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.

ما عَطِشْتُ.

1

I wasn’t thirsty.

لَمْ أَعْطَشْ.

He can’t see you at all.

ما يَراكَ.

2

He can’t see you.

لا يَراكَ.

Watch out:

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.

For example:

May Allah spare you bad things!

لا أَراكَ اللهُ مَكْرُوهًا!