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إذْ and إذا and إذًا – What is the difference?

The Arabic word إذا (idha) is very tricky. Sometimes it is written without an Aleph – the spelling matters.

Last updated: November 15, 2021

All three words look very similar. So watch out and don’t mix them up.

Here is a list what they mean and how they are used:

when; as suddenly إذا

إذا is normally introducing a conditional sentence.

The verbal sentence (جُمْلة فِعْلِيّة) after it is usually in the past tense – but it has the meaning of the present tense or even future tense!

The word إِذا can only be used if the situation in the conditional sentence can theoretically be achieved, if it is possible, or has happened.

This is different to إنْ – as the word إنْ can be used for introducing a possible or impossible condition, as shown in the examples below.

إذا ما is only used to emphasize a sentence (تَأْكِيد).

If you are successful in your work, you will be successful in your life. (This leaves open if you are successful or not; you could be both.)

إنْ تَجْتَهِدْ في عَمَلِكَ تَنْجَحْ في حَياتِكَ

When the sun rises (and the sun does rise every day without an exception) people will go to their work.

إذا طَلَعَتْ الشَّمْس ذَهَبَ النَّاسُ إلى عمالِهِم

as; when; since; as; because إذْ

It can be used as a causal or temporal conjunction. Normally, a verbal sentence (جُمْلة فِعْلِيّة) in the past follows, very rarely you see a nominal sentence (جُمْلة اِسْمِيّة).

It has usually the meaning of عِنْدَ ما.

She cried as she was sick.

بَكِيَتْ إذْ كانَتْ مَرِيِضةً

then; therefore; hence; that’s why; consequently; in that caseإذًا = إذَنْ

Often used in a dialogue responding to what was said before.

A:We will meet at the center.سَنَلْتَقي في الْمَرْكَزِ
B:Let’s have a coffee together then. (Remark: this is a rather simplified translation to illustrate the concept. There are more sophisticated ways to express that.)إِذًا نَشْرَبُ قَهْوَةً مَعًا

In both of my books – Arabic for Nerds 1 and Arabic for Nerds 2 – I cover many aspects of these tiny words in depth.


Arabic grammar isn’t boring…

picture credit: Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

2 comments
  1. Nice post, but the Arabic in example B (‘Let’s have coffee together then’) is incorrect — the dangers of copying and pasting;-)

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