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The letter ث

Isolated form
ث
Letter name
thaa = ثَاء
Pronunciation
's' and 't'
Connector
Yes

ث has the same shape as both ب and ت and it connects to other letters, but has three dots above.

ث is the first letter we introduce that can have multiple pronunciations:

Pronunciation
Example
1. ‘s’ from silence
تَأثِير
effect
2. ‘t’ from time
ثْلاثِة
three
Final
Connected only to the letter before it.
ـث
بَحِث
research

Medial
Connected to the letter before and after it.
ـثـ
مَثَلاً
for example

Initial
Connected only to the letter after it.
ثـ
ثَقَافِة
culture

Isolated
Written alone or after a non-connecting letter.
ث

Memory Aid

Remember that ث needs three dots which is shown at the beginning of the letter ‘thaa’!

Language and history note: the multiple sounds of ث

These sections are totally optional!

“Why do I you have to be aware of several pronunciations for ث ?” you say. “Why is it called thaa, but pronunced differently??”. Good questions! Bare with us, a little history is needed…

The Arabic script you are learning developed alongside the spread of Islam and the Arab conquests. When the Arabs invaded the Levant, the Arab ruler’s language mixed with local languages like Aramaic. New spoken dialects emerged and evolved, losing some of the harder to pronounce or unfamiliar sounds for the locals.

Meanwhile, spelling in Levantine Arabic often uses the phonetically incorrect Classical spelling, because native Arabs are educated in Classical Arabic or el-fusHa (الفصحى), the langauge of formal education and prestige media which is similar to the holy book of Islam: the qur2aan.

Somewhat misleadingly, we tend to call a large range of spoken dialects all ‘Arabic’, despite some important differences. This situation is called diglossia. If this is confusing, this this blog post should help(LINK COMING SOON).

Therefore, the Clasical fusHa sound of ث is more like the ‘th’ from three. This fusHa pronunciation in the Levantine Dialect is replaced by the ‘s’ or ‘t’ sound.

The only exception is when speakers want to use a higher register they tent to use the Classical ‘th’ pronunciation (sort of like using a posh accent and vocabulary in a formal English context).

Don’t worry too much about these distinctions for now! Just know that ث is called ‘thaa’ and is pronounced in Syrian and Lebanese dialect as either ‘s’ or ‘t’.

Exercise 1: Joining together letters

Please join up these individual letters to form words. These words have no meaning, they are just for practice.

Again, remember to read from right to left in Arabic!

Example:  تُتِ = تُ + تِ

  1. ثَ + بَ + تَ
  2. بَ + ثَ + ت
  3. ثَ + بَ + تَ + ت
  4. تَ + ب + ث

Answers

  1. ثَ + بَ + تَ = ثَبَتَ
  2. بَ + ثَ + ت = بَثَت
  3. ثَ + بَ + تَ + ت = ثَبَتَت
  4. تَ + ب + ث = تَبث

Exercise 2: Breaking up words into letters

Please break up the following words in into isolated letters. These words have no meaning, they are just for practice.

For example بُبَ would become بُ followed by بَ. Remember to read the Arabic from right to left!

  1. ثَبَتَ
  2. تَبَ
  3. بَثَت
  4. بِتْتُ
  5. تَثْبُت

Answers

  1. ثَبَتَ = ثَ + بَ + تَ
  2. تَبَ = تَ + بَ
  3. بَثَت = بَ + ثَ + ت
  4. بِتْتُ = بِ + تْ + تُ
  5. تَثْبُت = تَ + ثْ + بُ + ت