Arabic conversation – Asking the right question in Arabic

Arabic conversation – Asking the right question in Arabic

Welcome back fellow language learners! We mentioned before that it’s summertime in the Middle East and what a great time it is to for you to get out and learn Arabic language conversation skills because the days are longer and there’s more native Arabic speakers to chit-chat with outsiders.

In Arabic, chit-chat or small talk is known as kalaam khafiif (literally,“light talk”), and it plays a very important part during communications with Arabic speakers. So, to improve your Arabic conversation skills, you are going to have to get out there and make a little kalaam khafiif with your neighbors, colleagues, and friends. To meet new people you will have to know their ‘ism(name), and you’re probably want to go beyond that as well by asking them such questions as where they’re from and what they do.

This article will, therefore, explain how to make small talk through asking a question (su’aal in Arabic). First, we will start with the some key question words (the Wh- question words from English to Arabic):

Who? / man? / رجل
Where? / ‘ayna? / أين؟
When? / mataa? / متى؟
What? /maa? / ما؟
What? /used with verbs) / maadhaa? / ماذا
Why? / lii maadhaa? / لماذا؟
How? / kayfa? / كيف؟
How much? / bikam? / بكم؟
How many? / kam min? / كم من

Once you’ve mastered those, it’s time to take the next step in learning Arabic language skills and use the following questions that require more detailed answers. (Notice that some of the questions below refer to either masculine or feminine subjects. When you ask a question in Arabic, you choose the gender of the subject by modifying the gender suffix of the noun in question. For example, kitaab means book in Arabic but kitaabukameans “your book” in the masculine form and kitaabukimeans “your book” in the feminine form. So if you want to ask a woman for her book, you use kitaabuki.

Here are some examples for you to start with:

What’s your name? / maa ‘ismuka? (Masculine/Singular) ما اسمكَ؟
What’s your name? /maa ‘ismuki? (Feminine Singular) / ما اسمكِ؟
What do you do? /maa mihnatuka? (Masculine/Singular) / ما مهنتكَ؟
What do you do? /maa mihnatuki? (Feminine Singular) / ما مهنتكِ؟
What are you doing? /maadha taf’al? (Masculine/Singular) / ماذا تفعل؟
What are you doing? /maadha taf’aliina? (Feminine Singular) / ماذا تفعلين؟
Where are you from? /min ‘ayna ‘anta? (Masculine/Singular) / من أين انتَ؟
Where are you from? /min ‘ayna ‘anti? (Feminine Singular) / من أين انتِ؟
What is he writing? / maadha yaktubu? / ماذا يكتبون؟
Do you like to read? / hal tuHibbu al-qiraa’a? (Masculine/Singular) / ماذا يقرأون؟
Is this your book? / hal haadhaa kitaabuka? / هل هذا كتابك؟
Where is the train station?) /‘ayna maHaTTatu al-qiTaar? / أين محطة القطار؟
When did she go to the airport?) / mataa satadhhab ‘ilaa al-maTaar? / متى سوف تذهب الى المطار؟
Where is the best restaurant? / ‘ayna ‘aHsan maT’am? / أين هو أفضل مطعم؟
Why did you go to the market? / lii maadhaa dhahabta ‘ilaa as-suuq? (Masculine/Singular) / لماذا ذهبت الى السوق؟

To sum everything up, you now have the Arabic language skills form a question in Arabic, so go outside, meet new friends and ask them questions to get to know a little more about them.
Speaking of questions, if you have any for us here at feel free to drop us a line. We’d love hearing from you!

Gary Greer

Gary Greer was born and raised in the United States.  After an eight year stint in the U.S. Army in 1992, he attended Delaware State University to pursue his B.A. in English Communications to become a writer. Since then he has traveled the globe, living in the Europe and the Middle East, working for such prestigious organizations as the U.S. Army, NAPA Auto Parts, and AMIDEAST, and other well-known organizations, as well.  Gary came to Jordan in 2005, bringing with him a wealth of experience in the fields of Business and Education, and has since implemented and taught specialized English and Business training courses in the Business, Hospitality, Medical and Legal sectors throughout Jordan for TE Data, The Nuqul Group, The Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, UNRWA, and the Mövenpick and Kempinski Hotels, among others. Along with teaching, he has also pursued his dream of becoming a writer and has written and done the voice-over narration of two travel documentaries about Jordan for Seven Stars television worked as an editor for Family Flavours magazine and acted in television advertisements for USAID. He now works as a content writer for

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