In Tagalog, may and mayroon (shortened to meron in spoken
Tagalog) are used to indicate either possession or existence of something, while wala is the word used to indicate that one does not possess
something or that something or someone does not exist. However, their usage may be
different depending on the context.
To indicate possession of something inanimate, one has to use either may or mayroon. For example: Mayroon ka bang lapis? (Do you have a pencil?); May papel ka ba? (Do you have a paper?); May kotse ka ba? (Do you have a car?); May lapis at papel ako, pero wala akong kotse (I have a pencil and a paper, but I don't have a car).
May and mayroon could also indicate existence of something or someone. For example: Mayroon bang magluluto ngayon? (Is there someone who will cook today?); May magluluto ng agahan, pero wala sa tanghalian at hapunan (Someone will cook breakfast, but none for lunch and dinner); Mayroong kanin sa kaldero (There is rice in the pot); May saging sa mesa, pero walang baso ng tubig (There is a banana on the table, but there is no glass of water).
It must be noted that existence and presence in Tagalog use different markers, respectively. While existence uses may/mayroon, presence uses narito, nariyan, naroon. Wala is also used to indicate absence of something or someone.
For example: Narito na si Jose, pero wala pa si Mario (Jose is here already, but Mario is still not here); Wala sa kwarto niya si Maria (Maria is not in her room); Naroon sa bukid ang magsasaka (The farmer is over there in the field); Nariyan sa mesa ang libro mo (Your book is there on the table); Wala rito ang sapatos mo sa ilalim ng kama (Your shoe is not here under the bed); Naroon sa loob ng aparador ang damit mo (Your clothes are over there in the closet).
Tagalog speakers often use verbal enclitics with these markers in order to soften the "negativity" implied by statements where they are used. For example, instead of saying Wala akong pera (I don't have money) to someone who wants to borrow money, he can say Wala na akong pera (I ran out of money). The first statement creates an impression that the person simply does not want to lend money, while the second statement implies that he wants to lend money but that he simply ran out of it. The use of the enclitic na somehow softens the "rejection" or "negativity of the statement.
In another context, the use of enclitics with these markers could change the meaning of a statement, either in a more positive way or simply lessening the negative impact of the statement. For instance, if a person asks, Narito ba si Pedro? (Is Pedro here?), and the one being asked wants to cover for Pedro. Instead of saying Wala siya rito (He is not here), she can then either say Wala na siya rito (He already left) or Wala pa siya rito (He has not arrived yet). The use of na and pa alters sense of the original statement.
In Filipino culture, the first statement (Wala siya rito) creates an impression that the speaker is not too friendly, unaccommodating, or is antagonistic to the person who is asking about Pedro. It could also be interpreted as an evasive answer, with the speaker feigning innocence as to the whereabouts of Pedro. Thus, the enclitics na and pa significantly changes the meaning of the statement into a more positive tone.
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