Nani anataka yujifunze Kiswahili? "Who wants to learn Swahili?"
Swahili is a national or official language in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; and is widely spoken in Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Swahili is also an official language of the African Union. Although Swahili only has around fifteen million L1 people, it serves as the lingua franca of most of Southeast Africa. For those who may not know, Swahili is a Bantu language.
Here's a map:
Dark green is official or widely spoken, light green is periphery.
• Phonology, Orthography and Phonotactics
• Noun Class 1 and 2
• Verbs: Past, Present, Future and Perfect
• Noun Class 3 and 4; Possession
• Noun Class 5 and 6
• Verbs: Applicative; Reflexive
• Verbs: Negative
• Verbs: To Be, To Have
• Verbs: The Passive; The Habitual
• Test One
• Test Two
This will serve as a brief introduction to the phonology and orthography of Swahili.
Swahili has five vowels and distinguishes length. Swahili vowels are fairly simple.
<a e i o u> <aa ee ii oo uu>
/ɑ ɛ i ɔ u/ /ɑ: ɛ: i: ɔ: u:/
There are no diphthongs in Swahili. Instead there is a syllable break between vowels.
<m n ny ng’>
/m n ɲ ŋ/
There are also syllabic /m̩/ and /n̩/, which are not represented with special characters in the orthography, but are pretty simple to detect. More on that below.
<p t ch k>
/p t t͡ʃ k/
<b d j g>
/ɓ ɗ ʄ~ɗ͡ʒ~ɟ ɠ/
Although [ɟ] is not an implosive, it is an allophone of /ʄ/
<mb nd nj ng>
/ᵐb ⁿd ᶮɟ~ⁿd͡ʒ ᵑg/
<f v th dh s z sh kh gh h>
/f v θ ð s z ʃ x ɣ h/
Trills and Approximants
<r l y w>
/r~ɺ l~ɺ j w/
The basic structure is (C2)(C)(S)(V(V) repeat. However, non-Bantu words allow for (S)(C)V(C)(C)(V) etc.
(C2) – syllabic consonant
(S) – Semi-vowel /j w/
So <mtoto> is three syllables /m̩.tɔ.tɔ/
<haina> is also three syllables /hɑ.i.nɑ/
<mbuzi> is two syllables /ᵐbu.zi/
<kinywa> is also two syllables /ki.ɲʷɑ/
Non-Bantu words and syllable breaks
Non-Bantu words that enter Swahili come as close to Swahili phonotactics as possible. Also, most Swahili words of non-Bantu origin will end in a vowel. In the example above, <bendi> comes from English <band> and means “band, orchestra”. Very few Swahili words end in a consonant, and they are all loan words.
Syllabic <m n>
For the most part it is easy to tell when <m n> are syllabic or prenasalized. If <m> or <n> come before a consonant that is not prenasalized, it is syllabic. So <nchi> is two syllables /n̩.t͡ʃi/; <simpendi> is four syllables /si.m̩.pɛ.ⁿdi/. Some words look like they are prenasalized, but aren’t, such as <mbwa>, which is two syllables /m̩.ɓʷɑ/. These words are few and far between, though.
The stress in Swahili words is always on the penultimate syllable. Syllabic <m> and <n> can be stressed, so the stress on <nchi> is on the <n>, /'n̩.t͡ʃi/. The stress is on the word’s penultimate syllable, this includes any and all agglutination. So <nyumba> is /'ɲu.ᵐbɑ/, <nyumbani> is /ɲu.'ᵐbɑ.ni/ (consequently, the word’s noun class has changed as well. We’ll get to that much later).
If anything is unclear, please feel free to ask for clarification
Swahili nouns all belong to one of eighteen noun classes. Although this may sound like a lot at first glance, three of these noun classes are directly related to placement and motion, and half of the remaining noun classes are the plural form of singular classes.
Noun classes 1 and 2 are also often referred to as the m/wa classes. Nouns that belong to noun class 1 are singular, and always generally refer to humans. Nouns of noun class 2 are the plural forms of noun class 1.
Class 1 examples
mganga – doctor, medicine woman/man
mgeni – stranger, guest
mkunjufu – a cheerful person
mlinzi – guard, watchman
msichana – young woman
mtoto – child
mtu – person
mwalimu – teacher
mwana – child, son or daughter
mwanafunzi – student
Class 2 examples
waganga – doctors, medicine women/men
wageni – strangers, guests
wakunjufu – cheerful people
walinzi – guards, watchmen
wasichana – young women
watoto – children
watu – people
walimu – teachers
wana – children, sons and/or daughters
wanafunzi – students
Class 1 nouns that start with <mw> simply drop the <m> to become class 2. The exception to this rule is when the noun is a nationality, or religion.
Mwingereza – British person
Waingereza – British people
Mwislamu – Muslim person
Waislamu – Muslim people
Class 1/2 Pronouns
Pronouns aren’t used as much in Swahili as they are in English.
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1ps mimi 1pp sisi 2ps wewe 2pp nyinyi (or ninyi) 3ps yeye 3pp wao
Verbal subjects and objects
Swahili, like other Bantu languages, have verbal concordance. Concord is like declension, in that verbal concordance is in line with noun class. If that makes sense. Sadly, Swahili grammar isn’t too well documented, and most books have conflicting terminology. I’m going to stick with concord, though. Class 1 and 2 concord will be further explained below, but for now keep this chart handy.
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1ps ni- 1pp tu- 2ps u- 2pp m- 3ps a- 3pp wa-
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1ps –ni- 1pp –tu- 2ps –ku- 2pp –wa- 3ps –m(w)- 3pp –wa-
Swahili verbs can contain a lot of information, such as tense, aspect, mood, person, subject, object or indirect object, as well as negation. Swahili verbs have an infinitive form, which is <ku> attached to the verb stem (rarely <kw>). For now we will only look at the past, present and future positive indicatives, and only with simple subjects, or subjects and objects. So as to not overload, we will only mostly use examples with noun class 1 and 2. Likewise, this lesson will only include Bantu verbs.
kuja – to come
kula – to eat
kulinda – to guard
kunywa – to drink
kuona – to see
kupenda – to like / love
kusoma – to read, study
kutaka – to want
kuzungumza – to chat with, talk to
kwenda (kuenda) – to go
Positive tense markers
In order to get the root verb, simply remove the <ku> (or <kw>). So the root of <kulinda> is <-linda>, the root of <kupenda> is <-penda>. The subject of an indicative verb goes at the beginning, followed by the tense. The direct/indirect follows, then the verb. The verb can be further modified, but for now we are sticking with this pattern.
So to say “I am reading” take the verb <kusoma>, get the root <-soma> and then add the subject (in this case <ni->) and the tense <na> to get <ninasoma> “I am reading”
So the basic break down is subject+tense+(object)+verb
There is one important caveat, though. The tense can never be stressed. So in the case of a root verb being one syllable (such as <-la> from <kula>) in these constructions the infinitive remains. So “you are eating” is not *<unala> but <unakula>.
When it comes to the verb <kwenda>, in proper Swahili the <kw> is dropped. So “She went” should be <alienda>. However, not all speakers drop the <kw>, so hearing <alikwenda> isn’t unlikely, though it isn’t preferred. I’m going to stick to the conventions I was taught, so I will continue to drop the <kw>.
With the Direct Object
I see you – ninakuona
You all will like her – mtampenda
They have come – wamekuja
We saw – tuliona
When the 3rd person singular is the object of a verb with a vowel stem, the object marker is <mw>, not <m>
So “you are guarding her” is <unamlinda> (u-na-m-linda), but “you see her” is <unamwona> (u-na-m-ona). This is because they syllabic <m> in this case has an underlying /ʷ/ which only appears before a vowel.
The basic Swahili sentence structure is SVO. The verb is still concordant with the subject(s) and object(s).
So: “the young woman sees the child” is <msichana anamwona mtoto>
If the object is the 1st or second person, there is no need for an independent pronoun in this simple construction.
So: “the young woman sees me” is <msichana ananiona>
Likewise for the subject.
So: “I see the child” <ninamwona mtoto>
In this construction, definiteness is marked by adding the object into the verb. However, indefiniteness can be conveyed by leaving the object marker out of the verb.
So: “I see a child” is <ninaona mtoto>.
Concord always matches, as well. So “I see them” is <ninawaona>, “I see the children” is <ninawaona watoto>.
A quick note on the Interrogative
Swahili word order doesn’t change to make the interrogative. However, much like many dialects of English, the speaker’s tone raises toward the end of the sentence to indicate that a question is being asked. And, in writing, a question mark is used.
So: “you see her” is <unamwona> where as “do you see her?” is <unamwona?>.
Above is the verb <kutaka> “to want”. I added it because there is a simple way to have multiple verbs. Well, in Swahili there are multiple ways, but one way is simple and we can cover it now. The simple way works remarkably like English, in that to say something like “I want to eat” you can say <ninataka kula>.
So you can say things like:
<Ninataka kusoma> “I want to study”
<Ulitaka kwenda> “you wanted to go”
<Mtataka kuja> “you all will want to come”
In the case of something like “I want to see you”, the object is marked on the second verb, so you get <ninataka kukuona> (ni-na-taka ku-ku-ona 1ps-PRES-want INFIN-2ps-see)
<Ulitaka kumwona?> “Did you want to see her?”
<Tumetaka kuwaona> “We have wanted to see all of you”
<Ninataka kukupenda> “I want to love you”
<Mlinzi alitaka kumwona mkunjufu> “the guard wanted to see the cheerful person”
<Mganga anataka kuniona> “the doctor wants to see me”
The Simple Command Form
Positive command form is relatively simple. For singular, drop the <ku> in multi-syllabic verb stems. Retain it in mono-syllabic verb stems.
For the plural, follow the rules above, but also drop the <-a> of the verb stem and add <-eni>
Two important irregularities are with the verbs <kwenda> and <kuja>
<Kwenda> becomes <nenda> in the singular and <nendeni> for the plural.
<Kuja> becomes <njoo> in the singular and <njooni> for the plural.
There isn’t really a pattern here, though there might seem to be. These are just irregular lay overs from older forms of the verbs.
This test will be pretty simple, and will serve to make sure you’re on track and that I am being clear.
Syllables and stress
Identify how many syllables are in these words, and where the stress is. Break the word down into syllables and mark the stress like so:
5) <mganga atakuona>
Identify the noun class.
Ex) <wa-toto> CL2
Now give the corresponding noun class, changing singular to plural or plural to singular. For example:
Ex) <m-toto> CL1
Identify the tense: <mtataka>
Identify the subject: <alikupenda>
Identify the object: <mmetuona>
Translate all three.
Translate into English
1) Mganga alimwona mlinzi
2) Waislamu wanataka kula
3) Mnataka kumwona
5) Walinzi wananilinda na wageni wanakuona
(here <na> means “and”)
Translate into Swahili
1) The child sees the young woman
2) The student has studied
3) The teacher will eat
4) The young woman wants to see all of you
5) The children wanted to see the guests and the doctor wanted to like us
Noun classes 3 and 4 generally refer to things of the natural world, like trees and plants, as well as a lot of places and spaces and sacred sites. Also, plenty of other words have ended up in this class, including some animals and terms for people. These classes are also known as the m/mi classes. Nouns of class 3 start with <m->, nouns of class 4 <mi->. There are a couple of exceptions, but this is largely the pattern.
Mfano / mifano - example
Mfuko / mifuko – bag, pocket
Mkate / mikate – bread, loaf
Mkono / mikono – arm, hand (also sleeve)
Moto / mioto - fire
Msikiti / misikiti – Mosque
Mtandao / mitandao – internet, network
Mti / miti – tree
Mungu / miungu - God
Mwaka / miaka – year
If the stem of a noun in CL3 starts with a vowel, the <m> generally becomes <mw>. However, when the stem starts with an <o>, CL3 is still just <m>. A few words in CL3 start with <mu> instead of <m>. CL4 is always <mi>.
The verbal concord for class 3 is <u> in all positions.
The verbal concord for class 4 is <i> in all positions.
<Moto unaukula mti> “The fire is eating the tree”
<Mioto inaikula miti> “The fires are eating the trees”
<Mkate unatosha> “A loaf is enough” / “A loaf is sufficient”
<Mikate inatosha> “Loaves are enough”
(<kutosha> “to be enough”)
<Mtandao ulikufa> “The internet died”
(<kufa> “to die”)
<Niliuona mti> “I saw the tree”
<Tunaukula mkate> “We are eating bread”
<Mmeulinda msikiti> “You all have guarded the Mosque”
Possessive pronouns only fully exist for CL1 and CL2. Possessive pronouns are concordant with the noun they modify, and they always follow the noun. For CL1 and CL2, the concord is always <w->
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1ps –angu 1pp -etu 2ps –ako 2pp -enu 3ps –ake 3pp –ao
<Mwana wetu> “our child”
<Wana wenu> “your (pl) children”
<Mwalimu wangu> “my teacher”
<Wanafunzi wake> “her students”
The concord for CL3 and CL4 collapse into semivowels. Meaning that the concord for CL3 becomes <w> and the concord for CL4 becomes <y>
<Mti wangu> “my tree”
<Mikono yangu> “my arms”
<Mtandao wao> “their internet”
<Mifuko yako> “your pockets”
The possessive, or “of”, is constructed with <-a> following the word being modified. The <-a> is concordant with the noun being modified, and follows the concord of the possessives above.
<Mti wa msichana> “the young woman’s tree”
<Mtoto wa mlinzi> “the child of the guard”
<Mwalimu wa wanafunzi> “the students’ teacher”
<Mikono ya mkunjufu> “The arms of the cheerful people”
<Mtandao wa mganga> “The doctor’s internet”
<Mtoto wa mgeni anataka kula mkate> “The guest’s child wants to eat bread”
<Msichana anaulinda msikiti wa Mwislamu> “The young woman is guarding the Muslim person’s Mosque”
<Mtandao wa mganga unatosha> “The doctor’s internet is sufficient”
<Ninaisoma mifano ya mwalimu wangu> “I am studying the examples of my teacher”
<Mlitaka kuulinda mti> “You all wanted to guard the tree”
CL5 and CL6 originally contained nouns for groups and augmentation. Like all languages, Swahili’s noun classes became flexible in time, and certain nouns have filtered in. This noun class also contains a few of the more irregular nouns. CL5 is generally marked with <ji->, <j-> or <0>. CL6 is almost always <ma->. These classes are sometimes referred to as the ji/ma class.
Gari / magari – car, automobile
Jambo / mambo – matter, affair, thing (abstract)
Jicho / macho - eye
Jisu / majisu – large knife
Jitu / majitu – giant (as in a giant person. this is an example of augmentative. the stem is <–tu>, same as <mtu>)
Joka / majoka – large snake
Maji – water (this is an uncountable, and takes CL6)
Paka / mapaka – large cat
Sanduku / masanduku – box
Tunda / matunda – fruit
The irregular nouns largely have to be learned. Most of the nouns in CL6 just tack <ma-> to the CL5 noun, though.
The verbal concord for CL5 is <li> in all positions.
The verbal concord for CL6 4 is <ya> in all positions.
<Jitu linaniona> “The giant sees me”
<Majoka yanakula walinzi> “The giant snakes are eating guards”
<Paka linakupenda> “The big cat likes you”
<Mlinzi analiona paka> “The guard sees the big cat”
<Jitu lililiona paka> “The giant saw the big cat”
The possessive concord for CL5 is <l->.
The possessive concord for CL6 is <y->.
<Jisu la jitu> “The giant’s big knife”
<Majisu ya majitu> “The giants’ big knives”
<Paka langu> “My big cat”
<Macho yako> “Your eyes”
<Sanduku lake> “Her box”
<Gari la msichana> “The young woman’s car”
<Macho ya msichana yanaliona jisu la jitu> “The young woman’s eyes see the giant’s large knife”
<Paka langu linakula matunda> “My large cat is eating fruit”
<Joka lenu lilikunywa maji?> “Did your (pl) giant snake drink water?”
<Gari langu limejaa maji> “My car is full of water”
(<kujaa> “to be full of, be abundant with, be plentiful, have plenty of something”)
<Kuandika> To write
<Kufunza> To teach, educate
<Kuleta> To bring
<Kupa> To give
<Kupokea> To receive
<Kununua> To buy
The applicative is a verb extension that shifts the direct object to an indirect object, and has a meaning in Swahili of “to (dative), about, for, on behalf of”. The applicative is also one of the places where Swahili’s vowel harmony appears most obviously. Even though we are adding a few more verbs, we will still stick with Bantu verbs for now.
The applicative is added to the end of the stem of the verb. When the verb stem vowel closest to the end of the stem is <a, i, u>, the applicative added is <-i->, when the stem is <e, o> the applicative is <-e->.
To find the stem of a Bantu verb, drop both the <ku-> as indicated above, and the <-a> at the end of the verb. So the stem of <kusoma> is <-som->, <kuandika> is <-andik->; and the stem of <kula> is <-l->. Some verbs lost part of the stem in the base verb, but retain them in the applicative. These verbs are generally verbs that have stems ending in a vowel. Thankfully, the individual stems do not need to be memorized, because the applicative follows a predictable pattern. When a stem ends in a vowel, if the vowel is <a, i, u> the applicative is <-li->, if the vowel is <e, o> the applicative is <-le->.
The <-a> ending is the indicative for Bantu verbs. The indicative is retained in the applicative if the statement is indicative. Meaning that the applicative is an infix.
The applicative shifts the direct object in the inflected verb to the indirect object.
For example, <kununua> means “to buy”, <kununulia> means “to buy for”
<Niliununua mkate> “I bought the bread”
<Nilikununulia mkate> “I bought the bread for you”
<Ninasoma> “I am reading”
<Ninakusomea> “I am reading to you”
<Ninawasomea watoto> “I am reading to the children”
When the applicative refers to a noun, such as <msichana>, there must be a concordant infix along with the applicative. When the applicative refers to a noun, the noun comes directly after the verb and before the direct object. When the applicative refers to a nouns phrase, the noun phrase comes after the direct object.
<Ninamsomea msichana kitabu> “I am reading a book to the young woman”
<Ninalisomea kitabu paka la msichana> “I am reading a book to the young woman’s large cat”
<Uliniletea jisu> “You brought me a large knife”
<Jitu litalinunulia sunduku paka lake> “The giant will buy a box for her large cat”
<Umelipokelea mfuko jisu lako> “You have received a bag for your large knife”
The Verb <Kupa>
The verb <kupa> is irregular in that even though it is a monosyllabic stem, it is always ditransitive or applicative. It does not take the applicative infix and it does not retain the <ku> when declined, unlike other monosyllabic stems. This is because <kupa> always requires an indirect object infix, which unlike tense, can be stressed.
<Ninampa mkate> “I am giving her a loaf of bread”
<Tulikupa joka> “We gave you (sing) a large snake”
<Utampa Aisha gari lako?> “Are you going to give Aisha your car?”
<Mmelipa mkate paka la Aisha> “You (pl) have given Aisha’s large cat a loaf of bread”
The reflexive is an infix in Swahili, occupying the object slot. No matter the subject, the reflexive infix is <-ji->.
Some verbs change meaning with the reflexive, such as <kufunza> “to teach, educate” with the reflexive becomes <kujifunza> “to learn”. For example: <Ninajifunza kusoma> “I am learning to read”.
<Ninajiona> “I see myself”
<Mnajiona> “You see yourselves”
<Tutajiona> “We will see ourselves”
<Ulijiandikia mfano> “You wrote yourself an example”
<Paka limejinawa> “The large cat has cleaned itself”
(<kunawa> “to wash part of the body”)
Here’s another quick progress test. Just to make sure we’re on the same page and I am being clear. I’ll just stick to parts four, five and six for now.
Identify the noun class
Ex) <m-toto> CL1
Identify the verb stem
Identify all parts
Ex) tu-na-kula 3pp-PRES-eat
Supply the correct concord. Then translate.
Ex: <Mapaka _angu>
Ex) <Mapaka yangu> My large cats
1) <Gari _etu>
2) <Jisu _a msichana>
3) <Mkate _a watoto>
4) <Macho _angu>
Translate the following into English
1) <Nilitaka kukuandikia>
2) <Majoka yamekuletea sanduku>
3) <Tutamnunulia msichana paka>
Translate the following into Swahili
1) Did you buy a loaf of bread for them?
2) The giant bought a large knife for the guard.
3) The large cat gave me a happy person.
Syllables and stress
Not all of the classes are for differentiating singular and plural, some of them also represent placement or incountability. Also, it makes it easier to explain and group concord, which will come up more and more as we go.kanejam wrote:Is there any reason that, say, classes 1 and 2 are separate classes rather than the singular and plural of a single class? I wouldn't, for example, say that French has 4 genders.
Noun ClassSimple SentencesSpoiler:Test TwoSpoiler:
Identify the verb stemSpoiler:
This lesson will cover the negative form of all the verb forms we have learned so far, aside from negative command form, because that is related to a form we haven’t learned yet. Swahili verbs get interesting in the negative. Noun class 1 is the most irregular of the negative verb forms, but after a little practice the forms are all pretty regular. Blah blah blah, get to the lesson, monkey.
Pretty much all negative forms take the prefix <ha-> in all tenses. The only irregularities are in CL1. The tenses, however, change in the negative form.
Negative subjects CL1 and CL2
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1ps si- 1pp hatu- 2ps hu- 2pp ham- 3ps ha- 3pp hawa-
Present Tense Negative
The present tense negative is where things perhaps differ the most. There is no tense infix. Instead, in Bantu verbs, the final indicative <-a> becomes <-i>. Because there is no tense infix, the first syllable can be stressed, meaning monosyllabic verbs drop the <ku-> in the negative present tense.
Here are examples:
<Ninakula> “I am eating”
<Sili> “I am not eating”
<Unakunywa> “You are drinking”
<Hunwyi> “You are not drinking”
<Ninakulinda> “I am guarding you”
<Sikulindi> “I am not guarding you”
<Unataka kujifunza Kiswahili> “You want to learn Swahili”
<Hutaki kujifinza Kifaransa> “You do not want to learn French”
<Jitu halinioni> “The Giant does not see me”
<Mapaka hayatuli> “The large cats aren’t eating us”
<Moto unaukula mti> “The fire is eating the tree”
<Moto hauuli mti> “The fire is not eating the tree”
When a verb ends in a long <-aa>, the form changes slightly. Here, the underlying assumption is that these are separate vowels. So the pattern of changing the final <-a> to <-i> still applies.
<Sanduku halijai> “The box is not being filled”
<Ninavaa kofia> “I am putting on a hat”
<Sivai kofia> “I am not putting on a hat”
(<kuvaa> “to wear, don”; <kofia> “hat”)
(Also, to say “I am wearing a hat” the perfect is used, so <nimevaa kofia> “I am wearing a hat”. The present tense indicates you’re likely in the middle of doing it, so you’re just now putting on your hat)
When the applicative is used, the <-a> is dropped, but the applicative infix remains:
<Ninakusomea> “I am reading to you”
<Sikusomei> “I am not reading to you”
<Unaninunulia mkate> “You are buying me bread”
<Huninunulii mkate> “You are not buying me bread”
<Ninampa sanduku la majisu> “I am giving her a box of large knives”
<Simpi sanduku la majisu> “I am not giving her a box of large knives”
So the basic present tense negative formula is: negative_concord+(object)+verb_stem+(applicative)+i
Past Tense Negative
The past tense returns to the normal formula of an infix. The negative concord is still necessary (so 1st person past negative starts with <si->, CL6 past negative starts with <haya->). The negative past tense is <ku>. This is different from the infinitive and the second person singular object. However, this tense can be stressed in monosyllabic verbs. So <Nilikula> becomes <Sikula> for negation.
<Nilikunywa maji> “I drank water”
<Sikunywa maji> “I did not drink water”
<Niliona> “I saw”
<Sikuona> “I did not see”
<Nilikuona> “I saw you”
<Sikukuona> “I did not see you”
The context will make it clear, but the second person singular object is still <ku>
<Sikupendi> “I don’t love you”
<Sikukupenda> “I didn’t love you”
<Jitu halikuliona paka> “The giant did not see the large cat”
<Msichana hakuniona> “The young woman didn’t see me”
<Sikutaka kukuona> “I didn’t want to see you”
<Jitu halikukununulia mkate> “The giant didn’t buy bread for you”
<Mapaka hayakutuona> “The large cats didn’t see us”
Future Tense Negative
The future tense negative is very simple. Just add the negative prefix to an otherwise future tense verb.
<Nitakuona> “I will see you”
<Sitakuona> “I won’t see you”
<Tutamnunulia msichana mkate> “We will buy the young woman a loaf of bread”
<Hatutamnunulia msichana mkate> “We won’t buy the young woman a loaf of bread”
The negative perfect in Swahili generally translates as “not yet” or “haven’t yet”. The infix is <-ja->, and follows the normal rules for tense infixes. Like all other negatives, the negative concord is still necessary. This tense infix may also be stressed, like the negative <ku> infix above.
<Nimekula> “I have eaten”
<Sijala> “I have yet to eat”
<Nimeenda> “I have gone”
<Sijaenda> “I have yet to go”
<Nimevaa kofia> “I am wearing a hat”
<Sijavaa kofia> “I have not yet worn a hat”
<Joka halijala> “The giant snake hasn’t eaten yet”
<Mapaka yangu hayajamwona> “My large cats haven’t seen her yet”
<Sijafa> “I’m not dead yet”
<Hujafa?> “Are you dead yet?”
Please feel free to ask any questions about the negative.
In Swahili the verb for “to be” is somewhat irregular, and the verb “to have” is an extension of “to be”. The verb “to be” is <kuwa> and the verb “to have” is <kuwa na> (if you recall, <na> above can mean “and”. It can also mean “with” or “too”; as well as “by means of” but that comes later)
In the present tense, positive indicative, “to be” is <ni> in all concords.
<Mimi ni> “I am”
<Yeye ni> “S/he is”
<Paka ni> “The large cat is”
In the present tense, negative indicative, “to be” is <si> in all concords.
<Sisi si> “We are not”
<Wao si> “They are not”
<Jitu si> “The giant is not”
In the present, positive indicative <kuwa na> follows this pattern: concord+na. In CL1, the normal verb conjugations for the various persons is necessary.
<Nina> “I have”
<Tuna> “We have”
<Paka lina> “The large cat has”
In the negative, the present tense for “to have” follows negative concord. The pattern is: NEG+concord+na
<Sina> “I do not have”
<Hatuna> “We don’t have”
<Paka halina> “The big cat doesn’t have”
Swahili also has verbs for “in/at a place”. These verbs are also extensions of <kuwa>. There are three of them, and in the present tense they follow the same pattern as “to have” (there is one difference. I’ll go over it).
These verbs are: <kuwapo>, <kuwako> and <kuwamo>
<Kuwapo> means something along the lines of “to be here, there, be somewhere close and likely seeable”
<Kuwako> means something like “to be there, placed there, near, at, by, on”
<Kuwamo> means something akin to “to be inside a place, on top of something”
<Kuwapo> and <kuwako> both have a generalness to them, whereas <kuwamo> is much more definite. <Kuwako> refers to indefinite locations, and is also often used with questions.
<Uko wapi?> “Where are you?”
<Upo msikitini> “You are at the Mosque”
<Umo msikitini> “You are inside the Mosque”
(<wapi> “where”; <-ni> “locative form.” The locative form changes the CL to CL17, regardless of the original class. CL17 concord is <ku-/kw->)
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Nipo niko nimo / sipo siko simo Upo uko umo / hupo huko humo Yupo yuko yumo / hayupo hayuko hayumo
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Tupo tuko tumo / hatupo hatuko hatumo Mpo mko mmo / hampo hamko hammo Wapo wako wamo / hawapo hawako hawamo
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Upo uko umo / haupo hauko haumo Ipo iko imo / haipo haiko haimo
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Lipo liko limo / halipo haliko halimo Yapo yako yamo / hayapo hayako hayamo
The past tense returns to the normal patterns we have already learned.
<Nilikuwa> “I was”
<Nilikuwa na> “I had”
<Nilikuwapo> “I was here”
<Nilikuwako> “I was there”
<Nilikuwamo> “I was inside”
This is the same for the past negative. Remember that the negative past infix <-ku-> can be stressed, and therefore takes the place of the infinitive <ku->
<Sikuwa> “I wasn’t”
<Sikuwa na> “I didn’t have”
<Sikuwapo> “I wasn’t here”
<Sikuwako> “I wasn’t there”
<Sikuwamo> “I wasn’t in there”
Again, the future tense follows the same lines as the past, and as other verbs.
<Joka litakuwa> “The large snake will be”
<Joka litakuwa na> “The large snake will have”
<Joka litakuwapo> “The large snake will be here”
<Joka litakuwako> “The large snake will be there”
<Joka litakuwamo> “The large snake will be inside”
Because the infix <-ta-> cannot be stressed, even in the negative, the infinitive <ku-> is still necessary.
<Joka halitakuwa> “The large snake will not be”
<Joka halitakuwa na> “The large snake will not have”
<Joka halitakuwapo> “The large snake will not be here”
<Joka halitakuwako> “The large snake will not be there”
<Joka halitakuwamo> “The large snake will not be inside”
<Kuwa> follows the predictable pattern here as well.
<Mmekuwa> “You all have been”
<Mmekuwa na> “You all have had”
<Mmekuwapo> “You all have been here”
<Mmekuwako> “You all have been there”
<Mmekuwamo> “You all have been inside”
The negative infix <-ja-> can be stressed, so the infinitive <ku-> is not necessary.
<Hamjawa> “You all have not been yet”
<Hamjawa na> “You all have not had yet”
<Hamjawapo> “You all have not been here yet”
<Hamjawako> “You all have not been there yet”
<Hamjawamo> “You all have not been inside yet”
Some speakers of Swahili conjugate the placement verbs with an <-e-> in place of <-a-> before the placement suffix. So some people will say <nilikuweko> instead of <nilikuwako>. Largely this is up to the speaker’s preference. I learned it with the <-a->, so that’s what I stick with.
Also, some speakers retain the infinitive form in the negative perfect, example: <sijakuwa> instead of <sijawa>. Although the form without the infinitive is technically correct, this too is up to the individual speaker.