Levantine Arabic grammar

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Levantine Arabic grammar is the set of rules by which Levantine Arabic creates statements, questions and commands. In many respects, it is quite similar to that of the other vernacular Arabic varieties.

Word order

Both VSO (verb before subject before object) and SVO (subject before verb before object) word orders are possible in Levantine. The verb is before the object (VO).[1] However, Classical Arabic tends to prefer VSO, whereas in Levantine SVO is more common.[2] Subject-initial order indicates topic-prominent sentences, while verb-initial order indicates subject-prominent sentences.[3]

In interrogative sentences, the interrogative particle comes first.[4]


There is no copula used in the present tense in Levantine. In other tenses, the verb kān (كان) is used. Its present tense form is used in the future tense.[5]


There is no indefinite article in Levantine. Nouns (except proper nouns) are automatically indefinite by the absence of the definite article.[6]

The Arabic definite article ال (il) precedes the noun or adjective and has multiple pronunciations. Its vowel is dropped when the preceding word ends in a vowel. A helping vowel "e" is inserted if the following word begins with a consonant cluster.[7]

It assimilates with "Sun letters", basically all consonants that are pronounced with the tip of the tongue. Other letters are called "Moon letters".[7] The letter Jeem (ج) is a special case. It is usually a Sun letter for speakers pronouncing it as [ʒ] but not for those pronouncing it as [d͡ʒ].[6][8]

Definiteness in Levantine: Examples
Moon letter البيت il-bēt
Sun letter (assimilation) الشمس iš-šams
Letter Jeem (ج) الجمعة il-jumʕa [ɪl.ˈd͡ʒʊm.ʕa] / ij-jumʕa [ɪʒ.ˈʒʊm.ʕa]
Consonant cluster الكتاب le-ktāb



There is no case marking in Levantine (contrary to Classical Arabic).[9]


Nouns can be either masculine or feminine. In the singular, most feminine nouns end with Tāʼ marbūṭah (ـة). This is pronounced as –a or -e depending on the preceding consonant. Generally, -a after guttural (ح خ ع غ ق ه ء) and emphatic consonants (ر ص ض ط ظ), and -e after other consonants.[10]


Nouns in Levantine can be singular, dual or plural.[11][10]

The dual is invariably formed with suffix -ēn (ين-).[12][10] The dual is often used in a non-exact sense, especially in temporal and spatial nouns:

For nouns referring to humans, the regular (also called sound) masculine plural is formed with the suffix -īn. The regular feminine plural is formed with -āt. The masculine plural is used to refer to a group with both gender. However, there are many broken plurals (also called internal plurals),[13][10] in which the consonantal root of the singular is changed (nonconcatenative morphology). These plural patterns are shared with other varieties of Arabic and may also be applied to foreign borrowings: such as faːtuːra (plural: fwaːtiːr), from the Italian fattura, invoice.[9] The plural of loanwords may be sound or broken.[14] Several patterns of broken plurals exist and it is not possible to exactly predict them.[15]

Inanimate objects take feminine singular agreement in the plural, for verbs, attached pronouns, and adjectives.[16]

Some foreign words that designate weights and measures such as sαnti (centimeter), šēkel (shekel), and kīlo (kilometer/kilogram) (but not mitr, meter, which behaves like other Arabic nouns) are invariable. The dual form is not used and numbers 3–10 don't lose their final vowel when followed by these nouns:

  • šēkel: 1 shekel
  • tnēn šēkel: 2 shekels
  • talāte šēkel: 3 shekels
  • ʕašara šēkel: 10 shekels[17]
The 12 most common broken plural patterns[15]
Pattern (Arabic) Pattern (Latin) Example English meaning
ـَ و ا ـِ ـ CawāCeC شارعšāreʕ
أَ ـْ ـ ا ـ ʔaCCāC شخصšaḵṣ
ـَ ـ ا ـِ ي ـ CaCāCīC دكانdukkān
convenience store
convenience stores
ـُ ـُ و ـ CuCūC حرفḥarf
ـُ ـَ ـ CuCaC قصةʾuṣṣa
ـِ ـَ ـ CiCaC فريقfarīq
ـُ ـَ ـ ا CuCaCa مديرmudīr
ـُ ـّ ا ـ CuC2C2āC طالبṭāleb
أَ ـْ ـِ ـ ة ʔaCCiCe جهازjihāz
electrical device
electrical devices
ـُ ـُ ـ CuCoC مدينةmadīne
ـُ ـْ ـ ا ن CuCCān قميصʾamīṣ
dress shirt
dress shirts
أَ ـْ ـِ ـ ا ء ʔCCiCāʔ صديقṣadīq

Nominal sentences

Phrasal word order is head-dependent:[1]

  • Noun-Genitive
  • Noun-Adjective
  • Noun-Relative clause.

The genitive relationship is formed by putting the nouns next to each other,[18] this construct is called Iḍāfah (lit.'addition'). The first noun is always indefinite. If an indefinite noun is added to a definite noun, it results in a new definite compound noun.[19][20][21]

Besides possessiveness, the Iḍāfah construct can be used to specify or define the first term.[19]

Possession can also be expressed with تبع, tabaC, especially for loanwords:

  • my dog: kalbi or il-kalb tabaCi,
  • the neighbors' house: bēt il-jirᾱn or il-bēt tabaC il-jirᾱn
  • your radio: ir-rᾱdyo tabaCkom.[22]

There is no limit to the number of nouns that can be strung together in an Iḍāfah. However, it is rare to have three or more words, except with very common or monosyllabic nouns.[18]

The Iḍāfah construct is different from the noun-adjective structure. In an Iḍāfah construct, the two nouns might be different in terms of their definiteness: the first is indefinite, the second is usually definite. Whereas adjectives always agree with nouns in definiteness.[23][19]

The first term must be in the construct state: if it ends in the feminine marker (/-ah/, or /-ih/), it changes to (/-at/, /-it/) in pronunciation (i.e. ة pronounced as "t"). Whereas in a noun-adjective string, the pronunciation would remain (/-ah/, /-ih/).[19]

Iḍāfah and noun-adjective examples[19][23][22]
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English Note
كتاب إستاذ ktāb ʾistāz a book of a/the teacher Iḍāfah of two indefinite nouns
كتاب الإستاذ ktāb il-ʾistāz the book of the teacher Iḍāfah of indefinite + definite noun
كتاب الإستاذ الجديد ktāb il-ʾistāz le-jdīd the new book of the teacher OR the book of the new teacher The adjective is definite, because the Iḍāfah is definite. Both meanings are possible, to avoid confusion the preposition -la can be used to split the Iḍāfah.
الكتاب الجديد للإستاذ le-ktāb le-jdīd l-il-ʾistāz the new book of the teacher Split Iḍāfah
الكتاب للإستاذ الجديد le-ktāb l-il-ʾistāz le-jdīd the book of the new teacher Split Iḍāfah
الكتاب الجديد تبع الإستاذ le-ktāb le-jdīd tabaC il-ʾistāz the teacher's new book Use of تبع, tabaC to avoid confusion.
كتاب إستاذ العربي ktāb ʾistāz il-ʕarabi the book of the teacher of Arabic Chained Iḍāfah, only the last noun takes the definite article
مجلة جديدة majalle jdīde a new magazine Noun-adjective: ة pronounced as "ih"
مجلة الإستاذ majallet il-ʾistāz the magazine of the teacher ة pronounced as "t" in construct state
بيت خالد bēt ḵālid Khalid's house With a proper noun: possessiveness
مدينة نيويورك madīnet nyū-yōrk New York City First noun ends with ah (pronounced as "t"), second is a proper noun
مدينة زغيرة madīne zḡīre a small town/city Noun-adjective, ة pronounced as "ah"
صحن حمص ṣaḥen ḥummuṣ hummus dish

Verbal nouns

Verbal nouns (also called gerunds or masdar[24]) play an important role in Levantine. Derived from a verb root, they can be used as a noun ("food") or as a gerund ("eating").[25] Verbal nouns do not exist as infinitives, they are not part of the verbal system but of the lexicon.[3]

Verbal nouns declension patterns for the ten verb forms[a][25]
Form Verb pattern Verbal noun pattern Example[26]
Most common Variants Verb Verbal noun
Form I C1vC2vC3 C1vC2C3 Many variants ‏درس
(to study, to learn)
(a lesson)
Form II C1aC2C2aC3 taC1C2īC3 taC1C2iC3a / tiC1C2āC3 قدّم
(to present, to offer)
(a presentation, presenting)
Form III C1v̄C2aC3 muC1v̄C2aC3a C1iC2v̄C3 ساعد
(to help)
(help, assistance)
Form IV ʔaC1C2aC3 ʔiC1C2āC3 أقنع
(to convince)
Form V tC1aC2C2aC3 taC1aC2C2uC3 تجنب
(to avoid)
(avoiding, avoidance)
Form VI tC1v̄C2aC3 taC1v̄C2uC3 تجاهل
(to ignore)
Form VII nC1aC2aC3 (North)
inC1aC2aC3 (South)
inC1iC2v̄C3 انبسط
(to be happy, to have fun)
Form VIII C1tvC2vC3 (North)
iC1tvC2vC3 (South)
iC1tiC2v̄C3 اقترح
(to suggest)
(a suggestion)
Form IX C1C2aC3C3 (North)
iC1C2aC3C3 (South)
iC1C2iC3āC3 احمر
(to blush, to turn red)
(blushing, turning red)
Form X staC1C2aC3 (North)
istaC1C2aC3 (South)
istiC1C2āC3 استعمل
(to use)
(use, usage)


Cardinal numbers

Number one and two have a masculine and feminine form. When used with a noun, they rather follow it like an adjective than precede it for emphasis.[27] An exception are uncountable nouns.[28] When the number 2 is accompanied by a noun, the dual form is usually used: waladēn, 2 boys.[27]

Numbers larger than 3 do not have gender but may have two forms, one used before nouns and one used independently.[29] In particular, numbers between 3 and 10 lose their final vowel before a noun.[27]

Numbers from 3 to 10 are followed by plural nouns. Numbers from 11 to 99 are followed by a singular.[29][30][27]

Numbers 100 and onwards follow the same rule as numbers 0–99 based on their last two digits. 100 and 101 are followed by a singular, 102 is followed by a dual (102 books: miyye u-ktābēn), 103–110 by a plural, and 111–199 is like 11–99, followed by a singular.[31]

Before a small set of nouns (e.g. ألف, ʾalf, "thousand") the independent form is used in construct state (ة pronounced as "t"). مية (miyye, "hundred") is always in construct state before nouns.[28]

Levantine cardinal numbers[28][27][31]
Number Gender Independent Followed by noun Number of noun
0 / ٠ صفرṣifr Plural
1 / ١ m واحدwāḥad Singular
f واحدة‎waḥde
2 / ٢ m تنينtnēn Dual or plural
f تنتين‎tintēn
3 / ٣ تلاتةtalāte (South)
تلاتةtlēte (North)
تلت‎talat/tlat (South)
تلات‎tlēt/tlat (North)
4 / ٤ أربعةʾarbaʕa أربع‎ʾarbaʕ
5 / ٥ خمسةḵamse خمس‎ḵams
6 / ٦ ستةsitte ست‎sitt
7 / ٧ سبعةsabʕa سبع‎sabʕ
8 / ٨ تمانيةtamānye (South)
تمانةtmēne (North)
تمن‎taman/tman (South)
تمن‎tman/tmin (North)
9 / ٩ تسعtisʕa تسع‎tisʕ
10 / ١٠ عشرةʕašara عشر‎ʕašr
11 / ١١ احدعش(i)ḥdaʕš احدعشر‎(i)ḥdaʕšar Singular
12 / ١٢ تنعشtnaʕš تنعشر‎tnaʕšar
20 / ٢٠ عشرينʕišrīn
21 / ٢١ واحد وعشرينwāhad w-ʕišrīn
30 / ٣٠ تلاتينtalatīn (South) / tlētīn (North)
100 / ١٠٠ ميةmiyye ميةmīt
101 / ١٠١ مية وواحدmiyye u-wāḥad مية و-miyye u- + Singular noun
102 / ١٠٢ مية وتنينmiyye u-tnēn مية و-miyye u- + Dual noun Dual
103 / ١٠٣ مية وتلاتةmiyye u-talāte مية وتلت‎miyye u-talat Plural
200 / ٢٠٠ ميتينmītēn Singular
300 / ٣٠٠ تلتميةt(a)lat-miyye تلتميةt(a)lat-mīt
1000 / ١٠٠٠ ألفʾalf
2000 / ٢٠٠٠ ألفينʾalfēn
3000 / ٣٠٠٠ تلتة آلافt(a)latt‿ālāf
10000 / ١٠٠٠٠ عشرة آلافʕašert‿ālāf
11000 / ١١٠٠٠ إحدشر ألف‎ʾiḥdaʕšar ʾalf
100000 / ١٠٠٠٠٠ مية ألف‎mīt ʾalf

Ordinal numbers and fractions

Ordinal numbers can either precede or follow the noun. If they precede the noun the masculine form is used and the definite article is dropped.[28]

Ordinal numbers above 10 do not exist, instead the cardinal numbers are used following the noun.[28]

Ordinal numbers in Levantine[28]
Ordinal number Fraction
Number Masculine or
followed by noun
Feminine Plural Number Singular Plural
1 / ١ أولʾawwal أولى‎ʾūla أوائلʾawāʾel or ‏أولىʾuwala
2 / ٢ تانيtāni تانية‎tānye تانينtānyīn 12 / ١٢ نصnuṣṣ أنصاص(ʾa)nṣāṣ
3 / ٣ تالتtālet تالتةtālte تالتينtāltīn 13 / ١٣ تلتtult تلاتtlāt
4 / ٤ رابعrābeʕ رابعةrābʕa رابعينrābʕīn 14 / ١٤ ربعrubʕ رباعrbāʕ
5 / ٥ خامسḵāmes خامسةḵāmse خامسينḵāmsīn 15 / ١٥ خمسḵums أخماس(ʾa)ḵmās
6 / ٦ سادسsādes سادسةsādse سادسينsādsīn 16 / ١٦ سدسsuds أسداس(ʾa)sdās
7 / ٧ سابعsābeʕ سابعةsābʕa سابعينsābʕīn 17 / ١٧ سبعsubʕ أسباع(ʾa)sbāʕ
8 / ٨ تامن tāmen تامنةtāmne تامنينtāmnīn 18 / ١٨ تمنtumn أتمان(ʾa)tmān
9 / ٩ تاسعtāseʕ تاسعةtāsʕa تاسعينtāsʕīn 19 / ١٩ تسعtusʕ أتساع(ʾa)tsāʕ
10 / ١٠ عاشرʕāšer عاشرةʕāšra عاشرينʕāšrīn 110 / ١١٠ عشرʕušr أشار(ʾa)ʕšār



Many adjectives have the pattern فعيل (fʕīl / CCīC or faʕīl / CaCīC) but other patterns are also possible.[20]

Adjectives derived from nouns by the suffix ـي (-i) are called Nisba adjectives. Their feminine form ends in ـية (-iyye) and the plural in ـيين (-iyyīn).[32]


Adjectives typically have three form: a masculine singular, a feminine singular, and a plural which does not distinguish gender. In most adjectives the feminine is formed through addition of -a/e, sometimes dropping an unstressed short vowel.[33]


Nouns in dual have adjectives in plural.[20]

The plural of adjectives is either regular ending in ـين (-īn) or is an irregular "broken" plural. It is used with nouns referring to people. For non-human / inanimate / abstract nouns, adjectives can use either the plural or the singular feminine form regardless of the noun's gender.[33][20][34][16]

Word order

Adjectives follow the noun they modify and agree with it in definiteness. Adjectives without an article after a definite noun express a clause with the invisible copula "to be".[35]

بيت كبير bēt kbīr a big house
البيت الكبير il-bēt le-kbīr the big house
البيت كبير il-bēt kbīr the house is big

There is no dominant order for degree words and adjectives: Adverbs of degree like ‏كتير‎ (ktīr, "very") and ‏شوي‎ (šwayy, "a little / a bit") can either precede or follow the adjective.[1]

Superlative and comparative

There are no separate comparative and superlative forms but the elative is used in both cases.[33]

The elative is formed by adding a hamza at the beginning of the adjective and replace the vowels by "a" (pattern: أفعل ʾafʕal / aCCaC).[20] Adjective endings in ‏ي‎ (i) and ‏و‎ (u) are changed into ‏ی‎ (a). If the second and third consonant in the root are the same, they are geminated (pattern: أفلّ ʾafall / ʾaCaCC).[36]

Speakers who pronounce ‏ق‎ as hamza might pronounced the elative prefix as "h" in order to avoid two consecutive hamzas.[37]

Examples of elative adjectives
Adjective Elative
Regular كبيرkbīr أكبرʾakbar
سهلsahl أسهلʾashal
قديمʾadīm أقدمʾaʾdam / haʾdam
Gemination جديدjdīd أجدّʾajadd
قليلʾalīl أقلّʾaʾall / haʾall
Final i/u عاليʕāli أعلىʾaʕla
حلوḥilu أحلىʾaḥla
Irregular منيحmnīḥ / ‏كويسkwayyes أحسن'aḥsan (from ‏حسنḥasan)

When an elative modifies a noun, it precedes the noun an no definite article is used.[38]

In order to compare two things, the word ‏من‎ (min, lit.'from') is used in the sense of "than" in English.[38]

Examples of elative sentences
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English
أحسن إشي ʾaḥsan ʾiši the best thing
هالإشي أحسن ha-l-ʾiši ʾaḥsan this thing is better / the best
هالإشي أحسن من إشي تاني ha-l-ʾiši ʾaḥsan min ʾiši tāni this thing is better than something else

Not all adjectives can form an elative, especially those that are participles or derived from nouns. In this case, ‏أكتر‎ (ʾaktar, "more, most") is used.[33]

Examples of comparative and superlative using ‏أكتر‎ (ʾaktar, "more, most")
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English
مجنون majnūn crazy
مجنون أكتر majnūn ʾaktar crazier / craziest
هو مجنون أكتر منك huwwe majnūn ʾaktar minnak he is crazier than you
أكتر واحد مجنون ʾaktar wāḥad majnūn the craziest one


Prepositions must precede nominals in Levantine.[4]

Common prepositions[3]
Levantine English
بـbi- with; in, at
فِي in, at
مَعَmaʕ with, along with
مِنmin from; than
لـla- to; for
عـʕa- / ‏علىʕāla on, upon; to; about
قبلʾabl before
بعدbaʕd after
قدّامʾuddām in front of
وراwara behind
فوقfōʾ above, over
تحتtaḥt below, under
بينbēn between


Feminine plural forms modifying human females are found mostly in rural and Bedouin areas. They are not mentioned below.[39]

Personal pronouns

Levantine has eight persons, and therefore eight pronouns. Dual forms that exist in Modern Standard Arabic do not exist in Levantine, the plural is used instead. Because conjugated verbs indicate the subject with a prefix and/or a suffix, independent subject pronouns are usually not necessary and are mainly used for emphasis.[40][41]

Independent personal pronouns

Levantine independent personal pronouns[41][42]
Singular Plural
1st person (m/f) أناʾana احناʾiḥna (South) / ‏نحناniḥna (North)
2nd person m انتʾinta انتو‎ / ‏انتواʾintu
f انتيʾinti
3rd person m هوhuwwe همhumme (South) / ‏هنhinne (North)
f هيhiyye

Direct object and possessive pronouns

Direct object pronouns are indicated by suffixes attached to the conjugated verb. Their form depends whether the verb ends with a consonant or a vowel. Suffixed to nouns, these pronouns express possessive.[43][41]

Levantine enclitic pronouns, direct object and possessive[41]
Singular Plural
after consonant after vowel
1st person after verb ـني-ni ـنا-na
else ـِي-i ـي-y
2nd person m ـَك-ak ـك-k ـكُن-kun (North)
ـكُم-komـكو-ku (South)
f ـِك-ik ـكِ-ki
3rd person m و-u (North)
ـُه-o (South)
ـه‎ (silent)[b] ـُن-(h/w/y)un (North)
ـهُم-hom (South)
f ـا-a (North)
ـها-ha (South)
ـا-(h/w/y)a (North)
ـها-ha (South)

If a pronoun is already attached on the end of a word, the second pronoun is attached to يا (after a vowel) / iyā- (after a consonant), for instance: بدي ياك beddi yaak (I want you (m)).[44][45]

Indirect object pronouns

Indirect object pronouns (dative) are suffixed to the conjugated verb. They are form by adding an ل (-l) and then the possessive suffix to the verb.[39] They precede object pronouns if present:

  • jāb il-jarīde la-ʔabūy: he brought the newspaper to my father,
  • jāb-ha la-ʔabūy: he brought it to my father,
  • jab-lo il-jarīde: he brought him the newspaper,
  • jab-lo yyā-ha: he brought him it.[39][45]
Levantine indirect object pronoun suffixes[41]
Singular Plural
1st person (m/f) ـلي-li ـلنا-lna
2nd person m لَك-lak ـلكُن-lkun (North)
ـلكُم-lkom, ‏ـلكو-lku (South)
f ـِلك-lik
3rd person m لو-lu (North)
لُه-lo (South)
ـلُن-lun (North)
ـلهُم-lhom (South)
f ـلا-la (North)
ـلها-lha (South)

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns have three referential types: immediate, proximal, and distal. The distinction between proximal and distal demonstratives is of physical, temporal, or metaphorical distance. The genderless and numberless immediate demonstrative article ‏هاha is translated by "this/the", to designate something immediately visible or accessible.[46]

Levantine demonstrative pronouns
Singular Plural
(this, these)
m هاداhāda / ‏هادhād (South, Syria)
هيداhayda (Lebanon)
هدولhadōl (South, Syria)
هيدولhaydōl / ‏هوديhawdi (Lebanon)
f هاديhādi / ‏هايhāy (South)
هيّhayy (Syria)
هيديhaydi (Lebanon)
(that, those)
m هداكhadāk (South, Syria)
هيداكhaydāk (Lebanon)
هدولاكhadōlāk (South)
هدوليكhadōlīk (Syria)
هيدوليكhaydōlīk (Lebanon)
f هديكhadīk (South, Syria)
هيديكhaydīk (Lebanon)

Interrogative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns in Levantine[46]
Levantine English
مينmīn who
لمينla-mīn whose
شوšū / ‏إيشʾēš (South) what
لشوla-šu for what
ليشlēš / ‏ليه (Lebanon) why
أيّʾayy which
إيمتىʾēmta / ‏إمتىʾimta (Lebanon) when
وينwēn where
لوينla-wēn where to
من وينmin wēn / ‏منينmnēn where from
كيفkīf / ‏شلونšlōn (Syria) how
قدّيشʾaddēš / ‏قدّيهʾaddē (Lebanon) how much
كمkam how many
كل قدّيشkull/kill ʾaddēš / ‏كم مرّةkam marra how often

Relative pronouns

The relative pronoun, invariable for number and gender, is ‏اللي‎ (illi).[47]



Like Arabic verbs, most Levantine verbs are based on a triliteral root (also called radical) made of three consonants (therefore also called triconsonantal root). The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb, e.g. k-t-b 'write', q-r-’ 'read', ’-k-l 'eat'. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes 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 mood (e.g. indicative, subjunctive, imperative), voice (active or passive), and functions such as causative, intensive, or reflexive.[48]

Quadriliteral roots are less common, but often used to coin new vocabulary or to Arabicize foreign words.[49][50]

The base form is the third-person masculine singular of the perfect (also called past) tense.[51]

Verb forms

Almost all Levantine verbs can be categorized in one of ten verb forms (also called verb measures,[52] stems,[53] patterns,[54] or types[55]). Form I, the most common one, serves as a base for the other nine forms. Each form carries a different verbal idea, relative to the meaning of its root. Technically, 10 verbs can be constructed from any given triconsonantal root. However, all of those ten forms may not be used in practice by speakers.[48] After Form I, Forms II, V, VII, and X are the most common ones.[53]

Sound verb forms in Levantine[52][48][53][a]
Form/Measure/Stem Tendency of meaning Perfect pattern Imperfect pattern Example Root of the example Note
Form I Active or stative verb (base form) C1vC2vC3 -C1vC2vC3 عمل
(to do, to make)
ع م ل
(related to work)
Form II Causes action (Causative), shows intensity (Augmentative), or may indicates continuing action C1aC2C2aC3 -C1aC2C2eC3 علّم
(to teach)
ع ل م
(related to knowledge)
Most productive form[20]
Form III Active in meaning or shows attempt; focus is on one-sided action C1v̄C2aC3 -C1v̄C2eC3 عامل
(to treat)
ع م ل
(related to work)
Form IV Causes action, similar to Form II ʔaC1C2aC3 -C1C2eC3 أعلن
(to announce)
ع ل ن
(related to publicity)
Rare, limited to borrowings from MSA
Form V Reflexive/passive/mediopassive meaning for transitive Form II verbs tC1aC2C2aC3 -tC1aC2C2aC3 تعلّم
(to learn)
ع ل م
(related to knowledge)
Usually intransitive
Form VI Reflexive/passive meaning for Form III or active in meaning tC1v̄C2aC3 -tC1v̄C2eC3 تعامل
(to work or deal with)
ع م ل
(related to work)
Usually intransitive
Form VII Reflexive/passive meaning for Form I or no particular tendency of meaning nC1aC2aC3 (North)
inC1aC2aC3 (South)
-nC1aːC2 in medial glide roots
(to have fun, enjoy oneself)
ب س ط
(related to spreading and extending)
Form VIII Active, reflexive, or passive in meaning C1tvC2vC3 (North)
iC1tvC2vC3 (South)
-C1tvC2vC3 اعترف
(to confess)
ع ر ف
(related to awareness)
Not productive[20]
Form IX Inchoative verbs from adjectives: Changing of color or physical handicap C1C2aC3C3 (North)
iC1C2aC3C3 (South)
-C1C2aC3C3 اِبْيَضَّ
(to become white)
ب ي ض
(related to whiteness)
Very rare, replaced by ṣār "to become" + adjective[56]
Form X Sought to do something or believe something to be big, close, etc. (Denominal or deadjectival) staC1C2aC3 (North)
istaC1C2aC3 (South)
-staC1C2eC3 استعمل
(to use)
ع م ل
(related to work)
Often transitive verbs[20]

Aldrich also defines verb forms XI (for verbs based on quadriliteral roots) and XII (for passive or intransitive version of form XI verbs).[52]

In addition to its form, each verb has a "quality":

  • Sound (or regular): 3 distinct radicals, neither the second nor the third is w or y,
  • Verbs containing the radicals w or y are called weak. They can be either:
    • Hollow: verbs with w or y as the second radical, which can become a long a in some forms, or
    • Defective: verbs with w or y as the third radical, treated as a vowel,
  • Geminate (or doubled): the second and third radicals are identical, remaining together as a double consonant.[52]

Some irregular verbs do not fit into any of the verb forms.[52]

The initial i in verb forms VII, VIII, IX, X drops when the preceding word ends in a vowel or at the beginning of a sentence.[7]

Regular verb conjugation

The Levantine verb has only two tenses: past (perfect) and present (also called imperfect, b-imperfect, or bi-imperfect). The future tense is an extension of the present tense. The negative imperative is the same as the negative present with helping verb (imperfect). The grammatical person and number as well as the mood are designated by a variety of prefixes and suffixes. The following table shows the paradigm of a sound Form I verb, katab (كتب) 'to write'.[48]

The b-imperfect is usually used for the indicative mood (non-past present, habitual/general present, narrative present, planned future actions, or potential). The prefix b- is deleted in the subjunctive mood, usually after various modal verbs, auxiliary verbs, pseudo-verbs, prepositions, and particles.[20][56][57][58]

In the following table, the accented vowel is in bold.

Conjugation of كتب, 'to write' (sound form I verb)
North Levantine[59] South Levantine[60][61]
1st person 2nd person 3rd person 1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Past[c] Masc. كتبت‎katabit كتبتkatabit كتبkatab كتبت‎katabt كتبت‎katabt كتب‎katab
Fem. كتبتي‎katabti كتبت‎katabit كتبتي‎katabti كتبت‎katbat
Plural كتبنا‎katabna كتبتو‎katabtu كتبو‎‎katabu كتبنا‎katabna كتبتو‎‎katabtu كتبو‎‎katabu
Present[d] Masc. بكتب‎biktub بتكتبbtiktub بيكتب‎byiktub بكتب‎baktob بتكتب‎btuktob بكتب‎buktob
Fem. بتكتبي‎btiktbi بتكتب‎btiktub بتكتبي‎btuktobi بتكتب‎btuktob
Plural منكتب‎mniktub بتكتبو‎btiktbu بيكتبو‎byiktbu منكتب‎‎mnuktob
بتكتبو‎‎btuktobu بكتبو‎‎buktobu
Present with helping verb[f] Masc. اكتبiktub تكتب‎tiktub يكتب‎yiktub أكتب‎ʾaktob تكتب‎tuktob يكتب‎yuktob
Fem. تكتبي‎tiktbi تكتب‎tiktub تكتبي‎tuktobi تكتب‎tuktob
Plural نكتب‎niktub تكتبو‎tiktbu يكتبو‎yiktbu نكتب‎nuktob تكتبو‎tuktobu يكتبو‎yuktobu
Positive imperative[g] Masc. كتوب‎ktūb أكتبʾuktob
Fem. كتبي‎ktibi أكتبʾuktobi
Plural كتبو‎ktibu أكتبʾuktobu
Active participle[h] Masc. كاتبkētib كاتبkāteb
Fem. كاتبةkētbi كاتبةkātbe
Plural كاتبينkētbīn كاتبينkātbīn
Passive participle[i] Masc. مكتوبmaktūb مكتوبmaktūb
Fem. مكتوبةmaktūba مكتوبةmaktūba
Plural مكتوبينmaktūbīn مكتوبينmaktūbīn
Table of prefixes, affixes, and suffixes added to the base form (for sound form I verbs with stressed prefixes)[63]
Singular Dual/Plural
1st person 2nd person 3rd person 1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Past[c] M -it -it ∅ (base form) -na -tu -u
F -ti -it (North)
-at (South)
Present[d] M bi- (North)
ba- (South)
bti- byi- (North)[42]
bi- (South)
mni- bti- -u byi- -u (North)[42]
bi- -u (South)
F bti- -i bti-
Present with helping verb[f] M i- (North)
a- (South)
ti- yi- ni- ti- -u yi- -u
F ti- -i ti-
Positive imperative[g] M ∅ (Lengthening the present tense vowel, North)
i- (Subjunctive without initial consonant, South)
-u (Stressed vowel u becomes i, North)
i- -u (South)
F -i (Stressed vowel u becomes i, North)
i- -i (South)
Active participle[h] M -ē- (North) or -ā- (South) after the first consonant -īn (added to the masculine form)
F -e/i or -a (added to the masculine form)
Passive participle[i] M ma- and -ū- after the second consonant
F -a (added to the masculine form)

In the perfect tense, the first person singular and second person masculine singular are identical. For regular verbs, the third-person feminine singular is written identically but stressed differently.[64]

Depending on regions and accents, the -u can be pronounced -o and the -i can be pronounced -é.[65]

In Southern Levantine dialects, the vowel of the suffix in past tense 3rd person feminine as well as the prefix in the present tense 1st person singular is "a" instead of "i". It might be "u" in other persons of the present tense due to vowel harmony.[66]

Active participle

The active participle, also called present participle, is grammatically an adjective derived from a verb. Depending on the context, it can express the present or present continuous (with verbs of motion, location, or mental state), the near future, or the present perfect (past action with a present result).[67] It can also serve as a noun or an adjective.[68]

The active participle can be inflected from the verb based on its verb form.[68]

Active participle declension patterns for the ten verb forms[a][68]
Form Verb pattern Active participle pattern Example[69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77][78]
Verb Active participle
Form I C1vC2vC3 C1v̄C2vC3 ‏مسك
(to grab, to arrest)
(is arresting, has arrested)
Form II C1aC2C2aC3 mC1aC2C2eC3 قدّم
(to present, to offer)
(has presented, a presenter)
Form III C1v̄C2aC3 mC1v̄C2iC3 ساعد
(to help)
(assistant, has helped)
Form IV ʔaC1C2aC3 miC1C2iC3 أقنع
(to convince)
(is convincing, has convinced)
Form V tC1aC2C2aC3 mitC1aC2C2eC3 تجنب
(to avoid)
(is avoiding)
Form VI tC1v̄C2aC3 mitC1v̄C2aC3 تجاهل
(to ignore)
(is ignoring)
Form VII nC1aC2aC3 (North)
inC1aC2aC3 (South)
minC1aC2eC3 انبسط
(to be happy, to have fun)
(is happy)
Form VIII C1tvC2vC3 (North)
iC1tvC2vC3 (South)
minC1tvC2vC3 اقترح
(to suggest)
(has suggested)
Form IX C1C2aC3C3 (North)
iC1C2aC3C3 (South)
miC1C2aC3C3 احمر
(to blush, to turn red)
(is blushing, has turned red)
Form X staC1C2aC3 (North)
istaC1C2aC3 (South)
mistaC1C2iC3 استعمل
(to use)
(user, has used)

Passive participle

The passive participle, also called past participle,[24] has a similar meaning as in English (i.e. sent, written, etc.). It is mostly used as an adjective but it can sometimes be used as a noun. It is inflected from the verb based on its verb form.[79] However, in practice, passive participles are largely limited to verb forms I (CvCvC) and II (CvCCvC), becoming maCCūC for the former and mCaCCaC for the latter.[3]

Passive participle declension patterns[a][79]
Form Verb pattern Passive participle pattern Example
Verb Passive participle
Form I C1vC2vC3 maC1C2ūC3 فتح
(to open)
Form II C1aC2C2aC3 mC1aC2C2aC3 رتب
(to organize, to tidy up)
(organized, neat)
Form III C1v̄C2aC3 muC1v̄C2eC3 فاجأ
(to surprise)
Form IV ʔaC1C2aC3 muC1C2eC3 أعطى
(to give)
Form V tC1aC2C2aC3 Very rarely used
Form VI tC1v̄C2aC3 Very rarely used
Form VII nC1aC2aC3 (North)
inC1aC2aC3 (South)
Not used
Form VIII C1tvC2vC3 (North)
iC1tvC2vC3 (South)
muC1tvC2vC3 اقترح
(to suggest)
Form IX C1C2aC3C3 (North)
iC1C2aC3C3 (South)
Not used
Form X staC1C2aC3 (North)
istaC1C2aC3 (South)
mustaC1C2eC3 استعمل
(to use)


There are various ways to express the future. One is by using the present tense (with b- prefix) on its own. Another one is by using ‏بد‎ (bidd-, lit.'want').[80]

The future tense is formed with the imperfect preceded by the particle ‏رح‎ (raḥ) or by the prefixed particle ‏حـ‎ (ḥa-).[81]

Expressing the future: examples
Way Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English
Present tense بروح معك. barūḥ maʕek. I'll go with you.
bidd- (to want) بدي أمرق لعنده بكرة. biddi ʾamroʾ la-ʕindo bukra. I'm going to go to his house tomorrow.
Future tense رح شوفك بكرة. raḥ šūfak bukra. I'll see you tomorrow.
حشوفك بكرة. ḥa-šūfak bukra.

Present continuous

The present continuous is formed with the progressive particle ‏عم‎ (ʕam) followed by the imperfect, with or without the initial b/m depending on the speaker.[82][83]

Examples of the present continuous
Without b-/m- prefix With b-/m- prefix English
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin)
شو عم تعمل؟ šū ʕam tiʕmel? شو عم بتعمل؟ šū ʕam(ma) btiʕmel? What are you doing?
عم أشرب قهوة. ʕam ʾašrab ʾahwe. عم بشرب قهوة. ʕam bašrab ʾahwe. I'm drinking coffee.

It is also common to use the b- prefix only in those forms starting with a vowel (e.g. 1st person singular).[84]

Mixed usage (b- prefix before vowels)
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English
عم بعمل ʕam baʕmel I'm doing
عم تعمل ʕam tiʕmel you're doing / she's doing
عم بعمل / عم يعمل ʕam biʕmel / ʕam yiʕmel he's doing

Helping verbs

After helping verbs (may also be called modal verbs, pseudo-verbs, auxiliary verbs, or prepositional phrases) the imperfect form (also called subjunctive)[f] is used, that is, the form without the initial b/m.[83]

Common components followed by the subjunctive[f][83][20][56][85]
Levantine English
بدbidd- / badd- to want
ممكنmumkin, ‏قدرqider to can
قدرqider / ‏فيـfī- (North) / ḥəsen to be able to
لازمlazim to must, it is necessary to
حبḥabb to like
بلكيbalki / ‏بركيberki may
ممنوعmamnūʿ it's forbidden to
مفروضmafrūḍ / ‏المفروضil-mafrūḍ should
صارṣār to start to, to got used to doing
بلشballaš to begin to
فضلfiḍel / bəʾi to end up
ضلḍall / ‏تمtamm to keep doing
رجعrijeʕ to start doing again
كانkān used to doing

Compound tenses

The verb ‏كان‎ (kān) can be followed by another verb, forming compound tenses. Both verbs are conjugated with their subject.[86]

Compound tenses with the example of the verb ʕimil (to do)[86][87][80]
kān in the past tense kān in the present tense
Followed by Levantine English Levantine English
Past tense كان عمل kān ʕimel he had done بكون عمل bikūn ʕimel he will have done
Active participle كان عامل kān ʕāmel he had done بكون عامل bikūn ʕāmel he will have done
Subjunctive كان يعمل kān yiʕmel he used to do / he was doing بكون يعمل bikūn yiʕmel he will be doing
Progressive كان عم يعمل kān ʕam yiʕmel he was doing بكون عم يعمل bikūn ʕam yiʕmel he will be doing
Future tense كان رح يعمل kān raḥ yiʕmel
كان حيعمل kān ḥa-yiʕmel
he was going to do
Present tense كان بعمل kān biʕmel he would do

Passive voice

Form I verbs often correspond to an equivalent passive form VII verb, with the prefix n-. Form II and form III verbs usually correspond to an equivalent passive on forms V and VI, respectively, with the prefix t-.[52][88]

Examples of passive forms
Active Passive
Verb form Levantine English Verb form Levantine English
I مسكmasak to catch VII انمسكinmasak to be caught
II غيّرḡayyar to change V تغيّرtḡayyar to be changed
III فاجأfājaʾ to surprise VI تفاجأtfājaʾ to be surprised

While the verb forms V, VI and VII are common in the simple past and compound tenses, the passive participle (past participle) is preferred in the present tense.[89]

Examples of the passive voice[89]
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English Verb form Tense
الكتاب مكتوب. le-ktāb maktūb The book is written. I passive participle
الكتاب عم بنكتب. le-ktāb ʕam binkateb The book is being written. VII progressive
الكتاب انكتب. le-ktāb inkatab The book has been written. / The book was written. VII past tense
الكتاب كان مكتوب. le-ktāb kān maktūb The book was written. I kān + passive participle
الكتاب رح ينكتب. le-ktāb raḥ yinkateb The book will be written. VII future

To have

Levantine does not have a verb "to have". Instead, possession is expressed using the prepositions عند (ʕind, lit.'at', meaning "to possess") and مع (maʕ, lit.'with', meaning "to have on oneself"), followed by personal pronoun suffixes. The past indicator ken and the future indicator raH are used to express possession in the past or the future, respectively.[90][91]

Inflected forms of عند (ʕind, "at", "to possess, to have")
Base form عندʕind
including forms
singular plural
m f
1st person عنديʕindi عنّاʕinna
2nd person عندكʕindak عندكʕindek عندكمʕindkom (South) / ‏عندكنʕindkun (North)
3rd person عندهʕindo (South) / ‏عندوʕindu (North) عندهاʕindha (South) / ‏عنداʕinda (North) عندهمʕindhom (South) / ‏عندنʕindun (North)
Inflected forms of مع (maʕ, "with", "to have on oneself")
Base form معmaʕ
including forms
singular plural
m f
1st person معيmaʕi معناmaʕna
2nd person معكmaʕak معكmaʕek معكمmaʕkom (South) / ‏معكنmaʕkun (North)
3rd person معهmaʕo (South) / ‏معوmaʕu (North) معهاmaʕha (South) / ‏معاmaʕa (North) معهمmaʕhom (South) / ‏معنmaʕun (North)

To want

Enclitic personal pronouns are suffixed directly to the pseudo-verb بدّ (North: badd- / South: bidd-) to express "to want".[39]

Examples of bidd-
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English
بدها تشرب قهوة. bidha tišrab ʾahwe. She wants to drink coffee.
ما بدي ياه. mā biddi yyā. I don't want it.


Levant does not distinguish between adverbs and adjectives in adverbial function. Almost any adjective can be used as an adverb: ‏منيح‎ (mnīḥ, ‘good’) vs. نمتي منيح؟ (nimti mnīḥ, ‘Did you sleep well?’) Adverbs from MSA, showing the suffix -an, are often used, e.g. ‏أبدا‎ (ʾabadan, ‘at all’).[3] Adverbs often appear after the verb or the adjective. ‏كتير‎ (ktīr, ‘very’) can be positioned after or before the adjective.[3]

Adverbs of manner can usually be formed using bi- followed by the nominal form: ‏بسرعة‎ (b-sirʿa, ‘fast, quickly’, lit.'with speed').[57]

Common adverbs[58][57][20]
Levantine English
إيمتىʾēmta when (interrogative)
اليومil-yōm today
بكرةbukra tomorrow
بعد بكرةbaʕd bukra the day after tomorrow
مبارحmbāreḥ yesterday
أول مبارحʾawwal mbāriḥ / ‏قبل مبارحʾabl mbāreḥ the day before yesterday
هلاhalla(ʾ) (common Levantine) / ‏هساhassa (Amman) / ‏هلقيتhalʾēt (Jerusalem) now
بكيرbakkīr early
بعدينbaʕdēn afterwards
على بكرةʕala bukra early in the morning
وقتهاwaʾt-ha at that time
الصبحiṣ-ṣubḥ in the morning or this morning
دايماdāyman / ‏على طولʕala ṭūl (Damascus) always
لساlissa / ‏بعدbaʕd (Beirut) still / not yet
هونhōn here
هناكhunāk (Amman) / ‏هونيكhonīk (Beirut) / ‏هنيكhnīk (Damascus) there
هيكhēk like this
على مهلʕala mahl / ‏شوي شويšway šway / ‏بهدوءbi-hudūʾ slowly
كتيرktīr very
عالآخرʕa-lʾāxir totally
قوامʾawām quickly
حاجةḥāje enough!
بسbass only
كمانkamān(e) also
دغريduḡri straight on
لأللهlaʾalla lit.'to God', used as an intensifier
عاديʕādi lit.'ordinary' or 'it makes no difference'
عشان هيكʕašān hēk therefore
مبلاmbala it is so
أكيدʾakīd assuredly
يمكنyimken / ‏بركيbarki maybe


لا and ‏لأlaʔ mean “no.”[92]

Verbs and prepositional phrases can be negated by the particle ‏ماmā / ma either on its own or, in South Levantine, together with the suffix ‏ـش-iš at the end of the verb or prepositional phrase. In Palestinian, it is also common to negate verbs by the suffix ‏ـش-iš only.[92]

Examples of negation with mā and -š
Without -š With -š English
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin)
ما كتب. mā katab. ما كتبش. ma katab-š. He didn't write.
ما بحكي إنكليزي. mā baḥki ʾinglīzi. ما بحكيش إنكليزي. ma baḥkī-š ʾinglīzi. I don't speak English.
ما تنسى! mā tinsa! ما تنساش! ma tinsā-š! Don't forget!
ما بده ييجي عالحفلة. mā biddo yīji ʕa-l-ḥafle. He doesn't want to come to the party.

مشmiš or in Syrian Arabic ‏مو negates adjectives (including active participles), demonstratives, and nominal phrases.[93][92]

Examples of negation with miš
Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English
أنا مش فلسطيني. ʾana miš falasṭīni. I'm not Palestinian.
مش عارفة. miš ʕārfe. I (fem.) don't know.
هادا مش منيح. hāda miš mnīḥ. That's not good.

The particles ‏عم‎ (ʕam) and ‏رح‎ (raḥ) can be negated with either ‏ما or ‏مشmiš.

Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) English
ما رح أروح. mā raḥ ʾarūḥ. I won't go.
مش رح أروح. miš raḥ ʾarūḥ.

Negative copula

North Levantine has a negative copula formed by ‏ماmā / ma and a suffixed pronoun.[92]

Negative copula in Levantine[92]
Singular Plural
1st person (m/f) مانيmāni ماناmāna
2nd person m مانَكmānak مانكُنmānkon
f مانِكmānek
3rd person m مانوmāno مانلُنmānon
f ماناmāna


Relative clauses are formed with the particle yalli/illi/halli (the one who) when definite things are being described. It can be used either for people (who) or objects (that, which).[94][95][96]

If the noun to which the relative pronoun refers is indefinite and non specific, the relative clause is linked without any coordinating conjunction and is indistinguishable from an independent sentence.[97][95][96]

Examples of relative clauses[96][58]
English Levantine (Arabic) Levantine (Latin) Note
I saw the boy who was playing football. شفت الولد اللي كان يلعب فطبول šuft il-walad illi kān yilʕab faṭbōl. Definite subject: use of illi
I saw a girl playing football. شفت بنت كانت تلعب فطبول šuft bint kānat tilʕab faṭbōl. Indefinite subject: sentences connected without a pronoun

In formal speech, sentence complements can be introduced with the particle ʔǝnn ("that"), to which some speakers attach a personal pronoun (o or i).[97]

For circumstantial clauses, the conjunction w- introduces subordinate clauses with the sense "while, when, with".[98]

Temporal adverbs such as baʕd (after) may be used with the "ma" to form a subordinate clause: baʕd ma tnaːm ("after she goes to sleep").[97]


Common conjunctions[20][57][58]
Levantine English
وw ~ u and (also with temporal meaning "then, during...")
أوʾaw or
يا ... ياya ... ya either ... or
بسbass but
لإنهlaʾinno / ‏حاكمḥākem / ‏لأنlaʾann(o) (Beirut) because
لماlamma / ‏بسbass as soon as
وقتwaʾt / ‏وقت الليwaʾt illi when
ما ... إلاma ... ʾilla just as soon as, hardly
طالماṭāla ma as long as
تـta so that, until
عشانʕašān so that
كل ماkull/kill ma every time that
على بين ما(ʕa)la bēn ma until
أحسن ماʾaḥsan ma rather than
لـla / ‏حتىḥatta / ‏لحتىla ḥatta / ‏منشانminšān in order to
لـla lest
إذاʾiza / ‏لوlaw / ‏إنʾin / ‏إذاًʾizan (Amman) if


  1. ^ a b c d C represents a consonant, v represent a short vowel, v̄ represents a long vowel. Short vowel variations include e ~ i ~ ǝ and a ~ ǝ.[53]
  2. ^ The accent moves to the last vowel.
  3. ^ a b Also called perfect.
  4. ^ a b Also called bi-imperfect, b-imperfect, or standard imperfect.
  5. ^ The mn- form is the most common one. However, the bn- form is used in some parts of Palestine such as Jerusalem.
  6. ^ a b c d Also called Ø-imperfect, imperfect, or subjunctive.
  7. ^ a b Also called imperative or command.
  8. ^ a b Also called present participle. Not all active participles are used and their meaning may vary.
  9. ^ a b Also called past participle, mostly used as an adjective. Not all passive participles are used and their meaning may vary.


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External links