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Lesson 14: The Question of "When?"

In the previous lesson, I have sufficiently covered time expressions in Burmese. But, you still need to know how to put those words in the form of questions or answers. Burmese question word "when" can be either in the past tense or the future tense. The question of "when" in the past can be a bit more tricky than "when" in the future, so we will spend more time discussing about it. But, first we will start with "when" in the future, which is simple, and yet quite useful.

When will you come?

beare2-dau1 la2 ma1-leare3When will you (or someone) come ?

When will you come?

The word dau1 in combination with beare2 means when in the future. The format of this question goes like this:

beare2-dau1 xxxx ma1-leare3,

where you substitute xxxx with the verb of your choice.

beare2-dau1 ya1 ma1-leare3When will it be ready?

beare2-dau1 yout ma1-leare3When will they arrive (or) When will we reach there?

beare2-dau1 thwa3 ma1-leare3When will you go?

beare2-dau1 thwa3 ja1 ma1-leare3When will you or we go? (when + go + plural + "at" + ?)

You can further clarify your question by adding the subject in front of beare2-dau1.

thu2-doh1 beare2-dau1 la2 ja1 ma1-leare3

When will they come? (they + when will + come + plural + "at" + ?)

lay2-yin2 beare2-dau1 hsite ma1-leare3

When will the plane land? (plane + when will + arrival of aircrafts and ships + ?)

When was that?

The Burmese phrase

beare2-dome3 ga1 leare3

is a loose term that covers a wide range of possible questions based on the context of the conversation: "When was that?", "When did it happen?", "When did you do it?", "When did she come?", and so on.

First Person: I've already bought it.

Second Person:

beare2-dome3 ga1 leare3

When was that? When did you buy it?

We have already seen the word beare2 before. It is used in the question "where" and "how".

Both the words dome3 and ga1 indicate the time of action, the time something happened, or the time of existence in the past, and in combination with beare2, it forms the question word "when" in the past tense. To be more precise, dome3 is equivalent to "while" in English.

If you are the one to start the conversation, you need to be more specific in asking the question, "When did you buy this?"

da2 — this

beare2-dome3 ga1 — when was that?

weare2 — buy

da2 — modifies the verb "buy" to noun "that object you bought" and points to that object

leare3 — ?

da2 beare2-dome3 ga1 weare2 da2 leare3When did you buy this?

The formula

xxxx + beare2-dome3 ga1 + yyyy + zzzz (optional) + da2 leare3


xxxx is the pronoun such as "it", "that", "he", "they" or noun such as plane, train, name of someone.

beare2-dome3 ga1 — when was that?

yyyy is the action word (verb) such as "buy", "sell", "come", "go", "do"

zzzz is a particle which changes the sentence into past tense

da2 — points the question to the object

leare3 — ?

xxxx List

da2 — this

eare1 da2 — that

de2 ha2 — this (object)

thu2 — he, she

thu2 doh1 — they, them, their

yyyy List

weare2 — buy

youn3 — sell

pyan2 thwa3 — go back

la2 — come

loat — do

Please refer to lesson 7 for a longer list of verbs.

zzzz List

thwa3 — means "go"; it is used as a particle in Myanmar grammar (comparable to auxiliary verb in English) to show the change of state to mean "come and go", "take and go", "return", "do and go", etc.. It changes the sentence into past tense.

hta3 — means "put"; it is a particle where the result of the action on the object in the past still can be seen such as, "bought and put something somewhere", "made and put something somewhere".

nay2 — an action is still ongoing; unchanged state. Unlike the hta3, it refers to people, not passive objects.

pfu3 — particle to mean, "have done before", "have been before", or "have gone through before" in the past.

zzzz is optional when the situation doesn't fall into the above categories.

Example 14.1

thu2 — he (pronoun)

beare2-dome3 ga1 — when was that? (pronoun)

la2 — come (verb)

thwa3 — go (particle changes the sentence into past tense)

da2 — points to "he" who came and left (particle)

leare3 — ? (particle)

thu2 beare2-dome3 ga1 la2 thwa3 da2 leare3When did he come? (and left.)

Possible Answers:

ma1-nay1 dome3 ga1Yesterday. (yesterday + while + at that time)

ma1-nay1 dome3 ga1 ba2Yesterday. (more polite with "ba2" ending)

ma1-nay1 dome3 ga1 la2 thwa3 da2 ba2

Yesterday was the day he came. (yesterday + while + at that time + come + past tense + that is + polite word)

Example 14.2

thu2 doh1 — they

beare2-dome3 ga1 — when was that?

yout — arrive

nay2 — particle to show ongoing activity

ja1 — modifies the verb "yout" to plural to indicate more than one person.

da2 — points to "they" who arrived and still here.

leare3 — ?

thu2 doh1 beare2-dome3 ga1 yout nay2 ja1 da2 leare3When did they arrive (and still here?)

Possible Answers:

ma1-net dome3 ga1This morning. (this morning + while + at that time)

ma1-net dome3 ga1 ba2This morning. (with polite tone "ba2")

ma1-net ga1-deare3 ga1 ba2

Since this morning. (this morning + since that time + polite word )

ma1-net ga1-deare3 ga1 yout nay2 ja1 da2 ba2

They have been here since this morning.

(morning + since that time + arrive + stay + plural + that is + polite word)

Example 14.3

Let's revisit the phrase, "When did you buy this?" mentioned above. If the object is still there and can be seen, you can substitute hta3 in place of zzzz.

da2 — this

beare2-dome3 ga1 — when was that?

weare2 — buy

hta3 — put

da2 — points to the object that was bought

leare3 — ?

da2 beare2-dome3 ga1 weare2 hta3 da2 leare3

When did you buy this (and placed it here?)

Possible Answers:

ma1-hnit dome3 ga1Last year. (last year + while + at that time)

ma1-hnit dome3 ga1 ba2Last year. (more polite)

ma1-hnit ga1-deare3 ga1 ba2

Since last year. (last year + since that time + polite word)

ma1-hnit — last year

ga1-deare3 ga1 — since that time

weare2 — buy

hta3 — and keep

da2 — points to the object that was bought and kept

ba2 — polite ending word

ma1-hnit ga1-deare3 ga1 weare2 hta3 da2 ba2

I bought it since last year [and keep it here.]

(last year + since that time + buy + stay + that is + polite word)

Example 14.4

As we have seen in lesson 4, there are many ways to say "you" in Burmese. Here's one.

kha1-mya3 — You (business style)

beare2-dome3 ga1 — when was that?

yout — to reach; to arrive

pfu3have gone through before

da2 — points to the time you have reached

leare3 — ?

kha1-mya3 beare2-dome3 ga1 yout pfu3 da2 leare3

When was it that you have been there? When have you visited the place before?

Possible Answers:

ma1-hnit dome3 ga1Last year. (last year + while + at that time)

ma1-hnit dome3 ga1 ba2Last year was the time.(more polite)

Time is very fascinating. I am in my present time as I am typing this. I can imagine that there will be you in the future who will be reading it.

beare2-dau1 leare3.

I can't say when. But, by the time you are reading this, I at this moment will be well in the past.

beare2-dome3 ga1 leare3.

We will just have to search for the answers somewhere in time.