How are you?

How are you? = كَيف الحال؟ (kayf al-ḥāl), literally “How is the situation/condition?”

How are you? = كَيف حالُكُم/حالُكَ/حالُكِ؟ (kayf ḥālukum/ḥāluka/ḥāluki), “How is your (formal-plural/masculine/feminine) condition/situation?”

A note on the verb “to be”: Arabic has one (كانَ, kāna), but doesn’t use it in the present tense except in some very rare circumstances. Instead, it is implied or worked around; implied when a definite subject is followed by an indefinite predicate (which can be either nominal or adjectival), worked around when a definite subject is followed by a definite predicate by inserting the appropriate third-person pronoun between them:

هَذا الرَجُلُ مُعَلِّمٌ. (hadhā al-rajulu muʿallimun) = “That man is a teacher.”

هَذا الرَجُلُ هُوَ المُعَلِّمُ. (hadhā al-rajulu huwa al-muʿallimu) = “That man is the teacher.”

Colloquially there are many possibilities and I can only talk about a couple of them. One is the standard كيف حالك؟ but with the colloquial possessive, which is “-ak” or “-ik” (depending on gender), rather than “-ka” or “-ki,” so it sounds like “kayf-ha-lak” rather than “kayf-ha-lu-ka.” Another variant skips “hal” (condition) altogether and just asks “How are you?” or “keefak” (to a male) and “keefik” (to a female). “Kayf” in colloquial can be simplified as “keef.” Another, used primarily in the Khalījī (Gulf) dialect, is ايش لونك؟ (īsh lūnak/lūnik but pronounced “(i)shlo-nak” or “(i)shlo-nach” depending on gender—note the unusual use of a “ch” sound here for the feminine possessive), which literally means “what is your color?”

What’s up? = ما الأمرُ؟ (mā al-amr), literally “what’s the matter?”

What’s new? = ما هِيَ الأخْبارُ؟ (mā hiya al-akhbār), “what’s the news?” (substitute أخْبارُكُم/أخْبارُكَ/أخْبارَكِ akhbārukum/akhbāruka/akhbāruki WITHOUT THE DEFINITE ARTICLE for “what’s your news?”). “Akhbār” is the plural form of khabar, which means “report,” so it’s a bunch of reports, i.e., “the news.”

(A note on plurals: all non-human plural nouns are modified as though they were feminine singular nouns, meaning they take feminine singular form verbs and adjectives and are replaced by feminine singular pronouns.)

A colloquial variant, technically in the Levant (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories) but I heard it used frequently for the brief time I lived in the Gulf, is شو اخبارك؟ (shū akhbārak/akhbārik), meaning “what’s your news?” شو is a Levantine substitute for ما meaning “what.”


4 thoughts on “How are you?

  1. Pingback: How are you? | Persian Word a Day
  2. Pingback: How are you? | Turkish Word a Day
  3. I remember my first day of university, I walked up to some Saudi students in the hallway and said, ايش لونك؟ They just looked past me and walked past. A couple of days later, when I saw them again, I greeted in them in the same manner and they responded, “Were you the one who spoke to us in Arabic the other day?” When I admitted I was, they said that they hadn’t responded because they had assumed no white student would know Arabic and thus thought they were imagining things! It still makes me laugh to this day.

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