The three letters below all look a little bit like a boat:


ت ث
baa’ taa’ thaa’

As you can see, the three letters are identical in their ‘body’ (= the boat). The difference arises from the dots below and above the boat.

Let’s focus on baa’ to show how this letter is written in different places of a word.

on its own at the beginning in the middle at the end
ب بـــ ــبــ ــب
أَب بـابـا تِــبْــن قَلْــب
ab baabaa tibn qalb
father daddy straw heart

Notice the help symbols in three of the words. The little symbol above the letters alif and qaaf tells you that you must read /a/. The symbol below the letter taa’ tells you that you must read /i/.

Now look at the following eight words with the letters taa’ and thaa’. They are in two sets of four.

on its own at the beginning in the middle at the end
ت تــ ـــتــ ــت
توت تِــبْــن زَوجَــتــي بِنْــت
tuut tibn zawjatee bint
berries straw my wife daughter


on its own at the beginning in the middle at the end
ث ثــ ـــثــ ـــث
ثَلاث ثَــوْب كَــثــير بَحَــث
thalaath thawb katheer baHath
three clothes many, much research

We will now turn to two more letters which, when on their own, are only vaguely similar in shape to the ‘boat’-letters. These two letters are:

ن ي
nuun yaa’

Now look what happens to their shape when nuun and yaa’ are used in different places in a word.

on its own at the beginning in the middle at the end
ن نــ ــنـ ــن
فِنْجان نَـوْم فــِنْــجان مــَن
finjaan nawm finjaan man
cup sleep (= noun) cup who

To learn more about the Arabic alphabet, you can purchase the book A Guide to Writing Arabic. This useful workbook is the ideal partner to the beginners Arabic language course at It carefully guides you through all the letters of the Arabic alphabet and offers plenty of opportunities to practise the letters individually and in combinations with other letters. The Guide is available as an eBook with the Arabic Online subscription.

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