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Polite Request


The polite way to ask for something in English and other European languages would be by using the subjunctive mode of verbs; e.g. would you do this? could you do that?

In Arabic, there are several formulas for request, and several of them employ the subjunctive mood of verbs as well.

One of the most common phrases for request in Arabic is the following:

لَوْ سَمَحْتَ ...ه

law samaht(a) ...

= if (you sing. masc.) allowed ...

This formula is not a question. It uses the subjunctive mood of the verb "allow," though in the form of a perfective, or past, verb rather than a subjunctive imperfective, or present, verb. Perfective verbs are often used as subjunctive verbs in Arabic.

This phrase will be followed by a normal command, using the imperative mood of verbs.

لَوْ سَمَحْتَ ، نَاْوِلْنِيْ الْطَبَقَ

law samaht(a) naawil-nee ('a)l-tabaq(a)

= if (you sing. masc.) allowed, hand me the dish

Translation: please, hand me the dish


Another way:

نَاْوِلْنِيْ الْطَبَقَ لَوْ سَمَحْتَ

naawil-nee ('a)l-tabaq(a) law samaht(a)

= hand me the dish if (you sing. masc.) allowed

Translation: hand me the dish, please


Another variant of this phrase, which means just the same:

إِذَاْ سَمَحْتَ ...ه

'ithaa samaht(a) ...

= if (you sing. masc.) allowed ...



إِذَاْ سَمَحْتِ ، أَغْلِقِيْ الْبَاْبَ

'ithaa samaht(i) 'arliqee ('a)l-baab(a)

= if (you sing. fem.) allowed, close the door

Translation: please, close the door


Another way:

أَغْلِقِيْ الْبَاْبَ إِذَاْ سَمَحْتِ

'arliqee ('a)l-baab(a) 'ithaa samaht(i)

= close the door if (you sing. fem.) allowed

Translation: close the door, please


A third less common variant:

إِنْ سَمَحْتَ ...ه

'in samaht(a) ...

= if (you sing. masc.) allowed ...

This is used like the previous ones.


Conjugation for all subjects:

If You Allowed

Sing. masc.

 law samaht(a)

لَوْ سَمَحْتَ

Sing. fem.

 law samaht(i)

لَوْ سَمَحْتِ


 law samahtumaa

لَوْ سَمَحْتُمَاْ

Plu. masc.

 law samahtum

لَوْ سَمَحْتُمْ

Plu. fem.

 law samahtunna

لَوْ سَمَحْتُنَّ

*The word law can be replaced with 'ithaa or 'in.


The phrase law samaht(a), usually translated to "please" or "excuse me," can be used in other ways than being followed by a direct command.


 مَاْ اِسْمُكِ لَوْ سَمَحْتِ ؟

maa ('i)smu-k(i) law samaht(i)

= what (the) name (of) you (sing. fem.) (is) if (you sing. fem.) allowed

Translation: what's your name, please?


لَوْ سَمَحْتَ ، بِكَمْ هَذَاْ الحِذَاْءُ ؟

law samaht(a) bi-kam haathaa ('a)l-hithaa'(u)

= if (you sing. masc.) allowed, by how much this the shoe (is)

Translation: excuse me, how much are these shoes?


Another similar phrase to law samaht(a) that is very common is:

مِنْ فَضْلِكَ ...ه

min fadli-k(a) ...

= from/of (the) favor (of) you (sing. masc.) ...

This phrase does not use any subjunctive verbs. It will be followed often by a direct command, like the previous one. It is also usually translated to "please" or "excuse me."


مِنْ فَضْلِكَ ، أَعْطِنِيْ الْقَلَمَ

min fadli-k(a) 'a"ti-nee ('a)l-qalam(a)

= please, (you sing. masc.) give me the pen

Translation: please, give me the pen


Another way:

أَعْطِنِيْ الْقَلَمَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ

'a"ti-nee ('a)l-qalam(a) min fadli-k(a)

= (you sing. masc.) give me the pen please

Translation: give me the pen please


هُدُوْءًا مِنْ فَضْلِكُمْ

hudoo'a(n) min fadli-kum

= (I ask for) a quietness please (plu. masc.)

Translation: quiet, please


Conjugation for all subjects:

Of Your Favor

Sing. masc.

min fadli-k(a)

مِنْ فَضْلِكَ

Sing. fem.

min fadli-k(i)

مِنْ فَضْلِكِ


min fadli-kumaa

مِنْ فَضْلِكُمَاْ

Plu. masc.

min fadli-kum

مِنْ فَضْلِكُمْ

Plu. fem.

min fadli-kunna

مِنْ فَضْلِكُنَّ


A third way for request is by using the following word:

رَجَاْءً ...ه

rajaa'a(n) ...

= (I beg) a begging ...

This is more urgent than the previous two. It also means "please" or "excuse me" and it is used just like the formulas mentioned above. However, it does not have other conjugations than this one.


رَجَاْءً سَاْعِدْنِيْ

rajaa'a(n) saa"id-nee

= please (you sing. masc.) help me

Translation: please, help me


سَاْعِدْنِيْ رَجَاْءً

saa"id-nee rajaa'a(n)

= (you sing. masc.) help me please

Translation: help me, please


A common polite formula for request in Arabic is the following:

هَلْ مِنَ الْمُمْكِنِ أَنْ ...ه

hal min(a) ('a)l-mumkin(i) 'an ...

= is it that (he/it) (is) of the possible that ...?

Translation: is it possible that ... ?

The particle 'an = "that" is called in Arabic "infinitival 'an" because it is used to form "infinitival phrases" or infinitives, just similar to how the particle "to" is used to form infinitives in English (e.g. the infinitive "to go"). An imperfective verb following 'an must be in the subjunctive mood.


هَلْ مِنَ الْمُمْكِنِ أَنْ تُسَاْعِدَنِيْ ؟

hal min(a) ('a)l-mumkin(i) 'an tusaa"ida-nee

= is it possible that (you sing. masc.) help me

Translation: would/could you help me?


Another variant of the phrase:

أَمِنَ الْمُمْكِنِ أَنْ تُسَاْعِدِيْنِيْ ؟

'a-min(a) ('a)l-mumkin(i) 'an tusaa"idee-nee

= is it possible that (you sing. fem.) help me

Translation: would/could you help me?

The difference in this variant is that the interrogative particle 'a- was used instead of hal, which changes nothing anyway.

One more formula:

أَتَسْمَحُ أَنْ ...ه

'a-tasmah(u) 'an ...

= is it that (you sing. masc.) allow that ...?

= is it that (you sing. masc.) will allow that ...?



أَتَسْمَحُ أَنْ آخُذَ الْكِتَاْبَ ؟

'a-tasmah(u) 'an 'aakhuth(a) ('a)l-kitaab(a)

= is it that (you sing. masc.) will allow that (I) take the book

Translation: may I take the book?


Another variant:

هَلْ تَسْمَحِيْنَ أَنْ أَسْئَلَكِ سُؤَاْلاً ؟

hal tasmaheen(a) 'an 'as'ala-k(i) su'aala(n)

= is it that (you sing. fem.) will allow that (I) ask you a question

Translation: may I ask you a question?


Conjugation for all subjects:

Will you allow that ...?

Sing. masc.

'a-tasmah(u) 'an

أَتَسْمَحُ أَنْ

Sing. fem.

'a-tasmaheen(a) 'an

أَتَسْمَحِيْنَ أَنْ


'a-tasmahaan(i) 'an

أَتَسْمَحَاْنِ أَنْ

Plu. masc.

'a-tasmahoon(a) 'an

أَتَسْمَحُوْنَ أَنْ

Plu. fem.

'a-tasmahn(a) 'an

أَتَسْمَحْنَ أَنْ

*The word 'a- may be replaced with hal.


Another way for polite request in formal Arabic would be by means of the "urging" particles.


Urging Particles

Particles of "urging," or "inducement," أَدَوَاْتُ الْتَّحْضِيْضِ are a set of particles used to "urge" somebody to do something. They can be followed by indicative imperfective verbs, but they are often followed by perfective (≡subjunctive) verbs instead.


Urging Particles

أَدَوَاْتُ الْتَّحْضِيْضِ

≡ will / would have ?

can / could have ?

hal-laa هَلاَّ
'a-laa أَلاَ
'allaa أَلاَّ
law-laa لَوْلاَ
law-maa لَوْمَاْ

Excluding the first one, hal-laa, all of those compound particles are archaic and not used in modern Arabic.

The particle hal-laa is often used for request, although it can also mean reproach, depending on the situation.


هَلاَّ سَاْعَدْتَنِيْ ؟

hal-laa saa"adta-nee

= would have (you sing. masc.) helped me?

Translation: would/could you help me?

OR: you could have helped me :(


Another possibility:

هَلاَّ تُسَاْعِدُنِيْ ؟


hal-laa tusaa"idu-nee

= will (you sing. masc.) help me ?

Translation: will/can you help me?


When hal-laa is followed by an imperfective verb, it means only "urging" or request, and maybe command. When it is followed by an imperfective verb, it can mean request, command, or reproach.

Examples on classical particles:

أَلاَ أَعَنْتَنِيْ ؟

'a-laa 'a"anta-nee

= would have (you sing. masc.) helped me?

Translation: would/could you help me?

OR: you could have helped me :(


لَوْمَاْ تَأْتِيْنَاْ بِالْمَلائِكَةِ إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّاْدِقِيْنَ ؟

law-maa ta'<tee-naa bi-l-malaa'ika(ti) 'in kunt(a) min(a) ('a)s-saadiqeen(a)

= will (you sing. masc.) come (to) us with the angels if (you) were from/of the honest (people)?

Translation: would/could you bring us the angles if you were honest?

OR: you could have brought us the angels if you were honest



Common Ways for Request in Arabic

Please / Excuse me لَوْ سَمَحْتَ ...

law samaht(a) ...

مِنْ فَضْلِكَ ...

min fadli-k(a) ...

رَجَاْءً ...

rajaa'a(n) ...

Is it possible that ...?

هَلْ مِنَ الْمُمْكِنِ أَنْ ...

hal min(a) ('a)l-mumkin(i) 'an ..

Will you allow that ...?

أَتَسْمَحُ أَنْ ...

'a-tasmah(u) 'an ...

≡ will / would have ... ?

can / could have ... ?

هَلاَّ ...

hal-laa ...




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