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Does the negation with ما or لَمْ convey the same meaning?

Both ma ما and lam لَمْ can negate the past tense. How and when should they be used?

Last updated: May 2, 2021

First of all, let’s answer the above question: Does the negation with ما or لَمْ convey the same meaning?

Well, they both convey almost the same meaning, but there is a (tiny) difference. 

  1. The particle ما is followed by a verb in the past tense.
  2. The device لَمْ is followed by a verb in the present tense (مَجْزُوم – majzum) – however, it conveys the meaning of the past tense.

But that is not the end of the story.

Let’s dig deeper:

In English, we can translate ما with: not at all (if we want to put stress on the negation). In German we could use one of the following translations: gar nicht or überhaupt nicht.

Let us now look at some examples (1 – the verb is in the past tense; 2 – the verb is in the present tense)

1I didn’t get thirsty at all.ما عَطِشْتُ
1I wasn’t thirsty.لَمْ أَعْطَشْ
2He can’t see you at all.ما يَراكَ
2He can’t see you.لا يَراكَ

One more thing you should watch out for:

If you see لا together with a verb in the past tense, it has a different meaning: It can connote a prayer or wish (قَسَم)! Note that the past tense is used for wishes, curses and prayers irrespective of whether it is preceded by لا or no.

Sounds complicated?

Let us see an example:

May Allah spare you bad things! لا أَراكَ اللهُ مَكْرُوهًا!

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picture credit: Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

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