Learn Arabic From Mashrou Leila: Lyrics Breakdown

Asma Wahba


Asma Wahba

Learn Arabic From Mashrou Leila: Lyrics Breakdown

I find listening to Arabic music and struggling with the lyrics a bit to be a really effective way to learn more about the way the language is spoken on a daily basis.

For that reason, I’ve decided to dissect one of my favorite songs in order to outline a few key grammar points and get you used to the letter changes we discussed in our last post.

The band is called ‘Mashrou’ Leila’ and they’re originally from Lebanon.

The exact meaning of the group’s name is ambiguous and to my knowledge they’ve never actually clarified it; it may mean ‘Leila’s plan’ but could also signify ‘The plan for the night.’ Their music is very thoughtful and modern, and I actually had the chance to see them play live in Amman last summer.

They’re truly amazing performers and I highly suggest all of you look at some of their other work.

Anyways, on to the video, lyrics, and a rough translation:

بتتذكري لما قلتيلي إنك رح تتزوجيني بلا فلوس و بلا بيت

Remember when you told me you’d marry me, without money or a house

بتتذكري كنتي تحبي مع اني مش داخل دينك تزكري كيف كنا هيك

Remember when you used to love me, despite me not being part of your religion

بتتذكري لما إمك شافتني نايم بتختك قالتلي إنسى عنك

Remember when your mother saw me sleeping in your bed, told me to forget you

واتفقنا ضلنا هيك بلا أدوار وطنطنات بلا كرافات وصبحيات

And we agreed to stay that way without roles and rhetoric

بلا ملايين بلا فساتين

Without millions or dresses

مسكتيلي ايدي ووعدتيني بشي ثورة كيف نسيتي كيف نسيتيني

You held my hand. Promised me a revolution. How did you forget, how did you forget about me?

ومشطتيلي شعري وبعتتيني عالدوام كيف بتمشطي مشطيني

And you brushed my hair and sent me off to work, combed me like you comb yourself

مسكتيلي ايدي ووعدتيني بشي ثورة كيف نسيتي كيف نسيتيني

You held my hand. Promised me a revolution. How did you forget, how did you forget about me?

بتتذكري لما قلتيني إنك نويك تتركيني بلا فلوس بلا بيت

Remember when you told me you intend to leave me, because I had no money or a house

A few important grammar points to note:

1. Negation: For MSA learners–‘mish’ is the colloquial form of ‘laysa.’ This is essentially a way to negate non-verbs.

مع اني مش داخل دينك

Literal translation: although I’m not in your religion (better translation: though I’m not a part of your religion)

You would also use ‘mish’ if you were trying to say something like:

I’m not tired –

انا مش تعبانة

I’m not American –

أنا مش أمريكية

2. When: in Arabic, there is a different word used to express ‘when’ in the interrogative sense versus a declarative statement. It may be said that this declarative meaning roughly translates to when in the sense of‘that one time’ in English (aka, do you remember when you ate five slices of pizza). In MSA the word used in declarative statements is عندما but in colloquial Levantine Arabic, لما is much more common. Here’s the example from the lyrics:

بتذكري لما قلتيلي

Translation: Do you remember when you told me…

3. Indicative Verb Prefix: You’ll notice a ‘b’ sound at the beginning of present tense verbs throughout the song. The reason this happens a bit hard to explain, but essentially the prefix appears whenever something is currently happening in the present. For grammar lovers, it marks indicative verbs and thereby distinguishes them from subjunctive verbs. This is a good way to tell someone does not speak North African or Gulf Arabic right off the bat. We’ll see more examples of the ‘b’ prefix throughout the next few posts.

Look at the example from above again:

بتذكري لما قلتيلي

4. Future tense: Instead of using the ‘s’ prefix to indicate future tense, all you have to do is add رح (which comes from the colloquial verb for ‘go,’ راح) before a verb when speaking Levantine Arabic.


بتتذكري لما قلتيلي إنك رح تتزوجيني

Translation: Do you remember when you told me you were going to marry me

5. Conjugation changes: For MSA learners, note that the final ‘nun’ in the ‘enti’ (you female) form of verbs drops. Hence, بتتذكري not بتتذكرين. This also occurs in the ‘they’ and ‘you’ (plural) form of verbs. For example: بيذكروا not بيذكرون

Useful Vocabulary:


without. You can order coffee ‘bila sukkar,’ without sugar.


when (When I was younger, when I arrived at the store, etc; not used in questions like When did you get there?)

نسى نسيت

to forget

اتفق, يتفق على

to agree (on something)

شاف, يشوف

to see

فستان, فساتين

dress, dresses

مسك, يمسك

to stick, but also in some cases to take (my hand, for example) or grab

مشط, يمشط شعر

to brush (hair)



ضل, يضل

to stay. ضلت بالبيت مبارح would be ‘I stayed at home yesterday.’

Join now and start speaking levantine Arabic today!

Create your account now and join thousands of other Arabic learners from around the world.