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how do I use the verb bikun (بكون) in colloquial Arabic?

Using بكون in Colloquial Arabic

Welcome back to another podcast episode where we help you on your journey to learn Levantine Arabic.

My name is Jennifer Killpack, and I live here in Amman, Jordan. My passion is helping people understand how to use the spoken dialect of Levantine Arabic.

In today’s episode, we’re going to focus on something that trips a lot of learners up: the verb بكون.

I wanted to create a podcast episode that would help us home in on the differences between بكون and بصير because that does trip people up quite often. When I started delving into usage, I realized that actually there’s a lot going on individually in the verbs بكون and بصير or كان and صار and it would be best to address just one at a time.

So this is going to turn into a series. I hope that these tips or shortcuts to understand things are going to be an aid to your journey to learn Levantine Arabic.

I don’t claim to be an Arabic expert, but I do consult with my development team here on my staff. We work to simplify concepts that are hard for foreigners to wrap their minds around as we become second language users of Arabic.

This is one of those.

So we’re going to break down بكون today and then there’s going to be more podcast episodes where we address كان and then more where we integrate with some of the complexity between بكون and بصير or كان and صار. Of course, as we go through these topics, we’re going to incorporate some Arabic usage by people who speak Arabic as their native tongue so that you can hear exactly what I’m talking about as I describe it.

1. Using بكون in Levantine Arabic: Time or Location

One shortcut is to think of sentences where you are going to talk about a place and a time.

Sentences such as, “Where will you be tonight?” “I will be at work.” We would put بكون in there. “I’m usually at work from 8:00 to 5:00.” “The منسف will arrive at 12:00.” These are examples where we refer to a time or a location.

For example #1 we need to use بكون whenever we refer to a place and a time where you will be located or available.

Examples of Using بكون: Time or Location


  1. My son is at school when I am at work. 
  2. My sister is at home after 7:00. 
  3. At 1:00 o’clock at night, I am sleeping. 
  4. I’ll be at the park at 7:00 in the evening. 
  5. The employees should be at work at 8:00. 
  1. ابني بكون بالمدرسة لما أكون بالشغل 
  2. أختي بتكون في البيت بعد الساعة ٧:٠٠ 
  3. الساعة ١:٠٠ بالليل بكون نايم 
  4. رح أكون بالحديقة الساعة ٧:٠٠ المساء 
  5. الموظفين لازم يكونوا بالشغل الساعة ٨:٠٠  

2. Using بكون in Levantine Arabic: When we Use Descriptives 

Many foreigners make the mistake when they use something descriptive about themselves: “I’m happy,” “I’m sad,” “I’m angry,” those sentences need to be “I am happy,” “I am sad,” “I am angry.”  

It’s easy to leave out the “I am” and think of the descriptive word being enough.   

Often those sentences continue and we use the word, لما, which is connected to cause and effect. 

Examples of Using بكون: Descriptives


  1. When I am hungry, I eat. 
  2. When I am thirsty, I drink. 
  3. When I am tired, I sleep. 
  4. When I am busy, I do not answer the phone. 
  5. When I am sick, I go to the doctor. 
  6. When I am by myself, I get bored. 
  7. When I get bored, I go out and take a walk. 
  1. لما بكون جوعانة باكل 
  2. لما بكون عطشانة بشرب 
  3. لما بكون تعبانة بنام 
  4. لما أكون مشغولة ما برد عالتلفون 
  5. لما بكون مريضة بروح ع الدكتور 
  6. لما بكون لحالي بكون زهقانة 
  7. لما بكون زهقانة بطلع اتمشّى 

3. Using بكون in Levantine Arabic: with تكرار (Repetition)

When we say تكرار we use time markers: “usually,” “typically,” “always,” “every day,” “most of the time.” 

Sentences like: “It’s typically hot here in August,” “In the winter, it is cold,” “I am always busy on Mondays, but usually free on Saturdays” (أنا بكون فاضية / أنا بكون مشغولة). 

Before the descriptive word but after the words, “usually,” “typically,” “always,” “every day,” “most of the time,” then you’ll need to remember to use بكون. 

Examples of Using بكون: with تكرار


  1. Usually the vegetables are in the fridge. 
  2. Usually the dirty clothes are in the washing machine. 
  3. Usually the weather in the summer is hot. 
  4. Sometimes I am bored during the holiday break. 
  5. Most of the time our house is full. 
  1. .عادةً الخضروات بتكون في الثلاجة 
  2. عادةً الأواعي الوسخة بتكون في الغسالة 
  3. عادةً الجو بفصل الصيف بكون شوب 
  4. أحياناً بكون زهقان بالعطلة 
  5. غالباً بيتنا بكون مليان 

4. Using بكون in Levantine Arabic: References to People

Here’s an example: “both of those people have the last name Smith. What are they to each other?” شو بكونوا ل بعض (What are they to each other, what is their relationship?).

“She is the manager of the business.” Here you would use بكون.

Somebody came in today and asked for one of our employees.

You might say, “مين بكون هاد الزلمة؟” “Who is that man?”

Examples of Using بكون: Reference to People


  1. Obama is one of the Presidents of America. 
  2. This man is Sarah’s brother. 
  3. I am the first grandson in the family. 
  4. That guy is my brother’s friend. 
  5. Who is this young man? 
  6. Ahmed is my best friend. 
  7. This boy was my son’s friend since his preschool years. 
  8. Who is the owner of this building? 
  1. اوباما بكون واحد من رُؤساء امريكا 
  2. هاد الزلمة بكون اخوها لسارة
  3. أنا بكون الحفيد الأول بالعيلة 
  4. هداك الشب بكون صاحب أخوي 
  5. مين بكون هاد الشب 
  6. أحمد بكون صاحبي المفضل 
  7. هاد الولد بكون صاحب ابني من أيام الروضة 
  8. مين بكون صاحب العمارة؟ 

5. Using بكون in Levantine Arabic in Conjunction with عندي and معي

When we use عندي and معي, in many situations we also need to use the verb بكون.

Examples of Using بكون: with عندي and معي


  1. The car on Friday is with my husband. It’s with me on Saturday. 
  2. When I have an appointment with the doctor, I am nervous. 
  3. There is one key with me and one with my husband. 
  4. My kids are not with me when I’m at work. 
  5. I will be at your place at 6:00 o’clock. 
  6. Will someone be with you when you go to the hospital?
  1. السيارة يوم الجمعة بتكون مع زوجي وبتكون معي يوم السبت 
  2. لما يكون عندي موعد مع الدكتورة بكون متوترة 
  3. مفتاح البيت بكون واحد معي و واحد مع زوجي  
  4. أولادي ما بكونوا معي لما أكون بالشغل 
  5. رح أكون عندك الساعة ٦:٠٠ 
  6. في حدا رح يكون معك لما تروحي ع المستشفى

Practice Using بكون

So if you want a quick check to see if you grasp when to use بكون, then go back through this recording and after I say a sentence, see if you remember how to create that sentence using بكون.

Where do you put it in a sentence? Can you communicate that thought in Levantine Arabic?

It’s great practice to watch a silent short film together with someone who speaks Levantine Arabic as their first language and try to put together as many sentences using بكون as possible while describing things you see. This can be a great exercise as you’re learning Arabic.

I often use cartoons to work on one Arabic grammar pattern at a time, filling it with lots of sentences because the visualization is in your head and it’s great to be able to connect things to a memory of something you see, especially for visual learners (or people who prefer visual learning, I should say).

So go and create an activity where you can flood it with sentences that are filled with بكون and see if this doesn’t become a more natural habit for you. Part of learning sentence patterns is getting it to a place where it’s down in your gut; it feels right. You’ve heard it said that way so many times and now it just is natural, instinctive even, for you to use Arabic grammar patterns in your sentences. The more you force yourself to create that habit, you will start to feel that sentences are incomplete without them.

Sometimes people avoid using Arabic words or grammar patterns that they haven’t quite wrapped their minds around. When Arabic learners don’t know how they should be using parts of speech, they often will default to omitting them or avoiding them. If that’s the case then we know we’re not in a good place.

Hopefully these examples of how to use بكون in Levantine Arabic has brought some clarity to you. If it has, fantastic.

If this has been confusing for you in the past, hopefully knowing these different ways بكون is used has aided you in your journey to learn Levantine Arabic.

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