Praise & Disparagement
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Infinitival / Indefinite maa
The word maa مَاْ can mean several things in Arabic.:
The remaining major function of maa is that it can be a word denoting indefiniteness, or a word functioning very much as infinitival 'an أَنْ , which means "that" as in "I know that you like it."
This kind of maa will be translated most of the time to the English word "ever."
"Ever" can be combined to several pronouns in English to confer a sense of indefiniteness on them, e.g. whatever, whenever, whoever, etc.
In Arabic, this is the job of maa. This word is often used to confer a sense of indefiniteness on other words.
أَيْنَ + مَاْ = أَيْنَمَاْ
'ayn(a) + maa = 'ayna-maa
where + that = where that ≡ wherever
مَاْ + مَاْ = مَهْمَاْ
maa + maa = mah-maa
what + that = what that ≡ whatever
Sometimes maa will be conjoined to the other word, like in the two examples, and sometimes it will not.
Following is a list of interrogative pronouns with infinitival/indefinite maa.
مَهمَاْ تُحَاْوِلْ تَفْشَلْ
mah-maa tuhaawil tafshal
= whatever (you) try (you) fail
Translation: whatever you try, you will fail
*Note: this is a conditional style and the imperfective verbs here must be in the jussive mood.
مَتَىْ مَاْ أَتَيْتَ تَجِدْنِيْ
mataa maa 'atayt(a) tajid-nee
= whenever (you) came (you) find me
Translation: when you come, you will find me
*The first verb was a perfective verb because it was meant as a subjunctive verb.
أَيْنَمَاْ يَسْقُطِ الْمَطَرُ تَخْضَرِّ الأَرْضُ
'ayna-maa yasqut(i) ('a)l-matar(u) takhdarr(i) ('a)l-'ard(u)
= wherever (he) fall the rain (she) green the earth
Translation: wherever the rain falls, the earth greens up
اِذْهَبِيْ كَيْفَمَاْ تَشَاْئِيْنَ
'ithhabee kayfa-maa tashaa'een(a)
= (you sing. fem.) go however (you sing. fem.) wish
Translation: go in however way you like
Some people may have noticed that the word "whoever" was not mentioned in the table. The indefinite pronouns "whoever" and "whomever" are commonly used in English, but they are never used in Arabic. The usual way of expressing these words in Arabic is by using the word 'ayyu-maa = "whichever."
E.g. when we want to say in Arabic "whoever knows this will be killed," we will say "whichever of a man/woman/person knows this will be killed." The word "whichever" has to be followed by another noun to complement it.
أَيُّمَاْ رَجُلٍ يُسَاْعِدْنِيْ يَنَلِ الثَّوَاْبَ
'ayyu-maa rajul(in) yusaa"id-nee yanal(i) ('a)th-thawaab(a)
= whichever (of) a man helps me (he) gets the reward
Translation: whoever man helps me will be rewarded
اُعْثُرْ لِيْ عَلَىْ أَيِّمَاْ شَقَّةٍ تَسْتَطِيْعُ
'u"thur l-ee "alaa 'ayyi-maa shaqqat(in) tastatee"(u)
= (you sing. masc.) trip for me on/over whichever (of) an apartment (you sing. masc.) can
Translation: find me whichever apartment you can
*Note: the phrase عَثَرَ عَلَىْ = literally "tripped over" figuratively means "found."
Infinitival maa can be combined to many words other than the interrogative pronouns mentioned above.
Some of these words may also be joined to the other types of maa; and some words may be followed by the same infinitival maa without being joined to form a single word.
Infinitival maa can also be combined to several perfective verbs to produce adverbs. See here for examples.
Maa is the Arabic equivalent for the word "some" in such words as "somebody." However, in this case it will not mean "that" but it will be just a mere indicator of indefiniteness.
اِسْأَلِيْهِ سُؤَاْلاً مَاْ
'is'alee-h(i) su'aala(n) maa
= (you sing. fem.) ask him a question unspecific
Translation: ask him some question