An Indefinite Noun Followed by ما


root: ن-ك-ر / noun / definition: indefinite noun

It doesn’t feel like we’ve had a grammar explanations post in a while—perhaps because the last two were focused on less-discussed verb forms (interesting stuff for fellow grammar nerds) rather than syntactic structures.

So today, we’re going to look at what effect ما has on an indefinite noun in a particular formula.

If you read Small but Useful Arabic Phrases That You Need To Know, then you might remember the phrase لِدَرَجةٍ ما (“to a certain degree”).

I also gave the following examples in that post:

  • لِسَبَبٍ ما = “for some reason”
  • في مُجتَمَعٍ ما = “in a given society”

Notice how they all comprise an indefinite noun (درجة، سبب، مجتمع) followed by ما.

This construction (indefinite + ما) can often be translated as “a certain/given” or “some“.

(For those interested in the precise grammar here, ما is used as a relative pronoun in apposition (بدل) with the indefinite noun. This basically means that ما and the noun are referring to the same thing, and ما is specifying the noun.)

Here’s some more examples, from the Hans Wehr and this grammar book:

  • لِأَمرٍ ما = “for some reason or other”
  • لِحَدٍّ ما = “to a certain extent”
  • يَوماً ما = “someday, sometime in the future”
  • بَلَدٌ ما = “a given country”
  • نَوعاً ما = “somewhat”

A great way to solidify pieces of knowledge like this is to look out for examples in any materials you’re reading or listening to. Not to mention using them in your own writing!

You can check out the posts in the small but useful phrases series here if you want to expand your lexicon and boost your fluency. The posts also contain a Quizlet link where you can revise all of the terms.

That’s all for now, I hope this was useful!

!مع السلامة

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