Can I? Should I? and Shall I?…in Sinhala (Part 2/3)

Can Shall Should -P2-1This is the 2nd Part of the blog-post series “Can I? Should I? and Shall I?… in Sinhala”.

For those of you who haven’t yet read Part 1, I suggest you first take a look at it by clicking here and later returning to this post.

It’ll make your understanding that much better.

For the rest of you, in order to make it as simple as possible, I’ll be using the same examples and same approach when discussing the next group in our list, which is The “Should I?” Group.

Let’s go…


2. The “Should I?” Group:

This group consists of:

  1. “Should I…?”
  2. “Must I…?”
  3. “Do I have to…?”
  4. “Do I need to…?”

In spoken Sinhala, we use the same words and sentence structure to express the above 4 types of sentences.

Let me show you what I mean…


Learning to ask “Should I eat?”, “Must I eat?”, “Do I have to eat?”, and “Do I need to eat?”

Let’s first learn how to say the positive statements, “I should eat”, “I must eat”, “I have to eat”, and “I need to eat”.

You might remember that we covered this in an earlier post when we learned how to say “I need” in Sinhala with a verb.

The grammar rule was as follows:


To say “I need” with a verb we use the following sentence structure:

ma∙mȧ + [infinitive of the verb] + ō∙né

For example, the infinitive of “eat” (which in English is “to eat”) is kan∙nȧ in Sinhala. Therefore…

“I should eat” / “I must eat” / “I have to eat” / “I need to eat”

ma∙mȧ   kan∙nȧ   ō∙né


(ma∙mȧ = “I”; kan∙nȧ = “to eat”; ō∙né = “want” (but note that when it is used with ma∙mȧ, it changes the meaning to “should”/”must”/”have to”/”need to”)

To convert these positive statements into question forms, let’s use the grammar rule we saw in Part 1 and add dhȧ to the end:

“Should I eat?” / “Must I eat?” / “Do I have to eat?” / “Do I need to eat?”

ma∙mȧ   kan∙nȧ   ō∙né∙dhȧ?


(ma∙mȧ = “I”; kan∙nȧ = “to eat”; ō∙né∙dhȧ = “want?” (but note that when it is used with ma∙mȧ it changes its meaning to “should?”/”must?”/”have to?”/”need to?”)

And that’s all for the “Should I?” Group!



We are 2/3 completed on this blog series. Easier than you first thought, right?

But before we end Part 2, let’s once again look at some other similar sample phrases that you can start using immediately:


“Should I / Must I / Do I have to / Do I need to…

…eat something?”ma∙mȧ   mo∙nȧ∙va∙ha∙ri   kan∙nȧ   ō∙né∙dhȧ?      
…drink some water?”ma∙mȧ   va∙thu∙rȧ   pod∙dak   bon∙nȧ   ō∙né∙dhȧ?      
…come in?”ma∙mȧ   ae∙thu∙lȧ∙tȧ   én∙nȧ   ō∙né∙dhȧ?      
…go?ma∙mȧ   yan∙nȧ   ō∙né∙dhȧ?      
…go with you?”ma∙mȧ   o∙yaath   ék∙kȧ   yan∙nȧ   ō∙né∙dhȧ?      
…help you?”ma∙mȧ   o∙yaa∙tȧ   u∙dhauw   kȧ∙ran∙nȧ   ō∙né∙dhȧ?      
…ask you a question?”ma∙mȧ   o∙yaa∙gén   prash∙nȧ∙yak   a∙han∙nȧ   ō∙né∙dhȧ?      


If everything seems clear to you so far (first of all, well done) then go straight to Part 3 (spoiler alert: it’s the EASIEST of all 3 parts).

If not, leave your question below and I’ll get back to you with an answer.

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17 Responses to Can I? Should I? and Shall I?…in Sinhala (Part 2/3)

  1. Wendy August 7, 2013 at 09:41 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    I’m back after a shirt break and I have so much new content of yours to peruse… I’m super excited! But first… a question!
    A yet kiyanna – Say it again
    A yet kiyanna dha – Should I say it again… according to my textbook.
    So could I also say:
    Mama a yet kiyanna onedha?
    It sounds more correct to me, but I could be in the dark about some rule or other…
    Could you help me? Thanks :)!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha August 7, 2013 at 16:06 #

      Hi Wendy,

      First, a small correction:

      aayith ki∙yan∙nȧ : Say it again (this is correct)

      aayith ki∙yan∙nȧ∙dhȧ? : SHALL I say it again? (Here I disagree with your textbook)

      aayith ki∙yan∙nȧ ō∙né∙dhȧ?: “Should I / Must I / Do I have to / Do I need to… say it again” (as I explained in this blog post)

      Now, to answer your question:

      Yes, you can add ‘ma∙mȧ’ to this last sentence and say ma∙mȧ aayith ki∙yan∙nȧ ō∙né∙dhȧ?.

      In fact, for the beginning, I would even recommend you continue to use the pronouns when possible since it’ll help you understand the sentence structure better.

      But of course, like how we could say either ‘ma∙mȧ hondhin in∙nȧ∙va’ or just ‘hondhin in∙nȧ∙va’, in the same way, if you said ‘aayith ki∙yan∙nȧ ō∙né∙dhȧ?’ it is understood that you’re talking about yourself (and that ‘ma∙mȧ’ is implied).

      Did you get it?

      • Wendy August 7, 2013 at 22:23 #

        Oooh thank you, Dilshan. Now that I reread your post about “shall I”, I’m kind of ticked off at myself for not noticing the “shall I” mistake in the sentence.
        The hardest part of trying to learn Sinhala is definitely how hard it is to find sources that agree with each other. I’m using LBSS as a bible, which helps a lot (especially your answers).

        Mata aayith kiyanna dha? Isthooti!

  2. Srinivas August 18, 2013 at 04:20 #

    Dear Sir, What is the formal “you” in Sinhalese? In order to address elders and senior people.

    Any help would be highly appreciated.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha August 18, 2013 at 11:54 #

      Hi Srinivas,

      Formal “you” = ‘o∙bȧ’

      Formal “your” = ‘o∙bȧ∙gé’

      I introduced this in Episode 4 of the Video Tutorials. You can find sample phrases using these words in that episode.

  3. murali July 12, 2014 at 14:43 #

    Sir it is very useful for me to teach sinhala here in Jaffna .will you please send me more sinhala question forms as pdf thank you

  4. Ratna May 1, 2015 at 18:30 #

    Its very helpful

  5. Benjamin August 3, 2015 at 17:01 #

    Dear Dilshan,

    Thanks again. I have been away to India for a month so haven’t studied much. This is an old lesson I suppose, but I have always battled with “mama” and “mata” in some cases…for instance from the books I have I saw “puluwan’ and “oné” have always been used with “mata” rather than “mama”. Here you are showing the opposite. Why? Btw, thanks for your emails with personal sound to it which means you remember me. I want the stuff you are selling, but I don’t hjave a credit card. “What to do?” Thanks for your reply.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha August 3, 2015 at 17:34 #

      Hi Benjamin, I’d suggest you read the following post I did (it’s a short one) and if my guess is right, it should help you answer your own question. Let me know if something is still not clear.

      About my premium products that I’m selling, my payment processor only accepts credit/debit cards and Paypal. Sorry buddy.

  6. wesley December 15, 2015 at 13:43 #

    I notice in this sentence:

    ma∙mȧ ae∙thu∙lȧ∙tȧ én∙nȧ ō∙né∙dhȧ?

    The é in én∙nȧ sounds almost exactly like the ae in ae∙thu∙lȧ∙tȧ, instead of the é in ō∙né∙dhȧ. Is this a limitation of your phonetical writing of the words?

    • Dilshan Jayasinha December 17, 2015 at 07:03 #

      I re-listened to it a couple of times and I don’t hear it. In any case, to be clear, the é in én∙nȧ should not sound like the ae in ae∙thu∙lȧ∙tȧ. It should sound like the é in ō∙né∙dhȧ.

      • wesley December 17, 2015 at 10:14 #

        OK thanks :-) I re-listened now too and yea doesn’t sound like “ae”, don’t know what I was thinking.. or drinking? ;)

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