Basic Greetings and Phrases for Learning Arabic

Marhabaan! If you're visiting an Arabic-speaking country, some key vocabulary is as critical as your wallet or passport. Many parts of the Middle East and Africa, where Arabic is the lingua franca, won't have English-language guides or directions that cater to tourists.

But with just a few useful phrases in Modern Standard Arabic, you'll know enough to get by across the whole Arabic-speaking world. Whether you're browsing for restaurants, doing some shopping, or asking for directions, these are the key words and phrases to know.

The Basics

Im some Arab countries, the gesture for "yes" (shaking your head from side to side) is identical to the American or British head gesture for "no." In those countries, people are likely to indicate "no" by looking directly upward instead. In any case, use the Arabic words to avoid any confusion.

Hello (informal)

Hello (formal)
Salam Alaikum/السلام عليكم

How are you?
Kayf halak/كيف حالك

My name is John
Ismee John/إسمي

What is your name? (When addressing a woman)
Ma ismuki?/ما اسمكِ

What is your name? (When addressing a man)
Ma ismuka?/ما اسمكَ

Good morning
Sabāḥul kẖayr/صباح الخير

Thank you
Shukran/ شكرا

Have a nice day
Atmna lk ywma tyba/ اتمنى لك يوما طيبا

Na'am / نعم

Laa / لا

Wadaaeaan/ وداعا

Photo Credit: Hailey Black / Pexels


As in anywhere else in the world, being polite in Arabic-speaking countries is important if you're a tourist. The following words and phrases will help you clarify and avoid the appearance of being impolite.

How do you say ____ in Arabic?
Kayfa taqūlu kalimah ____ bil-'arabīyah?/ كيف تقول كلمة ... بالعربية؟

Do you speak a language other than Arabic?
Hal tatahadath lughat 'ukhraa bijanib alearabia?/ هل تتحدث لغة أخرى بجانب العربية؟

Where is the bathroom?
Ayn al-ḥammām??/ أين هو الحمام؟

Do you understand?
Hal tafhamu?/ هل تفهمُ؟

Please speak more slowly
Takallam bibuṭ' min fadlak/من فضلك تكلم ببطء أكثر

Where are you from?
Min ayn ant?/ من اين انت؟

Where is the nearest___?
Ayana aqrab___?/ أين أقرب

How do I get ___?
Kayfa asel ela___/ كيف أصل إلى

Ayn? /أين

Excuse me
Efu/ عفوا

Photo Credit: Jean-Frederic Fortier / Unsplash

Places You Might Ask For Directions

The hospital
Almostashfa / المستشفى

The airport
Almatar / المطار

The museum
Al mathaf / المتحف

The bus station
Mahtet al bus / محطة الباص

The train station
Mahtet al qetar / محطة القطار

The hotel
Al fondok/ الفندق

Most of these words and phrases will be useful for everyday conversation, whether you're talking to a taxi driver, hotel concierge, or a stranger helping you with directions. Have a nice trip!