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Kiswahili Grammar Notes: Conjunctions


125. CONJUNCTIONS are words that join words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. The only Bantu conjunction in Swahili is NA, which has been discussed in detail in paragraph 122. In addition to this one word, certain tense forms, such as KA, KI, NGE and NGALI, as well as JAPO, serve the purpose served by conjunctions in many languages.

Swahili also makes use of a variety of non-Bantu loan words and various phrases to function as conjunctions. A rather comprehensive list of these follows.

Conjunctions can be grouped under two main headings; coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.

126. COORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS join words or word groups of equal rank. The coordinating conjunctions of Swahili may be grouped under five headings, namely those which introduce:

A. additional information or explanations;
B. alternatives or choices;
C. opposite or contrasting circumstances;
D. the result of a given reason, OR the reason for a stated result;
E. a simultaneous action or circumstance.

A CONJUNCTIONS WHICH INtrODUCE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION or explanation include single words, phrases, and a verb construction.

And, also (See paragraph 122)

Vijana walilima na wazee walipanda. The young people hoed and the old people planted.

Also, too, as well

Atanunua matunda sokoni, pia atanunua dawa dukani. She will buy fruit at the market; she will also buy medicine at the shop.

Furthermore, besides, again

Atakwenda mjini, tena ataninunulia chakula. He is going to town; besides, he will buy food for me.

In addition, furthermore, besides

Amepata kazi mpya; juu ya hayo mshahara wake umeongezeka. He has got a new job; besides that, his salary has increased.
Kuku watupatia mayai; zaidi ya hayo twapata nyama. Chickens give us eggs; moreover we get meat.

Moreover (often about less fortunate matters)

Nasikia baridi, isitoshe kichwa kinauma. I feel cold, furthermore I have a headache.
Alianguka akavunjika mguu; isitoshe mkono ukaumia pia. He fell and broke his leg; as if that weren't enough, his arm was injured also.

That is, that is to say

Alikuwa na ugonjwa mbaya wa tumbo, yaani alihara damu. She has a serious stomach ailment; that is she had bloody diarrhoea.
Nitanunua pazia, yaani vitambaa vinavyofungwa kwenye madirisha. I shall buy curtains, that is (lengths of) cloth which are fastened at the windows.
Kesho itakuwa Sikukuu ya Wakulima; maana yake hatutafanya kazi kesho. Tomorrow is Farmers' Day; that is, we have a day off tomorrow.
Wanapeleleza desturi za wananchi; maana yake, wanatafuta habari ili wapate hakika ya desturi hizo. They are investigating the customs of the local people; that is, they are seeking accurate information about these customs.

For example

Ameona nchi nyingi; kwa mfano, aliishi kwa miaka mingi katika kisiwa cha Pemba. She has seen many countries; for example she lived for many years on Pemba Island.
Amepanda miti mingi ya matunda, kwa mfano michungwa, mipera, na mingineyo. He has planted many fruit trees, for example orange trees, guava trees, and such.



Atafika kesho au kesho kutwa. He will come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow..

AU .... AU
Either... or...

Atafika au leo au kesho. He will come either today or tomorrow.


This appears to more strongly imply an alternative than au, and is therefore particularly useful in "either... or..." expressions.

Ama atafuatana nasi safarini ama atabaki nyumbani. Either he will accompany us on the trip, or he will stay at home.

Note also:
Ama hutaki? Or don't you want to?
Ama sivyo? Or is it not so?
Ama vipi? Or how (what)?

Nor (used with negative verbs)

Mti hauna matunda wala majani. The tree has neither fruit nor leaves.

C CONJUNCTIONS WHICH INtrODUCE OPPOSITE OR CONtrASTING CIRCUMSTANCES include verb constructions as well as words that are simply conjunctions and nothing more.

But, nevertheless, however

Jana alichelewa kuamka, lakini leo ameamka mapema. Yesterday he was late in awakening, but today he has awakened early.

Note also this use of lakini:
Nina vyombo vingi vya nyumbani. -- Huna birika, lakini. I have many household utensils. You don't have a teapot, however.
(Lakini in this position is totally unstressed).

A word similar to lakini can very occasionally be heard in a limited sense: walakini, a noun meaning a lack or defect. It can be heard in such expressions as:
Nyumba ile ina walakini. That house has a defect.
Sina neno, lakini kuna walakini. I have no objection, but there is a "but".

But rather, on the contrary

Tusipopanda sasa hatutapata mavuno mapema, bali tutachelewa kuvuna. If we don't plant now, we won't have an early harvest; on the contrary, we will be late in harvesting.
Usimfukuze mwizi tu, bali umkamate. Don't just chase the thief away, but catch him.
Hatujifunzi Kifaransa bali Kiswahili. We're not learning French, but rather Swahili.

Except, but (i.e. "only")

Hakuna matunda ila ndizi tu. There is no fruit except just bananas.
Hana ila mke mmoja. He has but (only) one wife.

Following si, ila conveys "but also":
Si wagonjwa tu waliosaidiwa, ila watu wengine pia. It was not only sick people who were helped, but also other people.

Unless, except

Sifui nguo zangu isipokuwa zimechafuka. I don't wash my clothes unless they are dirty.
Hawaendi mjini isipokuwa Jumamosi tu. They don't go to town except on Saturdays.

Even though, although

Tulikwenda mjini ingawa mvua ilinyesha. We went to town even though it rained.
Ingawa anakaa mbali hachelewi kazini. Although he lives far away he is not late for work.

Even though, although

Alifanya kazi mchana kutwa ijapokuwa ni mgonjwa. She worked the whole day even though she is ill.

Ijapokuwa is sometimes abbreviated to japokuwa or simply japo, which is in actual fact a tense. The above sentence could have been rendered: Alifanya kazi mchana kutwa ajapokuwa mgonjwa.

Ingawa and ijapokuwa (and all its variations) are used interchangeably.

D TWO TYPES OF CONJUCTIONS function in sentences stating a result and a reason for that result:

1. The reason is stated first, and the conjunction introduces the result


Nina njaa, kwa hiyo nitakula. I am hungry, therefore I shall eat.
Mvua inanyesha, kwa hivyo nitakaa nyumbani. It is raining, therefore I will stay home.
Aliumwa vibaya, hivyo alikwenda hospitali. He had much pain, so he went to the hospital.

Therefore, consequently, for this (these) reason(s).

Wajumbe walishindwa kupatana, kwa ajili ya hayo, mkutano uliahirishwa. The delegates could not agree, consequently the meeting was adjourned (for a time).
Ndege haikufika jana, kwa sababu hiyo wageni wetu watafika siku nyingine. The plane did not come yesterday, therefore our guests will come some other day.

Therefore, that is the reason

Sina baisikeli, ndiyo sababu ninatembea kwa miguu. I have no bicycle, therefore I walk by foot.
Kulikuwa na matope mengi barabarani, ndiyo maana tulikwama. There was a lot of mud on the road, that is why we got stuck.

2. The result is stated first, and the conjunction introduces the reason for that result.


Nitakula kwa sababu nina njaa. I shall eat because I am hungry.
Nitakaa nyumbani kwa maana mvua inanyesha. I shall stay home because it is raining.
Alikwenda hospitali kwa kuwa aliumwa vibaya. He went to the hospital because he had great pain.
Ninatembea kwa miguu kwa vile sina baisikeli. I travel by foot because I have no bicycle.
Tulikwama kwani kulikuwa na matope mengi. We got stuck because there was much mud.

All these expressions meaning "because" are interchangeable.



Mwizi alikimbia huku akichukua nguo zetu. The thief ran (meanwhile) carrying our clothes.

While, since, seeing that

Aliondoka hali anaimba. She left (meanwhile) singing.
Siwezi kupika mkate leo hali hakuna unga. I can't make bread today since there is no flour.
Kwa nini umeshapanda hali mvua haijaanza bado? Why have you already planted seeing that the rain has not started yet?

While, since, seeing that

Tununue sabuni maadam inapatikana. Let's buy soap while it is available.

127. A SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTION INtrODUCES A SUBORDINATE CLAUSE (one that functions as a noun, adjective or adverb in the sentence, and is not able to stand alone as a complete sentence).

Subordinating conjunctions can be grouped under three headings, namely, those which introduce:

A. the purpose of an action;
B. a condition, an "if" situation;
C. or merely inroduce the clause and can usually be omitted without loss of meaning.

A CONJUNCTIONS WHICH INtrODUCE THE PURPOSE OF AN ACTION are most often followed by a subjunctive verb construction, although an infinitive is also possible, especially in an impersonal situation.

So that, in order that

Twafuga kuku ili tupate mayai. We keep chickens so that we can get eggs.
Yafaa kufuga kuku ili kupata mayai. It is good to keep chickens in order to get eggs (for anyone--an impersonal statement).
Tutunze mazao ili tuwe na chakula mpaka mwaka ujao. Let us take care of our crops so we will have food until next year.

So that, in order that, for the purpose (of)

Nimekuuliza kusudi nipate hakika. I have asked you in order that I may be sure.
Mbwa anafungwa kusudi asikimbie ovyo. The dog is tied so that he doesn't run around in a disorderly way.

B CONJUNCTIONS WHICH INtrODUCE A CONDITION are words, phrases, verb forms.

If, whether

Kama yeye hayupo, mwite mwingine. If she is not there, call someone else.
Kama anaomba msaada, umsaidie. If she asks for help, help her.
Sijui kama atakuja. I don't know whether he will come.
Mwulize kama anakusudia kufika. Ask him whether he intends to come.

If, in case

Ikiwa mvua itanyesha kesho hatutakwenda mjini. If it rains tomorrow we will not go to town.
Iwapo nguo zimechafuka tutazifua. If the clothes are dirty we will wash them.
Atarudi mapema endapo amemaliza kazi yake. He will come back early if he has finished his work.
Mwache tu ikiwa hataki kwenda. Just leave her alone if she doesn't want to go.

As if

Anafanya kazi yake kama kwamba haijui. He works as if he doesn't know how to do it.
Mtoto alilia kana kwamba ana maumivu makali. The child cried as if he had severe pain.
Alitembea kana kwamba ni kilema. She walked as though she were disabled.

Kama kwamba and kana kwamba are interchangeable.

C CONJUNCTIONS WHICH MERELY INtrODUCE A CLAUSE are four in number. All are verb forms; kuwa is of course recognizable, but kwamba is also a verb mst familiar in its prepositional form, kuambia.

That (as introduction to a clause)

Aliniambia kwamba atakuja kesho kutwa. She told me that she would come the day after tomorrow.
Walisema ya kwamba hawatakuja. They said that they would not come.
Nimesikia kuwa walikwenda Dodoma. I have heard that they went to Dodoma.
Tuliona ya kuwa itafaa kuondoka mapema. We thought it would be good to leave early.

These four words and phrases meaning "that" are completely interchangeable. They can be omitted without any loss of meaning in the sentence:

Aliniambia atakuja kesho kutwa.
Walisema hawatakuja.
Nimesikia walikwenda Dodoma.
Tuliona itafaa kuondoka mapema.

Thanks to Krzysztof Suchecki, S. Patrick Kachur, John Macaulay, Kyle Walkden Gichuru, Irma Knoll, John Peter, and Allison Loconto for assistance preparing this page for the Web.

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