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Kiswahili Grammar Notes: KUWAPO/ KUWEPO

KUWAPO/ KUWEPO: "To Be Located "


To express that something is located somewhere, we use the subject prefix plus one of three location stems: PO, KO, or MO.

In Class 1 (3rd person singular) the old prefix YU is used. In all other persons and classes, the usual subject prefixes are used (paragraphs 20 and 22.A).

indicates a definite, specific place.

refers to an indefinite place, a wide area.

expresses insideness, withinness.

Yupo nyumbani. She is at home, a closely specified place.
Mfuko upo mezani. The bag is on the table, a definite place.
Gari liko njiani. The car is on the way: somewhere between starting point and destination.
Wanyama wako porini. The animals are in the wilderness, and because the wilderness is a large area you cannot know exactly where they are; they are somewhere in that area.
Nguo zimo sandukuni. The clothes are in the suitcase: inside.
Mayai yamo mfukoni. The eggs are inside the bag, not on or near, but inside.

1. It is common to use KO in questions, because when you ask you don't know the whereabouts of what you are asking for. It is therefore an indefinite place to you.

Mwalimu yuko wapi? Where is the teacher?

Of course, if you assume that what you are asking about is in a particular location, you can specify in your question:
Mwalimu yupo darasani? Is the teacher in class?
Sahani zimo kabatini? Are the plates in the cupboard?

But notice that in these cases you have specified the location where you think the person/ things are. When you ask WAPI? you need to use KO.

2. Note the difference between:

Yupo nyumbani, he is at home, not some other place.
Yuko nyumbani, he is somewhere in the vicinity of the house.
Yumo nyumbani, he is inside the house.

3. Compare these two ways of indicating location:

Kuna magari manne nje ya nyumba. There are four cars outside the house. Literally: The outside-of-the-house location-has (is with) four cars.
Yako magari manne nje ya nyumba. There four cars outside the house. Literally: Four cars they-are-located outside the house.

A. Expressing "to be located" in PRESENT TIME:

Subject prefix + PO, KO, or MO in the positive construction; negative is made by adding the negative prefix HA before the subject prefix (H before second and third person singular, substitute SI or NI in first person singular).

first person singular Nipo shuleni. I am at school. Sipo shambani. I am not on the farm.

second person singular

Uko nyumbani? Are you at home? Huko dukani. You are not at the shop.
Class 1 Yuko nje. She is outside. Hayumo ndani. She is not inside.
first person plural Tupo mjini. We are in town. Hatupo kijijini. We are not in the village.
second person plural Mpo sokoni. You (plural) are at the market. Hampo kazini. You are not at work.
Class 2 Wako mbali. They are far away. Hawapo karibu. They are not nearby.
Class 3 Mfuko uko wapi? Where is the bag? Haupo mezani. It is not on the table.
Class 4 Mikate iko wapi? Where is the bread? Haimo mfukoni. They are not in the bag.
Class 5 Chungwa liko wapi? Where is the orange? Halipo hapa. It is not here.
Class 6 Mayai yako wapi? Where are the eggs? Hayamo barafuni. They are not in the refrigerator.
Class 7 Kitabu kiko wapi? Where is the book? Hakipo ofisini. It is not in the office.
Class 8 Viazi viko wapi? Where are the potatoes? Havipo shambani. They are not in the garden.
Class 9 Damu iko wapi? Where is the blood? Haiko nje ya mwili. It is not outside the body.
Class 10 Ndizi ziko wapi? Where are the bananas? Hazipo dukani. They are not in the shop.
Class 11/14 Uji uko wapi? Where is the porridge? Haupo mezani. It is not on the table.
Proper names take the subject prefixes from Class 9:

Morogoro ipo karibu na Dar es Salaam. Morogoro is near Dar es Salaam.
Mji wa Tanga upo mbali na Bukoba. The city of Tanga is far from Bukoba. -- because mji is a Class 3 noun.


Expressing "to be located" in tenses other than the present requires the verb KUWA plus a suffix PO, KO, or MO. Then the verb construction is like any other construction with a monosyllabic verb, with two exceptions:

1. Normally in the JA tense, the infinitive KU is dropped, but with KUWAPO, KU is retained in the JA tense.

Mvulana hajakuwapo nyumbani. The boy has not been home.

2. Many speakers change the A in KUWAPO to an E: KUWEPO. There are no rules to determine when to use KUWAPO versus KUWEPO; the decision is purely stylistic, perhaps with some regional preferences for one or the other (so keep your ears open for local usage).

Mvulana hajakuwepo nyumbani. The boy has not been home.

If the verb is followed by an adverbial expression specifying location, then the PO, KO, or MO suffix may be dropped:
Either: Mtakuwa nyumbani? Will you be at home?
or: Mtakuwapo nyumbani? Will you be at home?

But without another location expression, the suffix must be included:

Alikuwepo? Hakuwepo. Was he there? He wasn't.

Mvulana alikuwepo nyumbani. The boy was at home.
Mvulana hakuwapo nyumbani. The boy was not at home.

Mvulana atakuwapo nyumbani. The boy will be at home.
Mvulana hatakuwepo nyumbani. The boy will not be home.

Mvulana amekuwepo nyumbani. The boy has been at home.
Mvulana hajakuwapo nyumbani. The boy has not been at home.

Mvulana huwapo nyumbani. The boy is usually at home.
Mvulana hayupo nyumbani. The boy is not at home.

Mvulana akiwepo kila siku hatutamkosa. If the boy is there every day we will not miss him.

Asipokuwako tutamtafuta siku nyingine. If he is not there, we will look for him another day.

Angekuwepo tusingehitaji kungoja. If he were here, we should not need to wait.

Angalikuwako angalipata habari zetu. If he had been there he would have got our news.


This is the usual subjunctive construction, with one of the location suffixes, PO, KO, or MO added. The subjunctive form is identical regardless of whether you prefer KUWAPO or KUWEPO:
Mvulana awepo nyumbani. The boy should be at home.
Mvulana asiwepo nyumbani. The boy should not be at home.


Constructions with KUWAPO/ KUWEPO are like those for KUWA, paragraphs 75-79, but with the addition of PO, KO, or MO after the verb stem.


Like KUWA, this construction is identical to the General Relative withthe old verb LI as verb stem, and with PO, KO, or MO added:

s/he who is there
Wageni waliopo waliwasili jana. The guests who are here arrived yesterday.
Wengine walioko safarini watawasili jioni hii. Others who are travelling will arrive this evening.
Tumia mkasi uliomo kabatini. Use the scissors that are in the cupboard.
Umenye viazi vilivyopo mezani. Peel the potatoes that are on the table.

Note this idiomatic use of iliyopo, literally "it which is here":
Iliyopo sasa ni kungoja tu. There is nothing to do now but wait.


The comments in paragraph 78 about KUWA apply also to KUWAPO/ KUWEPO. It should be noted that the PO, KO, or MO suffix can be omitted if another location expression follows the verb.

Aliyekuwapo She who was here/there
Aliyekuwa hapa She who was here
Aliyekuwepo hapa She who was here
Aliyekuwa nyumbani She who was at home
Aliyekuwepo nyumbani She who was at home

Mzee aliyekuwapo hapa jana ndiye aliyetuarifu juu ya ajali ili mbaya. The old man who was here yesterday is the one who told us about that bad accident.

Watu watakaokuwepo kesho watamaliza kazi hiyo. The people who will be here tomorrow will finish that job.

With AMBA:
Yule ambaye hakuwepo jana atapokea vifaa vyake leo. The one who was not present yesterday will receive his equipment today.


These are possible, but not often needed since the PO, KO, and MO endings can be left off. For example:
Alipokuwapo can alternate with Alipokuwa hapa When he was here


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