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KISWAHILI GRAMMAR

Nouns classes
   o KI-VI class
   o M-MI class
   o M-WA class
   o SH/J-MA class
   o N class
   o U class
   o PA class

Verb & tense
   o Personal pronouns
   o Subjects
   o To be
   o To have
   o Present tense
   o Past tense
   o Future tense
   o Other tense
   o Monosyllabic vebs
   o Infinitive

Adjectives & Adverbs
   o Adjectives
   o Adverbs
   o Numbers

Concordance tables
   o Table 1
   o Table 2
   o Table 3


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KISWAHILI GRAMMAR - NOUNS CLASSES
The noun class is the base of your sentence and all verbs and adjectives will have the same prefix than the prefix of the subject.

For example, to say "three small things" we start with the noun "kitu" (thing) in the plural form (that is "vitu") and add the same prefix to the adjective "-dogo" (small) and the number "-tatu" (three) :
vitu vidogo vitatu - three small things

You will find below basic grammar with some illustrations using singular and plural forms for each noun class of the eight noun classes.

KI-VI class - Vocabulary - Exercises
The KI-VI class nouns are objects/tools or things.
This class is even called KITU (thing) class.

The singular prefixes of the noun are KI and the plural prefixes are VI (get vocabulary list).
kitabu, vitabu - book, books

This class is very simple as the adjective prefixes and the verb prefixes are the same than the nouns (so no complicated table to learn).
kitabu kidogo kimoja - one small book*
vitabu vidogo vitatu - three small books**

Finally, note than the singular form become ch and the plural form vy when the noun start with a, e, o or u (get vocabulary list).
chumba (ki-umba) - room
vyumba (vy-umba) - rooms

M-MI class - Vocabulary - Exercises
The M-MI class nouns are like the KITU class, that is objects/tools or things but it includes also trees, plants, natural phenomena (smoke, fire), body parts.
It is also called the MITI (tree) class.

The singular prefixes of the noun are M and the plural prefixes are MI (get vocabulary list).
mti, miti - tree/trees

The adjective prefixes for this class are M and MI.
Mti mdogo mmoja - one small tree*
Miti midogo mitatu - three small trees**

Finally, note than the singular form become mw when the noun starts with a vowel (get vocabulary list).
mwezi (mu-ezi), miezi - moon, moons
mwili (mu-ili), miili - body, bodies

M-WA class - Vocabulary - Exercises
The M-WA class nouns are persons.
It is usually called the MTU (person) class.

The singular prefixes of the noun are M (sometimes mw) and the plural prefixes are WA(getvocabulary list).
mtu, watu - person/people
mtoto, watoto - child/children

Remarks :
mtu designed a person but mwananume a male person and mwanamke a female person.

The prefixes of the adjective are M and WA.
mtu mdogo mmoja - one small man*
watu wadogo watatu - three small mans**

The prefixes of the verb for M/WA class are WA for the plural and A for the singular (A being the prefix of the subject for the third person: analala - he is sleeping)
watoto wadogo wanalala - the small children are sleeping.
mtoto mdogo analala - the small child is sleeping.

Finally, note than the must remove wa in the plural form if the word roots is starting with wa or w followed by a vowel (get vocabulary list).
mwanafunzi, wanafunzi - student, students
mwizi, wezi - thief, thieves

SH/J-MA class - Vocabulary - Exercises
This class is also known as the MA class, that is the plural prefix (MA) of the noun class.

This noun class contains all words starting with j, ji, sh or a vowel and also all monosyllabic words.

At the plural form, ma is added to the stem of the noun, such as (get vocabulary list) :
shamba, mashamba - garden, gardens (cultivated field)
ua, maua - flower, flowers
jiko, meko (ma-iko) - fireplace, fireplaces
jambo, mambo (ma-ambo) - matter, matters


To get a list of MA class nouns, check out our vocabulary list.

Adjectives and nouns used with MA class nouns take no prefix at the singular form (except when the adjectives start with a vowel-see remarks below) and take the prefix MA at the plural form:
shamba dogo moja - one small field
mashamba madogo matatu - three small fields

Remarks :
When adjectives start with a vowel, they take the prefix j at the singular form and the prefix ma at the plural form (or me when the vowel is e or i). Here, a simple example using the adjective -ekundu (red):
ua jekundu moja - one red flower
maua mekundu matatu - three red flowers


N class - Vocabulary - Exercises
The N class is large and it is somehow difficult to get N class nouns as most of the time the N don't even appear or is changed to another letter.

To get a list of N class nouns, consult our vocabulary list in a small window.

The good thing about N class nouns is that the singular and plural forms of N class nouns are identical, for example nyumba means house or houses.

The bad thing is that the N class nouns are grouped in three categories and it is not easy to get it right at the beginning.

The first category is the simplest category because nouns are starting with the letter N which can only be seen before letters d, g, j and z and also in the form ny before a noun starting with a vowel (get vocabulary list).
ndege - bird(s)/plane(s)
nyumba - house(s)

The second category are nouns starting with mb or mv as the letter n changes to m before a noun stem starting with b and v (get vocabulary list).
mvinyo (n-vinyo) - wine(s)
mbuzi (n-buzi) - goat(s)

You must know that only three nouns starting with mv are N class nouns (all other words are plural forms of other noun classes).
These three nouns are mvua - rain(s), mvi - white hair(s) and mvinyo - wine(s)

And most of the nouns starting with mb are from the N class (but keep in mind that mb can also be seen for the plural form of other noun classes as U class).

Finally, the third category has no uniformity, they are foreign words or others words were the letter N drops out (get vocabulary list).

U class - Vocabulary - Exercises
The U class nouns are abstract nouns and most of them do not have plural, as they qualified States, qualities (like beauty) or substance composed of small particles (like flour).

The singular prefix is U (or w when nouns start with a vowel)
udogo - smallness
uzuri - beauty
Ufaranza - France
unga - flour
wizi - theft

The plural prefix, when nouns are concrete countable object, is the same than the one of N class nouns. I just remind you the rule of the N class nouns for the plural form.
  • N can only be seen before d, g, j, and z and under the form ny when nouns start with a vowel.
        udevu, ndevu - hair of the beard
        wimbo, nyimbo - song, hymn
  • or before b or w, the N change to mb
        ubao, mbao - plank
        uwingu, mbingu - sky
  • and with others letters, the N just disappear
        ukuta, kuta - wall
        upepo, pepo - wind

PA class - Vocabulary
The PA class has only one word, "mahali" which means place(s).

The adjectives table prefixes for the singular and plural forms are "pa"
mahali padogo pamoja - one small place
mahali padogo patatu - three small places

Note that "pamoja" means also "together"