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How to say what's up, let's go, and other basic phrases in Arabic

Two women in hijabs looking at a phone. One woman is holding a glass of tea.

If you’ve studied Arabic in school, chances are you learned Modern Standard Arabic or MSA—the backbone of the different Arabic dialects spoken around the world. However, you might not be familiar with slang and other popular terms used in every day conversation. You probably know inshallah, which means “God willing” and is used in different situations from talking about the weather when your plans include an outdoor event to hoping your favorite team will win their next match. Here are some other words and phrases that are good to know:

  • Marhaba, Hala: You probably learned as-salaam alaikum as the standard greeting in Arabic, but you can also use marhaba or hala to say "hello."
  • Khallas: This word means “to finish” and is usually used to say things like “stop it” or “it’s over.”
  • Yallah: One way to say “let’s go,” this term is commonly used in many situations from talking to friends to complaining in traffic.
  • Akeed: A simple way to say “sure.”
  • Sabah al Kheir: While this literally means “good morning,” it’s usually used as a way to say “duh.”
  • Shaku maku: Also a greeting, this term means “what’s up?”
  • Ya rayyal: This is used to express frustration, like if you’re saying “aw man.” 
  • Wallah: Used to say “I swear to God” or “I swear,” you can use it in any situation where you might be exclaiming something.
  • Bi sharafak: This phrase is used to express disbelief, often in a joking way. Think of it as saying, “seriously?”

It’s important to keep in mind that the way some of these words and phrases are used in one country might not be the same in another. That’s because there are actually numerous dialects of Arabic. While these expressions are considered widely used and known, don’t forget to do some research on slang and popular phrases in the country you’ll be visiting. It’ll be a great way to start off on the right foot with your new classmates and colleagues.

Want to find more resources on the Arabic language? Don't forget to browse the Arabic section of CultureReady.

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