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How to Say "I want" and "I have" in Modern Standard Arabic and in Spoken Levantine Lebanese Arabic Dialect

In this blog Post:

  • Learn how to say "I want" in both formal modern standard Arabic, and in spoken or colloquial Levantine Lebanese Arabic.

  • Read the text and then watch the tutorial videos for detailed explanation and practice questions. Please leave a comment to let you me know you have watched the videos!

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In Modern Standard Arabic:

To want:

To say "I want something" in Modern Standard Arabic, use verb أراد [Araada] (to want):

أنا أُريدُ تُفّاحَةً.

['Ana 'uriidu tuffaaḩah.]

I want an apple.

أُريدُ كوباً مِنَ القَهْوَة، لَوْ سَمَحْت.

[ʼUriidu Kuuban mina al-qahwah, law samaḩta (addressing a male) / law samaḩti (addressing a female).]

I want a cup of coffee, please. Note that it's not rude to say "I want", whereas in English you would say: I'd like a cup of coffee, instead of "I want". (*"Law samaḩt" literally means: If you allowed it; something like: if you may).

When combining this with a verb, such as "I want to eat an apple", make sure to use subjunctive particle ['an] before the verb. This particle changes the present tense verb to the subjunctive mood, resulting in a "fat-ḩah" vowel in this case, instead of a "ḑammah"

أنا أُريدُ أنْ آكُلَ تُفّاحَةً.

['Anaa 'uriidu 'an 'aakula tuffaaḩah.]

I want to eat an apple.

Particle أنْ ['an] acts like "to" in the English phrase.

Instead of آكُلُ ['aakulu] with the"ḑammah", the verb took a "fat-ḩah" vowel, due to the presence of this particle...

....or we would remove the "nuun" ن at the end of the verb for the following pronoun conjugations:

هُما - هُمْ - أنْتُم - أنْتِ (الأفْعال الخَمْسَة The five verbs, as named in Arabic grammar)

(Humma in the masculine and feminine, hence five and not four.)

.هُما يُريدانِ أنْ يَأْكُلا تُفّاحَةً

[Humaa yuriidaani 'an ya'kulaa tuffaaḩah.]

They (both - dual - masculine) want to eat an apple.

The [nuun] was ommitted from the end of the verb يأْكُلانِ [ya'kulaani], due to the presence of أنْ ['an] particle. The same for the rest of the examples:

.هُما تُريدانِ أنْ يَأْكُلا تُفّاحَةً

[Humaa turiidaani 'an ya'kulaa tuffaaḩah.]

They (both - dual - feminine) want to eat an apple.

.هُمْ يُريدونَ أنْ يَأْكُلوا تُفّاحَةً

[Hum yuriiduuna 'an ya'kuluu tuffaaḩah.]

They (plural) want to eat an apple.

.أنْتُم تُريدونَ أنْ تَأْكُلوا تُفّاحَةً

['Antum turiiduuna 'an ta'kuluu tuffaaḩah.]

You (plural) want to eat an apple.

.أنْتِ تُريدينَ أنْ تَأْكُلي تُفّاحَةً

['Anti turiidiina 'an ta'kulii tuffaaḩah.]

You (feminine) want to eat an apple.

In Modern Standard Arabic:

To have:

There are several ways to express "to have" in standard Arabic. A verb "to have" is not used and instead adverbials are used, such as عِندَ ['inda] and لَدى [ladá] which mean "at" or "with". Both operate similarly. In addition, the adverbial مَعَ [ma'a] meaning "with" and the preposition "laam" meaning "for" can be utilized. In all these cases, the right possessive pronoun has to be used, in accordance with the "possessor".

There are slight differences in meaning. So, for example, عِندَ ['inda] and لَدى [ladá] indicate that the person has something, or that something is "at" their possession. It doesn't matter whether that thing is available with them right now. However, مَعَ [ma'a] indicates that the thing possessed is "on" the person at the present time, generally speaking. To explain more:

عِنْدَكَ أوْلاد؟

['Indaka 'awlaad?]

Do you have children? (generally speaking)

(something like "Are at yours children?"

نَعَم، عِنْدي أوْلاد.

[Na'am, 'indii 'awlaad.]

Yes, I have children.

(something like "At-mine are children")

However, at a restaurant, when booking a table, the waiter will ask:

مَعَكَ أوْلاد؟

[Ma'aka 'awlaad?]

Are there (any) children with you?

In response, you might say something like: "I have two children":

مَعي وَلَدانِ.

[Ma'ii waladaan.]

I have two children, or literally: With me (now) are two children.

In this case, مَع [ma'] is suitably and correctly used, and عِند ['ind] , لَدى [ladá] or the laam wouldn't be.

Preposition Laam can also be used to indicated possession:

لي أوْلاد.

[Lii 'awlaad.]

I have children.

(Literal: For me are children).

This is my least favourite and not really used in formal modern Arabic texts, apart from a few books that teach Arabic as a second language.

In other context, it can be used to indicated something belong to someone, which is the more common direct usage:

هَؤلاءِ الأوْلادُ لي.

[Haa'ulaa'i al-'awlaadi lii.]

Those children are mine/for me.

When is a verb ever used for possession?

Only when meaning literally to "own" or "possess".

You cannot use that when speaking about having children for example, or simply "having" something, rather "owning" it:

أنا أمْتَلِكُ سَيّارَة.

['Ana 'amtaliku sayyaarah.]

I own a car. (And that's different from عِنْدي سيارَة / I have a car.)

The verb used is verb اِمْتَلَكَ ['imtalaka] (to own). Another similar verb, using a different pattern is مَلَكَ [malaka].

أنا أمْلُكُ سَيّارَة.

['Ana 'amluku sayyaarah.]

I own a car.

And if it helps you to remember, the word king in Arabic is: مَلِك [malik], he who owns everything in the kingdom. Also, Allah or God is referred to in prayer and supplication as مالِكُ المُلْك [maaliku al-mulk] or the possessor of the kingdom or all there is to be possessed, as everything belongs to him.

Please, watch this video lesson for detailed explanation:

In Spoken Levantine Lebanese Arabic Dialect:

To want:

In Lebanese, we never use a verb to say "I want". Instead we used a phrase: بَدّي [Baddé], which has been contracted from بِوِدّي [Bi-widdii] and literally means "in my liking or desire", just as in English you have a liking for somethins, and thus you want or desire it. This is why there is possessive pronoun at the end, and this will change according to the pronoun. This expression is treated as a "pseudo verb", since despit being a combination of the [baa] preposition (in)+ a noun + a possessive pronoun, it behaves like a verb. This is why it's also negated with ما [maa] like all other verbs and tenses in colloquial Lebanese: ما بَدّي [Ma baddé] (I don't want). You can use a noun or another verb after بَدّي [Baddé]. When using another verb, there is no need for a helping particle like in Modern Standard Arabic. This makes things easier and simpler! And of course, there are no moods in colloquial and no case endings, so need to worry about changing the vowels at the end of the verbs.

To have:

In Lebanese we express "to have" mainly using adverbials عِند ['ind] (at) and مَع [ma'] (with). لَدى [ladá] is not used at all.

Please watch this tutorial video for the full explanation and differences in pronunciation:

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