Arabic Yes/No Words

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Arabic Yes/No Words

Yes/No Words

There are many words for answering questions other than na”am, laa,and balaa.

Here is a listing of the main words:

Yes/No Words

 

Agreement

(true)

Disagreement

(false)

Positive Statement

na”am

نَعَمْ

laa

لا

‘ajal

أَجَلْ

kallaa

كَلاَّ

‘ee

إِيْ

Negative Statement

na”am

نَعَمْ

balaa

بَلَىْ

‘ajal

أَجَلْ

‘ee

إِيْ

Notes:

  • The word kallaa is stronger than laa, and its usage in the classical language imparted a jussive or a warning tone.

  • The word ‘ee would typically be followed by a swearing style in the classical language (e.g. إِيْ وَاللَّهِ = yes, I swear by God).

 

There are several other obsolete synonyms of na”am.

 

Classical Synonyms for na”am

jayr(i)

جَيْرِ
bajal بَجَلْ
jalal جَلَلْ
‘innah إِنَّهْ

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The literal sense of jayr(i) is “I swear.”

 

 

Tag Questions

Tag questions in the English way are not employed in Arabic. However, there is one formula of a tag question:

Tag Question in Arabic

أَلَيْسَ كَذَلِكَ ؟

‘a-lays(a) ka-thaalik(a)?

= is it that (he/it) is/exists not like that?

Translation: isn’t it so?

 

Examples:

إِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ ، أَلَيْسَ كَذَلِكَ ؟

‘inna-h(u) ya”lam(u) ‘a-lays(a) ka-thaalik(a)?

= it is true that him knows, isn’t it so?

Translation: he knows, doesn’t he?

 

بَلَىْ

balaa

Translation: yes (he does)

 

نَعَمْ

na”am

Translation: no (he doesn’t)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

أَنْتِ لا تُحِبِيْنَهُ ، أَلَيْسَ كَذَلِكَ ؟

‘ant(i) laa tuhibbeena-h(u) ‘a-lays(a) ka-thaalik(a)?

= you (sing. fem.) not love him, isn’t it so?

Translation: you don’t love him, do you?

 

بَلَىْ

balaa

Translation: no (I don’t)

 

نَعَمْ

na”am

Translation: yes (I do)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note that laa can often be used in place of na”am in answering tag questions. This happens especially when someone wishes to make his answer very clear.

Example:

إِنَّكِ تُحِبِيْنَهُ ، أَلَيْسَ كَذَلِكَ ؟

‘inna-k(i) tuhibbeena-h(u) ‘a-lays(a) ka-thaalik(a)?

= it is true that you (sing. fem.) love him, isn’t it so?

Translation: you love him, don’t you?

you are in love with him, aren’t you?

 

لا !ه

laa

Translation: no (I don’t/am not)!

 

 

، أَلَيْسَ كَذَلِكَ ؟

… , isn’t it so ?

Yes is it so

balaa

بَلَىْ

No it is not so

na”am

نَعَمْ

laa

لا

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introductory Particles

Also called “attention particles,” these are the Arabic equivalents of the Latin ecce =”behold.” They are used at the beginning of speech in classical Arabic, especially in literary talk, but they do not mean anything specific.

Two of these particles, literally speaking, are based on the interrogative particle ‘a-.

Particles of Introduction/Attention

Literal Sense Particle
Is it that not ? ‘a-laa أَلاَ
Is it that not ? ‘a-maa أَمَاْ
Behold / here haa هَاْ
Vocative Particle (≈ o/oh) yaa يَاْ
No kallaa كَلاَّ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples:

أَلاَ إِنِّيْ قَدْ بَلَّغْتُ

‘a-laa ‘inn-ee qad ballart(u)

= behold truthfully me have informed

Translation: I have informed (you … so I’m no longer responsible)

Information about ‘inna is here.

 

أَمَاْ إِنَّكَ لَصَاْدِقٌ

‘a-maa ‘inna-k(a) la-saadiq(un)

= behold truthfully you (sing. masc.) (are) certainly honest

Translation: you are indeed telling the truth

you are honest indeed

 

The particle haa- = “behold/here” has many uses in Arabic. One of the most notable uses is its prefixation to demonstratives (see here). It is also often used to mean “ecce” or “behold.”

Examples:

هَاْ أَنَاْ

haa ‘anaa

= behold/here I (am)

Translation: here I am

 

هَاْ هُمْ

haa hum

= behold/here they (plu. masc.) (are)

Translation: here they are

 

هَاْ أَنَاْ هُنَاْ

haa ‘anaa hunaa

= behold/here I (am) here

Translation: here I am

 

هَاْ هُمْ هُنَاْكَ

haa hum hunaak(a)

= behold/here they (plu. masc.) (are) there

Translation: there they are

 

هَاْ قَدْ جِئْنَ

haa qad ji'<n(a)

= behold/here they (plu. fem.) have come

Translation: here they come

 

Yaa is the main vocative particle in Arabic. There is nothing like it in English, although it is often translated to O as in “O God.” This particle is commonly used with the meaning of “ecce.”

يَاْ لَيْتَنِيْ مِتُّ قَبْلَ هَذَاْ

yaa layta-nee mitt(u) qabl(a) haathaa

= behold it is wished if me died before this

Translation: I whish I have died before this

I wish I am dead now

Information about layt(a) is here.

 

Kalla means “no,” but it is sometimes used like the rest of the particles here.

كَلاَّ إِنَّ الإِنْسَاْنَ لَيَطْغَىْ

kalla‘inn(a) (‘a)l-‘insaan(a) la-yatraa

= behold truthfully the human certainly transgresses

Translation: definitely, humans do transgression