When you’re reading Arabic, how do you know when someone is asking a question? How about if you want to quote something from the Quran? Does Arabic use punctuation mark the same way that English does? What’s more, we already know how hard it is to remember where to put a comma in English. Does Arabic follow like rules?

All of these are legitimate punctuation marks to ask when learning to read and write Arabic. The good news is that Arabic punctuation is a lot like punctuation marks in English. Further, as vital as those little speech punctuation marks are when writing Arabic letters, learning Arabic punctuation is just as crucial. Now, let’s begin the lesson, shall we?

The Full Stop (.) 

The Arabic full stop (النقطة / annuqta) works much the same way as the full stop in English does. That is, Arabs use the full stop when the meaning of the sentence is complete. For example:

يحب تشارلي لعب البيسبول.

yuhibu tisharli laeib albisbul.

Charlie likes to play baseball.

As you can see, just as in English, the meaning of the sentence is complete, so we use a full stop.

Question Mark (؟)

Again, Arabs use the Arabic question mark (علامة الاستفهام / alaamatul istifhaam) just like the  English. That is, Arabs use the question mark in Arabic at the end of the sentence when asking a question. However, it is backward, as shown above. It is also not upside side down like the Spanish question mark.

متى يحين عيد ميلادك؟

mataa yahin eid miladiki?

When is your birthday?

Exclamation Mark (!) 

Arabs use the Arabic exclamation point (علامة التعجب / alaamatu-ttaa’jub) to express surprise. Like the Arabic question mark, speakers of Arabic write the Arabic exclamation mark backward, as shown above.

لقد اجتزت الامتحانات بعلامات كاملة!

laqad ajtazt aliamtihanat biealamat kamilatin!

I passed the exams with full marks!

The Comma (،) 

Notice that Arabs use inverted commas (الفاصلة / al faasila).  That is, it’s upside-down and backward when compared to the comma in English. Some say it looks like a “6” whereas the English comma looks like a “9”. You could also say it is the “yin” to the English “yang”.

Still, it’s used after “yes” نعم or “no” لا، كلا or بلى. For example:

جون: هل تحدثت مع زينب مؤخرًا؟

تشارلي: نعم ، لقد تحدثت معها هذا الصباح.

jun: hal tahadatht mae zaynab mwkhran؟

tisharli: naeam, laqad tahadatht maeaha hadha alsabahi.

John: Have you talked to Zainab lately?

Charlie: Yes, I talked to her this morning.

Arabs also use a comma when calling someone else in Arabic use “ya” before the name of the person. It’s equal to “Hey” with the comma placed after the person’s name as in the following:

يا أحمد، دعني أستعير دراجتك.

ya Ahmad, daeni ‘astaeir daraajataka.

Hey Ahmad, let me borrow your bicycle.

Quotation Marks (“”)

Just as they are in English, double quotation marks (علامتا التنصيص/ alaamata attansees) are used in Arabic at the start and end of quoted speech.

قال بنجامين فرانكلين ، “تفاحة في اليوم تغنيك عن الطبيب.”

qal binjamin frankilin , “tifahat fi alyawm tughnik ean altabibi.”

Benjamin Franklin said, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

(Notice that, unlike English, the verb comes first when quoting someone with the actual translation being, “Said Benjamin Franklin…”)

When it comes to single quotation marks, again, like English the quotation marks symbols are only used when quoting within a quote. For instance:

قال المعلم ، “قال بنجامين فرانكلين ،’ فلس واحد يتم توفيره هو قرش مكتسب.’ “

qal almuealim , “qal binjamin franklin , ‘fils wahid yatimu tawfiruh hu qirsh muktasibi.’”

The teacher said, “Benjamin Franklin said, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’”

(Notice again that the verb precedes the person being quoted.)

Colon (:)

The Arabic colon (النقطتان الرأسيتان / annuqtataan arra’siyyataan) is used after statements when something important follows and after reported speech. Here are some examples:

تحذير: إذا كنت تواجه مشكلة في استخدام القولون ، فاستشر الطبيب على الفور.

tahdhirun: ‘iidha kunt tuajih mushkilatan fi astikhdam alqawlun , fastashari altabib ealaa alfur. Caution: If you’re having trouble using your colon, see a doctor immediately.

أحضر معك ما يلي: قلم ، دفتر ملاحظات ، وعقل متفتح.

‘ahdir maeak ma yali: qalam , daftar mulahazat , waeaql mutafatihi

Bring the following with you: a pen, a notebook, and an open mind.

سألني المعلم: “يا جوني ، لماذا عليك أن تكون مثل هذا الفتى المشاغب؟”

sa’alani almuealimu: “ya juni , limadha ealayk ‘an takun mithl hadha alfataa almushaghibi?”

The teacher asked me: “Oh Johnny, why do you have to be such a naughty boy?”

Semicolon (؛)

The Arabic semicolon (الفاصلة المنقوطة / al faasila al manqoota) is used to separate two sentences in which one sentence is a cause and the other is a consequence. (You’ll notice that the Arabic semicolon is also upside down and backwards.) For example:

لقد كنت أدخر راتبي منذ شهور ؛ نتيجة لذلك ، يمكنني أخيرًا الزواج.

laqad kunt ‘udakhir ratibi mundh shuhur ; natijatan lidhalik , yumkinuni akhyran alzawaji.

I’ve been saving my salary for months; as a result, I can finally get married.

So there you have the basics of Arabic punctuation. Learn more about the Arabic language and Arabic punctuation with Kaleela Arabic Learning App. Download now for more information on how you can start learning Arabic today!

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