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Summary of

Arabic reading rules

This lesson summarizes all the Arabic reading rules learned in previous lessons from the Arabic alphabet to the Arabic letter hamza. Also, we would polish these rules. That means, when we learn a new language with the help of a language we already know, there are differences in the grammatical structures of both. So, we find some commonalities between two languages for our ease and to relate grammatical structures of two languages. For example, there's no concept of vowels in Arabic but we have learned vowels in previous lessons. That was to relate Arabic to English for learning purposes. In this summarized lesson, we will learn what actually vowels are in Arabic, and then we use the actual Arabic terminology for vowels in the coming lessons of Arabic grammar.

  1. Arabic joining letters
  2. Arabic vowels
  3. Arabic short vowels
  4. Arabic long vowels
  5. Sukoon
  6. Arabic diphthongs
  7. Tanween
  8. Shadda

Arabic joining letters

During the word formation, letters in the Arabic alphabet connect to other letters from their left and right sides. However, six alphabetic letters cannot connect to other letters on their left sides. Then, there is a unique letter Hamza (ء), which is always written in solo form i.e. it can't be connected to other letters, either on the left or right side.

Six letters that can't be connected to their left sides are:


Arabic vowels

Now that we learned how to read Arabic, it is time to revise and rewrite our memory about Arabic vowels.
All Arabic letters are consonants. There is no concept of capital or small letters in Arabic.

Now that we have learned how to read Arabic, it's time to revise and rewrite our memory about Arabic vowels.

All Arabic letters are consonants. There is no concept of capital or small letters in Arabic. Also, the symbols, which we have learned as Arabic vowels, can better be described just as "diacritical marks". A diacritical mark is a symbol that signals the reader how to correctly pronounce a letter. Many central European languages also have diacritical marks like in words Café, Zoë, über, soupçon, rôle, Señor, etc. These marks give "actual sounds" to letters in a word.

The use of diacritical marks as vowels is a new concept for English speakers. As in English vowels are actual letters and can exit on their own, but Arabic vowels (diacritical marks) can't exist on their own and must accompany a consonant. Each language has its own grammatical terminology, which may not be directly translated into other languages. So, we have to use some roundabouts to teach these terminologies to new students.

We used the roundabout for the English term "vowels" to learn harakat (حَرَكَات) in Arabic. The word "harakat" is a plural noun. The singular of which is harakah (حَرَكَة) and the meaning of harakah is "movement". They give movements (sounds) to still letters.

There are more Arabic terminologies in the grammar section which don't fit 100% into English grammatical terminologies. So, be ready for the unusual grammatical concepts in the coming lessons.

A Reminder! Always read Arabic or Arabic symbols from right to left, even if they are written in between English sentences.

  1. There are three basic vowels (حَرَكَات)
    ـَ  ـِ  ـُ
  2. Then these three basic vowels have extentions to three long vowels
    ـَ + ا
    ـِ + ي
    ـُ + و
  3. and also to three double vowels.
    ـً  ـٍ  ـٌ
  4. A letter containing any of the above described three types of harakat (حَرَكَات) is called mutaharrik (مُتَحَرِّك)
  5. For example, all the following letters are mutaharrik (مُتَحَرِّك).
    بَ تِ بٌ بٍ

Arabic short vowels

Exact Arabic grammatical terminology for short vowels is
حَرَكَات قَصِيْرَة (harakat kaseerah) or
حَرَكَات ثَلٰثَة (harakat slaasah) .

قَصِيْرَة (kaseerah) means short or small.
ثَلٰثَة (slaasahh) means three.
حَرَكَات ثَلٰثَة (harakat slaasah) or short vowels include:

  1. فَتْحَةٌ (Fatha)   ـَ  
  2. كَسْرَةٌ (Kasra)   ـِ
  3. دَمَّةٌ (Damma)   ـُ

They give sounds of "a", "i", and "u" respectively to any letter they accompany.

  1.   ـَ  
  2.   ـِ  
  3.   ـُ  
  1. A letter containing fatha ( ـَ ) on it is called maftooh (مَفْتُوح) .
    Like, the letter تَ in the word تَشْدِيْدٌ is maftooh (مَفْتُوْح).
  2. A letter containing kasra ( ـِ ) below it is called maksoor (مَكْسُوْر) .
    The letter دِ in the word تَشْدِيْدٌ is maksoor (مَفْتُوْح).
  3. A letter containing damma ( ـُ ) on it is called madmoom (مَضْمُوْم) .
    The letter دٌ in the word تَشْدِيْدٌ is madmoom (مَضْمُوْم).
  4. Letters تَ , دِ and دٌ are mutaharrik (مُتَحَرِّك) letters in the word تَشْدِيْدٌ because they have harakat ( حَرَكَات).
    Letters شْ and يْ are not mutaharrik (مُتَحَرِّك) letters in the word تَشْدِيْدٌ. More about this is addressed below in the topic sukoon (سُكُوْن).

Arabic long vowels

Arabic terminology for long vowels is huroof illah حُرُوْف عِلَّة .

عِلَّة means a weakness. Three Arabic letters و، ا and ي are considered weak letters or حُرُوْف عِلَّة. All other letters in the Arabic alphabet are healthy letters.

و، ا and ي are considered weak because they change to other letters during some word formations. This word construction from letters is an advanced topic and we haven't started learning grammar yet. So, we are not able to discuss it here.

The only thing at this level to learn is the Arabic terminology for long vowels is huroof illah حُرُوْف عِلَّة.

Huroof illah (حُرُوْف عِلَّة) along with short vowels or harakat slaasah (حَرَكَات ثَلٰثَة) make long vowels or harakat taweelah (حَرَكَات طَوِيْلَة), which elongate the sounds of short vowels.

  1. ـَ + ا
  2. ـِ + ي
  3. ـُ + و

If we take an example of Arabic consonant ب (ba), long vowels of ب are:

بَ + ا ⇜ بَا
بِ + ي ⇜ بِي
بُ + و ⇜ بُو


Sukoon symbol ـْ indicates a vowelless letter or consonant. It is a de-emphasis or stop mark.


We have already disscussed three harakat symbols ( ـَ ـِ ـُ ) in the topic above, short vowels. We also know that any consonant with a vowel or harakah (حَرَكَة) is called mutaharrik (مُتَحَرِّك). Similarly, a vowelless consonant is called sakin سَاكِنْ . Either it has a sukoon symbol ـْ on it or not. Like in long vowels some scripts don't use sukoon symbols on huroof illah حُرُوْف عِلَّة (ا و ي).

Some Arabic scripts place the sukoon symbol on huroof illah و (waw) and ي (ya) in long vowels, but not on the long vowel ا (alif), because alif with sukoon symbol (اْ) and without sukoon symbol (ا) are two different things.

  1. ـَ + ا
  2. ـِ + ي/يْ
  3. ـُ + و/وْ
  1. بِي is same as بِيْ and both sound
  2. بُو is same as بُوْ and both sound
  3. However, بَا is not same as بَاْ

So, the combinations

ـُ + وْ
ـِ + يْ

are exceptions, because the sukoon symbol ( ـْ ) in both of these combinations doesn't cut the sounds of consonants waw and ya.

The reason بَا sounds different from بَاْ is that اْ is, in fact, hamza (ء) and not alif ( ا ).

Please always remember! any alif ( ا ) with one of the three harakat symbols ( ـَ ـِ ـُ ) or a sukoon symbol ( ـْ ) is hamza and not alif.

Some Arabic scripts explicitly show hamza above or below alif like أَ أُ إِ أْ to show that it is hamza, but some don't show it.

Two more letters are used as carriers of hamza. They are ؤ and ئ. In contrast to alif as a carrier of hamza, where hamza may or may not be explicitly written above or below the carrier alif, when waw ؤ or ya ئ are used are carriers, they always have hamza above them. In all these cases the carrier loses its voice and the dominant voice is of the letter hamza only.


Also, please notice when ya ئ is used as a carrier of hamza it loses double dots beneath it. Compare normal ya ي with the carrier ya ئ.


In the above examples يَسْئَلُوْنَ and بِئْرٌ, hamza is using ya ئ as a carrier.

Letter hamza can also occur in a word without a carrier.


Arabic diphthongs

We know that sukoon symbol is used as a de-emphasis or stop mark but in the case of long vowels, it doesn't cut the sound if placed on two of the three horoof illa, i.e. waw و and ya ي.

ـُ + وْ
ـِ + يْ

There are two more exceptions to the sukoon symbol, in which the sukoon symbol doesn't cut the sound of the consonant beneath it. These exceptions also occur with letters waw و and ya ي. These combinations are:

ـَ + وْ
ـَ + يْ

Some examples are:






Like in the word:


For more details, please see the topic comparison between long vowels and diphthongs in the lesson Sukoon in Arabic.


ـً  ـٍ  ـٌ

Names of three types of tanweens are:

  1. ـً   Fathatain (Tanween with fatha)
  2. ـٍ   Kasratain (Tanween with kasra)
  3. ـٌ   Dammatain (Tanween with damma)

These double vowels give sounds of ann, inn and unn respectively to the consonant they are attached with.

  1. ـً ا    
  2. ـٍ    
  3. ـٌ    




شَيْءٌ , شَيْءٍ , and شَيْئًا are different grammatical positions of the same word. Tanween plays an important role in grammatical cases (nominative case, accusative case, possessive case). Which we will read in the grammar section.



شَدَّةٌ (shadda) or also known as تَشْدِيْدٌ (tashdid) is an emphasis symbol. A Letter containing the shadda symbol is called مُشَدَّدْ .

Two adjacent consonants are combined into one under the shadda symbol if they meet certain conditions. The conditions are:

  1. The first letter must have the Sukoon ( ـْ ) symbol on it. In other words, the first letter must be sakin سَاكِنْ.
  2. The second letter to combine under Shadda must have a vowel, any vowel,
    a short ( ـَ ـِ ـُ ),
    a double ( ـً ـٍ ـٌ ),
    or a long one ( ـَ ا ، ـِ ي ، ـُ و ).

مَكْكَةُ ⇜ مَكَّةُ
نَجْجَارٌ ⇜ نَجَّارٌ

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