x'

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Maltese[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

  • xi (used before a consonant cluster; also a related but distinct word)

Etymology[edit]

Contraction of earlier *iex (compare the reduplicated form xiex), from Arabic أَيّ شَيْء(ʾayy šayʾ, what thing), whence also Moroccan Arabic آش(āš), Hijazi Arabic إيش(ēš), Iraqi Arabic -شِ(šə).

Pronunciation[edit]

Pronoun[edit]

x'

  1. (interrogative) what

Usage notes[edit]

Maltese uses several interrelated words for English what, which may be confusing:

  • X' is used before a verb: X'għamilt? (What did you do?). It becomes xi when the verb starts with a consonant cluster: Xi smajt? (What did you hear?). It is usually the object, but it can be the subject when the context is clear: X'jagħmlek kuntent? (What makes you happy?).
  • Xiex is used after a verb, where it is always the object: Għamilt xiex? (You did what?). It is also used in isolation and after a preposition: Xiex? Huwa t-tmiem ta' xiex? (What? It's the end of what?).
  • X'inhu is used chiefly in nominal sentences: X'inhu l-ingredjent sigriet? (What's the secret ingredient?) It has an extended form x'inhuwa, and it inflects for agreement: x'inhi, x'inhija in the feminine singular, x'inhuma in the plural. For example: X'inhi l-imħabba? (What is love?). It can also be used as the object of a verb, in which case the agreement is with the verb: X'inhuma jagħmlu? (What are they doing?). Ultimately, all of these words are merely special phonetic forms for x' followed by a third-person personal pronoun (thus x'inhuma instead of *x'huma, etc.).
  • As the subject of a verb, the form x'inhu li may be used alongside x', literally “what is it that” (compare French qu'est-ce qui). For example: X'inhu li jagħmlek kuntent? (see above).

See also[edit]