105 By adding one or more suffixes to a verb root (review paragraph 41), a new verb is developed or derived. This new verb will have a new meaning, related to, but changed from, the original. This is what we call verb derivation. The suffixes are called derivational suffixes.
Swahili verbs display tremendous flexibility by use of rather many derivational suffixes—see the nine listed in paragraph C below. Not all are equally important: in many cases, only the derived verb is now in use and people may not recognize that it is a derivational form. You have learned many derived forms for which the root form is no longer used in Swahili (although it may be in other Bantu languages); e.g., kusimama, to stand; kukamata, to catch hold of. Furthermore, these derivational suffixes (marked with underlining), as well as the last one in the list below, are no longer very productive; you will probably not need to manipulate any of them. But those which are productive - especially the first five, and to some extent, also the sixth - you will be well advised to master. They will help you greatly in being able to express yourself with precision in Swahili.
Suffixes can also be added to non-Bantu verb stems, with special treatment: the final vowel (U or I) is changed to I, the suffix added after the I, and a final -A added (for the infinitive form). The verb stem has now been "bantu-ized" and will function like Bantu verb stems in any construction (as, e.g., in negative present, -A will be replaced with -I).
B Most verb roots end in a consonant. Those which end in a vowel (e.g., -va- from kuvaa, to get dressed) will add an l (perhaps restoring something which has been lost) before adding a suffix. But the consonant of the suffix cannot follow the consonant of the root without a vowel intervening. What that vowel will be depends on the preceding vowel—the last vowel before addition of the suffix. It will be either I or E; rules for vowel harmony will govern the choice. These are:
1. When the previous vowel is
An active sentence with an object can be changed into a passive sentence. Passive sentences are far more common in Swahili than in European languages.
When an active sentence is changed into passive, four things happen:
1. The object of the active sentence becomes subject of the passive sentence.
2. The verb subject must agree with the new sentence subject.
3. W is inserted into the verb stem before the final ending (-A, -E, or -I).
4. The subject of the active sentence becomes "agent" of the passive sentence, i.e., the one "by whom" the action is done. The agent is preceded in na.
1. Verbs ending in a consonant + the final ending.
2. Verbs ending in I or E + the final ending>(IA, EA)
3. Verbs ending in A, U, or O + the final ending>(AA, UA, OA)
4. Verbs of non-Bantu origin
5. Monosyllabic verbs
W is a special kind of consonant, sometimes called a half-vowel (a shorter version of U); therefore it can follow directly after another consonant.
to be cooked
to be told
The choice of I or E depends on the preceding vowel in the verb: see paragraph 105.B.
to be bought
to be removed
kujaribu || kujaribiwa to be tried out, tested
kusalimu || kusalimiwa to be greeted
kuhitaji || kuhitajiwa to be needed
kukubali || kukubaliwa to be accepted
Note the following exceptions:
kusamehe || kusamehewa to be forgiven
kusahau || kusahauliwa to be forgotten
E THE MONOSYLLABIC VERBS: MUST BE LEARNED INDIVIDUALLY
Only 3 are transitive in their simple form. They are:
kula || kuliwa to be eaten, eroded
kupa || kupewa to be given
kunywa || kunywewa to be drunk up, absorbed
The Prepositional form of the verb in Swahili expresses many of the ideas which in European languages one must have prepositions to express.
The main idea of this verb form is that you do something to, for, or on behalf of someone. Under this general idea of movement or action in the direction of (something/someone) will come a number of specific uses which will be detailed in paragraph 109.
A The derivational suffix for the prepositional form is a vowel: either E or I; which it is depends on the rules for vowel harmony explained in paragraph 105.B. Note these examples:
A LI NI ANDIK I A BARUA
TU TA M SOM E A KITABU
Aliniandikia barua, he wrote a letter to me, or on behalf of me.
Tutamsomea kitabu, we will read a book to her.
Notice that the above sentences have two objects: the direct (barua, kitabu), and the indirect (mimi, yeye), the ones for whom the actions were done. In a prepositional verb form, it is ALWAYS the indirect object which is included in the verb as an object prefix.
Compare these sentences:
Alisoma barua? Aliisoma. Did he read the letter? He read it.
Alikusomea barua? Alinisomea. Did he read you the letter? He read it to me.
In the first sentence, barua is a direct object, and included as object prefix in the reply. In the second sentence, barua is also the direct object, but it is not included as an object prefix. The object prefix in the verb is wewe (KU) in the question, mimi (NI) in the reply - the indirect object.
Fundi alinitengenezea gari. Nilitengenezewa gari na fundi.
This is in total contrast to the way one would say it in English: "The car was repaired for me by the mechanic." It is impossible to translate the Swahili sentence word for word into English or vice versa. Once simply has to remember to start with the indirect object, which is almost always a person or persons. Not a bad principle—putting people before things!
Kijana atatuchukulia mizigo. Tutachukuliwa mizigo na kijana.
Mwalimu atawaleteeni vitabu. Mtaletewa vitabu na mwalimu.
1. Verbs ending in a consonant + the final ending (-A in infinitive). Treatment of these will differ depending on whether -
a. The vowel preceding the consonant is a, i, or u.
b. The vowel preceding the consonant is e or o.
2. Verbs ending in a vowel + the final ending (-A in infinitive). Treatment of these will also differ, depending on whether -
a. The last vowel before final -A is a, i, or u.
b. The last vowel before final -A is e or o.
3. Non-Bantu verbs
4. monosyllabic verbs.
KU FANY I A to do for
KU FIK I A to arrive at
KU TAFUT I A to find for
kuanza || kuanzia to begin for, at
kupata || kupatia to get for
kutaka || kutakia to wish (to want for)
kuandika || kuandikia to write for, to
kuimba || kuimbia to sing to, for
kulima || kulimia to cultivate for
kuuza || kuuzia to sell to, for
kufunga || kufungia to close for
kuchem(u)sha || kuchemshia to boil for
KU TENGENEZ E A to make for
KU SOM E A to read to
kuleta || kuletea to bring to
kujenga || kujengea to build for
kupeleka || kupelekea to send to, on behalf of
kuweka || kuwekea to put away for
kuomba || kuombea to pray for
kutoka || kutokea to happen, appear (come out to)
1. If the preceding vowel is a, i, or u: INSERT I
2. If the preceding vowel is e or o: INSERT E
KU LU L I A to cry for
KU TO L E A to give out to
kuchukua || kuchukulia to carry for
kufungua || kufungulia to open for
kuondoa || kuondolea to remove from
kufurahi || kufurahia to be happy about, enjoy
kusalimu || kusalimia to greet for
kujaribu || kujaribia to test, experiment
kuhesabu || kuhesabia count for, reckon with
kusamehe || kusamehea to forgive for
D MONOSYLLABIC VERBS: I or E: TO BE LEARNED INDIVIDUALLY
kula || kulia to eat with or at a place
kuja || kujia to come to, with special purpose
kufa || kufia to die on behalf of; die at (a place)
kuwa || kuwia to be to, to have a claim on
kupa || kupia to give for
kunywa || kunywea to drink at, from
kunya || kunyea to discharge on
kucha || kuchea fear for, be apprehensive about;
kucha || kuchea be "overtaken" by sunrise
kuchwa || kuchwea to be "overtaken" by sunset
The idea of action or movement or inclination toward something/someone is manifested in a variety of uses for this form of the verb construction.
Alitulimia shamba He cultivated the farm for us.
Nimekununulia mahindi I have bought maize for you.
Tutawajengeeni nyumba We will build a house for you (pl).
INCLUDING TO DO SOMETHING FOR ONESELF
The reflexive object JI is used:
Amekwenda kujionea He has gone to see for himself.
Nilijipatia chumba I got a room for myself.
Used in an adjectival phrase: A of relationship + infinitive in prepositional form. The noun in the phrase is the instrument for carrying out the action.
Sabuni ya kufulia soap to use for washing, washing powder
Jembe la kulimia a hoe to cultivate with
Chombo cha kuogea a bath tub
Kalamu ya kuandikia a pen to write with
Kutembea to walk
Kutembelea to go with a purpose, to visit
Walitembea barabarani They walked on the road.
Tulimtembelea mzee nyumbani We visited the old person at home.
Kukimbia to run (away from)
Kukimbilia to run towards (for refuge)
Nilimkimbia simba I ran from the lion.
Nilimkimbia simba nikakimbilia mti I ran from the lion to a tree.
Mtoto alimkimbilia mama yake The child ran to its mother.
Kuhama To move away from a place
Kuhamia To move to a place
Tulihama Tabora tukahamia Dodoma We moved from Tabora to Dodoma.
Umejifunzia wapi Kiswahili? Where have you learned Swahili?
Umetokea wapi? Where have you come from?
Also in adjectival phrases:
Mahali pa kukutania a place to meet at, a meeting place
Chumba cha kuogea a bathroom
Mahali pa kujengea a place to build on, a building site
For this a double prepositional form is used, i.e. a reduplication of the prepositional suffix.
Kwenda to go
Kuendelea to go on, continue
Waliendelea kujifunza usiku They continued studying at night.
Kupiga to hit
Kupigilia to hammer intensively
Anapigilia misumari He is hammering nails.
Kushinda to subdue
Kushindilia to press down, pack down
Ushindilie udongo Pack down the soil hard.
Kuingilia to go in completely, interfere, interrupt
Mipango yako inaingilia kazi zetu. Your arrangements are interfering with out jobs.
Kupendelea to like thoroughly, to prefer, to favour
Mwalimu asimpendelee mwanafunzi yeyote. A teacher should not favour any student.
Kuachilia to forgive, pass over
Achilia mbali! Forget it!
Kupotelea to be lost completely
Potelea mbali! Go and be hanged!
The stative form of the verb is formed by inserting K before the final ending (-A, -E, -I). The rules for vowel harmony apply (paragraph 105.B), so if the verb stem ends in a consonant, K will be preceded by either I or E, depending on the preceding vowel.
The stative form has two FUNCTIONS:
1. To express a state without referring to an agent, i.e., a person who is responsible for the action or state. If an agent is indicated, the passive form is used. Compare:
Kikombe kimevunjika the cup is broken (and I am not interested in who did it).
Kikombe kimevunjwa the cup has been broken (someone did it)
2. To express a potentiality, i.e., whether or not the subject is capable of receiving a given action. Where designating a state of affairs required the ME tense, this function takes other tenses, most frequently the present tenses. The corresponding idea in English is often expressed with the suffix -able:
Kikombe kinavunjika the cup is breakable
Barua haisomeki the letter is unreadable
Barabara haipitiki the road is unpassable
1. Verb roots ending in a consonant: treatment of these will depend on whether the previous vowel was
a. a, i, or u or
b. e or o
2. Verb roots ending in a vowel
3. Non-bantu verbs
4. Monosyllabic verbs
5. Verbs which add a reciprocal to the stative, making the suffix either -IKAN or -EKAN.
KU FANY IK A to be done
kupita || kupitika to be passable
kuvunja || kuvunjika to be broken, breakable
kulima || kulimika to be fit for cultivation
kumaliza || kumalizika to be finished, possible of finishing
kufunga || kufungika to be closed, closable
Maandamano yamefanyika mjini a parade has been held in town
KU SOM EK A to be read; to be readable
kusema || kusemeka to be said
kujenga || kujengeka to be built
kuongeza || kuongezeka to be increased
kutosha || kutosheka to be satisfied, have had enough
kutenda || kutendeka to be done
Barua ilisomeka kwa urahisi. The letter was easily read.
Maji yameongezeka mtoni. The water has increased in the river.
Walikula wakatosheka. They ate and were satisfied.
If L is added to the root, then I or E must precede K according to rules for vowel harmony. But very frequently, only K is inserted between the two vowels
KU VA L IK A to be worn, to be wearable
KU FUNGU K A to be opened, openable
kununua || kununulika to be bought, buyable
kuzula || kuzuilika to be prevented, preventable
kusikia || kusikika to be heard, audible
kutumia || kutumika to be used, usable
kufungua || kugunguka to be opened, openable
kuchafua || kuchafuka to be soiled
Nguo hii haivaliki. This clothing is unwearable.
Maneno hayakusikika. The words were inaudible.
Gari la namna hi hainunuliki. Such a car is unbuyable.
Hakuweza kufika dwa sababu zisizozuilika. He was unable to come for unavoidable reasons.
The last vowel becomes I, then K and the final ending vowel for the construction is added.
kuhitaji || kuhitajika to be needed
kuhesabu || kuhesabika to be counted, countable
kukubali || kukubalika to be accepted, acceptable
kuharibu || kuharibika to be spoiled, perishable
kujibu || kujibika to be answered, answerable
kudhuru || kudhurika to be damaged
kusamehe || kusameheka to be forgiven, forgivable
kusahau || kusahaulika to be forgotten, forgettable
Vifaa hivi havihitajiki. These tools are not needed.
Nyota hazihesabiki. The stars are uncountable.
Gari limeharibika. The car is destroyed.
Gari linaharibika kwa urahisi. The car is easily destroyed.
Only two of the monosyllabic verbs can take the stative form:
kula || kulika to be eaten, eroded; to be edible
kunywa || kunyweka to be drunk, potable
Chakula kibovu hakiliki. Rotten food is inedible.
kupata || kupatikana to be available
kuona || kuonekana to be visible
kuweza || kuwezekana to be possible
kujua || kujulikana to be known
kukosa || kukosekana to be lacking
kusema || kusemekana to be said
kushinda || kushindikana to fail to be done
kutaka || kutakikana to be required
kutambua || kutambulikana to be recognized
Sukari inapatikana dukani lakini mchele haupatikani. Sugar is available in the shop but rice is unavailable.
Mlima Kilimanjaro hauonekani kila siku. Mt. Kilimanjaro is not visible every day.
Inawezekana kujifunza Kiswahili katika muda wa miezi minne. It is possible to learn Swahili in four months' time.
Haiwezekani kujifunza Kiswahili katika muda wa mwezi mmoja. It is impossible to learn Swahili in one month's time.
Mwalimu Nyerere anajulikana popote duniani. Mwalimu Nyerere is known everywhere in the world.
Kalamu yangu imekosekana. My pen is missing.
Inasemekana kwamba amehamia Shinyanga. It is being said she has moved to Shinyanga.
Imeshindikana kumwaliza kazi mapema. It has not been possible to finish the job early.
Note the difference between kukosekana and kukosa:
Nimekosa kalamu. I am without a pen. I failed to get one.
Kalamu imekosekana. The pen is missing.
Kusema has two stative forms: kusemeka and kusemekana. Kusemeka is given by all dictionaries as being the most common of the two, but kusemekana is becoming more and more common and will probably take the place of the former.
The causative form of the verb is used to produce the effect of the original verb with various shades of compulsion, depending on the context.
The original Bantu suffix was probably Y; it still exists in some words:
kuona || kuonya to warn, cause to see
kupona || kuponya to cure, cause to recover
The Y suffix has undergone sound changes in combination with various consonants, resulting in a variety of forms. The forms are not amenable to analysis; some verbs can take either of two versions of the causative suffix. It is best to just learn the various causative verbs as vocabulary items, recognizing their relationship to some simpler form.
Five varieties of causative verbs can be distinguished on the basis of their consonant-vowel composition:
1. Verb roots (or complex stems) ending in a consonant:
The endings may be SH or Z, preceded by I or E according to rules of vowel harmony (paragraph 105.B).
2. Verb roots or stems ending in a vowel:
These may have Z or SH inserted between the two final vowels, i.e. following the vowel of the verb root (or stem) and before the final ending vowel of the verb construction. Z occurs more frequently than SH.
3. Substition of a causative suffix for the last consonant in the verb stem.
4. Verbs of non-Bantu origin.
5. Adjectives, nouns, etc. of non-Bantu origin made into causative verbs by addition of a suffix.
Polisi alisimamisha magari. The policeman stopped the cars.
Hajanijulisha juu ya mpango wa safari. He has not informed me about the trip plans.
Maneno yake yalituchelewesha kazini. His words delayed us in the work.
Wananchi walijiandikisha kabla ya kupiga kura. The people registered themselves before voting.
Alivaa nguo zilizopendeza sana. She wore very nice clothes.
Nilishikiza nguo kwa kutumia pini. I fastened the garment by using pins.
Mwalimu mkuu anaendeleza kazi ya shule. The head teacher is running the work of the school
Waingize vyombo nyumbani. They should put the tools in the house.
Paka hamkimbizi mbwa. The cat does not chase the dog.
Mwalimu aliwakataza wanafunzi wasicheze karibu na shule. The teacher forbade the students to play near the school.
Nimepoteza viatu vyangu. I have lost my shoes.
Alikaza mpini wa shoka. He tightened the axe handle.
Waliangusha miti msituni. The felled trees in the forest.
Yule mkubwa alimpotosha mwenzake. The older one led his friend astray.
The last consonant in the verb stem is replaced by a causative suffix. A number of combinations are found:
K -> SH
Aliniamsha saa 12 asubuhi. He awakened me at 6 in the morning.
Nitachemsha maziwa. I will boil the milk.
Wamewasha moto. They have lit the fire.
Unikumbushe nisije nikasahau. Remind me so I don't forget.
Hifadhi mboga kwa kuzikausha. Preserve the vegetables by drying them.
T -> SH
Alinipasha habari juu ya shida. He informed me of the problem.
Alikipasha chakula moto. She heated up the food.
P -> FY
Simba aliniogofya. The lion frightened me.
L -> Z
Daktari amemlaza mgonjwa hospitalini. The doctor has admitted the patient to the hospital.
The final vowel becomes I, then SH or Z is added before the final ending vowel (-A, -E, -I).
kufahamu || kufahamisha to instruct, cause to understand
kufurahi || kufurahisha to make happy
kuzidi || kuzidisha to multiply, cause to increase
kufikiri || kufikirisha to make think
kubaki || kubakiza or kubakisha to cause to be left over
kusahau || kushaulisha to make forget
Maneno yake mazuri yalitufurahisha. Her nice words made us happy.
Nitarudisha vitu vyake. I shall return his things.
Mbili kuzidisha mbili ni nne. Two times two is four.
Maneno yake yalitufikirisha. His words made us think.
Wamebakiza chakula kidogo tu. They have left only a little food.
Mazungumzo yalimsahaulisha shida. The conversation made him forget his problems.
End vowels other than I are changed to I, the causative suffix SH is added, then the final ending vowel (-A in infinitive, -I or -E in constructions requiring them) is added to make the transition into verb complete.
safi || kusafisha to cleanse
haraka || kuharakisha to make (someone) hurry
rahisi || kurahisisha to simplify
tayari || kutayarisha to prepare, make ready, finish
hatari || kuhatarisha to endager
elimu || kuelimisha to educate
laini || kulainisha to soften
maana || kumaanisha to give meaning to
tafadhali || kutafadhalisha to beg (for assistance, e.g.)
aibu || kuaibisha to disgrace, shame
One word has a double causative treatment:
sawa || kusawazisha to equalize, compare
Kesho nitasafisha nywele. Tomorrow I will wash my hair.
Dereva huyu anahatarisha maisha ya watu. This driver endangers people's lives.
Unamaanisha nini kwa kusema "Kahawa kavu"? What do you mean by saying "Dry coffee"?
Tendo hili limeaibisha darasa zima. This act has disgraced the whole class.
kuogofya || kuogopesha to frighten
kuchosha || kuchokesha to make tired, to weary
kupisha || kupitisha to cause to pass
kusikia to hear || kusikiliza to listen
kuiga to imitate || kuigiza to perform drama
kunyamaa to be quiet || kunyamaza to be very quiet
kuchungua to look into || kuchunguza to look carefully into
The reciprocal is formed by use of the suffix -AN following the verb root or stem; other derivational suffixes may have been added before the addition of the reciprocal.
A more complex example with several derivational suffixes:
kuona || kuonana to see each other
kuacha || kuachana to leave each other
kushinda || kushindana to compete with each other
kufuata || kufuatana to follow each other (accompany one another)
kukuta || kukutana to meet each other
kutafuta || kutafutana to search for each other
kupata || kupatana to agree with each other
In verbs not of Bantu origin, a final vowel other than I is changed to I, -AN is added, and the final ending vowel is added:
kusalimu || kusalimiana to greet each other
kuhitaji || kuhitajiana to need each other
kukubali || kukubaliana to agree with each other
kurudi || kurudiania to return to each other
kusamehe || kusameheana to forgive each other
These verbs are used with plural subjects:
Tulionana. We saw each other.
If a singular subject is used, the second person has to be added following na:
Nilionana na rafiki yangu. I met my friend.
Mume na mke wameachana. The husband and wife have separated.
Timu mbili zilishindana. Two teams competed.
Nilikutana naye mjini. I met him in town.
Tulipatana kuondoka mapema. We agreed to leave early.
Kufuatana na habari nilizo nazo atakuja kesho. According to the information I have, he will come tomorrow.
Watoto wanacheza wakitafutana. The children are playing, looking for each other.
The conversive suffix follows the verb root or stem final consonant, and is U if the preceding vowel was a, i, or u. It is O if the preceding vowel is o.
Available data suggests that the suffix will be U if the preceding vowel is e.
kutata to tangle || kutatua to disentangle
kuziba to fill up a hole || kuzibua to remove a stopper
kukunja to fold || kukunjua to unfold
kufuma to knit, weave || kufumua to unravel
kufunga to close || kufungua to open
kupakia to load on || kupakua to unload
kufukia to fill a hole || kufukua to dig up
kuchoma to pierce || kuchomoa to pull out, unsheath
kukosa to make a mistake || kukosoa to correct, put right
(kupeka) (not now in use) || kupekua to scratch, like a chicken
In one verb with verb root ending in a vowel. U replaces the vowel of the verb root:
kuvaa to get dressed || kuvua to undress
Tumetatua matatizo yetu. We have solved our problems.
Alifumua sweta yake. She unravelled her sweater.
Mtoto alivua nguo zote. The child took off all his clothes.
Nimepakua chakula. I have dished up the food.
Mbwa alifukua mfupa. The dog dug up a bone.
Kiongozi alikosolewa na wananchi. The leader was corrected by the people.
kukwaa to stumble || kukwama to get stuck
kuandaa to put in order || kuandama to follow in order; kuandamana to follow one another in procession
kulowa to be wet || kulowama to be soaked
kutazama to look at
kusimama to stand up, stop
kuinama to bow down
kukama to squeeze || kukamata to take hold of, arrest
kupaka to spread || kupakata to take (a child) on lap
kuokoa to rescue || kuokota to pick up with fingers
kukokota to drag, pull
kusokota to twist
kunata to stick, adhere
woga fear || kuogopa to be afraid
-nene fat || kunenepa to get fat
uwongo lie || kuongopa to tell a lie
-kali sharp || kukaripia to scold, talk sharply
A large variety of meanings can be conveyed by combining two or more verb derivations. It is not advisable to experiment too freely with such combinations, however! A dictionary should always be consulted whenever in doubt.
Following are some common combinations of verb derivations:
Kupigania (prepositional of the reciprocal of kupiga):
to fight for.
Wapigania uhuru freedom fighters
Kufungulia (prepositional of the conversive of kufunga):
to open for.
Alinifungulia mlango. She opened the door for me.
Kuendeleza (causative of the double prepositional of kwenda):
to run, maintain, cause to continue
Amechaguliwa kuendeleza kazi ya kampuni.He has been chosen to run the affairs of the company.
Kusemezana (reciprocal of the causative of kusema):
to talk with each other, "make each other talk".
Rafiki walisemezana mpaka usiku. The friends talked until night time.
Kupatanisha (causative of the reciprocal of kupata):
to reconcile, "cause to agree with each other".
Mzee alipatanisha vijana waliokuwa wamegombana.The elder reconciled the youngsters who had been quarreling.
Kucheleweshwa (passive of the causative of passive of double prepositional of kucha):
to be delayed, "caused to be overtaken by sunrise".
Basi lilicheleweshwa na magari yaliyokwama njiani. The bus was delayed by cars that were stuck on the road.
Kukwamuliwa (passive of conversive of static of kukwaa):
to be pulled out when stuck
Magari yalikwamuliwa na wasafiri. The cars were pulled out by travellers.
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