About Swahili Cheat Sheet

As part of an assignment for Swahili I at the University of Pittsburgh, I decided to create a "cheat sheet" or quick reference for the vocabulary and conjugations that we've covered. These will mostly be basics for people who forget things like negations, conjugation, etc.

With that in mind, please email me using the sidebar if you find any issues or would like to suggest more content to be added. Thank you :)


*NOTE: I am not a linguist or anything of the sort. My terminology should all be taken "as-is". Various sites and the book we used each have different terms. I tried to relate everything to English equivalents/terms as much as I could.

Pronouns

Conjugating verbs formula: pronoun prefix + tense prefix + verb root
You can see this in action in the Tenses section below.

English Pronoun Verb Prefix
me mimi ni
you wewe u
he/she yeye a
us/we sisi tu
you (pl.) ninyi m
they wao wa

Tenses

Past, Present, Future

A helpful trick to remember the tense prefixes is by using the common girls name "Natalie". Except in our case, its "na-ta-li".

Tense Verb Prefix
Present na
Future ta
Past li

Here is an example of the conjugations of "-lala" the verb for "sleep". The pronoun prefix is in blue. The tense prefix is in red.

Pronoun Past Present Future
mimi nililala ninalala nitalala
wewe ulilala unalala utalala
yeye alilala analala atalala
sisi tulilala tunalala tutalala
ninyi mlilala mnalala mtalala
wao walilala wanalala watalala

Note: You may see verbs shown in two flavours. The infinite form, starting with the prefix "ku". For example, "kulala" means "to sleep". You may also see verbs in their root form, which uses a hyphen "-" instead of "ku" to denote that you will use prefixes where the dash is. For example, "-lala" mentioned above means "sleep" when paired with appropriate prefixes.


Advanced Tenses

"-me" Tense

The first advanced tense we will cover is the "-me" tense. This is often referred to as the "Present Perfect" tense. Something we don't exactly have in English.

*NOTE: This is always used with the positive verbs. The opposite/negation of this, is the -ja tense found below.

Translations of "-me" verbs will vary based on the verb definition. However, we can group "-me" verbs into two categories:


  1. Passive Verbs:
         With positive-passive verbs, this is similar to saying "is currently in      the state of". What I mean by this, is best explained with example.      Take the verb -potea" (to be lost).

         If you wish to say "he is lost", you will use amepotea.

         This is similar to saying "he is currently in the state of being lost at      this moment." Compare this with the following conjugations:

  2. Tense Swahili English
    Present anapotea He is becoming lost.
    Past alipotea He got lost.
    Future atapotea He will get lost.
    Present Perfect amepotea He is lost.


        *NOTE: The opposite of this (for negative verbs --> i.e. "He is     NOT lost") is the -ja tense found below!


  3. Active verbs:
         When pared with an active verb, it is similar to the Past Perfect in      English. (a.k.a. "He ran" vs. "He has run". The "have + run" form is      the Past Perfect. This can also be formed using "-me" verbs.

         For example, take the verb "-soma" (to study). Here are the      following conjugations:

  4. Tense Swahili English
    Present ninasoma I am studying.
    Past nilisoma I studied.
    Future nitasoma I will study.
    Past Perfect nimesoma I have studied.


        *NOTE: The opposite of this (for negative verbs --> i.e. "He has     NOT studied") is the -ja tense found below!

"-ja" Tense

The "-ja" tense is basically the opposite of the "-me" tense from above. It is colloquially referred to as the "not yet" tense.

You use this tense to say that some event has not yet taken place, or some action is not done yet.

*NOTE: this tense is ALWAYS used with the negative. For positive versions of these, see the -me tense above.

*NOTE2: The word "bado" (yet, still) is often used in conjunction with this tense.


For example, we will use the verb "-fika" (to arrive):

Pronoun Swahili English
mimi sijafika I have not arrived (yet).
wewe hujafika You have not arrived (yet).
yeye hajafika He has not arrived (yet).
sisi hatujafika We have not arrived (yet).
ninyi hamjafika You all have not arrived (yet).
wao hawajafika They have not arrived (yet).


*NOTE: For single syllable words (kuja, kula, etc) they generally DROP the "ku" (unlike other language constructs, which usually keep the "ku"):

Swahili English
sijala I have not eaten.

"-mesha" Tense

The "-mesha" tense is very similar to the -me tense above. (Technically, it is an extension of the -me tense. See below the example for a grammatic explanation).

The main difference is, this tense specifies something that "has already" happened. It is easiest explained with an example:

Tense Kiswahili English
present Ninaenda I am going
-me Nimeenda I am gone.
-mesha Nimeshaenda I have already gone.


This form is actually a contraction. (Such as "do" + "not" == "don't").

It combines: "-me" + "kwisha" to get mesha


*NOTE: "-kwisha" means "to finish". Therefore the above example translates directly to something like "He has finished going" implying he already finished doing the act of going.

Greetings

Keep in mind, this follows the same patterns as verb negation.

Pronoun Greeting
mimi sijambo
wewe hujambo
yeye hajambo
sisi hatujambo
ninyi hamjambo
wao hawajambo

Negation

Keep in mind, this follows the same patterns as the -jambo greetings.

The example below uses the verb "-cheza" meaning "dance" or "play".

Note: In present tense, verbs ending with "a" change the final "a" to an "i".
           The present tense also drops the tense prefix.
           The past tense uses "ku" instead of "li" as the tense prefix.

Pronoun Past Present Future
mimi sikucheza sichezi sitacheza
wewe hukucheza huchezi hutacheza
yeye hakucheza hachezi hatacheza
sisi hatukucheza hatuchezi hatutacheza
ninyi hamkucheza hamchezi hamtacheza
wao hawakucheza hawachezi hawatacheza

Kuwa

"Kuwa" is the word for "to be" in Kiswahili. We conjugate it specially because it behaves strangely in the present tense.

Note: In the present tense, "ni" is used with every pronoun.

Pronoun Past Present Future
mimi nilikuwa ni nitakuwa
wewe ulikuwa ni utakuwa
yeye alikuwa ni atakuwa
sisi tulikuwa ni tutakuwa
ninyi mlikuwa ni mtakuwa
wao walikuwa ni watakuwa


"Kuwa" also behaves strangely in the present tense for negations:

Note: In the present tense, "si" is used with every pronoun.
           In past tense, the negation prefix "ku" is optional as it's redundant.

Pronoun Past Present Future
mimi si(ku)kuwa si sitakuwa
wewe hu(ku)kuwa si hutakuwa
yeye ha(ku)kuwa si hatakuwa
sisi hatu(ku)kuwa si hatutakuwa
ninyi ham(ku)kuwa si hamtakuwa
wao hawa(ku)kuwa si hawatakuwa

Kuwa na

"Kuwa na" meaning "to have" also conjugates a little weird in the present tense. Its conjugation can be found below:

Note: The present tense of "kuwa na" is NOT the same for every pronoun.

Pronoun Past Present Future
mimi nilikuwa na nina nitakuwa na
wewe ulikuwa na una utakuwa na
yeye alikuwa na ana atakuwa na
sisi tulikuwa na tuna tutakuwa na
ninyi mlikuwa na mna mtakuwa na
wao walikuwa na wana watakuwa na


And, of course, "kuwa na" behaves similarly strange in the negation present tense:

Note: The present negation of "kuwa na" is NOT the same for all pronouns.
           In past tense, the negation prefix "ku" is optional as it's redundant.

Pronoun Past Present Future
mimi si(ku)kuwa na sina sitakuwa na
wewe hu(ku)kuwa na huna hutakuwa na
yeye ha(ku)kuwa na hana hatakuwa na
sisi hatu(ku)kuwa na hatuna hatutakuwa na
ninyi ham(ku)kuwa na hamna hamtakuwa na
wao hawa(ku)kuwa na hawana hawatakuwa na

-na

This is just as good a time as any to introduce "-na".

You should have noticed that we used "-na", which (when combined with "kuwa") is used to mean "to have". In Kiswahili, "-na" also means "is/are".

This is most commonly used for the phrase "there is/there are". To express the statement "there is/are", you use "Kuna".

*NOTE: I put the "Ku" there in blue because in this case, we are using Ku to be the subject-prefix for a place/location. Much like English uses the pronoun "it" to represent a place, Kiswahili uses the special prefix "Ku".

**NOTE2: This may get confusing because we also use "Ku" for infinitives and in the past-tense negation form. To make this more clear, I highlight the subject prefix in blue and the tense prefix in red (this is consistent throughout every section on this website).

Tense Positive Negative English
Present Kuna *Hakuna there is/are (not)
Future Kutakuwa na Hakutakuwa na there will (not) be
Past Kulikuwa na **Hakukuwa na there was (not)


*You may notice the word "Hakuna" from the phrase "Hakuna matata" in the Lion King movie. "Matata" means "worry", "problem", etc. So the literal translation is roughly: "There are no worries".

**You should notice that there is no tense-prefix for the past negative conjugation. If you remember correctly, the tense prefix for past tense negation changes to Ku. So if you included that prefix as well you would have:
Haku(ku)kuwa na

I don't know about you, but I don't wanna sound like a Cuckoo bird trying to say all those Ku's. So we simply drop one for pronunciation.

Possessives

The prefixes for these possessives correspond to the noun class of the noun they reference.

English Possessive
my -angu
your -ako
his or her -ake
ours -etu
yours (pl.) -enu
theirs -ao

Numbers

Numbers: 0-10

The basic numbers 0-10 are pretty simple:

Number Kiswahili
0 sifuri
1 moja*
2 mbili*
3 tatu
4 nne
5 tano
6 sita
7 saba
8 nane
9 tisa
10 kumi

*Note: Cardinal numbers "one" and "two" are equivalent to "moja" and "mbili". However, when using ordinal numbers (first, second, third... etc), "first" and "second" correspond to "kwanza" and "pili". All other numbers are the same for both cardinal and ordinal numbers.


Numbers: Teens (11-19)

For numbers 11 to 19, you use the form
kumi na moja
. This is pretty logical since it basically says "ten and one", or "eleven" in English.
Number Kiswahili
11 kumi na moja
12 kumi na mbili
13 kumi na tatu
14 kumi na nne
15 kumi na tano
16 kumi na sita
17 kumi na saba
18 kumi na nane
19 kumi na tisa

Numbers: Tens (20, 30, etc)

For the tens column (20, 30, 40, ... 90) things get REALLY weird. Some of these have roots from the basic 1-9 numbers, but a handful are borrowed from Arabic so all bets are off. Just memorize these. Sorry. However I do my best to use blue to show any roots that stem form the earlier numbers.

Note: You just use "na" to join on more numbers ("thousands" na "hundrends" na "tens" na "ones"). For example, twenty-one (21) is written as "twenty and one" or
ishirini na moja

Number Kiswahili
20 ishirini
30 thelathini
40 arobaini
50 hamsini
60 sitini
70 sabini
80 themanini
90 tisini

Numbers: Hundreds

The hundreds column (100, 200, 300 ... 900) follow a nice trend. They use the word "mia" or "hundred". So "mia moja" is equivalent to "one hundred".

Number Kiswahili
100 mia moja
200 mia mbili
300 mia tatu
400 mia nne
500 mia tano
600 mia sita
700 mia saba
800 mia nane
900 mia tisa

Numbers: Thousands

The thousands column (1000, 2000, 3000, ... 9000) behave very similar to the hundreds, except they use the word "elfu" or "thousand". So "elfu moja" translates to "one thousand".

Number Kiswahili
1000 elfu moja
2000 elfu mbili
3000 elfu tatu
4000 elfu nne
5000 elfu tano
6000 elfu sita
7000 elfu saba
8000 elfu nane
9000 elfu tisa

Numbers: Ridiculously Large

The pattern for forming large numbers in Swahili is mostly the same, even into the super large numbers. They also use similar large numbers as in English: milioni == million, bilioni == billion, etc.

Number Kiswahili English
10,000 elfu kumi ten thousand
20,000 elfu ishirini twenty thousand
30,000 elfu thelathini thirty thousand
100,000 elfu mia moja one hundred thousand
200,000 elfu mia mbili two hundred thousand
300,000 elfu mia tatu three hundred thousand
1,000,000 milioni moja one million
2,000,000 milioni mbili two million
3,000,000 milioni tatu three million
10,000,000 milioni kumi ten million
20,000,000 milioni ishirini twenty million
30,000,000 milioni thelathini thirty million
100,000,000 milioni mia moja one hundred million
1,000,000,000 bilioni moja one billion
1,000,000,000,000 trilioni moja one trillion
1,000,000,000,000,000 kwadrilioni moja one quadrillion

Calendar Dates

Days of the Week

First we will start off with some general vocab that is necessary for understanding dates in Kiswahili. Up first are the days of the week.

*NOTE: Kiswahili weeks start with Saturday instead of Sunday (as is customary in the USA). I indicated this using red.
*NOTE2: You will notice that most of these days of the week use Kiswahili numbers. (Including "mosi", an Arabic version of the number "one" in Kiswahili.) Additionally you'll notice that Thursday and Friday are also Arabic number'esque forms instead of the more simplistic numbers.

English Kiswahili
Saturday jumamosi
Sunday jumapili
Monday jumatatu
Tuesday jumanne
Wednesday jumatano
Thursday alhamisi
Friday ijumaa

Months of the Year

Up next is the months. You will notice these come in two forms. English-like words and numerical indicators. From what I understand, these vary in usage based on location of the Kiswahili speaking area. Our teacher (mwalimu) preferred the numeric ones.

*NOTE: For the numeric version, they have an easy to remember format. They use the phrase mwezi wa ("month of") + number.

English Kiswahili (Numeric) Kiswahili (English-Like)
January mwezi wa kwanza Januari
February mwezi wa pili Februari
March mwezi wa tatu Machi
April mwezi wa nne Aprili
May mwezi wa tano Mei
June mwezi wa sita Juni
July mwezi wa saba Julai
August mwezi wa nane Agosti
September mwezi wa tisa Septemba
October mwezi wa kumi Oktoba
November mwezi wa kumi na moja Novemba
December mwezi wa kumi na mbili Desemba


Now finally for the fun part. With this information (and one additional vocab word: tarehe or "date" in English), we can actually communicate some information:

To express an actual date, use the following format:
tarehe (ya) + date number + mwezi wa + month

Example (June 23rd):
tarehe (ya) ishirini na tatu mwezi wa sita

Telling Time

The first thing to know, is that Swahili days center around 7 AM and 7 PM instead of midnight and noon (12's) in USA times.

We will start off with a trick to telling time based on a clock. If you have a clock using standard American timetelling hands, you can determine the Kiswahili time by adding or subtracting 6 hours. (This can be visualized by looking at the the exact opposite number of the hour hand. Aka, half a circle.)

Example (7 o'clock in USA -> 1 o'clock in Kiswahili):



Notice that 6 hours in either direction make the semi-circle that relate the times:



*NOTE: According to the book, some people in Swahili speaking countries actually use their watches like this. They tune it to "American-style" time and just read the opposite hour as seen in the pictures above.


Now for some Kiswahili. Two useful keywords/phrases to know are saa ("hour" in English) and saa ngapi? ("what time is it?").

The follow chart shows how you distinguish 7 AM from 7 PM. In Kiswahili you use asubuhi to mean morning, or jioni/usiku to mean evening or night respectively.

Time Kiswahili English Translation
7 AM saa moja asubuhi first hour in the morning
7 PM saa moja jioni/usiku first hour of the evening/night


So in order to tell time, you can simply change the number to offset from 7 AM/PM. Here are some examples:

Time Kiswahili
10:00 AM saa nne asubuhi
12:00 PM (noon) saa sita asubuhi
5:00 PM saa kumi na moja asubuhi
8:00 PM saa mbili jioni/usiku
11:00 PM saa tano jioni/usiku
12:00 AM (midnight) saa sita jioni/usiku


Now to get a bit more interesting. Here is how you can say 15, 30, or 45 minutes on the hour.

For 15 or 30 minutes, you use na to add robo (quarter) or nusu (half).

For 45 minutes, you use subtraction. You say something along the lines of "15 minutes before ..." So you use kasarobo (minus a quarter) with the next hour. For instance, 3:45 would be "15 minutes before 4".

Here are some examples:

Time Kiswahili
5:15 AM saa kumi na moja na robo usiku
2:30 PM saa nane na nusu asubuhi
8:45 PM saa tatu kasarobo jioni


To get a bit more specific, you use the words dakika (minutes) along with na (add) and kasa (less [subtract]).

Here are some examples:

Time Kiswahili
7:55 PM saa mbili kasa dakika tano usiku
9:02 AM saa tatu na dakika mbili asubuhi


The best way to learn this is to do a TON of practice. Truth be told, I quadruple checked myself on most of these and still may have made a mistake. Don't forget to use the sidebar to email me with any errors so that I can correct them! :D

Object Prefixes

When taking a direct/indirect object in Kiswahili, they add another prefix after the tense prefix.

Some examples of this would be "reading TO someone", or "cooking FOR someone". You can technically use this form on any verb, but it doesn't always make sense. You usually cannot "sleep FOR someone" for example It just doesn't make much sense.

*NOTE: If you wanted to do an action to yourself, such as "cook FOR yourself", then use the Reflexive.

If you recall from earlier lessons, we usually form verbs like so:
Pronoun Prefix + Tense Prefix + Verb Root

We will form the new verbs like so:
Pronoun Prefix + Tense Prefix + Object Prefix + Modified Verb

Before some explanation and examples, we will provide you with some charts:

The first chart shows the new prefix. Half of them are the same as the pronoun prefix, the other half are different. I denote the different ones using red.

Pronoun Pronoun Prefix Object Prefix
mimi ni ni
wewe u ku
yeye a m
sisi tu tu
ninyi m wa
wao wa wa


This next chart will make more sense with some examples, but when using this form you have two different types of ending changes for your verbs.

The first is -ia and the other is -ea. To determine which to use, check the word for the main vowel that you pronounce (usually this is the first).

For example, take "-sema" and "-pika", the main vowels in each are: "-sema" and "-pika".

You use the chart below to determine which ending to use based on the root vowel:

Root Verb Vowel Ending
i, a, u -ia
e, o -ea


Following this chart, "-sema" becomes "-semea" and "-pika" becomes "-pikia". To use these in some sentences:

English Kiswahili
I cook for you. Mimi ninakupikia.
I read to you (pl.). Mimi niliwasemea.
They will cook fish for me. Wao watanipikia samaki.
He reads to us. Yeye anatusemea sisi.


*NOTE: In the fourth sentence, the "sisi" is optional. The tu identifies that the action is being done "to us", but we can add "sisi" for clarity as necessary.

There is one more thing to note: when forming this new verb form, if the verb would end in a vowel you add an L before the ending from the chart above. This helps with pronunciation.

For instance, take the verb "-nunua". Following the rules from above, "-nunua" would become "-nunuia". Pronouncing this is a little odd with the triple vowel, so we add an L to make it simpler to say: "-nunulia".

Reflexive

This form is almost identical to the Object Prefixes above. I highly recommend you master that before reading this section.

A quick recap:

If you recall from earlier lessons, we usually form verbs like so:
Pronoun Prefix + Tense Prefix + Verb Root

We will form the new verbs like so:
Pronoun Prefix + Tense Prefix + Object Prefix + Modified Verb

To refer to oneself, you use the Object Prefix of ji.

You will also use the same verb ending modification from Object Prefixes above:

Root Verb Vowel Ending
i, a, u -ia
e, o -ea

The same notes about adding an L also apply. Again... please master Object Prefixes.

For example: to "cook FOR oneself", you will start with "-pika". Examine the root vowel "-pika". Then update the ending to "-pikia". To use this in a sentence:

English Kiswahili
I cook for myself. Mimi ninajipikia.

Passive Voice

Much like in English, Kiswahili also has passive voice. Passive Voice is described as a sentence in which the object is the subject. (Yeah, confusing right?) Well, not really. With an example, it becomes much more clear:


Take the following example:

         The child cooks pizza.

As you can see, the subject is the "child". The verb is the action of "cooking". And the object is the "pizza" (the thing being cooked).


Another way you could say this would be by reversing the subject/object and using introducing the verb "to be":

         The pizza is cooked by the child.

Now, as you can clearly see, the subject is the pizza and the object is the child. This is called the Passive Voice. The child is still technically doing the "cooking", except now the thing being cooked (pizza) is the subject of the sentence.


Finally time for some Kiswahili. They use it very similarly to English, however instead of adding "to be" as seen in the examplse above, Kiswahili adds a suffix to the verb.

The passive voice is formed by adding the one of the following suffixes to your verb: -wa, -liwa, and lewa. This vary based on the root vowel of the verb.


*NOTE: The patterns for the suffixes are similar to the Object Prefixes.                   For convience I'll map them out here:

                         1. If the root-verb ends in a consonant:

Consonant Ending
Any Consonant Ending -wa


                         2. If the root-verb ends in a vowel, analyze the ROOT                              vowel:

Root Verb Vowel Ending
i, a, u -liwa
e, o -lewa



Lastly, for the good stuff. Here is an active/passive example in Kiswahili using the same sentence as the English ones above:

Active/Passive Kiswahili English
Active Mtoto anapika piza. The child cooks pizza.
Passive Piza anapikwa na mtoto. The pizza is cooked by the child.

Noun Classes

Noun classes are probably one of the hardest parts of learning a bantu language (which Kiswahili is). The good thing is, you have probably been doing this (to some degree) already!

To start out, I will provide you with a scary chart that has everything you need to know about the basics of noun classes (Note: We will focus on classes 1-10 since they are used most commonly):

Class Noun Adj. Prefix Negation -a (of) Poss.
1 mtu mzuri a-/yu-* ha-/hayu-* wa wangu
2 watu wazuri wa- hawa- wa wangu
3 mti mzuri u- hau- wa wangu
4 miti mizuri i- hai- ya yangu
5 *Ø-jina *Ø-zuri li- hali- la langu
6 majina mazuri ya- haya- ya yangu
7 kitu kizuri ki- haki- cha changu
8 vitu vizuri vi- havi- vya vyangu
9 **ndizi nzuri i- hai- ya yangu
10 **ndizi nzuri zi- hazi- za zangu
11 ulimi mzuri u- hau- wa wangu
14 uhuru mzuri u- hau- wa wangu
15 kutaka kuzuri ku- haku- kwa kwangu
16 mezani pazuri pa- hapa- pa pangu
17 mezani kuzuri ku- haku- kwa kwangu
18 mezani mzuri m(u)- ham(u)- mwa mwangu


Now that we got the scary part out of the way, let us start breaking down the columns to make sense of this mystery. Keep in mind, eventually you will need to more-or-less memorize this whole table. Luckily most of them follow a pattern and you will pick up a lot of the most common noun classes through repetition during your studies.


Which nouns go to which class?

I will start by breaking down what each column means, with examples and explaination. Take the first two noun classes (1 and 2). We will start with the Noun column:

Class Noun Adj. Prefix Negation -a (of) Poss.
1 mtu mzuri a-/yu-* ha-/hayu-* wa wangu
2 watu wazuri wa- hawa- wa wangu


The Noun column is simply an example of the type of nouns that fall into these categories. For the first 10 noun classes, the classes are grouped in pairs: 1 & 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6, 7 & 8, 9 & 10; where the first class is for singular words, and the second class is for the plural.

In this example, the word used was "mtu" meaning "person", with the plural "watu" meaning "people".

It should be noted that I color coated the prefix that changes between the singular and plurals in red with the root of the word in blue. This is because the noun classes are most easily recognized by their prefixes (especially the plural form prefix!) For example:

  • Class 1 & 2 = m-/wa-
  • Class 3 & 4 = m-/mi-
  • Class 5 & 6 = *Ø-/ma-
  • Class 7 & 8 = ki-/vi-
  • Class 9 & 10 = **n-/n-

As you can see, by following the patterns in the prefixes of nouns (specifically the prefix of the plural), you can identify which class you should be using.

*NOTE: For Class 5, we use the symbol "Ø". This symbol is used because Class 5 nouns may take different prefixes(or possible none at all). This is another reason why you should classify these nouns by their plural prefix of ma.

**Note: Class 9 & 10 nouns are the same for the singular and plural. For instance, in English we can have one "sheep" or many "sheep". There is no plural such as "sheeps". These noun classes behave the same way. The example used above is "ndizi" meaning one or more "banana(s)".


Adjective Prefixes

Now that we know how to identify which class we put nouns into, we can begin using the other columns in the chart. Up next we have Adjectives. In Kiswahili, nearly all adjectives take a prefix and occur AFTER the noun of which they modify. The chart uses the example of "-zuri" being the root word meaning "good; great; beautiful":

Class Noun Adj. Prefix Negation -a (of) Poss.
1 mtu mzuri a-/yu-* ha-/hayu-* wa wangu
2 watu wazuri wa- hawa- wa wangu


Unfortuntely, this part requires some memorization. For each noun class, there is a different prefix that is used for adjectives describing a noun within that class. Luckily, for the first 10 noun classes, the prefix of the noun is also the prefix for adjectives. (This is purely by coincidence, but its helpful for remembering).

For example, to say "the good people", we look up the word "people" and find "watu". Since the prefix is wa-, we know it is in Class 2. Then we look up the adjective for "good" and find -zuri. Lastly, we remember (or consult the lovely chart) to find the prefix for Class 2 adjectives is coincidentally also "wa-". Now we put it all together: watu wazuri.

*NOTE: A very important exception to this rule applies here for all animate nouns (nouns that describe living things -- such as humans, animals, etc). All animate things (even when they are in a different class), use the m- or wa- adjective prefixes from Class 1 or 2 respectively. This is just something you need to know. Here is a common example:

Rafiki (the word for "friend(s)") is a word in Class 9 & 10 (the singular and plural are the same). Normally, Class 9 & 10 would use n- for both singular and plural, but since friends are living people, they use m- and wa-. So if you have a "good friend", you would have: Rafiki mzuri.


Verb/Subject Prefixes

This next part should look very, very similar to you, because it is what we have been doing to conjugate verbs for Pronouns. Basically whenever you use a noun as a subject, instead of using "ni", "u", "a", etc. we will use the prefix from the chart. This can be applied to verb conjugations, Object Prefixes, Places, etc.

Class Noun Adj. Prefix Negation -a (of) Poss.
1 mtu mzuri a-/yu-* ha-/hayu-* wa wangu
2 watu wazuri wa- hawa- wa wangu

The easiest way to see this is to compare Class 1 nouns with yeye. Since yeye is the third-person pronoun, it can be used to replace most of the nouns from Class 1 because it contains people words.

If you look in the chart, you will notice that Class 1 and yeye take the same prefix: a- (or yu- for Places).

This can be very easily explained with an example. For instance, if you said: "he sings", you know "he" is "yeye" and "sing" is "-imba", so you form the sentence: Yeye anaimba.

Now imagine that you want to say "the child sings". You know the word for "sing" ("-imba"). You know the word for "child" ("mtoto"). But now what? Well, similarly to adjectives, you determine mtoto is Class 1 because it is the singular of mtoto/watoto which matches the first pair of classes: m/wa. Then you look into the table and see Class 1 uses the prefix a-. This produces the sentence: Mtoto anaimba.

You can apply this same process for any noun. Just determine what class it is from, and use the prefix in the table for the appropriate class instead of the a- in this example.

*NOTE: There is one, very important exception to this rule for all animate nouns (nouns that describe living things -- such as humans, animals, etc). All animate things (even when they are in a different class), use the a- or wa- prefixes from Class 1 or 2 respectively. This is just something you need to know. Here is a common example:

Rafiki (the word for "friend(s)") is a word in Class 9 & 10 (the singular and plural are the same). Normally, Class 9 & 10 would use i- and zi-, but since friends are living people, they use a- and wa-. So if your "friend sings", you would have: Rafiki anaimba.


Negation Verb/Subject Prefixes

These function basically the same was as Negation, and follow the same pattern mentioned above (in terms of how you find which prefix to use). So I am just gonna give you an example:


Class Noun Adj. Prefix Negation -a (of) Poss.
1 mtu mzuri a-/yu-* ha-/hayu-* wa wangu
2 watu wazuri wa- hawa- wa wangu


Imagine that you now want to say "the child does not sing". You know the word for "sing" ("-imba"). You know the word for "child" ("mtoto"). But now what? Well, similarly to adjectives, you determine mtoto is Class 1 because it is the singular of mtoto/watoto which matches the first pair of classes: m/wa. Then you look into the table and see Class 1 uses the negation prefix ha-. This produces the sentence: Mtoto haimbi.

*NOTE: The same, very important exception to this rule applies here too, for all animate nouns (nouns that describe living things -- such as humans, animals, etc). All animate things (even when they are in a different class), use the ha- or hawa- negation prefixes from Class 1 or 2 respectively. This is just something you need to know. Here is a common example:

Rafiki (the word for "friend(s)") is a word in Class 9 & 10 (the singular and plural are the same). Normally, Class 9 & 10 would use hai- and hazi-, but since friends are living people, they use ha- and hawa-. So if your "friend does not sings", you would have: Rafiki haimbi.


Of

This may seem kind of silly to an English speaker, but the word "of" changes based on the noun it follows. The root for "of" is technically -a, so you will notice the prefixes will more-or-less match the prefixes we used for adjectives. But they are NOT always the same, so it is best to just learn these seperately (most of them are 2 or 3 letter words anyhow).

As always, I will present you with an example that should be pretty self-explainitory:


Class Noun Adj. Prefix Negation -a (of) Poss.
1 mtu mzuri a-/yu-* ha-/hayu-* wa wangu
2 watu wazuri wa- hawa- wa wangu


Let's say you want to write the sentence "the child of Bob". We know "child" is "mtoto". Well, similarly to above, you determine mtoto is Class 1 because it is the singular of mtoto/watoto which matches the first pair of classes: m/wa. Then you look into the table and find the appropriate word for "of" being wa. Then you put it all together to get: mtoto wa Bob.

*NOTE: A very important exception to this rule applies here too, for all animate nouns (nouns that describe living things -- such as humans, animals, etc). All animate things (even when they are in a different class), use the wa version for "of" from Class 1 or 2. This is just something you need to know. Here is a common example:

Rafiki (the word for "friend(s)") is a word in Class 9 & 10 (the singular and plural are the same). Normally, Class 9 & 10 would use ya or za respectively, but since friends are living people, they use wa. So if there is a "friend of Bob", you would have: Rafiki wa Bob.


Possessives

If you aren't familiar with the root words for possessives, review them here: Possessives. Possessives for noun classes work the same way, except they will use the prefixes from the table. (Note: These ones ARE the same as the "of" words. Maybe that will make it easier to remember. Or else just learn them seperately).

Once again, I will leave you with a simple example that should be self-explainitory:


Class Noun Adj. Prefix Negation -a (of) Poss.
1 mtu mzuri a-/yu-* ha-/hayu-* wa wangu
2 watu wazuri wa- hawa- wa wangu


Let's say you want to write the sentence "my child". We know "my" is translated to the base word of "-angu". We know "child" is "mtoto". Well, similarly to above, you determine mtoto is Class 1 because it is the singular of mtoto/watoto which matches the first pair of classes: m/wa. Then you look into the table and find the appropriate possessive prefix w-. Then you put it all together to get: mtoto wangu.

*NOTE: The most complicated (but similar to exceptions above) applies here for SOME animate nouns (nouns that describe living things -- such as humans, animals, etc). Animate nouns that are NOT in Class 9 & 10, use the w- possessive prefixes from Class 1 or 2 respectively. REMEMBER: This does NOT apply to Class 9 & 10. This is just something you need to know. Here is an example to distingush:

Class Noun English Example
9 Rafiki (sg.) My friend Rafiki yangu
10 (or 6) Rafiki (pl.) My friends Rafiki zangu
7 kiongozi My leader Kiongozi wangu
8 viongozi My leaders Viongozi wangu

Places

To talk about location, you will use three types of words. Their roots are "-po", "-ko", and "-mo".

We will start with their usages/meaning:

Kiswahili Meaning/Usage
-po Specific location ("is right here")
-ko General location ("is at/is on")
-mo Internal location ("is inside of")


The format for these are:

    pronoun prefix + -po/-ko/-mo


Here are some examples in present tense:

Pronoun -po/-ko/-mo Present (+) Negation (-)
mimi -po nipo sipo
wewe -ko uko huko
yeye* -mo yumo* hayumo*
sisi -po tupo hatupo
ninyi -ko mko hamko
wao -mo wamo hawamo


*NOTE: In the third-person singular (i.e. "yeye" case), the prefix changes from "a" to "yu" ("ha" to "hayu") for locations


For the past tense, you use the past tense of kuwa merged with -po/-ko/-mo as a single word:

Pronoun -po/-ko/-mo Past (+) Negation (-)
mimi -po nilikuwa(po) sikuwa(po)
wewe -ko ulikuwa(ko) hukuwa(ko)
yeye -mo alikuwa(mo) hakuwa(mo)
sisi -po tulikuwa(po) hatukuwa(po)
ninyi -ko mlikuwa(ko) hamkuwa(ko)
wao -mo walikuwa(mo) hawakuwa(mo)


Here is the future tense. It is formed similarly to the past tense:

Pronoun -po/-ko/-mo Future (+) Negation (-)
mimi -po nitakuwa(po) sitakuwa(po)
wewe -ko utakuwa(ko) hutakuwa(ko)
yeye -mo atakuwa(mo) hatakuwa(mo)
sisi -po tutakuwa(po) hatutakuwa(po)
ninyi -ko mtakuwa(mo) hamtakuwa(mo)
wao -ko watakuwa(ko) hawatakuwa(ko)


*NOTE: As you probably noticed, I had all the -po/-ko/-mo's in parenthesis for Past and Future tense. If you are mentioning a location in your statement, you can leave out the -po/-ko/-mo. It is only ESSENTIAL when you are not specifying a location in your statement (for obvious reasons).


Lastly, I will provide you with some example sentences:

Pronoun Tense Kiswahili English
Mimi Present (+) Nipo hapa. I am here.
Sisi Past (-) Hatukuwa(ko) nyumbani. We were not at home.
Yeye Present (+) Yumo nyumbani. He is at home.
Wao Future (+) Watakuwa(po) kazini. They will be at work.


*NOTE: Some nouns will add "-ni" at the end when talking about location. I do not know of a rule other than the fact that it seems to happen to most nouns.