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The وَ‎‎ in “kull Aam wa antum bi Khayr” – do you need the waw?

What’s the function of وَ‎‎ in the saying: ‎كُلُّ عامٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِخَيْرٍ‎‎‎?‎‎ It is a dubious one. Most grammarians say that you don’t need the وَ and that it would be of better Arabic style to skip it! Let’s see why.

Last updated: May 2, 2021

The sentence kull Aam wa antum bi Khayr (كُلُّ عامٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِخَيْرٍ) is used in Modern Standard Arabic and in Arabic di­alects – kull sana winta tayyeb to congratulate at birth­days, wed­dings, etc.

The translation depends on the context: Con­gratulations! Happy birthday! Happy new year!

Have you every thought about the reason why we use وَ in this sen­tence? It is funny that most students never thought about why there is a Waw in this sentence (check this article if you want to know more about the letter Waw). The sentence is a bit awkward if we approach it from a grammati­cal perspective and worth studying it.

Let’s give it a try.

The problem is actually focused on the وَ and its function. This discussion is not only about a finesse, it is crucial. Why? Because the job of the وَ determines the case ending of كُلّ:

1فَصِيحةBETTER style – without a وَ.كُلَّ عامٍ أَنْتُمْ بِخَيْرٍ
 
2صَحِيحة Correct – with وَ.كُلُّ عامٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِخَيْرٍ

Before we move on, check the case endings of the word كُلّ in both examples! You will notice a difference!

What is the job of the word كُلّ in number 1?

The word كُلّ works as an adverb of time  (اِسْم نائِب ظَرْف مَنْصُوب بِالْفَتْحة) and thus has to take the accusative case (مَنْصُوب). The sentence that follows (أَنْتُمْ بِخَيْرٍ) is a nominal sentence consisting of subject (مُبْتَدَأ) and predicate (خَبَر).

Let’s change the word order to make it clearer:

أَنْتُمْ بِخَيْرٍ كُلَّ عامٍ

What about number 2? What is كُلّ doing here?

That is more complicated. We need some tricks to make it work.

The word كُلُّ is the subject (مُبْتَدَأ) of the nomi­nal sentence and is therefore in the nominative case (مَرْفُوع).

The predicate (خَبَر), however, was deleted. Thus, the sentence could have the assumed, underlying meaning of: كُلُّ عامٍ ,مُقْبِلٌ وَأَنْتُمْبِخَيْرٍ. The word مُقْبِلٌ means next (for example, the next year, month) or coming.

–> The وَ functions as a واو الْحال!

The sentence after it (i.e., أَنْتُمْ بِخَيْرٍ) therefore is a حال. So, grammatically speaking, it occupies the position of an accusative case (فِي مَحَلّ نَصْب) as theحال has to be مَنْصُوب.

Remark: There are other solutions for the sentence with the وَ. For example, you could use a (virtual) verbal construction to make the sentence with the وَ work.

The grammarians stated that both versions are correct.

In my new book,  Arabic for Nerds 2 many topics like that are covered. Once you understand how Arabic sentences actually work, Arabic will become much easier.


Life without grammar would be boring. Do you know which verb form you should use with the word kull? Singular or plural?

Remark: Illustration by Pixabay/GraphicMama-team (free license)

Any thoughts or ideas about this? Leave a comment!

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