Ma∙mȧ vs Ma∙tȧ – Part 2: When Used With The Verb “Giving” In Sinhala


2 goals I try to accomplish whenever I explain something complicated to someone:

  1. “Early wins” – I always start off simple & easy so as to not scare that person away (as Charlie Sheen would say, “Winning!”)
  2. “Min. Effort / Max. Results” – I try to cover as much ground as possible with the least amount that I teach (“more bang for your buck”)

Which is why, my dear Tribesters, today I decided to show you – in 4 STEPS – how ‘ma∙mȧ’ and ‘ma∙tȧ’ behave when it meets the verb “giving” in Sinhala.

(Hopefully, I’m going to give your buck more bang than it bargained for… in a manner of speaking of course) > > >


What You’ll See In This 2nd Post


First of all, if you haven’t yet even glanced at Part 1, then I recommend that you do that now. It’ll take you just a few mins.

Here’s how I’ve structured today’s post:


Also, let me come clean…

Full Disclosure: Most of the verbs and explanations you’re about to see have been stolen from this book.


Let’s begin.




Ma∙mȧ vs Ma∙tȧ – Part 2:  When Used With The Verb “Giving” In Sinhala


Step 1: Learning the Sinhala word for “giving”



My Random Notes:

1 We already saw this in Part 1 as well as in one of my previous super-duper verb posts.



Step 2: Understanding when to use ‘ma∙mȧ’ and when to use ‘ma∙tȧ’ with it


Here’s the simple rule:

  • If you’re the one giving something (i.e. you’re doing the action):  ‘ma∙mȧ’

  • If someone is giving something to you (i.e. someone else is doing the action to you):  ‘ma∙tȧ’


See the 2 examples below:

I am givingma∙mȧ   dhé∙nȧ∙va

(Since you’re the one doing the action we use ‘ma∙mȧ’)


You are giving (to) meo∙yaa   ma∙tȧ   dhé∙nȧ∙va

(Since someone is doing the action to you we use ‘ma∙tȧ’)





Step 3: Leveraging what you just learned


Let me introduce you to Compound Verbs in Sinhala:


Compound Verbs:  In Sinhala there are many “special” verbs that are built on a specific “root” verb and they grammatically behave EXACTLY LIKE how the root verb behaves.



Let me explain:


Here’s the verb “answering” in Sinhala, which you’ll notice is a compound verb built on the verb ‘dhé∙nȧ∙va’:

uth∙thȧ∙rȧ   dhé∙nȧ∙va2answering

My Random Notes:

‘uth∙thȧ∙rȧ’ = “answers”; So, the Sinhala word for “answering” literally translates to “giving answers”


Using the most “basicest” of the basic logic…

  • We learned earlier that:
    • we use ‘ma∙mȧ’ if you’re the one doing the action
    • we use ‘ma∙tȧ’ if someone is doing the action to you

  • Also, I just told you that compound verbs grammatically behave EXACTLY LIKE how the root verb behaves.

  • So that means that whenever we use a compound verb with the root ‘dhé∙nȧ∙va’ in a sentence then we should:
    • use ‘ma∙mȧ’ if you’re doing the action
    • use ‘ma∙tȧ’ if someone is doing the action to you



See how this works below. I’ve simply substituted ‘dhé∙nȧ∙va’ with ‘uth∙thȧ∙rȧ dhé∙nȧ∙va’:

I am answeringma∙mȧ   uth∙thȧ∙rȧ  dhé∙nȧ∙va

(Since you’re the one doing the action we use ‘ma∙mȧ’)


You are answering meo∙yaa   ma∙tȧ   uth∙thȧ∙rȧ  dhé∙nȧ∙va

(Since someone is doing the action to you we use ‘ma∙tȧ’)



Step 4: Going for the knockout punch


Here are 7 more compound verbs based on ‘dhé∙nȧ∙va’ to add to your armoury.

You can use them exactly how we did with ‘dhé∙nȧ∙va’ & ‘uth∙thȧ∙rȧ  dhé∙nȧ∙va’ above.

(You won’t get away that easily, my naive friend. I’ll be testing you on it in the Mini Quiz below)

sa∙maa∙vȧ   dhé∙nȧ∙va3forgiving
i∙dȧ   dhé∙nȧ∙va4letting / allowing
a∙vȧ∙sȧ∙rȧ dhé∙nȧ∙va5permitting (in an official sense)
na∙yȧ∙tȧ   dhé∙nȧ∙va6lending
dhaňdu∙wam dhé∙nȧ∙va7punishing
aa∙pa∙hu   dhé∙nȧ∙va8returning
thḗ∙rum kȧ∙rȧ∙la dhé∙nȧ∙va9explaining

My OPTIONAL Random Notes: (Scroll down to the Mini Quiz if you’re tired)

‘sa∙maa∙vȧ’ = “forgiveness”; So, the Sinhala word for “forgiving” literally translates to “giving forgiveness”

‘i∙dȧ’ = “space”; So, the Sinhala word for “letting/allowing” literally translates to “giving space”

‘a∙vȧ∙sȧ∙rȧ’ = “permission”; So, the Sinhala word for “permitting” literally translates to “giving permission”

‘na∙yȧ’ = “loan”; ‘na∙yȧ∙tȧ’ = “as a loan”; So, the Sinhala word for “lending” literally translates to “giving as a loan”. This is specifically used when lending money rather than lending your lawn mower for example.

‘dhaňdu∙wam’ = “punishment”; So, the Sinhala word for “punishing” literally translates to “giving punishment”

‘aa∙pa∙hu’ = “again”; So, the Sinhala word for “returning” literally translates to “giving again” (or “re-giving”)

‘thḗ∙rum’ = “meaning”; ‘thḗ∙rum kȧ∙rȧ∙la’ = “do meaning and..”; So, the Sinhala word for “explaining” literally translates to “do meaning and giving” (I know, that’s an odd one)


And that’s all, folks!

Let’s summarize what we learned today:


Lazy But Smart Summary

(All you need to know from this 2nd post before moving on to the next part in this blog post series)


Key Points:

  • With ‘dhé∙nȧ∙va’ or any of its compound verbs…
    • we use ‘ma∙mȧ’ if you’re the one doing the action
    • we use ‘ma∙tȧ’ if someone is doing the action to you
  • Compound verbs are “special” verbs in Sinhala that are built on a specific “root” verb.
  • Compound verbs grammatically behave EXACTLY LIKE how the root verb behaves.


Sinhala Words You “Accidentally” Learned:

  • ‘uth∙thȧ∙rȧ’   =   “answers”
  • ‘sa∙maa∙vȧ’   =   “forgiveness”
  • ‘i∙dȧ’   =   “space”
  • ‘a∙vȧ∙sȧ∙rȧ’   =   “permission”
  • ‘na∙yȧ’   =   “loan”
  • ‘na∙yȧ∙tȧ’   =   “as a loan”
  • ‘dhaňdu∙wam’   =   “punishment”
  • ‘aa∙pa∙hu’   =   “again”
  • ‘thḗ∙rum’   =   “meaning”


Now, let’s have some fun…


Mini Quiz: Boys vs. Girls

2 sets of quizzes: one for the boys, one for the girls.

Choose your set, translate the 3 phrases, and leave your answers in the comments below.

Oh, and try not cheat by looking at the other answers, will you? This is not high school…


Set #1:  If you’re a girl, woman, lady, diva…

G1 – I am forgiving?
G2 – You are permitting me?
G3 – I am punishing?

Set #2:  If you’re a boy, man, stud, beast…

B1 – I am letting?
B2 – You are lending to me?
B3 – I am returning?


Speak to you in the comments.

Once again, here’s the link to my 350 Lazy But Smart Sinhala Verb Book.


9 Responses to Ma∙mȧ vs Ma∙tȧ – Part 2: When Used With The Verb “Giving” In Sinhala

  1. Fr Robert Easton February 19, 2017 at 16:04 #

    Morning Dilshan. Just returned from Sri Lanka yesterday, where I am in the process of leasing a house called “Sudaha” or “Friendship” in order to convert it into a vocational training centre for young adults with learning difficulties. So I need to speak decent Sinhala!

    mama ida dhenava
    oyaa mata nayata dhenava
    mama aapahu dhenava

    Does aapahu dhenava mean “coming back” as well as “giving back” as it does in English?

    Cheers, Robert

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 20, 2017 at 09:55 #

      Well done, Robert. Not just on getting all 3 translations correct but also on your upcoming project. Great stuff.

      Good question about ‘aa∙pa∙hu dhé∙nȧ∙va’. The answer is no. See below:

      – ‘aa∙pa∙hu dhé∙nȧ∙va’ = “returning” (as in giving back something)
      – ‘aa∙pa∙hu é∙nȧ∙va’ = “returning” (as in physically coming back to a place); ‘é∙nȧ∙va’ means “coming”.

      For example you could tell the real estate people you’re currently dealing with that ‘ma∙mȧ lan∙kaa∙vȧ∙tȧ aa∙pa∙hu é∙nȧ∙va’ (“I am returning to Sri Lanka”).

      Does that make sense? Also, where are you planning on setting up the training center? Congrats again.

  2. Susann February 19, 2017 at 17:28 #

    Hello Dilshan,

    my answers to your little quiz:
    G1: mama samaava dhenava
    G2: oyaa mata avasara dhenava
    G3: mama dhanduwam dhenava
    Hope, that´s right?

    I still have some questions to using mama or mata:
    “I am fine” is “mama hondin innava”
    “I am hungry” is “mata badaginiyi”
    “I am eating” is “mama kanava”
    Is there any rule????

    Thanks for your “mama vs. mata Guide”. Very helpful!

    Suba pathum!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 20, 2017 at 09:30 #

      3 out of 3, well done Susann!

      You asked “Is there any rule?”. Like I mentioned in Part 1, I don’t know the rules and I started this blog post series in order to shed more light on it. I will be covering “I’m hungry”, etc. very soon so hang in there.

      In the meantime just keep sending me every question you have on this topic please?

  3. Michelle February 22, 2017 at 18:36 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    Thank you once again for a very helpful and informative (yet simple) post! Sometimes, the things that sound really obvious (like the person giving is mama, and the person receiving is mata), but us non-native speakers need someone to reassure us that it really is that simple! Especially since there are always little ‘exceptions’!

    Here’s what used to mess me up on the whole mama/mata thing: when it’s combined with puluwan or one. Then the subject also becomes (or can sometimes become, in the case of one – depending on want or need) what I think of as the ‘dative’ case (mata/oyaata) – so ‘oyaa mata udhauw karannadha?’ then it becomes something like ‘oyaata mata udauw karanna puluwandha?’ But thanks to your lovely explanations above (with plenty of ‘bonus words’, which I love!) I now understand that’s a puluwan thing, not a dhenna thing! Hurrah! Now I just await clarification on the other little bits that still take a lot of brain power – like whether it’s eyaa sathutuyi or eyaata sathutuyi (judging from comments in part 1, it seems to depend on whether you mean in general or right now…right?!)

    Enough blabbering – here are my answers:

    G1 – I am forgiving – mama samaava dhenava
    G2 – You are permitting me – oyaa mata avasara dhenava
    G3 – I am punishing – mama dhanduwam dhenava


    • Dilshan Jayasinha March 1, 2017 at 01:12 #

      Hi Michelle, first of all, well done on all 3 answers.

      And yes, I’ll be tackling (hopefully soon) the 2 separate cases you raised with mama/mata. Don’t worry about it, I’ll do everything to make sure it’s super-simplified.

      Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay in responding.

  4. Max Gomez February 26, 2017 at 06:21 #

    hello Dilshan

    Thank you for your tutorials. It is a wonderful exercise to help keep in touch with the language of my birth country.

    I note that a Fr. Robert Easton (note above) is opening a home for disabled children. I am planning to do volunteer work in S.L. in the future and would like to get in touch with Fr. Robert.

    Kindly forward my email address to him. Please tell him that am a registered primary school teacher and a psychiatric nurse with vast experience.

    with warm regards


    • Dilshan Jayasinha March 1, 2017 at 01:20 #

      Hi Max, as per your request, I’ve just forwarded your email address as well as your message to Fr. Robert. Hope something great comes out of it. All the best.

  5. Anna March 31, 2017 at 07:58 #

    Hello Dilshan,

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of Sinhala! I really enjoy your blog posts. For the quiz, I changed/added some things in the sample sentences…I wanted to review my Sinhala vocabulary so I didn’t think you would mind. :-) Can you please tell me if the following are correct?

    Mama Nangi samava dhenava. = I am forgiving Nangi.
    Thathi yanava mata avasara dhenava. = Thathi is permitting me to go.
    Mama mage lamayi dhanduwam dhenava. = I am punishing my children.

    Ammi meka karanava mata ida dhenava. = Ammi is letting me do this.
    Oya mata bothalaya nayata dhenava. = You are lending the bottle to me.
    Mama pingana mage mahathaya apahu dhenava. = I am returning the plate to my husband.

    Eya mata meka therum karala dhenava. = He/she is explaining this to me.

    Thanks Dilshan. Keep up the great work!


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