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Could and should

How do you express “should have” and “will not have done” in Egyptian Arabic?

The expressions “should have” and “will have done” in Egyptian Arabic are quite tricky. Let’s see some solutions.

Last updated: May 2, 2021

Tenses in Arabic are easy compared to other languages. The Arabic verb basically knows only two different (morphological) forms: the present and past tense.

I know that the term tense is problematic since the meaning (and translation!) depends on the situation, the context, the position of the narrator, etc.

In other words, past tense is just a morphological term – because a verb that is conjugated in the past tense form does not always express an action that happened a long time ago! It may, for example, also express a wish.

Arabic can be pretty difficult if we express ideas of time – in other words, if we need to deal with compound tenses. Today, I am going to analyze some constructions in Egyptian Arabic that are often misunderstood.

The expression: “should have”

This structure is very difficult to understand if you don’t know it. There are mainly two options.

Formula 1:

maa (ما) + past of kaan (كان) + past tense of a verb

Note that you have to conjugate both verbs referring to the same person

Let’s us check some examples.

Example 1: You should have called the police.

Ma kunt ittaSalti by-sh-shurTa.
ما كنت اتّصلت بالشرطة

Example 2: You should have taken a cab, it would have been easier for you.

Ma kunti 5adti taksi, ashal-lak.
ما كنت خدت تاكسي, أسهل لك

Formula 2:

past of kaan (كان) + laazim (لازم) + present tense of a verb

Note that you have to conjugate both verbs referring to the same person. laazim always stays the same.

An example: You should have gone with her.

Kaan laazim tiruu7 ma3aaha.
كان لازم تروح معاها

The expression: “will have done'”

Formula 1:

future of kaan (كان) + past tense of a verb

Note that you have to conjugate both verbs referring to the same person.

This expression can easily be misunderstood because oftentimes, if the meaning is clear, the “ha”-future prefix in Egyptian Arabic is not used.

Example 1: By five o’clock I will have returned home.

es-saa3a 5amsa h-akuun wiSilt el-beet.
الساعة خمسة هاكون وصلت البيت

Example 2: Let’s hope that the meeting will be finished by now.

inshallah ykuun el-egtimaa3 5iliS dilwa’ti.
إن شاء لله يكون الاجتماع خلص دلوقتي

Example 3: By the time you come, we will have finished the homework.

3u’baal-ma teegi Ha-nkuum 5allaSna el-wageb.
عقبال ما تيجي هنكون خلصنا الواجب

Formula 2:

You use the expression ba2aa (بقى).

Note that you need the preposition li after ba2aa plus a personal pronoun as a referrer to the person.

An example: Next Saturday I will have been here seven months.

es-sabte g-gay H-akuun ba2aa-li hina sab3at-shuhur.
السبت الجايّ هاكون بقالي هنا سبعة شهور

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Picture credit: pixabay (Morgan 888)

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