You accidentally wake up from a long coma and the first thing you ask is where you are. You ask yourself, how did you end up in the hospital in the first place? Maybe you got hit really hard by a baseball in the stadium? Or perhaps you were on a vacation when a crazy skater struck you from behind by the beach in the Bahamas? Or perhaps, you are reading this lesson in your free time and wondering how this introductory paragraph makes any sense.
You see, we tend to describe things with actions and objects, but we also like to state where they happened. In order to do this, we use in, on, at etc in English. However, how do you do the same in Nepali? Certainly, there must be a way to point out the location in Nepali. मा (mā) comes to your rescue! The quintessential word which looks very similar to what one would call their mother is your friendly locative case marker मा (mā), which tells you where an action took place.
|स्तूप (stūpa)||Stupa; a type of Buddhist monument|
|बौद्ध (bauddha)||Boudha; a place located in Kathmandu|
|नयाँ वर्ष (nayā~ varṣa)||New Year|
|बजे (baje)||O’ clock|
|हिँड्नु (hi~ḍnu)||To walk|
|दिनु (dinu)||1. To give | 2. To serve (food)|
|दिन कट्नु (din kaṭnu)||A day to be spent [idiomatic] [lit. day to cross]|
|घुम्नु (ghumnu)||To roam; To spin|
|दोस्रो विश्वयुद्ध (dosro viśvayuddha)||Second World War|
|सन् (san)||Common Era (CE)/Anno Domini (AD)|
The primary function of मा (mā) is to function as the locative marker. A locative marker is a marker which shows where the action took place. Sometimes, it also works to show the time, although not always. In this regard, it functions exactly like the prepositions in English in, on, at etc. Take the sentence for example:
I live in the USA [subject + verb + preposition + location]
In the sentence above, the place where the effect of the verb “living” applies is shown with the preposition in, indicating the location of the action. Likewise, in Nepali, we use the case marker मा (mā) to do the same:
म अमेरिकामा बस्छु (ma amerikā-mā baschu)
= I live in (the) USA
[subject + location (+) mā-case marker + verb]
In many ways, the Nepali way is simpler than the English version simply because four prepositions in, on, at and by are replaced by a singular मा (mā), which simplifies our life greatly. Note that the case marker मा (mā) is usually static, so you wouldn’t use it where you see it being used with जानु (jānu):
म पोखरा जान्छु (ma pokharā jānchu)
= I go (to) Pokhara [no mā]
[I + Pokhara + go]
The hunu form used when you describe the location of a thing is cha:
नेपालमा छु (nepāl-mā chu) = (I) am in Nepal [Nepal (+) mā-case marker + copula]
As stated before, the case marker मा (mā) functions like the preposition at:
यो स्तूप बौद्धमा छ (yo stūpa bauddha-mā cha)
= This temple is (located) at Boudha
[this + stupa + Boudha (+) mā-case marker + is]
मुर्ती कुनामा छ (murtī kunā-mā cha)
= (A) statue is at (the) corner
[statue + corner (+) mā-case marker + is]
Since it functions like at, it can also be used to describe time, but this is rather complicated. मा (mā) is only used for wider time gaps or events (like festivals and seasons) than narrow specific intervals (like the current time or day):
नयाँ वर्षमा नयाँ प्रस्ताव (nayā~ varṣa-mā nayā~ prastāv)
= New offer at New Year
[new + year (+) mā-case marker + new + offer]
When I said it cannot be used for the current time, I meant something like this:
घटना ४ बजे हुन्छ (ghaṭnā cār baje huncha)
= Event happens (at) 4 o’ clock [note the lack of मा (mā)]
घटना सोमबार हुन्छ (ghaṭnā sombār huncha)
= Event happens (at) Monday [also note the lack of मा (mā)]
I will talk about the temporal use of मा (mā) later below, so hold on to this thought for now.
The case marker मा (mā) also functions like the preposition by:
हरेक बिहान म बगरमा हिँड्छु (harek bihān ma bagar-mā hi~ḍchu) = Every morning I walk by (the) riverbank [every + morning + I + riverbank (+) mā-case marker + walk]
The use is a bit tricky, however. This is because by indicates a sense of proximity to something, while मा (mā) often involves being at the location itself. In this case, you are not really walking by the riverbank, but on the riverbank itself. This means, you have to often use qualifier words before the word so that the full sense of proximity can be conveyed, when you want to talk about something general than specific. The most common way to say it is the following:
-को छेउमा … (-ko cheu-mā…)
= by (the) proximity of …
किताब खाटको छेउमा छ (kitāb khāṭ-ko cheu-mā cha)
= (The) book is by (the) proximity of (the) bed
= (The) book is by (the) bed
The case marker मा (mā) also functions like the preposition in:
घरमा बाघ छ (ghar-mā bāgha cha)
= (There) is (a) tiger in (the) house
[house (+) mā-case marker + tiger + is]
This structure of subject + छ (cha) or its forms is often used to mean “There is X”.
हजारमा एक (hajār-mā ek) = One in (one) thousand [(one) thousand (+) mā-case marker + one]
In this case, मा (mā) can be used to indicate time, although it remains broadly general as far as the time frame goes:
म जुनमा किताब लेख्नेछु (ma jun-mā kitāb lekhnechu)
= I will write (a) book in June
[I + June (+) mā-case marker + book + will write]
As for specifics, there is none used:
ऊ बिहान उठ्छ (ū bihān uṭhcha)
= He wakes up (in the) morning [note the lack of मा (mā)]
Normally, you do not use मा (mā) with time of the day like bihān (morning), diuso (midday), belukā (evening) and rāti (night).
The case marker मा (mā) also functions like the preposition on, where it…surprise surprise…indicates a location:
कलम मेचमा छ (kalam mec-mā cha)
= (The) pen is on (the) chair
[pen + chair (+) mā-case marker + is]
म बसमा छु (ma bas-mā chu)
= I am on (a) bus
[I + bus (+) mā-case marker + am]
As stated before, मा (mā) is used temporally in a very niche way, so in cases where an on would be used for time, there is often none in Nepali:
म तिमीलाई शनिबार भेट्छु (ma timī-lāī śanibār bheṭchu)
= I (will) meet you (on) Saturday [note the lack of मा (mā)]
Although in this case, you could slip in a मा (mā) above to emphasize that we’re meeting on a Sunday. This could just be a case of Anglicism, because the sentence does fine without it.
The secondary function of मा (mā) is to function as the temporal marker. A temporal marker is a marker which shows when the action took place. This use is rather limited, and there are many cases where you do not use a मा (mā), where you would use a preposition in English. We’ll discuss the specifics below.
With seasons, years, months
You normally use मा (mā) when you talk of an event happening in the given year, month or season. For example:
जुनमा पानी पर्छ (jun-mā pānī parcha)
= Rain falls on June
[June (+) mā-case marker + rain + falls]
दोस्रो विश्वयुद्ध सन् १९३९मा सुरु भएको हो (dosro viśvayuddha san unnāis say unancālis-mā suru bhaeko ho) = (The) Second World War started on 1939 CE [Second + World + War + CE + 1939 (+) mā-case marker + started + past participle + copula]
The past participle + ho (or its forms) is a common way to declare something in Nepali. We’ll look on this later.
जाडोमा हिउँ पर्छ (jāḍo-mā hiu~ parcha) = Snow falls on winter (season) [winter (+) mā-case marker + snow + falls]
With duration or habitual action
When you talk of a specific duration by which an action happens or must occur, usually with a limit, then you use मा (mā). For example:
म २ मिनटमा आउँछु (ma duī minaṭ-mā āu~chu) = I (will) come in 2 minute(s) [I + 2 + minute (+) mā-case marker + come]
This type is usually accompanied by the qualifiers hour(s), minute(s) etc., basically the time interval you want to specify:
३ महिनामा जाडो महिना सकिन्छ (tīn mahinā-mā jāḍo mahinā sakincha)
= Cold month ends in three month(s)
= Winter ends in three months
[3 + month (+) mā-case marker + cold + month + ends]
If an action is habitual or happens with a certain frequency, then you can use मा (mā) even in cases when you normally don’t:
आइतबारमा मासु दिइन्छ (āitabār-mā māsu diincha) = Meat is served on Sunday(s) [Sunday (+) mā-case marker + meat + is served[passive]]
Not with the exact time
You do not use मा (mā) when the exact time is involved. For example:
म ५ बजे आउँछु (ma pā~c baje āu~chu) = I (will) come at 5 o’ clock [no मा (mā)]
म सोमबार आउँछु (ma sombār āu~chu) = I (will) come at Monday [no मा (mā)]
मा (mā) has other uses as well, which we will explore below.
To indicate the price
In a very niche use, मा (mā) can be used to show the price at which you bought or sold something. In this case, मा (mā) works like the preposition for:
जनले स्याउ १ डलरमा किन्यो (jan-le syāu ek ḍalar-mā kinyo) = John bought (an) apple for 1 dollar [John (+) le-case marker + apple + 1 + dollar (+) mā-case marker + bought]
मलाई कतिमा दिन्छौ? (ma-lāī kati-mā dinchau)
= How much (will) you give me (this) for?
[me + how much(+) mā-case marker + give]
This form is limited to the act of buying and selling for a price only; for other monetary uses, you have to use le:
हजार रुपैयाँले दिन कट्छ (hajār rupaiyā~- le din kaṭcha)
= (A) day is spent with (a) thousand rupees
The key difference between मा (mā) and ले (le) in regards to money is that mā indicates a value, while le shows how an action (in this case, buying or selling) is done with the money. This is another example of the instrumental use of le. For example, take a look at the following table for the English statement “A book can be bought for 10 dollars”:
|Nepali||Translation||Answers the question|
|१० डलरले किताब आउँछ (daś ḍalar-le kitāb āu~cha)||With 10 dollars, (a) book comes.||What does the 10 dollars get you?|
|१० डलरमा किताब आउँछ (daś ḍalar-mā kitāb āu~cha)||For 10 dollars, (a) books comes.||What price can you get a book for?|
Method of transport
Sometimes, the case marker मा (mā) is used to show how a subject achieved transportation. Basically, मा (mā) can also function as an instrument marker, but only when it is showing the method of transport (e.g. bus). This is an extension of the way how मा (mā) functions like the preposition by or with:
म बौद्ध गाडीमा जान्छु (ma bauddha gāḍī-mā jānchu) = I go (to) Boudha by/with (a) car [I + Boudha + car (+) mā-case marker + go]
Note that using मा (mā) with जानु (jānu) usually indicates the mode of transport, and not the movement or destination. To indicate a specific movement to a place, you often leave the place unmarked or use local postpositions.
जन साईकलमा शहर घुम्छ (jan sāīkal-mā śahar ghumcha) = John roams (the) city by (riding a) bicycle [John + bicycle (+) mā-case marker + city + roams]
However, मा (mā) can be optionally used with आउनु (āunu) to indicate movement to somewhere, though you can drop it just fine.
You may occasionally hear मा (mā) being used with जानु (jānu). This is usually done when the destination is non-tangible, abstract, to indicate a visit, or as a catch-all postposition:
म अस्ति उसको Instagram प्रोफाइलमा गएँ (ma asti usko Instagram prophāil-mā gāe~) = I went (visited) his Instagram profile day before yesterday [I + day before yesterday + his + Instagram + profile (+) mā-case marker + went]
- The primary function of मा (mā) is to function as the locative marker.
- A locative marker is a marker which shows where the action took place.
- The case marker मा (mā) functions like the preposition at, by, in and on.
- मा (mā) can also function as an instrument marker, but only when it is showing the method of transport (e.g. bus).
- The secondary function of मा (mā) is to function as the temporal marker.
- A temporal marker is a marker which shows when the action took place.
A. DO THE FOLLOWING SENTENCES TAKE MĀ? IF SO, WHERE?
1. I eat momo on Sunday.
2. You[lr] were walking on the road.
3. She[mr] wrote a letter in English.
4. There is no one home.
5. I went to Pokhara by bus.
B. TRANSLATE THE SENTENCES IN (A.).
C. INSERT MĀ CORRECTLY IN THE STATEMENTS BELOW. OBLIQUE PRONOUNS IF NECESSARY.
1. नेपाल चुरोट सस्तो छ (nepāl curoṭ sasto cha) | Cigarette(s) is cheap in Nepal.
2. सिता भोलि राति पोखरा आउँछे (sitā bholi rāti pokharā āu~che) | Sita comes to Pokhara.
3. समाचार केही नयाँ छ ? (samācār kehī nayā~ cha) | Is (there) anything new in (the) news?
4. अक्सिजन पृथ्वीका अनेक पदार्थहरू पाइन्छ (aksijan pṛthvī-kā anek padārtha-harū pāincha) | Oxygen is found in many (different) substances on Earth.
5. नेतृत्व रहेको सरकार (netṛtwa raheko sarakār) | Government (that has) remained in leadership
D. FILL IN THE BLANKS WITH THE CORRECT CASE(S): LE, LĀĪ, MĀ. NOT ALL CASES MAY BE NECESSSARY. BLANK VALUES MAY ALSO BE POSSIBLE [MARK WITH (x)]. OBLIQUE PRONOUNS IF NECESSARY.
0. ma(x) hijo gāḍī-mā pokharā(x) gae~ | I went to Pokhara with a car yesterday.
1. syāu_ dāg cha | (There) is (a) stain on (the) apple
2. ma_ mero ghar_ mero hāt_ ces_ khelchu | I play chess in my home with my hand.
3. jan_ hāmī_ nepāl_ bheṭyo | John met us in Nepal.
4. ghar_ ta~_ kina bhaninas? | Why didn’t you[lr] tell to (the people of your) home?
5. ājkal hajār rupaiyā~_ kehī pani āu~daina | Nowdays nothing comes with (a) thousand rupees.
A.2. Yes | road
A.3. Yes | English
A.4. Yes | home [no one home is an idiomatic expression in English; in Nepali, you have to say “in home”]
A.5. Yes | bus
B.1. म आइतबार मोमो खान्छु (ma āitabār momo khānchu)
B.2. तँ बाटोमा हिँड्दै थिइस् (ta~ bāṭo-mā hi~ḍdai thiis)
B.3. उनले चिठी अङ्ग्रेजीमा लेखिन् (unle ciṭhī aṅgrejī-mā lekhin)
B.4. घरमा कोही छैन (ghar-mā kohī chaina)
B.5. म पोखरा बसमा गएँ (ma pokharā bas-mā gae~)
C.1. नेपालमा चुरोट सस्तो छ (nepāl-mā curoṭ sasto cha)
C.2. सिता भोलि राति पोखरामा आउँछे (sitā bholi rāti pokharā-mā āu~che)
C.3. समाचारमा केही नयाँ छ ? (samācār-mā kehī nayā~ cha)
C.4. अक्सिजन पृथ्वीका अनेक पदार्थहरूमा पाइन्छ (aksijan pṛthvī-kā anek padārtha-harū-mā pāincha)
C.5. नेतृत्वमा रहेको सरकार (netṛtwa-mā raheko sarakār)
D.1. syāu–mā dāg cha
D.2. ma(x) mero ghar–mā mero hāt-le ces khelchu
D.3 jan-le hāmī-lāī nepāl-mā bheṭyo
D.4. ghar–lāī taile kina bhaninas
D.5. ājkal hajār rupaiyā~-le kehī pani āu~daina