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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 leare3 -- When 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 yah1 ma1 leare3 -- When will it be ready ?

beare2-dau1 yout ma1 leare3 -- When will they arrive (or) When will we reach there?

beare2-dau1 thwa3 ma1 leare3 -- When will you go ?

beare2-dau1 thwa3 ja1 ma1 leare3 -- When 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-gah1 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-gah1 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 gah1 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-gah1 -- when was that?
weare2 -- buy
ta2 -- modifies the verb "buy" to noun "that object you bought" and points to that object
leare3 -- ?

da2 beare2-dome3-gah1 weare2 ta2 leare3 -- When did you buy this?

The formula

xxxx + beare2-dome3-gah1 + yyyy + zzzz (optional) + ta2 leare3


xxxx is the pronoun such as "it", "that", "he", "they" or noun such as plane, train, name of someone.
beare2-dome3-gah1 -- 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
ta2 -- 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-gah1 -- when was that? (pronoun)
la2 -- come (verb)
thwa3 -- go (particle changes the sentence into past tense)
ta2 -- points to "he" who came and left (particle)
leare3 -- ? (particle)

thu2 beare2-dome3-gah1 la2 thwa3 ta2 leare3 -- When did he come? (and left.)

Possible Answers:

ma1-nay1 dome3-gah1 -- Yesterday. (yesterday + while + at that time)

ma1-nay1 dome3-gah1 ba2 -- Yesterday. (more polite with "ba2" ending)

ma1-nay1 dome3-gah1 la2 thwa3 ta2 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-gah1 -- when was that?
yout -- arrive
nay2 -- particle to show ongoing activity
ja1 -- modifies the verb "yout" to plural to indicate more than one person.
ta2 -- points to "they" who arrived and still here.
leare3 -- ?

thu2-doh1 beare2-dome3-gah1 yout nay2 ja1 ta2 leare3 -- When did they arrive (and still here?)

Possible Answers:

ma1-net dome3-gah1 -- This morning. (this morning + while + at that time)

ma1-net dome3-gah1 ba2 -- This morning. (with polite tone "ba2")

ma1-net ga1-deare3-gah1 ba2 -- Since this morning. (this morning + since that time + polite word )

ma1-net ga1-deare3-gah1 yout nay2 ja1 ta2 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-gah1 -- when was that?
weare2 -- buy
hta3 -- put
ta2 -- points to the object that was bought
leare3 -- ?

da2 beare2-dome3-gah1 weare2 hta3 ta2 leare3 -- When did you buy this (and placed it here?)

Possible Answers:

ma1-hnit dome3-gah1 -- Last year. (last year + while + at that time)

ma1-hnit dome3-gah1 ba2 -- Last year. (more polite)

ma1-hnit ga1-deare3-gah1 ba2 -- Since last year. (last year + since that time + polite word)

ma1-hnit -- last year
ga1-deare3-gah1 -- since that time
weare2 -- buy
hta3 -- and keep
ta2 -- points to the object that was bought and kept
ba2 -- polite ending word

ma1-hnit ga1-deare3-gah1 weare2 hta3 ta2 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-gah1 -- when was that?
yout -- to reach; to arrive

pfu3 -- have gone through before
ta2 -- points to the time you have reached
leare3 -- ?

kha1-mya3 beare2-dome3-gah1 yout pfu3 ta2 leare3 -- When was it that you have been there? When have you visited the place before?

Possible Answers:

ma1-hnit dome3-gah1 -- Last year. (last year + while + at that time)

ma1-hnit dome3-gah1 ba2 -- Last 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-gah1 leare3. We will just have to search for the answers somewhere in time.