Grammar: ma vs da infinitive
Why are there two infinitives and why you should care
What’s up with ma- and da-forms?
If you have had any exposure to learning Estonian, you have most certainly encountered the following problem:
kirjutama = "to write"
kirjutada = "to write"
Not helpful at all!
Two different words in Estonian mapping to the same word in English poses the immediate question:
When should you use which one?
Are they actually the same or are they different?
Both of these forms are called “infinitives” when describing language in general, which means they must have something in common.
If you only have 1 minute
The da-form is the plainest verb form with the smallest amount of meaning it.
It should be your default choice for when you need to express “to do”, “to drink”, etc in Estonian.
The ma-form is actually the “into” form of a word referring to “the act of X”, e.g. think of “lugema” as “into the act of reading”.
This meaning is strong not enough for the ma-form to stand on its own or govern a sentence.
Different contexts require linking verbs with either the ma-form or the da-form and you essentially need to learn over time which context requires which form.
However, if you have to guess, remember that the ma-form is actually the “into the act of X” form.
What is an infinitive?
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