Persian is an ancient language of Indo-European family. You can spot many grammatical similarities between Persian and other Indo-European languages, especially Romance languages like French and Spanish. However, Persian is similar more to its coeval languages like Latin than to relatively newer languages. For example, both Latin and Persian have a SOV word order (they both have free word order, though), which is uncommon among most modern European languages (even the descendants of Latin).
Today, Persian is mainly spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Bahrain. It has official status in the first three countries but was once the official, court, or literary language of many more places ranging from Turkey through India. There are many people in Iran and neighboring countries who know Persian fluently even though it's not their mother tongue. It's because Iran (formerly "Persia" until 1935) was much bigger until 200 years ago when it lost many territories, especially to its neighbor Russia (for more information, see Wikipedia: Greater Iran). After the 1979 revolution, many Iranians migrated to the West and as a result, there are numerous Persian-speaking communities throughout the world, particularly in USA.
The local name of the language is Farsi (officially, Fârsiyè Dari (Dari Persian), which means "official/court Persian"). The word Farsi has also entered English mainly because West-migrated Iranians didn't know about the native English name of their language and began to use Farsi. Persian has three main dialects: Iranian Persian, Afghanistani Persian and Tajikistani Persian. They are all mutually intelligible and in fact, written language is almost the same.
Note - Although you can use the contents of this page in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other countries but this page is directed towards Iranian Persian and Afghanistani Persian and Tajikistani Persian should have their own pages for a closer coverage.
The Persian writing system derives from that of Arabic, extended with four letters to denote the sounds not found in Arabic. Persian writing system is not an alphabet but an abjad. An abjad writing system has only characters for denoting consonant sounds. Vowels have no specific character and are either indicated by certain diacritics or by certain consonant characters. Additionally, most letters change shape when they are followed by another letter.
Vowels and diphthongs
as a in ant
as o in hot
as e in egg
as i in eagle
as o in forty
as u in flute
as ow in American English show but shorter
as ey in they
Regarding their indication in the Persian script:
The sounds a, e, o can be indicated with certain diacritics but they are virtually only used in elementary-school books. The vowel o is sometimes denoted with the consonant و (v).
The sounds â is always indicated: with آ at word initial and with ا elsewhere.
The sounds i and ey are indicated with ای at word initial and with the consonant ی (y) elsewhere.
The sounds u and ow are indicated with او at word initial and with the consonant و (v) elsewhere.
at word initial can denote: a, e, o; elsewhere: â
at word initial when followed by ی can denote: i (mostly) and ey
at word initial when followed by و can denote: u (mostly), ow and ave
as o in hot
as in bob
as in put
as in tea
as in sad
as in job
as in cheese
as in head
as ch in Scottish loch, German Buch
similar to r in Spanish reloj
as in zoo
as s in vision, pleasure, French j in jardin
as in sad
as in sheet
as in sad
as in zoo
as in tea
as in zoo
similar to r in French écrire, German schreiben
as in feet
similar to r in French écrire, German schreiben
as in keep
as in go
as in leave
as in moon
as in noon
as in van; also used to denote some vowel sounds
as in yet; also used to denote some vowel sounds
as in head
As you may note, there are characters that represent identical sounds e.g. ظ ,ض, ز are all pronounced z. It's because Persian has preserved the spelling of Arabic loanwords. Each of these characters have distinguished sounds in Arabic but they are all pronounced the same in Persian.
Persian has the following syllable patterns (C = Consonant, V = Vowel):
na, to, ke, mâ, xu, si, u
kar, pol, del, kâr, mur, sir, az, in, âb
kard, goft, zešt, kârd, xošk, rixt, farš, ârd, abr
These patterns can be encapsulated in CV(C)(C). According to the patterns:
A syllable always begins with a consonant sound. Please note that syllables which visually begin with a vowel sound, have a preceding glottal stop merged with their sound. For instance, u (he, she) is actually said øu and ârd (flour) is actually said øârd.
The second component of any syllable is a vowel sound.
Each syllable can only have one vowel sound. Therefore, each vowel indicates a syllable.
As opposed to English and many other languages, Persian does not allow two or more consonants to begin a syllable. Therefore, loanwords with such a characteristic are always Persianized:
To help you understand it better, here are some basic words along with their syllabification:
The stress is on the last syllable. However, there are a few adverbs that do not follow this regularity. In addition, Persian has a number of enclitics, which simply put, are unstressed endings (English example: 's in Peter's book). Enclitics do not change the stress position of the word to which they attach. Therefore, the stress position does not shift to the last syllable e.g. pe.dar + enclitic -am = pe.da.ram (rather than expected pe.da.ram)
Note - As an aid, the grave accent can be placed on the first vowel of enclitics to make them distinguishable from suffixes and final letters of words. This method is used here for the genitive enclitic (è / yè), indefinite enclitic (ì / yì) and enclitic form of "and" (ò).
Persian has a relatively easy and mostly regular grammar. So, it is relatively easy to gain a basic knowledge of the Persian grammar.
Persian is a gender-neutral language. That is, it refers to masculine, feminine and neuter genders with identical pronouns, adjectives, etc. For example, Persian has one word for both English "he" and "she", "him" and "her", "his" and "her".
There is no definite article in Persian. A bare noun indicates a definite noun (which includes common and generic nouns) e.g. mâšin dar pârking ast: the car is in the garage (literally: car, in garage, is); az mâr mitarsam: I'm afraid of snakes (literally: from snake fear-I)
Indefiniteness is expressed with the enclitic -ì (or -yì after vowels). It is for both singular and plural nouns. English does not have an exact equivalent for the Persian's plural indefinite article. It's often translated as "some" or "a few" or is simply omitted. The indefinite enclitic is added to the end of the noun phrase: mâšinì (a car, some car), mâšinhâyì (some cars)
Nouns are pluralized with the suffix -hâ. It's the only plural suffix used in spoken Persian. In written Persian, there's another plural suffix -ân (-gân after the vowel e and -yân after other vowels) which can only be used for animates and human beings in particular. It is especially useful to restrict the meaning to human beings. For example:
sar means "head", sarhâ means "heads" and sarân means "chiefs, heads, leaders"
gozašte means "past", gozaštehâ means "the past (events, etc.)" and gozaštegân means "the people of the past"
Arabic loanwords have usually brought their irregular plural forms (technically referred to as "broken plurals") into Persian but they can be avoided and you can use -hâ to pluralize them. In spoken Persian, broken plurals are never used except for very few cases where the broken plural has found an extended meaning. Regarding written Persian of today, the use of broken plurals has greatly decreased and it's prevalent to pluralize words with -hâ.
Note - In Persian, nouns are not pluralized when preceded by numbers because the number itself indicates quantity e.g. yek ketâb (one/a book), do/se/panjâh ketâb (two/three/fifty books).
In Persian, the genitive case relates two or more words to each other. The genitive case is marked with the enclitic -è (or -yè after vowels). The genitive enclitic is added to all the words that are connected to the head word and complement it. Look at the following examples:
the father of Ali, Ali's father
the prophet of Islam
the name of the book, book's name
the country of Iran
north of Tehran
The accusative case is indicated with the enclitic râ (which, despite being an enclitic, it is written apart from the host word in the Persian script) e.g. dar râ bastam (I closed the door).
Adjectives have only one form. They agree neither in gender nor in number with the noun they modify. They come after the noun and are related to it with the genitive enclitic: pesarè xub: good boy (mold: boy-è good), doxtarhâyè xub: good girls (mold: girl-hâ-yè good). As stated before, the indefinite article is added to the end of the noun phrase, so: pesarè xubì (a/some good boy), doxtarhâyè xubì ((some) good girls).
Demonstrative adjectives come before nouns and like other adjectives, they have only one form. In Persian, we don't say "these books" but "this books". The plural form itself indicates that we are pointing to a plural noun. Basic demonstrative adjectives are ân (that, those) and in (this, these).
A pronoun (pro-noun) substitutes a noun phrase therefore the quantity (singular or plural) must be indicated. Consequently, demonstrative pronouns have plural forms, which is made with the plural suffix -hâ: ân (that), ânhâ (those), in (this), inhâ (these). Demonstrative pronouns are also used as subjective pronouns. For example, the Persian word for "they" is ânhâ. Distal pronouns (ân, ânhâ) are either used neutrally (i.e. not denoting distance from the speaker) or natively (i.e. indicating remoteness) but proximal pronouns (in, inhâ) are always used natively and indicate proximity to the speaker. English doesn't have such a feature.
Mišavad az telefonetân estefâde konam (میشود از تلفنتان استفاده کنم)
Note - There are two ways to express "and" in Persian. One is with the enclitic ò (or yò after vowels) and the other is with the word va. The enclitic ò is the common way (and the sole way in spoken Persian).
šastò šeš (شصت و شش)
haftâdò haft (هفتاد و هفت)
haštâdò hašt (هشتاد و هشت)
hezârò yek (هزار و یک)
bistò yek (بیست و یک)
navadò noh (نود و نه)
hezârò sad (هزار و صد)
bistò do (بیست و دو)
do hezâr (دو هزار)
sadò dah (صد و ده)
do hezârò hašt (دو هزار و هشت)
siyò se (سی و سه)
dah hezâr (ده هزار)
devistò bistò do (دویست و بیست و دو)
bist hezâr (بیست هزار)
chehelò chahâr (چهل و چهار)
sad hezâr (صد هزار)
sisadò siyò se (سیصد و سی و سه)
yek milyun (یک میلیون)
panjâhò panj (پنجاه و پنج)
do milyun (دو میلیون)
yek milyârd (یک میلیارد)
number ~ (train, bus, etc.)
šomâreye ~ (شمارهی ~)
one o'clock AM
yekè sobh (یک صبح)
two o'clock AM
doè sobh (دو صبح)
one o'clock PM
yekè baød-az-zohr (یک بعدازظهر)
two o'clock PM
doè baød-az-zohr (دو بعدازظهر)
Tip - In Persian, nouns are not pluralized when a number precedes them. The plurality is clear from the "number". Therefore, we say, for example:
three to five week: se tâ panj hafte (سه تا پنج هفته)
in hafte (این هفته)
hafteyè gozašte (هفتهی گذشته)
hafteyè âyande (هفتهی آینده)
Tip - In Iran, weeks being with "Saturday" and end with "Friday". So, the holiday is "Friday" and the weekend starts from "Thursday".
Iran uses a solar calendar with the new year on the vernal equinox (March 21 on the Gregorian calendar). So, years begin with "spring" and end with "winter". The first six months have 31 days, and the last five have 30 days each. The final month has 29 or 30 depending on whether or not it is a leap year. Leap years are not as simply calculated as in the Gregorian calendar, but typically there is a five year leap period after every 7 four year cycles. Year 0 of the calendar corresponds to 621 in Gregorian.
Farvardin (31 days)
21 Mar. – 20 Apr.
Ordibehešt (31 days)
21 Apr. – 21 May
Xordâd (31 days)
22 May – 21 June
Tir (31 days)
22 June – 22 July
Mordâd (31 days)
23 July – 22 Aug.
Šahrivar (31 days)
23 Aug. – 22 Sep.
Mehr (30 days)
23 Sep.– 22 Oct.
Âbân (30 days)
23 Oct.– 21 Nov.
Âzar (30 days)
22 Nov.– 21 Dec.
Dey (30 days)
22 Dec.– 19 Jan.
Bahman (30 days)
20 Jan. – 18 Feb.
Esfand (29/30 days)
19 Feb. – 20 Mar.
Gregorian month names are borrowed from French.
Me (مه), also Mey (می)
Žuiye (ژوئیه), also Julây (جولای)
Ut (اوت), also Âgust (آگوست)
Writing time and date
The staring point of the Iranian solar calendar is Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD. Short date format is yyyy/mm/dd (or yy/mm/dd) and the long date format is dddd, dd MMMM yyyy. For example, today (Monday, August 11, 2008) is:
short date format: 1387/05/21 (or 87/05/21)
long date format: došanbe, 21 Mordâd 1387
Time is written like English e.g. 8:34 (۸:۳۴).
siyâh (سیاه), also meški (مشکی)
qermez (قرمز), also sorx (سرخ)
Bus and train
How much is a ticket to ~?
belitè ~ cheqadr ast? (بلیط ~ چقدر است)
One ticket to ~, please.
lotfan yek belit barâye ~ (لطفا یک بلیط برای ~ )
Where does this train/bus go?
in qatâr/otobus kojâ miravad? (این قطار/اتوبوس کجا میرود)
...an English-English dictionary. (loghatnaameye engilisi be engilisi)
Notice: in Iran there are no car rental agencies. Most of the time, you would need to rent a car with a driver from an "aajaans" (taxi agency) who will drive you around. The agencies often have set daily/weekly rental prices which you should make sure to ask for!
I want to rent a car.
I want to rent a car. (mikhaam maashin ejaare konam)
Can I get insurance?
Can I get insurance? (beemeh ham mikhaam)
stop (on a street sign)
stop (IST ايست!)
one way (يک طرفه)
no parking (paark mamnoo'پارک ممنوع)
speed limit (sor'ate mojaaz...سرعت مجاز)
gas (petrol) station
gas station (pomp-e benzin...پمپ بنزين)
I haven't done anything wrong.
I haven't done anything wrong. (maan kaar-e khalaafi nakardam)
It was a misunderstanding.
It was a misunderstanding. (eshtebaah shode)
Where are you taking me?
Where are you taking me? (mano kojaa mibarin?)
Am I under arrest?
Am I under arrest? (aaya dar togheef-am?)
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. (man emrikayi/ostoraaliyaayi/engilisi/kaanaadaayi hastam)
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
I need to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. (mikhaam baa sefaarat/konsoolgariye Emrika/Ostoraaliya/Engelestan/Kanaadaa tamaas begiram)
I want to talk to a lawyer.
I want to talk to a lawyer. (ehtiyaaj be yek vakil daaram)
Can I just pay a fine now?
Can I just pay a fine now? (mitoonam jarime-am ro bepardaazam?)
By falling in love with a Persian you can express your feelings in many ways.
I love you. (Duset daram/Asheghetam)
I want to be with you (Mikham ba to basham)
Kiss me (Boosam kon)
You are my sweatheart (To delbare mani)
Why did you leave me alone? (Chera tanham gozoshti)