In Arabic, there is the letter Ya: ي. It is pronounced similar to the letter Y in English.

However, there’s also another type of ya–the ya without dots, which looks like this: ى. As for that ya, sometimes pronounced as a ya, and sometimes, as an alif (ا).

For example, the word على (ayn-lam-ya) can be read as ‘ala (on top: عَلَى) or as ‘Ali (as in the name: عَلِي). So how do you know when to pronounce it as a ya, and when to pronounce it as an alif?

There are two signs that indicate that it’s a ya:

  1. Dots: If the ya has two dots under it, it’s a ya!
  2. Harakat: If the letter before the ya has a fatha on it, then the ya is pronounced as an alif; if the letter before has a kasra, then the ya is pronounced as a ya.

And if you understand Arabic enough to get the context of the sentence, that helps too.