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

Can Shall Should -P3-1This is the 3rd and FINAL part of the blog-post series “Can I? Should I? and Shall I?… in Sinhala”.

For those of you who haven’t yet read the previous parts, I suggest you first go through them by clicking on either Part 1 or Part 2 and then coming back here.

(Or else you’re going to be one confused little puppy).

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

And guess what? This one is the EASIEST group of all 3.

Home stretch now, people…Let’s go.


3. The “Shall I?” Group

The group consists of only one type and obviously it’s the “Shall I…?” type.

Let’s see how easy this group really is.


Learning to ask “Shall I eat?”

The grammar rule for sentences starting with “Shall I…?” is as follows:


Whenever we ask “Shall I…?” type of questions we will take the infinitive of the verb, add dhȧ? to the end of it, and place it after ma∙mȧ

ma∙mȧ + [infinitive of the verb]∙dhȧ?

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

“Shall I eat?”

ma∙mȧ   kan∙nȧ∙dhȧ?


(ma∙mȧ = “I”; kan∙nȧ = “to eat”)

And that’s all for this 3rd and final group!

(see, I wasn’t kidding when I told you it’d be easy)

As we did in the previous 2 parts, let’s once again look at some other similar sample phrases that you can start using immediately:


“Shall I…

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


And that brings our 3-part blog series to an end!



(“That’s cool Dilshan, but how about a little summary of all 3 parts before we wrap this up?”)

Well, since you asked so nicely…


Summary of the key points in all 3 parts

Based on the common words used and identical sentence structure, we can sort the above 8 type of sentences into 3 groups (click here to see the image again):

  1. The “Can I?” Group
    1. “Can I…?”
    2. “Could I…?”
    3. “May I…?”
  2. The “Should I?” Group
    1. “Should I…?”
    2. “Must I…?”
    3. “Do I have to…?”
    4. “Do I need to…?”
  3. The “Shall I?” Group
    1. “Shall I…?”

1. The “Can I?” Group (key things to remember)

  • “Can I?” / “Could I?” / “May I?”:
    • ma∙tȧ pu∙lu∙wan∙dhȧ?
  • Grammar rule for using them with a verb:
    • ma∙tȧ + [infinitive of the verb] + pu∙lu∙wan∙dhȧ?
  • Example: “Can I / Could I / May I eat?”:
    • ma∙tȧ kan∙nȧ pu∙lu∙wan∙dhȧ?

2. The “Should I?” Group (key things to remember)

  • Grammar rule for using them with a verb:
    • ma∙mȧ + [infinitive of the verb] + ō∙né∙dhȧ?
  • Example: “Should I / Must I / Do I have to / Do I need to eat?”:
    • ma∙mȧ kan∙nȧ ō∙né∙dhȧ?

3. The “Shall I?” Group (key things to remember)

  • Grammar rule for using this with a verb:
    • ma∙mȧ + [infinitive of the verb]∙dhȧ?
  • Example: “Shall I eat?”:
    • ma∙mȧ kan∙nȧ∙dhȧ?


This blog-post series was fun for me. Hope you got something out of it too.

Don’t forget to leave your questions in the comments section below and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can.

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

  1. Martina January 4, 2014 at 09:37 #

    Very helpful explanation. Thank you very much for your effort. I enjoy every one of your lessons.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha January 5, 2014 at 15:05 #

      Hi Martina, glad you liked it. And I enjoy every one of your comments :) Take care.

  2. Elisabeth August 30, 2014 at 07:59 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    It’s so great to get those very practical hints. Even though I know the words, having your explanations and pronunciation gives me the confidence to actually say something and also be understood. If one ‘fumbles’ too much in a foreign language, people often do not have the patience to listen and also would never correct you, but rather speak English back to you. Anyhow, this is a good start, and my SL friend understands me and is surprised …but he is no help at all, not a language teacher, ha ha.

    Mata prashnayak ahanna puluwandha?

    Is there a big language difference between areas in SL, such as dialects, say in Colombo vs. Centre, etc.?

    Well, Dilshan, thank you again for very nice lessons. I love your relaxed, fun style, yet very correct way of teaching.

    All the best,


    • Dilshan Jayasinha September 1, 2014 at 20:30 #

      Hi Elisabeth, thanks for the comment, made me smile. Honestly, I understand your friends because in day-to-day life I am also not patient to correct someone’s Sinhala. I too would probably switch to English :)

      I don’t believe there is a big difference in the Sinhala across our country. The only exception that comes to my mind is the Sinhala used by the indigenous community of Sri Lankans called the “veddas”. I honestly don’t even know if it can be considered a dialect of Sinhala or if it’s a language by itself (as you can see, I’m very good at thinking out loud with you rather than go looking for the answer…). But other than this example, I can’t think of a big difference in the Sinhala used in Colombo vs the center.

      Hope that helped you and didn’t confuse you further (very sleepy right now, as you may have guessed. Sorry).

      • Elisabeth September 2, 2014 at 00:19 #

        Dear Dilshan,

        Thank you for your answer, even though you were tired. You always make me smile.

        Had just been thinking that people talking back in English is all well and good if they speak English, but if you go inland to a village, maybe not everybody does speak English so it’s good to know that you can get around the country with Sinhala. There might be some deviation in pronunciation I suppose. I can look up the Veddas myself, but it might be like in Australia, there are still a few aboriginal languages spoken.

        Have a great day,

        Take care


  3. shafna November 4, 2014 at 12:30 #

    keep up the good work Dilshan :D

  4. wesley December 15, 2015 at 13:46 #

    Does this form only work with mame or with all pronouns?

    I know that api is a special case where one would use for example, api yamudhe? / api kamudhe? instead of api yannedhe / api kannedhe, etc? Correct?

  5. Dilshan Jayasinha December 17, 2015 at 06:57 #

    The above phrases work with all the pronouns.

    What you’re referring to is the “suggestive” form (or whatever it is correctly called in grammar – I really wouldn’t know). For this suggestive form, when using api, yes, we would use the examples you mentioned. Well done. Where are you getting your Sinhala knowledge from? I’m impressed.

    • wesley December 17, 2015 at 10:11 #

      sorry, it was not really clear, you say it can be used with all pronouns, except api (where that special suggestive form is used), or can it also be used with api?

      So one can say “Api kannedhe?” also? Both “api kannedhe” and “api kammudhe” then translate to “Shall we eat?”

      And yes, hehe, I’m using a book series in combination with your site ;) The book series is called “Sinhala kathaa karamu / Let us speak Sinhala” by Shirley Perera. I quite like it since it’s the only books I found that include audio cd’s with pronunciation of almost every page in the book. (Aside from your premium package of course – which is great :) )

      Sidenote: This book also translates “mame kannedhe?” to “May I eat”. But here you translate it to “Shall I eat”? Is this dependent on context? As opposed to using puluwandhe where it’s always clear that one means “can I / could I / may I”.

      And when using “karunaakerela mame kannedhe?” I think context also changes to “(Please) May I”? And not “Please, shall I” Am I correct? (Though the difference between “Shall I” and “May I” is rather small to begin with.

      Sometimes the books are not very clear and I turn to your site where everything is explained simply and elegantly ;)

      One last question, the book mentions “mate onȧ” (not oné) means “I want”. Is this correct? I can see now why you wouldn’t explain all the different kinds of sentences possible, because one would assume it would at least be using personal pronoun “mame” as it is with “oné” :-) Lots of exceptions in Sinhala it seems ;)

      Thanks again!

  6. AB December 15, 2017 at 06:39 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    Was hoping to check in with a quick question. In Canada, we don’t generally use the word ‘shall’. as hoping to see what the difference might be between ‘Should I eat?’ and ‘Shall I eat?’.

    Hope you have a great day and wishing you all the best.

    With mettā,


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