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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.

Interrogative Pronoun + maa
Whatever mah-maa مَهْمَاْ
Whenever mataa maa مَتَىْ مَاْ
'ayyaana maa أَيَّاْنَ مَاْ
Wherever 'ayna-maa أَيْنَمَاْ
However kayfa-maa كَيْفَمَاْ
Whichever 'ayyu-maa أَيُّمَاْ



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.




(at the) time (of) that
waqta-maa وَقْتَمَاْ
(at the) time (of) that
Until raytha-maa رَيْثَمَاْ
(the) slowing (of) that
Before that ... qabla-maa قَبْلَمَاْ
before that
After that ... ba"da-maa بَعْدَمَاْ
after that


(at the) place (of) that
When / Where "inda-maa عِنْدَمَاْ
(at the) time/place (of) that
Like mithla-maa مِثْلَمَاْ
like that
Every time that ... kulla-maa كُلَّمَاْ
every that
Maybe rubba-maa رُبَّمَاْ
there is a lot/a little (of) that
Especially laa siyya-maa لا سِيَّمَاْ
not (a thing) like that
In order to / so that ... kay-maa كَيْمَاْ
in order to that
Like ka-maa كَمَاْ
like that

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.



shakhs(un) maa

شَخْصٌ مَاْ
a person unspecific
Someone 'ahad(un) maa أَحَدٌ مَاْ
a one unspecific
Someday yawma(n) maa يَوْمًا مَاْ
a day unspecific



bi-tareeqa(tin) maa بِطَرِيْقَةٍ مَاْ
in a way unspecific
bi-waseela(tin) maa بِوَسِيْلَةٍ مَاْ
in a way unspecific
Something shay'(un) maa شَيْءٌ مَاْ
a thing unspecific
Sometime fee waqt(in) maa فِيْ وَقْتٍ مَاْ
in a time unspecific
Somewhat naw"a(n) maa نَوْعًاْ مَاْ
a kind unspecific
'ilaa hadd(in) maa إِلَىْ حَدٍّ مَاْ
to a limit unspecific
Somewhere fee makaan(in) maa فِيْ مَكَاْنٍ مَاْ
in a place unspecific



  • When "sometime" is an adjective meaning "former," it will be in Arabic سَاْبِقٌ .
  • "Sometimes" is usually understood as "some of the times," so the word maa cannot be used in translating this word, because it is only used with singular nouns but not plural ones. When translating "sometimes," the actual word for "some" will be used instead of the indefinite adjective maa; or more commonly, the word "times" alone will be declined in the temporal case (= adverbial, accusative, or nasb case).





(at) times

fee ba"d(i) ('a)l-'ahyaan(i)

فِيْ بَعْضِ الأَحْيَاْنِ

in some (of) the times

fee ba"d(i) ('a)l-'awqaat(i)

فِيْ بَعْضِ الأَوْقَاْتِ

in some (of) the times



اِسْأَلِيْهِ سُؤَاْلاً مَاْ

'is'alee-h(i) su'aala(n) maa

= (you sing. fem.) ask him a question unspecific

Translation: ask him some question


Meanings for maa

Meaning Example
 Interrogative Pronoun What ... ? what is your name?
Relative Pronoun What ... what you did was outrageous
... what ... I know what you did
Negative Word not you can not do that
Indefinite ever whatever you do, I'll find out about it


(with countable singulars)

somebody left his glasses here
he was reading some book




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