The letter alef

The letter alef is a part of the Arabic alphabet. Here you will learn how to pronounce and write alef.

How alef is pronounced

Alif has no sound on its own. The sound depends on the vowel above or under alif. The Arabic vowels are (a), damma (u) and kasra (i).
As an example, we can use the Arabic word for explosion, that is written اِنفِجَار and pronounced infijaar . The word starts with an alif with a kasra under, which should be pronounced as the vowel i.
Alif can also carry hamza. If it has the vowel a, hamza is above alif. For example the Arabic word أَرسَلَ that means he sent. The word is pronounced 'arsala and starts with an alif with a hamza and the vowel fatha above.
If alif carries hamza and has the vowel i, hamza is under alif. For example the Arabic word إِلهَام that means inspiration. The word is pronounced 'ilhaam and stars with and alif with a hamza and the vowel kasra under.
If alif has no hamza, is preceded by the vowel fatha (a) and doesn't have any vowel of its own, the pronunciation is a long aa. That you can hear in the words infijaar (explosion) and 'ilhaam (inspiration). The second alif in the words is blended with the vowel a before to form the long vowel aa.

In the phonetic alphabet, the pronunciation of alef is written . On this website, I write the pronunciation .

How alef is written

The letter alef has two forms: isolated and final.

finalisolerad
ـﺎ

Which of the shapes to use depends on the letter's position in the word and surrounding letters. Do not forget that Arabic is written from right to left.

The letter alef is right joining. That means that it wants to connect to the right (with the letter before it) but not no the left (with the letter after). If there is a letter before that is dual joining, then alef is connected to it. But alef is never connected to the letter after. How to write with right joining letters.

alef isolerad form

This is how the Arabic letter alef is written in its isolerad form:

This form is used in the following situations:

alef alone

When alef stands by itself, the isolaetd form is used.

alef in the beginning of words

When alef is the first letter of a word, the isolated form is used. It i free to the right since there is no letter before, and it is free to the left since it refuses to connect to the letter after.

alef in the middle after right joining letter

When alef is in the middle of a word and follows another right joining letter, the isolated form is used. It is free to the right since the letter before it refuses to connect, and it is free to the left since it refuses to connect with the letter after.

alef in the end after right joining letter

When alef is the last letter of a word and follows another right joining letter, the isolated form is used. It is free to the right since the letter before it refuses to connect, and it is free to the left since there is no letter after (and even if it was, alef would refuse to connect with it).

alef final form

This is how the Arabic letter alef is written in its final form:

ـﺎ

This form is used in the following situations:

alef in the middle of words

When alef is in the middle of a word, e.g. when alef is neither the first nor the last letter, the medial form is often used. It has a tail to the right to connect with the letter before, but it is free to the left since it refuses to connect with the letter after.

alef in the end of words

When alef is the last letter of a word, the final form is often used. It has a tail to the right to connect to the letter before it, and it is free to the left since there is no letter after.

Conclusion: how alef is written

The letter alef has two shapes.
The isolated shape is used when alef stands by itself, in the beginning of words, in the middle of words (after a right joining letter) and in the end of words (after a right joining letter). In other words: When there is no letter before that wants to connect with it.
The final shape ـﺎ is used in the middle of words (if the letter before is not right joining) and in the end of words (if the letter before is not right joining). In other words: When there is a letter before that wants to connect with it.

That's it!
The rules you have learned can be applied to all Arabic right joining letters.

alef is a moon letter

You get the definite form of a word by putting the definite article al in front of it.

اَل

The Arabic letter alef is a moon letter. That means that the definite article is pronounced al and nothing else. The letters that are not moon letters are called sun letters, and they are assimilated with the definite article al.

For example the Arabic word for forever, never is pronounced 'abadan and written ﺃَﺑَﺪﺍً. In definite form, it is pronounced al'abadan and written اَل‍ﺃَﺑَﺪﺍً.

Read more about definite form

All letters