Arabic For Dummies
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When traveling in Arabic-speaking countries, you'll find that the words and phrases you use most frequently will be the common Arabic greetings. These Arabic words and phrases will quickly become second nature to you because you use them day in and day out with everyone you come across.

Saying hello and good-bye

Polite greetings are just as important in Arabic-speaking countries as they are in America. In fact when greeting a group of people, it is best to greet each person in the group individually to ensure that everyone gets a proper greeting. Some of the most common ways to greet someone in Arabic are
  • ahlan (hello)

  • marHaban (hello; greetings)

  • ahlan wa sahlan (welcome)

Keep in mind that because of the conservative nature in many Arabic-speaking countries it is considered rude for men and women to greet each other in public.

In addition to the initial greetings, there are a number of Arabic greetings that have a specific traditional response.
Greeting Pronunciation Traditional Response Pronunciation
Peace be upon you. (formal/group) as-salaam 'alaykum Upon you be peace wa 'alaykum salaam
Good morning SabaaH al-khayr Morning of light SabaaH an-nuur
Good evening Masaa' al-khayr Evening of light Masaa' an-nuur
When meeting someone for the first time or greeting someone in a formal situation, it is common for members of the same sex to exchange handshake. However, if they're close friends or family, the standard greeting is a handshake and a kiss on each cheek.

Always shake hands with your right hand. The left hand is considered unclean.

Farewells can vary depending on where you're visiting, but two common ways to say goodbye to someone are ma'a as-salaama (goodbye) and ila-liqaa' (until we meet again).

Asking and responding to "How are you?"

How are you? How's it going? How many times a day do we hear or say these brief greetings at the beginning of our conversations? So many times, in fact, that we rarely even think about the response, we often respond with a standard "fine" or "good" regardless of who we are actually feeling. The same is true in Arabic. The question "kayf Haalak?" (How are you?) usually calls for a formulaic response — "Fine, praise God" (bi-khayr, al-Hamdu lillah) — rather than an actual description of your current condition. However, if you have a real need or are speaking to a friend, you can give a more realistic response. You can use "anaa . . ." (I am . . . ) followed by one of these conditions:
sa'iid/sa'iida (happy [M/F]) .(Arabic adjectives have masculine and feminine forms. So, if you need to change these adjectives to feminine, just add an a.)
Haziin/Haziina (sad)
ta'baan/ta'baana (tired)
ghaDbaan/ghaDbaa (angry)
'aTshaan/'aTshaa (thirsty)
jaw'aan/jaw'aa (hungry)
bardaan/bardaana (cold)
Harraan/Harraa (hot)
mashghuul/mashghuula (busy)
mariiD/mariiDa (sick)
muta'akhkhir/muta'akhkhira (late)

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