Articles and the sun and moon letters in Egyptian Arabic


Definite articles

A definite article — "the," in English — specifies something in particular, usually something that has already been mentioned, as opposed to something general (the book, as opposed to any book). In Arabic, there is a definite article (الـ -il, "the") that is invariable; it is used for singular and plural, masculine and feminine nouns.

شفت الولد اللي ساكن جنبي (šoft il-walad illi saakin gambi)
I saw the boy who lives next to me.

Note: While English doesn't use articles to refer to generic nouns or general concepts, Arabic uses the definite article in these instances.

بحب الأفلام الأجنبية (baHebb il-aflaam il-agnabiyya)
I like foreign films (lit. the foreign films, since we're referring to foreign films in general)

السلام أحسن من الحرب (is-salaam aHsan min il-Harb)
Peace is better than war (lit. the peace, the war)

Indefinite articles

An indefinite article refers to non-specific/non-particular nouns. English has two definite article, "a" and "an." Arabic has no indefinite article. So while we would say "He is an engineer" or "She is a teacher" in English, in Arabic we would say:

هو مهندس (howwa mohandis)
He is an engineer (lit. He engineer)

هي مدرسة (heyya mudarrisa)
She is a teacher (lit. She teacher)

Note: Arabic does not use a present-tense form of "to be."

Sun and moon letters

Sun letters

If a word begins with one of the "sun letters" (الحروف الشمسية), and is definite, the "l" of the definite article is assimilated into the following consonant. So instead of pronouncing الشمس as "il-šams," you say "iš-šams."

ت (t)التمن (it-taman)the price
ط (T)الطالب (iT-Taalib)the student
د (d)الدنيا (id-duniya)the world
ض (D)الضيف (iD-Deif)the guest
س (s)الست (is-sitt)the woman
ص (S)الصيف (iS-Seif)summer
ش (š)الشركة (iš-šerka)the company
ز (z)الزيت (iz-zeit)oil
ظ (Z)الظرف (iZ-Zarf)the envelope
ج (ž) (the French "j")الجاكيتة (iž-žakitta)the jacket
ن (n)النور (in-nuur)the light
ر (r)الراجل (ir-raagil)the man

In Egyptian Arabic, there are two more letters that may or may not be assimilated:

ج (g)الجمل (ig-gamal or il-gamal)the camel
ك (k)الكتاب (ik-kitaab or il-kitaab)the book

Moon letters

With "moon letters" (الحروف القمرية), however, the definite article is not assimilated into the following letter.

أ (a)الأخ (il-ax)the brother
 القهوة (il-'ahwa)the coffee
ب (b)الباب (il-baab)the door
ح (H)الحفلة (il-Hafla)the party
خ (x)الخضار (il-xoDaar) vegetables
ع (3)العربية (il-3arabiyya)the car
غ (ġ)الغدا (il-ġada)lunch
ف (f)الفندق (il-fundu')the hotel
ق (q)القرية (il-qariya)the village
م (m)المية (il-mayya)the water
و (w)الوادي (il-waadi)the valley
ه (h)الهدية (il-hidiyya)the present
ي (y)اليونان (il-yunaan)Greece

Main grammar page Nouns