One of my readers, who already has a good basic knowledge of Sinhala, recently asked me how to say “I need” instead of “I want”.
At first, the answer seemed quite straightforward to me: We use the same expression.
But just when I was about to send him my short reply, I understood that there is, in fact, a tricky nuance between the two expressions, which I completely missed!
It all depended on whether the thing we “want” or “need” is an OBJECT or an ACTION.
I realized that because I know the language, I personally don’t have to think twice before distinguishing the differences between the two. However, for someone who’s just starting to learn Sinhala, this could create some unnecessary head-scratching.
So, I thought I’d explain it in a very simplified way in this post, which is more or less an extract of the answer I sent.
“I want” in Sinhala
First let’s look at the expression “I want”
(ma∙tȧ = “For me”; ō∙né = “want”)
Using “I want” and “I need” with an OBJECT
Let’s take the object “water” as an example and learn how to say “I want water” and “I need water” in Sinhala.
The Sinhala word for “water” is va∙thu∙rȧ
“I want water”
ma∙tȧ va∙thu∙rȧ ō∙né
(ma∙tȧ ō∙né = “I want”; va∙thu∙rȧ = “water”)
Notice that we placed the desired object between ma∙tȧ and ō∙né.
The good news…
ma∙tȧ va∙thu∙rȧ ō∙né can ALSO BE INTERPRETED as “I need water”
The bad news (or let’s say, the “less good” news)…
This rule is slightly different when we replace the object with an ACTION…
Let’ me show you what I mean.
Using “I want” and “I need” with an ACTION
Let’s take the verb “go” as an example and learn how to say “I want to go” in Sinhala.
The infinitive of the desired action “go” is yan∙nȧ (which means “to go”)
“I want to go”
ma∙tȧ yan∙nȧ ō∙né
(ma∙tȧ ō∙né = “I want”; yan∙nȧ = “to go”)
Once again, notice that we placed the infinitive of the action between ma∙tȧ and ō∙né exactly like before. No changes there.
But now let’s look at “I need to go” in Sinhala:
“I need to go”
ma∙mȧ yan∙nȧ ō∙né
(ma∙mȧ = “I”; yan∙nȧ = “to go”; ō∙né = in this case, “need”)
Notice that we still kept the word ō∙né but we replaced the word ma∙tȧ (which means “for me”) with ma∙mȧ (which means “I”)
ma∙mȧ yan∙nȧ ō∙né can be interpreted as either:
- “I need to go”; or
- “I have to go”; or
- “I must go”; or even
- “I should go”
Only the given context will indicate the intended meaning.
Some of you may look at it and go “oh no…” and see this as a bad thing.
Call me lazy but I tend to think it’s awesome because by learning just one phrase, you’re covering 4 different expressions. Leverage, baby, leverage!
Just remember the following rule and you’ll be fine:
After all this explanation, when it comes to “I want” and “I need” in spoken Sinhala, this is ALL you need to remember.
And that’s it.
Any questions? You know what to do…. Comment below, submit, expect answer…