You can Register Here ,   OR

Kiswahili Grammar Notes: Monosyllabic Verbs

Monosyllabic Verbs


Swahili has ten monosyllabic verbs - that is, the verbs with verb stems of only one syllable: in the infinitive form kula, the verb stem is la. The monosyllabic verbs are:

kucha to fear (as to fear God)
kucha to dawn, be morning; used for sunrise
kuchwa to set, of the sun
kufa to die
kula to eat
kunya to discharge, drop; of excreta, also of rainfall
kunywa to drink, absorb
kupa to give (this must have an object)
kuwa to be

There are two verbs that are not monosyllabic verbs, but which resemble the monosyllabic verbs in that they often retain the infinitive KU in certain verb constructions like the monosyllabics do. No rules exist to determine when to use the infinitive KU with these two verbs, nor when to use the irregular KW versus KU as the prefix; the decision is purely stylistic, perhaps with some regional preferences for one or the other (so keep your ears open for local usage). The two verbs are:

kwenda/ kuenda to go
kwisha/ kuisha to come to an end, get finished

The special feature about these verbs - monosyllabics and the two polysyllabics - is that in a few of the most common tenses they will retain the infinitive KU (or often KW for kwenda and kwisha). In most tenses the KU is dropped as it normally is with all other verbs.

Below is a list of all verb constructions listed in the previous paragraphs, showing kula as an example, and with mimi (first person singular) for the subject. The forms in which the infinitive KU is retained are capitalized. Remember these are the unusual forms, although they are often the tenses that learners use most often. In the majority of tenses, the infinitive KU does not enter into a construction with tense or subjunctive, etc.

Notice that when an object is included in the construction the monosyllabic KU is lost, even in those tenses where it is otherwise used.

Verb form (tense, subjunctive, etc) Positive Negative Positive with object (mayai) Negative with object (mayai)
NA NINAKULA sili ninayala siyali
A nala sili nayala siayali
HU hula huyala
LI/KU NILIKULA sikula niliyala sikuyala
ME/JA NIMEKULA sijala nimeyala sijayala
TA NITAKULA SITAKULA nitayala sitayala
KA nikala nisile/ sikula nikayala nisiyale/ sikuyala
KI/SIPO nikila NISIPOKULA nikiyala nisipoyala
NGE NINGEKULA NISINGEKULA ningeyala nisingeyala
subjunctive nile nisile niyale nisiyale
relative NILIYEKULA NISIYEKULA niliyeyala nisiyeyala
general relative nilaye NISIYEKULA niyalaye nisiyeyala


Kamusi GOLD

These are the languages for which we have datasets that we are actively working toward putting online. Languages that are Active for you to search are marked with "A" in the list below.


•A = Active language, aligned and searchable
•c = Data 🔢 elicited through the Comparative African Word List
•d = Data from independent sources that Kamusi participants align playing 🐥📊 DUCKS
•e = Data from the 🎮 games you can play on 😂🌎🤖 EmojiWorldBot
•P = Pending language, data in queue for alignment
•w = Data from 🔠🕸 WordNet teams

Software and Systems

We are actively creating new software for you to make use of and contribute to the 🎓 knowledge we are bringing together. Learn about software that is ready for you to download or in development, and the unique data systems we are putting in place for advanced language learning and technology:

Articles and Information

Kamusi has many elements. With these articles, you can read the details that interest you:

Videos and Slideshows

Some of what you need to know about Kamusi can best be understood visually. Our 📽 videos are not professional, but we hope you find them useful:


Our partners - past, present, and future - include:

Hack Kamusi

Here are some of the work elements on our task list that you can help do or fund:

Theory of Kamusi

Select a link below to learn about the principles that guide the project's unique approach to lexicography and public service.

Contact Us

We welcome your comments and questions, and will try to respond quickly. To get in touch, please visit our contact page. You must use a real email address if you want to get a real reply!

© Copyright ©

The Kamusi Project dictionaries and the Kamusi Project databases are intellectual property protected by international copyright law, ©2007 through ©2018, under the joint ownership of Kamusi Project International and Kamusi Project USA. Further explanation may be found on our © Copyright page.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.


Discussion items about language, technology, and society, from the Kamusi editor and others. This box is growing. To help develop or fund the project, please contact us!

Our biggest struggle is keeping Kamusi online and keeping it free. We cannot charge money for our services because that would block access to the very people we most want to benefit, the students and speakers of languages around the world that are almost always excluded from information technology. So, we ask, request, beseech, beg you, to please support our work by donating as generously as you can to help build and maintain this unique public resource.


Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to general questions you might have about Kamusi services.

We are building this page around real questions from members of the Kamusi community. Send us a question that you think will help other visitors to the site, and frequently we will place the answer here.

Try it : Ask a "FAQ"!

Press Coverage

Kamusi in the news: Reports by journalists and bloggers about our work in newspapers, television, radio, and online.

Sponsor Search:
Who Do You Know?

To keep Kamusi growing as a "free" knowledge resource for the world's languages, we need major contributions from philanthropists and organizations. Do you have any connections with a generous person, corporation, foundation, or family office that might wish to make a long term impact on educational outcomes and economic opportunity for speakers of excluded languages around the world? If you can help us reach out to a potential 💛😇 GOLD Angel, please contact us!