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Kiswahili Grammar Notes: Relative Particle

Use of the Relative Particle

66

The O of Reference is used as a relative particle. There are three types of relative constructions in Swahili:

1. With a tense: NA, LI or TA(KA) or with the negative SI
2. Without a tense (General Relative Construction)
3. With the stem amba

67 THE RELATIVE CONSTRUCTION WITH TENSE OR NEGATIVE

The relative particle follows the tense prefix, but precedes the object prefix (see the verb structure chart).

This type of relative construction may only be used with three of the tenses: NA, LI, and TA(KA). The same kind of construction can be made with the negative SI, without any tense.

A na ye fik a anayefika he who arrives
Zi li zo fuliw a (nguo) zilizofuliwa clothes which were washed
Li taka lo tu chuku a (gari) litakalotuchukua car which will take us
Wa li o ku j a waliokuja the one who came
Ni si ye wa fahamu nisiyewafahamu I don't know them
The function of KA in TA(KA)is to carry the secondary stress which a word of this length gets:

utakaopikwa
vitakavyoletwa

Note that the infinitive KU is retained with monosyllabic verbs with this relative construction.

The Class l relative particle YE is used for all persons:

niliyefika I who arrived
uliyefika
you who arrived
aliyefika
he/she who arrived

Likewise the Class 2 particle O is used for all persons:

tuliopika we who cooked
mliopika
you (pl.) who cooked
waliopika
they who cooked

A First we will consider relative constructions referring to the subject of the sentence, and cite examples agreeing with noun Classes 1-11.

1. In constructions with tenses NA, LI or TA(KA):

Class l Mtu anayepita barabarani ni mkulima. The person passing by on the road is a farmer.
Class 2 Watu waliofika walikuwa wageni. The people who arrived were guests.
Class 3 Mkate ulionunuliwa ulikuwa mbaya. The bread which was purchased was bad.
Class 4 Mizigo iliyoletwa ilikuwa mingi. The loads which were brought were numerous.
Class 5 Gari litakalotuchukua ni kubwa. The car which will take us is big.
Class 6 Maziwa yaliyochemshwa yamekwisha. The milk which was boiled is finished.
Class 7 Kitabu kinachofaa ni hiki. The book which is suitable is this one.
Class 8 Vitu vitakavyoletwa ni vingi. The things which will be brought are many.
Class 9 Habari iliyotufikia ilikuwa nzuri. The news which reached us was good.
Class 10 Nguo zilizofuliwa zimepotea. The clothes which were washed have disappeared.
Class 11 Wali utakaspikwa hautoshi. The rice which will be cooked will not be enough.

2. The negative form of this type of relative construction is formed by inserting SI after the subject prefix and eliminating the tense prefix. Consequently there is no indication of time, only negation, in this form.

...wakulima wanaofanya kazi ...wakulima wasiofanya kazi
...wakulima waliofanya kazi ...wakulima wasiofanya kazi
...wakulima watakaofanya kazi ...wakuliwa wasiofanya kazi

As the above examples show, it is impossible to designate time or tense in the negative form of the relative construction; regardless of the tense of the positive construction, there is only the one negative construction. Time is not the important factor here, but the negative character of what is being discussed:

Wakulima wasiofanya kazi Farmers who do not work. (Lazy, perhaps? Unwell?)
Kengele isiyolia
A bell that does not ring. (Is it out of order?)
Kitabu kisichofaa
A useless book
Watu wasiozima moto
People who don't put out fires. (Because they're careless?)

Whenever the tense needs to be indicated in the negative, the relative construction with AMBA (paragraph 69) must be used.

B THE RELATIVE CONSTRUCTION REFERRING TO OBJECT OF THE VERB
The examples in the preceding section were constructions in which the relative particle referred to the subject of the clause. The relative particle may also refer to the object of the clause. Compare these sentences:

1. Chakula kilichobaki kitatumiwa kesho.

The food which remained over will be used tomorrow.
We can say this sentence comes from uniting two sentences:
Chakula kilibaki. (Chakula hicho) kitatumiwa kesho.

2. Chakula walichokibakisha kitatumiwa kesho.

The food which they left over will be used tomorrow.
This sentence also comes from uniting two sentences:
Walibakisha chakula. (Chakula hicho) kitatumiwa kesho.

In the first sentence, chakula is the subject of the clause. There is no object.

In the second sentence, wao is the subject of the clause, chakula is the object.

Study these examples:

Vifaa tunavyovihitaji ni fimbo, miwani na nguo za joto. The equipment we need is a walking-stick, glasses and warm clothing.
Nguo nitakazozivaa ni mpya. The clothes I am going to wear are new.
Kiongozi nitakayemfuata ajua njia. The leader I am going to follow knows the way.

C Three things should be noted when making constructions with the relative particle referring to the object of the clause:

1. The noun object always precedes the verb construction.

2. Nothing can stand between the noun object and the verb construction. If the subject of the clause is a noun, it must follow the verb construction:

Fimbo aliyoichukua kiongozi inafaa sana The stick which the guide carried is very suitable.

3. The object prefix is included in the verb construction as well as the relative particle. The object prefix may optionally be omitted, but Swahili speakers prefer to include it.

68 THE GENERAL RELATIVE CONSTRUCTION does not have any tense prefix and therefore has no time implication. The components are: Subject prefix + verb stem + 0 of reference. If an object prefix is included, it comes, as always, immediately before the verb stem and follows the subject prefix.
Wa wind o (people) who hunt
Ni ku ambia ye I who tell you
The noun to which the relative particle refers must not be separated from the verb construction:

watu wawindao people who hunt
kitabu kifaacho
a suitable book
wako akupendaye
"yours sincerely"--lit. yours, the one who loves you; a phrase used in letters as a final greeting.

The infinitive KU is dropped in monosyllabic verbs:

mwaka ujao next year
mwezi ujao
next month
juma lijalo
next week
siku zijazo
the coming days, the future
wakati ujao
the future

A All the above examples show the relative particle referring to the subject. The same construction is used when referring to the object:

kitabu ni ki soma cho (mimi) The book that I read (mimi is implied)

Note that:

B The negative of this construction is the form discussed D in paragraph 67.A.2:

watu wawindao watu wasiowinda
kitabu nikisomacho
kitabu nisichokisoma

69

The third relative construction is formed with the stem AMBA plus the O of Reference as a suffix, the relative particle. This construction is useful in cases when:
1. A tense other than NA, LI or TA(KA)is required;
2. The sentence is long and complicated, and using the relative in the verb construction could lead to confusion;
3. One needs to express a relative with a preposition such as "of which", "in which", "to whom", etc.

A Use of AMBA with tenses other than NA, LI, TA(KA):

Usimwamshe mtoto ambaye amelala. Don t awaken the child who is sleeping.
Tunangoja wageni ambao hawajaja bado. We are waiting for the guests who have not arrived.

Referring to the object of the clause:

Kazi ambayo sikuifanya jana lazima niifanye leo. The work which I did not do yesterday I must do today.

B The relative particle with AMBA in long, complicated sentences:

Wamelima shamba zuri ajabu ambalo sisi tuliolitazama hatujawahi kuona maishani mwetu. They have cultivated an extremely nice farm which we who looked at it have never seen in our lives.

C

1. The AMBA construction with phrases equivalent to "in which", "whose", "about whom", etc.

Tulitembelea kijiji ambacho sifa yake imeenea nchini kote. We visited a village whose reputation has spread over the whole country.
Wanakijiji wamejenga ghala ambayo ndani yake watahifadhi nafaka. The villagers have built a store in which they will keep grain.
Hawa ndio watu ambao tulisoma habari zeo katika gazeti. These are the people about whom we read in the newspaper.

2. AMBA may also be used together with KWA + O of reference to express "by which":

Hili ni gari ambalo kwalo twaweza kusafirisha mazao. This is the vehicle by which we can transport the crops.
Vitabu ni zana ambazo kwazo twaipatia elimu. Books are tools by which we get an education.

70

There are three types of adverbial relatives:

1. PO, referring to TIME: T
2. PO, KO, MO, referring to PLACE, or LOCATION: L
3. VYO, referring to MANNER: M

Any of the relative constructions discussed in paragraphs 66-68 can be used with each of these adverbial relatives, and examples are given with each type below.

A The TIME relative with PO

Ninapotengeneza mkate nahitaji unge. When I make bread I need flour.
Ninapokula mayai natia chumvi. When I eat eggs, I put on salt.
Tulipokwenda Mikumi tuliona wanyama wengi. When we went to Mikumi we saw many animals
Watakapopumzika watakwenda Dar es Salaam. When they will rest they will go to Dar es Salaam.

The PO relative is sometimes used with KILA for "every time" or "whenever":

Kila anapokwenda mjini anakutana na mtu yule. Every time he goes to town he meets that person
Kila niendapo dukani nakuta limefungwa. Whenever I go to the shop I find it closed.
Walimapo shamba hutumia trekta. When they cultivate the farm they use the tractor.

B The LOCATION relatives: PO, KO, MO

Hapa ndipo panapofanyika mkutano kila mwezi. This is the very place where a meeting is held each month.
Nje ya nyumba tulipokutana juzi palikuwa na watu wengi. Outside the house where we met day before yesterday there were many people.
Katikati ndipo patakapochimbwa kisima. In the center, that is where the well will be dug.
Twende kwetu kunakopendeza zaidi! Let's go to our place where it is nicer!
Nchini nilikotoka kuna viwanda vingi. In the country from where I come there are many factories.
Huko ndiko kutakakotakiwa usefi zaidi, kesho. That is where more cleanliness will be required tomorrow.
Humo shimoni ndimo anamoishi nyoka. There in the pit that is where the snake lives.
Hapa ndipo tukaapo. This is where we live.
Kote tuendako twasikia sifa ya mtu yule. Wherever we go we hear the reputation of that person.
Walituonyesha mahali ambapo watajenga hospitali mpya. They showed us the place where they will build the new hospital.
Tulipiga hema mlimani ambako kulikuwa na vichaka vichaka. We pitched our tent on the mountain where there was an area of brushwood.
Amenunua sanduku ambamo ataweka nguo zake. She has bought a suitcase where she will put her clothes.

C Relative of MANNER: VYO is used as the relative particle referring to manner or likeness, and its English equivalent (how, as) varies, depending on the context.

Unionyeshe unavyolima. Show me how you cultivate (i.e. the manner in which you do it).
Tazama ninavyofanya kazi. Look at how I do the job.
Nilivyosikia atafika jioni. As I haard it, she will arrive in the evening.
Wanavyofanya kazi kwa bidii watamaliza mapema. As hard as they work, they will finish early.

Frequently words like kama, jinsi, kadiri are used with this relative

Unionyeshe jinsi unavyolima. Also: Unionyeshe jinsi ambavyo unalima. Show me how you cultivate.
Kama nilivyosikia, atafika jioni. As I heard it, she will arrive in the evening.
Fanya kama unavyspenda. Or: Fanya upendavyo. Do as you like.
Chota maji kadiri uwezavyo. Draw as much water as you can.
Atupe mkuki mbali awezavyo. Let him throw the spear as far as he can.
Nitasafisha vizuri niwezavyo. I will clean as well as I can.

Notice this comparison of degrees: "the deeper...the more..."

Kadiri shimo litakavyokuwa refu ndivyo gesi nyingi zaidi itakavyopatikana. The deeper the pit will be, the more gas will be available.

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