Egyptian Arabic: prefix ب b-

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by londonmasri, Oct 6, 2008.

  1. londonmasri Senior Member

    Hey everybody,

    I am slightly confused when and when not to use this (pre-fix?)

    For example,
    "aftikir kida" = I think so OR
    "baftikir kida"

    b/aftikir inn innaas mabiyhiboosh....

    Any clarification would be appreciated. I hear it a lot but sometimes when i use it, it feels awkward or out of place.

  2. Haroon

    Haroon Senior Member

    C A I R O
    really I can't decide the origin of this (b) , and it is a truely difficult issue because ( as a native speaker ) I am used to using it in everyday talks . It is stuck to present verbs , and goes with all subjects , but you may simply omit it as it is not - as you see- standard Arabic. It may first used to act as a link between the subject and the verb that fasten the speed of utterance . However, I do not have strong proof of my assumption but I will continue to search :) .Sorry for not giving clear direct answer after all. :(
  3. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    I don't know it's origin, but it's not only used in Egyptian Arabic; other dialects have it too.
    You surely wouldn't use it in standard Arabic فصحى but you can't just drop it in 3ammeyya.
    Wouldn't it sound a bit to say something like this:
    - te3mel eih?
    - atghadday
    - we akhuuk ye3mel eih?
    - yezaaker
    instead of
    bete3mel, batghadda, beye3mel, beyzaaker... ?
  4. londonmasri Senior Member

    Thank you so much folks, I think its one of those things whereby if it sounds right, then use it (but check with the experts here first) wallany ghaltan? :)
  5. clevermizo Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    It's used with the habitual/continuous present tense. My sentences below are based on guesses about Egyptian Arabic because it's not my main dialect of study.

    Beyeshrab 2ahwa kulli yoom. He drinks coffee every day.
    Bete3mal eeh? What are you doing?

    But, I presume you can say:

    Teshrab 2ahwa? Won't you drink some coffee? (as an invitation or request)

    which is different from:

    Beteshrab 2ahwa? Do you drink coffee (regularly, at all, etc)?

    In Levantine Arabic the b- is used with the habitual present tense, but the continuous/progressive tense has another formation.

    Interestingly, I have discovered that the b- is used in Yemen with the meaning of the future tense.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2008
  6. londonmasri Senior Member

    Hey clevermizo, although it's not my chosen dialect of study, I am interested in the levantine usage of '3am'. E.g. 3am b-nahky 3an mawdhuuu3...

    Where does this 3am originate from? I have heard that they use this in saeed upper egypt, but without the 'b'.
  7. clevermizo Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    I don't know, but it may be related to 3ammaal. There are some other past threads related to this if you search around.
  8. londonmasri Senior Member

    Thanks CM, I'll have a look.
  9. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    Here is my understanding of how the bi prefix is used:

    The bi prefix is used to express general statements and the habitual tense, as Clevermizo noted:

    biyishrab sagaayir.
    He smokes.
    biyzaakir ba3d il-madrasa .
    He studies after school.
    BinHibb naakul kushari.
    We like to eat kushari.

    It is also used to express the present continuous tense (as in what is happening right now) in most verbs. It answers the question biyi3mil eeh (or whoever the person)? Using the above examples:

    biyi3mil eeh (dilwa2ti)?
    What is he doing (now)?
    biyishrab sigaara
    He is smoking a cigarette.
    biyzaakir id-dars
    He is studying the lesson
    biti3milu eeh?
    binaakul kushari
    we are eating kushari

    Whether the habitual or the present continuous is intended will in probably be clear from context, in most cases.

    There are a number of verbs which use the active participle to express to the present continuous tense. In this case the form of the verb with the bi-prefix only refers to the habitual sense:

    rayHiin in-naadi.
    We are going to the club.
    binruuh in-naadi (kull yoom, kull usbuu3, for example).
    We go to the club (every day, every week).

    Basma3 kwayyis.
    I hear well, I have good hearing.
    Ana saami3 (kalam-hum).
    I am listening (to what they are saying); I can hear (what they are saying).
    Bitshuuf kuwayyis?
    Do you see well (have good eyesight)?
    Inta shaayif il-kalb fish-shaari3.
    Do you see the dog in the street?

    This also gets tricky because the active participle has different functions (for different types of verbs), but I don’t want to get too far off topic, so that can be a separate discussion.

    Now, as for how to distinguish between which verbs use the bi prefix for both the habitual and the present continuous and which verbs use the bi prefix for only the habitual and the active participle for the continuous, I am not sure. I don't know if there is a rule. It’s something you just have to learn through experience I suppose. I can say that verbs of motion and verbs referring to senses seem to generally be of the latter.

    Thinking about it, which verbs use the bi prefix for both the habitual and the present continuous and which verbs use the bi prefix for only the habitual and the active participle for the continuous is probably related to the function of the participle for that particular verb, which as I said, can have a different function depending on the verb.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2008
  10. londonmasri Senior Member

    Thanks for the detailed answer Josh.

    I have one other question;
    are the following statements correct/ smooth:

    ma bi yashtaghalsh... he doesnt work

    ma bi-nehtefilsh bil-... we dont celebrate

    ma-bi-ti7tefelsh - she/you dont celebrate.

    To me it sounds slightly awkward, but it could be me and not the expression.

    For example, do we say 'ma3rafsh', or 'ma ba3rafsh'.
  11. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    Yes, they sound correct to me. My only comment is that يِشتغل would be with a kasra in Egyptian Arabic, so it would be yishtaghal, or yeshtaghal (depending on your preference of transliteration).
    Hmm. That's actually a tricky one (for me) because I have heard it both ways. You would, of course, say ba3raf and maba3rafsh if you habitually know or don't know something, and 3aarif and mish 3aarif if you presently know or don't know something, but I'm not sure what to make of a3raf and ma3rafsh without the 'b'. You'll have to wait for someone more knowledgeable than I.

    You actually reminded me, another category of verbs in which it seems the bi prefix is used for the habitual and the active participle for the continuous is stative verbs -- think, know, sit, want, etc.
  12. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    Not just Yemen but the entire Peninsula (except the urban Hejazi dialect, which belongs to the same family as those of Egypt and Sudan). It comes from يبي (he wants) or أبي (I want), which in turn derives from يبغي -- the verb for "wants."
  13. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    Although some Yemenis use b for future tense sh is by far more common.
  14. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    My guess (total shot in the dark here) is that the 'b' dialects are those of Yemen's beduoins.

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