Last updated: 6 days ago
The ما is one of the most powerful devices in Arabic. The main issue is to know and identify whether the ma is a ism (اسم) or harf (حرف).
Let's see why.
The ten different types of ma in Arabic Hide
In my opinion the letter ل and the ما are the key to understanding Arabic properly. It is essential to understand the various meanings of ما.
ما is a genuine jack-of-all-trades. By throwing this tiny word into a sentence, you can change the meaning dramatically.
Here is a list of some possibilities:
Ma used to negate sentences
Normally ما is used to negate a past tense verb (الْماضِي). Theoretically, however, it is also possible to negate a جُمْلة اِسْمِيّة with ما.
You could even negate the present tense (الْمُضارِع) with ما. This is very rare and occasionally used with the expression: ما يَزالُ (still)
|The students did not show up yesterday.
|ما حَضَرَ الطُّلّابُ أَمْسِ
Ma used to ask questions
|What is your name?
|What are you thinking about?
Ma for relative clauses
|Definite conjunctive pronoun
|I do understand what you say.
|إِنَّني أَفْهَمُ ما تَقُولُهُ
|Read what I wrote.
|إِقْرَأْ ما كَتَبْتُهُ
Ma for conditional clauses
Notice the سُكُون at the end of the verb (مَجْزُوم) – it is a شَرْط.
|Whatever good that you do comes back to you.
|ما تَفْعَلْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ تَجِدْ جاءَهُ
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Ma to strengthen the meaning
|Used to strengthen the conditional meaning
|ما لِتَأْكِيدِ مَعْنَى الشَّرْط
|If you had worked hard, you would have succeeded.
(Notice that it is not a negation!)
|إِذا ما عَمِلْتَ بِجِدٍّ نَجَحْتَ
Ma to produce a masdar
|Used to introduce a clause equivalent to a مَصْدَر
It is used like the particle أَنْ and has the same meaning and implications.
|The student came after the lesson had started.
|حَضَرَ الطُّلّابُ بَعْدَ ما بَدَأَ الدَّرْسُ
Ma to introduce adverbs of time
|Used to introduce a clause equivalent to a مَصْدَر in the adverb of time.
|ما الْمَصْدَرِيّة الظَّرْفِيّة
|I will think of you as long as I live.
|سَأَظَلُّ أَتَذَكَّرُكَ ما حَيِيْتُ
Ma to express vagueness
|This ما denotes generality and vagueness
Notice: In this application ما has to be at the end of the sentence.
|The man who sat next to me in the plane was reading (a kind of) a book.
|كانَ الرَّجُلُ الَّذِي جانِبِي فِي الطَّائرَةِ يَقْرَأُ كِتابًا ما
|some day; sometime in the future
|I lost something.
|أَضَعْتُ شَيْئًا ما
Ma used to neutralize grammatical effects
|The hindering ما
This ma is a neutralizer and gets rid of all grammatical implications that otherwise may occur (for example, if you have إِنَّ). With the ma, inna does lose its governing power – so you won't have the typical mixed up case endings with inna anymore.
|In life hope doesn't go away.
|إِنَّما الْحَياةُ أَمَلٌ لايَنْتَهي
Ma used to express surprise
|ما – as expressive of surprise
|What a nice spring!
|ما أَجْمَلَ الرَّبِيعَ
|What fortunate I got here!
|ما أَسْعَدَنِي بِوُجُودي هُنا
Never stop exploring grammar…
- What does Dunya mean?
- Does the negation with ما or لم convey the same meaning?
- Arabic letters without dots – Does it work?
- الصَّلاةُ خَيْرٌ مِن الْنَّوْمِ: Why is the prayer better than sleep?
- What is a masdar mu'awwal in Arabic?
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