in)"
  • Form IX verbs (automatically behave as "doubled" verbs, same stem vowel /a/ in both stems): iħmárr/yiħmárr "be red, blush", iħláww/yiħláww "be sweet"
  • Form X verbs (stem vowel either /a/ or /i/ in non-past): istaħáʔʔ/yistaħáʔʔ "deserve" vs. istaʕádd/yistaʕídd "be ready", istamárr/yistamírr "continue".

Assimilated Verbs

Assimilated verbs have W or Y as the first root consonant. Most of these verbs have been regularized in Egyptian Arabic, e.g. wázan/yíwzin "to weigh" or wísˤíl/yíwsˤal "to arrive". Only a couple of irregular verbs remain, e.g. wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (see below).

Doubly Weak Verbs

"Doubly weak" verbs have more than one "weakness", typically a W or Y as both the second and third consonants. This term is in fact a misnomer, as such verbs actually behave as normal weak verbs (e.g. káwa/yíkwi "iron (clothes)" from K-W-Y, ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen" from ʔ-W-Y, dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure" from D-W-Y).

Irregular Verbs

The irregular verbs are as follows:

  • ídda/yíddi "give" (endings like a normal weak verb)
  • wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (áʔaf, báʔaf, ħáʔaf "I (will) stop"; úʔaf "stop!")
  • kal/yá:kul "eat" and xad/yá:xud "take" (kalt, kal, kálit, kálu "I/he/she/they ate", also regular ákal, etc. "he/etc. ate"; á:kul, bá:kul, ħá:kul "I (will) eat", yáklu "they eat"; kúl, kúli, kúlu "eat!"; wá:kil "eating"; mittá:kil "eaten")
  • ga/yí:gi "come". This verb is extremely irregular (with particularly unusual forms in boldface):

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st gí:-t or gé:-t gí:-na or gé:-na á:-gi ní:-gi
2nd masculine gí:-t or gé:-t gí:-tu or gé:-tu tí:-gi tí:-g-u taʕá:l-a taʕá:l-u
feminine gí:-ti or gé:-ti tí:-g-i taʕá:l-i
3rd masculine or gé:

  gá:-ni (or -li)
"he came to me"
but not *gé:-ni

  but gu:-ni (or -li)
"they came to me"
yí:-gi yí:-g-u
feminine gat tí:-gi

Example: ga/yí:gi "come": non-finite forms

Number/Gender Active Participle Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. gayy migíyy
Fem. Sg. gáyy-a
Pl. gayy-í:n

Table of Verb Forms

In this section all verb classes and their corresponding stems are listed, excluding the small number of irregular verbs described above. Verb roots are indicated schematically using capital letters to stand for consonants in the root:
  • F = first consonant of root
  • M = middle consonant of three-consonant root
  • S = second consonant of four-consonant root
  • T = third consonant of four-consonant root
  • L = last consonant of root
Hence, the root F-M-L stands for all three-consonant roots, and F-S-T-L stands for all four-consonant roots. (Traditional Arabic grammar uses F-ʕ-L and F-ʕ-L-L, respectively, but the system used here appears in a number of grammars of spoken Arabic dialects and is probably less confusing for English speakers, since the forms are easier to pronounce than those involving /ʕ/.)

The following table lists the prefixes and suffixes to be added to mark tense, person, number and gender, and the stem form to which they are added. The forms involving a vowel-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAv or NPv, are highlighted in silver. The forms involving a consonant-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAc, are highlighted in gold. The forms involving a no suffix, and corresponding stem PA0 or NP0, are unhighlighted.

Tense/Mood Past Non-Past
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st PAc-'t PAc-'na a-NP0 ni-NP0
2nd masculine PAc-'t PAc-'tu ti-NP0 ti-NPv-u
feminine PAc-'ti ti-NPv-i
3rd masculine PA0 PAv-'u yi-NP0 yi-NPv-u
feminine PAv-'it ti-NP0

The following table lists the verb classes along with the form of the past and non-past stems, active and passive participles, and verbal noun, in addition to an example verb for each class.

  • Italicized forms are those that follow automatically from the regular rules of vowel shortening and deletion.
  • Multisyllabic forms without a stress mark have variable stress, depending on the nature of the suffix added, following the regular rules of stress assignment.
  • Many participles and verbal nouns have acquired an extended sense. In fact, participles and verbal nouns are the major sources for lexical items based on verbs, especially derived (i.e. non-Form-I) verbs.
  • Some verb classes do not have a regular verbal noun form; rather, the verbal noun varies from verb to verb. Even in verb classes that do have a regular verbal noun form, there are exceptions. In addition, some verbs share a verbal noun with a related verb from another class (in particular, many passive verbs use the corresponding active verb's verbal noun, which can be interpreted in either an active or passive sense). Some verbs appear to lack a verbal noun entirely. (In such a case, a paraphrase would be used involving a clause beginning with inn.)
  • Outside of Form I, passive participles as such are usually non-existent; instead, the active participle of the corresponding passive verb class (e.g. Forms V, VI, VIIt/VIIn for Forms II, III, I respectively) is used. The exception is certain verbs in Forms VIII and X that contain a "classicized" passive participle that is formed in imitation of the corresponding participle in Classical Arabic, e.g. mistáʕmil "using", mustáʕmal "used".
  • Not all forms have a separate verb class for hollow or doubled roots. When no such class is listed below, roots of that shape appear as strong verbs in the corresponding form, e.g. Form II strong verb dˤáyyaʕ/yidˤáyyaʕ "waste, lose" related to Form I hollow verb dˤá:ʕ/yidˤí:ʕ "be lost", both from root Dˤ-Y-ʕ.

Form Root Type Stem Participle Verbal Noun Example
Past Non-Past Active Passive
Person of Suffix 1st/2nd 3rd
Suffix Type Cons-Initial None Vowel-Initial None Vowel-Initial
Suffix Name PAc PA0 PAv NP0 NPv
I Strong FaMaL FMaL Fá:MiL maFMú:L (varies, e.g.

fátaħ/yíftaħ "open"
FMiL kátab/yíktib "write"
FMuL dáxal/yúdxul "enter"
FiMiL FiML FMaL fíhim/yífham "understand"
FMiL mísik/yímsik "hold, catch"
FMuL síkin/yúskun "reside"
I Weak FaMé: FáMa FaM FMa FM Fá:Mi máFMi (varies, e.g.

FaMy, máFMa)
báʔa/yíbʔa "remain"
FMi FM ráma/yírmi "throw"
FiMí: FíMi FíMy FMa FM nísi/yínsa "forget"
FMi FM míʃi/yímʃi "walk"
I Hollow FíL Fá:L Fí:L Fá:yiL (mitFá:L, properly
Form VIIt)
(varies, e.g.

Fe:L, Fo:L)
ga:b/yigí:b "bring"
FúL Fú:L ʃa:f/yiʃú:f "see"
FíL Fá:L na:m/yiná:m "sleep"
FúL xa:f/yixá:f "fear"
I Doubled FaMMé: FáMM FíMM Fá:MiM maFMú:M (varies, e.g.

ħabb/yiħíbb "love"
FúMM ħatˤtˤ/yiħútˤtˤ "put"
II Strong FaMMaL miFáMMaL taFMí:L ɣáyyarˤ/yiɣáyyarˤ "change"
FaMMiL miFáMMiL dárris/yidárris "teach"
II Weak FaMMé: FáMMa FáMM FáMMi FáMM miFáMMi taFMíya wárra/yiwárri "show"
III Strong FaMíL Fá:MiL FáML Fá:MiL FáML miFá:MiL miFáMLa zá:kir/yizá:kir "study"
III Weak FaMé: Fá:Ma Fá:M Fá:Mi Fá:M miFá:Mi miFáMya ná:da/yiná:di "call"
IV Strong ʔáFMaL FMiL míFMiL iFMá:L ʔársal /ˈʔarsal/ /yírsil "send"
IV Weak ʔaFMé: ʔáFMa ʔáFM FMi FM míFMi (uncommon) ʔárˤdˤa/yírˤdˤi "please"
IV Hollow ʔaFáL ʔaFá:L Fí:L miFí:L iFá:La ʔafá:d/yifí:d "inform"
IV Doubled ʔaFaMMé: ʔaFáMM FíMM miFíMM iFMá:M ???
V Strong itFaMMaL tFaMMaL mitFáMMaL taFáMMuL (or Form II) itmárˤrˤan/yitmárˤrˤan "practice"
itFaMMiL tFaMMiL mitFáMMiL itkállim/yitkállim "speak"
V Weak itFaMMé: itFáMMa itFáMM tFáMMa tFáMM mitFáMMi (use Form II) itʔáwwa/yitʔáwwa "become strong"
VI Strong itFaMíL itFá:MiL itFáML tFá:MiL tFáML mitFá:MiL taFá:MuL (or Form III) itʕá:win/yitʕá:win "cooperate"
VI Weak itFaMé: itFá:Ma itFá:M tFá:Ma tFá:M mitFá:Mi (use Form III) iddá:wa/yiddá:wa "be treated, be cured"
VIIn Strong inFáMaL nFíMiL nFíML minFíMiL inFiMá:L (or Form I) inbásˤatˤ/yinbísˤitˤ "enjoy oneself"
VIIn Weak inFaMé: inFáMa inFáM nFíMi nFíM minFíMi (use Form I) inħáka/yinħíki "be told"
VIIn Hollow inFáL inFá:L nFá:L minFá:L inFiyá:L (or Form I) inbá:ʕ/yinbá:ʕ "be sold"
VIIn Doubled inFaMMé: inFáMM nFáMM minFáMM inFiMá:M (or Form I) inbáll/yinbáll "be wetted"
VIIt Strong itFáMaL tFíMiL tFíML mitFíMiL itFiMá:L (or Form I) itwágad/yitwígid "be found"
VIIt Weak itFaMé: itFáMa itFáM tFíMi tFíM mitFíMi (use Form I) itnása/yitnísi "be forgotten"
VIIt Hollow itFáL itFá:L tFá:L mitFá:L itFiyá:L (or Form I) itbá:ʕ/yitbá:ʕ "be sold"
VIIt Doubled itFaMMé: itFáMM tFáMM mitFáMM itFiMá:M (or Form I) itʕádd/yitʕádd "be counted"
VIII Strong iFtáMaL FtíMiL FtíML miFtíMiL, muFtáMiL (classicized) muFtáMaL (classicized) iFtiMá:L (or Form I) istálam/yistílim "receive"
VIII Weak iFtaMé: iFtáMa iFtáM FtíMi FtíM miFtíMi, muFtáMi (classicized) (use Form I) iʃtára/yiʃtíri "buy"
VIII Hollow iFtáL iFtá:L Ftá:L miFtá:L, muFtá:L (classicized) iFtiyá:L (or Form I) ixtá:rˤ/yixtá:rˤ "choose"
VIII Doubled iFtaMMé: iFtáMM FtáMM miFtáMM, muFtáMM (classicized) iFtiMá:M (or Form I) ihtámm/yihtámm "be interested (in)"
IX Strong iFMaLLé: iFMáLL FMáLL miFMíLL iFMiLá:L iħmárˤrˤ/yiħmárˤrˤ "be red, blush"
X Strong istáFMaL stáFMaL mistáFMaL, mustáFMaL (classicized) istiFMá:L istáɣrˤab/yistáɣrˤab "be surprised"
istáFMiL stáFMiL mistáFMiL, mustáFMiL (classicized) mustáFMaL (classicized) istáʕmil/yistáʕmil "use"
X Weak istaFMé: istáFMa istáFM stáFMa stáFM mistáFMi, mustáFMi (classicized) (uncommon) istákfa/yistákfa "be enough"
X Hollow istaFáL istaFá:L staFí:L mistaFí:L, mistaFí:L (classicized) istiFá:L a istaʔá:l/yistaʔí:l "resign"
X Doubled istaFaMMé: istaFáMM staFáMM mistaFáMM, mustaFáMM (classicized) istiFMá:M istaħáʔʔ/yistaħáʔʔ "deserve"
staFíMM mistaFíMM, mustaFíMM (classicized) istamárˤrˤ/yistamírr "continue"
Iq Strong FaSTaL miFáSTaL FaSTáLa láxbatˤ/yiláxbatˤ "confuse"
FaSTiL miFáSTiL xárbiʃ/yixárbiʃ "scratch"
Iq Weak FaSTé: FáSTa FáST FáSTi FáST miFáSTi (uncommon) ???
IIq Strong itFaSTaL tFaSTaL mitFáSTaL itFaSTáLa itláxbatˤ/yitláxbatˤ "be confused"
itFaSTiL tFaSTiL mitFáSTiL itʃáʕlil/yitʃáʕlil "flare up"
IIq Weak itFaSTé: itFáSTa itFáST tFáSTa tFáST mitFáSTi (uncommon) ???


One characteristic of Egyptian syntax which it shares with other North African varieties as well as some southern Levantine dialect areas is in the two-part negative verbal circumfix

  • Past: "he wrote" "he didn't write" ماكتبشِ

  • Present: "he writes" "he doesn't write" مابيكتبشِ

The "ma.. " parts are not a double negation (unlike the French "ne...pas"), but rather a 'softening' of the verb-negating ma ما النافية before the verb, and the noun shai' (thing) شيئ, which is variably pronounced in Arabic dialects as shi and shai. The previous example would be classicized as "ma katab shai('an)" ما كتب شيئا.

The structure can end in a consonant (ʃ) or in a vowel (i) according to individual variances, probably reflecting regional influence. Stopping at the consonant tends to increase, with the vowel-ending considered pastoral/unfashionable. The vowel ending was more common in the past (among older people) and could be attested in old films.

The negative circumfix often surrounds the entire verbal composite including direct and indirect object pronouns:

  • "he didn't write them to me"

However, verbs in the future tense typically instead use the prefix /miʃ/:

  • (or "he won't write"

Interrogative sentences can be formed by adding the negation clitic "miʃ" before the verb:

  • Past: "he wrote"; "didn't he write?"

  • Present: "he writes"; "doesn't he write?"

  • Future: "he will write"; "won't he write?"

Addition of the circumfix can cause complex changes to the verbal cluster, due to the application of the rules of vowel syncope, shortening, lengthening, insertion and elision described above:
  • The addition of /ma-/ may trigger elision or syncope:
    • A vowel following /ma-/ is elided: /ixtá:r/ "he chose" -> /maxtárʃ/.
    • A short vowel /i/ or /u/ in the first syllable may be deleted by syncope: /kíbir/ "he grew" -> /makbírʃ/.
  • The addition of /-ʃ/ may result in vowel shortening or epenthesis:
    • A final long vowel preceding a single consonant shortens: /ixtá:r/ "he chose" -> /maxtárʃ/.
    • An unstressed epenthetic /i/ is inserted when the verbal complex ends in two consonants: /kunt/ "I was" -> /makúntiʃ/.
  • In addition, the addition of /-ʃ/ triggers a stress shift, which may in turn result in vowel shortening or lengthening:
    • The stress shifts to the syllable preceding /ʃ/: /kátab/ "he wrote" -> /makatábʃ/.
    • A long vowel in the previously stressed syllable shortens: /ʃá:fit/ "she saw" -> /maʃafítʃ/; /ʃá:fu/ "they saw" or "he saw it" -> /maʃafú:ʃ/.
    • A final short vowel directly preceding /ʃ/ lengthens: /ʃá:fu/ "they saw" or "he saw it" -> /maʃafú:ʃ/.

In addition, certain other morphological changes occur:
  • /ʃafú:/ "they saw it" -> /maʃafuhú:ʃ/ (to avoid a clash with /maʃafú:ʃ/ "they saw/he saw it").
  • /ʃá:fik/ "He saw you (fem. sg.)" -> /maʃafkí:ʃ/.
  • /ʃúftik/ "I saw you (fem. sg.)" -> /maʃuftikí:ʃ/.

Coptic substratum

Egyptian Arabic appears to have retained a significant Coptic substratum in its lexicon, phonology, and syntax. Coptic was the latest stage of the indigenous Egyptian language spoken until the mid-17th century when it was finally completely supplanted by Arabic. Some features that Egyptian Arabic shares with the original ancient Egyptian language include certain prefix and suffix verbal conjugations, certain emphatic and glottalized consonants, as well as a large number of biliteral and triliteral lexical correspondences.

Two syntactic features that are particular to Egyptian Arabic inherited from Coptic are:

  • postposed demonstratives "this" and "that" are placed after the noun.
Examples: ir-r gil da "this man" (lit. "the man this"; in Standard Arabic hāðā-r-radʒul) and il-binti di "this girl" (lit. "the girl this"; in Standard Arabic hāðihi-l-bint).

It should be noted , however, that this order is correct with regard to Standard Arabic - classic and modern - in is in use by other dialects, like beduin (الولد ذا).

  • in-situ wh words (i.e. "who", "when", "why" remain in their "logical" positions in a sentence rather than being preposed, or moved to the front of the sentence, as in Standard Arabic and English).
* r ħ m ri imta ? (راح مصر إمتى؟) "When (imta) did he go to Egypt/Cairo?" (lit. "He went to Egypt/Cairo when?")
* r ħ m ri lēh ? (راح مصر ليه؟) "Why (lēh) did he go to Egypt/Cairo? (lit. "He went to Egypt/Cairo why?")
* mīn [illi] r ħ m r ? (مين [اللي] راح مصر؟) "Who (mīn) went to Egypt/Cairo? (literally - same order)
The same sentences in Standard Arabic (with all the question words (wh-words) in the beginning of the sentence) would be:
* متى ذهب إلى مصر؟ matā ðahaba ilā mi r?
* لِمَ ذهب إلى مصر؟ lima ðahaba ilā mi r?
* من ذهب إلى مصر؟ man ðahaba ilā mi r?

Also since Coptic, like other North African languages, lacked interdental consonants it could possibly have influenced the manifestation of their occurrences in Classical Arabic /θ ð ðˤ/ as their dental counterparts /t d/ and the emphatic dental /dˤ/ respectively. (see consonants)

Studying Egyptian Arabic

Egyptian Arabic has been a subject of study by scholars and laypersons in the past and the present for many reasons, including personal interest, egyptomania, business, news reporting, and diplomatic and political interactions. Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA) is now a field of study in both graduate and undergraduate levels in many higher education institutions and universities in the world. When added to academic instruction, Arabic language schools and university programs provide Egyptian Arabic courses in a classroom fashion, while others facilitate classes for online study.

Text example

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

:Egyptian/Masri (Arabic script):
الاعلان العالمى لحقوق الانسان، البند الاولانى

البنى ادمين كلهم مولودين حرين و متساويين فى الكرامه و الحقوق. اتوهبلهم العقل و الضمير, و المفروض يعاملو بعضيهم بروح الاخويه.
Egyptian (phonemic transcription):
il-i lān il- ālami li-ħ ū  il-insān,  il-band il- awwalāni

il-bani admīn kulluhum mawludīn ħurrīn wi-mitsawwiyīn fil-k r m  w-il-ħu ū .  itwahab-luhum il-   li w-i -  mīr w-il-m frū  yi amlu b   īhum be-rōħ il- axawiyya.

Egyptian/Masri - (Arabic Chat Alphabet):
el e3lan el 3alami le 72u2 el ensan, el band el awalani

el bani2admin kollohom mawlodin 7orrin we metsawyin fel karama wel 7o2u2. Etwahablohom el 3a2l wel damir, wel mafrud ye3amlo ba3dihom be ro7 el akhaweya.


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.

Characteristic words and sentences in Egyptian Arabic

  • إزيك - izˈzayyak? ("How are you [m.]")
  • إزيك - izˈzayyik? ("How are you [f.]")
  • إزيكو - izzayˈyuku ( izzayˈyuku)? ("How are you [pl.]")
  • إيه ده - ˈ ēh da? ("What's all this?", "What's the point", "What's this?" - expression of annoyance)
    • Ex.: (ˈ inta) bit ulˈluhum aˈlayya ˈkida ˈlēh, ˈ ēh da? "Why are you telling them such things about me, what's all this?"
  • خلاص - x ˈl : several meanings, often adverbial
    • "Stop it!" Ex.: ziˈhi t, x ˈl ! "I'm annoyed, stop it!"
    • "It's over!", "finally, eventually" Ex.: ˈ ummi ˈkānit ayˈyāna w-ˈmātit, x ˈl . "My mother was ill and died finally." [or "...and it's over now."]
    • "Ok, then!" Ex.: "خلاص، أشوفك بكرة" "x ˈl , aˈ ūfak ˈbukr " meaning "I'll see you tomorrow then"
  • خالص - ˈx li "at all"
    • ma andiˈnā ˈħāga naˈkulha ˈx li "We have nothing at all to eat."
  • كفاية - kiˈfāya! ("It's enough!" or "That's enough")
  • يعني - ˈya ni ("that's to say" or "meaning" or "y'know")
    • As answer to إنت عامل إيه؟ ˈinta ˈ āmil ˈ ēh? ("How do you do [m.]?") (as an answer: "I am so so" or "half half" = "not perfect")
    • يعني إيه؟ ˈya ni ˈ ēh? ("What does that mean?")
    • إمتى هتخلص يعني؟** ˈimta hatˈx ll ˈya ni? ("When are you finishing exactly, then?)
  • بقى - ˈba a (particle of enforcement --> "just" in imperative clauses and "well,...then?" in questions)
    • .هاته بقى ˈhātu ˈba a! "Just give it to me!"
      عمل إيه بقى؟ ˈ amal ˈ ēh ˈba a?

      "Well, what did he do then?"

See also



  • Gary, Judith Olmsted, & Saad Gamal-Eldin. 1982. Cairene Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Lingua Descriptive Studies 6. Amsterdam: North Holland.
  • Harrell, Richard S. 1957. The Phonology of Colloquial Egyptian Arabic. American Council of Learned Societies Program in Oriental Languages Publications Series B, Aids, Number 9. New York: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • Mitchell, T.F. 1956. An Introduction to Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mitchell, T.F. 1962. Colloquial Arabic: the Living Language of Egypt. London: The English Universities Press.
  • Tomiche, Nada. 1964. Le parler arabe du Caire. Paris: Mouton.

External links

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