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Kiswahili Grammar Notes: Kuwa Na

"To Have" Kuwa Na

83 There is no verb in Swahili meaning "to have", "to possess". Where European languages express possession Swahili expresses "being with", "being associated with", possibly a reflection of the communal ownership that predated both European influence and the present Ujamaa.

A Expressing "has/have" in a present time reference: The appropriate subject prefix agreeing with the noun class is attached to NA:

first person singular ni + na => nina kitabu I have (I+with) a book.
second person singular u + na => una kitabu You have (you+with) a book.
Class 1 a + na => ana kitabu She has (she+with) a book.
first person plural tu + na => tuna bidii We have (we+with) effort.
second person plural m + na => mna haraka You have (you+with) haste.
Class 2 wa + na => wana kiu They have (they+with) thirst.
Class 3 u + na => Mti una matunda. The tree has fruit.
Class 4 i + na => Mikate ina sukari. The buns have sugar (are sweet).
Class 5 li + na => Juma lina siku saba. A week has seven days.
Class 6 ya + na => Maneno yana maana. The words have meaning.
Class 7 ki + na => Kitabu kina mambo mengi. The book has many matters.
Class 8 vi + na => Vita vina mito. The chairs have pillows.
Class 9 i + na => Nyumba ina watu wengi. The house has many people.
Class 10 zi + na => Lugha zina maneno magumu. Languages have hard words.
Class 11/14 u + na => Uji una maziwa. The gruel has milk.
Class 15 ku + na => Kuendesha kwake kuna hatari. His driving is dangerous.
Class 16 pa + na => Mezani pana vitu vingi. There are many things on the table. (lit.table-place has many things)
Class 17 ku + na => Shambani kuna miti. There are trees on the farm.
Class 18 m + na => Mfukoni mna mayai. There are eggs in the bag.
This form is often used to express a physical or emotional experience, state or condition. In English and other European languages these same conditions are expressed with an adjective. Note these, they are useful expressions:

Nina kiu. I am thirsty.
Ana baridi.
She is cold.
Ana nguvu.
He is strong.
Nina joto.
I am hot.
Tuna njaa.
We are hungry.
Una hakika?
Are you sure?
Una furaha.
You are happy.
Wana huzuni.
They are sad.
Nina usingizi.
I am sleepy.
Tuna hasira.
We are angry.
Ana bahati.
He is lucky.
Wana haraka.
They are in a hurry.
Ana bidii.
He is hard-working

Since the idea of this construction is not possession, but "being associated with", it is immaterial which of two associated entities is firstnamed:

Uwezo una Mungu or: Mungu ana uwezo. Power is with God or God has (is with) power.
Shida zina kila mtu.
or: Kila mtu ana shida. Problems are with every person or Every person has (is with) problems

There is neither possessor nor possessed, but mutuality.

B The negative of "has/have" is made with the negative HA plus subject prefix plus NA:

nina kitabu sina kitabu
una redio huna redio
ana furaha hana furaha
tuna bidii hatuna bidii
mna haraka hamna haraka
wana kiu hawana kiu
Mti una matunda? Hauna.
Mikate ina sukari? Haina
Juma lina siku nane? Halina.
Maneno yana maana? Hayana.
Kitabu kina mambo mengi? Hakina.
Viti vina mito? Havina.
Nyumba ina watu wengi? Haina.
Lugha zina maneno magumu? Hazina.
Uji una maziwa? Hauna.
Kuendesha kwake kuna hatari? Hakuna.
Mezani pana vitu vingi? Hapana.
Shambani kuna miti? Hakuna.
Mfukoni mna mayai? Hamna.
Note the short answer in the negative. Neither possessor nor possessed is repeated in the answer.

C. Classes.16-18, the locative or adverbial nouns are a special feature of Bantu languages which often prove puzzling to European language learners. The point to remember is that some sort of adverbial expression stands as subject of the sentence, and the noun that in English would be the subject comes as added information, often following the verb. Note the examples you have in the preceding paragraphs:

Mezani pana vitu vingi. There are many things on the table. Literally: On-table place-is-with many things
Shambani kuna miti. On-farm area-is-with trees
Mfukoni mna mayai. In-bag inside-is-with eggs

This is one way to say "There is..." in Swahili. You will learn another soon. Notice in the paragraphs that follow that pana, kuna, and mna can also be used with any tense or with subjunctive, in exactly the same way as "to have" with Class 1-15 agreements. Try to use the forms you learn and develop a "feel" for this feature of the language.

The conjugations are the same as with KUWA, but with the addition of NA following the verb. Do not forget NA! If you do, you will be saying things like "I am a fever" instead of "I have a fever". Use the examples below as guides:

Huwa na homa. He usually has fever.
Hana homa.
He does not have fever.

Alikuwa na homa. He had fever.
Hakuwa na homa.
He did not have fever.

Atakuwa na homa. He will have fever.
Hatakuwa na homa.
He will not have fever.

Amekuwa na homa. He has had fever.
Hajawa na homa.
He has not had fever.

Aliugua akawa na homa. He fell ill and got a fever.

Akiwa na homa ameze dawa. If he has fever he should take medicine.

Asipokuwa na homa hahitaji kulala. If he doesn't have fever he need not go to bed.

Angekuwa na homa angelala. If he had fever he would stay in bed.

Angalikuwa na homa angalilala. If he had had fever he would have stayed in bed.

takes the subjunctive construction just the same as any monosyllabic verb, then NA follows. Do not forget NA!

Tuwe na furaha. Let us be happy.
Gari liwe na nguvu.
The car should be powerful.
Nyumba iwe na vitanda vitatu.
The house should have three beds.
Usiwe na mashaka.
Don't have doubts.
Vitabu visiwe na picha.
The books should not have pictures.
Mkeka usiwe na rangi nyingi.
The mat should not have many colors.

86. KUWA NA WITH AN OBJECT: "I have it (e.g. a book)"
Swahili has no selfstanding pronoun for "it" in a sentence like the above. One must express "it" in other ways. With KUWA NA, this is done by adding the O of reference to NA. This O of reference (with the pronominal prefix agreeing with the relevant noun) functions as an object to KUWA NA.


Nina kitabu. - Ninacho. (kitabu) I have a book. - I have it. (a book)

The O of reference agreeing with the object noun (kitabu) forms the "object" in the KUWA NA construction, (cho)

This construction is needed when giving a positive answer to a question:
Una jiko? Ninalo. Do you have a stove? Yes I have (I have it).

Just as with the negative answer, the noun object is not repeated; the lo suffix in the above answer gives all the relevant information.

With a negative answer, the O of reference is not needed, but it can be used if one wishes:
Una jiko? Sina. Also possible: Sinalo.
Shimo lina takataka? Linayo. Does the pit have garbage? Yes it does (it has it).
Debe lina mafuta? Halina. Does the tin have oil? No it hasn't.

If one wants to draw attention to the object, the O of reference can be used in the question, or in any statement:
Unalo jiko? Ninalo.


(Wewe) Huwa na bahati? Huwa nayo. Are you usually lucky? Yes I am.
(Yeye) Huwa na nguvu? Hana.
Is he usually strong? No he's not.
Birika huwa na chai? Huwa nayo.
Does the pot usually have tea? Yes, it does.

Alikuwa na sufuria? Alikuwa nayo. Did he have a pot? Yes he did.
Ulikuwa na ufagio? Sikuwa nao.
Did you have a broom? No I did not.
Meza ilikuwa na kitambaa? Ilikuwa nacho.
Did the table have a cloth? Yes it had one.
Kitanda kilikuwa na matandiko? Hakikuwa nayo.
Did the bed have bedding? It did not.

Mtakuwa na furaha? Tutakuwa nayo. Will you (pl.) be happy? Yes, we will.
Mtakuwa na joto? Hatutakuwa nalo.
Will you be warm? No we won't.
Matope yatakuwa na hewa safi? Hakitakuwa nayo.
Will the room have clean air? No, it won't.

Wamekuwa na jasho? Wamekuwa nalo. Have they perspired? Yes they have.
Wamekuwa na shida? Hawajawa nazo.
Have they had problems? No they have not.
Zahanati imekuwa na wagonjwa? Imekuwa nao.
Has the dispensary had patients? Yes, it has.
Kilimo kimekuwa na hasara? Hakikuwa nayo.
Has the agriculture been No it has not. profitless?
Kumekuwa na mazao shambani? Kumekuwa nayo.
Have there been any crops on the Yes, there have. field?


Tuwe na mpango? Tuwe nao. Should we have a plan? Yes, we should.
Wawe na hasara?
Wasiwe nayo. Should they have a loss? No they should not.
Nyumba iwe na mabati?
Iwe nayo. Should the house have a tin roof? Yes, it should.
Barabara ziwe na lami?
Zisiwe nayo. Should the roads have tarmac? No, they shouldn't.


Yafaa kuwa na nyundo? Yafaa kuwa nayo. Is it good to have a hammer? Yes, it is.
Ni vibaya kuwa na uangalifu?
Si vibaya kuwa nao. Is it bad to be careful? No, it isn't.
Ni vizuri kuwa na umoja?
Ni vizuri kuwa nao. Is it good to have unity? Yes, it is.

Comments made in paragraphs 75-79 about KUWA with a relative particle in the construction apply also to KUWA NA, with the additional reminder that NA must be included to make the difference between "is" and "has".

See paragraph 76 for positive constructions in the present, and paragraph 77 for negative constructions, and add NA to the construction.

1. Positive:
Watoto walio na majembe walime. The children who have hoes should cultivate.
Ulete chupa iliyo na mafuta.
(Please) bring the bottle that has the oil (in it)
Uingize magunia yaliyo na sukari.
Put in the bags which have sugar.

Constructions with AMBA may also be used in the present:
Huyu ndiye mkulima ambaye ana mashamba mawili. This person is the farmer who has two farms.

2. Negative:
Kisima kisicho na maji hakifai. kisicho na A well which does not have water is no good.
Usitumie taa isiyo na mafuta.
isiyo na Don't use the lamp that has no oil.

With AMBA:
Mti ambao hauna matunda wastahili kukatwa. A tree that has no fruit deserves to be cut down.

See paragraph 78 for the comments on KUWA with a relative particle in constructions with tenses, and remember to add NA.

Alinunua kitabu kilichokuwa na picha nyingi. He bought a book which had many pictures.
Hao ndio watakaokuwa na kazi nyingi karibuni. These are the peopIe who will have a lot of work in the near future.

With AMBA:
Nilimwona rafiki ambaye amekuwa na ugonjwa wa moyo kwa muda mrefu. I saw a friend who has had a heart disease for a long time.

See paragraph 79 regarding this type of construction with KUWA, and add NA to the construction. Not all possible constructions are listed since some are little used.

A. TIME: the relative particle is PO

1. In the present tense, we must use NA tense with the verb KUWA:
Anapokuwa na furaha, anacheka. When she is happy she laughs.

2. In other tenses:
Alipokuwa na maumivu, alilia. When she had pain she cried.

B. LOCATION: the relative particles are PO, KO, MO.

1. In the present, the construction with the verb LI is used:
Palipo na wengi pana mengi (proverb). Where there are many (people) there are many things going on (mambo, mashauri).

2. In other tenses, the verb KUWA is used:
Tulitembelea mahali palipokuwa na nyumba kubwa. We visited a place where there were (which had) big houses.
Tutakwenda sokoni kutakakokuwa na biashara nyingi kesho. We shall go to the market where there will be much trading tomorrow.

C. MANNER: the relative particle is VYO

1. In the present, the construction is with the verb LI:
Alivyo na furaha utafikiri alipata zawadi ya kwanza katika Bahati Nasibuya Taifa! She is so happy you might think she won first prize in the National Lottery!

2. In other tenses, the verb KUWA is used:
Mti huu ulivyokuwa na matunda usiseme! The way this tree bore fruit, you have no idea!

In this construction there are two occurrences of the O of reference: the O next to the verb stem is the relative particle; the O following NA is the "object" of "have".

1. In the present the construction is with the verb LI:
Hiki ndicho kitabu nilicho nacho. This is the book which I have.
Hawezi kunipa kitu asicho nacho. She can't give me the book that she does not have.

2. In other tenses, the verb is KUWA:
Wamepoteza shilingi walizokuwa nazo. They have lost the shillings which they had.
Tutafurahia likizo tutakayokuwa nayo. We shall enjoy the vacation which we will have.


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