Conjunctions / حُرُوف العَطْف

Conjunctions in Arabic (حُرُوف العَطْف)

Conjunctions in Arabic (حُرُوف العَطْف) belong to the category of particles (حُرُوف) which means they are indeclinable (مَبْنِيّة) and have no direct influence on the noun case of the word following it.

List of conjunctions / قائِمة حُرُوف العَطْف


Conjunctions contexts of use

and: وَ

Consists of only one letter and is attached to the word following it

  • It can easily join two noun phrases or sentences of the same register, either grammatically or semantically.
He played with his son and his dogلَعِبَ مع اِبْنِهِ وَكَلْبِهِ
He stood up and spokeقامَ وَتَكَلَّمَ
  • As opposed to English, in Arabic when coordinating more than two groups we arrange the coordination between each group rather than leaving it for the end.
رَاَْيْتُ كَريمًا وَسالِمًا وَلَيْلَى وَخَدِيجةَ
I saw Karim, Salim, Layla and Khadija

Note: Typically, when multiple adjectives refer to the same noun in an identification sentence, we do not utilize coordination. Instead, it is more common for them to be juxtaposed.

بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرّحْمَنِ الرّحِيم
In the name of God Most Gracious, Most Merciful
  • No matter the negative phrase used, when forming a negative sentence with nor, we must use و followed by لا to convey this meaning.
لَيْسَ قَلِقًا ولا مُرْتَحًا
He’s neither stressed nor relaxed

then: فَـ  

Consists of only one letter and is attached to the word following it

  • The coordinating conjunction فَـ can bring together two verbs or even sentences, suggesting a period of transition with the alteration of subject matter. It often gets translated by “therefore” and “then”. In many cases, it is comparable to punctuation marks like the comma, point, semicolon, or colon.
He didn’t know the answer so he asked his friendلَمْ يَعْرِفْ الجَوابَ فَسَاَلَ صَدِيقَهُ
The police arrested him, he’s a criminalأَوْقَفَتهُ الشُرْطةُ فَهُوَ مُجْرِمٌ
  • The particle فَـ can indicate a relationship of cause, result or intent. As the imperfect verb has to shift to an accusative case (المُضارِع مَنْصوب), it becomes more subordinated than coordinated.
He conspired against him because he coveted his positionمَكَرَ بِهِ فَطَمَعَ على مَنْصِبِهِ
  • Used to enumerate orders and succession of events.
خَرَجَ حَكِيمٌ فَسالِمٌ
Hakim got out then Salim after him

Afterwards / then: ثُمَّ   

  • Indicates succession with a break in time between the actions.
أَكَلَ ثُمَّ استراح
He ate and rested afterward (He ate then rested)

or: أو / أَم  

These particles are used to mark the alternative “or”.

  • The particle أَو is used to connect two nouns or two sentences
  • Can be used in an interrogative sentence where the response doesn’t induce a choice and can be different from the elements mentioned
Tomorrow, I’ll go to Doha or Riyadسَأَذْهَبُ إِلى الدُوحَى أَو الرِّياضِ غَدًا
Would you like to go, maybe today or tomorrow?هل تريد الذهاب، اليوم أو غدًا؟
  • The particle أم conveys the same meaning, but will be employed:
    • In an interrogative sentence introduced by أ the induce a choice between the elements mentioned.
    • In the phrase structure of …سواء… أ…أم (whether it’s…or…).
Are you a singer or a poet?أمُطْرِبٌ أَنْتَ أم شاعِرٌ ؟
{[…] it is the same for them, whether you have warned them, or have not warned them […]} Qur’an [Al-Baqara : 6]{سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنْذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنْذِرْهُمْ لا يُؤْمِنُونَ} 
القُرْآن [البَقَرة : 6 ]

rather: بَل 

Followed by a word starting with an alif with hamzatu al-waṣl (هَمْزة الوَصْل) the lām لـ takes the kasra

  • In an affirmative sentence, it is translated by much more, even.
لَدَيْهِ الملايِينُ بَلِ المِلياراتُ
He has millions even billions
  • In a negative sentence, it will be rendered by but (rather), on the contrary…
لا يُحِبُّ الكِلابَ بَلِ القِطَطَ
He doesn’t like dogs but (rather) cats
  • In a negative sentence it also serves to render the expression not only… but also… with =>     …لا… فَحَسْبُ بَل و
لا يُحِبُّ اللبنانياتِ فَحَسْبُ بَلِ والعراقياتِ أَيْضًا
He loves not only Lebanese women but Iraqi women as well.

but: لَكِنْ  

  • Usually used preceded by وَ particle.
لَيْسَ مَوْهِبًا وَلَكِنْ يَجْتَهِدُ
He isn’t talented but he’s hard-working

Note: Not to be confused with the particle لَكِنَّ having exactly the same meaning but being considered the “governor” of a sentence (see Intermediate section on إنّ and its sisters).

 even: حَتّى  

  • The particle ‘even’ has an array of meanings and purposes, and in Arabic grammar, it is expressed as a conjunction because when used in this function, it links phrases or clauses with those that lie after them.
تَمَتَّعَ الأطْفال بِالحَفْلةِ حَتّى الآباء
The children enjoyed the party, even the parents

Note: Particle حَتَّى can also act as a preposition (حَرْف جَرّ) meaning “up/until” (see section about prepositions).

not: لا  

  • To prove the ruling for what preceded it, negate what comes after it, provided that the participle is singular, and that it is “no” after the affirmative or the command.
رَفِيق مُهَنْدِسٌ لا طَبّاخٌ
Rafiq is an engineer, not a cook

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Discover the role of conjunctions in Arabic sentences with our comprehensive guide. Learn how to use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions to connect ideas and create fluent Arabic prose

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