Arabic Conjunctions

In Arabic, coordinating conjunctions are called حُرُوفُ العَطْف

  • وَ  – ‘and’
    most common
    لا تَشْرَب الخَمْر وتَأكُل الخِنْزِيْر      Don’t drink wine and eat pork


  • فَـ  ‘then’ or ‘so’
    خَرَجَ مُحَمَّد فَــعَلَي            Mohammed went out then Ali


  • لا ‘not’ … ‘(neither) ….. nor’
    لا coordinates two nouns in an affirmative sentence, affirming that the action was done by the first person/thing and not the second
    خَرَجَ مُحَمَّد لا عَلِي               Mohammed went out not Ali.

    If لا after و in a negative sentence, it for negation.
    مَا أَكَلَ المَرِيْض وَلا شَرِب        The patient didn’t eat and nor he drank.


  • ثُمَّ      ‘later, then later’
    For sequencing but with a kind of delay in the subsequent action.
    جَاءَ مُحَمَّد ثُمَّ عَلِي         Mohammed came then later Ali


  • حَتَّى ‘even’
    For glorification or abasement
    رَسِبَ الطُّلاب حَتَّى عَلِي    The students failed even Ali (who’s the best).


  • أَوْ ‘or’
    (1) to express doubt
    شَخْصٌ دَخَلَ، مُحَمَّد أَو عَلِي   Someone entered, Mohammed or Ali.
    (2) to express ambiguity
    هَذَا كِتَابُك أَوْ هَذَا       This is your book or this.
    (3) for choice
    كُلْ تُفَّاحة أَوْ بُرتُقالَة أَوْ مَوْزَة   Eat an apple, an orange, or a banana.
    (4) for permission
    تَسْتَطِيع أَنْ تَجْلِس أَو تُغَادِر       You can stay or leave.


  • لَكِنْ ‘but’
    لا تَشْرَب المَاء لَكِنْ الحَلِيْب        Don’t drink the water but (drink) the milk


  • بَلْ ‘rather’ ‘more accurately’
    Rejecting the former and approving (affirming) the latter.
    قَرَأتُ الجَرِيْدَة بَل المَجِلَّة     I read the newspaper, rather the magazine.


  • أَمْ ‘or’
    A yes/no question.
    هَل (less formal)
    هَل تُرِيد شَاي أَم قَهْوَة؟     Do you want tea or coffee?

    أ (formal)
    هَلَ هَذَا عَلِي أَم مُحَمَّد؟      Is this Ali or Mohammed?