How To Say Maybe In Egyptian Arabic

Mariam Enany

Author

Mariam Enany

In previous posts, we shared two different guides on how to say yes and no in Egyptian Arabic.

Today’s guide will deal with the shades of grey between those definitives, and the nuances between maybe, probably, and possibly.

For instance, what would you say if you wanted to imply that your maybe is actually leaning towards a yes?

Or What would you use if your maybe is actually a polite refusal in disguise?

Let’s dive in!

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Different ways to say maybe in Arabic

1. I7timal

EnglishTransliterationArabic
ProbablyI7timalاحتمال

This is one of the two most common Egyptian words to say maybe. I7timal means that something has a certain probability of happening.

Let’s look at a few examples of the different contexts we can use I7timal.

هو عمرو جاى الحفلة معانا؟
احتمال. بس لسه مأكدش عليا.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Is Amr coming with us to the party?Howa Amr gay ma'ana el hafla el naharda?هو عمرو جاى الحفلة معانا؟
Probably. But he hasn't confirmed with me yet.I7timal. bs lessa ma'akidsh 'alaya.احتمال بس لسه مأكدش عليا.

In this example, two friends are speaking about whether their friend Amr is joining them at the concert.

I7timal here is used as an adverb same as its English translation. We use the word as it is with no need for any additional words before or after.

Let’s look at another similar example:

يا هدير- الدرس ده حيجى فى الامتحان؟
احتمال اه.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Hadeer, is this lesson included in the test?
(Literally: Is this lesson coming into the test?)
Ya Hadeer, el dars dah hayeegy fil imtihaan?يا هدير- الدرس ده حيجى فى الامتحان؟
Probably yes.I7timal ahاحتمال اه.

As you can see, it is simple.

You might also deduce that you can add “Ah” or “Aywa” after I7timal but not “La’” so basically, you are affirming the likelihood of having this question in the test, and in fact you’re leaning more towards it.

Okay, here is when it gets slightly more complicated.

The word I7timal could be used as an adverb and as a noun:

احتمال الدكتور يأجل الامتحان عشان الجو بس مش احتمال كبير.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
The doctor will probably postpone the test because of the weather, but it's not that high of a probability yet.I7timal el doctor ye'agel el imtihaan 'ashan el gaw, bs mesh ihtimaal kebeer lessa.احتمال الدكتور يأجل الامتحان عشان الجو, بس مش احتمال كبير لسه.

In this example, you have seen the two different ways in which you can use ihtimaal.

In the first half of the sentence, it is used as an adverb with the meaning that this event has a probability of happening, while in the second half, it is used as a noun, noting that the likelihood of it happening is not that strong.

In Egyptian Arabic, we use:

احتمال كبير
احتمال قليل

Which translates to

EnglishTransliterationArabic
High Probability
(Literally: Big probability)
I7timal kebeerاحتمال كبير
Low probability
(Literally: small probability)
I7timal olayelاحتمال قليل

Check out the following song by Abu.

He is the same artist who made the pop hit song called “Talat Dakkat” a few years ago. Everyone went crazy about and Tik Tokers were dancing to it 24/7.

This new song is called Alf I7timal or A Thousand Probabilities.

Abu is trying to get over the girl he loves, but then right before he decides to move on, he asks himself a final what if. What if she still thinks about him? What if she still wants him?

He says:

محتار قلبي في الف احتمال و احتمال و احتمال

Which literally translates to:

My heart is puzzled between a thousand probability and probability and probability.

You can spot that in the previous line that he uses the word “I7timal” as a noun and not as an adverb. If it was an adverb, it would have stood on its own.

2. Momken

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Possibly / might be
It is possible.
Momken
Men El momkin
ممكن
من الممكن

Momken is the second most common way to say maybe. Momken literally means “It’s possible.”

Let’s look at a few more examples:

ممكن نعدى نجيب قهوة قبل ما نروح المحاضرة؟
ممكن لو عندنا وقت.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Can we pass by and get coffee before we go to the lecture?Momken ne'adi negeeb ahwa abl manrouh el mohadra?ممكن نعدى نجيب قهوة قبل ما نروح المحاضرة؟
Possibly if we have timeMomken law 'andina wa'tممكن لو عندنا وقت.
تحب ناكل ملوخية و فراخ النهاردة؟
ماشى. ممكن.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Would you like to eat Molokhia and chicken today?Tehib nakoul molokhiya wi feraakh elnahrda?تحب ناكل ملوخية و فراخ النهاردة؟
Okay. (That's) possible.Mashy. Momken.ماشى. ممكن.

This is an interesting example.

Here, the answer is “Okay, that’s possible” so this indicates that the speaker is leaning towards a “yes” since momken was preceded by mashy (meaning: that works)

Check out our guide on “How To Say Yes In Arabic” for a more detailed understanding of the word Mashy and other ways to say yes.

نورا : فاضية امتى الأسبوع ده نتقابل؟
منال: ممكن بكره و ممكن الخميس الصبح.
نورا: ماشى ممكن معايا الخميس الصبح. نأكد الأربع؟
منال: اه تمام.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Noura: When are you available this week for us to meet?Noura: Fadya emta el isbou' da net'abel?نورا : فاضية امتى الأسبوع ده نتقابل؟
Manal: Tomorrow might work, and Thursday morning might also workManal: Momken bokra wi momken Elkhamees elsboh.منال: ممكن بكره و ممكن الخميس الصبح.
Noura: Okay, Thursday morning might also work with me. Let's confirm on Wednesday?Noura: Mashy. Momken ma'aya elkhamees el sobh. Ne'akked el arba' ?نورا: ماشى ممكن معايا الخميس الصبح. نأكد الأربع؟
Yes, okay.Ah tamam.منال: اه تمام

Here is a typical conversation in Egyptian arabic about planning to meet up with a friend.

When someone asks you when you are available to meet? Typically, you give them options. In Egyptian Arabic, momken would be perfect to use in this context.

Momken (insert option 1) Wi momken (insert option 2)

3. Yemken

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Could be.
(loosely understood as maybe)
Yemkenيمكن

Yemken and Momken are different parts of speech of the same word. Yemken is the conjugated verb with third personal singular (masculine) and it is understood as “could be” or “perhaps”.

You use “yemken” when you are really unsure about something.

So for instance:

يمكن هاجر تسافر فى اخر السنة.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Hager might travel by the end of the yearYemken Hager tesafer fi Akher elsanaيمكن هاجر تسافر فى اخر السنة.

In this previous example, You can alternatively say “Hager momken tesafer fi akher elsana.” It is a slight nuanced difference, but yemken is more hopeful, and most of the time Egyptians use it to wonder out loud.

How about some more music?

“Yemken” is a song by the rapper Abo El Anwar whose chosen name means: Father of lights. Fancy!

He is talking to the girl whom he is at an emotional impasse with. It seems like the story is ending then he starts to wonder about all the different possibilities that this story could go in the future. Can it get better? Would it do them good to fight?

يمكن الوقت يفجأنا

Maybe Time could surprise us

يمكن الفرحة تقتلنا

Maybe Happiness will kill us.

يمكن نتقابل في وقت مختلف

Maybe we could meet at a different time.

ساعتها يتغير نصيبنا

And then, our fate would change

يمكن محتاج اني اريح

Maybe I need to take some space.

دماغي تتفرك تتسيح

Let my mind wonder

يمكن نتكلم دلوقتي

Maybe we could talk now

بعديها نتخانق،بعديها استريح

and fight then, and I would feel better.

Using music in general is a great practice to learn a new language. In this particular case, it is a great exercise to memorize how to use “Yemken.”

So two birds, one song; a learning tool to familiarize yourself with new vocabulary and new popular Egyptian music.

4. Mesh Yemken?

If Yemken is mostly used to wonder, mesh yemken takes it even an extra step.

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Literally: Couldn't it be?Mesh Yemken?مش يمكن؟

We use “Mesh Yemken” mostly to give the benefit of the doubt. It literally means “Couldn’t it be?” but in English, a more proper translation would be “Perhaps”

For example, if someone made a mistake and you are taking to give them the benefit of the doubt, you would wonder whether they meant it, or if they have forgotten about it.

مش يمكن مش قصدها؟
مش يمكن نسى؟
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Perhaps she didn't mean it?Mesh yemken mesh asdaha?مش يمكن مش قصدها؟
Perhaps he forgot?Mesh yemken nessi?مش يمكن نسى؟

Mesh yemken is mostly used for wishful thinking. It is also a reminder not to assume the worst in people.

When a friend has lost hope and you’re trying to make them feel better, so you bounce some hopeful ideas about the scenario that is upsetting them.

5. Mesh Mota’akid(a)

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Not sure (First person or third person masculine)
Not sure (First person ork third person feminine)
Mesh mota'akid
Mesh mota'akida
مش متأكد
مش متأكدة

Example:

حنروح الحفلة بكره؟
مش متأكدة الصراحة. عندى شغل كتير
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Are we going to the party tomorrow?Hanrouh elhafla bokra?حنروح الحفلة بكره؟
Honestly, I'm not sure. I have a lot of work.Mesh mota'keda elsaraha. 'Andi shoghl keteer.مش متأكدة الصراحة. عندى شغل كتير
هو الدرس ده حيكون فى الامتحان؟
لا مش متأكد خالص.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Is this lesson going to be in included in the exam?Howa el dars da hayouk fil imtihaan?هو الدرس ده حيكون فى الامتحان؟
No, I am totally not sure.La mesh mota'ked khales.لا مش متأكد خالص.

It is worth noting that the La’ before “mesh mot’aked khales’ only serves as an emphasis on how unsure the speaker is, and not an answer in itself and that the listener should take their word with a grain of salt.

6. Mesh Akeed

Mesh Akeed is another variation of Mesh Mota’ked/Mota’keda. Mesh akeed. However, it is when you are speaking about an uncertain event or information, while Mesh Mota’ked/Mota’keda is when you yourself are not sure.

EnglishTransliterationArabic
(Something is) not certain (M)Mesh akeedمش أكيد
(Something is) not certain (F)Mesh Akeedaمش أكيدة

Example:

المرتب نازل بكرة ولا لا؟
لا مش أكيد لسه. حيقولوا فى اخر اليوم.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Is the salary going to be deposited tomorrow or not?El moratab nazel bokra wala la?المرتب نازل بكرة ولا لا؟
It's still uncertain. They're going to let us know at the end of the day.La mesh akeed lessa. Hay'oulo fi akher el youm.لا مش أكيد لسه. حيقولوا فى اخر اليوم.

Egyptians use “Mesh Akeed” in the masculine form as an alternative to maybe.

أكيد الكلام ده؟
لا مش أكيد لسه
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Is this for sure?
(Literally: Is this talk for sure?)
Akeed El Kalam da?أكيد الكلام ده؟
Not, not sure yetLa mesh Akeed lessaلا مش أكيد لسه

I wanted however to include the feminine form as well for you to learn it as an adjective.

دى معلومة مش أكيدة
EnglishTransliterationArabic
This piece of information is not certain/confirmedDe ma'louma mesh akeedaدى معلومة مش أكيدة

7. Le’al wa ‘assa

EnglishTransliterationArabic
A Hopeful "Who knows"Le'al wa 'assaلعل و عسى

Last but not least, Le’al wa ‘assa.

This is an Islamic expression that you might come across with religious folk, and older people.

The words لعل and عسى separately are two different Classical Arabic terms for hopeful wishing.

People use the collective term to imply that you should knock on all doors, and who knows, a door might open. You should do good, and who knows? You should keep pushing, and who knows? You get the gist.

It’s a hopeful expression that I wanted to end the guide with, لعل و عسى ممكن يكون يومكم جميل.

Who knows it might brighten your day.

More sample sentences:

ممكن نروح المتش

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