How to Use الي In Levantine Arabic (It’s easier than you think) Part II

For those who have been following, yesterday we took a look at how to use الذي in Fus-ha. Today we’re going to examine how to use its equivalent, الي , in Levantine Arabic.

What’s the Difference between الذي in Fus-ha and Levantine Arabic?

You’ve probably realised by now that Arabic dialects serve a version of MSA that is simplified and easier to use.

Therefore, while Fus-ha differentiates the usage of الذي between the feminine and masculine objects  like سيارة / كتاب and whether they are singular / dual / plural like مدرس/ مدرسين, Levantine dialect doesn’t make any such distinction.

Everything is lumped under the same word: الي regardless of gender and number.


Using the Dress Example

With the same example of the sentence yesterday:

This is the dress that I bought yesterday.

In Fusha it would be:

هذا هو الفستان الذي اشتريته امس / hadha huwa alfustan aladhi ishtaraituhu ams.

In Levantine Arabic, however, it would be changed to:

هاد هو الفستان الي اشتريته مبارح / had huwe alfustan ili ishtareytoh imbariH.


What’s the difference?

1. هذا is changed to هاد . You will learn that هذا / هذه are not used in Levantine Arabic and are instead replaced by هاد / هاي respectively.

2. الذي is changed to الي

3. The pronunciation of I bought it changes from the fus-ha sounding ishtaraituhu to ishtareytoh. For some reason, the dhammah pronunciation at the end of the ‘hu’ is usually dropped in Levantine Arabic.

4. امس is changed to مبارح / imbariH , which is the word for yesterday in Levantine Arabic.


Taking another example with a feminine object

For example, in the sentence:

She is the one that I met.

In Fus-ha it would be:

هي الواحدة التي قابلتها / hiya alwahidah allati qaabaltuha.

In Levantine however, it would change to:

هي الواحدة الي قابلتها / hiye alwaHideh ili 2aabaletha.


What’s the difference?

1. Once more, التي is changed to الي .

2. The pronunciation changed from the more Fus-ha qaabaltuha to 2aabaletha. You will discover that in Levantine Arabic the ق is changed to a ء or غ depending on the person and region, but we’ll go into further detail in a separate post.


What about الذين and اللواتي (human plurals) ?

The same applies to human plurals as well, where الي replaces الذين and اللواتي .

For example, if the sentence was:

These are the (male) teachers that I work with.

In Fusha it would be:

هؤلاء المدرسين الذين اعمل معهم / ha2ulaa2 almudarriseen alladheena a’mal ma’ahum

While in Levantine it would be:

هدول المدرسين الي اشتغل معهم / hadol almudarriseen ili ashtaghil ma’ahom


Once again, the differences that you need to take note of are:

1. الذين changes to الي

2. اعمل changed to اشتغل, which is the more common Levantine word for ‘to work’.

The same changes  would apply if you used اللواتي to refer to female teachers.


Any more ways to use الي ?

There is one more way for you to use the word الي , for example in the sentence:

الي يلبسه اجمل / ili yilbasoh ajmal

It means ‘the one that wears it is more beautiful.’

In this context, note that الي begins the sentence and you can use it in the sense of ‘the one which’ or ‘the one that’. It is slightly different from using it as a connecting word, for example when we explained it in


Another Example in a Levantine Expression

Another example is in the Levantine expression:

الي برضي بعيش / ili birDi by’eesh

Here يرضي means to be satisfied or contented with something and يعيش means to live. So literally the expression means ‘the one that is satisfied, he lives.’ Another way you can think of الي here is that it’s similar to the word ‘whoever‘.

I know it doesn’t make much sense by itself, but this response is usually used in the context of when someone asks you how you are doing. If things are so-so and are neither slap-bang amazing nor horribly depressing, then you can use this expression. It’s meant to communicate that whoever is pleased with whatever life throws at them, whether good or bad, will be the one who is satisfied in the end.


However, please don’t think that this specific usage of الي is only applicable to people. It can similarly be used for things, for example:

الي تحت الكرىسي / ili taHt alkursi

The one that is underneath the chair.

الي معلق على الحيط / ili mu’alla2 ‘ala alHeit

The one that is hanging on the wall.


The Key Lesson Here

Basically, as long as you think of الي as ‘the one that‘, it will bring you a long way towards understanding how to use it in a sentence. I won’t lie, it will take some time and practice in using it correctly and intuitively but I promise that you will get there if you put in the work.


What other examples can you think of using the word الي ? What did you like or dislike about this post? Is there a clearer way of thinking about it other than that/which/who/whoever/the one which? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.

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