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INTRODUCTION TO SWAHILI

BASIC VOCABULARY, NOUN & VERB STRUCTURES

Swahili is a continually changing language that is still growing


which resulted from the great Swahili culture that was established
along the east African coast. Grammatically it is one of the African
Bantu group and most of the words are of this origin with about a
third of all words coming from Arabic – Swahili derives from the
Arabic word for Plain. Many words have been incorporated from
English especially words of a more technical nature. Swahili and
English are the two official languages of Tanzania but Swahili is far
more widely spoken and is most people’s second language after
their tribal language. The dialect of Swahili spoken in Mtwara is very
different from that spoken in Kenya and is influenced by the local
tribal language, Makonde. English is not widely spoken. It must be
remembered that many people speaking Swahili are relatively poor
and illiterate so it remains a language that is largely spoken and
heard not written and read and so there can be many variations in
spelling, usage etc.

This guide has been written by a fluent Swahili speaker and


adjusted after the experiences of several years’ worth of volunteers.
It is tailored to the experiences of volunteers in their first weeks and
months in Tanzania, it is not an exhaustive guide but a starting
point for study and a quick reference when in country. There are no
exercises for you to do so practice your own using the grammar
rules and the Nicholas Awde dictionary and use the interactive CD to
get a better understanding of the sounds of Swahili. Practice makes
perfect which is hard to do but the more you know before departure
the more things will make sense when you arrive.

The most important things to concentrate on are the basic words,


the greetings and the basic verb structure. The nouns are a bit
complicated so do not worry about them too much, try and develop
a good working level of useful Swahili rather than learning
everything. Bahati Njema!

CONTENTS Page
Alphabet, Pronunciation & Important Words 2
Greetings 3
Questions & Grammar 5
Verbs 6
Nouns 10
Adjectives 12
Numbers 13
Time 14
Other Points 16
Noun Vocabulary 17

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Verb Vocabulary 19
General Vocabulary 21
Alphabet and Pronunciation
Swahili is written in the Roman alphabet and pronunciation is
generally the same as in English but there are the following
exceptions - listening to the CD ROM will give you the best idea:

A - Pronounced aah, as in ‘far’ or a as in ‘man’


E - Pronounced between eh as in ‘bed’, and é in ‘café’
I - Pronounced eee as in ‘Lima’ or ‘Swahili’
O - Pronounced oh as in ‘Promise’ or ‘Mambo’
U - Pronounced oo as in ‘Fool’
Dh - Pronounced th as in ‘that’
Ng’ - A guttural sound a bit like in ‘finger’

R and L are interchangeable so Laura could be Raura, Laula or


Raula.

NB: Unlike English, all syllables end in a vowel – this is what allows
Swahili to flow fluently and quickly in conversation. Each vowel in a
word is sounded separately; for example, saa (watch) is pronounced
sa-a.

Important Words

Hello Jambo
See you later Baadaye
Welcome Karibu
Thank-you Asante
What is your name? Jina lako nani?
My name is… Jina langu…
Please Tafadhali
Excuse-me Samahani
Yes Ndiyo
No Hapana
But Lakini
OK Sawa
And Na
Is/Are Ni
Or Au
Perhaps Labda
Because Kwa sababu
Good Nzuri, safi, njema
Bad Mbaya
Sorry Pole
Very Sana
No Problem Hakuna matatizo
What is this? Hiki nini?

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Today Leo
Tomorrow (also good night) Kesho
Good Night Usiku Mwema
Greetings
Conversations almost always start with a series of greetings – this is
much more emphasized than in English. It is important to offer
greetings out of courtesy, and to reply appropriately when greeted.
Combinations of greetings are used to inquire about someone,
including asking about their health, work, school or home – almost
anything that they are strongly associated with.

There are two forms of greetings which fall into a ‘system’ and then
a series of other greetings. They may seem complicated to start
with but understanding how greetings work will greatly assist you in
understanding Swahili as a whole.

Habari?
Habari literally means ‘news’ and there is a huge variety of
greetings that use this as their core but they are actually incredibly
simple and versatile to use when you have got the basics.
Essentially people will ask for the news of your day, family, work,
evening or any other thing that seems interesting. One thing to bear
in mind is that the answers are all very basic and generally it is bad
manners to say that anything is bad so even if you cannot
understand exactly what has been asked of you then you just say it
is good. Easy.

Common Habari greetings:

Habari? How is it?


Habari gani? How are things?
Habari yako? How are you?
Habari zenu? How are you lot? (Pl)
Habari za leo? How is your day?
Habari za asubuhi? How is your morning?
Habari za mchana? How is your afternoon?
Habari za jioni? How is your evening?
Habari za usiku? How is your night?
Habari za nyumbani? How is your household?
Habari za kazi? How is work?
Habari za safari? How was your journey?

Generally when greetings are for anything else it will always be


Habari za …
One other point is that often the habari will be dropped from the
question and so they might say, Za asubuhi instead of the full
sentence.

There are several positive responses to use to these greetings:

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Safi, Nzuri, Salama, Njema

And a negative response is Mbaya. To say it is very good/bad you


use sana after the response i.e. Safi sana. Or if it is just good then it
is Safi tu.

Jambos
The most basic greeting in Swahili is to say Jambo and is the
greeting you are most likely to hear as a tourist (volunteers are
banned from using it). What jambo means in Swahili is an issue or
problem so effectively it is the reverse of saying ‘Alright’ in English.
There are many greetings that use jambo as a base but also have
the negative person marker i.e. you don’t have a problem. So these
greetings take the form of a question and an answer. So to greet an
individual you would say:

Hujambo? You don’t have a problem?


Sijambo. I don’t have a problem.

So the following greetings apply:


Greeting Response
Individual Hujambo? Sijambo
Group Hamjambo?
Hatujambo
To inquire after an individual Hajambo? Hajambo
To inquire after a group Hawajambo?
Hawajambo

A slight variation on this but possibly the greeting that you will use
most of all is to say Mambo. Mambo is the plural of Jambo and
literally means ‘problems’ yet it has just become a word used in
greetings. This is a greeting used for people your own age or
younger and generally all children will say it to you. The correct
response is Poa which means ‘cool’ but again is just a greeting.
There are also a number of other words now used like bomba and
fresh instead of poa. Also mambo might be followed by vipi, or just
vipi with out the mambo.

The other extremely common greeting and one that is important to


get right is Shikamoo. It is a respectful greeting to anyone older
than oneself and should always be used to those older! The
response is Marahaba.

There are some other greetings that can be used:

Greeting Response Meaning


As-salaam aleykum Aleykum as-salaam Peace be
with you

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Salama Salama Peace (also safe)
Nzima Nzima Just
means good

You must know the following:

Habari… Safi Very general


greeting
Hujambo/Hamjambo Sijambo/Hatujambo How are you?
(S/Pl)
Shikamoo Marahaba For older people
Mambo Poa For children/youths

Questions

Who? Nani?
What? Nini?
Where? Wapi?
When? Lini?
Why? Kwa nini?
How? Vipi?
Which? Gani?
How much/many? Ngapi?

How much money? Shilingapi?


What time (is it)? Saangapi?

According to Swahili sentence structure, the above words come at


the end of the sentence; i.e. Unataka nini? = What do you want?
Also Swahili is different to English in the sense that if you ask
someone, ‘You have not seen Laura, have you?’ the reply is, ‘No, I
have not seen Laura’. In Swahili the answer is, ‘Yes, I have not seen
Laura.’ Which is actually the more logical answer.

Grammar
It is worth understanding these terms before going further:

Verb: a verb is an action: walk, speak, hit.


Noun: a noun is a thing, object or person: car, tree, child.
Tense: a tense is when something happens: in the future, present
or past.
Subject: the subject is the person or thing doing the verb: I hit,
Laura drove.
Object: is the person or thing that has the verb act on it: I hit Laura,
Laura drove the car.
Marker: the marker is the word that shows the tense, subject or
object.
Prefix: a word or part of a word that goes in front of the item in
question.

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Suffix: a word or part of a word that goes after the item in question.

Sentence Structure
The most noticeable thing with Swahili is that there are far fewer
words in a sentence than in English. This is because instead of
having different words for the subject, object and tense markers
they are all merged into one word which allows the language to flow
more easily. This will all make sense when we have looked at each
aspect of the sentence in turn.

Verbs
The verb stem is the core of the sentence. In Swahili all verbs work
as ‘to have’ rather like the ‘avoir’ verbs of French which is generally
the reverse of English. So in English ‘I am hungry’ is ‘I have hunger’
in Swahili.

The ‘infinitive’ of a verb is the way a verb is said or stated. In


English if the verb stem is ‘want’ then the infinitive is ‘to want’. In
Swahili the same verb stem for want is taka and the infinitive is ku,
and so it is written kutaka.

Subject and Tense Markers


For the moment we will only use the present tense, the present
tense marker is – na -. In Swahili the subject and tense marker is in
the same order as in English which is:

Subject Tense Verb


I do want
Ni na taka

But the Swahili sentence is one word and so it is: Ninataka.

1st Person Singular I Ni-


2nd Person Singular You U-
3rd Person Singular He/She/It A-
1st Person Plural We Tu-
2nd Person Plural You M-
3rd Person Plural They Wa-

So some examples are as follows:

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You are leaving U-na-toka
He is laughing A-na-cheka
They are walking Wa-na-tembea

Tenses
In Swahili there are far fewer tenses than in English which means
you can grasp them quite quickly and also they are more regular
than in English. In English the perfect tense is I have done, she has
seen, the past tense is I talked , we went. In Swahili the Perfect
tense is used much more than in English and is used most of the
time for actions in the past. There is no imperfect tense in Swahili –
in English the is when ‘was’ or ‘where’ are used.

There is only one future tense in Swahili. In English you can say, ‘I
am going to eat’. The same does not apply in Swahili: the verb to
go, kuenda, means to go and not to do something in the future.

Tense Marker
Perfect -me-
Past -li-
Present -na-
Future -ta-

The sentence structure is the same as before but with different


tenses:

I have done Ni-me-fanya


You (pl) talked M-li-ongea
He likes A-na-penda
They will sleep Wa-ta–lala

Object Markers
This is where a Swahili sentence differs to an English one as the
object comes before the verb.

English Subject Tense Verb Object


I will hit him
Swahili Subject Tense Object Verb
Ni ta m piga

1st Person Singular Me -ni-


2nd Person Singular You -ku-
3rd Person Singular Him/Her/It -m-
1st Person Plural Us -tu-
2nd Person Plural You -wa-
3rd Person Plural Them -wa-

Now we can make more complex sentences:

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I like you Ni-na-ku-penda
You lot will see them M-ta-wa-ona
I planted it Ni-me-m-panda

So brought together these are the different components in a basic


sentence:

Subject Tense Object Verb


Ni ni penda
U me ku taka
A li m ona
Tu na tu lala
M ta wa ongea
Wa wa fanya

Irregular Verbs
Unfortunately it is not all that straight forward as there are some
irregular verbs and they happen to be some of the most common
ones used. So far all of the verbs we have used have been just the
stem i.e. ona instead of kuona. Irregular verbs keep the ku when
used, so for example, ‘I will eat’ becomes Nitakula. Common
irregular verbs are: Kula to eat, Kunywa to drink, Kwenda to go
(note there is no u anymore).

Negatives
In Swahili the negative requires a different subject and tense
marker. They fit into the sentence in exactly the same way as the
positive markers. Well, apart from the present tense which is a bit
different. If you have learnt your Jambo greetings then you already
know the negative subject markers.

Negative
Subject
Markers
1st Person Si-
Singular
2nd Person Hu-
Singular
3rd Person Ha-
Singular
1 Person Plural
st
Hatu-
2nd Person Plural Ham-
3rd Person Plural Hawa-

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Tense Negative Tense
Marker
Perfect -ja-
Past -ku-
Future -ta-

So the following are some examples

I did see him. Ni-me-m-ona. I did not see him. Si-ja-m-ona


They will not like him. Hawa-ta-m-penda
I have not understood Si-ja-alewa.

The present tense does not follow the same rules. The negative
subject markers are the same but the tense marker does not appear
after the subject marker. Instead, the last letter of the verb stem
becomes an - i.

I like Ni-na-penda I do not like Si-pend-i


He does not smile Ha-chek-i
We won’t do it Hatu-fany-i

Passive Voice
The passive voice can easily be learnt and will double your verb
vocabulary in an instant. The passive voice is used to describe when
a verb is acted against/on someone or something. It is formed by
adding a letter ‘w’ to the verb stem before the final vowel. It is
easiest understood by seeing it in action.

To hit Ku-piga To be hit Ku-pigwa


To love Ku-penda To be loved Ku-pendwa

Modal Verbs
Modal verbs include the words ‘should’, ‘could’ and ‘may’. The most
common by far in Swahili is ‘should’. This is formed by adding the
subject marker to the verb stem needed without a tense marker,
and changing the final vowel to an ‘e’. The negative is formed by
adding ‘si’ after the subject marker as well. For example:

I should go Ni-ende
We should win Tu-shinde
You shouldn’t leave U-si-ondoke

The Conditional and Connective Tenses


The conditional tense introduces a new form of tense marker into
verb grammar, but the previous rules still apply. The marker for
conditional present tense is ‘nge’ and its negative equivalent is
‘singe’. For example:

If I were to want Ni-nge-taka


If you were tall U-nge-kuwa mrefu
If they don’t like Wa-singe-penda
If he didn’t want A-singe-taka

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The connective tense often acts as a simpler version of the
conditional tense, and uses the markers ‘ka’ for ‘and’, and ‘ki’ for
‘if’:

And I want Ni-ka-taka


If I want Ni-ki-taka

Pronouns
Pronouns are generally used more in Swahili than in English. It is
common for a sentence to start with a pronoun, even when not
needed.
For example: Mimi, ninakwenda translates as Me, I am going.

Me Mimi
You Wewe
Him/Her Yeye
Us Sisi
You Nyinyi
Them There is no Swahili
equivalent
Pronouns are not used instead of the subject markers but as an
addition to them.

Nouns
In English there are no real noun classes – there are irregularities
but that is a different thing. In Swahili there are a number of noun
classes. Depending on which class the noun is in depends on how
the noun behaves and changes. The most common way in which a
noun changes in English is when we are looking at the quantity. In
English the plural is (generally) marked by the addition of an s/es at
the end of a word i.e. Car, Cars or family, families. In Swahili the first
letter/s of the noun marks whether it is in plural or negative. The
table below gives the three most common noun groups.

Group Singula Plural English


r
1. People. M/Wa M- Wa-
M-toto Wa-toto Person/people
M- Wa- White
zungu zungu person/people
2. Plants, objects. M/Mi M- Mi
M-ti Mi-ti Tree/trees
M-fuko Mi-fuko Bag/bags
3. Inanimate objects. Ki- Vi-

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Ki/Vi
Ki-tu Vi-tu Thing/things
Ki-biriti Vi-biriti Match/matches
.
Other groups are not used in the same way:

4. Generally begins with N and has many plant and animal names.
The singular and plural are the same:

Cow/s: Ngombe, Snake/s Nyoka, Postal Letter/s: Barua

5. This Ma- class is a general class when there is no singular prefix.


So: car Gari, Cars Ma-gari. Exercise book Daftari, Exercise books Ma-
daftari

The only rare variation is when the noun is monosyllabic and then
the singular prefix is ji-. Eye Ji-cho, Eyes Ma-cho.

6. This is the group for substances or abstract nouns. As with


English there is no singular/plural.

Love: Upendo, Flour: Unga, Sand: Mchanga, Fire: Moto, Water: Maji.

7. Just for one word derived from Arabic.

Place: Pahali/Mahali

8. The verbal-noun class, which is where nouns are derived from


verbs, there are no plurals.

Singing: Kuimba, Writing: Kuandika


It is important to note that in Swahili there is no definite article –
essentially you cannot say ‘the’ or ‘a/an’.

So nyumba means: house, a house and the house.

Possessives
A possessive is the way of saying who the noun belongs to, in
English this is shown by prefixes like my car, your love, his baby. In
Swahili there is a suffix that follows the noun. The Swahili suffix is
slightly more complicated as there is a stem where the first letter/s
change to match the noun class. Many of these will be familiar from
some of the greeting and basic phrases.

1st Person Singular My/mine -angu


2nd Person Singular Your/yours -ako
3rd Person Singular His/her/hers/its -ake
1st Person Plural Our/ours -etu
2nd Person Plural Your/yours -enu

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3rd Person Plural Their/theirs -ao

And the noun classes’ prefix to the stem.

Noun Class Prefix Examples


1. M/Wa- W- M-toto w-ako, your child
Wa-toto w-angu, my children
2. M/Mi- W/Y- M-fuko w-ake, his bag
Mi-fuko y-etu, our bags
3. Ki/Vi- Ch/Vy- Ki-tabu ch-ako, your book
Vikombe vy-ao, their cups
4. N- Y/Z- Ndisi y-angu, my banana
Ng’ombe z-enu, your (pl) cows
5. Ma- L/Y- Gari l-etu, our car
Ma-gari y-ao, their cars
6. U- W/Z Upendo w-ako, your love
No Plural

Conjunctives
Similar to possessives is the conjunctive. In English we have two
ways of expressing ownership, one is by saying ‘of’ ie the people of
Tanzania. More commonly is the use of an apostrophe at the end of
the noun, usually followed by an ‘s’ i.e. Laura’s eyes. In Swahili
there is only one method which is similar to ‘of’ and again it is
dependant on the class of the noun. This time the stem is the letter
‘–a’ which is preceded by the noun prefix. The examples explain it
best.

The people of Tanzania Wa-tu w-a


Tanzania
The book of the teacher (the teacher’s book) Ki-tabu ch-a
mwalimu
The eyes of Laura (Laura’s eyes) Ma-cho ma-a
Laura
Adjectives
Adjectives are words that describe nouns – tall, expensive, good etc.
In Swahili the adjective is again dependant on the noun that it
describes, again the first letters of the adjective change to match
the noun class, taking on the same first letter/s. Unlike English the
adjective follows the noun, car fast and not fast car.

Noun Class Swahili English


1. M/Wa- M-tu m-lefu Tall person
Wa-toto wa-fupe Short children
2. M/Mi- M-fuko m-zuri Good bag
Mi-koba mi-zuri Good wallets
3. Ki/Vi- Ki-tabu ki-zuri Good book
Vi-tu vi-zito Heavy chairs

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The word ‘all’ is formed again by matching the noun prefix (as with
possessives) to a stem, this time the stem is ‘– ote’.

All people Wa-tu w-ote


All cars Ma-gari l-ote
All books Vi-tabu vy-ote

‘Any’ is formed by saying the prefix twice before the stem (with no
consecutive vowels added).

Any people M-tu wow-ote


Any car Gari lol-ote
Any book Ki-tabu choch-ote

Demonstratives
Demonstratives are used to distinguish between nouns, in English it
is very straightforward with four words used – this, these, that and
those. In Swahili, however, the noun classes come into play again as
each noun class has its own set of demonstratives. It is not a terrible
thing to get them mixed up as generally you will be understood so
concentrate on learning the first three noun classes.

Noun Class Demonstrative


This These That Those
1. M/Wa Huyu Hawa Yule Wale
2. M/Mi Huu Hii Ule Ile
3. Ki/Vi Hiki Hivi Kile Vile
4. N Hii Hizi Ile Zile
5. Ma Hili Haya Lile Yale
6. U Huu Hizi Ule Zile
This person M-tu huyu, These cups Vi-kombe hivi
Comparatives
Comparatives are used, as the name suggests, to compare different
things in conjunction with an adjective. For example, Tim is better
than Laura. In Swahili the word kuliko acts in the same way as ‘than’
in English. Ni precedes the adjective, in the negative it is si.

Tim is better than Laura Tim ni m-zuri kuliko Laura


He is not taller then me Yeye si m-lefu kuliko mimi

Superlatives
A superlative is the most that an adjective can be and is equivalent
to adding –est to an English adjective i.e. tallest, fastest. In Swahili it
is formed like a comparative but uses the word ‘all’ –ote, with a
prefix to match the adjective.

We are best of all Sisi ni wa-zuri kuliko w-ote

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Numbers and Ordinals

0 - Sufuri/Ziro 20 - Ishirini
1 - Moja 30 - Thelathini
2 - Mbili 40 - Arubaini
3 - Tatu 50 - Hamsini
4 - Nne 60 - Sitini
5 - Tano 70 - Sabini
6 - Sita 80 - Themanini
7 - Saba 90 - Tisini
8 - Nane 100 - Mia moja
9 - Tisa 1,000 - Elfu moja
10 - Kumi 10,000 - Elfu kumi
11 - Kumi na moja 100,000 - Laki moja
12 - Kumi na mbili 1,000,000 - Millioni
moja
13 - Kumi na tatu

In Swahili, the numbers between ten and twenty are formed by


literally saying ‘ten and one’ (meaning eleven), ten and two, ten and
three etc. The same is true with all larger numbers

44 arubaini na nne
593 mia tano tisini na tatu
305726 laki tatu elfu tano mia saba na ishrini na sita

Ordinals denote rank and placement associated with numbers, i.e.


first, second and third etc. They are formed by putting the letter ‘a’
and the appropriate prefix (according to the noun class of the
object) in front of the number in question. The only exceptions are
the words for ‘first’ and ‘second’. To find the prefixes see the
section on possessives.

First -a kwanza
Second -a pili
Third -a tatu
Fourth -a nne
Fifth -a tano
Sixth -a sita
Seventh -a saba
Eighth -a nane
Ninth -a tisa
Tenth -a kumi

Time

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Time/Hour/ Saa Monday Jumatatu
Day Siku Tuesday Jumanne
Minute Dakika Wednesday
Jumatano
Week Wiki Thursday Alhamisi
Month Mwezi Friday
Ijumaa
Year Mwaka Saturday Jumamosi
Second Sekondi Sunday Jumapili

Yesterday Jana Quarter Robo


Today Leo Half Nusu
Tomorrow Kesho Minute
Dakika
Now Sasa Less Kasoro
Later Baadaye

Saa is an Arabic word that can mean hour, time, clock or watch. It is
the same origin as the Surname Saatchi which is Arabic for clock
smith.

Telling the time in Swahili is made difficult by the use of a different


system. As the Swahili zone is equatorial the length of the day is
roughly equal throughout the year, sunrise and sunset is at about
six o’clock. The Swahilis start the day with sunrise and so seven
o’clock is one o’clock to the Swahilis. It is difficult to learn, but is
made more simple by taking six away from the number that you
would say in English and translating into Swahili. The number is
stated in the same way, whether am or pm.

6am Saa kumi na mbili


7am Saa moja
8am Saa mbili
9am Saa tatu
10am Saa nne
11am Saa tano
12pm Saa sita
1pm Saa saba
2pm Saa nane
3pm Saa tisa
4pm Saa kumi
5pm Saa kumi na moja

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6pm Saa kumi na mbili

When asking the time it is common to say Sasa saangapi?

The reply is formed as follows:

1100 hrs Saa Tano


1115 hrs Saa tano na robo
1120 hrs Saa tano na dakika ishirini
1130 hrs Saa tano na nusu
1145 hrs Saa sita kasoro robo
1150 hrs Saa sita kasoro dakika kumi

Bado Not yet


Alafu After

Approximate times of day

0600-1200 Morning Asubuhi


1200-1700 Afternoon Mchana
1700-2000 Evening Jiono
2000-0600 Night Usiku

Other Points

-ni
Adding –ni to the end of a word has two purposes. Firstly if
addressing a group then many words can be made into the plural by
adding the ni. For example shikamoo-ni, pole-ni, asante-ni.

The other use is to say inside something. So in the school is shule-ni


or in the bedroom chumba-ni.

Mzungu
Mzungu means a white person but does not have a racist
connotation, indeed it is used very often to call a white person. It
literally means ‘He who wanders around’. Indeed, it is not at all rude
to refer to anyone by their trade, tribe, age or size.

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Money
The unit of currency in Tanzania and all Swahili countries is the
Shilling or in Swahili Shillingi. When asking someone how much
something costs there are two ways: Bei gani? Which is ‘What
price?’ and Shillingi Ngapi? ‘How many Shillings?’ Shillingi ngapi is
usually contracted to Shilingapi? One of thing that is contracted is
shillingi ishirini, twenty shillings, to shingshirini.

Twende!
Formed from the verb to go, kuenda, twende means ‘lets go’.

Lion King
Hakuna matata is most famous because of the Lion King films but
you will not hear it in Mtwara as the local equivalent is Hakuna
matatiso or more commonly Hamna shida. Hakuna literally means
he does not have and hamna means you (pl) don’t have. Matata,
matatiso and shida all mean problems/worries. Hamna is used
generally to say there is nothing in the sense if you went to a shop
and asked for champagne, the answer would be Hamna.

Where is something?
If you ask someone where something is, the Swahili is …iko wapi?
The answer could be hapa here, pale there or kule. Kule means over
there and the higher the pitch it is said in the further away it is.
Nearby is karibu and far away is Mbale.

Left Kushoto
Right Kulia
Straight ahead Moja kwa moja (literally meaning one by one)

Noun Vocabulary

Class 1 – M/Wa (in singular form)

Person Mtu Prisoner Mfungwa


Child Mtoto Vagrant Mhuni
Son/Daughter Mwana Midwife Mkunga
Man Mwanaume Farmer Mkulima
Woman Mwanamke Nurse Mwuguzi
Husband Mume Sorcerer Mchawi
Wife Mke Weaver Mfumi
Fiancée Mchumba Cook Mpichi
Elder Mzee Preacher Mhubiri
White Person Mzungu Blacksmith Mhunzi
African Mwafrika Tenant Mpangaji

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Christian Mkristo Traveller Msafiri
Muslim Mwislamu Craftsman Msanaa
Indian Mhindi Scientist Mtaalamu
Guest Mgeni Musician Mtribu
Tourist Mtalii Judge Mwamuzi
Resident Mkaaji Fisherman Mvuvi
Ill Person Mgonjwa Lawyer Mwanasheria
Dead Person Mfu Mason Mashi
Kind " Mhisani Teacher Mwalimu
Greedy " Mlafi Student Mwanafunzi
Grumpy " Mgomvi Hunter Mwindaji
Very Old " Mkongwe Thief Mwizi
Generous " Mpaji Baker Mwokaji
Lazy " Mvivu Liar Mwongo
Intelligent " Mwanagavu Drunkard Mlevi
Jealous " Mwivu Poet Mshairi
Madman Mkichaa Lover Mpenzi
English Mwingereza Seducer Mtongozi
American Mmarekani Victim Mteswa
Swahili Mswahili Gossiper Mpayukaji
Tanzanian Mtanzania Slave Mtumwa
Chinese Mchina Coward Mwoga

Class 2 – M/Mi (in singular form)

Bag Mfuko Coffee bush Mkahawa


Juice Mchuzi Baobab tree Mbuyu
Game Mchezo Tea tree Mchai
Whip Mjeledi Mangrove Mkandaa
Scissors Mkasi Cashew tree Mkorosho
Mat Mkeka Ebony Mpingo
Tin Mkebe Tree Mti
Wallet Mkoba Cassava Muhogo
Region Mkoa Sugar cane Mua
Necklace Mkufu Millet Mtama
Spear Mkuki Election Mchaguo
Door Mlango Belt Mkanda
Fire Moto Example Mfano
Football Mpira Range Mfiko
River Mto Series Mfulizo

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Pillow Mto Proclamation Mgambo
Lever Mtambo Distribution Mgawo
Mosque Msikiti Collision Mgongano
Luggage Mwamba Support Mhimili
Light Mwanga Inspection Mkaguo
Load Mzigo Contract Mkataba
Copy Mwigo Vigil Mkesha
Square Mraba Obstacle Mkingamo
Circle Mviringo Meeting Mkutano
Line Msafa Help Msaada
Cross Msalaba Test Mtihani
Fishing Line Mshipi Style Mtindo
Trap Mtego Summons Mwaliko
Gas Mvuke Miracle Mwujiza
Season Msimu Muscle Musuli
End Mwisho Body Mwili
Month Mwezi Tail Mkia
Year Mwaka Mouth Mdomo
Bread Mkate Back Mgongo
Uncooked Rice Mchele Leg Mguu
Spinach Mchicha Arm Mkono

Verb Vocabulary

To Be Able Weza To Dance Cheza


To Abandon Acha To Decrease Punguza
To Abuse Tukana To Deliver Peleka
To Accept Kubali To Despise Dharau
To Accuse Shtaki To Dig Chimba
To Be Afraid Ogopa To Draw Chora
To Agree Patana To Dream Ota
To Be Angry Kasirika To Drink Nywa
To Answer Jibu To Drive Endesha
To Arrive Fika To Be Drunk Lewa
To Ask Uliza To End Isha
To Awake Amka To Enter Ingia
To Be* Kuwa To Explain Eleza
To Bear Zaa To Fail Shindwa
Offspring
To Begin Anza To Fall Anguka
To Believe Amini To Farm Lima

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To Bite Uma To Fight Pigana
To Boil Chemsha To Find Tafuta
To Be Born Zaliwa To Finish Maliza
To Break Vunja To Fish Vua
To Bring Leta To Fly Ruka
To Build Jenga To Follow Fuata
To Burn Choma To Forget Sahau
To Bury Zika To Forgive Samehe
To Be Busy Shughulika To Get Pata
To Buy Nunua To Give Pa
To Call Ita To Go Kwenda
To Care For Tunza To Be Happy Furahi
To Carve Chonga To Harvest Vuna
To Catch Daka To Have* Kuna
To Change Badili To Hear Sikia
To Choose Chagua To Help Saidia
To Clean Safisha To Hire Kodi
To Climb Panda To Hit Piga
To Close Funga To Hold Shika
To Come Kuja To Hope Tumaini
To Pongeza To Hug Kumbatiana
Congratulate
To Cook Pika To Imagine Waza
To Cool Poa To Increase Zidi
To Cry Lia To Joke Tania
To Cut Kata To Judge Hukumu
To Damage Haribu To Kill Chinja
To Knock Gonga To Show Onyesha
To Know Jua To Shut Funga
To Be Late Chelewa To Sit Kaa
To Laugh Cheka To Sleep Lala
To Learn Jifunza To Speak Ongea
To Leave Ondoka To Stand Simama
To Lift Beba To Start Anza
To Like Penda To Steal Iba
To Lie Danganya To Stop Simama
To Listen Sikia To Suffer Umwa
To Live Ishi To Swear Tukana
To Lose Potea To Sweep Fagia
To Make Tengeneza To Swim Ogelea
To Marry Oa To Take Chukua
To Meet Kuta To Taste Onja
To Mistake Kosa To Teach Fundisha
To Mix Changanya To Tell Ambia
To Move Sogea To Thank Shukuru
To Need Hitaji To Think Fikiri
To Open Fungua To Throw Lusha
To Pay Lipa To Be Tired Choka

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To Place Weka To Travel Safiri
To Play Cheza To Try Jaribu
To Prevent Zuia To Turn Pinda
To Rain Onyesha To Understand Elewa
mvua
To Read Soma To Use Tumia
To Receive Pokea To Wait Subiri
To Remember Kumbuka To Walk Tembea
To Repair Tengeneza To Want Taka
To Rest Pumzika To Wash Fua
(clothes)
To Return Rudi To Wash Oga
(people)
To Ridicule Dhikika To Watch Tazama
To Rot Oza To Wear Vaa
To Rub Futa To Win Shinda
To Run Kimbia To Withdraw Toa
To Say Sema To Work Fanya kazi
To Sell Uza To Worship Abudu
To Sew Shona To Write Andika

* To Be ‘Kuwa’ – The present tense is different, formed using the


word ‘ni’, meaning is/are. The negative form is ‘si’. For example:
Mimi ni mwalimu I am a teacher.

To Have ‘Kuna’ – The past and future tenses are formed using the
verb Kuwa. For example: I will have good luck Nitakuwa na
bahati nzuri
I had a lot of money Nilikuwa na pesa nyingi

General Vocabulary

Food and Drink Chakula na Vinywyaji

Bread Mkate Water


Maji
Butter Siagi Milk
Maziwa
Eggs Mayai Tea Chai
Rice (cooked) Wali Coffee
Kahawa
Maize flour porridge Ugali Beer Bia
Biscuits Biskuti Soft
Drink Soda
Peanuts Karanga Spirits
Pombe
Cashew Nuts Korosho

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Sugar Sukari Tomato
Nyanya
Salt Chumvi Onions Vitunguu
Pepper Pili pili Cabbage
Kabeji
Sauce Mchuzi Okra
Barmia Spinach
Mcicha
Soup Supu Coconut Mnazi
Carrot -
Karoti
Fish Samaki Aubergine Biringani
Shark Papa Potatoes Viazi
Squid Ngisi Salad Saladi
Octopus Pweza Vegetable
Mboga
Lobster Kamba kochi Fruit
Matunda
Prawn Kamba
Crab Kaa
Knife Kisu
Chicken Kuku Fork Uma
Goat Mbuzi Spoon
Kijiko
Beef Ngombe Plate Sahani
Lamb Kondoo Glass Glasi
Duck Bata Cup Kikombe
Bottle Chupa
Lemon Ndimu Table
Meza
Mango Embe Chair Kiti
Orange Chungwa
Banana Ndizi
Pineapple Nanasi
Papaya Paipai

Other Useful Vocabulary

Country Nchi Car Gari


Town Mji Bicycle
Baiskeli
Village Kijiji Motorbike
Piki piki
Street Bara-bara Aeroplane
Ndege
Address Anwani Ship Meri
House Nyumbani
Shop Duka Clothes Nguo

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Garden Bustani Shoes
Viatu
Farm Shamba Hat Kofia
Mosque Msikiti Coat
Koti
Church Kanisa Shirt
Shati
School Shule Trousers
Sirwali
College Chuo cha elimu Watch
Saa
Market Sokoni Room
Chumba Work
Kazi
Kitchen Jikoni Business Biashara
Toilet Choo Holiday Sikukuu
Door Mlango
Window Dirisha Machine Mashine
Key Ufunguo
Balcony Baraza Telephone
Simu

Mother Mama
Sun Jua Father
Baba
Moon Mwezi Gran
Bibi
Stars Nyota Grandpa Babu
Sea Bahari Aunt
Shangazi
River Mto Friend
Rafiki
Lake Ziwa
Clouds Mawingu
Rain Mvua
Ice Barafu
Wind Upepo
Tree Mti
Grass Nyasa
Sand Mchanga

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