If you want to visit Iran or Afghanistan (one day) — or just want to banter with your Persian-speaking friends — then this comprehensive list of useful Persian phrases will help you sound like a native.
Phrasebooks tend to tell you just “hello” and “goodbye”. But you need to use these polite Farsi phrases to survive and be respectful in day-to-day life in Iran (as well as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and other places that speak Farsi).
For example, in English, people don’t often greet you with “Hello”. Most people say “Hi”, “Hey”, or some other variant. That’s what we’re trying to show in this list of Farsi phrases: colloquial phrases people actually say that sound a lot more natural. These earn you points!
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Persian Phrases — A Summary
There’s more detail on these persian phrases below. But here’s a quick overview.
|Welcome!||خوش آمديد!||khosh aamadid!|
|Pleased to meet you||خوش وقتم||khosh vakhtam|
|(General politeness) I hope you’re not tired||خسته نباشید||khaste nabaashid|
|(General politeness, response) I hope you are in peace||سلامت باشيد||salaamat baashid|
|How are you? (formal, casual)||احوالتون چطوره؟||ahvaal-e-tun chetoreh?|
|How are you? (informal?)||چطوری؟||chetori?|
|I’m fine, thanks||خوبم، مرسی||khubam, mersi|
|I’m not bad||بد نیستم||bad nistam|
|I’m sorry (slightly apologetic)/excuse me||ببخشید||bebakhshid|
|I’m very sorry (apologetic, for mistake)||معذرت میخوام||maz’erat mikhaam|
|With your permission (excusing oneself)||با اجازتون||baa ejaazatun|
|Don’t worry about it/You’re welcome/I appreciate it/By all means||خواهش میکنم||khaahesh mikonam|
|Please (inviting), welcome||بفرمايد||befarmaaid|
|I don’t know where my phone is.||نمی دانم تلفنن کجاست.||nemidunam telefonam kojaast|
|Where is the bathroom (toilet)?||دستشویی کجاست؟||dast-shui kojaast?|
|Do you work here?||شما اینجا کار میکنید؟||shomaa injaa kaar mikonid?|
|This meal was delicious! (may your hands not hurt)||دستتون درد نکنه||dastetun dard nakoneh|
|Response to “This meal was delicious” (may your head not hurt)||سرتون درد نکنه||saretun dard nakoneh|
|How much is this?||این چنده؟||in chandeh?|
|It’s a little expensive for me.||این برای من يک کمی گرونه.||in baraye man yek kami geruneh|
|Can you make it cheaper?||میتونید ارزونترش کنید؟||mitunid arzuntaresh konid?|
|Thank you (variant)||خيلی ممنون||kheili mamnun|
|Thank you (more formal)||متشکرم||moteshakeram|
|This is not worthy of you (when handing a present or tip)||اين قابل شما نیست||in qaabel-e shoma nist|
|May I trouble you for something?||میتونم یک زحمات بهتون بدم؟||mitunam yek zahmat behetun bedam?|
|May I request something of you?||می تونم یک خدمت از شما بپرسم؟||mitunam yek khedmat az shoma beporsam?|
|May I ask a question||می تونم یک سئوال بپرسم؟||mitunam yek so’al beporsam?|
|Good job! Well done!||آفرین! بارک الله!||aafarin! barikallah!|
|Yes/No||آره / نه||aareh/nah|
|Yes (in response to request, order) (lit. “eye”)||چشم||chashm|
|Goodbye (variant, means “God is the preserving”)||خدانگهدار||khodaa negahdaar|
|See you later (sing/plural)||میبینمت/میبینمتون||mibinamet/mibinametun|
|Finished! It’s over!||تمام شد||tamum shod!|
|Shall we go?||بریم؟||berim?|
|Shall we go this way?||از این طرف بریم؟||az in taraf berim?|
|This way, please||از این طرف لطفآ||az in taraf lotfan|
|May I? May we?||میتونم؟ میتونیم؟||mitunam? mitunim?|
|I just want to look.||فقط میخوام نگاه کنم.||faqat mikhaam negaa konam.|
|I don’t know||نمیدونم.||nemidunam|
|I’m not sure||متما’ان نیستم.||motma’en nistam.|
|One second, please||یک لحظه, لطفآ.||yek lahzeh, lotfan.|
|Let me just… (allow me to)||اجازه بدین…||ejaazeh bedin…|
|very, really (including as a question)||جدا||jeddan|
|very, really (including as a question, another variant)||واقعا||vaagh’an|
General Guide to Persian Phrases to Sound Native
Persians have a lot of politeness in their language, and so many Persian phrases you should learn should be around how to sound polite in company.
Many languages are like this, so if you come from a background of speaking French for example, you might see a few of these phrases and think “that sounds familiar”.
When Persians greet each other, they often put on a smile and exchange at least two to three pleasantries, seemingly drawing from an arsenal. It’s like an act.
Even if you’re 15 years old and you think “I don’t need this to banter with my friend”, if you meet their parents, knowing politeness phrases will blow them away.
So do learn as many Persian phrases as you can, but practise the to-and-fro of general greetings — it’ll pay off.
Essential greetings in Persian
Among Persian phrases, salaam (سلام) is the most fundamental greeting you should know.
But Persian quickly devolves into an escalating spiral of pleasantries, with no rival in any language to my knowledge!
The most important ones are
- Welcome: khosh aamadid (خوش آمدید). People will usually say this to you. Respond with mersi (مرسی).
- “I hope you’re not tired”: khasteh nabaashid (خسته نباشید). Again, people will say this to you. It’s a general pleasantry expression, reflecting the fact that you’ve travelled to come to them. Respond with salaamat bashid (سلامت باشید), which means “I hope you are in peace”.
After that, a conversation can go anywhere. It may just switch to English!
The most useful Persian word: befarmaaid
Persians are a very polite people. So the first Persian phrases you learn should be about inviting people to do things before you do.
The word befarmaaid (بفرمايد) is the most useful word to learn in Persian. You’ll hear it all the time, and you can use it and get a smile!
It’s a general “invitation”. You use it
- When opening the door for someone
- When offering someone a seat
- Inviting someone to eat food or to serve themselves
- When giving something to someone, like money or a phone
- When inviting someone to speak
It has equivalents in other languages, like je vous en prie in French or itfaDDal in Arabic (with variants in pronunciation).
See this article on the “invitation” or “politeness” word in other languages.
Thanking someone for a meal in Persian
Before starting a meal, look at the host in the eye and say with a smile “dastetun dard nakoneh!” (دستتون درد نکنه)
This is formal tone but it doesn’t matter. I can even say this to my own mother. It literally means “may your hands not hurt”, referring to the work they’ve done making the meal.
You can say it after a meal too.
This is the Persian equivalent of saying bon appetit! in French (or other European languages) before starting a meal. But it is really thanking the chef. It has the same effect.
Bargaining in Persian
Everything is a negotiation in Persian, just as in most of the non-Western world.
The difference between countries is in how aggressive the negotiation is and the tone that it takes. Persian negotiation is aggressive, but very polite and calm, and sometimes even apologetic (unless someone senses they’re being conned).
That’s why in Persian bargaining you’ll hear phrases like “I’m sorry” (bebakhshid, ببخشید) when saying something is too expensive, and “Please” (lotfan, لطفآ) or “Kindly…” (lotf konid, لطف کنید) when asking to reduce the price.
Pronouncing Persian is very easy, don’t worry. The conventions I use to are as simple as possible, and are like this:
- Most consonants are the same (except where specified.
- Vowels a, e, i, o, u: The same as Spanish, short vowels like in bad, bed, bin (British), fork, moon.
- Unusual consonants: kh is the aspirated h like Spanish’s j or Hebrew’s ח, and the apostrophe ‘ represents a glottal stop
- The long aa is like a long British “o” sound
Intonation is more difficult to get, but that’s why we always recommend tutors.
Note on colloquial/standard and informal/formal Persian
Persian has many ways of expressing the same thing: there are variations on politeness, on abbreviation, and on colloquial/standard pronunciation. There’s also singular/plural differentiation when talking to someone.
(See our full guide to the differences between formal and informal Persian.)
For example, here are a bunch of ways of saying “How are you?” with variations in the above (transliterated): chetori? halet chetoreh? chetor hasti? halet chetor? shoma chetorid? shoma chetorin? shoma chetor hastid? shoma chetor hastin? haletun chetoreh? hale shoma chetoreh?
Luckily, in Persian it’s not “weird” to be too formal unless you’re talking to a little kid (which is unlikely) or your best friend. It may seem polite but nobody is going to laugh or be offended. A friend may correct your tone though! (Don’t worry, the changes are very easy!)
In the above examples, I’ve kept the tone an appropriate balance, as formal as possible without being awkward.