Moroccan Arabic

Moroccan Arabic
مغربي Maġribi
Pronunciation [mɑɣribi]
Spoken in Morocco
Native speakers 21 million  (1995)
Language family
Writing system Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ary

Moroccan Arabic (also known as Darija, الدارجة) is the variety of Arabic spoken in the Arabic-speaking areas of Morocco. For official communications, the government and other public bodies use Modern Standard Arabic, as is the case in most Arabic-speaking countries. A mixture of French and Moroccan Arabic is used in business. It is within the Maghrebi Arabic dialect continuum.



An overview of the different Arabic dialects

Native speakers typically consider Moroccan Arabic a dialect because it is not a literary language and because it lacks prestige compared to Standard Arabic (fuṣḥa). It differs from Standard Arabic in phonology, lexicon, and syntax, and has been influenced by Berber (mainly in its pronunciation, and grammar), French and Spanish.

Moroccan Arabic continues to evolve by integrating new French or English words, notably in technical fields, or by replacing old French and Spanish ones with Standard Arabic words within some circles.

Darija (which means "dialect") can be divided into two groups:

  • The pre-French protectorate: when Morocco was officially colonized by France in 1912, it had an accelerated French influence in aspects of everyday life. The pre-French Darija is one that is spoken by older and more conservative people. It is an Arabic dialect with Berber influences that can be found in texts and poems of Malhoun, and Andalusi music for example. Later, in the 1970s, traditionalist bands like Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala followed this course, and only sang in "classical darija".
  • The post-French protectorate: after the coming of the French, any French word, whether a verb or a noun, could be thrown into a sentence. This was more a habit of the young educated generations of the cities.

A similar phenomenon can be observed in Algerian Arabic and Tunisian Arabic.

Relationship with other languages

Moroccan Arabic has a distinct pronunciation and is nearly unintelligible to other Arabic speakers, but is generally mutually intelligible with other Maghrebi Arabic dialects with which it forms a dialect continuum. It is grammatically simpler, and has a less voluminous vocabulary than Classical Arabic. It has also integrated many Berber, French and Spanish words.

There is a relatively clear-cut division between Moroccan Arabic and Standard Arabic, and most uneducated Moroccans do not understand Modern Standard Arabic. Depending on cultural background and degree of literacy, those who do speak Modern Standard Arabic may prefer to use Arabic words instead of their French or Spanish borrowed counterparts, while upper and educated classes often adopt code-switching between French and Moroccan Arabic. As elsewhere in the world, how someone speaks and what words or language they use is often an indicator of their social class.


Moroccan Arabic has a distinct pronunciation nearly unintelligible to Arabic speakers from the Middle East. With the exception of the Shamali Darija, the North Moroccan dialect spoken in and around Tanger and Tetouan (also known as Jibli) and other regional varieties in Fes and Rabat, it is heavily influenced by Berber pronunciation, and it has even been argued that it is Arabic pronounced with a Berber accent, or with Berber phonemes. This is similar to the phenomenon in the south of France where some pronounce French with Occitan phonemes.


One of the most notable features of Moroccan Arabic is the collapse of short vowels. Initially, short /ă/ and /ĭ/ were merged into a phoneme /ə/ (however, some speakers maintain a difference between /ă/ and /ə/ when adjacent to pharyngeal /ʕ/ and /ħ/). This phoneme was then deleted entirely in most positions; for the most part, it is maintained only in the position /...CəC#/ or /...CəCC#/ (where C represents any consonant and # indicates a word boundary), i.e. when appearing as the last vowel of a word. When /ə/ is not deleted, it is pronounced as a very short vowel, tending towards [ɐ] in the vicinity of emphatic consonants, [a] in the vicinity of pharyngeal /ʕ/ and /ħ/ (for speakers who have merged /ă/ and /ə/ in this environment), and [ɪ] elsewhere. Original short /ŭ/ usually merges with /ə/ except in the vicinity of a labial or velar consonant. In positions where /ə/ was deleted, /ŭ/ was also deleted, and is maintained only as labialization of the adjacent labial or velar consonant; where /ə/ is maintained, /ŭ/ surfaces as [ʊ]. This deletion of short vowels can result in long strings of consonants (a feature shared with Berber and certainly derived from it). These clusters are never simplified; instead, consonants occurring between other consonants tend to syllabify, according to a sonorance hierarchy. Similarly, and unlike most other Arabic dialects, doubled consonants are never simplified to a single consonant, even when at the end of a word or preceding another consonant.

Some dialects are more conservative in their treatment of short vowels. For example, some dialects allow /ŭ/ in more positions. Dialects of the Sahara, and eastern dialects near the border of Algeria, preserve a distinction between /ă/ and /ĭ/ and allow /ă/ to appear at the beginning of a word, e.g. /ăqsˤărˤ/ "shorter" (standard /qsˤərˤ/), /ătˤlăʕ/ "go up!" (standard /tˤlăʕ/ or /tˤləʕ/), /ăsˤħab/ "friends" (standard /sˤħab/).

Long /a/, /i/ and /u/ are maintained as semi-long vowels, which are substituted for both short and long vowels in most borrowings from Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). Long /a/, /i/ and /u/ also have many more allophones than in most other dialects; in particular, /a/, /i/, /u/ appear as [ɑ], [e], [o] in the vicinity of emphatic consonants, but [æ], [i], [u] elsewhere. (Most other Arabic dialects only have a similar variation for the phoneme /a/.) In some dialects, such as that of Marrakech, front-rounded and other allophones also exist.

Emphatic spreading (i.e. the extent to which emphatic consonants affect nearby vowels) occurs much less than in many other dialects. Emphasis spreads fairly rigorously towards the beginning of a word and into prefixes, but much less so towards the end of a word. Emphasis spreads consistently from a consonant to a directly following vowel, and less strongly when separated by an intervening consonant, but generally does not spread rightwards past a full vowel. For example, /bidˤ-at/ [bedɑt͡s] "eggs" (/i/ and /a/ both affected), /tˤʃaʃ-at/ [tʃɑʃæt͡s] "sparks" (rightmost /a/ not affected), /dˤrˤʒ-at/ [drˤʒæt͡s] "stairs" (/a/ usually not affected), /dˤrb-at-u/ [drˤbat͡su] "she hit him" (with [a] variable but tending to be in between [ɑ] and [æ]; no effect on /u/), /tˤalib/ [tɑlib] "student" (/a/ affected but not /i/). Contrast, for example, Egyptian Arabic, where emphasis tends to spread forward and backward to both ends of a word, even through several syllables.

Emphasis is audible mostly through its effects on neighboring vowels or syllabic consonants, and through the differing pronunciation of /t/ [t͡s] and /tˤ/ [t]. Actual pharyngealization of "emphatic" consonants is weak and may be absent entirely. In contrast with some dialects, vowels adjacent to emphatic consonants are pure; there is no diphthong-like transition between emphatic consonants and adjacent front vowels.


Moroccan Arabic consonant phonemes[1]
  Labial Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyn-
plain emphatic labialized plain emphatic
Nasal m (mˤʷ)2 n            
Stop voiceless (p)3   t͡s, (t)1   k q6   ʔ
voiced b (bˤʷ)2 d   ɡ6,7      
Fricative voiceless f (fˤʷ)2 s8 ʃ x   ħ h
voiced (v)3   z8 ʒ7 ɣ   ʕ  
Tap     ɾ ɾˤ4          
Approximant     l ()5 j w      
  1. In normal circumstances, non-emphatic /t/ is pronounced with noticeable affrication, almost like /t͡s/ (still distinguished from a sequence of /t/ + /s/), and hence is easily distinguishable from emphatic /tˤ/. However, in some recent loanwords from European languages, a non-affricated, non-emphatic [t] appears, distinguished from emphatic /tˤ/ primarily by its lack of effect on adjacent vowels (see above; an alternative analysis is possible).
  2. mˤʷ, bˤʷ, fˤʷ are very distinct consonants that only occur geminated, and almost always come at the beginning of a word. They function completely differently from other emphatic consonants: They are pronounced with heavy pharyngealization, affect adjacent short/unstable vowels but not full vowels, and are pronounced with a noticeable diphthongal off-glide between one of these consonants and a following front vowel. Most of their occurrences can be analyzed as underlying sequences of /mw/, /fw/, /bw/ (which appear frequently in diminutives, for example). However, a few lexical items appear to have independent occurrences of these phonemes, e.g. /mˤmˤʷ-/ "mother" (with attached possessive, e.g. /mˤmˤʷək/ "your mother").
  3. (p) and (v) occur mostly in recent borrowings from European languages, and may be assimilated to /b/ or /f/ in some speakers.
  4. Unlike in most other Arabic dialects (but, again, similar to Berber), non-emphatic /r/ and emphatic /rˤ/ are two entirely separate phonemes, almost never contrasting in related forms of a word.
  5. () is rare in native words; in nearly all cases of native words with vowels indicating the presence of a nearby emphatic consonant, there is a nearby triggering /tˤ/, /dˤ/, /sˤ/, /zˤ/ or /rˤ/. Many recent European borrowings appear to require () or some other unusual emphatic consonant in order to account for the proper vowel allophones; but an alternative analysis is possible for these words where the vowel allophones are considered to be (marginal) phonemes on their own.
  6. Original /q/ splits lexically into /q/ and /ɡ/; for some words, both alternatives exist.
  7. Original /dʒ/ normally appears as /ʒ/, but as /ɡ/ (sometimes /d/) if /s/ or /z/ appears later in the same stem: /ɡləs/ "he sat" (MSA /dʒalas/), /ɡzzar/ "butcher" (MSA /dʒazzaːr/), /duz/ "go past" (MSA /dʒuːz/).
  8. Original /s/ is converted to /ʃ/ if /ʃ/ occurs elsewhere in the same stem, and /z/ is similarly converted to /ʒ/ as a result of a following /ʒ/: /ʃəmʃ/ "sun" vs. MSA /ʃams/, /ʒuʒ/ "two" vs. MSA /zawdʒ/ "pair", /ʒaʒ/ "glass" vs. MSA /zudʒaːdʒ/, etc. This does not apply to recent borrowings from MSA (e.g. /mzaʒ/ "disposition"), nor as a result of the negative suffix /ʃ/ or /ʃi/.


Moroccan Arabic is rarely written (most books and magazines are in French or Modern Standard Arabic), and there is no universally standard written system.[2] There is also a loosely standardized Latin system used for writing Moroccan Arabic in electronic media, such as texting and chat, often based on sound-letter correspondences from French ('ch' for English 'sh', 'ou' for English 'u', etc.). It is extremely rare to find Moroccan Arabic written in the Arabic script, which is reserved for Standard Arabic. However, most systems used for writing Moroccan Arabic in linguistic works largely agree among each other, and such a system is used here.

Long (aka "stable") vowels /a/, /i/, /u/ are written a, i, u. e represents /ə/ and o represents /ŭ/ (see section on phonology, above). ă is used for /ă/ in speakers who still have this phoneme in the vicinity of pharyngeal /ʕ/ and /ħ/. ă, ĭ, and o are also used for ultra-short vowels used by educated speakers for the short vowels of some recent borrowings from MSA.

Note that in practice, /ə/ is usually deleted when not the last vowel of a word, and hence some authors prefer a transcription without this vowel, e.g. ka-t-ktb-u "You're (pl) writing" instead of ka-t-ketb-u. Others (like Richard Harrell in his reference grammar of Moroccan Arabic) maintain the e; but it never occur in an open syllable (followed by a single consonant and a vowel). Instead the e is transposed with the preceding (sometimes geminated) consonant, which ends up following the e; this is known as inversion.

y represents /j/.

and ` represent pharyngeal /ħ/ and /ʕ/.

ġ and x represent velar /ɣ/ and /x/.

ṭ, ḍ, ṣ, ẓ, ṛ, ḷ represent emphatic /tˤ, dˤ, sˤ, zˤ, rˤ, lˤ/.

š, ž represent hushing /ʃ, ʒ/.

Code switching

Many Moroccan Arabic speakers among the educated class, especially in the territory which was previously known as French Morocco, also practice code-switching (moving from Moroccan Arabic to French and the other way around as it can be seen in the movie Marock). In the northern parts of Morocco, as in Tangier, it is common for code-switching to occur between Moroccan Arabic and Spanish, as Spain had previously controlled part of the region, and also continues to possess the territories of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa bordering only Morocco. On the other hand, some educated Moroccans, particularly those sympathetic to the ideas of Arab nationalism, generally attempt to avoid French and Spanish influences (save those Spanish influences from al-Andalus) on their speech, even when speaking in darija; consequently, their speech tends to resemble old Andalusi Arabic and pre-occupation Maghrebi.


Moroccan Arabic is grammatically simpler and has a less voluminous vocabulary than Classical Arabic. It has also integrated many Berber, French and Spanish words. Spanish words typically entered Moroccan Arabic earlier than French ones. Some words might have been brought by Moriscos who spoke Andalusi Arabic which was influenced by Spanish (Castilian), an example being the typical Andalusian dish Pastilla. Other influences have been the result of the Spanish protectorate in Spanish Morocco. French words came with the French protectorate (1912–1956). Recently, young Moroccans have started to use English words in their dialects.

There are noticeable lexical differences between Moroccan Arabic and most other dialects. Some words are essentially unique to Moroccan Arabic: e.g. daba "now". Many others, however, are characteristic of Maghrebi Arabic as a whole, including both innovations and unusual retentions of Classical vocabulary that has disappeared elsewhere such as hbeṭ' "go down" from Classical habaṭ. Others distinctives are shared with Algerian Arabic such as hḍeṛ "talk", from Classical hadhar "babble" and temma "there" from Classical thamma.

There are a number of Moroccan Arabic dictionaries in existence, including (in chronological order):

  • A Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic: Moroccan-English, ed. Richard S. Harrell & Harvey Sobelman. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1963 (reprinted 2004.)
  • Mu`jam al-fuṣḥā fil-`āmmiyyah al-maghribiyyah معجم الفصحى في العامية المغربية, Muhammad Hulwi, Rabat: al-Madaris 1988.
  • Dictionnaire Colin d'arabe dialectal marocain (Rabat, éditions Al Manahil, ministère des Affaires Culturelles), by a Frenchman named Georges Séraphin Colin, who devoted nearly all his life to it from 1921 to 1977. The dictionary contains 60 000 entries and was published in 1993, after Colin's death.

Some words borrowed from Berber

  • Mouch or Mech : cat (orig. Amouch) (pronounced [muʃ])
  • Khizzou : carrots ([xizzu])
  • Yekh : onomatopoeia expressing disgust (orig. Ikhan) ([jɛx])
  • Dchar or Tchar : zone ([tʃɑr])
  • Neggafa : wedding facilitator (orig. taneggaft) ([nɪɡɡafa])
  • sifet or sayfet : send ([sˤaɪfɪtˤ])
  • Sebniya: veil in north only
  • jaada : carrots in north only
  • sarred : synonyme of send in the north only

Some words borrowed from French

  • forchita : fourchette (fork) (pronounced [forʃitˤɑ])
  • tomobile or tonobile : automobile (car) ([tˤomobil])
  • telfaza : télévision (television) ([tɪlfɑzɑ])
  • radio : radio ([rɑdˤjo])—NB: rādio is common across most varieties of Arabic.
  • bartma : appartement (apartment) ([bɑrtˤmɑ])
  • rambwa : rondpoint (traffic circle) ([rambwa])
  • tobis : autobus (bus) ([tˤobis])
  • camera: caméra (camera) ([kɑmerɑ])
  • portable: portable (cell phone) ([portˤɑbl])
  • tilifūn: téléphone (telephone) ([tilifuːn])
  • brika: briquet (lighter) ([bri-key])
  • parisiana: a French baguette, more common is komera, stick
  • disk : song
  • Danon: Yogurt, genericized from Danone, a brand of yoghurt (in some regions)

Some words borrowed from Spanish

Some of these words might also have come through Andalusi Arabic brought by Moriscos when they were expelled from Spain following the Christian Reconquest.

  • roueda : rueda (wheel) (pronounced [rwedˤɑ])
  • cuzina : cocina (kitchen) ([kuzinɑ])
  • simana : semana (week) ([simɑnɑ])
  • manta : manta (blanket) ([mɑltˤɑ])
  • rial : real (five centimes; this term has also been borrowed into many other Arabic dialects) ([rjɑl])
  • fundo : fondo (bottom of the sea or the swimming pool) ([fundˤo])
  • carrossa : carrosa (carrosse) ([kɑrrosɑ])
  • courda : cuerda (rope) ([kordˤɑ])
  • cama (in the north only) : cama (bed) ([kamˤɑ])
  • blassa : plaza (place) ([blasɑ])
  • l banio: el baño (toilet)
  • comer  : eat (but Moroccans use this expression to name the parisian bread)
  • Disco  : song (in north only)

Some words borrowed from Portuguese and German

These words are used in several coastal cities across the Moroccan coast like Oualidia, El Jadida, and Tangier)


  • Blaya : beach
  • mariya: water flow


  • Kekse : cookies

Some examples of regional differences

  • Now: "Daba" in the majority of regions but "druk" or "druka" is also used in some regions in the center and south, and "drwek" or "durk" in the East
  • When?: "fuqash" in most regions,"fewakht" in the Northwest (Tangier-Tetouan) but "imta" in the Atlantic region, and "waqtash" in Rabat region
  • What?: "Ashnu", "shnu" or "ash" in most regions, but "shenni", "shennu" in the North, "shnu", "sh" in Fes, and "washta", "wasmu", "wash" in the Far East

Some useful sentences

Note: All the sentences are written according to the transliteration of the Arabic alphabet.

English Western Arabic Northern (Jebli, Tetouani) Arabic Eastern (Oujda) Arabic
How are you? La bas / Ça va? La bas? / Bikhayr?/ Keef nta? / Amandrah? La bas? / Rak ġaya / Rak Shbab?
Can you help me? Yemken lek tʿaweni? Tekdar dʿaweni? Yemken lek tʿaweni?
Do you speak English? Waš katehdar lingliziya / wash katidwi bil lingliziya? Waš kadehdar be llingliza? / kat tehdar lengliziya? Waš tehdar lingliziya?
Excuse me Smaḥ liya Smaḥ li Smaḥ liya
Good luck ḥaḍ saʿid ḥaḍ saʿid ḥaḍ saʿid
Good morning ṣbaḥ el-khir ṣbaḥ el-khir / Sbah el noor ṣbaḥ el-khir
Good night Teṣbaḥ ʿla khir ṣbaḥ ʿla khir Teṣbaḥ ʿla khir
Goodbye Beslama Beslama / howa hadak Beslama
Happy new year Sana saʿida Sana saʿida Sana saʿida
Hello As-salam ʿleykum / Ahlan As-salamou ʿaleykum/ Ahlan As-salam ʿlikum
How are you doing? La bas ʿlik? La bas? La bas ʿlik?
How are you? Ki dayer ? (masculine) / Ki dayra ? (feminine) Kif ntin? / Keef ntinah? Ki rak?
Is everything okay? Kulši mezyan ? Kulši mezyan ? / Kulšî huwa hadak ? Kulši mliḥ? / Kulšî zin?
Nice to meet you Metšarfin Metšarfin Metšarfin
No thanks La šukran La šukran La šukran
Please Allāh ikhallik / ʿafak Laykhallik / Layʿizek / Khaylah Allāh ikhallik / yʿizek
Take care Thalla f raṣek Thallah / Thalla Thalla f raṣek
Thank you very much Šukran bezaf Šukran bezaf Šukran bezaf
What do you do? Faš khaddam? Škad ʿaddel? / šenni khaddam? (masculine) / šenni khaddama? (feminine) / škadekhdem? / cheeni kat e'mel/'adal f hyatak? Faš tekhdem? (masculine) / Faš tkhedmi ? (feminine)
What's your name? Ašnu smiytek? / šu smiytek Šenni ismek? / keefach msemy nta/ntinah? Wašta smiytek?
Where are you from? Mnin nta? (masculine) / Mnin nti? (feminine) Mnayen ntina? / Mayen ntina? Min ntaya? / Min ntiya?
Where are you going? Fin ġadi temši? Nayemmaši? (masculine) / Nayemmaša? (feminine) Ferak temši? / Ferak rayaḥ
You are welcome La šukr ʿlâ wajib / Bla jmil La šukr ʿlâ wajib/mashi mushkil La šukr ʿlâ wajib




The regular Moroccan verb conjugates with a series of prefixes and suffixes. The stem of the conjugated verb may change a bit depending on the conjugation. Example:

The stem of the Moroccan verb for "to write" is kteb.

The past tense

The past tense of kteb "write" is as follows:

I wrote: kteb-t

You wrote: kteb-ti

He/it wrote: kteb (kteb can also be an order to write, e.g.: kteb er-rissala: Write the letter)

She/it wrote: ketb-et

We wrote: kteb-na

You (pl) wrote: kteb-tu

They wrote: ketb-u

Note that the stem kteb turns into ketb before a vowel suffix, due to the process of inversion described above.

The present tense

The present tense of kteb "write" is as follows:

I'm writing: ka-ne-kteb

You're (masculine) writing: ka-te-kteb

You're (feminine) writing: ka-t-ketb-i

He's/it's writing: ka-ye-kteb

She's/it's writing: ka-te-kteb

We're writing: ka-n-ketb-u

You're (pl) writing: ka-t-ketb-u

They're writing: ka-y-ketb-u

Note that the stem kteb turns into ketb before a vowel suffix, due to the process of inversion described above. Between the prefix ka-n-, ka-t-, ka-y- and the stem kteb, an e vowel appears, but not between the prefix and the transformed stem ketb, due to the same restriction that produces inversion.

In the north, "you're writing" is always ka-de-kteb, regardless of whom you are speaking to. This is also the case of de in de-kteb, as northerners prefer to use de and southerners prefer using te. Instead of the prefix ka, some speakers prefer the use of ta (e.g. ta-ne-kteb "I'm writing"). The co-existence of these two prefixes is due to historical differences. In general ka is more used in the north and ta in the south. In some regions like the east (Oujda) the majority of speakers don't use any preverb (ne-kteb, te-kteb, y-kteb, etc.).

Other tenses

To form the future tense, just remove the prefix ka-/ta- and replace it with the prefix ġa-, ġad- or ġadi instead (e.g. ġa-ne-kteb "I will write", ġad-ketb-u (north) or ġadi t-ketb-u "You (pl) will write").

For the subjunctive and infinitive, just remove the ka- (e.g. bġit ne-kteb "I want to write", bġit te-kteb "I want you to write").

The imperative is conjugated with the suffixes of the present tense but without any prefixes or preverbs:

kteb "Write! (masc. sing.)"

ketb-i "Write! (fem. sing.)"

ketb-u "Write! (pl.)"


One characteristic of Moroccan syntax which it shares with other North African varieties as well as some southern Levantine dialect areas is in the two-part negative verbal circumfix /ma-...-ʃi/.

  • Past: /kteb/ "he wrote" /ma-kteb-ʃi/ "he didn't write"
  • Present: /ka-y-kteb/ "he writes" /ma-ka-y-kteb-ʃi/ "he doesn't write"

/ma-/ comes from the Classical Arabic negator /ma/. /-ʃi/ is a development of Classical /ʃayʔ/ "thing". The development of a circumfix is similar to the French circumfix ne ... pas, where ne comes from Latin non "not" and pas comes from Latin passus "step". (Originally, pas would have been used specifically with motion verbs, as in "I didn't walk a step", and then was generalized to other verbs.)

The negative circumfix surrounds the entire verbal composite including direct and indirect object pronouns:

  • /ma-kteb-hom-li-ʃi/ "he didn't write them to me"
  • /ma-ka-y-kteb-hom-li-ʃi/ "he doesn't write them to me"
  • /ma-ɣadi-y-kteb-hom-li-ʃi/ "he won't write them to me"
  • /waʃ ma-kteb-hom-li-ʃi/ "didn't he write them to me?"
  • / waʃ ma-ka-y-kteb-hom-li-ʃi/ "doesn't he write them to me?"
  • /waʃ ma-ɣadi-y-kteb-hom-li-ʃi/ "won't he write them to me?"

Note that future-tense and interrogative sentences use the same /ma-...-ʃi/ circumfix (unlike, for example, in Egyptian Arabic). Also, unlike in Egyptian Arabic, there are no phonological changes to the verbal cluster as a result of adding the circumfix. In Egyptian Arabic, adding the circumfix can trigger stress shifting, vowel lengthening and shortening, elision when /ma-/ comes into contact with a vowel, addition or deletion of a short vowel, etc. However, none of these occur in Moroccan Arabic (MA):

  • There is no phonological stress in MA.
  • There is no distinction between long and short vowels in MA.
  • There are no restrictions on complex consonant clusters in MA, and hence no need to insert vowels to break up such clusters.
  • There are no verbal clusters that begin with a vowel: The short vowels in the beginning of Forms IIa(V) and such have already been deleted, and MA has first-person singular non-past /ne-/ in place of Egyptian /a-/.

Negative pronouns such as walu "nothing", ḥta ḥaja "nothing" and ḥta waḥed "nobody" could be added to the sentence without ši as a suffix.


  • ma-ġa-ne-kteb walu "I will not write anything"
  • ma-te-kteb ḥta ḥaja "Do not write anything"
  • ḥta waḥed ma-ġa-ye-kteb "Nobody will write"
  • wellah ma-ne-kteb or wellah ma-ġa-ne-kteb "I swear to God I will not write"

Note: wellah ma-ne-kteb could be a response to a command to write kteb, while wellah ma-ġa-ne-kteb could be an answer to a question like waš ġa-te-kteb? "Are you going to write?" .

In the north, "you're writing" is always ka-de-kteb, regardless of whom you are speaking to. This is also the case of de in de-kteb, as northerners prefer to use de and southerners prefer using te. Instead of the prefix ka, some speakers prefer the use of ta (e.g. ta-ne-kteb "I'm writing"). The co-existence of these two prefixes is due to historical differences. In general ka is more used in the north and ta in the south. In some regions like the east (Oujda) the majority of speakers don't use any preverb (ne-kteb, te-kteb, y-kteb, etc.).

Negative interrogation

In Moroccan Arabic, the word order doesn't change for negative questions in the northern parts of Morocco, but in the western areas and other regions, the word order is preferably changed. The pronoun waš could be added in the beginning of the sentence, although it rarely changes the meaning of it. The prefix ma can rarely be removed when asking a question in a fast way.


  • ma-ġa-te-kteb-ši? "Aren't you going to write?"
  • ma-ġadi-ši-te-kteb? (same)
  • waš ma-baġi-ši te-kteb? "You don't want to write?" (North)
  • waš ma-bġi-t(i)-ši te-kteb? (same) (Western and other regions)

A ka can be added in the beginning of the sentence when asking a question in an angry or surprised way. In this case, waš can't be added.


  • ka ma-ġa-te-kteb-ši?!
  • ka ma-ġadi-ši-te-kteb?!

In Detail

Verbs in Arabic are based on a consonantal root composed of three or four consonants. The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes and/or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as tense, person and number, in addition to changes in the meaning of the verb that embody grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive.

Each particular lexical verb is specified by two stems, one used for the past tense and one used for non-past tenses along with subjunctive and imperative moods. To the former stem, suffixes are added to mark the verb for person, number and gender, while to the latter stem, a combination of prefixes and suffixes are added. (Very approximately, the prefixes specify the person and the suffixes indicate number and gender.) The third person masculine singular past tense form serves as the "dictionary form" used to identify a verb, similar to the infinitive in English. (Arabic has no infinitive.) For example, the verb meaning "write" is often specified as kteb, which actually means "he wrote". In the paradigms below, a verb will be specified as kteb/ykteb (where kteb means "he wrote" and ykteb means "he writes"), indicating the past stem (kteb-) and non-past stem (also -kteb-, obtained by removing the prefix y-).

The verb classes in Arabic are formed along two axes. The first or derivational axis (described as "form I", "form II", etc.) is used to specify grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive, and mostly involves varying the consonants of a stem form. For example, from the root K-T-B "write" is derived form I kteb/ykteb "write", form II ketteb/yketteb "cause to write", form III kateb/ykateb "correspond with (someone)", etc. The second or weakness axis (described as "strong", "weak", "hollow", "doubled" or "assimilated") is determined by the specific consonants making up the root—especially, whether a particular consonant is a W or Y—and mostly involves varying the nature and location of the vowels of a stem form. For example, so-called weak verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant, which is reflected in the stem as a final vowel instead of a final consonant (e.g. rˤma/yrˤmi "throw" from R-M-Y). Meanwhile, hollow verbs are usually caused by a W or Y as the middle root consonant, and the stems of such verbs have a full vowel (/a/, /i/ or /u/) before the final consonant, oftentimes along with only two consonants (e.g. ʒab/yʒib "bring" from ʒ-Y-B).

When speaking of the weakness axis, it is important to distinguish between strong, weak, etc. stems and strong, weak, etc. roots. For example, X-W-F is a hollow root, but the corresponding form II stem xuwwef/yxuwwef "frighten" is a strong stem. In particular:

  • Weak roots are those that have W or Y as the last consonant. Weak stems are those that have a vowel as the last segment of the stem. For the most part, there is a one-to-one correspondence between weak roots and weak stems. However, form IX verbs with a weak root will show up the same way as other root types (that is, with doubled stems in most dialects, but with hollow stems in Moroccan Arabic).
  • Hollow roots are triliteral roots that have W or Y as the last consonant. Hollow stems are those that end with /-VC/, where V is a long vowel (most dialects) or full vowel in Moroccan (i.e. /a/, /i/ or /u/). Only triliteral hollow roots form hollow stems, and only in forms I, IV, VII, VIII and X. In other cases, a strong stem generally results. In Moroccan Arabic, all form IX verbs yield hollow stems regardless of root shape, e.g. sman "be fat" from S-M-N.
  • Doubled roots are roots that have the final two consonants identical. Doubled stems end with a geminate consonant. Only Forms I, IV, VII, VIII, and X yield a doubled stem from a doubled root—other Forms yield a strong stem. In addition, in most dialects (but not Moroccan) all stems in Form IX are doubled, e.g. Egyptian Arabic iħmárˤrˤ/yiħmárˤrˤ "be red, blush" from Ħ-M-R.
  • Assimilated roots are those where the first consonant is a W or Y. Assimilated stems begin with a vowel. Only Form I (and Form IV?) yields assimilated stems, and only in the non-past. In Moroccan Arabic, assimilated stems don't really exist at all.
  • Strong roots and stems are those that don't fall under any of the other categories described above. It is common for a strong stem to correspond with a non-strong root, but not usually the other way around.
Table of Verb Forms

In this section all verb classes and their corresponding stems are listed, excluding the small number of irregular verbs described above. Verb roots are indicated schematically using capital letters to stand for consonants in the root:

  • F = first consonant of root
  • M = middle consonant of three-consonant root
  • S = second consonant of four-consonant root
  • T = third consonant of four-consonant root
  • L = last consonant of root

Hence, the root F-M-L stands for all three-consonant roots, and F-S-T-L stands for all four-consonant roots. (Traditional Arabic grammar uses F-ʕ-L and F-ʕ-L-L, respectively, but the system used here appears in a number of grammars of spoken Arabic dialects and is probably less confusing for English speakers, since the forms are easier to pronounce than those involving /ʕ/.)

The following table lists the prefixes and suffixes to be added to mark tense, person, number and gender, and the stem form to which they are added. The forms involving a vowel-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAv or NPv, are highlighted in silver. The forms involving a consonant-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAc, are highlighted in gold. The forms involving no suffix, and corresponding stem PA0 or NP0, are unhighlighted.

Tense/Mood Past Non-Past
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st PAc-t PAc-na n(e)-NP0 n(e)-NP0-u/w
2nd masculine PAc-ti PAc-tiw t(e)-NP0 t(e)-NPv-u/w
feminine t(e)-NPv-i/y
3rd masculine PA0 PAv-u/w y-NP0 y-NPv-u/w
feminine PAv-et t(e)-NP0

The following table lists the verb classes along with the form of the past and non-past stems, active and passive participles, and verbal noun, in addition to an example verb for each class.


  • Italicized forms are those that follow automatically from the regular rules of deletion of /e/.
  • In the past tense, there can be up to three stems:
    • When only one form appears, this same form is used for all three stems.
    • When three forms appear, these represent first-singular, third-singular and third-plural, which indicate the PAc, PA0 and PAv stems, respectively.
    • When two forms appear, separated by a comma, these represent first-singular and third-singular, which indicate the PAc and PA0 stems. When two forms appear, separated by a semicolon, these represent third-singular and third-plural, which indicate the PA0 and PAv stems. In both cases, the missing stem is the same as the third-singular (PA0) stem.
  • Not all forms have a separate verb class for hollow or doubled roots. In such cases, the table below has the notation "(use strong form)", and roots of that shape appear as strong verbs in the corresponding form; e.g. Form II strong verb dˤáyyaʕ/yidˤáyyaʕ "waste, lose" related to Form I hollow verb dˤaʕ/yidˤiʕ "be lost", both from root Dˤ-Y-ʕ.
Form Strong Weak Hollow Doubled
Past Non-Past Example Past Non-Past Example Past Non-Past Example Past Non-Past Example
I FMeL; FeMLu yFMeL, yFeMLu kteb/ykteb "write", ʃrˤeb/yʃrˤeb "drink" FMit, FMa yFMi rˤma/yrˤmi "throw", ʃra/yʃri "buy" FeLt, FaL yFiL baʕ/ybiʕ "sell", ʒab/yʒib "bring" FeMMit, FeMM yFeMM ʃedd/yʃedd "close", medd/ymedd "hand over"
yFMoL, yFeMLu dxel/ydxol "enter", sken/yskon "reside" yFMa nsa/ynsa "forget" yFuL ʃaf/yʃuf "see", daz/yduz "pass" FoMMit, FoMM yFoMM koħħ/ykoħħ "cough"
yFMu ħba/yħbu "crawl" yFaL xaf/yxaf "sleep", ban/yban "seem"
FoLt, FaL yFuL qal/yqul "say", kan/ykun "be" (the only examples)
II FeMMeL; FeMMLu yFeMMeL, yFeMMLu beddel/ybeddel "change" FeMMit, FeMMa yFeMMi werra/ywerri "show" (same as strong)
FuwweL; FuwwLu yFuwweL, yFuwwLu xuwwef/yxuwwef "frighten" Fuwwit, Fuwwa yFuwwi luwwa/yluwwi "twist"
FiyyeL; FiyyLu yFiyyeL, yFiyyLu biyyen/ybiyyen "indicate" Fiyyit, Fiyya yFiyyi qiyya/yqiyyi "make vomit"
III FaMeL; FaMLu yFaMeL, yFaMLu sˤaferˤ/ysˤaferˤ "travel" FaMit, FaMa yFaMi qadˤa/yqadˤi "finish (trans.)", sawa/ysawi "make level" (same as strong) FaMeMt/FaMMit, FaM(e)M, FaMMu yFaM(e)M, yFaMMu sˤaf(e)f/ysˤaf(e)f "line up (trans.)"
Ia(VIIt) tteFMeL; ttFeMLu ytteFMeL, yttFeMLu ttekteb/yttekteb "be written" tteFMit, tteFMa ytteFMa tterˤma/ytterˤma "be thrown", ttensa/yttensa "be forgotten" ttFaLit/ttFeLt/ttFaLt, ttFaL yttFaL ttbaʕ/yttbaʕ "be sold" ttFeMMit, ttFeMM yttFeMM ttʃedd/yttʃedd "be closed"
ytteFMoL, yttFeMLu ddxel/yddxol "be entered" yttFoMM ttfekk/yttfokk "get loose"
IIa(V) tFeMMeL; tFeMMLu ytFeMMeL, ytFeMMLu tbeddel/ytbeddel "change (intrans.)" tFeMMit, tFeMMa ytFeMMa twerra/ytwerra "be shown" (same as strong)
tFuwweL; tFuwwLu ytFuwweL, ytFuwwLu txuwwef/ytxuwwef "be frightened" tFuwwit, tFuwwa ytFuwwa tluwwa/ytluwwa "twist (intrans.)"
tFiyyeL; tFiyyLu ytFiyyeL, ytFiyyLu tbiyyen/ytbiyyen "be indicated" tFiyyit, tFiyya ytFiyya tqiyya/ytqiyya "be made to vomit"
IIIa(VI) tFaMeL; tFaMLu ytFaMeL, ytFaMLu tʕawen/ytʕawen "cooperate" tFaMit, tFaMa ytFaMa tqadˤa/ytqadˤa "finish (intrans.)", tħama/ytħama "join forces" (same as strong) tFaMeMt/tFaMMit, tFaM(e)M, tFaMMu ytFaM(e)M, ytFaMMu tsˤaf(e)f/ytsˤaf(e)f "get in line", twad(e)d/ytwad(e)d "give gifts to one another"
VIII FtaMeL; FtaMLu yFtaMeL, yFtaMLu ħtarˤem/ħtarˤem "respect", xtarˤeʕ/xtarˤeʕ "invent" FtaMit, FtaMa yFtaMi  ??? FtaLit/FteLt/FtaLt, FtaL yFtaL xtarˤ/yxtarˤ "choose", ħtaʒ/yħtaʒ "need" FteMMit, FteMM yFteMM htemm/yhtemm "be interested (in)"
IX FMaLit/FMeLt/FMaLt, FMaL yFMaL ħmarˤ/yħmarˤ "be red, blush", sman/ysman "be(come) fat" (same as strong)
X steFMeL; steFMLu ysteFMeL, ysteFMLu steɣrˤeb/ysteɣrˤeb "be surprised" steFMit, steFMa ysteFMi stedʕa/ystedʕi "invite" (same as strong) stFeMMit, stFeMM ystFeMM stɣell/ystɣell "exploit"
ysteFMa stehza/ystehza "ridicule", stăʕfa/ystăʕfa "resign"
Iq FeSTeL; FeSTLu yFeSTeL, yFeSTLu tˤerˤʒem/ytˤerˤʒem "translate", melmel/ymelmel "move (trans.)", hernen/yhernen "speak nasally" FeSTit, FeSTa yFeSTi seqsˤa/yseqsˤi "ask" (same as strong)
FiTeL; FiTLu yFiTeL, yFiTLu sˤifetˤ/ysˤifetˤ "send", ritel/yritel "pillage" FiTit, FiTa yFiTi tira/ytiri "shoot"
FuTeL; FuTLu yFuTeL, yFuTLu suger/ysuger "insure", suret/ysuret "lock" FuTit, FuTa yFuTi rula/yruli "roll (trans.)"
FiSTeL; FiSTLu yFiSTeL, yFiSTLu birˤʒez??? "cause to act bourgeois???", biznes??? "cause to deal in drugs" F...Tit, F...Ta yF...Ti blˤana, yblˤani "scheme, plan", fanta/yfanti "dodge, fake", pidˤala/ypidˤali "pedal"
Iqa(IIq) tFeSTeL; tFeSTLu ytFeSTeL, ytFeSTLu tˤtˤerˤʒem/ytˤtˤerˤʒem "be translated", tmelmel/ytmelmel "move (intrans.)" tFeSTit, tFeSTa ytFeSTa tseqsˤa/ytseqsˤa "be asked" (same as strong)
tFiTeL; tFiTLu ytFiTeL, ytFiTLu tsˤifetˤ/ytsˤifetˤ "be sent", tritel/ytritel "be pillaged" tFiTit, tFiTa ytFiTa ttira/yttiri "be shot"
tFuTeL; tFuTLu ytFuTeL, ytFuTLu tsuger/ytsuger "be insured", tsuret/ytsuret "be locked" tFuTit, tFuTa ytFuTa trula/ytruli "roll (intrans.)"
tFiSTeL; tFiSTLu ytFiSTeL, ytFiSTLu tbirˤʒez "act bourgeois", tbiznes "deal in drugs" tF...Tit, tF...Ta ytF...Ta tblˤana/ytblˤana "be planned", tfanta/ytfanta "be dodged", tpidˤala/ytpidˤala "be pedaled"
Sample Paradigms of Strong Verbs
Regular verb, form I, fʕel/yfʕel

Example: kteb/ykteb "write"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st kteb-t kteb-na ne-kteb n-ketb-u ka-ne-kteb ka-n-ketb-u ɣa-ne-kteb ɣa-n-ketb-u
2nd masculine kteb-ti kteb-tiw te-kteb t-ketb-u ka-te-kteb ka-t-ketb-u ɣa-te-kteb ɣa-t-ketb-u kteb ketb-u
feminine t-ketb-i ka-t-ketb-i ɣa-t-ketb-i ketb-i
3rd masculine kteb ketb-u y-kteb y-ketb-u ka-y-kteb ka-y-ketb-u ɣa-y-kteb ɣa-y-ketb-u
feminine ketb-et te-kteb ka-te-kteb ɣa-te-kteb

Some comments:

  • Boldface, here and elsewhere in paradigms, indicate unexpected deviations from some previously established pattern.
  • The present indicative is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of /ka-/. Similarly, the future is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of /ɣa-/.
  • The imperative is also formed from the second-person subjunctive, this by the removal of any prefix /t-/, /te-/, or /d-/.
  • The stem /kteb/ changes to /ketb-/ before a vowel.
  • Prefixes /ne-/ and /te-/ keep the vowel before two consonants but drop it before one consonant; hence singular /ne-kteb/ changes to plural /n-ketb-u/.

Example: kteb/ykteb "write": non-finite forms

Number/Gender Active Participle Passive Participle Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. kateb mektub ketaba
Fem. Sg. katb-a mektub-a
Pl. katb-in mektub-in
Regular verb, form I, fʕel/yfʕel, assimilation-triggering consonant

Example: dker/ydker "mention"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st dker-t dker-na n-dker n-dekr-u ka-n-dker ka-n-dekr-u ɣa-n-dker ɣa-n-dekr-u
2nd masculine dker-ti dker-tiw d-dker d-dekr-u ka-d-dker ka-d-dekr-u ɣa-d-dker ɣa-d-dekr-u dker dekr-u
feminine d-dekr-i ka-d-dekr-i ɣa-d-dekr-i dekr-i
3rd masculine dker dekr-u y-dker y-dekr-u ka-y-dker ka-y-dekr-u ɣa-y-dker ɣa-y-dekr-u
feminine dekr-et d-dker ka-d-dker ɣa-d-dker

This paradigm differs from kteb/ykteb in the following ways:

  • /ne-/ is always reduced to /n-/.
  • /te-/ is always reduced to /t-/, and then all /t-/ are assimilated to /d-/.

Reduction and assimilation occur as follows:

  • Before a coronal stop /t/, /tˤ/, /d/ or /dˤ/, /ne-/ and /te-/ are always reduced to /n-/ and /t-/.
  • Before a coronal fricative /s/, /sˤ/, /z/, /zˤ/, /ʃ/ or /ʒ/, /ne-/ and /te-/ are optionally reduced to /n-/ and /t-/. The reduction usually happens in normal and fast speech but not in slow speech.
  • Before a voiced coronal /d/, /dˤ/, /z/, /zˤ/, or /ʒ/, /t-/ is assimilated to /d-/.


  • Required reduction /n-them/ "I accuse", /t-them/ "you accuse".
  • Optional reduction /n-skon/ or /ne-skon/ "I reside", /te-skon/ or /t-skon/ "you reside".
  • Optional reduction/assimilation /te-ʒberˤ/ or /d-ʒberˤ/ "you find".
Regular verb, form I, fʕel/yfʕol

Example: xrˤeʒ/yxrˤoʒ "go out"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st xrˤeʒ-t xrˤeʒ-na ne-xrˤoʒ n-xerˤʒ-u ka-ne-xrˤoʒ ka-n-xerˤʒ-u ɣa-ne-xrˤoʒ ɣa-n-xerˤʒ-u
2nd masculine xrˤeʒ-ti xrˤeʒ-tiw te-xrˤoʒ t-xerˤʒ-u ka-te-xrˤoʒ ka-t-xerˤʒ-u ɣa-te-xrˤoʒ ɣa-t-xerˤʒ-u xrˤoʒ xerˤʒ-u
feminine t-xerˤʒ-i ka-t-xerˤʒ-i ɣa-t-xerˤʒ-i xerˤʒ-i
3rd masculine xrˤeʒ xerˤʒ-u y-xrˤoʒ y-xerˤʒ-u ka-y-xrˤoʒ ka-y-xerˤʒ-u ɣa-y-xrˤoʒ ɣa-y-xerˤʒ-u
feminine xerˤʒ-et te-xrˤoʒ ka-te-xrˤoʒ ɣa-te-xrˤoʒ
Regular verb, form II, feʕʕel/yfeʕʕel

Example: beddel/ybeddel "teach"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st beddel-t beddel-na n-beddel n-beddl-u ka-n-beddel ka-n-beddl-u ɣa-n-beddel ɣa-n-beddl-u
2nd masculine beddel-ti beddel-tiw t-beddel t-beddl-u ka-t-beddel ka-t-beddl-u ɣa-t-beddel ɣa-t-beddl-u beddel beddl-u
feminine t-beddl-i ka-t-beddl-i ɣa-t-beddl-i beddl-i
3rd masculine beddel beddl-u y-beddel y-beddl-u ka-y-beddel ka-y-beddl-u ɣa-y-beddel ɣa-y-beddl-u
feminine beddl-et t-beddel ka-t-beddel ɣa-t-beddel

Boldfaced forms indicate the primary differences from the corresponding forms of kteb, which apply to many classes of verbs in addition to form II strong:

  • The prefixes /t-/, /n-/ always appear without any stem vowel. This behavior is seen in all classes where the stem begins with a single consonant (which includes most classes).
  • The /e/ in the final vowel of the stem is elided when a vowel-initial suffix is added. This behavior is seen in all classes where the stem ends in /-VCeC/ or/-VCCeC/ (where /V/ stands for any vowel and /C/ for any consonant). In addition to form II strong, this includes form III strong, form III Due to the regular operation of the stress rules, the stress in the past tense forms beddel-et and beddel-u differs from dexl-et and dexl-u.
Regular verb, form III, faʕel/yfaʕel

Example: sˤaferˤ/ysˤaferˤ "travel"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st sˤaferˤ-t sˤaferˤ-na n-sˤaferˤ n-sˤafrˤ-u ka-n-sˤaferˤ ka-n-sˤafrˤ-u ɣa-n-sˤaferˤ ɣa-n-sˤafrˤ-u
2nd masculine sˤaferˤ-t sˤaferˤ-tiw t-sˤaferˤ t-sˤafrˤ-u ka-t-sˤaferˤ ka-t-sˤafrˤ-u ɣa-t-sˤaferˤ ɣa-t-sˤafrˤ-u sˤaferˤ sˤafrˤ-u
feminine t-sˤafrˤ-i ka-t-sˤafrˤ-i ɣa-t-sˤafrˤ-i sˤafrˤ-i
3rd masculine sˤaferˤ sˤafrˤ-u y-sˤaferˤ y-sˤafrˤ-u ka-y-sˤaferˤ ka-y-sˤafrˤ-u ɣa-y-sˤaferˤ ɣa-y-sˤafrˤ-u
feminine sˤafrˤ-et t-sˤaferˤ ka-t-sˤaferˤ ɣa-t-sˤaferˤ

The primary differences from the corresponding forms of beddel (shown in boldface) are:

  • The long vowel /a/ becomes /a/ when unstressed.
  • The /i/ in the stem /safir/ is elided when a suffix beginning with a vowel follows.
Regular verb, form Ia, ttefʕel/yttefʕel

Example: ttexleʕ/yttexleʕ "get scared"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ttexleʕ-t ttexleʕ-na n-ttexleʕ n-ttxelʕ-u ka-n-ttexleʕ ka-n-ttxelʕ-u ɣa-n-ttexleʕ ɣa-n-ttxelʕ-u
2nd masculine ttexleʕ-ti ttexleʕ-tiw (te-)ttexleʕ (te-)ttxelʕ-u ka-(te-)ttexleʕ ka-(te-)ttxelʕ-u ɣa-(te-)ttexleʕ ɣa-(te-)ttxelʕ-u ttexleʕ ttxelʕ-u
feminine (te-)ttxelʕ-i ka-(te-)ttxelʕ-i ɣa-(te-)ttxelʕ-i ttxelʕ-i
3rd masculine ttexleʕ ttxelʕ-u y-ttexleʕ y-ttxelʕ-u ka-y-ttexleʕ ka-y-ttxelʕ-u ɣa-y-ttexleʕ ɣa-y-ttxelʕ-u
feminine ttxelʕ-et (te-)ttexleʕ ka-(te-)ttexleʕ ɣa-(te-)ttexleʕ
Sample Paradigms of Weak Verbs

Weak verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant.

Weak verb, form I, fʕa/yfʕa

Example: nsa/ynsa "forget"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st nsi-t nsi-na ne-nsa ne-nsa-w ka-ne-nsa ka-ne-nsa-w ɣa-ne-nsa ɣa-ne-nsa-w
2nd masculine nsi-ti nsi-tiw te-nsa te-nsa-w ka-te-nsa ka-te-nsa-w ɣa-te-nsa ɣa-te-nsa-w nsa nsa-w
feminine te-nsa-y ka-te-nsa-y ɣa-te-nsa-y nsa-y
3rd masculine nsa nsa'-w y-nsa y-nsa-w ka-y-nsa ka-y-nsa-w ɣa-y-nsa ɣa-y-nsa-w
feminine nsa-t te-nsa ka-te-nsa ɣa-te-nsa

The primary differences from the corresponding forms of kteb (shown in boldface) are:

  • There is no vowel movement of the sort occurring in kteb vs. ketb-.
  • Instead, in the past, there are two stems: nsi- in the first and second persons and nsa- in the third person. In the non-past, there is a single stem nsa.
  • Because the stems end in a vowel, normally vocalic suffixes assume consonantal form:
    • Plural -u becomes -w.
    • Feminine singular non-past -i becomes -y.
    • Feminine singular third-person past -et becomes -t.
Weak verb, form I, fʕa/yfʕi

Example: rˤma/yrˤmi "throw"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st rˤmi-t rˤmi-na ne-rˤmi ne-rˤmi-w ka-ne-rˤmi ka-ne-rˤmi-w ɣa-ne-rˤmi ɣa-ne-rˤmi-w
2nd masculine rˤmi-ti rˤmi-tiw te-rˤmi te-rˤmi-w ka-te-rˤmi ka-te-rˤmi-w ɣa-te-rˤmi ɣa-te-rˤmi-w rˤmi rˤmi-w
3rd masculine rˤma rˤma-w y-rˤmi y-rˤmi-w ka-y-rˤmi ka-y-rˤmi-w ɣa-y-rˤmi ɣa-y-rˤmi-w
feminine rˤma-t te-rˤmi ka-te-rˤmi ɣa-te-rˤmi

This verb type is quite similar to the weak verb type nsa/ynsa. The primary differences are:

  • The non-past stem has /i/ instead of /a/. The occurrence of one vowel or the other varies from stem to stem in an unpredictable fashion.
  • -iy in the feminine singular non-past is simplified to -i, resulting in homonymy between masculine and feminine singular.

Verbs other than form I behave as follows in the non-past:

  • Form X has either /a/ or /i/.
  • Mediopassive verb forms—i.e. Ia(VIIt), IIa(V), IIIa(VI) and Iqa(IIq) – have /a/.
  • Other forms—i.e. II, III and Iq—have /i/.


  • Form II: wedda/yweddi "fulfill"; qewwa/yqewwi "strengthen"
  • Form III: qadˤa/yqadˤi "finish"; dawa/ydawi "treat, cure"
  • Form Ia(VIIt): ttensa/yttensa "be forgotten"
  • Form IIa(V): tqewwa/ytqewwa "become strong"
  • Form IIIa(VI): tqadˤa/ytqadˤa "end (intrans.)"
  • Form VIII: (no examples?)
  • Form IX: (behaves as a strong verb)
  • Form X: stedʕa/ystedʕi "invite"; but stehza/ystehza "ridicule", steħla/ysteħla "enjoy", steħya/ysteħya "become embarrassed", stăʕfa/ystăʕfa "resign"
  • Form Iq: (need example)
  • Form Iqa(IIq): (need example)
Sample Paradigms of Hollow Verbs

Hollow have a W or Y as the middle root consonant. Note that for some forms (e.g. form II and form III), hollow verbs are conjugated as strong verbs (e.g. form II ʕeyyen/yʕeyyen "appoint" from ʕ-Y-N, form III ʒaweb/yʒaweb "answer" from ʒ-W-B).

Hollow verb, form I, fal/yfil

Example: baʕ/ybiʕ "sell"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st beʕ-t beʕ-na n-biʕ n-biʕ-u ka-n-biʕ ka-n-biʕ-u ɣa-n-biʕ ɣa-n-biʕ-u
2nd masculine beʕ-ti beʕ-tiw t-biʕ t-biʕ-u ka-t-biʕ ka-t-biʕ-u ɣa-t-biʕ ɣa-t-biʕ-u biʕ biʕ-u
feminine t-biʕ-i ka-t-biʕ-i ɣa-t-biʕ-i biʕ-i
3rd masculine baʕ baʕ-u y-biʕ y-biʕ-u ka-y-biʕ ka-y-biʕ-u ɣa-y-biʕ ɣa-y-biʕ-u
feminine baʕ-et t-biʕ ka-t-biʕ ɣa-t-biʕ

This verb works much like beddel/ybeddel "teach". Like all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant, the prefixes differ in the following way from those of regular and weak form I verbs:

  • The prefixes /t-/, /y-/, /ni-/ have elision of /i/ following /ka-/ or /ɣa-/.
  • The imperative prefix /i-/ is missing.

In addition, the past tense has two stems: beʕ- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and baʕ- elsewhere (third person).

Hollow verb, form I, fal/yful

Example: ʃaf/yʃuf "see"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ʃef-t ʃef-na n-ʃuf n-ʃuf-u ka-n-ʃuf ka-n-ʃuf-u ɣa-n-ʃuf ɣa-n-ʃuf-u
2nd masculine ʃef-ti ʃef-tiw t-ʃuf t-ʃuf-u ka-t-ʃuf ka-t-ʃuf-u ɣa-t-ʃuf ɣa-t-ʃuf-u ʃuf ʃuf-u
feminine t-ʃuf-i ka-t-ʃuf-i ɣa-t-ʃuf-i ʃuf-i
3rd masculine ʃaf ʃaf-u y-ʃuf y-ʃuf-u ka-y-ʃuf ka-y-ʃuf-u ɣa-y-ʃuf ɣa-y-ʃuf-u
feminine ʃaf-et t-ʃuf ka-t-ʃuf ɣa-t-ʃuf

This verb class is identical to verbs such as baʕ/ybiʕ except in having stem vowel /u/ in place of /i/.

Sample Paradigms of Doubled Verbs

Doubled verbs have the same consonant as middle and last root consonant, e.g. ɣabb/yiħebb "love" from Ħ-B-B.

Doubled verb, form I, feʕʕ/yfeʕʕ

Example: ħebb/yħebb "love"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ħebbi-t ħebbi-na n-ħebb n-ħebb-u ka-n-ħebb ka-n-ħebb-u ɣa-n-ħebb ɣa-n-ħebb-u
2nd masculine ħebbi-ti ħebbi-tiw t-ħebb t-ħebb-u ka-t-ħebb ka-t-ħebb-u ɣa-t-ħebb ɣa-t-ħebb-u ħebb ħebb-u
feminine t-ħebb-i ka-t-ħebb-i ɣa-t-ħebb-i ħebb-i
3rd masculine ħebb ħebb-u y-ħebb y-ħebb-u ka-y-ħebb ka-y-ħebb-u ɣa-y-ħebb ɣa-y-ħebb-u
feminine ħebb-et t-ħebb ka-t-ħebb ɣa-t-ħebb

This verb works much like baʕ/ybiʕ "sell". Like that class, it has two stems in the past, which are ħebbi- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and ħebb- elsewhere (third person). Note that /i-/ was borrowed from the weak verbs; the Classical Arabic equivalent form would be *ħabáb-, e.g. *ħabáb-t.

Some verbs have /o/ in the stem: koħħ/ykoħħ "cough".

As for the other forms:

  • Form II, V doubled verbs are strong: ɣedded/yɣedded "limit, fix (appointment)"
  • Form III, VI doubled verbs optionally behave either as strong verbs or similar to ħebb/yħebb: sˤafef/ysˤafef or sˤaff/ysˤaff "line up (trans.)"
  • Form VIIt doubled verbs behave like ħebb/yħebb: ttʕedd/yttʕedd
  • Form VIII doubled verbs behave like ħebb/yħebb: htemm/yhtemm "be interested (in)"
  • Form IX doubled verbs probably don't exist, and would be strong if they did exist.
  • Form X verbs behave like ħebb/yħebb: stɣell/ystɣell "exploit".
Sample Paradigms of Doubly Weak Verbs

"Doubly weak" verbs have more than one "weakness", typically a W or Y as both the second and third consonants. This term is in fact a misnomer, as such verbs actually behave as normal weak verbs (e.g. ħya/yħya "live" from Ħ-Y-Y, quwwa/yquwwi "strengthen" from Q-W-Y, dawa/ydawi "treat, cure" from D-W-Y).

Paradigms of Irregular Verbs

The irregular verbs are as follows:

  • dda/yddi "give" (inflects like a normal weak verb; active participle dday or meddi, passive participle meddi)
  • ʒa/yʒi "come" (inflects like a normal weak verb, except imperative aʒi (sg.), aʒiw (pl.); active participle maʒi or ʒay)
  • kla/yakol (or kal/yakol) "eat" and xda/yaxod (or xad/yaxod) "take" (see paradigm below; active participle wakel, waxed; passive participle muwkul, muwxud):
Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st kli-t kli-na na-kol na-kl-u ka-na-kol ka-na-kl-u ɣa-na-kol ɣa-na-kl-u
2nd masculine kli-ti kli-tiw ta-kol ta-kl-u ka-ta-kol ka-ta-kl-u ɣa-ta-kol ɣa-ta-kl-u kul kul-u
feminine ta-kl-i ka-ta-kl-i ɣa-ta-kl-i kul-i
3rd masculine kla kla-w ya-kol ya-kl-u ka-ya-kol ka-ya-kl-u ɣa-ya-kol ɣa-ya-kl-u
feminine kla-t ta-kol ka-ta-kol ɣa-ta-kol


In general, Moroccan Arabic is one of the most innovative (in the technical sense of "least conservative") of all Arabic dialects. Nowadays Moroccan Arabic continues to integrate new French words, mainly technological and modern words. However, in recent years constant exposure to revived classical forms on television and in print media and a certain desire among many Moroccans for a revitalization of an Arab identity has inspired many Moroccans to integrate words from Standard Arabic, replacing their French or Spanish counterparts or even speaking in Modern Standard Arabic while keeping the Moroccan accent to sound less pedantic. This phenomenon mostly occurs among literate people.

Though rarely written, Moroccan Arabic is currently undergoing an unexpected and pragmatic revival. It is now the preferred language in Moroccan chat rooms or for sending SMS, using Arabic Chat Alphabet composed of Latin letters supplemented with the numbers 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 for coding specific Arabic sounds as is the case with other Arabic speakers.

The language continues to evolve quickly as can be noted when consulting the Colin dictionary. Many words and idiomatic expressions recorded between 1921 and 1977 are now obsolete.

Diglossia and social prestige

While being a natural localization of Classical Arabic for geographic and historical reasons, as French has evolved from Vulgar Latin, Moroccan Arabic is considered as a language of low prestige[citation needed] whereas it is Modern Standard Arabic that is used in more formal contexts. While Moroccan Arabic is the mother tongue of nearly twenty million people in Morocco it is rarely used in written form. This situation may explain in part the high illiteracy rates in Morocco.

This situation is not specific to Morocco but occurs in all Arabic-speaking countries. The French Arabist William Marçais coined in 1930 the term diglossie (diglossia) to describe this situation, where two (often) closely related languages co-exist, one of high prestige, which is generally used by the government and in formal texts, and one of low prestige, which is usually the spoken vernacular tongue.

Artistic expression

There exists some poetry written in Moroccan Arabic like the Malhun. In the troubled and autocratic Morocco of the 70s (known as the years of lead), the legendary Nass El Ghiwane band wrote beautiful and allusive lyrics in Moroccan Arabic which were very appealing to the youth even in other Maghreb countries.

Another interesting movement is the development of an original rap music scene, which explores new and innovative usages of the language.


There are now at least three Moroccan Arabic newspapers, their aim is to bring information to people with a low level of education. From September 2006 to October 2010, Telquel Magazine had a Moroccan Arabic edition Nichane. There is also a free weekly magazine that is totally written in "standard" Moroccan dialect: Khbar Bladna, i.e. 'News of our country'.

See also


  1. ^ Watson (2002:21)
  2. ^ Some effort has recently been made in that direction with the KtbDarija [1] (literally "WriteDarija") project, which proposes a Latin alphabet for writing Darija, and a set of keyboard layouts for writing in this alphabet.


  • Ethnologue entry for Moroccan Arabic
  • Lonely Planet Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook ISBN 0-86442-586-4
  • Ernest T. Abdel Massih, Introduction to Moroccan Arabic, Univ of Michigan, Washington, 1982.
  • Jordi Aguadé, "Notes on the Arabic Dialect of Casablanca", AIDA 5th Conference Proceedings, Universidad de Cadiz, 2003, 301-308.
  • Louis Brunot, Introduction à l'arabe marocain, Maisonneuve, Paris, 1950.
  • Dominique Caubet, L'arabe marocain, Paris-Louvain, Peeters, 1993.
  • Olivier Durand, L'arabo del Marocco. Elementi di dialetto standard e mediano, Università degli Studi La Sapienza, Rome, 2004.
  • Richard S. Harrel, A short reference grammar of Moroccan Arabic, Georgetown University Press, Washington, 1962.
  • Richard S. Harrel, A Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic, Georgetown University Press, Washington, 1966.
  • Jeffrey Heath, Ablaut and Ambiguity: Phonology of a Moroccan Arabic Dialect, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1987.
  • Angela Daiana Langone, "Khbar Bladna. Une expérience journalistique en arabe dialectal marocain", in Estudios de Dialectologia Norteafricana y Andalusi n.7, 2003, 143-151.
  • Angela Daiana Langone, "Jeux linguistiques et nouveau style dans la masrahiyya en-Neqsha, Le déclic, écrite en dialecte marocain par Tayyeb Saddiqi", in Actes d'AIDA 6, Tunis, 2006, 243-261.
  • Abderrahim Youssi, "La triglossie dans la typologie linguistique", in La Linguistique n. 19, 1983, 71-83.
  • Abderrahim Youssi, Grammaire et lexique de l'arabe marocain moderne, Wallada, Casablanca, 1994.

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