I thought about this last night. There is a difference in meaning between "the mother is good" and "the good mother" in English. This is because you cannot assume the verb "to be" in English.
However, in Hebrew and other semitic languages (and Russian, too, I think), "To be" can be assumed in most cases. Which makes me wonder if there is any way to make a distinction between "the good mother" and "the mother is good".
Regardless, I think we need a native to confirm if there is a way to make the distinction. I'm going to keep making this mistake until I know the correct way to distinguish.
You're right, but in this case it's little bit different.
The word "אמא" is not Hebrew but Aramaic in origin. And the letter alef at the end ("imA") is the definite article in Aramaic. In other words, alef at the end of "אמא" makes this word already in the definite state ("the mother").
That's why - from the grammar point of view - "האמא" literally means "the the mother".
BUT it might be that this form is used in every day speech by Israelis. That's why it would be crucial to hear from a native here.
Not native but fluent. In Hebrew, אמא means "mom" or "mum" rather than "mother" - in other words it is informal. And although it has the Aramaic definite article א at the end, that is treated in Hebrew as part of the word, which is definite by its nature.
If you don't add the Hebrew definite article, the assumption is that you are speaking about your mom or the mom of the person you're talking to. If you do add the Hebrew definite article, you're likely talking about "the mom" which is a character in a story or someone else's mom.
And there's a difference between:
האם טובה The mother is good
And האמא טובה The mom is good
Just like there is in English in many dialects, where mom is more informal
(Native Hebrewer here) The long explanation by JayStanton is very good. A couple of comments:
It's true that אמא is less formal than אם, similarly to mom-mother, but the borderline is I think different from the English I know. In spoken Hebrew אם is no longer used at all except in some set phrases. So in many contexts "אמא" and "mother" would be the correct translations of one another.
Saying "אמא" and not "האמא" (and not "אמא של...") is indeed used for the speaker's or the interlocutor's own mother, but it's used only in very specific contexts:
i. Speaking to a small child, referring to his/her mother
ii. Spoken by a small child, referring to his/her mother
iii. Among siblings (of any age), referring their common mother
iv. Between a father and a child (of any age), referring to the child's mother
v. I'm not sure how it works in a family with two mothers.