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Lesson 4c: Sun and Moon Letters

Lesson 4, Part A:
  • Intro
  • Dialogue
Lesson 4, Part B:
  • The definite article
  • What makes a noun definite?
  • Adjectives and ال
Lesson 4, Part C:
Sun and Moon Letters
The 28 Arabic letters are evenly divided into Sun and Moon letters. When the first letter of a word is a Sun letter, the pronunciation of the definite article "Al" is changed. The "L" is not pronounced and instead the Sun letter is pronounced with a stress (Shadda). This is known as assimiltation.

Here are a couple examples:

Moon Letter: The "L" is pronounced

The coffee
al-qahwa
القَهوَة

Sun Letter: The "L" is not pronounced, instead the Sun Letter is stressed.

The car
a-ssayyara
السَّيّارة

Note that the "L" is pronounced in "Al-qahwa" but not in "A-ssayyaara"

The reason for the names Sun and Moon are because the Arabic word for sun is شَمس which starts with a Sun letter and the Arabic word for moon is قَمَر which starts with a Moon letter.

The purpose of the Sun letters is to make pronunciation easier. Start to say the word for car 'sayyaara' in Arabic, holding the initial 's' sound. Notice that the tip of your tongue is on the ridge behind your teeth. Next, start to say the word for sun 'shams', but hold the initial 'sh' sound. Again, the tip of your tongue is on the ridge behind your teeth. Now pronounce the word for the 'al' in Arabic, but hold the final 'l' sound. The tip of your tongue is in the same spot it was for the 's' in 'sayyaara' and the 'sh' in 'shams'. Now, say the word for moon 'qamr', and try to hold the inital 'q' sound. The tip of your tongue is in a totally different position near the bottom row of teeth. This position of the tongue is why 's' and 'sh' are sun letters, but 'q' is not. All sun letters are pronounced with the tip of the tongue at or near the ridge behind the top row of teeth.

Over time pronouncing the Moon letters correctly will come automatically but for now practice repeating the 14 Sun letters using the examples below. While you practice, pay attention to the position of your tongue.
Letter Example
س
siin
السَّيّارة
a-ssayara
the car
ش
shiin
الشّاي
a-shshaay
the tea
ص
Saad
الصَّباح
a-SSabaaH
the morning
ض
Daad
الضّابِط
a-DDaabit
the officer
ت
taa
التّاريخ
a-ttaariikh
History
ث
thaa
الثُّلاثاء
a-ththulaathaa'
Tuesday
ر
raa
الرِّسالة
a-rrisaala
the letter
ز
zaay
الزَّوج
a-zzawj
the husband
د
daal
الدَّرّاجة
a-ddarraaja
the bicycle
ذ
dhaal
الذَّهَب
a-dhdhahab
the gold
ط
Taa
الطّالِب
a-TTaalib
the student
ظ
DHaa
الظُّهر
a-THTHuhr
noon
ن
nuun
النّاد
a-nnaad
the club
ل
laamأ
اللُّغة
a-llugha
the language

Expressing likes with اُحِب
In the dialogue, the waiter asks Ahmad, "What would you like to drink?"

ماذا تُحِب ان تَشرَب؟

Here, the waiter is asking what Ahmad would like (tuhib) to drink. To talk about things that you like or love, you can use the word "uhib":
اُحِب

Take a look at some of the examples below.
1 اُحِب القَهوة
I like coffee.
2 اُحِب الشّاي
I like tea.
3 اُحِب التّاريخ
I like history.
4 اُحِب اللّغة العَرَبِيّة
I like the Arabic language.