My native language is English, and I'm trying to learn Modern Standard Arabic. I speak Spanish and Greek, so I'm not new to this. I am trying to look up words like I normally do in European languages, but when I look up a simple word such as "to have", it gives me 20 different verbs meaning the same thing. Like this:


I just need to figure our what the Arabic verb for "to have" is so I can learn the conjugation and whatnot, but it seems easier said than done. Is there a better way to do it?

Edit: I have read over all of your answers and considered your advice. I applied this method of looking up words in a dictionary because I was used to Indo-European languages, which have many lingustic similarities to English and its other members, and had knowledge of the structure of Indo-European languages to the extent of which this method of learning was effective. When I looked up words in dictionaries between two Indo-European languages, there was a clear equivalent for pretty much every linguistic concept I was accustomed to, and not just a list of 20 words from which to choose. I realize this method doesn't carry over to Arabic due to its distance from the Indo-European language family. As mentioned in the top answer, it is better to learn from Arabic back to English, and I agree with that now.

At the time of the original post I was not aware of the fact that by mouth people don't speak MSA. Since then I have decided to delve into the Darija (Moroccan) dialect and I have been able to find people to help me learn that better. I have found excellent material for learning it despite its obscurity: http://www.friendsofmorocco.org/learnarabic.htm. Learning a modern spoken dialect of Arabic has proven much easier than MSA because there are regular people that actually speak it as a native tongue, it has a grammatical system more comparable to modern languages, making it much more fun.

Just some advice to new learners of Arabic: don't learn MSA if you just want to talk to people. Learn a regional dialect such as Levantine or Egyptian Arabic. Choose the dielect based on the countries you want to visit, the people you know, or just personal preference. The grammar is much easier than in MSA, and there is a more defined way of speaking in my opinion.


5 Answers 5


This question makes a number of questionable assumptions:

  1. It assumes that "[to] have" is a "simple word". It isn't. When you look up "have" in a learner's dictionary such as the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, you get 25 different meanings. And that's just a learner's dictionary. (There are many more meanings or usages than the auxiliary verb and "to possess". For example, think of "We've got the neighbours' cat while they're away" and "You've been had.")
  2. It assumes that learning Arabic means learning to translate your English into Arabic, or at least that this is an important part of learning the language. (Of course, you can replace "English" with any other native language, and "Arabic" with any other foreign language.) The danger is that you end up speaking "English with Arabic words".

What you really need to do is to start from Arabic instead of from English: learn Arabic words and phrases in the context of sentences and (short) conversations, which you can find in language courses etc. (What you can do when you don't know which translation to choose from an English-Arabic dictionary is looking up the Arabic entry in an Arabic-English dictionary and check whether you end up with your original English word.)

(The Glosbe entry you link to gives examples of "have" in the context of sentences, but these would be too complex for many learners. Lingualism has an Arabic Learner's Dictionary but I can't judge how good it is.)


If you are translating to have in order to learn conjugation then you do not need to do it. Conjugation doesn't work in Arabic as it does in English. there is no such thing as auxiliaries, not as they are used in English at least.

As for the different meanings, the link you posted is poorly constructed, because عندك (indaka) is actually not a verb, it is a possessive (or sometimes temporal) expression. The more commonly used is لدى (lada), which is also not a verb, or ملك(malaka) which is a verb.


Your issue starts with the dictionary you use as it seems, as instead of trying to explain the actual meaning it pretends to propose many synonyms which actually are not, as they may only apply in a certain context. Also as other pointed out the dictionary calls words verbs which actually are not.

Please note I'm not good at explaining Arabic grammar based on English one so maybe I've used some wrong technical terms here and there!

Basically if you search for an Arabic word for "to have" which is a verb and expresses "to possess" the only verbs your dictionary offers are:

  • مَلَكَ (note that Arabic verbs have no infinitive as we know, so usually Arabs refer to "he + verb conjugated in past form" when referring to a verb) This verb means he owns or possess (and refers to something which one may be able to buy). For example you may not say I have a wife using this verb!
  • اِمْتَلَكَ This verb is basically a derivative from مَلَكَ and means he got (possession) this is also a meaning of حاز (or أحرز, but this mostly used in the context of wining, gaining profit etc. )

Now to some other presented verbs:

  • عِنْدَ is not a verb, it is maybe what one may call a preposition expressing that something is next, by or with a person so of course once you add a reference it may come with the meaning "to have" عِنْدِي for example may mean : "X" is with me. Or if you asked do you have "X" and got the answer: نعم هو عندي you may translate it literally: "yes it is with me" or "yes I have it" the same applies for عِنْدَك which basically means: "X" is with you, or you have "X". Other examples of the same word in "action": عنده, عندها, عندهما, عندهم، عندهن.

And an other example of a preposition in your dictionary is:

  • "ل " when used with an integrated pronoun (as you may find in Spanish "conmigo/contigo/ ...") which is already used in the former example, but this time a bit different: لِي ("I have", "I own", ...) لَكَ (masculine) لَكِ (feminine) ("You have", "You own, ...) or لَهُ (masculine) لَهَا (feminine) ("He has" , "He owns", ...) لَهُما, لَهُم...

If you check the rest of the list you will find special cases, where "to have" is by far the last thing which might come to mind as a synonym -in cases only silver-tongued Arabic speakers would even think of- .
As already said in my comment on Marine1's post: تَضَمَّنَ (tadammana) is a verb expressing an inclusion, which means what you may express is part of an entity. حَازَ (haaza) means getting something (without former possession) to quote some other verbs in the list.

I'd recommend you to start using almaany parallelly and once you have enough vocabulary and knowledge leave the arabic-english dictionaries and move to the Arabic only ones, as only there you may find the exact meanings. IMO this a rather good dictionary, but don't expect too much, as even there you might be left with a bundle of useless synonyms and will need some feedback from native speakers,as the explanation of the real meaning is only available in an Arabic-Arabic dictionary!

Usually when I learn a language I use a bi-lingual dictionary only at the beginning and if i have no body to ask, once I've got enough vocabulary and knowledge I try to check for easy monolingual dictionaries. A bi-lingual dictionary is no good back up, but can be helpful!

  • 1
    The proposal linked at the bottom is no longer relevant. Removing it would improve the answer.
    – Tommi
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 14:17

I don't think that you'll find a good En-Ar dictionary. In the link you provided, there are several words, that serve the same meaning.

يملك = to have (for properties, features..)

يملك منزلاً he has a house

يملك القدرة على التعلم بسرعة = he has the ability to learn fast

but for things like a book, a wash machine, and also for relatives, one uses


عنده كتاب = he has a book

عنده ثلاثة أطفال = he has three children

the literal translation of عنده is "at him"

as for يمتلك, that means exactly what يملك means

It is very hard to learn Arabic without help from an Arabic speaker, because there is no good dictionary to find, in Internet or as a book!

  • Aren't there any good printed English-Arabic dictionaries?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 14:40

I only studied arabic one year but I hope you will see it because it can be hard. You only have five verbs in the example you provide :

  • امتلك ("amtlk")
  • عند ("and") or to create a parallelism : عندك
  • تضمن ("tadamn")
  • حاز ("haj")
  • ل ("l")

The thing is that you have to recognize the root which gives context. For instance here (ك) is for possesion. But it's not odd to have several verbs like Spanish have : poseer, haber...

Generally speaking it will always be the case when you would seek for a translation. So always look at the "root" without prefixes and suffixes.

  • 1
    "ل " is definitely not a verb but means with the addition of the letter "ه" to "له: "he has" ". امتلك (imtalaka) or ملك (malaka) are the only verbs which express possessing something in your post. تضمن (tadammana) is a verb expressing an inclusion, which means what you may express is part of an entity. حاز (haaza) means getting something (without former possession).
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 7:00

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