The negation with ما or لَمْ – Same meaning?
Almost, but there is a (tiny) difference. First of all, both – ما and لَمْ – can negate the past tense.
- ما is followed by a verb in the past tense.
- لَمْ is followed by a verb in the present tense (مَجْزُوم) but has the meaning of the past.
Let us have a closer look:
- ما, if used to negate the past tense, denies the entire matter – it strengthens the meaning of the negation.
- The same goes for the present tense: If ما is used to negate a verb in the present tense, it denies not only the action, but also its possibility. You hardly come across this as the present tense is rarely used after ما – but it is possible.
- However, the negation particle لَمْ, which is used to negate the past tense, does not express a complete denial!
In English, we can translate ما with not at all – if we want to put stress on the negation. In German with gar nicht or überhaupt nicht.
Let us have a look at some examples (1 – past tense; 2 – present tense)
Here are some examples:
I didn’t get thirsty at all.
I wasn’t thirsty.
He can’t see you at all.
He can’t see you.
If you see لا together with a verb in the past tense, it has a different meaning: It can connote a prayer or wish (قَسَم)! Note that the past tense is used for wishes, curses and prayers irrespective of whether it is preceded by لا or no. See also chapter 207.
May Allah spare you bad things!
لا أَراكَ اللهُ مَكْرُوهًا!