Interrogatives in Arabic are divided into two categories.
- Interrogative pronouns / أَسْماء الاِسْتِفْهام
- Two interrogative particles / حَرْفا الاِسْتِفْهام
Interrogative pronouns / أَسْماء الاِسْتِفْهام
|when (in the future)?||أَيّانَ ؟|
|From where?||أَنّى ؟|
|How much/many?||كَمْ ؟|
Note: All of them are indeclinable (مَبْنِيّة) at the exception of أَيّ usually completed by a singular noun whose gender it can take.
Which player do you prefer? أَيُّ لاعِبٍ تُفَضِّلُ ؟ What year do you graduate? في أَيّةِ سَنَةٍ تَتَخَرَّجُ ؟
Note 2: The interrogative كَمْ , is usually followed by either:
- a noun in the accusative case (مَنْصُوب), which provides clarification (refer to the section on “disambiguation/ تَمْيِيز”)
- the preposition مِنْ combined with a singular or plural noun to denote quantity. This can be applied to items that are difficult or impossible to count.
How many pens did you buy? كَمْ قَلَمًا اِشْتَرَيْتَ ؟ How many guests came to the wedding? كَمْ مِنْ الضُيُوف جاءوا في العُسْرِ؟
Interrogative pronouns preceded by a preposition
|with who?||مَعَ مَنْ ؟|
|to whom?||لِمَنْ ؟|
|about who?||عَمَّن ؟|
|from what?||مِمَّ ؟|
|with what?||بِمَ ؟|
|from where?||مِنْ أَيْنَ ؟|
|to where?||إِلى أَيْنَ ؟|
|how much?||بِكَمْ=كَمْ ؟|
Note: When certain prepositions are attached to the interrogative ما, its alif ا will be lost.
Note 2: The interrogatives مِنْ and ما are often found preceded by the prepositions عَنْ and مِنْ, which causes an assimilation of the final ن from the preposition to be merged with initial letter of these two words, hence why we see a shadda ( ّ ).
The two interrogative particles / حَرْفا الاِسْتِفْهام
The two particles هَلْ and أَ have no equivalent in English, they are used to introduce an interrogative sentence.
|Subject-verb inversion / do…?||هَلْ ؟|
|Subject-verb inversion / do…?||أَ ؟|
Note: هَلْ َbecomes هَلِ before hamzatu l-waṣli (waṣla). This form is used to avoid three consecutive consonants.
هَلِ الجَو مُمْطِرٌ؟ Is the weather rainy?
Note 2: The interrogative أ is attached to the following word before a negation such as أَلَيْسَ؟ / أَلا ؟ / أَلَم ؟ / or أما؟ and can even be used in correlation with the particle, أَمْ to give the choice between two options.
Isn’t it? أَلَيْسَ كَذَلِك؟ Are they from Algeria or from Morocco? أَهُمْ من الجَزائِرِ أَمْ مِنْ المَغْرِب؟
Note 3: The particle أ cannot appear before a word that starts with the definite article ال, yet it can be connected to another word beginning with …أ.
أَأَنْتَ مَجْنُونٌ؟ Are you crazy?
Master the art of asking questions in Arabic with our comprehensive guide to Interrogatives. Learn the different types and usage of question words in Arabic for fluent communication.
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