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How Are You in Arabic (& What to Answer)
Unless you’re in a hurry, having small talk with people is pretty common in Arab culture. This applies notably when meeting people of the same gender. Same as in every language, a good conversation starts by asking how are you.
In this article, I’ll teach you the most common ways to say how are you in Arabic to a man or a woman in various dialects, and how to reply.
How to Say How Are You in Arabic?
Explore below the most common expressions used by Arabic speakers across the Middle East.
Kaifa Haluka (MSA)
The literal translation for how are you is kaifa haluka? (كيف حالك ؟). This expression is used in Modern Standard Arabic, which is the official language used in literature, media and other formal situations. Note that most Arab countries have a regional dialect used in everyday life.
This implies that there is a short form for certain expressions, or a different word altogether. MSA is used in writing, but not so much in the spoken language. If you’re new to Arabic, you should check out my article on the Arabic dialects where I explain this more in detail.
If you’re looking for an expression that you can say (and hear) in daily life situations, carry on reading.
Kaif al Hal (Universal)
Another universal yet formal way to say how are you in Arabic is kaif al hal? (كيف الحال؟). This expression is used in Modern Standard Arabic as well as in the Gulf countries. Same as kaifa haluka, it is quite formal. The good thing is that it can be used for both genders. Despite being formal, kaif al hal is used and understood in most Arabic dialects.
Kefak (Levantine Arabic)
If you’re interested in learning how to say how are you in spoken Arabic, then this is for you. Levantine Arabic is one of the most widespread dialects of Arabic. It’s spoken in countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and understood in large parts of the Middle East.
In Levantine Arabic, the most common way to say how are you is kefak? (كيفك) (to a man) or kefek? (كيفك) (to a woman). While kaif al hal literally means “what is the state”, kefak is a short and easy form, literally meaning “your state”. It’s the most commonly used expression in the Levantine countries.
The response to kefak can be “mneeh” (I’m good, man speaking). More on this at the end of this article.
Shu Akhbarak (Universal)
Similar to other languages, we often like to emphasize our greetings, especially when meeting someone after a long time. A great way to say how are you to a person that you haven’t spoken to in days or weeks is shu akhbarak (شو أخبارك). Shu akhbarak literally means “what’s your news”, and can be used to ask what a person has been up to, what’s been going on in their life etc.
This expression can be combined with others, such as kefak. You can perfectly say “kefak, shu akhbarak?” (how are you, how have you been?).
The best thing about shu akhbarak is that it’s used and understood across many Arabic dialects. It’s a very common expression in Levantine Arabic (Lebanon, Jordan…) as well as in the Gulf countries. Depending on the region, the pronunciation might slightly differ.
Note that shu akhbarak is commonly used when speaking to a man. The female form is shu akhbarek. While the Arabic spelling is the same for both genders (in this instance), you’ll hear a small difference between the two.
Essayak (Egyptian Arabic)
While Egyptian Arabic is usually quite similar to Modern Standard Arabic, there are some exceptions. How are you in Egyptian Arabic is essayak? (ازيك) (to a man) or essayik? (ازيك) (to a woman). However, kaif al hal is also widely understood in Egypt.
As you can see in the expressions above, the Arabic language makes a grammatical difference between men and women. This difference needs to be made to (most) verbs, pronouns and adverbs. It applies either for the gender of the person speaking, or the gender of the person you’re talking to.
When addressing a person, you’d have to adapt your wording according to the gender of that person (e.g. in the case of kefak/kefek). When talking about yourself, you’ll use your own gender (e.g. in the case of mneeh/mneeha). There are also many expressions which don’t need to be changed grammatically, such as Arabic greetings.
I’m Fine in Arabic
As a popular Arabic saying suggests: one day is honey, one day is onions. We can’t always have a good day. Sometimes, we just feel bad.
However, it’s almost part of Arab culture to answer positively when someone asks how one is doing. Even if a person is obviously not doing good, they will likely still tell you that they’re fine. That being said, there are countless ways to say I’m fine in Arabic! Let’s have a look at the most common words in spoken Arabic.
- Mneeh: Mneeh translates to “good/fine” and is one of the most common answers to how are you. Men answer mneeh (منيح), and women say mneeha (منيحة) (good).
- Kwayyes: An alternative to mneeh is kwayes (كويس) (kwayesa for women).
- Tamam: Tamam means “good” and can be (تمام) equally used by men and women.
- Alhamdulillah: Adding alhamdulillah (الحمد لله) (thank god) to your answer is pretty common. It’s mostly used by muslims as it’s an Islamic expression. Sometimes, people just use alhamdulillah as the answer, sometimes you can hear things like ana mneeh, alhamdulillah (I’m fine, thank god).
As you can see in the examples, you have to adapt the grammar of the adjectives according to your own gender when answering the question, i.e. talking about yourself. The only exception is tamam, which is used for both men and women. Alhamdulillah is not an adjective and can be used by men and women.
Expressions at a Glance
Below is a summary of the expressions used in this article and their English equivalent. The Latin script can help you with the correct pronunciation if you can’t read Arabic. Learning the Arabic alphabet will greatly help you with the correct pronunciation of Arabic words.
|English Equivalent||Arabic (Latin Script)||Arabic (Arabic Script)|
|How are you? (formal)||Kaifa haluka?||كيف حالك|
|How are you? (formal)||Kaif al hal?||كيف الحال|
|How are you? (Levantine Arabic) (masc.)||Kefak?||كيفك|
|How are you? (Levantine Arabic) (fem.)||Kefek?||كيفك|
|What’s new / how have you been? (masc.)||Shu akhbarak?||شو أخبارك|
|What’s new / how have you been? (fem.)||Shu akhbarek?||شو أخبارك|
|How are you? (Egyptian Arabic) (masc.)||Essayak?||ازيك|
|How are you? (Egyptian Arabic) (fem.)||Essayek?||ازيك|
|Thanks god (relig.)||Alhamdulillah||الحمد لله|
Learn Arabic with Me!
Looking for more expressions in Arabic, or are you interested in Arab culture? You’ve come to the right place! This blog is about all things Middle Eastern. You’ll find plenty of useful articles here to immerse yourself in the Arabic language, culture and cuisine.
Be sure to check out my guide on what Arabic dialect to learn, my handy Arabic alphabet chart or just browse my Arabic language learning resources.
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