Persian/Lesson 1

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Iran

Afghanistan

Tajikistan

فارسی (‹fârsi›, “Persian”)
Learn the Persian language
ContentsIntroduction
Persian Alphabet lessons: 1 ( ۱ )2 ( ۲ )3 ( ۳ )4 ( ۴ )
Elementary grammar: 5 ( ۵ )6 ( ۶ )7 ( ۷ )8 ( ۸ )9 ( ۹ )
10 ( ۱۰ )11 ( ۱۱ )12 ( ۱۲ )13 ( ۱۳ )14 ( ۱۴ )15 ( ۱۵ )
Intermediate: 16 ( ۱۶ )17 ( ۱۷ )18 ( ۱۸ )19 ( ۱۹ )20 ( ۲۰ )
21 ( ۲۱ )22 ( ۲۲ )23 ( ۲۳ )24 ( ۲۴ )25 ( ۲۵ )26 ( ۲۶ )
Advanced:
Appendix: AlphabetGlossaryHandwriting

Farsi

To continue, your computer must display Persian. The box below should show these Persian letters on the far right: Paa-individua.svgBaa-individua.svgAlif-individua.svg
ا ب پ ت ث ج چ ح خ د ذ ر ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ ل م ن و ه ی

If they are different or in the wrong order, see Persian Computing.


In this lesson, you will learn basic greetings, the first nine Persian letters, connecting letters, and unwritten vowels.

Dialogue: ‹salâm!›[edit]

Shirin sees her friend Arash in passing and greets him:

The dialogues in lessons 1 through 3 are shown in UniPers, a system of writing the Persian language in the Latin alphabet. In later lessons, the native Persian script is shown along with a transcription.
Shirin : About this sound ‹salâm, âraš!›
“Hello Arash!”
Arash : About this sound ‹salâm, širin! cetori?›
“Hello, Shirin! How are you?”
Shirin : About this sound mersi, xubam. tow cetori?›
“Thank you, I’m fine. How are you?”
Arash : About this sound ‹man xubam.›
“I'm fine.”

Explanation

Arash and Shirin are using a casual style of speech typically among friends. Later lessons will use various styles of speech, including some for more formal situations.

Vocabulary

  • ‹salâm› Look up سلام in Wiktionary  IPAAbout this sound /sæˈlɒːm/ — “peace” a common greeting like “hello” in English
  • ‹cetori› Look up چطور in Wiktionary  About this sound /t͡ʃeˈtoɾiː/ — “how are (you)” (informal, used among friends)
  • ‹tow› Look up تو in Wiktionary  About this sound /tow/ — “you” (informal)
  • mersi› Look up مرسی in Wiktionary  About this sound /'meɾsiː/ — “thanks”
  • ‹man› Look up من in Wiktionary  About this sound /mæn — “I, me”
  • xubam› Look up خوب in Wiktionary  About this sound /ˈxuːbæm/ — “(I) am fine/well/good”

The Persian Alphabet[edit]

The Persian language has six vowel sounds and twenty-three consonant sounds. Old Persian was written using its own cuneiform alphabet. Other scripts were used in later stages of the language, and eventually the Arabic alphabet was adopted. The sounds of Persian are different from Arabic, though, so four letters were added for Persian sounds that do not exist in Arabic ( پ Look up پ in Wiktionary ‹pe›, چ Look up چ in Wiktionary ‹ce›, ژ Look up ژ in Wiktionary ‹že›, and گ Look up گ in Wiktionary ‹gâf›), and letters for several foreign Arabic sounds are pronounced like their closest Persian approximation.

Thus, the twenty-nine sounds of Persian are written in the Perso-Arabic script, which has thirty-two letters and is called الفبا Look up الفبا in Wiktionary ‹alef›, named after its first two letters (similar to "ABCs" in English). It is a cursive script, written from right to left like Arabic, opposite of the English direction. The letters are presented in the first four lessons of this book, followed by a summary of the whole alphabet in the "Alphabet summary" section of Lesson 4.

The Coat of Arms of Tajikistan
Culture Point: The Tajik (тоҷикӣ) language
Not all dialects of Persian are written using the Perso-Arabic alphabet taught here. The Tajik (тоҷикӣ) language, spoken mainly in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, is a variety of Persian written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

The language diverged from Persian as spoken in Afghanistan and Iran as a result of political borders, geographical isolation, and the influence of Russian and neighboring languages. The standard language is based on the north-western dialects of Tajik, which were influenced by the neighboring Uzbek language. Tajik also retains numerous archaic elements in its vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar that have been lost elsewhere in the Persian world.


ا ‹alef›[edit]

The two forms of ‹alef›:
آ ا
About this sound ‹â›

The first letter in Persian is ا Look up ا in Wiktionary ‹alef›.

At the beginning of a word (on the right side), alef has two forms. The form on the far right here with the madde (the small "hat" on top: آ ) is written as a tall, vertical stroke from top to bottom followed by the madde on top written from right to left as a straight ( - ) or curved ( ~ ) line. This form represents a doubled alef ( اا ). It is pronounced with the long vowel sound /ɒː/ (IPA), transcribed here as ‹â›. That is, it has a long duration and is produced with rounded lips and the tongue low and far back in the mouth, like a slow version of the vowel in the Queen's English pronunciation of hot, American English caught, or South African English park. When the first letter of a word is alef without a "hat" ( ا ), it is read as a short vowel: ‹a› (IPA: /æ/) as in at, ‹e› (/e/) as in end or ‹o› (/o/) as in open, as will be seen in later examples.

When alef appears later in a word (after the first letter), it is always written without the "hat" ( ا ) and it always represents long ‹â›.

Note.svg Distinguishing a and â:
Decide whether the ‹alef› in the following words stands for (short) ‹a› or (long) ‹â›. You do not need to be able to read the whole word at this stage. To see the correct answer, click “[show ▼]”.
آب

(long) ‹â›

اتو

(short) ‹a›

اسب

(short) ‹a›

آن

(long) ‹â›

Note: Writing practice
Learning Arabic calligraphy (Kaf).jpg

Get out a pen and paper and practice writing آ ‹alef madde› and ا ‹alef›. Remember to write from right to left and to keep the base lines even.

01c-Alif-Madda.png01c-Alif-Madda.png01c-Alif-Madda.png Alif-individua.svgAlif-individua.svgAlif-individua.svg

آ آآآ ا ااا    
آ آآآ ا ااا    
Arabic examples.  Persian examples would be better here, probably a separate page to print out with letters to trace.

Madd alef.pngMadd alef.pngMadd alef.pngАAlef.PNG ﺍ 'álif.jpgﺍ 'álif.jpgﺍ 'álif.jpg1 ﺍ 'álif.gif


ب ‹be›, پ ‹pe›, ت ‹te›, ث ‹se›[edit]

(read from right to left)
ب پ ت ث
‹be› ‹pe› ‹te› ‹se›

After alef ( ا ), the next four Persian letters, shown on the right, are all written similarly but with varying dots.

Persian letters have names that begin with the sound they make, so these four letters make the sounds ‹b›, ‹p›, ‹t›, and ‹s›.


ب
About this sound ‹be›

The second Persian letter is ب Look up ب in Wiktionary ‹be›. It represents the /b/ sound. Its name sounds like a quick pronunciation of the English word “bay”.


آب آ ب آب
About this sound ‹âb› ‹â› ‹b›

The Persian word آب Look up آب in Wiktionary ‹âb› (“water”) is shown on the right. In this word, the initial alef is written with a “hat” ( آ ), so it is read as long ‹â›. Persian is written from right to left and positioned on and around a horizontal baseline that is typically not visible on the page. The swooping stroke of ب is written from right to left and sits on that baseline, as does آ . The dot is below the baseline and, like the dot in the English cursive letter i, it is written after the connected strokes in the word.


Connecting letters
Like English cursive, most Persian letters in a word connect with each other, but separate Persian words never connect. For example, ب connects with the letter that follows it. Notice, though, that the letters in آب above do not connect with each other. That's because ا never connects with the letter that follows it.

Connecting letters may be written one way alone (in the “isolated” form) or with slightly different forms when connected with letters before or after them:

ب ب‍ ‍ب‍ ‍ب ← ب ببب


The line above shows ب in its “isolated” form on the far right, then in its “initial” form used when another letter follows, then its “medial” form used to connect it with letters on both sides, and then its “final” form used to connect it only to the previous letter. Notice that the upward-swooping tail only appears in the isolated and final forms. Many Persian letters have tails that behave this way.

As the remaining alphabet lessons will explain, all but seven Persian letters connect with the letter that follows.

بابا ب‍ ‍ا ب‍ ‍ا بابا
About this sound ‹bâ ‹b› ‹â› ‹b› ‹â›

As shown on the right, the swooping stroke of each ب connects with the following ا to spell بابا Look up بابا in Wiktionary ‹bâ›, an informal word for “father”, similar to the English words “dad” and “daddy”. The other letters in this section are like ب in that each has a swooping stroke that sits on the baseline and connects with the following letter, and each has one or more dots that are written after all of the connected strokes of the word.

Note that the alefs in بابا are not at the beginning of the word, so they represent long ‹â› and are not written with a “hat”.


پ پ‍ ‍پ‍ ‍پ پپپ
About this sound ‹pe› connecting forms

The third Persian letter is پ Look up پ in Wiktionary ‹pe›. It is pronounced as /p/ and its name sounds like a quick pronunciation of the English word “pay”. Its swooping stroke is written from right to left like the other letters of this group, then after the rest of the connected strokes of the word are written, the three dots of پ are written below the baseline.


پا پ‍ ‍ا پا
About this sound ‹pâ› ‹p› ‹â›

پ followed by ا spells the word پا Look up پا in Wiktionary ‹pâ› (“foot”).


ت ت‍ ‍ت‍ ‍ت تتت
About this sound ‹te› connecting forms

The letter ت Look up ت in Wiktionary ‹te› is pronounced like /t/ and is written with two dots above the swooping line. Its name rhymes with the other letters in this section.


تا ت‍ ‍ا تا
‹tâ› ‹t› ‹â›

ت followed by ا spells the word تا Look up تا in Wiktionary ‹tâ› (“until”).


Letters with dots
Many Persian letters have one, two, or three dots. In most printed publications, those dots appear as diamond shapes, or squares, or circles. Groups of three dots are positioned in a triangle, and groups of two dots are positioned side by side. In fast handwriting, though, three dots are often written as a caret ( ^ ) and two dots are often written as a dash ( - ) or like a reversed tilde ( ~ ).
ث ث‍ ‍ث‍ ‍ث ثثث
About this sound ‹se› connecting forms

The letter ث Look up ث in Wiktionary ‹se› is one of three separate Persian letters for the /s/ sound, since that is the Persian approximation of the letter's Arabic sound [θ]. In Persian, its name sounds like an abbreviated version of the English word “say”. It is used mainly in words of Arabic origin and is not a very common letter in Persian.


اثاث ا ث‍ ‍ا ث اثاث
‹asâs ‹a› ‹s› ‹â› ‹s›

As shown on the right, ث appears twice in the word اثاث Look up اثاث in Wiktionary ‹asâs› (“furniture”).

Note the difference between a hatless initial alef pronounced as short ‹a› and an alef in the middle of a word, pronounced as long ‹â›.

Note: Writing practice
Learning Arabic calligraphy (Kaf).jpg

Get out a pen and paper and practice writing ب ‹be›, پ ‹pe›, ت ‹te› and ث ‹se›. Remember to write from right to left and to keep the base lines even.

Baa-individua.svgBaa-individua.svgBaa-individua.svg Paa-individua.svgPaa-individua.svgPaa-individua.svg Taa-individua.svgTaa-individua.svgTaa-individua.svg THaa-individua.svgTHaa-individua.svgTHaa-individua.svg

ب ببب پ پپپ ت تتت ث ثثث
ب ببب پ پپپ ت تتت ث ثثث
Arabic alphabet ba-ya.png

Lettre 2 ﺏ bâ'.jpgLettre 2 ﺏ bâ'.jpgLettre 2 ﺏ bâ'.jpgLettre 2 ﺏ bâ'.gif Lettre 3 tāʾ.jpgLettre 3 tāʾ.jpgLettre 3 tāʾ.jpgLettre 3 ﺕ tâ'.gif Lettre 4 ṯâʾ.jpgLettre 4 ṯâʾ.jpgLettre 4 ṯâ'.gif


ج ‹jim›, چ ‹ce›, ح ‹he›, خ ‹xe›[edit]

ج چ ح خ
‹jim› ‹ce› ‹he› ‹xe›

The next four Persian letters, shown on the right, are all written similarly but with varying dots.


Hook-shaped tails
Notice that the tails in these four letters hook to the right. Recall that tails only appear in the isolated and final forms for letters. When another letter follows, the tails are not written, so these four letters lose their hooks when another letter follows them.
ج ج‍ ‍ج‍ ‍ج ججج
About this sound ‹jim› connecting forms

The letter ج Look up ج in Wiktionary ‹jim› is transcribed as ‹j› and pronounced as [d͡ʒ] (i.e. like the English letter j in jump). The top stroke is written first from left to right above the baseline, followed by the lower hook extending counterclockwise below the baseline. The dot is written later, after any other connected strokes in the word.


جا ج‍ ‍ا جا
‹jâ› ‹j› ‹â›

ج followed by ا spells the word جا Look up جا in Wiktionary ‹jâ› (“place”). This example shows that the shape of this letter changes when another letter follows it. The top stroke is still written from left to right, but a simple right-to-left stroke along the baseline replaces the hook when another letter follows. The other letters in this section change shape similarly when another letter follows.


چ چ‍ ‍چ‍ ‍چ چچچ
‹ce› connecting forms

The letter چ Look up چ in Wiktionary ‹ce› is transcribed in UniPers as ‹c› and pronounced as [t͡ʃ] (i.e., like ch in English church).


ح ح‍ ‍ح‍ ‍ح ححح
‹he› connecting forms

The letter ح Look up ح in Wiktionary ‹he› is pronounced as /h/. Its name sounds like a quick version of the English word “hay” (that is, it does not sound like the English word “he”).


حب ح‍ ‍ب حب
‹hab› ‹h› ‹b›

ح followed by ب spells the word حب Look up حب in Wiktionary ‹hab› (“pill”).

Unwritten vowels
You probably noticed that the short vowel ‹a› is not represented in حب ‹hab›. That is because Persian makes an important distinction between short and long vowels. The short vowels (‹a›, ‹e› and ‹o›) are not usually written in Persian. When you come across a new word in writing you might have to find out how it is pronounced from a dictionary or someone who speaks Persian. Although there is a system of marking vowel sounds (see Alefba), it is only usually seen in children's books, because it disrupts the normal layout of text. In contrast, long vowels have their own letters and are written down.

More details about writing and pronouncing vowels will be presented in the Lesson 4.



خ خ‍ ‍خ‍ ‍خ خخخ
‹xe› connecting forms

The letter خ Look up خ in Wiktionary ‹xe› is pronounced like the IPA sound [x] (like the Spanish letter j or the German ch), transcribed in UniPers as ‹x›.


خاج خ‍ ‍ا ج خاج
‹xâj› ‹x› ‹â› ‹j›

خ followed by ا and ج spells the word خاج Look up خاج in Wiktionary ‹xâj› (“cross”). Like the previous few letters, the tail of خ is not written when another letter follows it.

Note: Writing practice
Learning Arabic calligraphy (Kaf).jpg

Get out a pen and paper and practice writing ج ‹jim›, چ ‹ce›, ح ‹he› and خ ‹xe›. Remember to write from right to left and to keep the base lines even.

Jiim-individua.svgJiim-individua.svgJiim-individua.svg CHaa-individua.svgCHaa-individua.svgCHaa-individua.svg HHaa-individua.svgHHaa-individua.svgHHaa-individua.svg KHaa-individua.svgKHaa-individua.svgKHaa-individua.svg

ج ججج چ چچچ ح ححح خ خخخ
ج ججج چ چچچ ح ححح خ خخخ
Arabic examples.  Persian examples would be better here, probably a separate page to print out with letters to trace.

Lettre 5 jîm.jpgLettre 5 jîm.jpgLettre 5 jîm.jpgLettre 5 jîm.gif 05a-Tsche.png05a-Tsche.png05a-Tsche.png Lettre 6 ḥâʾ.jpgLettre 6 ḥâʾ.jpgLettre 6 ḥâʾ.jpgLettre 6 ḥâ'.gif Lettre 7 ḫâʾ.jpgLettre 7 ḫâʾ.jpgLettre 7 ḫâ'.gif

Exercises[edit]

Note.svg Distinguishing a and â:
(To check your answers, click “[show ▼]”.)
Decide whether the ‹alef› in the following words stands for (short) ‹a› or (long) ‹â›. You do not need to be able to read the whole word at this stage.
آبی

(long) ‹â›

اب

(short) ‹a›

آلمان

(long) ‹â›

اکبر

(short) ‹a›

Note.svg Recognizing letters:
(To check your answers, click “[show ▼]”.)
What are the names of and sounds represented by the following letters?
ج

The letter ‹jim›, which represents the sound ‹j› (IPA: [d͡ʒ]).

ا

The letter ‹alef› without madde, which represents the long vowel sound ‹â› (/ɒː/) in the middle or end of a word, or a short vowel sound (‹a›, ‹e›, or ‹o›) at the beginning of a word.

The letter ‹se›, which represents the sound ‹s›.

آ

The letter ‹alef›, with madde at the beginning of a word is represents the long ‹â› sound.)

ت

The letter ‹te›, which represents the sound ‹t›.

The letter ‹be›, which represents the sound ‹b›.

پ

The letter ‹pe›, which represents the sound ‹p›.

ا

The letter ‹alef›, without a madde, it represents the long vowel sound ‹â›, or at the beginning of a word, a short vowel sound (‹a›, ‹e›, or ‹o›).

خ

The letter ‹xe›, which represents the sound ‹x› (IPA: [x]).

ح

The letter ‹he›, which represents the sound ‹h›.

Note.svg The Persian alphabet:
(To check your answers, click “[show ▼]”.)
Which sounds have no letters of their own in Persian?

Short vowels usually are not written in Persian.

Which four letters were added to the Arabic alphabet by Persians to represent sounds which do not exist in Arabic?

پ ‹pe›, چ ‹ce›,ژ ‹že› and گ ‹gâf›.

Note.svg Reading words:
(To check your answers, click “[show ▼]”.)
Read these words by breaking them down into their component parts.
جا

‹jâ›: ج‍  ‍ا

آب

‹âb›: آ ب

بابا

‹bâbâ›: ب‍ ‍ا ب‍ ‍ا

اثاث

‹asâs›: ا ث‍ ‍ا ث

Note.svg Conversation:
Use the following phrases in a short dialogue:
  • ‹salâm.›
  • ‹tow cetori?›
  • ‹man xubam, mersi›.

Review[edit]

In this lesson, you learned some greetings, the first nine letters of the Persian Alphabet, and how to spell several words with those letters from right to left. You also learned that short vowels are usually not written, and that many letters change their shape depending on whether they connect with letters before or after them.

Core vocabulary:
  • ‹cetori› Look up چطور in Wiktionary  About this sound /t͡ʃeˈtoɾiː/ — “how are (you)” (informal)
  • ‹tow› Look up تو in Wiktionary  About this sound /tow/ — “you” (informal)
  • ‹tow cetori?› Look up چطور in Wiktionary  — “How are you?” (informal)
  • mersi› Look up مرسی in Wiktionary  About this sound /'meɾsiː/ — “thanks”
  • ‹man› Look up من in Wiktionary  About this sound /mæn/ — “I, me”
  • xubam› Look up خوب in Wiktionary  About this sound /ˈxuːbæm/ — “(I) am fine/well/good”
  • ‹man xubam.› Look up خوب in Wiktionary  — “I’m fine.”
Letters:
  • ا Look up ا in Wiktionary ‹alef
  • ب Look up ب in Wiktionary ‹be›
  • پ Look up پ in Wiktionary ‹pe›
  • ت Look up ت in Wiktionary ‹te›
  • ث Look up ث in Wiktionary ‹se›
  • ج Look up ج in Wiktionary ‹jim›
  • چ Look up چ in Wiktionary ‹ce›
  • ح Look up ح in Wiktionary ‹he›
  • خ Look up خ in Wiktionary ‹xe›
Bonus words:
  • آب Look up آب in Wiktionary ‹âb› — “water”
  • بابا Look up بابا in Wiktionary ‹bâ› — “dad, papa”
  • پا Look up پا in Wiktionary ‹pâ› — “foot”
  • تا Look up تا in Wiktionary ‹tâ› — “until”
  • اثاث Look up اثاث in Wiktionary ‹asâs› — “furniture”
  • جا Look up جا in Wiktionary ‹jâ› — “place, space”
  • حب Look up حب in Wiktionary ‹hab› — “pill”
  • خاج Look up خاج in Wiktionary ‹xâj› — “cross”

Next: Lesson 2 ( ۲ ), The alphabet (continued)

Continue to Lesson 2 ( ۲ ), The alphabet (continued) >>

ContentsIntroduction

Persian Alphabet lessons: 1 ( ۱ )2 ( ۲ )3 ( ۳ )4 ( ۴ )
Elementary grammar: 5 ( ۵ )6 ( ۶ )7 ( ۷ )8 ( ۸ )9 ( ۹ )
10 ( ۱۰ )11 ( ۱۱ )12 ( ۱۲ )13 ( ۱۳ )14 ( ۱۴ )15 ( ۱۵ )
Intermediate: 16 ( ۱۶ )17 ( ۱۷ )18 ( ۱۸ )19 ( ۱۹ )20 ( ۲۰ )
21 ( ۲۱ )22 ( ۲۲ )23 ( ۲۳ )24 ( ۲۴ )25 ( ۲۵ )26 ( ۲۶ )
Advanced:
Appendix: AlphabetGlossaryHandwriting