Direct object pronouns are attached to the ends of verbs in dialectal Arabic, just as they do in Classical:

اكلت الخبز akalt il-xibᵉz

“I ate the bread.”

اكلتو akaltu

“I ate it.”

But there are some verbs and phrases where it appears difficult to attach an object pronoun. Take, for example, the verbal phrase biddak “you (m.) want.” How would you add an object pronoun? The ending -ak is already in its place. In cases like this, Levantine Arabic uses the structure [yā + object pronoun] to squeeze in another object pronoun.

بدك القهوة biddak il-qahwe

“Do you want the coffee?”

بدك ياها biddak yāhā

“Do you want it?”

Here is a clip from the Lebanese e-series Shankaboot, which not only is an interesting series but it also makes good listening practice. In this clip we hear the character Ruwaida sing in a shady nightclub. The lyrics are very simple, and they’re written below:

Start this video at 1 minute 45 seconds.

في عندي شي بعرف بدك ياه
يلي بدك ياه انا عندي ياه

fī ʕindī ʃī baʕrif baddak yāh

yallī baddak yāh ana ʕindī yāh

I’ve got something, I know you want it.

What you want [it], I’ve got it.

The first thing to notice is that the Arabic often keeps object pronouns in places where English drops them, hence “yalli baddak yāh” vs. “what you want [it].” Also notice that the Lebanese dialect uses yallī instead of the more common illī for the relative pronoun. It also prefers badd- instead of bidd- for “want.”

Match the Arabic sentences on the left with their translations on the right:

1. عطيني ياها A. “This is what we want.”
2. هاد الي بدنا ياه B. “Don’t you have them?”
3. ما عندك ياهن C. “I gave it (m.) to you a long time ago.”
4. عطيتك ياه من زمان D. “Give it (f.) to me.”
5. فرجيني ياها E. “Show it (f.) to me.”

Answers: 1D   2A   3B   4C   5E