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External ResourcesEdit

Language Transfer podcast

https://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearning/wiki/index#wiki_swahili

INTRODUCTIONEdit

PronunciationEdit

Kiswahili pronunciation is, for the most part, easy for a learner whose first language is English. The language has a five vowel system represented by the letter, a, e, i, o, and u, (like Spanish), and most of its consonants are quite similar to English ones. The following points need to be kept in mind when learning Kiswahili pronunciation:

Kiswahili words are stressed. With a few notable exceptions, stress is placed on the next-to-last (penultimate) syllable, e.g. bába father, káka brother etc. The exceptions are: lázima necessary, obligation; núsura almost, etc. (The accent ‘used here to indicate stress.)

Kiswahili vowels are pronounced as follows:

The letter a is approximately pronounced as in English father, e.g. baba-father

The letter e is approximately pronounced as in English debt, e.g. nene-fat

The letter i is approximately pronounced as in English bee, e.g. bibi-grandmother

The letter o is approximately pronounced as in English row, e.g. mtoto-child

The letter u is approximately pronounced as in English moon, e.g. bubu-dumb person

All vowels are pronounced clearly and distinctly regardless of the position of the vowel in a word. They are never pronounced reduced (i.e schwa) as the second vowel in water and butter.

Double vowels as in kaa, baa, taa, etc. are pronounced long. Dissimilar vowels as in pea, paua, zuia, etc. are pronounced distinctly as separate syllables; they are not pronounced like a sequence of two vowels one blending into the other as the English diphthong which is considered to form a single syllable.

Kiswahili consonants are pronounced as follows:

p, t, ch, k are pronounced as in English pea, tea, cheer, keep respectively, Examples are: paa-roof, taa-lamp, choo-toilet, kaa-crab

b, d, j, g are pronounced as in English big, dig, jog, give respectively. Examples are: baa-bar, dada-sister, jaa-fill, gugu-weed

m, n, are pronounced as in English. Examples are: mama-mother, nane-eight

ng’ is pronounced like ng in long, bring, sing. Examples are: ng’aa-shine, ng’ombe-cow, ng’amua-realize

ny is pronounced as ni as in the word onion. Examples are: nyanya-tomatoes, nyinyi-you all, manyunyu-drizzle

nj is pronounced like the nge sound in the word fringe. Examples are: njano-yellow, njegere-peas

th, dh are pronounced as English th in thick and this, respectively, Examples are: thelathini-thirty, dhambi-sin

s, z are pronounced as English. Examples are: saa-time, watch, clock, zaa-give birth

sh is pronounced as in English she. Examples: shangaa-be surprised, shinda-win

h is pronounced as in English he. Examples are habari-news, information

f, v are pronounced like the initial sounds in the English words fail, veil respectively, Examples are: faa-be of use, vaa-wear, dress (cloth)

r, l, w, y are pronounced as the initial sounds in the English words; rain, lawyer, way, yes, respectively. Examples are: radi-thunder, lala-sleep, wewe-you (singular), yeye-s/he.

gh is pronounced in the same position in the mouth as English g in go but with friction. Examples are ghali-expensive, ghafla-suddenly

Personal PronounsEdit

Personal pronouns and demonstratives vary according to the noun class of the word they refer to.

Swahili Pronoun English Pronoun
Mimi I/Me
Wewe You
Yeye He/She (Him/Her)
Sisi We/Us
Ninyi You (pl)
Wao They/Them

NOTE: Sometimes, you might see the second person plural written as Nyinyi, but for this course, you will see Ninyi used.

“To Be”Edit

To express the concept of “being” in the present, the particles ni (positive) and si (negative) are used as shown in the following chart:

SINGULAR
Pronoun Particle Noun
Mimi/Wewe/Yeye ni Mtanzania/Mmarekani/Mkenya
I/You/He or She am/are/is (a/an) Tanzanian/American/Kenyan
Mimi/Wewe/Yeye Mtanzania/Mmarekani/Mkenya
I/You/He or She am/are/is not (a/an) Tanzanian/American/Kenyan
PLURAL
Pronoun Particle Noun
Sisi/Ninyi/Wao ni Watanzania/Wamarekani/Wakenya
We/You (pl)/They are Tanzanians/Americans/Kenyans
Sisi/Ninyi/Wao Watanzania/Wamarekani/Wakenya
We/You (pl)/They Tanzanians/Americans/Kenyans

GREETINGS 1&2Edit

  • It is customary in Tanzanian culture to exchange greetings before engaging in a conversation or in any other activities, which is why ‘Greetings’ is one of the first skills of the Swahili course.
  • Hand shaking is used a lot. In some areas of Tanzania people kneel down or bow, or bend down a little as a sign of respect, children bow their heads for a blessing from elders. In other areas elders bow their heads for a touch from children when being greeted.
  • People take greetings seriously as they help to maintain good relationships.
  • The word habari literally means news, but it is often used to ask How is ---?.
  • Some Tanzanians use the greeting Jambo when greeting foreigners. In most cases Jambo is considered to be a touristic greeting. Generally foreigners are associated with tourists and for that matter this greeting is commonly used with foreigners.
  • When using the forms of -jambo, negative prefixes will be used (such as asking, Hujambo?). This can be translated as a way to say Hello! or How are you?. More about this will be explained in later lessons, but for now, just remember that Jambo is technically used for tourists only.
  • To a friend/colleague, one can say Mambo? or Salama? or Vipi?, but not to an elder or to a senior person. These phrases are slang for Hello.
  • Articles "a", "the", and "some" are not used in Swahili. One can say "mtoto" meaning "a" or "the" child.

Normally older people or those considered to be of higher status are greeted first. In most cases titles would accompany the greetings Shikamoo mwalimu (teacher), mzee (old person), babu (grandfather), kaka (brother), dada (sister) etc. Shikamoo literally translates to may I hold your feet, a greeting with Islamic roots. We can simply translate this as Hello, or I respect you. The literal translation can be a bit strange! Similarly, the response to shikamoo, marahaba, literally means I accept. However, that can also be awkward. In this course, we've tried to come up with an acceptable translation. Generally for Africans, the term family refers to all family and extended relatives, i.e siblings, uncles, aunties, cousins, nephew, nieces, grand fathers and mothers etc. Family relationships take precedence over age: e.g. a stepmother, even if younger than you, will get the same respect as your mother. Close family friends are treated and referred to as if they are relatives. In East African, and especially Tanzanian, culture, it is very common to ask and be asked about family affairs, marital status and age, even when greeting new people.

PEOPLEEdit

Noun Classes: M- WA- Noun Class Edit

In Swahili, nouns are grouped according to different classes. These classes have different agreements and grammatical structures in common with very few exceptions. Although learning the different rules of the noun classes can seem daunting, the patterns that each class follow become easily recognizable and mastery over noun classes will set your Swahili apart from a casual learner.

Most nouns referring to humans, animals, and insects fall into the M- WA- noun class because they take the m- prefix in the singular and the wa- prefix in the plural. For example, the word parent(s) is mzazi or wazazi. This is also generally true for adjective stems, and although we will introduce some adjectives here, we will cover adjective stems later in the course in more detail. Unlike Romance languages and others with gendered nouns, Swahili does not have gendered nouns and that distinction is only made through using adjectives.

However, it is important to note that many kinship nouns and almost all animal nouns do not take those prefixes.

Plural Suffix -ni Edit

There are certain words, like karibu, asante, shikamoo, or kwa heri that, when used to address more than one person, take the suffix -ni to indicate plural references. So, saying asante, or thank you, to a group of people would be asanteni. When adding syllables to the end of words, the stress still goes on the penultimate syllable once the addition is made, not the original syllable where the stress once was.

Possessive Pronouns Edit

The following chart shows personal pronouns for singular and plural. These act as vowel stem adjectives and must take different agreements depending on the noun class.

Singular Translation Plural Translation
angu my/mine etu our/ours
ako your/yours enu your/yours (pl.)
ake his/her ao their/theirs

For the M- WA- noun class, the prefix w- is used for both singular AND plural possessive pronouns. For example, my child will be mtoto wangu and my children* will be watoto wangu**.

  • Note: The exceptions to this rule are certain kinship nouns that come from Arabic: baba, mama, bibi, babu, shangazi, binamu, rafiki, dada, kaka, etc. These nouns take the y- agreement in the singular and the z- agreement in the plural.
  • Accordingly, my sister will be dada yangu whereas my sisters will be dada zangu.

-a of association Edit

There is a prepositional element in Swahili that is the equivalent of saying of. It follows agreement patterns based on the noun class as well. All nouns, including the Arabic kinship nouns, in the M- WA- noun class take the agreement prefix w- for the “-a of association.” In a way, this linguistic element acts as a way to attach an adjective. See below:

Singular Example Translation Plural Example Translation
Mwalimu wa Kiswahili Teacher of Swahili – Swahili Teacher Walimu waKiswahili Teachers of Swahili – Swahili Teachers
Msichana waMarekani American girl Wasichana waMarekani American girls
Mwanafunzi wa hisabati Math student Wanafunzi wahisabati Math students
  • Note: From the first example, you can see that the “-a of association” can be literally translated to of. However, in conversational English, a speaker would not say “teacher of Swahili” but rather “Swahili teacher”. For the purposes of this course, we will accept both translations, however, since they are both grammatically correct.

PRESENT TENSEEdit

Affirmative Constructions: Edit

Simple Swahili sentence structure has three parts: a subject prefix, a tense marker, and the verb stem. For example Ninapika (I am cooking/I cook):

Ni- = Subject Prefix (I) -na- = Tense Marker (Simple Present) -pika = Verb (Cook)

This can be called verb construction or sentence structure, because in Swahili, this construction can constitute a complete sentence with a subject and a verb by itself. The structure will become longer with additional nouns or other modifiers.

In the example above, -pika is the modified verb in the present tense. If we want to talk about cooking, or if we refer to the infinitive form, to cook, then we add what we call the infinitive ku. So, to say to cook or cooking, the word is kupika. When we refer to dropping or retaining the infinitive ku, this is what will stay or go! In Swahili, Bantu-origin verbs end in -a and Arabic/other language-origin verbs end in other vowels. Verbs in Swahili do not end in consonants.

The following chart shows sample constructions involving the subject prefixes, tense markers, and some sample verb stems:

Pronoun Subject Prefix Tense Marker Verb Stem Construction
mimi (I) ni- (I) na- (present tense) sema (speak) Ninasema
wewe (you) u –(you) na- (present tense) Lala (sleep) Unalala
yeye (she/he) a – (she/he) na- (present tense) fikiri (think) Anafikiri
sisi (we) tu – (we) na- (present tense) uliza (ask) Tunauliza
ninyi (you plural) m – (ya’ll) na- (present tense) Fundisha (teach) Mnafundisha
wao (they plural) wa – (They) na- (present tense) kimbia (run) Wanakimbia


In these constructions, ni-, u-, a-, tu-, m-, and wa- are subject prefixes, i.e. they refer to the subject noun or pronoun.

Monosyllabic verbs retain the infinitive ku as part of the verb stem, like kula - to eat. To make a construction, the infinitive ku is retained. So, to say I eat or I am eating, the Swahili would be Ninakula. This form of construction, or agglutination, is important in Swahili as all verbage is formed by combining subject prefixes, tense markers, and verbs at the very least, and including object infixes, relatives, and different verb endings as language ability progresses.

Negative present singular and pluralEdit

In negative present: 1- No tense sign is used; 2- If the last vowel is an “a”, it is changed into “i”; and 3- Negative subject prefixes are used. The negative present can also be used for the negative continuous, ie.- I do not/am not....

Examples:

Affirmative Negative
Ninaandika. Siandiki.
I am writing. I am not writing.
Unaandika. Huandiki.
You are writing. You are not writing.
Anaandika. Haandiki.
She/He is writing. She/He is not writing.
Tunaandika. Hatuandiki.
We are writing. We are not writing.
Mnaandika. Hamwandiki.
You (pl.) are writing. You (pl.) are not writing.
Wanaandika. Hawaandiki.
They are writing. They are not writing.


Note 1: - Whenever a consonant ‘m’ precedes vowel stem verbs, -w- is inserted between the consonant and the vowels; example: Ninyi hamwandiki.

Note 2: - Monosyllabic verbs like kula, kunywa, and kuja, drop the infinitive ‘ku’ in the negative present.

Affirmative Negative
Mimi ninakula samaki. Mimi sili samaki.
I am eating fish. I am not eating/do not eat fish.
Wewe unakunywa pombe. Wewe hunywi pombe.
You are drinking alcohol. You are not drinking/do not drink alcohol.
Ninajibu swali. Sijibu swali.
I am answering a question. I am not answering/do not answer a/the question.
Tunadhani kwamba atafika. Hatudhani kwamba atafika.
We think she/he will arrive. We do not think she/he will arrive.

NOUN CLASSES: M- MI- NOUN CLASS Edit

The nouns in the M- MI- noun class do not have an overarching commonality like the M- WA- noun class. However, these nouns all begin with m- in the singular and mi- in the plural, so this class is referred to as the M- MI- noun class. Most trees and plants do fall into this class, though.


It is important to note that there is little to distinguish the difference between singular nouns in the M- WA- and M- MI- noun classes since singular nouns in both will start with m-. Therefore, it is necessary to know the meaning of the noun to decide to which class a noun will belong.


You'll see three patterns with the concord prefixes in this noun class:


Nouns that begin with consonants in the singular will have the m- concord and in the plural, the mi- concord; tree(s) will be mti/miti, bread will be mkate/mikate, luggage will be mzigo/mizigo, etc.


Nouns with vowel stems will have mw- as the concord prefix in the singular, but in the plural, they will take the normal mi- concord; year(s) will be mwaka/miaka, body/bodies will be mwili/miili, mango tree(s) will be mwembe/miembe, etc.


However, nouns that have an “o” as the stem will not have a w in the concord; smoke will be moshi/mioshi, fire will be moto/mioto, heart(s) will be moyo/mioyo, etc.

Possessive Pronouns Edit

The following chart shows personal pronouns for singular and plural. These act as vowel stem adjectives and must take different agreements depending on the noun class.

Singular Nouns    Plural Nouns    Translation
wangu    yangu     my/mine
wako    yako    your/yours
wake    yake    his/her
wetu    yetu    our/ours
wenu    yenu    your/yours (pl.)
wao    yao    their/theirs


The possessive pronoun that is used will depend on the agreement of the noun. When talking about a singular noun, the possessive pronoun with the prefix w- will be used. For plural nouns, the possessive pronoun with the prefix y- will be used. Examples:

Swahili Singular    Swahili Plural    English
Mfano wangu    Mifano yangu    My example(s)
Mshahara wangu    Mishahara yangu    My salary(ies)
Mguu wangu    Miguu yangu     My leg(s)


-a of association Edit

Similar to the prefix for the possessive pronouns, the prefixes for the “-a of association” for the M- MI- noun class are w- for the singular nouns and y- for the plural nouns.

Singular Example    Translation    Plural Example    Translation
Mshahara wa mwezi    Salary of the month – Monthly salary    Mishahara ya mwaka    Salaries of the year – Yearly salaries
Mlango wa nyumba    House door    Milango ya nyumba    House doors
Mtihani wa shule    School exam    Mitihanti ya shule    School exams

Note: Again, you can see that the “-a of association” can be literally translated to of. As previously noted, this is not common in conversational English as the noun of association would instead become an adjective. For the purposes of this course, we will accept both translations, however, since they are both grammatically correct.

FOOD Edit

In the Food skill, animals such as cow, pig etc are mentioned when referring to meat from the animals. For example: nyama ya ng'ombe = Beef nyama ya nguruwe = Pork


COMMON FOOD NAMES:Edit

There are specific Swahili words that are used for some popular foods in East Africa.


Translations in English do not necessarily exist and are usually just descriptors, so for this course, you can use either the Swahili word in your English exercises, or the descriptor, though it would be better for you to leave the Swahili word as is. For example:


Ugali is stiff porridge in English, but you can just call it ugali.


Pilau is a spiced rice, but you can just call it pilau.


Nyama choma is literally barbecued meat, but made in a special, smoked manner, so it can simply be referred to as nyama choma.


Mtori is literally a banana soup made with green bananas, but that is a long descriptor, so mtori is acceptable!

THE VERB TO HAVE IN PRESENT TENSE Edit

When expressing the concept “to have” in the present, we use the element ‘–na’ which forms the verb kuwa na, literally meaning to be with but used for the English phrase “to have”. The following are affirmative examples:

Singular    Plural
nina - I have    tuna – we have
una - you have    mna - you (pl) have
ana – she/he has    wana - they have

This is how it is used:


Swahili    English
Sasa nina kalamu moja.    Now I have one pen.
Sasa una bustani.    Now you have a garden.
Ana malaria.    She/He has malaria.
Leo tuna mgeni.    Today we have a guest.
Mna shida?    Do you (plural) have a problem?
Wana maembe mengi!    They have a lot of mangoes!

To negate the sentence, use negative subject prefixes:


Swahili    English
Sina bustani.    I don’t have a garden.
Huna shida.    You don’t have a problem.
Hana virusi.    She/He doesn’t have a virus.
Hatuna malaria.    We don’t have malaria.
Hamna kalamu.    You (pl) don’t have a pen.
Hawana chakula.    They don’t have food.

NOUN CLASSES: KI- VI- NOUN CLASS Edit

The KI- VI- noun class is probably the easiest to recognize. All of the nouns will either start with ki- in the singular or vi- in the plural, unless the stem begins with a vowel. In that case, the concords will be ch- and vy-.


Common KI- VI- nounsEdit

Singular    Plural    Translation
Kiatu    Viatu    Shoe(s)
Kichwa    Vichwa    Head(s)
Kidole    Vidole    Finger(s)
Kijiji    Vijiji    Village(s)
Kijiko    Vijiko    Spoon(s)
Kikombe    Vikombe    Cup(s)
Kitanda    Vitanda    Bed(s)
Kisima    Visima    Water well(s)
Kisu    Visu    Knife(ves)
Kitabu    Vitabu    Book(s)
Chakula    Vyakula    Food(s)
Choo    Vyoo    Toilet(s)
Chuo    Vyuo    College(s)
Chumba    Vyumba    Room(s)

Possessive Pronouns Edit

The following chart shows personal pronouns for singular and plural. These act as vowel stem adjectives and must take different agreements depending on the noun class.

Singular Nouns    Plural Nouns    Translation
changu    vyangu    my/mine
chako    vyako    your/yours
chake    vyake    his/her
chetu    vyetu    our/ours
chenu    vyenu    your/yours (pl.)
chao    vyao    their/theirs


The possessive pronoun that is used will depend on the agreement of the noun. When talking about a singular noun, the possessive pronoun with the prefix ch- will be used. For plural nouns, the possessive pronoun with the prefix vy- will be used. Examples:

Swahili Singular    Swahili Plural    English
Kitabu changu    Vitabu vyangu    My book(s)
Kitambaa changu    Vitambaa vyangu    My cloth material(s)
Kioo changu    Vioo vyangu    My mirror(s)

a of association Edit

Similar to the prefix for the possessive pronouns, the prefixes for the “-a of association” for the KI- VI- noun class are ch- for the singular nouns and vy- for the plural nouns.

Singular Example    Translation    Plural Example    Translation
Kipimo cha kichwa    Measurement of the head – Head measurement    Vipimo vya mwili    Measurements of the body – Body measurements
Chumba cha nyumba    House room – Room of the house    Vyumba vya nyumba    House rooms – Rooms of the house
Kioo cha choo    Bathroom mirror    Vioo vya choo    Bathroom mirrors

Note: Again, you can see that the “-a of association” can be literally translated to of. As previously noted, this is not common in conversational English as the noun of association would instead become an adjective. For the purposes of this course, we will accept both translations, however, since they are both grammatically correct.

NOUN CLASSES: N- N- NOUN CLASS Edit

The N/N noun class features nouns that are generally taken from other languages, like Arabic, English, German, Portuguese, etc. This is the largest noun class in Swahili and there are also few Bantu-origin words found in the noun class.


Indeed, it can be observed that Swahili in Kenya, Uganda, and other countries adopt a two-noun class type of Swahili, with M- WA- and N/N classes being the only classes used. The biggest note for this noun class is that there is no distinguishing concord between singular and plural nouns. This can sometimes be confusing for Swahili learners, but often the context or the adjectives used with the noun will reflect whether it is singular or plural. The following examples can be either singular or plural.


Mifano:

Swahili    English
Bahati    Luck
Barabara    Road(s)
Baridi    Cold/Coldness
Barua    Letter/Mail
Bia    Beer
Bei    Price
Chai    Tea
Chumvi    Salt
Chupa    Bottle(s)
Dakika    Minute(s)
Dawa    Medicine(s)
Kahawa    Coffee
Kalamu    Pen(s)
Kazi    Work
Meza    Table(s)
Nafasi    Opportunity/Space
Panga    Machete
Pasi    Iron
Pesa    Money
Rafiki    Friend
Sababu    Reason(s)
Sabuni    Soap(s)
Shida    Problem/Difficulty
Siagi    Butter
Suruali    Trousers
Takataka    Rubbish/Trash

Possessive Pronouns Edit

The following chart shows personal pronouns for singular and plural. These act as vowel stem adjectives and must take different agreements depending on the noun class.

Singular Nouns    Plural Nouns    Translation
yangu    zangu    my/mine
yako    zako    your/yours
yake    zake    his/her
yetu    zetu    our/ours
yenu    zenu    your/yours (pl.)
yao    zao    their/theirs

The possessive pronoun that is used will depend on the agreement of the noun. When talking about a singular noun, the possessive pronoun with the prefix y- will be used. For plural nouns, the possessive pronoun with the prefix z- will be used.


Examples:

Swahili Singular    Swahili Plural    English
Nguo yangu    Nguo zangu    My clothes
Nyumba yangu    Nyumba zangu    My house(s)
Kalamu yangu    Kalamu zangu    My pen(s)

a of association Edit

Similar to the prefix for the possessive pronouns, the prefixes for the “-a of association” for the N/N noun class are y- for the singular nouns and z- for the plural nouns.

Singular Example    Translation    Plural Example    Translation
Bia ya baridi    Beer of the cold – cold beer    Bia za baridi    Cold beers
Dawa ya homa    Fever medication/medicine    Dawa za nyumba    Fever medications/medicines
Habari ya taifa    National news    Habari za mataifa    International news

Note: Again, you can see that the “-a of association” can be literally translated to of. As previously noted, this is not common in conversational English as the noun of association would instead become an adjective. For the purposes of this course, we will accept both translations, however, since they are both grammatically correct.

NOUN CLASSES: JI- MA- NOUN CLASS Edit

The JI- MA- noun class takes its name from the fact that there are some nouns that, in the singular form, take the concord ji- at the beginning. However, most of the nouns in this class do not, but in the plural, all of the nouns will take the ma- concord. There are some patterns, though:


Fruits and produce are usually found in the JI- MA- class. Examples: chungwa/machungwa (orange(s)), nanasi/mananasi (pineapple(s)), embe/maembe (mango(es))


Occupational or status nouns can often be found in this class. Examples: dereva/madereva (driver(s)), fundi/mafundi (craftsman/men), tajiri/matajiri (employer(s))


Uncountable nouns are often found in this class. Examples: mafuta (oil), majivu (ashes), maziwa (milk)


Nouns that begin with ji-, as mentioned. Examples: jicho/macho (eye(s)), jino/meno (tooth/teeth), jibu/majibu (answer(s)), jina/majina (name(s))


Nouns that do not have a singular concord but take the ma- concord in the plural. Examples:


bonde/mabonde (valley(s)), daraja/madaraja (bridge(s)/staircase(s)), duka/maduka (shop(s)), shoka/mashoka (ax(es)), yai/mayai (egg(s))

Possessive Pronouns Edit

The following chart shows personal pronouns for singular and plural. These act as vowel stem adjectives and must take different agreements depending on the noun class.

Singular Nouns    Plural Nouns    Translation
langu    yangu    my/mine
lako    yako    your/yours
lake    yake    his/her
letu    yetu    our/ours
lenu    yenu    your/yours (pl.)
lao    yao    their/theirs

The possessive pronoun that is used will depend on the agreement of the noun. When talking about a singular noun, the possessive pronoun with the prefix l- will be used. For plural nouns, the possessive pronoun with the prefix y- will be used.


Examples:

Swahili Singular    Swahili Plural    English
Gari langu    Magari yangu    My car(s)
Pipa langu    Mapipa yangu    My barrel(s)
Shauri langu    Mashauri yangu    My advice


a of association Edit

Similar to the prefix for the possessive pronouns, the prefixes for the “-a of association” for the JI- MA- noun class are l- for the singular nouns and y- for the plural nouns.

Singular Example    Translation    Plural Example    Translation
Kanisa la Wakristo    Christian church – Church of the Christians    Makanisa ya Wakristo    Christian churches – Churches of the Christians
Zulia la kitanzania    Tanzanian carpet    Mazulia ya kitanzania    Tanzanian carpets
Jiko la shule    School kitchen    Majiko ya shule    School kitchens

Note: Again, you can see that the “-a of association” can be literally translated to of. As previously noted, this is not common in conversational English as the noun of association would instead become an adjective. For the purposes of this course, we will accept both translations, however, since they are both grammatically correct.

ADJECTIVES Edit

We've introduced a few adjectives in pervious lessons, but here, we will delve deeper into the grammatical structure of adjectives. In Swahili, there are three main types of adjectives:


Vowel Stem adjectives

Consonant Stem adjectives

*Arabic-origin adjectives


Vowel and consonant stem adjectives must take an agreeing concord depending on the noun class. Arabic-origin nouns do not take any form of agreement.


Adjectives must always follow the nouns they modify. They do not come first, like in English. For example, mtu mpole would be a polite person. The order is switched.

Vowel Stem Adjectives Edit

For vowel stem adjectives, the agreeing concord is fairly simple and follows a regular pattern. Though we have not introduced all of the classes yet, we will provide a full chart with all of the classes here that can be used for reference later.

Noun Class    Agreement    Vowel Stem Concord
M- WA-    Singular    mw-
M- WA-    Plural    w-
M- MI-    Singular    mw-
M- MI-    Plural    my-
KI- VI-    Singular    ch-
KI- VI-    Plural    vy-
N/N    Singular    ny-
N/N    Plural    ny-
JI- MA-    Singular    j-
JI- MA-    Plural    m-
U/N    Singular    mw-
U/N    Plural    ny-
Mahali    M-    m(w)-
Mahali    PA-    p-
Mahali    KU-    kw-

Mifano:


Vowel Stem Adjective    Swahili    English
"-embamba" Mwanafunzi mwembamba    Skinny student
"-aminifu"    Wazazi waminifu    Honest parents
"-erevu"    Mtoto mwerevu    Clever child
"-ekundu"    Kisu chekundu    Red knife
"-ingi"    Barua nyingi    A lot of letters
"-ingine"    Mananasi mengine    Other pineapples

Arabic-Origin Adjectives Edit

As mentioned above, adjectives that originate from Arabic do not take any forms of agreement.


Mifano:


Swahili    English
Bora    Best
Bure    Free/Useless
Ghali    Expensive
Kamili    Complete
Kila    Each/Every
Laini    Smooth/Soft
Maskini    Poor
Rahisi    Easy/Cheap
Safi    Clean/Good
Sawa    Equal/Alike
Tayari    Ready
Wazi    Open

However, in conversation, some Swahili speakers might add agreements to these adjectives. For example, to say clean water, a Swahili speaker might say maji masafi.

Consonant Stem Adjectives Edit

Here are some examples of Bantu-origin consonant stem adjectives:


Swahili    English -baya    bad -chache    few -dogo    little/small -fupi    short -kali    sharp/fierce/strict -kubwa    big/large -pya    new -refu    tall/long -tamu    sweet -zima    whole/complete -zito    heavy


There are special rules for different noun classes when it comes to consonant stem adjectives of Bantu origin. Some of the classes follow a normal pattern of agreement whereas others have special concords depending on the consonant that the adjective begins with. The normal patterned noun classes are shown in the chart below.


Noun Class    Agreement    Consonant Stem Concord
M- WA-    Singular    m-
M- WA-    Plural    wa-
M- MI-    Singular    m-
M- MI-    Plural    mi-
KI- VI-    Singular    ki-
KI- VI-    Plural    vi-
JI- MA-    Plural    ma-
U/N    Singular    m-
Mahali    M-    mu-
Mahali    PA-    pa-
Mahali    KU-    ku-

For the other noun classes, there are certain rules to follow:

N/N NOUN CLASS Edit

1- In front of adjectives beginning with D, G, and Z, the concord n- is used. Example: ndogo, ngumu, nzito

2- In front of adjectives beginning with B, V, and P when monosyllabic, the concord m- is used. Example: mbaya, mvivu, mpya

3- In front of other consonants, no concord is used. Example: chache, chafu, pana

4- Exceptions are for the adjectives -ema which becomes njema, -refu which becomes ndefu, and -wili which becomes mbili.

U/N PLURAL NOUNS Edit

For the U/N noun class, plural nouns take the same rules as the N/N noun class.

JI- MA- SINGULAR NOUNSEdit

For the most part, JI- MA- nouns do not take concords with consonant stem adjectives EXCEPT for monosyllabic adjectives such as -pya. With these adjectives, the concord is ji-, so the adjective for this class in the singular form would be jipya.

COMMANDS (Simple Imperatives) Edit

To give a simple command in Swahili, verb stems are used alone without any subject or object concords.

Normally, these commands are used when one orders a person to do something. The monosyllabic verbs retain their infinitives ku-. However, the verbs kuja-to come, kuleta-to bring, and kwenda-to go do not retain the ku. Also, kupa-to give requires an object prefix. See below.

Examples:

Swahili English
Kula! Eat!
Lala! Sleep!
Kunywa! Drink!
Amka! Wake up!
Fagia! Sweep!


Irregular Verbs:

Infinitive Swahili Command English
Kuja Njoo! Come!
Kwenda Nenda! Go!
Kuleta Lete! Bring (it)!
Kupa Nipe! Give it to me!

Commands(Imperatives) --plural Edit

To make the plural commands, the infinitive ku is dropped, but the suffix ais replaced by the suffix eni. Thus we get;

Fanyeni Do
Laleni Sleep
Someni Read
Kuleni Eat
Kunyweni Drink

Other commands that end with vowels e,i,o,and u ;add suffix ni to get its plural form. Thus ;

Fikirini Think
Leteni Bring
Njooni Come
Jibuni Answer/Reply

Edit

In Swahili, as in any language, there are different question words which are used to ask questions. When asking a question without a question word in spoken Swahili, intonation changes by raising the voice at the end of the sentence.

The following chart shows examples of question words used in sentences:

QUESTIONSEdit

Question WordsEdit

In Swahili, as in any language, there are different question words which are used to ask questions. When asking a question without a question word in spoken Swahili, intonation changes by raising the voice at the end of the sentence. The following chart shows examples of question words used in sentences:

Swahili English
Wapi? Where?
Unatoka wapi? Where are you from?
Unakaa wapi sasa? Where are you staying now?
Gani? What sort?
Which? What kind?
Unapenda chakula gani? What food do you like? What sort of food do you like?
Unatoka nchi gani? Which country are you from?
Nini? What? (used for objects only)
Unataka nini? What do you want?
Unafanya nini? What are you doing?
Nani? Who? Whom?
Nani anafundisha Kiswahili? Who is teaching Swahili?
Nani anatoka Marekani? Who is from America?
-ngapi? (Takes the stem of the noun class) How many? How much?
Soda moja ni shilingi ngapi? How much is a soda?
Una watoto wangapi? How many children do you have?
Lini? When?
Lini utasafiri? When are you going to travelling?
Utaanza kufanya kazi lini? When will you start working?
Kwa nini? Why? For what?
Kwa nini unajifunza Kiswahili? Why are you learning Swahili?
Kwa nini unapenda Tanzania? Why do you like Tanzania?
Mbona? How come? (stronger meaning than ‘why?’)
Mbona unalia? How come you are crying?
Mbona unakimbia? How come you are running?
Vipi? How?
Unapika ugali vipi? How do you cook ugali?
Unaenda nyumbani vipi? How do you go home?
Namna gani? How is…? (not with people)
Maisha namna gani?/Namna gani maisha?
Kazi namna gani rafiki yangu? How is the work my friend?

The particle “je”Edit

When ‘je’ is used at the beginning of the sentence it draws attention i.e. a question is coming. It usually precedes a yes/no question.

Mfano:Je, unakwenda mjini leo?-Are you going to town today?

When ‘je’ is used at the end of the verb it means ’how’.

Mfano: Unapikaje wali na samaki?-How do you cook rice and fish?

When ‘je’ is used at the end of the noun, it means what about/how about, but it should be preceded by a phrase giving prior information.

Mfano: Sisi tunakwenda sokoni leo, na wao je?-We are going to the market today what about them?

Mfano: Mimi ninatoka Tanzania, wewe je?-I am from Tanzania,what about you?

In the U/N noun class, nouns in the singular form will likely begin with u-, though there are a handful that begin with w-. Many nouns in this class do not have plurals, either, and some have singular forms but are mainly used in the plural form with the concords ny-, n-, or no concord.

NOUN CLASSES: U/N NOUN CLASSEdit

In the U/N noun class, nouns in the singular form will likely begin with u-, though there are a handful that begin with w-. Many nouns in this class do not have plurals, either, and some have singular forms but are mainly used in the plural form with the concords ny-, n-, or no concord.

Abstract Nouns Edit

Abstract nouns are the first type of nouns in the U/N class. These nouns do not have plural forms and almost all begin with u-.

Common abstract nouns:

Swahili English
Uaminifu Trustworthiness
Uhodari Effectiveness
Umoja Unity
Upendo Love
Uchafu Dirtiness
Urefu Height/Length
Usafi Cleanliness
Uvivu Laziness
Utajiri Wealth
Uzito Weight
Ujana Youth
Uzee Old age
Uzuri Beauty


Uncountable NounsEdit

There are also some uncountable nouns in the U/N class that do not take plural forms.

Swahili English
Udongo Soil
Ugali Stiff porridge
Umeme Electricity
Usingizi . Sleepiness
Wino Ink
Wali Cooked rice

Other nounsEdit

The other nouns in the U/N class will begin with either u- or w-. Plurals will either begin with ny- or a consonant.

Swahili English
Ndevu Beard - plural form
Ufunguo Key
Funguo Keys
Kuni Firewood - plural form
Ulimi Tongue
Ndimi Tongues
Nywele Hair - plural form
Upepo Wind
Wakati Period/Time
Nyakati Periods/Times

Names of CountriesEdit

Country names are often given the u- prefix, but their agreements will take those of the N/N class.

Swahili Name English Name
Uingereza England
Ureno Portugal
Ufaransa France
Ulaya Europe
Uhindi India

Possessive PronounsEdit

The following chart shows personal pronouns for singular and plural. These act as vowel stem adjectives and must take different agreements depending on the noun class.

Singular Nouns Plural Nouns Translation
wangu zangu my/mine
wako zako your/yours
wake zake his/her
wetu zetu our/ours
wenu zenu your/yours (pl.)
wao zao Their/theirs

The possessive pronoun that is used will depend on the agreement of the noun. When talking about a singular noun, the possessive pronoun with the prefix w- will be used. For plural nouns, the possessive pronoun with the prefix z- will be used.

Examples:

Ubunifu wako Your creativity

Wali wake His/Her rice

Nywele zangu My hair


-a of associationEdit

Similar to the prefix for the possessive pronouns, the prefixes for the “-a of association” for the U/N noun class are w- for the singular nouns and z- for the plural nouns.

Swahili Example Translation
Uchafu wa chumba Dirtiness of the room
Umeme wa shule School's electricity
Uwezo wa wanafunzi Ability of the students
Kuta za nyumba House walls

Note: Again, you can see that the “-a of association” can be literally translated to of. As previously noted, this is not common in conversational English as the noun of association would instead become an adjective. For the purposes of this course, we will accept both translations, however, since they are both grammatically correct.

ANIMALSEdit

Animals follow the same agreements as the M- WA- noun class! Even if their concords look like they're in a different class, all of the subject prefix, object infix, and adjective agreements will be from the M- WA- class.

SHOPPINGEdit

Shopping in Tanzania is mainly done at local markets and shops. Only in bigger cities are there walk-in stores with fixed prices. Most local areas will have store fronts that sell the basic necessities.

Though there are generally accepted prices for most commodities, bargaining is very common in the marketplace.

In rural communities, there are frequent minada or open-space markets which are either weekly or monthly. These often travel from village to village and many items, from food to animals to clothes to housewares to fabrics, can be bought.

Culturally, a buyer is not expected to smell/sniff market items while buying items such as fruit. This is a sign of mistrust by assuming that the items a vendor is selling are rotten. Smelling is accepted when one is buying aromatic items like spices, rice etc.

Remember to check the quality of the items-e.g. the expiry date.

It’s common to ask for availability of items and prices at the shop. This is due to the fact that in most shops items do not have price tags and buyers do not have an opportunity of walking through shops to explore the available items. Window shopping is not a widely practiced thing in Tanzania!

PASTEdit

Affirmative Past TenseEdit

The past tense affirmative constructions are formed with the tense marker -li- and it is inserted between a subject prefix and a verb stem.

Swahili English
Nilijifunza Kiswahili. I learned Kiswahili.
Ulijifunza Kiswahili. You learned Kiswahili.
Alijifunza Kiswahili. S/He learned Kiswahili.
Tulijifunza Kiswahili. We learned Kiswahili.
Mlijifunza Kiswahili. You (pl.) learned Kiswahili.
Walijifunza Kiswahili. They learned Kiswahili.

THE VERB “KUWA” AS “TO BE” IN THE PASTEdit

The verb “kuwa”-“to be” in the past is used as a normal verb. It behaves regularly; ie- the infinitive ku is not dropped when constructing a sentence.

Mifano:

Swahili English
Nilikuwa mwalimu. I was a teacher.
Ulikuwa daktari. You were a doctor.
Alikuwa mwalimu. S/He was a teacher.
Tulikuwa watoto. We were children.
Mlikuwa walimu. You were teachers
Walikuwa wakulima. They were farmers.

THE VERB “KUWA NA” AS “TO HAVE” IN THE PASTEdit

In the past, kuwa na is used for the verb “to have”. It behaves regularly as well.

Mifano:

Swahili English
Jana nilikuwa na shida. Yesterday I had a problem.
Juzi nilikuwa na kitabu. The day before yesterday I had a book.
Nilikuwa na wanafunzi wanne. I had four students.
Alikuwa na rafiki mmoja. S/He had one friend.
Walikuwa na matatizo ya afya. They had health problems.

Negative Past TenseEdit

To form the negative simple past in Swahili:

Change the positive subject prefixes into negative subject prefixes. Change the past tense marker -li- into -ku- and drop the infinitive ku- from monosyllabic and irregular verbs (kula, kunywa, kuja, kufa, kwenda). The negative past -ku- should not be confused with the infinitive ku-.

Mifano:

Affirmative Past Negative Past
Nilipika ugali. Sikupika ugali.
Ulisikiliza redio. Hukusikiliza redio.
Alijifunza Kiswahili. Hakujifunza Kiswahili.
Hatukuzungumza pole pole.
Mlipumzika Jumamosi. Hamkupumzika Jumamosi.
Walifurahi sana. Hawakufurahi sana.
Nilikula wali. Sikula wali.
Ulikwenda sokoni. Hukuenda sokoni.
Alikunywa bia. Hakunywa bia.

THE VERB “KUWA NA” AS “TO HAVE” IN THE NEGATIVE PASTEdit

Although the verb “kuwa na” - “to have” keeps “ku-” in the affirmative past, the negative form of kuwa na in the past takes characteristics of the other monosyllabic verbs - it drops its infinitive “ku-”. However, because the negative past tense marker is “-ku-”, it gives the illusion that it has not dropped the infinitive ku-. Again, these should not be confused.

Mifano:

Affirmative Past Negative Past
Nilikuwa na gari. Sikuwa na gari.
Ulikuwa na shida. Hukuwa na shida.
Alikuwa na matunda. Hakuwa na matunda.
Tulikuwa na watoto. Hatukuwa na watoto.

TIMEEdit

In English, the morning starts after 12:00 am while in Swahili it starts after 6:00 am, hence a difference of six hours. In other words, the day is considered to be from sunrise to sunset. The night starts from sunset to sunrise.

Swahili speakers use asubuhi, mchana, jioni and usiku to be more specific on the time they are referring to if it is not clear by context. However, these words will more often than not be included whenever a Swahili speaker is talking about time. In Swahili, 6 AM would be “saa 12 asubuhi”, 7 AM would be “saa 1 asubuhi”, etc.

To indicate minutes, the word “dakika” and then the amount is added. 7:23 AM would be “saa 1 na dakika ishirini na tatu asubuhi”. Similarly, quarter and half hours can be used.

After the half-hour mark, the word “kasoro” can be used as “less”. For example, 8:48 AM might be said as “saa 3 kasoro dakika kumi na mbili asubuhi.”

In Swahili, dates are indicated by the ordinary numbers whereby one tells the date first then the month, and lastly the year. The word “tarehe” comes before the numbers. For example, the 8th of July 1994 would be “tarehe nane, mwezi wa saba, mwaka elfu moja mia tisa tisini na nne.”

In Swahili, people tell months by saying which number month it is. For example, May would be “mwezi wa tano”, or the 5th month. Anglicized versions of the months do exist, but are not widely used. The anglicized months are: Januari, Februari, Machi, Aprili, Mei, Juni, Julai, Agosti, Septemba, Oktoba, Novemba, Desemba.

Traditionally in many East African cultures, relationships (either professional or social) are more valued than time. More time is always available – hence the popular saying, “Haraka haraka haina baraka!” - Haste has no blessing!

Animals Edit

Animals follow the same agreements as the M- WA- noun class! Even if their concords look like they're in a different class, all of the subject prefix, object infix, and adjective agreements will be from the M- WA- class.

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