1 Chapter 1


A: Transitioning to CA: final voweling and greeting terms in Modern Standard and Colloquial Arabic

B: Greetings and ending conversations:

  • Formal greetings dialogue
  • Informal greetings dialogue
  • Practice: Complete the dialogue

C: Cultural insight:  Ending a conversation in a culturally acceptable manner

A: Transitioning to CA:Final voweling and greeting terms in MSA and CA

One of the first points to keep in mind is that in CA, final voweling is almost absent except for words like:  أهلاً، عفواً، شكراً

For example, you say in MSA, “Are you a student?”

هل أنتَ طالبٌ؟

But in CA, you will drop the final voweling as well as هل (we will explain in chapter 2 what changes take place regarding “WH-” words). So, the same question will be:

إنتَ طالبْ؟

  • You might have noticed that the hamza همزة in أنتَ has changed from fatḥa to kasra but no changes have taken place on the ت. These changes will come easily to you with more listening, interacting, and practicing in CA.

Greetings terms in MSA and CA: السَلامَات و التَحيّات

During your studies of MSA, you have probably learned greetings such as:

صباح الخير- مساء الخير كيف حالك؟

Photograph: Handshake greeting

Greetings do not significantly change from MSA to CA, but there are more expressions used in CA (with even some repetition in meaning).  It is common to ask “how are you” several times using different expressions, as you will read in the coming dialogues. It is part of the Arabic culture to greet your friends or acquaintances by asking multiple times about them and their families to show warmth and care. Let’s see some examples:

التحية بالعامية

Greeting in CA

المعنى بالإنجليزية

English Translation

الرد بالعامية


in CA

المعنى بالإنجليزية

English Translation



السّلامْ عَليكمْ

Peace be upon you.

عَليكمْ السلامْ-عليكو السلام

“On you” is peace, meaning peace be upon you.

In MSA, there is a final damma on the مُ; which is dropped in CA. This greeting is used in several settings. For example, when one is passing by a group of people and wants to say hello quickly. It will not be said to ask about how one is doing. In more religious settings, like the mosque, the م and/or final damma will be pronounced. In everyday settings, the م is often deleted and replaced by و.  Listen to this funny song [YouTube] that might give you a feel of how native speakers use this greeting.



How are you? male recipient


female recipient


نِحْمِدْ الله-

نُشْكرْ الله-




Thank God

We Thank God

We thank God

perfect; fine


When the speaker is male (LCA)

When the speaker is female.

In MSA, the attached possessive pronouns have the  case endings:

كتابُكَ (your book for أنتَ)

كتابُكِ (your book for أنتِ)

In CA, the MSA final voweling shifts to the letter before the attached pronoun; كتابُكَ

becomes كتابَكْ. Similarly, كيفَكْ  and كيفِكْ.



How are you? male recipient (ECA)

female recipient

Same responses as above but also you can say:



good (for a male speaker)

good (for a female speaker)

The responses listed in this row and the one above can be combined. For example, you can say:

تَمَامْ الحَمدُلِله; no order required or preferred.

أخْبَارَك إيه؟

عَامِل إيه؟

How are you? male recipient (ECA)

Same answers as above

شُو أخْبَارَك؟

شُو أخْبَارِك؟

How are you? male recipient (LCA)

female recipient

Same answers as above

صَبَاحْ الخِيرْ

Good morning

صباح النُور

صباح الفُل و(الياسمين)

Morning of light

Morning of



is a kind of Jasmine Wikipedia


damma on صباحُ

disappears in CA

Photograph: jasmine flowers

B: Greetings and ending conversations

Formal greetings conversation: at work

مُحَادَثَة رَسْمِيَّة بالعَامِيَّة

كَلِمَات وتَعْبِيرَات مهمة:

الكلمة والتعبير بالعامية

The word and expression in CA

المعنى بالإنجليزية

The meaning in English

الكلمة والتعبير المساوي بالفصحى

The equivalent in MSA






also in CAلَكِن



also in CA عَمَل


a lot


Notice that in some dialects (e.g., ECA, LCA), ث sometimes changes into ت. Other dialects (e.g., Gulf) keep it the same as in MSA.


as well/ too

also in CAأَيْضَاً


after this/ then

ثُمّ / بَعْد ذَلِك

إنْ شَاء الله

God willing

The same expression is used in MSA.

الحِوَار رَقم (1)

This is a conversation between coworkers in a company as an example of a formal setting.

أحْمَد: صباح الخير يا سارة

سارة: صباح النور يا أحمد، إزيَّك؟ عامل إيه النَّهارده؟

أحمد: تمام، الحمد لله، وإنتِ عاملة إيه؟

سارة: كويسة، بَسْ عندي شُغْل كِتير

أحمد: وأنا كمان والله

سارة: طيب يا أحمد، نِتْكَلِّم بعدين إن شاء الله.

أحمد: إنْ شَاء الله!

Photograph: Two office workers talking at printer-copier machine
Business Executives Talking Near Printer BY MCONNORS

Informal greetings conversation:
at a friends’ gathering

محادثة غير رسمية بالعامية

كَلِمَات وتَعْبِيرَات مهمة:

الكلمة والتعبير بالعامية

The word and expression in CA

المعنى بالإنجليزية

The meaning in English

الكلمة والتعبير المساوي بالفصحى

The equivalent in MSA



Same word with different internal voweling:



his exams:

إمتحان+ ات+ ه


أحْسَن مِن الأوّل

LM (literal meaning): “better than the first”

IM (Intended meaning):

the situation is better than before.

Almost the same in MSA except for changing one word:

أحْسن مِن قَبْل

You can use this above-mentioned expression in CA as well.

سؤالِك (إنتِ)

سُؤالَك (إنتَ)

your question

female recipient

your question

a male recipient

Same word with different internal voweling (on the attached pronoun):




my dear one

a female recipient

Note, if this word is used between two people in love, it will mean “my loved one.”

Same word with different internal voweling


الحِوَار رَقم (2)

This is a conversation between two female friends at a gathering as an example of

greetings in an informal setting.

نورا: أهلاً يا دُعاء، كيفِك؟

دعاء: ِمنيحة، نُشْكُرالله وأنتِ؟ كيفِك؟

نورا: تمام، الحمد لله. كيف (ال) ماما و(ال) بابا؟

دعاء: بِخير، الحمدلله. وشو أخبار ياسر، أخوكِ، نِجِح في إمْتِحَانَاتُه؟

نورا: الحمدلله، وكيف صحِّة جِدِّتِك؟

دعاء: أحْسَن مِن الأوّل، شكراً على سُؤالِك (يا) حبيبتي!


Practice: Complete the dialogue

This is an incomplete dialogue in the audio files.  Practice speaking by completing the missing parts in this dialogue.

هالة: أهلاً! أهلاً! كيفك؟

إنتَ/ إنتِ: __________________، _________________

هالة: تمام، الحمد لله. كيف ماما؟

إنتَ/ إنتِ: __________________

هالة: وكيف بابا؟

إنتَ/ إنتِ: __________________، _________________

هالة: بخير، شكراً على سُؤالك!


C: Cultural insight: Ending a conversation in a culturally acceptable manner

It is polite to end a conversation gradually, whether with a coworker, a friend or a relative (especially if elderly or older than you). It is impolite to end

a conversation abruptly unless it is an emergency.

A very acceptable and polite way to end a conversation is explaining that you are sorry that you have to leave but will hopefully talk soon or meet soon (especially with older people). It is more relaxed with younger generations.  Consider the following template for wrapping up a conversation, whether in person or over the phone:

أنا آسِف / آسفة بس لازم أمشي علشان . . . :

I am sorry but I have to leave (go away/ walk away) because:

عندي مِيعَاد                  I have an appointment

                           عندي شُغْل                                       I have work

                           عندي إمْتِحَان                                I have an exam

نتكلِّم بَعْدِين / قُرَيِّب إن شاء الله.

We will talk later/ soon, God willing.

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