Case Marker: Mā


You accidentally wake up from a long millennial coma and the first thing you ask is where all the good memes are. Times are hard, but it is essential to know where the good stuff is. To your relief, your friend tells you that they are at this awesome website named “<censored due to brand sponsorship policy>.com”, where you promptly find your fill for the day. But let’s reel back and ask ourselves how we ended up in the hospital in the first place. Maybe you got hit really hard by a baseball in the stadium? Or perhaps you were on a vacation when a crazy skater struck you from behind by the beach in the Bahamas? Or perhaps, you are reading this lesson in your free time and wondering how this introductory paragraph makes any sense to what will come. 

You see, we tend to describe things with actions and objects, but we also like to state where they happened. In order to do this, we use inonat etc in English. However, how do you do the same in Nepali? Certainly, there must be a way to point out the location in Nepali. मा () comes to your rescue! The quintessential word which looks very similar to what one would call their mother is your friendly locative case marker मा (mā), which tells you where an action took place.


स्तूप (stūpa) = Stupa; a type of Buddhist monument 
बौद्ध (bauddha) = Boudha; a place located in Kathmandu
मुर्ती (murtī) = Statue
कुना (kunā) = Corner
नयाँ वर्ष (nayām̐ varṣa) = New Year
प्रस्ताव (prastāv) = Offer
घटना (ghaṭnā) = Event
बजे (baje) = O’ clock
सोमबार (sombār) = Monday 
हरेक (harek) = Every
बिहान (bihān) = Morning
बगर (bagar) = Riverbank
हिँड्नु (him̐ḍnu) = To walk
खाट (khāṭ) = Bed
गाडी (gāḍī) = Vehicle
साईकल (sāīkal) = Bicycle
शहर (śahar) = City
घुम्नु (ghumnu) = To roam; To spin
बाघ (bāgh) = Tiger
शनिबार (śanibār) = Saturday
दोस्रो विश्वयुद्ध (dosro viśvayuddha) = Second World War   
सन् (san) = Common Era (CE); Anno Domini (AD)
स्याउ (syāu) = Apple


The primary function of मा () is to function as the locative marker. A locative marker is a marker which shows where the action took place. Sometimes, it also works to show the time, although not always. In this regard, it functions exactly like the prepositions in English inonat etc. Take the sentence for example:
I live in the USA
[subject + verb + preposition location]

In the sentence above, the place where the effect of the verb “living” applies is shown with the preposition in, indicating the location of the action. Likewise, in Nepali, we use the case marker मा () to do the same:
म अमेरिकामा बस्छु (ma amerikā-mā baschu)
= I live in (the) USA
[subject + location (+) -case marker + verb]

In many ways, the Nepali way is simpler than the English version simply because four prepositions inonat and by are replaced by a singular मा (), which simplifies our life greatly. 

Preposition “at”

As stated before, the case marker मा () functions like the preposition at, where it indicates a location:
यो स्तूप बौद्धमा छ (yo stūpa bauddha-mā cha)
= This temple is (located) at Boudha
[this + stupa + Boudha (+) -case marker + is]

मुर्ती कुनामा छ (murtī kunā-mā cha)
= (A) statue is at (the) corner
[statue + corner (+) -case marker + is]

Since it functions like at, it can also be used to describe the time, but this is rather complicated. In case of telling the exact time of action like how at is used, मा () is not used, whose use is only reserved for wider time gaps (like festivals and seasons) than narrow specific intervals (like the current time):
नयाँ वर्षमा नयाँ प्रस्ताव (nayām̐ varṣa-mā nayām̐ prastāv)
= New offer at New Year
[new + year (+) -case marker + new + offer]

When I said it cannot be used for the current time, I meant something like this:
घटना ४ बजे हुन्छ (ghaṭnā cār baje huncha)
= Event happens (at) 4 o’ clock [note the lack of मा ()]

घटना सोमबार हुन्छ (ghaṭnā sombār huncha)
= Event happens (at) Monday [also note the lack of मा ()]

I will talk about the temporal use of मा () later below, so hold on to this thought for now.

Preposition “by”

The case marker मा () also functions like the preposition by, where it indicates a location:
हरेक बिहान म बगरमा हिँड्छु (harek bihān ma bagar-mā him̐ḍchu)
= Every morning I walk by (the) riverbank
[every + morning + I + riverbank (+) -case marker + walk]

The use is a bit tricky, however. This is because by indicates a sense of proximity to something, while मा () often involves being at the location itself. This means, you have to often use qualifier words before the word so that the full sense of proximity can be conveyed. The most common way to say it is the following:
-को छेउमा … (-ko cheu-mā…)
= by (the) proximity of …

किताब खाटको छेउमा छ (kitāb khāṭ-ko cheu-mā cha)
= (The) book is by (the) proximity of (the) bed
=  (The) book is by (the) bed

Method of transport

Sometimes, the case marker मा () is used to show how a subject achieved transportation. Basically, मा () can also function as an instrument marker, but only when it is showing the method of transport (e.g. bus). This is an extension of the way how मा () functions like the preposition by:
म बौद्ध गाडीमा जान्छु (ma bauddha gāḍī-mā jānchu)
= I go (to) Boudha by (a) car
[I + Boudha + car (+) -case marker + go]

बेनेडिक्ट साईकलमा शहर घुम्छ (beneḍikṭ sāīkal-mā śahar ghumcha)
= Benedict roams (the) city by (riding a) bicycle
[Benedict + bicycle (+) -case marker + city + roams]

Preposition “in”

The case marker मा () also functions like the preposition in, where it indicates a location:
घरमा बाघ छ (ghar-mā bāgha cha)
= (There) is (a) tiger in (the) house
[house (+) -case marker + tiger + is] 

हजारमा एक (hajār-mā eka)
= One in (one) thousand
[(one) thousand (+) -case marker + one]

In this case, मा () can be used to indicate time, although it remains broadly general as far as the time frame goes:
म जुनमा किताब लेख्नेछु (ma jun-mā kitāb lekhnechu)
= I will write (a) book in June
[I + June (+) -case marker + book + will write]

As for specifics, there is none used:
ऊ बिहान उठ्छ (ū bihān uṭhcha)
= He wakes up (in the) morning [note the lack of मा ()]

Preposition “on”

The case marker मा () also functions like the preposition on, where it…surprise surprise…indicates a location:
कलम मेचमा छ (kalam mec-mā cha)
= (The) pen is on (the) chair
[pen + chair (+) -case marker + is]

म बसमा छु (ma bas-mā chu)
= I am on (a) bus
[I + bus (+) -case marker + am]

As stated before, मा () is not really used as a temporal case marker so in cases where an on would be used for time, there is often none in Nepali:
म तिमीलाई शनिबार भेट्छु (ma timī-lāī śanibār bheṭchu)
= I (will) meet you (on) Saturday [note the lack of मा ()]


The secondary function of मा () is to function as the temporal marker. A temporal marker is a marker which shows when the action took place. This use is rather limited, and there are many cases where you do not use a मा (), where you would use a preposition in English.

With seasons, years, months 

You normally use मा () when you talk of an event happening in the given year, month or season. For example:
जुनमा पानी पर्छ (jun-mā pānī parcha)
= Rain falls on June
[June (+) -case marker + rain + falls]

दोस्रो विश्वयुद्ध ‍सन् १९३९मा सुरु भएको हो (dosro viśvayuddha ‍san unnāis say unancālis-mā suru bhaeko ho)
= (The) Second World War was started on 1939 CE
[Second + World + War + CE + 1939 (+) -case marker + started + perfect participle + was*] [*= literally is, but the context plays a role here]

जाडोमा हिउँ पर्छ (jāḍo-mā hium̐ parcha)
= Snow falls on winter (season)
[winter (+) -case marker + snow + falls]

With duration

When you talk of a specific duration by which an action happens or must occur, usually with a limit, then you use मा (). For example:
म  मिनटमा आउँछु (ma duī minaṭ-mā āum̐chu)
= I (will) come in 2 minute(s)
[I + 2 + minute (+) -case marker + come]

This type is usually accompanied by the qualifiers hour(s), minute(s) etc., basically the time you want to specify:
३ महिनामा जाडो महिना सकिन्छ (tīn mahinā-mā jāḍo mahinā sakincha)
= Cold month ends in three month(s) 
= Winter ends in three months
[3 + month (+) -case marker + cold + month + ends]

Not with the exact time

You do not use मा () when the exact time is involved. For example:
म ५ बजे आउँछु (ma pām̐c baje āum̐chu)
= I (will) come at 5 o’ clock [no मा ()]

म सोमबार आउँछु (ma somabār āum̐chu)
= I (will) come at Monday [no मा ()]


In a very niche use, मा () can be used to show the price at which you bought or sold something. In this case, मा () works like the preposition for:
बेनेडिक्टले स्याउ १ डलरमा किन्यो (beneḍikṭ-le syāu ek ḍalar-mā kinyo)
= Benedict bought (an) apple for 1 dollar
[Benedict (+) le-case marker + apple + 1 + dollar (+) -case marker + bought]

मलाई कतिमा दिन्छौ? (ma-lāī kati-mā dinchau)
How much (will) you give me (this) for?
[me + how much(+) -case marker + give]


  • The primary function of मा () is to function as the locative marker.
  • locative marker is a marker which shows where the action took place.
  • The case marker मा () functions like the preposition atbyin and on
  • मा () can also function as an instrument marker, but only when it is showing the method of transport (e.g. bus)
  • The secondary function of मा () is to function as the temporal marker.
  • temporal marker is a marker which shows when the action took place.


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