Lesson 21: The verb ‘To Be’

Lesson 21 is the first lesson in Unit 3 of Chai and Conversation! In this unit, we will be going over the fundamentals of grammar of the Persian language! This entire lesson is devoted to the verb ‘to be,’ and its many different forms.


how are you?

Note: In Persian, as in many other languages, there is a formal and an informal way of speaking. We will be covering this in more detail in later lessons. For now, however, chetor-ee is the informal way of asking someone how they are, so it should only be used with people that you are familiar with. hālé shomā chetor-é is the formal expression for ‘how are you.’

Spelling note: In written Persian, words are not capitalized. For this reason, we do not capitalize Persian words written in phonetic English in the guides.


I’m well

Pronunciation tip: kh is one of two unique sounds in the Persian language that is not used in the English language. It should be repeated daily until mastered, as it is essential to successfully speak Persian. Listen to the podcast for more information on how to make the sound.

Persian English
salām hello
chetor-ee how are you?
khoobam I’m well
merci thank you
khayli very
khayli khoobam I’m very well
khoob neestam I’m not well
man me/I
bad neestam I’m not bad
ālee great
chetor-een? how are you? (formal)
hālé shomā chetor-é? how are you? (formal)
hālet chetor-é? how are you? (informal)
khoob-ee? are you well? (informal)
mamnoonam thank you
chetor peesh meeré? how’s it going?
ché khabar? what’s the news? (what’s up?)

Leyla: Hello and welcome to the first lesson of unit 3 of Chai and conversation! Thank you so much for joining us.  As we mentioned, unit three will take a slightly different approach from the previous lessons. In the next ten lessons, we will be going over technicalities of conversational Persian.

Matt: What makes Chai and conversation different from other Persian learning programs is that we are focusing solely on conversational Perisan

Leyla: The Persian language is somewhat extreme in the differences when it is written, versus when it is spoken in colloquial conversation. In order to speak and understand Perisan on a conversational level, it is important to know purely conversational Persian. However, I believe that in any language, it's important to have a solid foundation to stand on, and that foundation is grammar.

Matt: It's important to have a grasp of the grammar of the Persian language in order to understand why we say the things we do. However, please remember that language is all about communication. Don't get too bogged down with the grammatical aspect of it. Hopefully, these lesson will cause you to be an even better speaker.

Leyla: In the next unit of Chai and Conversation, we will be having dialogues in the Persian language. You will be surprised as to how much you will be able to understand and communicate after this next unit!

Matt: And as always, remember that you can always relisten to previous lessons and download all the bonus materials from our website at www.chaiandconversation.com for an extremely nominal and affordable fee.

Leyla: But more on that later. For now, are you ready to begin learning Matt?

Matt: Ready!

Leyla: Great, then let's begin to learn Persian with Chai and Conversation!


Leyla: So, we are going to begin our discussion of grammar in conversational Persian by focusing on the verb 'to be.' We have mentioned this word over and over again in every lesson, as it has come up in many words and phrases we've learned. Today, we are going to learn how to conjugate the term in a formal manner, in a colloquial manner, and in the shortened conversational manner. So let's get right on with it. I am is man hastam

Matt: man hastam

Leyla: We've heard this several times already. For example, we learned in the very beginning, you can introduce yourself by saying, man leyla hastam. I am Leyla. Next, you are, informal is tō hastee

Matt: tō hastee

Leyla: We've heard to hastee several times. Like, to chekāré hastee. Or literally 'what kind of worker are you'. She or he is is oo hast

Matt: oo hast

Leyla: As we've said before, 'ān' is a gender neutral word, and can mean he or she. We are is 'mā hasteem'

Matt: Mā hasteem

Leyla: As we said in lesson 20, the pronoun shomā represents both you plural and you formal. So you are in the plural and formal sense is shomā hasteed

Matt: Shoma hasteed

Leyla: And they are is 'ānhā hastand'

Matt: ānhā hastand.

Leyla: So again, let's go over these very quickly. man hastam

Matt: man hastam

Leyla: I am. tō hastee

Matt: tō hastee

Leyla: You, informal, are. oo ast

Matt: oo ast

Leyla: He or she is. mā hasteem

Matt: mā hasteem.

Leyla: We are. shomā hasteed

Matt: shomā hasteed.

Leyla: You plural or you formal are. ānhā hastand

Matt: ānhā hastand

Leyla: They are. So this is the way to be is conjugated in formal, written Persian. However, things change in colloquial conversation. Some of these conjugations become a bit different. So again, in written and in colloquial Persian, I am stays man hastam. You are stays tō hastee. He or she is in written Persian is ān ast. In conversation, you will hear oo hast.

Matt: oo hast

Leyla: We are is mā hasteem in both written and colloquial. Next, in writing, you formal or you plural are is shomā hasteed. In conversation, this becomes shomā hasteen.

Matt: shomā hasteen

Leyla: We talked about this briefly in lesson 15. Then they are in formal language is ānhā hastand. In colloquial language, the d gets dropped, and it becomes ānhā hastan.

Matt: ānhā hastan

Leyla: Now, another interesting thing happens in spoken Persian that is best illustrated in the verb to be, and that is the reduced form of the verb. Let's go over these, and we'll talk about it afterwards. To illustrate the reduced form, we are going to talk about the concept of being well. We have gone over several of these before, so it will sound familiar to you. First, I am, hastam, becomes reduced to –am. So I am well is man khoobam

Matt: man khoobam.

Leyla: So we learned this in the very first lesson. khoob means good or well. –am at the end of this word is the reduced version of hastam. So man khoob-am means I am well. Now, these endings allow us to drop the pronoun in the phrase as well. So, we can simply say khoob-am. am indicates that you are talking about yourself, so saying the pronoun, though not incorrect, would be redundant. So again, khoob-am

Matt: khoob-am

Leyla: In Persian, this is written as one word. In the pdf guides, we have been adding the verb after a hyphen to indicate that it is essentially two words put together, and we will continue to do this to make it as clear as possible for you. Next, you informal are, or hastee becomes reduced to –ee. So adding ee to the end of khoob is to khoobee

Matt: tō Khoob-ee

Leyla: So you are well, khoob-ee.

Matt: khoobee

Leyla: He or she is, oo hast, becomes reduced to –e. So oo khoob-é

Matt: oo khoob-é

Leyla: So he or she is well, khoob-é

Matt: khoob-é

Leyla: We are is mā hasteem, and it becomes reduced to eem. So mā khoob-eem

Matt: Ma khoob-eem

Leyla: So we are well, khoob-eem

Matt: khoob-eem

Leyla: You are in plural or formal form is shomā hasteen. It becomes reduced to een. Shomā khoob-een.

Matt: Shomā khoob-een.

Leyla: So you are well, khoob-een

Matt: Khoob-een.

Leyla: And finally, they are is ānhā hastan. This is reduced to -an. Or oonā khoob-an

Matt: oonā khoob-an.

Leyla: So they are well is khoob-an

Matt: khoob-an.

Leyla: So this is quite a bit to learn, so let's go over the verb to be one more time to make sure we have a firm grasp on it. First, we'll say it in long colloquial form, and then we'll say it in the reduced version. We're going to only go over the colloquial form of the verb, however, as you won't need to know the formal version for day to day conversations as much.

Leyla: I am- man hastam

Matt: man hastam

Leyla: You are, informal- tō hastee

Matt: tō hastee

Leyla: He or she is, oo hast

Matt: oo hast

Leyla: We are, mā hasteem

Matt: mā hasteem

Leyla: You are, formal and plural- shomā hasteen

Matt: shomā hasteen

Leyla: They are- oonā hastan

Matt: Oona hastan

Leyla: And now, shortened version, using the concept of being well. We're going to drop the pronoun on these. I'm well is khoob-am

Matt: khoob-am

Leyla: You're well is khoob-ee

Matt: khoob-ee

Leyla: He or she is well is khoob-é

Matt: khoob-é

Leyla: We are well is khoob-eem

Matt: khoob-eem

Leyla: You're well plural or formal is khoob-een

Matt: khoob-een

Leyla: They are well is khoob-an

Matt: khoob-an

Leyla: Ok, let's go over two very simple exchanges just using these two phrases. I'll start

Leyla: khoob-ee?

Matt: khoob-am

Leyla: So I said khoob-ee? Which is you'u're well? And Matt said

Matt: Khoobam

Leyla: Which means I am well. Next conversation, you start this time Matt

Matt: Khoob-een?

Leyla: Khoob-eem

Leyla; So Matt said 'khoob-een?' And in this case this is you plural are well? And I replied 'khoobeem' which is 'we are well. So in both of these exchanges, by uttering one word, both Matt and I were able to say a complete subject and verb, and get our point across. Now, let's try going over the reduced form of to be with a different word. Instead of the word khoob, or well, let's use the word happy, or khoshhāl. Can you say that first Matt, khoshhāl

Matt: Khoshhal

Leyla: So this simply means happy. So first, I am happy is 'khoshhāl-am'

Matt: Khoshhāl-am

Leyla: You are happy, informal is khoshhāl-ee

Matt: khoshhāl-ee

Leyla: She or he is happy is khoshhāl-é

Matt: We are happy is khoshhāl-eem

Matt: khoshhāl-eem

Leyla: You are happy, formal and plural is khoshhāl-een

Matt: Khoshhāl-een

Leyla: They are happy is khashhāl-an

Matt: Khoshhāl-an.

Leyla: Let's try another one, and this time, Matt, I'm going to ask you to figure it out on your own. Let's use the word khoshgel, or pretty. How would you say I am pretty? The reduced version of I am is -am

Matt: Khoshgel-am

Leyla: You are pretty, informal. You are reduced is –ee

Matt: khoshgel-ee

Leyla: He or she is pretty. He or she is reduced is –é

Matt: khoshgel-é

Leyla: We are pretty. We are reduced is –eem

Matt: khoshgeleem

Leyla: You are pretty plural or formal, You are plural or informal reduced is –een

Matt: khoshgel-een

Leyla: And finally they are pretty. They are reduced is –an

Matt: khoshgel-an

Leyla: Let's learn a few more adjectives we can use to practice the verb to be. Let's say you want to say 'I am free.' Free is āzād

Matt: āzād

Leyla: So let's try three different ways of say I am free. In written Persian, it would be man āzād hastam.

Matt: man āzād hastam

Leyla: We can then eliminate the subject, so āzād hastam

Matt: āzād hastam

Leyla: And we can reduce is even further with the reduced version- āzād-am

Matt: āzād-am

Leyla: Let's try another word- deltang

Matt: deltang

Leyla: This literally means tight heart, and is similar to the English concept 'heavy hearted.' So to say 'he is heavy hearted' in full form, you would say 'oo deltang hast'

Matt: oo deltang hast

Leyla: Dropping the subject, you could say 'deltang hast'

Matt: deltang hast

Leyla: And the most reduced version would be- deltang-é

Matt: deltange

Leyla: In unit one we learned how to say nationalities. Let's try that using our knowledge of the reduced 'to be' to describe some people's nationalities. For example, to say 'I am Iranian', you say 'man irāni hastam' or 'irāni-am'

Matt: irani-am

Leyla: Matt how would you say 'I am American'

Matt: āmricāee-am

Leyla: perfect- āmricāee-am. They are Russian could be oonā roosee hastan, or simply 'roosee-an'

Matt: roosee-an

Leyla: How would you say They are Chinese?

Matt: cheenee-an

Leyla: Now there are a couple exceptions that we should also note. The reduced forms of 'to be' all begin with a vowel. So if the word that precedes them ends in a vowel as well, there need to be some adjustments. Let's take as an example the phrase 'I am home'. So the full sentence would be man khooné hastam. To shorten it, we need to combine khooné and am, which would be khooné-am. Since this is awakward to say, the second vowel sound is simply taken out, and we pronounce is 'khoon-am.'

Matt: Khoonam

Leyla: Or to say you are home, we put the y buffer between the words, as we've seen numerous times before. So khooneh ee becomes khooné-yee

Matt: khooné-yee

Leyla: You are home. For the third person singular, khooné hast, this becomes the –st sound we've seen before. Instead of khooné–é it becomes khoon-ast.

Matt: khoon-ast

Leyla: We are home, khooné hasteem, becomes 'khooné-yeem'

Matt: khooné-yeem

Leyla: So this has the ye buffer as well. You are home, formal or plural is khooné hasteen or 'khooné-yeen'

Matt: khooné-yeen

Leyla: And they are home, khooné hastand becomes khooné-an

Matt: khooné-an

Leyla: Great! So I think we are getting the hang of this. In the bonus materials of this lesson, we've included several adjectives and exercises you can complete in order to get this concept down completely. but for now, that brings us to the end of lesson 21!

Matt: Thanks so much for listening!

Leyla: As we mentioned before, bonus materials for this lesson can be found on our website at chaiandconversation.com. The bonus materials for this grammar unit of Chai and conversation are especially important, since they provide a written transcript of the concepts we have been learning using phonetic English script.

Matt: Please let us know if you have any questions, or if you have any feedback or commentary. We'd be glad to know what you think.

Leyla: And until next time, bé omeedé deedar from Leyla

Matt: And khodāhāfez from Matt!