Expressions and Idioms

8 Taarof Phrases to Sound Polite in Persian

Upgrade your Persian language skills with these 8 taarof expressions to say normal, everyday things and sound like a polite local in the process.

There’s a Persian phrase that goes befarmâ, beshin, betamarg (please take a seat, sit down, sit your ass down) which just shows the different manners to express the same thing. And that’s how languages are. You have polite ways, normal ways, and downright rude ways to say the same thing. Persian has one more category: taarof-y ways (which takes the premier position right there, snugly before “polite ways”). These are the polite forms with extra piâz dâgh (fried onions) that Iranians use daily in their ongoing epic battle of who is actually whose servant, who will sacrifice themselves for whom, and who gives and takes the orders. Upgrade your Persian skills with these 8 taarof-y phrases to make everyday expressions sound not just polite but native-like.

Instead of âmadan آمدن (to come), use tashrif âvordan تشریف آوردن

Tashrifât by itself means “ceremonial/ritual/formality.” This is what the VIP service at Imam Khomeini Airport is called in Persian (which is why I [jokingly] translate it as “your VIP self” in English). And in Iran, to be extra polite and formal and taarof-y, you never tell someone biyâ (come), but rather tashrif biyârid (bring your VIP self). For example, Tashrif biyârid khunamun (Come to our house.)

Instead of raftan رفتن (to go), use tashrif bordan تشریف بردن

Similarly, you don’t use raftan to tell someone to “go” but rather tashrif bebarid (take ceremonies/formalities- or as I like to say ‘take your VIP self’). Taxi drivers use this all the time. They don’t ask “Kojâ mirid?” (Where are you going?) but “Kojâ tashrif mibarid?”  (Where are you taking your VIP self?)

Instead of mundan ماندن (to stay), use tashrif dâshtan تشریف داشتن

You have guests at your house and they get up to leave, but you want to taarof them to stay a little longer. Instead of saying bemunid, be extra polite with tashrif dâshte bâshid! (Please keep your VIP self here and don’t go anywhere yet!)

Instead of budan بودن (to be [present]), also use tashrif dâshtan 

تشریف داشتن

You can also use tashrif dâshtan when you want to ask someone if they will be present somewhere. For instance, you can say, Fardâ tashrif dârin khune? (Will you be home tomorrow?)

Upgrade your Persian language skills with these 8 taarof phrases to say normal, everyday things and sound like a polite local in the process.

An important note about tashrif

Remember with tashrif âvordan/bordan/dâshtan you always say it to someone else (or someone else says it to you). You never say it in reference to yourself. My friend was laughing once because he was planning a meeting with his professor and mistakenly asked, “Sâ’at chand tashrif biyâram?” (What time should I come [bring my VIP self?]) Big time sooti! What should he have said instead? Read on…

Instead of âmadan آمدن (to come), use khedmat (kasi) residan   

خدمت کسی رسیدن

Khedmate kasi residan literally means “to arrive at someone’s service.” Continuing the story from above, my friend simply wanted to ask sâ’at chand biyâm? (What time should I come?) But of course since he was talking to his professor, he needed to be extra polite and should have said sa’at chand beresam khedmatetun (which is literally, “At what time should I arrive at your service?)

Instead of goftan گفتن (to say), use arz kardan عرض کردن

Arz kardan means “to respectfully say something”. In a situation where you didn’t hear the other person and they repeat what they said, they often say arz kardam (and repeat). Once, I didn’t hear how much my taxi fare was, and the driver repeated, “Arz kardam 20,000 toman.” (I respectfully said 20,000.) In a situation like this, saying goftam would be too direct- just as it would be in English to say, “I SAID 20,000!”

You’ll also commonly hear arzam be hozuret (literally, “my petition to your presence”), which is just another super taarof-y way to let someone know you want to tell them something. But I feel like Iranians often use this one as a filler to think for a couple of seconds longer, much like “ummm”. For example, the salesman is telling you all the new features of a washing machine. “It’s got X, Y, and… arzam be hozuret… Z.”

Instead of goftan گرتن (to say), use farmudan فرمودن

Farmudan literally means “to command.” For example, “Âghâye Mousavi farmudan ke emruz vaght nadâran.” (Mr. Mousavi said that he doesn’t have time today.)

You might even recognize the infinitive farmudan in the imperative befarmâid (which literally means, “command [me]”) that you use when you offer someone something or tell them to go ahead, etc.

Upgrade your Persian language skills with these 8 taarof phrases to say normal, everyday things and sound like a polite local in the process.

The difference between arz kardan and farmudan

Similar to the tashrif verbs above, arz kardan is something you say in reference to something you said, while farmudan is something you say in reference to something someone else said. In other words, you respectfully say something to someone, but someone commands you. See how that’s taarof? You always try to compete for the inferior position to demonstrate how humble you are.

Use this example to help you remember the difference: A couple of days after I started writing this post, I heard an exchange that was poetic. My friends and I checked into a hotel, and the receptionist told us about the cafe, restaurant, breakfast, etc… When we were about to leave, my friend asked, “Farmudin resturân daste râste?” (You said [commanded] the restaurant is on the right?) to which the receptionist replied, “Arz kardam.” (That’s what I [respectfully] said). By saying this, essentially, my friend was putting the receptionist in a higher position, and (taarof being what it is) the receptionist was putting herself in a lower position. 

Instead of goftan گفتن (to tell), use amr farmudan امر فرمودن

Amr farmudan literally means “to command an order.” I often hear this from students when they want to arrange a class with me. I ask what days/times work for them, and they’ll respond, “Har vaght shomâ amr befarmâid.” (Any time you say [command/order.]) Or if I tell someone, “I have a favor to ask you.” They may respond, “Amr befarmâid.”

Questions?

Don’t worry if this all seems confusing now. It’s a more advanced level of Persian, but with time and enough exposure to Iranians, you’ll get the hang of it. But if I’m being totally honest with you, I still feel a little weird using these phrases because they’re pure taarof. In fact, the only ones I regularly use are khedmat residan (probably because when I was a kid, my cousins used this one in a negative way to threaten each other, so it doesn’t seem so strong to me anymore) and farmudan (probably because I’m so used to saying befarmâid that it doesn’t seem over-the-top either). I’ve also dipped my toe in the water with tashrif. But the American in me still does not allow me to use the phrases with arz or amr. I find them excessive, but I’m sure I’m just overthinking it. To any Iranian, they are second nature. For now, I’m stuck in the “polite” category, conveying my politeness with a smile, my tone, lotfan (please), and the formal “you”. Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll also fully upgrade to the “taarof-y” category.

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Upgrade your Persian language skills with these 8 taarof phrases to say normal, everyday things and sound like a polite local in the process.

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