Arabic Negative Questions – Arabic Answering Negative Questions (don’t you?)

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 Arabic Negative Questions – Arabic Answering Negative Questions   (don’t you?)

2) Negative Questions

Negative sentences (e.g. you don’t) are turned into yes/no negative questions (e.g. don’t you?) by the same mechanism mentioned for positive sentences. However, the particle ‘a- is the one used in negative questions.

 

An important difference here from English lies in the answer to the question. If a question is a negative question then the answer must be with the word na”am نَعَمْfor agreement with the negative sentence of the question, or for saying “no” (e.g. no, I don’t), and the word balaaبَلَىْfor disagreement with the negative sentence of the question, or for saying “yes” (e.g. yes, I do).

 

Examples:

 

Negative Sentence

خَلِيْلٌ لَيْسَ هُنَاْ

khaleel(un) lays(a) hunaa

= Khalil is/exists not here

Translation: Khalil is not here

 

Negative Sentence

لَيْسَ خَلِيْلٌ هُنَاْ

lays(a)khaleel(un) hunaa

= is/exists notKhalil here

Translation: Khalil is not here

 

Negative Question

أَخَلِيْلٌ لَيْسَ هُنَاْ ؟

‘a-khaleel(un) lays(a)hunaa

= is it that Khalil is/exists not here

Translation: is Khalil not here?

 

Negative Question

أَلَيْسَ خَلِيْلٌ هُنَاْ ؟

‘a-lays(a)khaleel(un) hunaa

= is it that is/exists notKhalil here

Translation: is not Khalil here?

 

Positive Answer

نَعَمْ خَلِيْلٌ لَيْسَ هُنَاْ

na”am khaleel(un) lays(a)hunaa

= yes Khalil is/exists not here

Translation: no, Khalil is not here

 

Positive Answer

نَعَمْ لَيْسَ خَلِيْلٌ هُنَاْ

na”am lays(a)khaleel(un) hunaa

= yes is/exists notKhalil here

Translation: no, Khalil is not here

 

Negative Answer

بَلَىْ خَلِيْلٌ هُنَاْ

balaa khaleel(un) hunaa

= no Khalil (is) here

Translation: yes, Khalil is here

 

Answering Negative Questions (don’t you?)

Agreement with the negative sentence

(no, I don’t)

na”am

نَعَمْ

Disagreement with the negative sentence

(yes, I do)

balaa

بَلَىْ

 

 

When the ‘a- in the negative question is separated from negative word (e.g. lays(a)) by the subject, the emphasis of the question will be on the subject, making the question primarily about the subject rather than the verb or the action.

 

When the ‘a- in the negative question is followed directly by the negative word, the emphasis of the question will be on the verb or action, making the question primarily about it rather than about the subject.

 

 

Negative Sentence

الْطَّقْسُ لَيْسَ مُشْمِسًاْ

‘attaqs(u) lays(a) mushmis(an)

= the weather is/exists not sunny

Translation: it is not sunny

 

Negative Sentence

لَيْسَ الْطَّقْسُ مُشْمِسًاْ

lays(a) (‘a)ttaqs(u) mushmis(an)

= is/exists not the weather sunny

Translation: it is not sunny

 

Negative Question

آلْطََّقْسُ لَيْسَ مُشْمِسًاْ ؟

‘aattaqs(u) lays(a) mushmis(an)

= is it that the weather is/exists not sunny

Translation: is it not sunny?

 

Negative Question

أَلَيْسَ الْطَّقْسُ مُشْمِسًاْ ؟

‘a-lays(a) (‘a)ttaqs(u) mushmis(an)

= is it that is/exists notthe weather sunny

Translation: is not it sunny?

 

Positive Answer

نَعَمْ الْطَّقْسُ لَيْسَ مُشْمِسًاْ

na”am (‘a)ttaqs(u) lays(a) mushmis(an)

= yesthe weather is/exists not sunny

Translation: no, it is not sunny

 

Positive Answer

نَعَمْ لَيْسَ الْطَّقْسُ مُشْمِسًاْ

na”am lays(a) (‘a)ttaqs(u) mushmis(an)

= yes is/exists not the weather sunny

Translation: no, it is not sunny

 

Negative Answer

بَلَىْ الْطَّقْسُ مُشْمِسٌ

balaa (‘a)ttaqs(u) mushmis(un)

= no the weather (is) sunny

Translation: yes, it is sunny

 

 

 

Negative Sentence

لا تَتَكَلَّمُ الْعَرَبِيَّةَ

laa tatakallam(u) (‘a)l-“arabiyya(ta)

= not (you sing. masc.) speak the Arabic

Translation: you don’t speak Arabic

you are not speaking Arabic

 

Negative Question

أَلا تَتَكَلَّمُ الْعَرَبِيَّةَ ؟

‘a-laa tatakallam(u) (‘a)l-“arabiyya(ta)

= is it that not (you sing. masc.) speak the Arabic

Translation: don’t you speak Arabic?

Aren’t you speaking Arabic?

 

Positive Answer

نَعَمْ لا أَتَكَلَّمُ الْعَرَبِيَّةَ

na”am laa ‘atakallam(u) (‘a)l-“arabiyya(ta)

= yes not (I) speak the Arabic

Translation: no, I don’t speak Arabic

no, I’m not speaking Arabic

 

Negative Answer

بَلَىْ أَتَكَلَّمُ الْعَرَبِيَّةَ

balaa ‘atakallam(u) (‘a)l-“arabiyya(ta)

= no (I) speak the Arabic

Translation: yes, I do speak Arabic

yes, I’m speaking Arabic

 

 

 

Negative Sentence

لَمْ تَقُلْ شَيْئًاْ

lam taqul shay’a(n)

= did not (you sing. masc.) say a thing

Translation: you didn’t say anything

you haven’t said anything

 

Negative Question

ألَمْ تَقُلْ شَيْئًاْ ؟

‘a-lam taqul shay’a(n)

= is it that did not (you sing. masc.) say a thing

Translation: didn’t you say anything?

haven’t you said anything?

 

Positive Answer

نَعَمْ لَمْ أَقُلْ شَيْئًاْ

na”am lam ‘aqul shay’a(n)

= yes did not (I) say a thing

Translation: no, I didn’t say anything

no, I haven’t said anything

 

Negative Answer

بَلَىْ قُلْتُ شَيْئًاْ

balaa qult(u) shay’a(n)

= no (I) said a thing

Translation: yes, I did say something

yes, I have said something

 

 

 

 

Negative Sentence

لَنْ تَكُوْنَ هُنَاْكَ

lan takoon(a) hunaak(a)

= will not (you sing. masc.) be there

Translation: you won’t be there

 

Negative Question

ألَنْ تَكُوْنَ هُنَاْكَ ؟

‘a-lan takoon(a) hunaak(a)

= is it that will not (you sing. masc.) be there

Translation: won’t you be there?

 

Positive Answer

نَعَمْ لَنْ أَكُوْنَ هُنَاْكَ

na”am lan ‘akoon(a) hunaak(a)

= yes will not (I) be there

Translation: no, I won’t be there

 

Negative Answer

بَلَىْ سَأَكُوْنُ هُنَاْكَ

balaa sa-‘akoon(u) hunaak(a)

= no (I) will be there

Translation: yes, I will be there

 

 

 

‘a-conjunction

As we have mentioned before on this site, Arabs tended to use a lot of unnecessary “and’s” in their talk. Here we are going to see another manifestation of this fact.

However, the wa- = “and” will not come here before the interrogative particle ‘a- , but it will rather come between it and the word following it.

Examples:

أَوَتَعْرِفُ الْجَوَاْبَ ؟

‘a-wa-ta”rif(u) (‘a)l-jawaab(a)

= is it that and(you sing. masc.) know the answer?

= and is it that (you sing. masc.) know the answer?

Translation: do you know the answer?

 

أَوَلا تَعِيْ مَاْ أَقُوْلُ ؟

‘a-wa-laa ta”ee maa ‘aqool(u)

= is it that and(you sing. masc.) not comprehend what (I) say?

= and is it that (you sing. masc.) not comprehend what (I) say?

Translation: don’t/won’t you understand what I’m saying?

don’t/won’t you understand what I say?

 

أَوَلَمْ تُؤْمِنْ بَعْدُ ؟

‘a-wa-lam tu'<min ba”d(u)

= is it that and(you sing. masc.) did not believe yet?

= and is it that (you sing. masc.) did not believe yet?

Translation: haven’t you believed yet?

 

However, wa- was not the only particle that could be inserted between ‘a- and the word following it. Other conjunctions could be inserted as well, like fa- = “then/so,” and thumm(a) = “after that/afterwards”

أَفَلا تَعِيْ مَاْ أَقُوْلُ ؟

‘a-fa-laa ta”ee maa ‘aqool(u)

= is it that then/so (you sing. masc.) not comprehend what (I) say?

= then/so is it that (you sing. masc.) not comprehend what (I) say?

Translation: so don’t/won’t you understand what I’m saying?

so don’t/won’t you understand what I say?

 

أَثُمَّ إِذَاْ مَاْ وَقَعَ آمَنْتُمْ بِهِ ؟

‘a-thumm(a) ‘ithaa maa waqa”(a) ‘aamantum bi-h(i)

= is it that after that if that (he/it) fell (you plu. masc.) believed in him/it?

= after that is it that if that (he/it) fell (you plu. masc.) believed in him/it?

Translation: after that, if it happened, will you believe in it (the punishment)?

This was a difficult sentence from the Koran (the Muslim holy book).

  • The verb وَقَعَ = “fell” means “happened” in classical Arabic.

  • The verbs were in the perfective because it was a hypothetical situation, and perfective verbs in Arabic are used for hypothetical situations (the subjunctive mood).

  • The word maa مَاْ here was an infinitival maa, which means “that” (like ‘an أَنْ ). This will be covered later on this site.

The insertion of conjunction words after ‘a- is common in the Koran.

 

 

Etymology note

The etymology of the interrogative particle ‘a- أَ is ha- هَـ (cf. Hebrew -הֲ). The transition of litter هـ into أ was common in classical Arabic. Ha- as interrogative particle was attested in some classical dialects.

 

e.g. وَأَتَىْ صَوَاْحِبُهَاْ فَقُلْنَ : هَذَاْ الَّذِيْ مَنَحَ الْمَوَدَّةَ غَيْرَنَاْ وَجَفَاْنَاْ ؟