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Dari, also known as Afghan Persian, East Farsi, and  Eastern Persian, is a member of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is spoken by 7.6 million people in Afghanistan. Various dialects of Dari are also spoken by some 15,000 people in Iran (including Zoroastrian Dari), and by 1 million people in Pakistan, as well as in emigré communities in the Middle East, Europe, Canada, and the U.S. The total number of Dari speakers around the world is estimated to be around 9.6 million (Ethnologue).

Afghanistan map


Dari is the national language of Afghanistan, along with Pashto. It serves as a lingua franca among speakers of the many different languages of the country. Dari is taught in schools, used in the media, and in government administration. In Iran, Dari, is not written or taught in schools. There are 1 million Dari speakers, many of them refugees of the war, in Pakistan where the language has no official status.

Click on the MLA Interactive Language Map to find out where Persian (all dialects) is spoken in the U.S.


Dari has a number of dialects, most of which are mutually intelligible:


Radio Afghanistan broadcasts are promoting a standardized pronunciation of the literary language based on classical norms. Formal Dari speech is closer to Standard Western Persian (Farsi) of Iran, while informal speech in some parts of Afghanistan is closer to Tajik of Tajikistan.


Sound system

The sound system of Dari differs somewhat from that of Contemporary Standard Persian, possibly due to the influence of surrounding Turkic languages.

Dari has seven vowel phonemes which are given below. The vowels /e/ and /ohave long counterparts. Vowel length makes a difference in word meaning. Dari has two diphthongs, /ai/ and /au/, which have no counterparts in Western Persian.

e, ē
o, ō


The consonant inventory of Dari may vary somewhat, depending on the dialect.

Stops voiceless
Fricatives voiceless
Affricate voiceless
  • /q/ has no equivalent in English
  • /ʔ/ = sound between syllables in uh-oh
  • /x/ has no equivalent in English, it is similar to ch in Loch
  • /ʃ/ =sh in shape
  • /ʒ/ = s in measure;
  • /tʃ/ = ch in chat
  • // = j in jet
  • /j/ = y in yet


Stress typically falls on the last syllable of the root.


The grammatical systems of Dari (Eastern Persian) and Farsi (Western Persian) do not differ in any significant way. The description below covers the main grammar points of both languages. Both Dari and Farsi are inflected languages, i.e., they add suffixes to roots to express grammatical relations and to form words. Unlike many other Indo-Iranian languages, Dari and Farsi have lost most of their noun and verb inflections.


  • Nouns can be simple or compound.
  • Any unmodified noun may be generic, i.e., refer to one or more than one items. Plural is not obligatory. The marker – signals plural with count nouns, e.g., ketāb-hā ‘books’, and amplification with mass nouns, e.g., āb-hā ‘all kinds of water, lots of water’. Human nouns take –ān, while nouns borrowed from Arabic usually take -in.
  • There is no grammatical gender.
  • There is a distinction between genericity and indefiniteness which applies to both count and mass nouns. It is expressed by the suffix –i, e.g.,ketāb-i ‘some/a book’,  ketāb-hā ‘some books’.
  • Definiteness is not marked formally.
  • Possession is marked by the suffix –e, e.g., ketāb-e Ali ‘the book of Ali’.
  • Topicalization is marked by the suffix –ra, e.g., be man ketāb-ra Hasan ‘as for the book, he gave it to Hasan’.


Verbs are marked for the following categories:

  • There are three persons: first, second, and third.
  • There are two numbers: singular, and plural.
  • There are three moods: indicativesubjunctivecounterfactual subjunctive.
  • There are two aspects: imperfective and perfective. Aspect is as important as tense.
  • There are three tenses: present, past, and inferential past. Inferential past expresses second-hand knowledge, information, or conclusions. Future is not a tense but a modality (similar to the English want to/wanna + infinitive). All present and past forms may be used in a future context.
  • Causality is marked by the suffix –ān, e.g., xor ‘to eat’ — xorān ‘to feed’.
  • Subject pronouns are usually dropped since the verb form itself carries information about person and number.


Word order
The normal word order is Subject-Object-Verb. Modifiers follow the nouns they modify.


Dari frequently uses derivational affixes to form new words from nouns, adjectives, and verbal stems. New words are also formed by compounding, i.e., by combining two existing words into one. Dari also has a large number of Farsi and Arabic loan words which are more prevalent in the written than in the spoken language. Pashto and Tajik words have also been introduced into the language. Most recently, there have been a number of borrowings from English.

Below are a few common Dari phrases and words in Latin transliteration.

Hello Salām
Peace be with you Salām aleikom
Good bye Xodāfez
Please Loftān
Thank you Tashakkor
Good willing Enshā allāh
Excuse me Bebaxshīd,
Yes Balé
No Naxeir, na
Man Mard
Woman Zan


Below are the Dari numerals 0-10.



Persian and Dari are written in a modified Arabic script, known as Perso-Arabic. It contains 4 additional letters to represent Persian sounds [p], [ʃ], [ʒ], [g] which are not represented in the Arabic alphabet. The alphabet is consonant-based. Like Arabic, it is written from right to left. Like Arabic, it can also be written in a variety of script forms.

Several attempts were made in the 19th-20th centuries to replace the Perso-Arabic alphabet with Latin-based alphabets.

  • The Universal Persian Alphabet (UniPers) is a Latin-based alphabet created over 50 years ago and used in a number of Persian textbooks for foreigners and travelers. It avoids the difficulties of the Perso-Arabic alphabet, with its multiple letter shapes and ambiguous spellings, and lends itself well to computer keyboards.
  • The International Persian Alphabet (Parsik) is another Latin-based alphabet developed in recent years as a project of the Persian Linguistics Association. It is claimed to be the most linguistically accurate representation of spoken Persian, however, it is not as simple as UniPers.
  • Fingilish, or Penglish, refers to the use of the basic Latin alphabet in electronic communications, such as chat and e-mails.

Take a look Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Perso-Arabic script and in Romanization.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Dari

Did You Know?

English has borrowed a number of words from Persian which, in turn, had borrowed from Arabic. Most of them came into English indirectly through other languages, mostly French and Greek. A few of these loanwords are listed below:

English borrowing
from Persian
baksheesh bakhshish, literally ‘gift’
bazaar bazar ‘market’
caravan picked up in the Crusades from Persian karwan ‘group of desert travelers’
caviar khaviyar, from khaya ‘egg’ + dar ‘bearing’
lac lak ‘resinous substance’
magic Old Persian magush ‘magician’
mummy mumiya, from mum ‘wax’
pilaf pilaw, ‘rice dish with meat
pistachio pista ‘pistachio tree’
shah shah, title of king of Persia
scarlet saqirlat, a kind of rich cloth, not necessarily red
seersucker shir-o-shakkar ‘striped cloth,’ literally ‘milk and sugar,’ an allusion to the alternately smooth and puckered surfaces of the stripes, from shir ‘milk’ + shakar ‘sugar’
taliban talib ‘theological student’ + –an ‘animate plural marker’, from Arabic talib ‘to search for, seek’


Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Dari?
Dari, Farsi, and Tajik are considered to be Category III languages in terms of difficulty for speakers of English.

6 Responses to Dari

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    May I just say what a relief to discover a person that really understands what they’re talking about on the internet.
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  2. Spartacus

    In Iran Dari is taught in every school and university, I know this because back in the 70s my father use to teach “Adabyaat-e Dari” or Dari Literature in university if of Tehran!
    The base of Persian language is Dari, just because of all the years of war the history has been stolen by our great neighbours, Iran and Pakistan. The history of Afghanistan reaches over 6000 year and the history of Iran is only 500 years.

    Hope I have shed a bit of light on this matter.


  3. Spartacus

    Most of the words in here that are translated are Arabic origin! I have no idea what the person is writing!

  4. Duke Wardak

    Dari or Farsi is a widely used language in Central Asia. It is the official language of Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Dari/Farsi is a branch of the Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan) languages, a subfamily of the Indo-European languages. There are three different phases in the development of Aryan languages: Old, Middle, and Modern. Old Dari/Farsi and the Avestan language represents the old stage of development and were spoken in ancient Bactria. The Avestan language is called Avestan because the sacred scriptures of Zoroastrianism, Avesta, were written in this old form. Avestan died out long before the advent of Islam and except for scriptural use not much has remained of it. Old Dari/Farsi, however, survived and there are many written records of old Dari, in cuneiform called Maikhi, in Khorasan. Old Dari was spoken until around the third century BC. It was a highly inflected language.

    Middle Dari was spoken from 3rd century to 9th and is related to several other Central Asian tongues such as Sogdian, Chrosmian and also Parthian languages. Parthian was the language of the Parthian Empire (Arsacid). Parthian, though left some influences on middle Dari, declined when the Sassanian power expanded. Middle Dari had a simpler grammar and was written in multivalent letters. Middle Dari declined after conquest of Arabs in the 7th century and much of its rich literature was lost or destroyed by the Arabs. However, a lot of it was also translated into Arabic.

    Modern Dari began to develop by 9th century. It is a continuation of the Khorasanian standard language which had considerable Parthian and Middle Dari elements. It has much simpler grammar than its ancestral forms. After the conquest of Arabs in 7th century, it is written in arabic script, with few modifications, and has absorbed a vast Arabic vocabulary.

    Dari literature is one of the richest in the world and composed of the body of writings in Modern Dari. After the Arab conquest of 7th century Islam replaced Zoroastrianism and Arabic became the language of law, religion and culture in Khorasan. However with the rise of Samanids and political revival of Khorasan, Dari emerged as a literary medium and became the established literary form of Dari language. During the period of Samanids a new era of literary began. The ancient tradition of Khorasan and Islam merged together. Dari was specially instrumental in freeing Islam from an exclusive Arabic attachment and universalized Islam thus helping to preserve it.

    Dari poetry had began sporadically in Khorasan in 9th century. The earliest main genres are the epic, qasida (Purpose poem), masnavi (long narrative poem), and ghazal (lyric). By 10th century Dari had become an important and melodious medium- as the remaining works of Rudaki, a versatile poet, indicate. He is regarded as the father of Dari poetry. After Rudaki’s death the epic tradition, with its sources in Avesta and Middle Dari texts, began. The first epic poet was Marvazi Samarqandi who composed a Shah Nameh (Book of Kings) in 910. Daqiqi Balkhi another poet of tenth century wrote a better known Shah Nameh in 975. However, Firdowsi Tusi composed another Shah Nameh (1010) which became the very best known epic in Dari literature.

    Qasida, another form of poetry, was also first written by Rudaki. Mostly qasidas are panegyrics, sometime elegiac, didactic and occasionally they deal with philosophical or biographical literature. The average length of qasida is between sixty and hundred lines and they are written in couplets. Qasidas that are more than two hundred lines are also frequently written. The earliest exponents of this form of poetry Ansuri Balkhi, Asjadi, and Farrukhi were the greatest poets of their time. Of many panegyrists in the history of Dari literature, Anvari Balkhi was regarded as the foremost. In philosophical qasidas Naser-e Khosrow was very well respected. Omar Khayyan was another poet of this era who is considered to be of astonishing originality.
    During the Samanid era the foundation of Dari prose was also laid. Several pieces of literature demonstrated the suitability of Dari language for sacred texts. Bal’ami, one of the vizier (high government official) of Mansur I Samanid, published a translation of the annals of Tabari. Also, in the same time, a group of theologian, made a Dari copy of Tabari’s commentary on the Quran. These works and works of similar nature produced a clear demonstration that Dari was very suitable for religious works. In fact these works brought to an end the absolute domination of Arabic language over religious literature. Mansur I Samanid also commissioned the pharmacopeia of Abu Mansur Muvaffaq of Herat, the first Dari book on medicine. An extensive technical vocabulary, applicable to philosophy and science were also coined with the patronage of Samanids.

    Thirteen and fourteen century were also a period when great poets lived and it is often called the golden age of Dari poetry. In this period, three great poet, Moulana Balkhi (Rumi), Sadi and Hafiz lived. They were excellent in a form o poetry called ghazal, a passionate mystical lyric form that is composed on a single rhyme. Ghazals were usually consists of five to fifteen couplets and they could be of variety of meters. The first mystic masnavi is believed to be written by Hakim Sanai of Ghazna and is known as Hadiqat al-Haqiqa (The Enclosed Garden of Truth). He was followed by Attar and Rumi. Rumi’s Masnavi-e-Manavi consists of six books that contains 30,000 couplets. Masnavi’s basic theme is love and Rumi in this book, is concerned with problems bearing on the conduct, meaning and purpose of life and the longing of the human soul for union with God. The Masnavi of Mawlana of Balkh is considered to be the most profound and the greatest work of Dari literature, and perhaps of all the Islamic literature. The Masnavi is often called Quran-e-Sani meaning the second Quran. Every page of it moves, absorbs and surprises the reader. Masnavi form of poetry was also suitable for epic and romantic stories. Of romantic masnavis the Khosrow -O-Shirin (Khosrow and Shirin) of Nezami is the best known.


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