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.

“و” /wa/

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.

Example 1:

The girls and boys went outside.

البنات و الأولاد ذهبوا للخارج /al banat wal awlad thahabo lil kharij/

Example 2:

The woman cut and ate fruits.

المرأة قطّعت و أكلت الفواكه /al mar’a qata’at wa akalat al fawakih/

“ف” /fa/

This is equivalent to the conjunction “then” or “so” and is used for a number of purposes including: stating a consequence, ordering, and sequencing.

Example 1:

Mohammed wrote then Sarah.

كتب محمد فسارة /kataba Mohammed fa Sarah/

Example 2:

He worked hard so he succeeded.

اجتهد فنجح  /ijtahada fa najah/

“لا” /la/

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/

“ثم” /thumma/

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.

Example 1:

Sarah went then later Mohammed.

ذهبت سارة ثم محمد /thahabat Sarah thumma Mohammed/

Example 2:

I saw my friend then I went home.

رأيت صديقي ثم ذهبت إلى البيت /ra’ayto sadeeki thumma thahabto ela al bait/

“حتّى” /hatta/

In English, /hatta/ is used similarly to “even”. This conjunction has two opposing uses depending on the context: elevation or subjugation.

Example 1:

Everyone cleaned even the boss.

نظف الجميع حتّى المدير /nathafa al jamee’ hatta al mudeer/ 

Example 2:

The employees failed even their best.

فشل الموظفين حتّى أفضلهم /fashala al muwathafeen hatta afdaluhom/

“أو” /aw/

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/

He can walk or run.

يمكنه المشي أو الركض /yumkinoho al mashi aw al rakd/

“لكن” /lakin/

Another commonly used conjunction, in both Arabic and English, universally known as “but”. /lakin/ is used for negative statements.

Example 1:

Sarah didn’t go out but Mohammed did.

ما ذهبت سارة لكن محمد /ma thahabat Sarah lakin Mohammed/

Example 2:

Mohammed cleaned the room but not the table.

نظف محمد الغرفة لكن لم ينظف الطاولة /nathafa Mohammed al ghorfa lakin lam yunathif al taawila/

“بل” /bal/

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/

“أم” /am/

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/

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