A commonly used Japanese word is まま (mama). But not too many books or courses teach what it means. So I figured I’d fill in the gap. What does MAMA mean in Japanese? I’ve got four answers for you!
To know which usage of the word is the one you are looking for, check out each example sentence first, then read the explanation underneath it that breaks down the usage of the word, and then see if that makes sense for you.
The first one is super easy. Let’s get started!
What Does MAMA Mean When Spelled as ママ?
Take a look at the following sentence:
- I helped Mommy in the kitchen.
daidokoro de mama no otetsudai o shita no.
It’s definitely not a common way to say it, as it has a childlike feel to it. Kind of like how in English you are much more likely to hear mom or mother, rather than mama, mommy, and the like.
And in case you were wondering, yes there is パパ (papa) for daddy, papa, and so on.
How to Use mama When You Do Things
Here’s something you might say about yourself if you watch horror movies all the time:
- I sleep with the lights on.
watashi wa denki o tsuketa mama neru.
This usage of まま (mama) shows that you first do one action, and then while you are in that unchanging state, you perform another action.
So in the above example, the 「電気をつけたまま」 part says “I turned on the light, and while I am in this state of the light being on…” and then the second verb comes into the sentence 「寝る」 which means “I sleep.”
So the pattern looks like this: Verb in its plain past tense + まま + A different verb in any tense
Let me give you a couple more examples to really help show you how this works:
- She drank wine standing up.
kanojo wa tatta mama wain o nomimashita.
- He eats dinner with his hat on.
kare wa boushi o kabutta mama bangohan o taberu.
So just to clarify it one final time, first he put a hat on (this is indicated) and then while wearing the hat –> 帽子をかぶったまま, he eats dinner –> 晩ご飯を食べる.
まま tells you that this first “state of being” remains in place while another action happens.
Okay, I think you get the idea. Let’s continue.
What Does MAMA Mean When Anime Characters Yell it?
If you’ve watched a lot of the action genre anime, you’ve no doubt heard people yelling about まま (mama) before. Are they yelling for their mommy? Probably not, lol. Here’s another common usage for まま:
- If this continues, we’re in trouble!
kono mama ja, abunai yo!
When used in this way, the word まま (mama) in Japanese basically means something along the lines of situation, state, condition, etc. It works as a placeholder word for what is happening at a particular point in time.
Here’s a couple of examples of it being used at the beginning of a sentence to reference a situation that all listeners are already aware of:
- At this rate…
kono mama de wa…
- If you keep on like this…
kono mama iku to…
You will have noticed that each time まま (mama) is used like this it is preceeded by この (kono) for this in Japanese. You can of course swap it out for その (sono) which is that in Japanese.
- このまま = This situation
- そのまま = That situation
- That way (of doing it) is not going to work.
sono mama ja dame da.
Many times when someone in an anime yells about このまま, the English subtitles just translate it as “this.” I think it’s because saying things like “This is bad!” sounds a lot more natural in English than “This situation is bad!” even though they both mean the same thing.
And even though it is most commonly seen written in Hiragana as まま, there is a kanji for it as well: 儘
When Does MAMA = It’s Okay I Guess…?
Sometimes you’ll be trying out your friends cooking, or reading a book that they are writing, and unfortunately it will be crap.
Hey, we all gotta’ start somewhere, right?
If you want to be honest about it, but also kind of gentle so you don’t hurt their feelings, you can use the word まま (mama).
In situations like these, where you are asked what you think of something, you can reply:
- Hmm, it’s okay I guess…
uun, mama desu.
In this case, まま means Okay, but with a negative connotation.
Usually it sounds like the あ part of ま is slightly elongated when they say it. Kind of like “maa maa desu.”
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: