Difference between mama and lalaki

Discussion in 'Tagalog and Filipino Languages' started by rockjon, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. rockjon Senior Member

    I've been living in the Philippines for quite some time. However, the one question no one has been able to answer for me so far is what's the difference between mama (not meaning mother in this case) and lalaki? I know both refer to a person as guy or man. However, I haven't figured out what's the exact difference in usage. For the most part, I noticed that mama isn't used that often and it seems to be used in cases where you don't know the man that well.
  2. DotterKat Moderator

    California, USA
    English (American)
    Generally speaking, they are interchangeable with perhaps the caveat that lalaki is a more technical (and hence more formal) term for a male person than mama. The more important difference is which word to use when speaking directly to the male subject involved, particularly when that person is a stranger. In such a case, you would use mama. For example:

    Mama, pwede bang magtanong? roughly: Hey guy, can I ask you a question --- you would not say Lalaki, pwede bang magtanong? (Man/Male can I ask you something --- although Man, can I ask you something? sounds right in English, it doesn't in Tagalog).
    Para, mama (when requesting a jeepney or bus driver to stop) --- you would not say Para, lalaki.

    Again, in both sentences above you use mama because you are speaking directly to a male subject who is also a stranger. However, as always there will be exceptions. You can use lalaki in direct reference to the male subject for some dramatic effect:

    Hoy, lalaki, anong ginagawa mo dito?
    Hoy, lalaki, bakit ngayon ka lang umuwi?

    Both sentences above use the more technical term lalaki in direct communication with the male subject involved who usually would not be a stranger to the speaker. Also, the tone is quite confrontational and the usage of lalaki lends a more dramatic effect.

    When a male person refers to himself, he would use lalaki and not mama:

    Ako ay lalaki (not Ako ay mama).

    When referring to someone in the third person (singular or plural), mama and lalaki are generally interchangeable:

    Nagpunta yung (mga) mama / (mga) lalaki sa tindahan.

    Take all of the above as general rules as there will be exceptions especially with regard to very informal speech or in the opposite extreme, creative writing.
  3. Pretty_Gaella

    Pretty_Gaella Member

    Naga City, Bicol, Philippines
    Filipino, English & Spanish
    Everything mentioned by Dotterkat above are totally correct..
    I just want to add that there are times we used mama colloquially.

    Here is my example:
    Tingnan mo ang batang lalaking naka asul, parang mama na kung kumilos.
    Look at that boy in blue, he acts like a grown up.

    Ngumiti tayong lahat!
    Let Smile everyone:)

  4. SavvyFilipino

    SavvyFilipino New Member

    "Filipino" "English"
    Lalaki would translate to a man in English. It would refer to a man with the main focus of his sex, not the age or what not.

    Lalaki ka ba?
    -Are you a boy?

    May nakita akong lalaki na dumaan sa likod mo.
    -I saw a man walking behind you.

    "Mama" is a term we use to call the attention of a stranger. Of course it has to be a man or else you would call it "Ale" which is the equivalent for a woman.

    Mama, para po.
    -Mama, stop please.

    In this sentence, you were talking to a stranger. You didn't use Lalaki because you are not talking about the gender of the person, or talking about men in general. You are merely using Mama just because you don't know his name plus he's probably middle aged for you to call him that.

    Just think of it this way. Mama is always a Lalaki. But Lalaki is not always a Mama. Lalaki can refer to a young boy, but never Mama.
  5. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    Mama' not mama. or just say Ma'.The formal form for mama' is Kuya.
  6. go_neybee New Member

    Mama' and Ali are used exclusively for adults.

    Mama' and Ali are used commonly for strangers, but not exclusively.

    Mama' and Ali can also be used like the English Mr. and Mrs./Ms., for example: Mang Jose (Mang is shortened "Mamang") and Aling Maria.

    You don't call a kid named "Totoy" "Mang Totoy" though.
  7. jorgepson New Member

    English - American
    Nice interaction. Mama sometimes refers to strangers or sometimes mama refers to a strong guy. Lalaki is a just a normal person.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2013

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