“How Are You?” in Lebanese Arabic

Hi kifak ca vaImmediately after saying hello, you will of course want to follow up with: “How are you?” In this article, we look at how to ask and respond to this and similar questions in Lebanese Arabic.

1. Questions

2. Replies

3. Returning the question (“And how are you?”)
4. Answering your own question (“How are you, fine?”)
5. Additional questions and replies


1. Questions

“How are you?”

This is the standard question which Lebanese use to inquire into each other’s well-being. Sometimes it is even used in lieu of a greeting.

How are you (m.)? kīfak? كيفَك؟
How are you (f.)? kīfik? كيفِك؟
How are you (pl.)? kīfkun? كيفْكُن؟

Very often, Lebanese will not restrict themselves to just this question. This is especially so if they are addressing someone they know and have not seen recently. They may not even wait for a response before continuing with a series of further inquiries: “How are things with you? – “How’s your health?” – “What’s new with you?”, etc.

“How are things (with you)?”

How are things? kīf lHāl? كيف الحال؟
How are things with you (m.)? kīf Hālak? كيف حالَك؟
How are things with you (f.)? kīf Hālik? كيف حالِك؟
How are things with you (pl.)? kīf Hālkun? كيف حالْكُن؟


“How’s your health?”

How’s the health? kīf SSaHHaŧ? كيف الصَحَّة؟
How’s your (m.) health? kīf SaHtak? كيف صَحْتَك؟
How’s your (f.) health? kīf SaHtik? كيف صَحْتِك؟
How’s your (pl.) health? kīf SaHHitkun? كيف صَحِّتْكُن؟


“What’s new?”

What’s new? šū lĀaЌbār? شو الأخْبار؟
What’s new with you (m.)? šū ĀaЌbārak? شو أخْبارَك؟
What’s new with you (f.)? šū ĀaЌbārik? شو أخْبارِك؟
What’s new with you (pl.)? šū ĀaЌbārkun? شو أخْبارْكُن؟

More casually:

What’s up? šū fī mā fī? شو في ما في؟
So, anything new? šū fī šī jdīd? شو في شي جْديد؟


“Reassure me about you” (Tamminné 3annak)

This expression is less dramatic than the literal translation might suggest. It is essentially another way of saying “How are you?” or “What’s new with you?”

Reassure (m.) me about you Tamminné 3annak طَمِّنّي عَنَّك
Reassure (f.) me about you Tamnīné 3annik طَمْنيني عَنِّك
Reassure (pl.) me about you Tamnūné 3ankun طَمْنوني عَنْكُن

 

finger pointing bw Tip: Lebanese will often ask a number of the above questions in rapid fire succession. This can be a bit overwhelming at first. Bear in mind, however, that all of these questions are functionally equivalent to “How are you?” There’s no need to describe the most recent events in your life when someone asks you what’s new, nor is it necessary to provide a medical report in response to a question about your health. You can give the same reply to these questions as to “How are you”, and pretty much any of the replies in the next section will do.


2. Replies

 

We have divided the replies to “How are you?” and its variants into three parts:

Please note that the distinction between formal and informal replies is meant simply to convey an idea of tone, and should not be interpreted too rigidly. For the most part, you can use any of these replies in response to a question about your health or wellbeing, whether the question is coming from a stranger or a friend.


Informal reply referring to the person (I am fine)

One of the more common replies to “How are you?” is “mnīH / مْنيح”. This is an adjective and it must agree with the gender and number of the person speaking or spoken about. It therefore takes three different forms.

Good (m.) mnīH مْنيح
Good (f.) mnīHaŧ مْنيحَة
Good (pl.) mnēH مْناح
Very good (m.) ktīr mnīH كْتير مْنيح
Very good (f.) ktīr mnīHaŧ كْتير مْنيحَة
Very good (pl.) ktīr mnēH كْتير مْناح
I am (very) good (m.) Āanā (ktīr) mnīH أنا (كْتير) مْنيح
I am (very) good (f.) Āanā (ktīr) mnīHaŧ أنا (كْتير) مْنيحَة
We are (very) good (pl.) niHnā (ktīr) mnēH نِحْنا (كْتير) مْناح


Informal replies referring to the situation (Things are fine)

The next set of replies do not change, regardless of who is speaking. The adjectives here always take the masculine form, because it is understood that they are agreeing not with the person but with “the situation” (“lHāl / الحال” or “lwaD3 / الوَضْع”) or “everything” (“kill šī / كِلّ شي”), which are masculine nouns. Sometimes this is explicit, as in the expressions “mēšé lHāl / ماشي الحال” (lit. “The situation is moving”) or “kill šī mnīH / كِلّ ثي مْنيح” (“Everything is fine”); otherwise, it is implied.

Things are going (fine) mēšé lHāl ماشي الحال
It’s going (fine) ça va سا فا
Perfect, Great tamēm تَمام
Everything’s great kill šī tamēm كِلّ شي تَمام
Great 3aZīm عَظيم
Excellent mumtēz مُمْتاز
Fine, Good 3āl عال
Everything’s good kill šī mnīH كِلّ شي مْنيح

It is also possible to add a suffix pronoun to “mēšé lHāl / ماشي الحال” to indicate the person for whom things are going fine. In this case, the definite article (“l / ال”) is dropped. For example: “mēšé Hālé / ماشي حالي” (My situation is fine), “mēšé Hālak / ماشي حالَك” [Your (m.) situation is fine], “mēšé Hāluħ / ماشي حالُه” (His situation is fine), etc.

Note that “ça va” is generally only used where French greetings are common.


Formal replies

The following replies have a somewhat more formal or respectful tone than the previous replies. However, they are still friendly and are used in all situations.

Praise to God lHamdillaħ الْحَمدِ لله
We thank God nuškur Āallaħ نُشْكُر الله
May he (i.e. God) increase good ykattir Ќér Āallaħ يْكَتِّر خير الله
(I am) good (Āanā) bЌér (أَنا) بْخير
(I am) very good (Āanā) bĀalf Ќér (أَنا) بأَلْف خير
As well as can be expected 3alā mā yurām عَلى ما يُرام

Some people find phrases referring to God overly religious for casual use, while others have a preference for such replies.

Note that “lHamdillaħ / الْحَمدِ لله” is sometimes considered to be an Islamic expression.

Combined replies

It is common to combine “lHamdillaħ / الْحَمدِ لله”, “nuškur Āallaħ / نُشْكُر الله” or “ykattir Ќér Āallaħ / يْكَتِّر خير الله” with another reply.

* Good morning. SabāH lЌér. .صَباح الخير
* Good morning. SabāH nnūr. .صَباح النّور
* How are you (m.)? kīfak? كيفَك؟
* Good, praise to God. And mnīH lHamdillaħ. wĀinte مْنيح الحمد لله.
   how are you (f.)? kīfik? وإنْتِ كيفِك؟
* Good, praise to God. mnīHaŧ lHamdillaħ. .مْنيحَة الحمد لله
* May peace be upon you. Āassalāumu 3alaykum. .السَّلامُ عَلَيْكُم
* May peace be upon you too. wa3alaykum ssalām. .وعَلَيْكُم السَّلام
* How’s your (f.) health? kīf SaHtik? كيف صَحْتِك؟
* Praise to God, good. How lHamdillaħ bЌér. kīfik الحَمْدِ لله بْخير.
  are you (f.)? Āinte? كيفِك إنْتِ؟
* Good, praise to God. mnīHaŧ, lHamdillaħ. .مْنيحَة، الحَمْدِ لله
* Hello Charbel. bōnjūr šarbil. .بونْجور شَرْبِل
* Hello! bōnjūrén. .بونْجورين
* What’s new with you? šū ĀaЌbārak? شو أَخْبارَك؟
* I’m good, thanks to God. mnīH, nuškur Āallaћ. مْنيح، نُشْكُر الله.
   And how are things with you? wĀinte, kīf Hālik? وإنْتِ، كيف حالِك؟
* Things are going fine, praise mēšé lHāl, lHamdillaћ. .ماشي الحال، الحمد لله
   to God.


Negative replies

It is generally expected that you will say something positive – or, at least, not something negative – in response to any inquiry into your well-being. Therefore, unless you know a person well, it is better to avoid a negative sounding reply, no matter how bad your day is going, as this might offend the other person. Among friends and family, of course, it is possible to answer more frankly when things are not going so well.

Ok, So-so ya3né يَعْني
Not good (m.) miš mnīH مِش مْنيح
Not good (f.) miš mnīHaŧ مِش مْنيحَة
Bad (lit: “tar”) zifit زِفِت
Really bad ti3tīr تِعْتير


3. Returning the question (“And how are you?”)

In Arabic, unlike English, it is not normal to say “thank you” or “thanks” after replying to the question “How are you?” Instead, just go right ahead and ask the other person the same question.

Good (m.), how are you (m.)? mnīH, kīfak Āinta? مْنيح، كيفَك إنْتَ؟
Good (m.), how are you (f.)? mnīH, kīfik Āinte? مْنيح، كيفِك إنْتِ؟
Good (m.), how are you (pl.)? mnīH, kīfkun Āintō? مْنيح، كيفْكُن إنْتو؟
I (f.) am good, and you (m.)? Āanā mnīHaŧ, wĀinta? أنا مْنيحَة، وإنْتَ؟
I (f.) am good, and you (f.)? Āanā mnīHaŧ, wĀinte? أنا مْنيحَة، وإنْتِ؟
I (f.) am good, and you (pl.)? Āanā mnīHaŧ, wĀintō? أنا مْنيحَة، وإنْتو؟
Great, and how are you (m.)? tamēm, wĀinta kīfak? تَمام، وإنْتَ كيفَك؟
Great, and how are you (f.)? tamēm, wĀinte kīfik? تَمام، وإنْتِ كيفِك؟
Great, and how are you (pl.)? tamēm, wĀintō kīfkun? تَمام، وإنْتو كيفْكُن؟


4. Answering your own question (“How are you, fine?”)

Instead of waiting for the other person to reply, Lebanese will often answer their own question(s) with the expected response, also in the form of a question, as in “How are you, fine?” This additional question will usually be “mnīH / مْنيح”, “mēšé lHāl / ماشي الحال”, or “ça va / سا فا”. Another formula is “bЌér nšāå llaħ / بْخير نشاء الله”, which expresses a hope that the person is doing well.

* How are you (m.), good? kīfak, mnīH? كيفَك، مْنيح؟
* What’s new with you (pl.), šū ĀaЌbārkun, mēšé شو أخْبارْكُن، ماشي
  things are going fine? lHāl? الحال؟
* How are things? How’s kīf lHāl? kīf SaHtik? كيف الحال؟ كيف صَحْتِك؟
  your health? Good I hope! bЌér nšāå llaħ! بْخير نْشاء الله!

Undoubtedly the most famous example of the “answering your own question” phenomenon is in that quintessential trilingual Lebanese greeting which adorns many a souvenir T-shirt (like the one shown at the top of this page!):

Hi, how are you (m.), good? hāy, kīfak, ça va? هاي، كيفَك، سا فا؟

5. Additional questions and replies

Naturally, you can ask about other things and other people in a person’s life, as appropriate.

How’s work? kīf ššuğul? كيف الشُّغُل؟
How’s your (m.) work? kīf šuğlak? كيف شُغْلَك؟
How’s your (f.) work? kīf šuğlik? كيف شُغْلِك؟
How’s your (pl.) work? kīf šuğilkun? كيف شُغِلْكُن؟
How’s school? kīf lmadraseŧ? كيف المَدْرَسِة ؟
How’s university? kīf jjēm3aŧ? كيف الجّامْعَة؟

It is very common to ask about someone’s family.

How’s the family? kīf l3ayleŧ? كيف العَيْلِة؟
How’s your (m.) family? kīf 3ayltak? كيف عَيْلْتَك؟
How’s your (f.) family? kīf 3ayltik? كيف عَيْلْتِك؟
How’s your (pl.) family? kīf 3aylitkun? كيف عَيْلِتْكُن؟
How are your (m.) parents? kīf Āahlak? كيف أَهْلَك؟
How are your (f.) parents? kīf Āahlik? كيف أَهْلِك؟
How are your (pl.) parents? kīf Āahilkun? كيف أَهِلْكُن؟
How are things with the family? kīf Hāl l3ayleŧ? كيف حال العَيْلِة؟
How is your (pl.) parents’ health? kīf SaHHit Āahilkun? كيف صَحِّة أَهِلْكُن؟
What’s new with your (f.) family? šū ĀaЌbār 3ayltik? شو أخْبار عَيْلْتِك؟
Reassure (m.) me about your family. Tamminé 3an 3ayltak. .طَمِّنّي عَن عَيْلتَك

When asking about a specific person or persons, you must add the appropriate 3rd person suffix pronoun to the question word, as shown below with “kīf / كيف”.

kīf + uħ (m.) = kīfuħ كيف + ـُه (ذ.) = كيفُه
kīf + ħā (f.) = kīfħā كيف + ـها (أ.) = كيفها
kīf + ħun (pl.) = kīfħun كيف + ـُهن (ج.) = كيفُهن

Make sure not to omit the suffix pronoun, even if the person is named afterwards. For example:

* How is (he) Rami? kīfuħ rāmī? كيفُه رامي؟
* How is (she) Suher? kīfħā suhér? كيفها سُهير؟
* How are (they) Samim and Ghada? kīfħun Samīm wğādā? كيفهُن صَميم وغادَة؟

Remember that you only add the suffix pronoun when the question is about a person, and not when it is about a thing. Thus, you would say “kīf ššuğul / كيف الشُّغُل”, and not “kīfuħ ššuğul / كيفُه الشُّغُل”.

The rule about the suffix pronoun also applies when asking other questions. For example:

* How’s Adel’s health? kīf SaHtuħ 3ādil? كيف صَحْتُه عادِل؟
* Adel is good, praise to God. 3ādil bkér, lHamdillaħ. عادِل بْخير، الحَمْدِ لله
* How’s Ghada’s health? kīf SaHHitħā ğādā? كيف صَحِّتها غادَة؟
* Good, praise to God. mnīHaŧ, lHamdillaħ. .مْنيحَة، الحَمْدِ لله
* What’s new with Nour and šū ĀaЌbārħun nūr شو أَخْبارهُن نور
  Malak? wmalāk? ومَلاك؟
* Nour is fine but Malak is nūr mēšé Hālћā bass نور ماشي حالها بَسّ
  so-so. malāk ya3né. .مَلاك يَعْني
* What’s new with Mirna? šu ĀaЌbārħā mīrnā? شو أَخْبارها ميرنا؟
* Mirna is good, praise to God. mīrnā mnīHaŧ, lHamdillaħ. .ميرنا مْنيحَة، الحمد لله
* What’s new with Rose and šu ĀaЌbārħun rōz شو أَخْبارهُن روز
  Danny? wdānī? وداني؟
* Rose is great, but Danny is rōz tamēm, bass dānī .روز تَمام، بَسّ داني
  so-so. ya3né. .يَعْني

When responding to a question about your family, it is common to add (especially if it is true!) that they say hello to the person who is asking about them. For example:

* How’s the family? kīf l3ayleŧ? كيف العَيْلِة؟
* Good, they say hi to you (m.) mnēHaŧ, bitsallim 3alék .مْنيحَة، بِتْسَلِّم عَليك
* May God keep you Āallaħ ysalmik wiysallimħā. .الله يْسَلْمِك وِيْسَلِّمْها
  and them safe.
* How’s your (m.) family? kīf 3ayltak? كيف عَيْلْتَك؟
* All of them are good, killħun mnēH, bisalmō كِلّهُن مْناح، بِسَلمو
  they say hi to you (f.). 3alayké. .عَلَيْكِ
* May God keep you (m.) Āallaħ ysalmak wiysallimħun. .الله يْسَلْمَك وِيْسَلِّمْهُن
  and them safe.
* How are your (f.) parents? kīf Āahlik? كيف أَهْلِك؟
* Great, praise to God, they tamēm lHamdillaħ, bisalmō تَمام الْحَمدِ لله، بِسَلمو
  give you (m.) a big hello! 3alék ktīr! !عَليك كْتير
* May God keep you and Āallaħ ysalmik wiysallimħun. .الله يْسَلْمِك وِيْسَلِّمْهُن
  them safe.

Related:
How to Say Hello in Lebanese Arabic
How to Pass on Greetings in Lebanese Arabic
How to Say Goodbye in Lebanese Arabic

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