Ma∙mȧ vs Ma∙tȧ: When To Use Which In Sinhala – Part 1 – “Definitions”

Photo Credit: The referee of my life who always keeps me on track, “Mrs. Smart”


Tell me if this is true?

When you first enrolled in my free Sinhala online course (coz I’m awesome like that), chances are that you had the following monologue inside your head:

  • Hmm… According to this example, “I am Dilshan” in Sinhala is “ma∙mȧ Dilshan”…
  • “So… ‘ma∙mȧ’ must mean “I”, right?
  • Let me check the notes… yep, correct! “I’m a bleeping starboy!”
  • But wait, what the flipping firetruck is this word ‘ma∙tȧ’?!!
  • …and why is Dilshan using it instead of ‘ma∙mȧ’ for phrases like “I want” and “I can”?!!
  • Why the hell can’t he do a post explaining this?
  • I hate Dilshan now. Even if he is such a magnificent specimen of a human being…


At this point is you’ll either leave me a comment or send me an email asking me about it.

Then this is what goes on inside my head:

  • Crappity crap, I fricking don’t know the answer to that!
  • I mean, I know exactly when to use both words but that’s because I speak Sinhala and it comes naturally.
  • But I don’t know the rules! I keep telling them that I’m not a teacher!
  • I feel like a dirty fraud.
  • Now even I hate Dilshan. Even if I am such a magnificent specimen of a human being…


5 minutes later though…

  • But what if I stopped focusing on what I don’t know and started focusing on what I do know.
  • I mean, what if I just started listing the sentences where ‘ma∙mȧ’ is used and where ‘ma∙tȧ’ is used?
  • What if I started to see certain patterns? What if I simplified them into groups accordingly and showed it to them one post at a time?
  • Yep, it might work!
  • “I’m A bleeping starboy!”



How I’ll Be Approaching This Blog Post Series

It’ll be very simple:

In each post, I’ll be presenting you the different uses of the word ‘ma∙mȧ’ & ‘ma∙tȧ’.

With each post, I’ll have comments & questions from you that’ll help me know where to take the next post.

I hope to start you off gently with straight-forward usages and gradually take you to “totally messed up weird” usages.

But for the most part, I’ll be playing it by ear.



What You’ll See In This 1st Post

This 1st post is going to be only about DEFINITIONS.

At the end of this short post, I want you to say:

“Good, that’s pretty much what I thought they meant. Easy. Now, what’s next?”


Here’s how I’ve structured it:


Full Disclosure: A lot of what you see in this 1st post has been blatantly plagiarized, in true Melania style, from this book.


Ok, “Let’s get ready to rummbbble!”



In the red corner… ma∙mȧ


Defintion #1: When it means “I”



Sample Phrases:

I am [Dilshan]ma∙mȧ   [Dilshan]1      

My Random Notes:

1 This sentence literally reads “I Dilshan” (very often in Sinhala, the word “am” is implied and so there’s no stand-alone word for it)



Defintion #2: When it means “me”



Sample Phrases:

This is memḗ   ma∙mȧ2


My Random Notes:

2 Literally reads “This me” (similar to “am”, in Sinhala, the word “is” is also usually implied and so there’s no stand-alone word for it either)



Intermediary Recap (1 of 2)






In the blue corner… ma∙tȧ

Defintion #1: When it means “to me”

ma∙tȧto me      

Sample Phrases:

You are giving to meo∙yaa   ma∙tȧ   dhé∙nȧ∙va3      
You are speaking to meo∙yaa   ma∙tȧ   ka∙thaa kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va4      

My Random Notes:

3 ‘dhé∙nȧ∙va’ = “giving”. So, this sentence literally reads “You – to me – giving” (notice that again the word “is” is implied)

4 ‘ka∙thaa kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va’ = “speaking”. So, this literally reads “You – to me – speaking”



Defintion #2: When it means “for me”

ma∙tȧfor me


Sample Phrases:

This (thing) is for memḗ∙kȧ   ma∙tȧ5      

My Random Notes:

5 ‘mḗ’ = “this”; ‘mḗ∙kȧ’ = “this thing/object”. So this sentence literally reads “This thing – for me”. Again, “is” implied.



Intermediary Recap (2 of 2)

ma∙tȧto me      
for me      



And that’s all for today!

See, I told you I’ll go easy on you. Let’s call it a “warm up” before the real punching begins the in the next round when we’ll some weird usages of ‘ma∙tȧ’.

Let’s summarize what we learned today:


Lazy But Smart Summary

(In other words, all you need to know from this 1st post before moving on to the next part in this super-awesome, game-changing, history-in-the-making “ma∙mȧ vs ma∙tȧ” blog post series)*


Key Points:

  • ‘ma∙mȧ’ can mean either “I” or “me”
  • ‘ma∙tȧ’ can mean either “to me” or “for me”
  • Very often in Sinhala, words like “am” and “is” are implied in sentences and so there are no stand-alone words for them


Sinhala Words You “Accidentally” Learned:

  • ‘mḗ’ = “this”
  • ‘mḗ∙kȧ’ = “this thing/object”
  • ‘o∙yaa’ = “you” (informal)
  • ‘dhé∙nȧ∙va’ = “giving”
  • ‘ka∙thaa kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va’ = “speaking”


*Sorry, I was feeling way more cocky & immodest than usual when I wrote this tag line.


Now, something VERY important…


Dilshan “thinks-he-knows-it-all” Jayasinha needs your help and is not embarrassed to ask for it!

Either comment below or email me ALL the questions relating to ‘ma∙mȧ’ and ‘ma∙tȧ’ that have been haunting you all this time.

Remember, this is the ONLY WAY I can make this blog post series useful to you because I’ll know what to tackle!

Here are some sample questions I’ve got in the past that help me see what you guys are struggling with.


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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Now I want to hear your questions. Yes, you!

(PS. If you've never interacted with me before then, my friend, today would be a good day to start)

Speak to you below.


Lastly, here's that link again to where I got most of the above material from.


Enroll for free in my new Sinhala email course!

Click below to begin a personalized 8-lesson course that'll teach you the most useful concepts to get you started on your Sinhala adventure.

31 Responses to Ma∙mȧ vs Ma∙tȧ: When To Use Which In Sinhala – Part 1 – “Definitions”

  1. Clarissa February 12, 2017 at 09:42 #

    This is AMAZING!!!!!! Exactly what I have been hoping for and really hope it expands to beyond Mama and Mata… Questions to come, I was just so excited to see it that I had to comment now. Thank you!!!!!!!!

  2. Erica February 12, 2017 at 11:38 #

    Great stuff! To be honest I’d assumed a lot without actually thinking about it, but this gives clarification. Brilliant!

  3. Uma Balu February 12, 2017 at 12:51 #

    Hi Dilshan!

    Yes, one of the very basic but important points has been answered.

    Could you translate these short sentences for me?
    These will help me understand the usage better.

    1. I know
    2. I want
    3. I understand
    4. I like
    5. I can

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 13, 2017 at 09:32 #

      Good! I like how you’re thinking, Uma.

      1. I know = ma∙mȧ dhan∙nȧ∙va
      2. I want = ma∙tȧ ō∙né
      3. I understand = ma∙tȧ thḗ∙ré∙nȧ∙va
      4. I like = ma∙mȧ aa∙sayi OR ma∙tȧ aa∙sayi (will explain in a future post)
      5. I can = ma∙tȧ pu∙lu∙wan

      Apart from No. 4 which I’ll explain, any follow up questions on the others?

  4. Sophie February 12, 2017 at 14:06 #

    Hi Dilshan!

    Just a thought, could “mata” have something to do with verbs and nouns?

    Keep up the good work!


    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 13, 2017 at 09:35 #

      Yes, Sophie it has more to do with the verb rather than the noun (see Uma’s question above).

      You see, there are some verbs that are used exclusively with mata, some with mama, and some with both. Hence the confusion.

      But don’t you worry, I’ll try my best to simplify it in the next posts.

  5. Lilli February 12, 2017 at 16:16 #

    Hi Dilshan!

    I have a question regarding yousing the words “mamá” and “matá” in combination with “aasayi”. As far as I understand you always use the word “mamá” + “aasayi” if you want to express that you actually like something. Like “I like to cook” = “mamá kaeme uyanná aasayi”.

    But if you want to say “I would like to do something” you would always use “matá”.
    For example “maté pansalakatá yanná aasayi” for “I’d like to visit a Buddhist temple”.
    Is this correct?



    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 13, 2017 at 09:48 #

      Hi Lilli, yes, you’re on the right track when it comes to using ‘aa∙sayi’, well done. I would explain it more using the time reference. For example, if it’s something long-term, then ‘ma∙mȧ aa∙sayi’. If it’s something for the specific moment, then ‘ma∙tȧ aa∙sayi’. See a screenshot of a similar answer I sent below to one our Tribesters regarding ‘bayayi’ (“scared”). Can you read it and tell me if it answers your question too? Thanks Lilli.


      • Lilli February 15, 2017 at 01:42 #

        Hi Dilshan, I understand what you mean and I can see the difference.
        It means whenever I intend to describe the present situation, like I’m hungry or I’m tired or other expression or feelings, I should use matá. In other cases I would use mamá.

        How about the word “can”, “puluwan”? In this case you would always use the word “maté” since it is the current specific moment. Right?

        • Dilshan Jayasinha February 19, 2017 at 13:04 #

          Hi again, Lilli. Thanks for the follow up questions.

          You said: “whenever I intend to describe the present situation, like I’m hungry or I’m tired or other expression or feelings, I should use matá. In other cases I would use mamá.”..

          Not always true because:

          – “I am hungry” = ‘ma∙tȧ ba∙dȧ∙gi∙niyi’
          – “I am always hungry” = ‘ma∙tȧ hæ∙mȧ∙this∙sé∙mȧ ba∙dȧ∙gi∙niyi’

          As you can see, in both cases, we used ‘ma∙tȧ’.

          You also said that for “can” we always use ‘ma∙tȧ’ “since it is the current specific moment”…

          Yes, we do use ‘ma∙tȧ’ but not for the reason you suggested.

          My advice is don’t worry about it for now – it’s too early for that. I’ll be tackling both these in future posts for which your questions have been tremendously helpful, so please keep them coming.

          For now, just go through Part 2 which I’ll be releasing in less than an hour.

  6. Velo February 12, 2017 at 17:58 #

    ma∙mȧ mḗ∙kȧ ma∙tȧ dhé∙nȧ∙va Dilshan∙tȧ mḗ∙kȧ ma∙tȧ ka∙thaa kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va.

    Hodaidhȧ ??

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 13, 2017 at 09:50 #

      Hi Velo, it doesn’t appear to be correct. Why don’t you tell me what you’re trying to say in English so that I can make the corrections.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • velo February 14, 2017 at 15:27 #

        I didn’t expect “meka” to be correct, just for me to get howand when to use ma∙mȧ and ma∙tȧ. The words in sentence in sinhala are different from english. In sinhala verbs come last usually.

  7. Genevieve Roney February 12, 2017 at 23:25 #

    Hi Dilshan:

    Enjoying your humor tremendously! (Oba hari “wehilueee” Dilshan!) Hope I got that right!!!!!
    Gosh I truly look forward to your Sinhala classes – I feel I’m back in Sri Lanka…’s so informative and exhilarating for me to relearn these phrases. Usually “sound button” works. However, for above lesson on Ma-ma and Ma-ta., sound button did not work. But no worries, I did understand your very thorough and intricate explanation. Very beneficial indeed!. Keep it coming! Thank You!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 13, 2017 at 09:52 #

      Hi Genevieve, I’ve retested the sound buttons and they seem to be working. Could you please tell me which kind of device are you viewing it from? (iphone? ipad? android phone or tablet? desktop? etc.) Thanks.

      • Dilshan Jayasinha February 13, 2017 at 09:53 #

        PS. Glad my posts seem to have a nostalgic effect on you. Thanks also for the kind words.

      • Genevieve February 14, 2017 at 07:59 #

        Hi Dilshan:

        I currently use a WIndows 10 Laptop for all internet uses.

        Thank You for resetting sound button.


  8. Tim February 13, 2017 at 11:06 #

    Mama and mata are tricky. Though i have been studying Sinhala for a while i still have to think about these. I would love to see you expand this some more to show all of the instances that mata are used. Thanks.

    p.s. How many takes did you need before you got the exact pictures you wanted to use for this one? lol

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 13, 2017 at 11:20 #

      Ha! Good question about the no. of takes. Let me check…

      I believe the magic number is 39! Spare a thought for my poor wife for being so patient with my nonsense.

      • Tim February 13, 2017 at 13:00 #

        Sorry, it was the first thing I thought when I saw the post.

  9. Magnus February 13, 2017 at 23:01 #

    Hi Dilshan!

    Thank you for doing this, it’s been so good for my Sinhalese. I’m actually in Sri Lanka right now hanging with my family and was sitting in the car thinking of exactly this question, when to use mame or mate. I have asked my wife but didn’t really get it. But this really helped big time! Btw, can you also explain the rule of when to use mage?

    Keep up the good work and take care!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 19, 2017 at 13:16 #

      Thanks Magnus, happy that it helped you. Funny how my email showed up exactly when you were pondering it.

      The rule for ‘magé’ is much much more simple than what we’re currently discussing. However, it’ll still need to be done in a separate post.

      As an alternative, I could also suggest you this book in which I’ve covered it.

      Have fun in SL my friend.

  10. Abdur Rahman February 19, 2017 at 20:58 #

    Okkama hondai sir!
    Bohama sthuthi :)

  11. Terry Holdsclaw March 3, 2017 at 15:34 #

    Would it be possible to write the Sinhala words in your posts and videos in the Sinhala script in addition to the English approximation? I know LBSS is about spoken Sinhala, but it still helps.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha March 14, 2017 at 14:54 #

      Hi Terry, as you said, it is indeed outside the primary scope of this blog (and honestly, takes up a lot of my time and effort), which is why I include the Sinhala words only in my Premium Products. All the best.

  12. Soumen Patnaik December 3, 2017 at 19:41 #

    Dear Dilshan,

    In the aforesaid phrases ” You are giving to me” which means ” Oyaa mata dhenava” and “You are speaking to me” meaning ” Oyaa mata kathaa karanava”as you have explained in your blog.What will be a formal way of expressing these sentences?Can you help me Sir?

    • Dilshan Jayasinha December 13, 2017 at 18:00 #

      You can replace ‘oyaa’ with either ‘o∙bȧ thu∙maa’ or just ‘o∙bȧ’.

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