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Kiswahili Grammar Notes: Interjections

Interjections

130

Interjections are exclamations expressing a feeling or emotion without being an actual part of the sentence which may accompany them. Some of these are pure exclamations, others have different functions as well in the language.

a-a
An expression of pleasure or displeasure, agreement of disagreement, depending on the intonation and length of the vowel.

Aaaaaa! Maua mazuri sana! Oh, what nice flowers!
Njoo ucheze nasi. Come and play with us. Aa-a! Sitaki. No, I don't want to.

abe
A response to a call, especially used by girls. Sometimes heard as simply "Bee!"

Maria! Abe! Njoo hapa! Mary! Yes? Come here.

ajabui
An expression of wonder or amazement, as about a student who is always late for breakfast.

Ajabu! Ameamka mapema leo! Wow! He has awakened early today!

ala
An expression of annoyance, irritation, or a reaction to the unexpected. Spoken with a rising tone on the second syllable.

Ala! Gari limepata pancha! Shucks! The car has a puncture!

asante
An expression of thanks.

Karibu chai! Asante! Welcome for tea. Thank you!

ati
An expression of surprise or disbelief. Heard also as "Eti!"

Wamefika ati kupanda Mlima Kilimanjaro. They have come, they say, to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Sikiliza ati! Hey, listen! (here used to call attention)

basi
An expression of satisfaction or resignation.

Bei ya machungwa ni shilingi moja. Basi, nipe kumi. The price of oranges is one shilling. Very well, give me ten.
Nanasi moja ni shilingi ishirini. Basi, hapo nitanunua ndizi. One pineapple is twenty shillings. Well in that case I'll buy bananas.
Basi! That's enough! (e.g. coffee or tea in your cup, petrol in the car etc.)

ee
An expression of assent.

Utafika kwenye ngoma jioni? Ee! Are you coming to the traditional dance this evening? Certainly!

hata
An emphatic negation. Pronounced with a slight rise of the voice on the last syllable.

Amerudisha kitabu? Hata! Has he returned the book? Not he!
Utapanda Kilimanjaro tena? Hata! Will you climb Kilimanjaro again? Never!

haya
An expression of assent. Used also as a call to action or effort.

Naomba sukari. Haya, chukua kidogo. I'd like some sugar. O.K., take some.
Haya, twende! Come on, let 's go!

hebu
An expression used to draw attention. Heard also as "Ebu!"

Hebu, tusikilizane! Hey there, let's come to an agreement.

hodi
A polite call before entering a house or a room, corresponding to the Western custom of knocking on the door.

Hodi! Karibu! May I come in? You are welcome!

jamani
An expression used as a call for attention, and surprise.

Jamani, tuanze sasa! Friends, let's start now!

kumbe
An expression of surprise at something that is contrary to what was expected.

Kumbe! Mvua inanyesha! My goodness! It's raining!

kweli
An expression of surprise, usually positive.

Mvua inanyesha. Kweli! It's raining. Really!

lo
An expression of wonder or horror.

Lo! Ajali mbaya kweli! Oh! That's a really bad accident!

naam
An expression of assent.

Utafika kesho? Naam, nitafika. Are you coming tomorrow? Yes indeed I'll come.

Used also as a question when you don't catch something:
Naam? Sorry, what did you say?

pole
An expression of sympathy, empathy.

Nilisikia mtoto ni mgonjwa. Pole sana! I heard your child is ill. I'm so sorry.
Pole kwa kazi! Almost a stereotyped expression to someone who is at work.

Sometimes the response is:
"Nimeshapoa" I've already cooled off, recovered.

samahani
A request for forgiveness, usually in case of a milder offense, like interrupting, stepping on someone's toes and the like.

Samahani, nimechelewa. Excuse me for being late.

wee
An expression used for telling off children or dogs. It is a contraction of wewe.

Wee, acha kelele! You there, stop that noise!

Thanks to Kevin Foyle, Sr., for assistance preparing this page for the Web.
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