When to use the particle 嘛 ("ma")?

July 20, 2009, 02:14 PM posted in General Discussion

Hi guys! I'm only 15 and a Newbie here so please bare with me ^.^

I know when you ask a question, you use the "ma" particle but are they interchangeable with a question mark or do you only use one or the other? I mean, you wouldn't use both at the end of the sentence, would you? I just wondered because I see some Chinese sentences which use question marks and some that use "ma". Is there a "correct" one to use or does it not matter too much?

Thanks ^.^

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July 20, 2009, 02:29 PM


what's up ?

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July 20, 2009, 02:59 PM

谢谢! ^.^

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July 20, 2009, 03:03 PM

I think I get it now. You write 嘛 and "?" but because you can't say punctuation marks you say 嘛 instead.

Hey hebkkun! 你好禡?

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July 20, 2009, 03:21 PM

No no... first of all, the above "ma"s should all be

吗(or traditional: 嗎)

Second of all, in Chinese grammar, speaking or writing the 吗 must be used for questions UNLESS the main verb is said in a positive-negative form.


Example, for "Are you well?":




Both are either said or written like this, you must have the 吗 in the first example, and a question mark of course used in the written.  The reason you sometimes don't see 吗 is because of the second example, in which one is asking "Are you well or not well?"

I'm sure there is much more written on this in the grammar guide.


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July 20, 2009, 03:22 PM

Hi plzholdtheline2

I guess you mean this caracter: 吗/嗎 (simpl./trad.). Many examples here: http://www.nciku.com/search/zh/detail/%E5%90%97/26240

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July 20, 2009, 03:39 PM

Oh yeah, thanks guys :) That's what I meant. I was getting confused between the simplified and traditional as I originally started to learn Cantonese/Traditional Chinese but I found the many tones and complicated characters just too challenging. :( So now I'm learning Mandarin which is far easier! Besides, I have a friend at school who's a boarder and she's a native Chinese so I get help from her now about Mandarin :) But she's in China for the summer at the moment so I can't really ask her many things :( 

But thanks guys, I'm still getting the hang of everything!  :)

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July 21, 2009, 03:26 AM

嘛 is different from from 吗,for “嘛”,

1. (used to persuade sb. to do sth.) | Lái ∼, bùyào tài rènxìng. 来嘛,不要太任性。 Come on, don't be so stubborn.

2. (used to emphasize the obvious) | Shì xīngqīrì ∼. 是星期日嘛。 Bàngōngshì dāngrán guān le. It's Sunday. Of course offices are closed.

3. 吗/嘛/么[嗎/-/麼] ¹má pr. 〈coll.〉 What? | Jīnr xiàwǔ gàn∼? 今儿下午干嘛/吗/么?What will we do this afternoon?

For "吗", 1. (calling for agreement or disagreement) | Nǐ xìn tā ∼? Do you believe him?

2. 吗/嘛/么[嗎/-/麼] What? | Jīnr xiàwǔ gàn∼? 今儿下午干嘛/吗/么?What will we do this afternoon?