Do سُؤال and مَسْألة both mean the same?

Yes, there is almost no difference in meaning. Both mean question. So when do we use which word? And what kind of words are they? Let’s have a look:

  • The word سُؤال is the original مَصْدَر of the verb سَأَلَ – so called الْمَصْدَر الأَصْلِيّ

 

  • The word مَسْأَلة is the so called الْمَصْدَر الْمِيمِيّ. It is mainly used to make the pronunciation of a word easier. Sometimes, however, it indicates a stronger meaning (regarding the action/event of happening) than the original مَصْدَر.
    Notice: Occasionally, you find a ة at the end of the الْمَصْدَر الْمِيمِيّ – which can indicate an exaggeration of the action or a special focus on the abundance/frequency of the action. For example: مَسْأَلة does not only mean question. It also means issue, problem; matter, affair, case.

 

(If you are not familiar with the word مَصْدَر scroll down to the end of this newsletter! (Excursus))

 

In daily talk and especially in newspapers, you will find a lot of examples for the  الْمَصْدَر الْمِيمِيّ – and most of the time, it basically has the same meaning as the original مَصْدَر:

translation

الْمَصْدَر الْمِيمِيّ جَمْع

الْمَصْدَر الأَصْلِيّ

verb

problem, question

مَسْأَلة, مَسائل

سُؤال

سَأَلَ

existence, life

مَعِيشة, مَعاِيش

عِيشة or عِيش

عاشَ

benefit, utility

مَنْفَعة, مَنافِع

نَفْع

نَفَعَ

demand, request

مَطْلَب, مَطالِب

طَلَب

طَلَبَ

killing, murder

مَقْتَل, مَقاتِل

قَتْل

قَتَلَ

food

مَأْكُل, مَآكِل

أَكْل

أَكَلَ

drink

مَشْرَب, مَشارِب

شُرْب

شَرِبَ

 

 

These are the patterns which are used to build the الْمَصْدَر الْمِيمِيّ:

 

1. I-form verbs (الثُّلاثيّ): Same as the pattern for the اِسْم الْمَكان or the اِسْم الْزَّمان

  • مَفْعَل
  • or مَفْعِل (especially for verbs starting with a و, for example: مَوْعِد).

 

2. All other verb forms II – X (غَيْر الثُّلاثيّ):

  • same pattern as the اِسْم الْمَفْعُول

 

Watch out if you have to identify the الْمَصْدَر الْمِيمِيّ. You will find the word مُسْتَخْرَج in every sentence in the follo­wing table with a different meaning.

translation

example

type

The well is the place of ex­traction for petroleum.

البِئْرُ مُسْتَخْرَجُ النَّفْطِ.

اِسْم الْمَكان

Petroleum is extracted from the well.

النَّفْطُ مُسْتَخْرَجٌ مِن الْبِئرِ.

اِسْم الْمَفْعُول

The extraction of the oil is in the morning.

مُسْتَخْرَجُ النَّفْطِ صَباحًا.

اِسْم الزَّمان

I extracted petroleum quickly.

اِسْتَخْرَجْتُ النَّفْطَ مُسْتَخْرَجًا عَجِيلاً.

الْمَصْدَر الْمِيمِيّ

So why is there a مَصْدَر مِيمِيّ in Arabic?

The الْمَصْدَر الْمِيميّ is a special form of a مَصْدَر –because the poets needed it.

Since it always starts with the letter م, it is called مِيميّ

Usually, it has more rhythm and melody as the original مَصْدَر. It can indicate (somehow) a stronger meaning (compared to the original مَصْدَر). And there is an­other reason: The plural form is not so complicated as it is usually formed by the same pattern: مَفاعِل.

Let us see some examples to understand it better:

pl. الْمَصْدَر الْمِيمِيّ plural الْمَصْدَر الأَصْلِيّ meaning root

مَضارّ

مَضَرّة

أَضْرار

ضَرَر

damage

ض رر

مَنافِع

مَنْفَعة

نَوافِع

نَفْع

benefit

ن ف ع

 

Excursus: What is a مَصْدَر?

The Arabic word مَصْدَر means source. It is the most basic, abstract meaning of the root.

In Arabic, a مَصْدَر is a noun (اِسْم) which is derived from a verb (فِعْل). It describes the action without giving you information about the time of the event, nor about the person who is doing the action. The corresponding English grammar term depends on the function of a مَصْدَر in an Arabic sentence. A مَصْدَر can function as averbal noun (noun of action), as an infinitive, etc. But don’t forget: A مَصْدَر is not a verb!

A مَصْدَر is a so called اِسْم مَعْنى; something, that is abstract, that has no colour, no size – but that is connected to an action, like writing, reading, swimming.

All the other nouns are called اِسْم ذات and can be recognized with your senses – you can see, smell, taste, hear them. For example: a river – نَهْر – ormountainجَبَل – or chair – كُرْسِيّ. These words can’t be a مَصْدَر.

A مَصْدَر doesn’t have a body, nor a concrete shape or form. How can you describe the word reading? You can’t say it is big, blue or loud. Every مَصْدَر needs a هَدَف (goal) and you can only grasp it with your mind.