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Interrogation (continued)

Interrogative Pronouns

 

We have covered yes/no questions, and seen that they were formed by means of interrogative particles. The rest of the words used in interrogation are all pronouns (nouns in Arabic grammar). They are used to form questions about such details as what, who, when, where, etc.

 

Nouns of Interrogation

أَسْمَاْءُ الاِسْتِفْهَاْمِ

What

maa

مَاْ

Who

man

مَنْ

When

mataa

مَتَىْ

'ayyaan(a)

أَيَّاْنَ

Where

'ayn(a)

أَيْنَ

How

kayf(a)

كَيْفَ

How many

kam

كَمْ

How much

How

'annaa

أَنَّىْ

When

Where

Which (of)

'ayy(u)

أَيُّ

 

Except for 'ayy(u), all of the interrogative nouns are "built" words, which means that they do not show case inflection. They also do not change to suit different genders or numbers.

They are used in a similar way to the interrogative particles.

 

1) What

 

مَاْ هَذَاْ ؟

maa haathaa

= what this (is)

Translation: what is this?

 

مَاْ هَذَاْ الْشَّيْءُ ؟

maa haathaa ('a)sh-shay'(u)

= what this the thing (is)

Translation: what is this thing?

*See the section on demonstrative for information on their usage.

 

Question

مَاْ اِسْمُكَ ؟

maa ('i)smu-k(a)

 = what (the) name (of) you (is)

Translation: what is your name?

 

Answer

اِسْمِيْ عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ

'ism-ee "abd(u) ('a)r-rahmaan(i)

= (the) name (of) me (is) (the) servant (of) the merciful (=God)

Translation: my name is Abdurrahman

 

 

مَاْ قُلْتَ ؟

maa qult(a)

= what (you sing. masc.) said (is)

Translation: what did you say?

 

مَاْ تُرِيْدِيْنَ ؟

maa tureedeen(a)

= what (you sing. fem.) want (is)

Translation: what do you want?

 

مَاْ سَتَقُوْلُوْنَ ؟

maa sa-taqooloon(a)

= what will (you plu. masc.) say (is)

Translation: what will you say?

 

مَاْ يُوْجَدُ هُنَاْكَ ؟

maa yoojad(u) hunaak(a)

= what exists there (is)

Translation: what is there?

*Note: yoojad(u) يُوْجَدُ  is a passive verb and the literal sense of it is "is/being found."

 

Maa + thaa

Interrogative maa مَاْ  is commonly combined to the demonstrative thaa ذَاْ = "this."

This combination changes nothing, but it is commonly used, especially with verbs.

 

مَاْ + ذَاْ = مَاْذَاْ

maa + thaa = maathaa

what + this what

 

Examples:

مَاْذَا قُلْتَ ؟

maathaa qult(a)

= what (you sing. masc.) said (is)

Translation: what did you say?

 

مَاْذَا تُرِيْدِيْنَ ؟

maathaa tureedeen(a)

 = what (you sing. fem.) want (is)

Translation: what do you want?

 

مَاْذَاْ سَتَقُوْلُوْنَ ؟

maathaa sa-taqooloon(a)

= what will (you plu. masc.) say (is)

Translation: what will you say?

 

مَاْذَاْ يُوْجَدُ هُنَاْكَ ؟

maathaa yoojad(u) hunaak(a)

= what exists there (is)

Translation: what is there?

 

 

Maa + ('a)l-lathee

When used before verbs, interrogative maa مَاْ  can be followed by the general

relative pronoun ('a)l-lathee  الَّذِيْ = "which/that."

 

This also will change nothing. However, the difference here is that the two words will not be combined into a single word.

 

Example:

مَاْ الَّذِيْ قُلْتَ ؟

maa ('a)l-lathee qult(a)

= what that (you sing. masc.) said (is)

Translation: what did you say?

 

As we showed in the relative pronoun section, it is more usual in Arabic to attach an object pronoun to the verb in such sentences; so the sentences will be as follows:

 

مَاْ الَّذِيْ قُلْتَهُ ؟

maa ('a)l-lathee qulta-h(u)

= what that (you sing. masc.) said him (is)

Translation: what did you say?

 

مَاْ الَّذِيْ تُرِيْدِيْنَهُ ؟

maa ('a)l-lathee tureedeena-h(u)

 = what that (you sing. fem.) want him (is)

Translation: what do you want?

 

مَاْ الَّذِيْ سَتَقُوْلُوْنَهُ ؟

maa ('a)l-lathee sa-taqooloona-h(u)

= what that will (you plu. masc.) say him (is)

Translation: what will you say?

 

مَاْ الَّذِيْ يُوْجَدُ هُنَاْكَ ؟

maa ('a)l-lathee yoojad(u) hunaak(a)

= what that that exists there (is)

Translation: what is there?

In this last sentence there was not a pronoun attached to the verb. The reason behind this shouldn't be a mystery. Simply, this verb is an intransitive verb and it is impossible for it to have an object. It won't make sense.

 

Maathaa + ('a)l-lathee

This combination is also possible, but not in the regular language. This is a pompous mixture that can be found in classical literature, also in the Koran.

 

مَاْذَاْ الَّذِيْ قُلْتَهُ ؟

maathaa ('a)l-lathee qulta-h(u)

= what that (you sing. masc.) said him (is)

Translation: what did you say?

 

مَاْذَاْ الَّذِيْ تُرِيْدِيْنَهُ ؟

maathaa ('a)l-lathee tureedeena-h(u)

 = what that (you sing. fem.) want him (is)

Translation: what do you want?

 

مَاْذَاْ الَّذِيْ سَتَقُوْلُوْنَهُ ؟

maathaa ('a)l-lathee sa-taqooloona-h(u)

= what that will (you plu. masc.) say him (is)

Translation: what will you say?

 

مَاْذَاْ الَّذِيْ يُوْجَدُ هُنَاْكَ ؟

maathaa ('a)l-lathee yoojad(u) hunaak(a)

= what that that exists there (is)

Translation: what is there?

 

What for / why

Adding the preposition li- لِـ = "for" to maa will produce lima لِمَ which means "what for" or "why."

 

لِـ + مَاْ = لِمَ

li- + maa = lima

for + what what for / why

 

لِمَ هَذَاْ ؟

lima haathaa

= what for/why this (is)

Translation: what is this for?

 

لِمَ أَنَاْ هُنَاْ ؟

lima 'anaa hunaa

= what for/why I (am) here

Translation: why am I here?

 

لِمَ فَعَلْتَ هَذَاْ ؟

lima fa"alt(a) haathaa

= what for/why (you sing. masc.) did this

Translation: what did you do that for?

why did you do that?

 

لِمَ تَضْحَكْنَ ؟

lima tadhakn(a)

= what for/why (you plu. fem.) laugh

Translation: why are you laughing?

 

Similarly, li- is added to maathaa to create the interrogative li-maathaa لِمَاْذَاْ , which means just like lima.

 

لِـ + مَاْذَا = لِمَاْذَاْ

li- + maathaa = li-maathaa

for + what what for / why

 

لِمَاْذَاْ هَذَاْ ؟

li-maathaa haathaa

= what for/why this (is)

Translation: what is this for?

 

لِمَاْذَاْ أَنَاْ هُنَاْ ؟

li-maathaa 'anaa hunaa

= what for/why I (am) here

Translation: why am I here?

 

لِمَاْذَاْ فَعَلْتَ هَذَاْ ؟

li-maathaa fa"alt(a) haathaa

= what for/why (you sing. masc.) did this

Translation: what did you do that for?

why did you do that?

 

لِمَاْذَاْ تَضْحَكْنَ ؟

li-maathaa tadhakn(a)

= what for/why (you plu. fem.) laugh

Translation: why are you laughing?

 

Maa & Maathaa as Relative Pronouns

This was covered in the relative pronoun section.

An example:

Question

أَتَعْرِفُ مَاْذَاْ يُرِيْدُ ؟

'a-ta"rif(u) maathaa yureed(u)

= is it that (you sing. masc.) know what (he) wants

Translation: do you know what he wants?

 

Answer

وَمِنْ أَيْنَ لِيْ أَنْ أَعْلَمَ

wa-min 'ayn(a) l-ee 'an 'a"lama(u)

= and from where for me that (I) know

Translation: how should I possibly know?

 

*The wa- وَ = "and" in the beginning of the second sentence is a superfluous word. Arabs use a lot of unnecessary "and's" in their talk.

 

2) Who

 

مَنْ أَنْتَ ؟

man 'ant(a)

= who you (are)

Translation: who are you?

 

مَنْ هَذَاْ ؟

man haathaa

= who this (is)

Translation: who is this?

 

مَنْ هَذَاْ الرَّجُلُ ؟

man haathaa ('a)r-rajul(u)

= who this the man (is)

Translation: who is this man?

*See the section on demonstrative for information on their usage.

 

مَنْ يَعْلَمُ ؟

man ya"lam(u)

= who knows (is)

Translation: who knows?

 

مَنْ تُرِيْدُوْنَ ؟

man tureedoon(a)

= whom (you plu. masc.) want (is)

Translation: whom do you want?

 

Man + thaa

Like maa, man can also be followed by the demonstrative thaa ذَاْ = "this," but they will not form a single word here. However, this is a rare classical combination.

 

مَنْ ذَاْ أَنْتَ ؟

man thaa 'ant(a)

= who you (are)

Translation: who are you?

 

مَنْ ذَاْ يَعْلَمُ ؟

man thaa ya"lam(u)

= who knows (is)

Translation: who knows?

 

مَنْ ذَاْ تُرِيْدُوْنَ ؟

man thaa tureedoon(a)

= whom (you plu. masc.) want (is)

Translation: whom do you want?

 

 

Maa + ('a)l-lathee

When used before verbs, man can be followed by the general relative pronoun ('a)l-lathee  الَّذِيْ = "which/that."

 

مَنْ الَّذِيْ يَعْلَمُ ؟

man ('a)l-lathee ya"lam(u)

= who that knows (is)

Translation: who knows?

 

مَنْ الَّذِيْ تُرِيْدُوْنَ ؟

man ('a)l-lathee tureedoon(a)

= whom that (you plu. masc.) want (is)

Translation: whom do you want?

 

As mentioned before, the last sentence will usually be expressed as follows:

مَنْ الَّذِيْ تُرِيْدُوْنَهُ ؟

man ('a)l-lathee tureedoona-h(u)

= whom that (you plu. masc.) want him (is)

Translation: whom do you want?

 

 

Man as a Relative Pronouns

This was covered in the relative pronoun section.

An example:

Question

هَلْ رَأَيْتَ مَنْ فَعَلَ هَذَاْ ؟

hal ra'ayt(a) man fa"al(a) haathaa

= is it that (you) saw who did this

Translation: have you seen who did this?

 

Answer

لا ، وَلَكِنِّيْ أَعْلَمُ مَنْ هُوَ

laa wa-laakinnee 'a"lam(u) man huw(a)

= no but me know who he (is)

Translation: no, but I know who he is

 

*The wa- وَ = "and" before laakinnee in the second sentence is superfluous. See the section on verb-like particles for more details.

مَنْ زَرَعَ حَصَدَ

man zara"(a) hasad(a)

= who planted harvested

Translation: he who plants harvests

*The perfective was used here as subjunctive.

 

 

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