As the case with English, conjunctions serve the same purpose that we know of: to connect sentences and make our writing less repetitive. Arabic conjunctions, referred to as “عطف” /atf/, are fixed and limited. Here is the only list of conjunctions in Arabic Grammar you will ever need.
What is the number one conjunction that everyone is guilty of over-using? It’s “and”. Arab speakers do so too. It is used to combine two subjects, verbs, phrases or clauses.
The girls and boys went outside.
البنات و الأولاد ذهبوا للخارج /al banat wal awlad thahabo lil kharij/
The woman cut and ate fruits.
المرأة قطّعت و أكلت الفواكه /al mar’a qata’at wa akalat al fawakih/
This is equivalent to the conjunction “then” or “so” and is used for a number of purposes including: stating a consequence, ordering, and sequencing.
Mohammed wrote then Sarah.
كتب محمد فسارة /kataba Mohammed fa Sarah/
He worked hard so he succeeded.
اجتهد فنجح /ijtahada fa najah/
This conjunction is used for negative cases so it refers to the words “not”, “neither”, and “nor”. The words followed by /la/ are a negative statement of what the sentence begins with.
Sarah wrote, not Mohammed.
سارة كتبت لا محمد /Sarah katabat la Mohammed/
This conjunction is also used for ordering and sequencing, however, it places a certain delay in the consequential action. It is the equivalence of “later” or “then later” in more specific cases.
Sarah went then later Mohammed.
ذهبت سارة ثم محمد /thahabat Sarah thumma Mohammed/
I saw my friend then I went home.
رأيت صديقي ثم ذهبت إلى البيت /ra’ayto sadeeki thumma thahabto ela al bait/
In English, /hatta/ is used similarly to “even”. This conjunction has two opposing uses depending on the context: elevation or subjugation.
Everyone cleaned even the boss.
نظف الجميع حتّى المدير /nathafa al jamee’ hatta al mudeer/
The employees failed even their best.
فشل الموظفين حتّى أفضلهم /fashala al muwathafeen hatta afdaluhom/
This is another easy one, and is commonly referred to as “or” in English. As the case in English, /aw/ is used to express doubt, ambiguity, choice, or consent depending on the context.
Example 1: Doubt
Something broke: the cup or bowl.
انكسر شيئ، الكأس أو الصحن /inkasara shay’ al ka’s aw al sahn/
Example 2: Ambiguity
Her friend is here or there.
صديقتها هنا أو هناك /sadeekatuha huna aw hunak/
Example 3: Choice
Eat pie or cake.
كل فطيرة أو كعكة /kul fateera aw ka’kaa/
Example 4: Consent
He can walk or run.
يمكنه المشي أو الركض /yumkinoho al mashi aw al rakd/
Another commonly used conjunction, in both Arabic and English, universally known as “but”. /lakin/ is used for negative statements.
Sarah didn’t go out but Mohammed did.
ما ذهبت سارة لكن محمد /ma thahabat Sarah lakin Mohammed/
Mohammed cleaned the room but not the table.
نظف محمد الغرفة لكن لم ينظف الطاولة /nathafa Mohammed al ghorfa lakin lam yunathif al taawila/
This conjunction is used to state rejection for the first part of the sentence, and confirm the second part, similarly to the words “rather” or “more accurately” in English.
I played basketball, rather football in school.
لعبت كرة السلة بل كرة القدم في المدرسة /la’ibtu kurat al sallah bal kurrat al qadam fil madrasa/
Although there was one “or” stated earlier, this is another. The only difference with /am/ is that it is used in yes-no interrogative statements. For a formal question, it starts with “أ”/a/. With a less formal question, it starts with “هل” /hal/.
Example 1: Informal
Do you want sugar or not?
هل تريد سكر أم لا؟ /hal tureedo sukar am la/
Example 2: Formal
Did you write the report or not?
أكتبت التقرير أم لا؟ /akatabtal taqreer am la/
If you liked this article and would like to start learning Arabic, why not head over to our website and download the Kaleela Arabic learning app and learn to speak Arabic today? With the Kaleela Arabic learning app you can start learning Arabic on your own, at your own pace, whenever and wherever you want. It really is the best way to learn Arabic! Try it now and find out why.