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  5. "بِسِم"



I am VERY new to Arabic, can anyone help me please? I don't understand exactly why there is a dot and dash under the first letter. Could someone explain to me why?

November 20, 2019



The dot is part of the letter b...the dash is a vowel mark. Words in Arabic are made up of root letters (consonants), and both long and short vowels. The long vowels are part of the regular spelling of a word, but the short vowels are mostly used in children’s books, and for learning purposes. People who know the language can tell how to pronounce a word (...what short vowels to use) from the context, and don’t need the extra marks.

This may all seem really confusing when you are brand new to the language, and there isn’t a heap of introductory material here, but Arabic really only has 3 vowels that come in both long and short versions, so don’t let it get you down!

An additional note, in case it helps anyone trying to understand better how the language works: words that have more than 3 letter roots do exist in Arabic, but they are not of Arab origin. Many of them are Persian.


The dot UNDER the letter means it is a “b”, if it were OVER the letter it would be an “n” The accent mark UNDER the letter is the vowel “i”; the accent mark OVER the letter is the vowel “a” The above word is pronounced “bisim”. Hope that makes sense!


Okay so, can you add an accent mark under any letter? Because I knew that was B, but the accent mark confused me because Duolingo doesn't exactly explain it... So an accent below adds an "i" but an accent above adds an "a"? Because "مَ" makes the noise "ma". But then there is the little circle above some of the words and that makes the noise "u" right?


The accents are over or under a consonant to add a vowel, the “ backward “e” above a consonant is the vowel “u”. The circle means there is no vowel and, unlike English two consonants are pronounced together. There is a name called Badr “بدر “is would be written with a circle above the “d” to indicate no vowel sound. People who wrote casually do not use these symbols. They are only used in formal Arabic writing. Hope this helps! Thank you for the lingot!


Wouldn’t that be pronounced “bdr” then? Since there is no ‘ above the B, so it does not make the “Ba” sound? Also, two consonants are pronounced together, so what noise would “dr” make together?


The short vowels are only there for learning purposes, and aren’t always there...so it is Badr.

I just wrote this in another post, but I will say it again because it answers your question...Arabic cannot, and will never have, 3 consonant sounds in a row without any short vowels.

If the diacritical marks are there, they should all be there, but it isn’t a perfect world, so it is better to learn the rhythm of the language from the ones that are there, and not to nitpick and obsess over ones that may be missing. I am saying this because there are a lot of nitpicking comments throughout the course about diacriticals.


Yes, you are catching on! I misread your bit about the little circle, and wrote a correction which I deleted because I realized that by little circle you did mean the dammah which makes a u sound. Sorry if you saw it.

Anyway, the three short vowels are:

❤❤❤❤❤, which makes a short a sound and sits above a consonant

Kesra, which makes a short i sound and sits below a consonant

And dammah, which is a curl that sits above a consonant and makes a short u sound.

The reason I misunderstood you is that there is also a little circle (an actual circle) called a sukūn that sits above a consonant and indicates that the letter carries no short vowel.

If you hear native Arabic speakers speak English, often you will hear them say, “stareet,” instead of, “street,” because there is no such thing in Arabic as 3 consonant sounds in a row.

You can find more info here:



hmm, بِسِم is wrong, it should be silenced on the middle letter. but you kind of picked one advanced word to learn to read, this is a very special way to write the word "in the name of"... the 101 way to write it simply: بِاسم it appears as بِسْم in the Quran, here it is: http://tanzil.net/#1:1 (play with options on the side menu)

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