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how do I use the verb biseer (بصير) in Levantine Arabic?

Using بصير in Colloquial Arabic

Greetings from Amman, Jordan, and welcome back to another episode of Tips for Learning Levantine Arabic.

In the last episode, we discussed the meanings and functions of بكون. In this episode we will do the same for بصير. Then, in a coming episode, we will chat a little bit about some of the reasons why Arabic learners have a difficult time choosing between these two words, particularly for one of the meanings we will discuss at length today.

I like to keep these episodes brief so that the concepts we introduce can be revisited as Arabic learners become increasingly familiar with the language. Secondly, although I have been learning colloquial Arabic for 15 years now, I know that getting our minds around new concepts and uses for language can be overwhelming. So, let’s take them in bite size quantities.

Since we will be weaving back and forth between Arabic and English, you may have to listen to episodes like this one multiple times.

Rome was not built in a day, and neither will your complete understanding of the Arabic dialect you are learning happen overnight. I see this as one of the primary ways learners get in the way of the natural learning process. They often believe that learning Arabic can be done in a brief period, when in fact we need to keep looping back to concepts, even easy ones, to let our brains process how Arabic is used.

I’ve spent a lot of time working out how to present this podcast episode, because, as with many grammatical aspects of Arabic variants, there can be differences in how people speak. At the Shababeek language center we focus on giving Arabic learners a strong command of the spoken Levantine dialect so that speech becomes more intuitive and instinctive over time as we learn patterns to how we apply our speech.

That’s why our program is largely aural. Listening (a lot) to how language is used helps us begin to see and imitate patterns that are common in communication.

That said, and this is really crucial to grasp in every language variant, even and perhaps especially English, there are plenty of deviations from the standard or prestigious language.

Sometimes these deviations are thought of as incorrect.

However, I would challenge language learners to remember that wherever you have come from, there is a proper way to say or especially to write your language, and then there is another way that people communicate daily using shortcuts and omitting or abbreviating parts of speech that in a classroom setting in school they may be corrected for.

In our Arabic language center, we aim to help learners adopt best practices in terms of speaking like locals. But it is important to remember that, wherever you go, there will be groups of people who believe that their Arabic variant is the ideal one and will encourage you to speak as they do.

Bedouins may want you to use their expressions and pronunciations in order to avoid sounding pompous like city folk. Teachers will want you to learn مدني or lean towards the prestigious standard in order to imitate the “educated forms of speech.”

When it comes to adopting a dialect variant to use, it’s to your discretion to select a variant you wish to imitate. Perhaps that’s different depending on your present company. However, I caution learners to think in terms of right or wrong when it comes to spoken colloquial Arabic (or in any language really). You will continually be surprised at variations from generally accepted patterns, and you will always find someone who disagrees with the “correct” way to say something.

3 Ways to Use بصير

Generally speaking, there are three ways you can think about when to use بصير.

1. Requesting Permission or Giving Advice

One could think of this as, “could I,” “is it possible?” “can I?” “may I?” “is it permitted or allowed?”

The answer is often something like تفضل, or من عيوني.

Examples in Arabic Using بصير: Being Allowed or Getting Permission


  1. It’s not OK to enter your neighbor’s house without knocking on the door. 
  2. It’s not OK to hit my younger brother. 
  3. It’s not permitted for you to put bread in the garbage.  
  4. Mamma, can I play with my friend? Yes, you may, but only for ten minutes. 
  5. Could we take a break? Of course we can. 
  6. Can I take your pen? Yes, you may.  
  1. .ما بصير أدخل على بيت جيرانا بدون ما أدق على الباب 
  2. .ما بصير أضرب أخوي الصغير 
  3. .ما بصير تكبوا الخبز في الزبالة
  4. .ماما بصير ألعب مع صاحبتي؟ آه بصير، بس عشر دقايق 
  5. .بصير نطلع إستراحة؟ أكيد بصير 
  6. .بصير أخذ قلمك؟ آه بصير

2. What is Happening?

A second usage of بصير is to refer to what is happening or going on.

Here are some examples in Arabic for how to use بصير with this meaning.

Examples in Arabic Using بصير: Happenings


  1. What will happen if I’m late for work? 
  2. My car is broken down. Why does this stuff happen to me? 
  3. What is happening in our country? 
  4. What will happen if I don’t wear a jacket and it’s raining? 
  5. What happens if a baby drinks Pepsi? Well, nothing will happen, but it’s not very good for him. 
  6. What will happen if the boy plays with the ball in the street? 
  1. شو بصير إذا تأخرت على الشغل؟ 
  2. سيارتي خربانة، ليش بصير معي هيك؟ 
  3. شو اللي بصير في البلد؟ 
  4. شو بصير إذا ما لبست جاكيت والدنيا شتى؟ 
  5. .شو بصير إذا الطفل بشرب بيبسي؟، ما بصير إشي بس مش كويس عشانه 
  6. شو بصير إذا لعب الولد كرة بالشارع؟ 

3. Change or Transformation

The third usage for بصير is when a change or transformation occurs. This could be a new position or job, a new role in life, or a new condition. In all these examples something is transforming, or a change is taking place, usually in the future.

This is probably the hardest one for language learners to understand.

Examples include things like, “The weather will become hot.” Here بصير is tied to something that will change. This is different than the examples we took in the last episode when we said, “The weather is hot in the summer.” In that case you would use بكون because you’re describing what is normal or natural to take place. But if we’re talking about something that will occur in the future, “The weather will get hot in a month or two,” or, “After another week, the weather will be cold, according to our weather app,” we would use the verb بصير.

Other examples include when you turn a new age: “My nephew will turn four next week.”

“My face gets red when I stand in the sun.” Your face wasn’t red before, but now it is.

“When you speak a lot of Arabic, your Arabic gets better.”

Here are some examples with the sentences that follow. See if you can decide, after I say a sentence in English, how you would form the sentence using بصير.

Examples in Arabic Using بصير: Change and Transformation 


  1. The weather is cold in the morning but gets hot in the afternoon. 
  2. My son will begin university. 
  3. My sister is going to be a mother after nine months. 
  4. The room becomes nice when I tidy it up, or maybe we would say the room gets nice when I tidy up. 
  5. A baby starts to walk when he is 2 years old.  
  1. .الجو بكون برد الصبح وبصير شوب الظهر 
  2. .إبني رح يصير بالجامعة 
  3. .أختي بتصير أُم بعد تسع شهور 
  4. .الغرفة بتصير حلوة لما أرتبها 
  5. .البيبي بصير يمشي بعمر سنتين 

Reviewing Three Ways to Use بصير

There we have three different situations where you would use بصير. 

Note that in some situations it’s used as a verb. In other situations where we are asking for permission, it’s بصير or ما بصير. In those situations it carries a more static usage, asking if it’s OK or permitted or allowed. 

Next is to ask, “What is going on?” “What is occurring?” “What is happening?” 

The third example takes place when a change or transformation occurs: you’re moving from one state to another state, you were single and now you’re married, you used to be unemployed but now you’ve become an engineer. There’s something that is going to be different than it was previously. You’re not just stating a state of something like when we use بكون. 

In another episode we talk through some of the nuances of how we use بصير, particularly with the third example I gave where it is used in connection to a change or a future event. There are some instances where you may say to yourself, “I’m sure that I heard the sentence using بكون to talk about a future change.” That can sometimes be the case, but it has to do with the nuances of what’s being indicated in those sentences. 

In that episode we talk about how to understand these present tense forms of the verb بكون and بصير in connection with one another and give you lots of examples. 

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