Adjectives in Egyptian Arabic


An adjective is a word that describes a noun — "smart," "pretty," "good," etc. Remember that اسم الفاعل (the active participle) acts as an adjective.

الفيلم ده مملّ (il-film da mumill)
This movie is boring.

كتاب كويس (kitaab kwayyis)
a good book

هو نايم (howwa naayim)
He is sleeping.

الست اللي واقفة هناك (is-sitt illi wa'fa hnaak)
the woman who is standing there

Some basic adjectives

Here's a list of some common, basic adjectives in Egyptian Arabic:

smallصغير (ج) صغارSoġayyar (pl.) Suġaar
bigكبير (ج) كبارkibiir (pl.) kobaar
shortقصير (ج) قصار'oSayyar (pl.) 'uSaar
long; tallطويل (ج) طوالTawiil (pl.) Tuwaal
smartذكي (ج) أذكياءzaki (pl.) azkiya
stupidغبي (ج) أغبياءġabi (pl.) aġbiya
richغني (ج) أغنياءġani (pl.) aġniya
poorفقير (ج) فقراءfa'iir (pl.) fu'ra
old (in reference to things, not people)قديم (ج) قدام'adiim (pl.) 'udaam
newجديد (ج) جدادgediid (pl.) gudaad
pretty, beautifulجميل (ج) جمالgamiil (pl.) gumaal
uglyقبيح (ج) قبحاء'abiiH (pl.) 'ubaHa
cleanنضيف (ج) نضافnaDiif (pl.) nuDaaf
hard, difficultصعبSa3b
fast, quickسريعsarii3

Inflections for gender and number

As with nouns, to make adjectives feminine or plural, usually you add a suffix: ـة (-a) for the feminine form, ـين (-iin) for the regular plural form. But again, many adjectives do not have regular plural forms, so for those you have to memorize the broken plurals. The first half of the list above is made up of adjectives with broken plurals. Also see the following examples:

Singular masculineSingular femininePlural
bigكبير (kibiir)كبيرة (kibiira)كبار (kobaar)
poorفقير (fa'iir)فقيرة (fa'iira)فقراء (fu'ra)

Here's a regular adjective:

Singular masculineSingular femininePlural
goodكويس (kwayyis)كويسة (kwayyesa)كويسين (kwayyisiin)

Note: Say an adjective ends in ـي (-i) and is not of the form فاعل (faa3il). When you're adding on your ـة and ـين suffixes to make it feminine/plural, you need to insert a "yy" between the adjective and the suffix (in terms of your pronunciation).

Singular masculineSingular femininePlural
stupidغبي (ġabi)غبية (ġabeyya)أغبياء (aġbiya)
smartذكي (zaki)ذكية (zakeyya)أذكياء (azkiya)
Egyptian*مصري (maSri)مصرية (maSreyya)مصريين (maSriyyiin)

* See below for more on this type of adjective.

If, however, an adjective ending in ـي is of the form فاعل, you don't insert a "yy" between it and the suffix when you're making it feminine/plural. And while the masculine form of this adjective has a long "aa," the feminine and plural forms have a short "a."

Singular masculineSingular femininePlural
expensiveغالي (ġaali)غالية (ġalya)غاليين (ġalyiin)
quiet, calmهادي (haadi)هادية (hadya)هاديين (hadyiin)

Adjectives: agreement

In English, adjectives come right before the noun they describe, but in Arabic, adjectives always directly follow the noun they modify. Also, adjectives and nouns must always agree in definiteness (they must be both definite or both indefinite).

Adjectives for singular nouns

A singular noun is modified by a singular adjective of the same gender.

المدرس الجديد (il-mudarris il-gediid)
the new teacher - lit. "the-teacher the-new"

بنت هادية (bint hadya)
a quiet girl - lit. "girl quiet"

Adjectives for dual nouns

Any dual noun must be modified by a plural adjective.

ولدين مصريين (waladein maSriyyiin)كتابين غاليين (kitaabein ġalyiin)
two Egyptian boystwo expensive books
بنتين سوريين (bintein suriyyiin)عربيتين جداد (3arabiyyatein gudaad)
two Syrian girlstwo new cars

Adjectives for human plural nouns

Human plural nouns, masculine or feminine, are usually modified by masculine plural adjectives.

أولاد كبار (awlaad kobaar)
big boys

بنات صغار (banaat Soġaar)
small girls

Adjectives for non-human plural nouns

Non-human plural nouns are modified by feminine singular adjectives. This is confusing at first, but you get used to it fast!

دول متقدمة (dowal mit'addima)
advanced countries

عربيات قديمة (3arabiyyaat 'adiima)
old cars

أفلام جديدة (aflaam gediida)
new movies

Note: A lot of beginning students get confused about adjectival phrases and whether or not they can be complete sentences. Look at these examples for some clarification:

التلميذ شاطر (it-tilmiiz šaaTir)
A complete simple sentence: "The student is smart." (Lit. "The-student smart.")

التلميذ الشاطر (it-tilmiiz iš-šaaTir)
A phrase/sentence fragment: "The smart student." (Lit. "the-student the-smart.")

تلميذ شاطر (tilmiiz šaaTir)
A phrase/sentence fragment: "A smart student." (Lit. "student smart.")

Nisba adjectives (النسبة)

Nisba adjectives are those that indicate a relationship, often a nationality. Nouns are transformed into these adjectives in this manner:

  1. Drop any definite article at the beginning of the noun, and any taa marbuuTa (ـة) or alif (ـا) at the end of it.
  2. Add the suffixes ـي (-ii) for the masculine adjective, ـية (-eyya) for the feminine adjective, and ـيين (-iiyyiin) for the plural adjective.

Here are some examples of nouns and their correponding nisba adjectives:

 NounAdjectiveMasculine singularFeminine singularPlural
Egyptمصر (maSr)Egyptianمصري (maSri)مصرية (maSreyya)مصريين (maSriyyiin)
Lebanonلبنان (libnaan)Lebaneseلبناني (libnaani)لبنانية (libnaneyya)لبنانيين (libnaniyyiin)
the United Statesأمريكا (amriika)Americanأمريكي (amriiki)أمريكية (amrikeyya)أمريكيين (amrikiyyiin)
Palestineفلسطين (filisTiin)Palestinianفلسطيني (filisTiini)فلسطينية (filisTiineyya)فلسطينيين (filisTiiniyyiin)
Syriaسوريا (surya)Syrianسوري (suuri)سورية (sureyya)سوريين (suriyyiin)
Sudanالسودان (is-suudaan)Sudaneseسوداني (sudaani)سودانية (sudaneyya)سودانيين (sudaniyyiin)
schoolمدرسة (madrasa)scholasticمدرسي (madrasi)مدرسية (madraseyya)مدرسيين (madrasiyiin)

Note: For some nouns that end in -a, you don't follow that formula but use the suffixes ـوي (-awi), ـوية (-aweyya), and ـويين (-awiyyiin).

 NounAdjectiveMasculine singularFeminine singularPlural
Franceفرنسا (faransa)Frenchفرنسوي (faransawi)فرنسوية (faransaweyya)فرنسويين (faransawiyyiin)
Asiaأسيا (asya)Asianأسوي (asawi)أسوية (asaweyya)أسويين (asawiyiin)
yearسنة (sana)yearly/annualسنوي (sanawi)سنوية (sanaweyya)سنويين (sanawiyyiin)
prophetنبي (nabi)propheticنبوي (nabawi)نبوية (nabaweyya)نبويين (nabawiyyin)

Some plural nisba adjectives are irregular:

 Masculine singularFeminine singularPlural
Arabعربي (3arabi)عربية (3arabeyya)عرب (3arab)
Turkishتركي (turki)تركية (turkeyya)أتراك (atraak)
Kurdishكردي (kurdi)كردية (kurdeyya)أكراد (akraad)
Moroccanمغربي (maġribi)مغربية (maġribeyya)مغرابة (maġarba)
Britishانجليزي (ingiliizi)انجليزية (ingliizeyya)انجليز (ingiliiz)

Main grammar page Comparative and superlative adjective forms