Lesson 15.
Abdou sanni no

  1. Intro
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Practical idiomatic winks
  4. Grammar
  5. Exercises


15.A. Intro  

Zarma are mainly farmers. Agriculture in Niger is largely subsistence farming. That is, farming is a way of life rather than a profession like in Europe. Millet is the main crop. Millet, sorghum, rice (grown on the banks of the Niger river) make up the staple crops. Cotton, tobacco, cowpea, and peanuts are raised as cash crops. The head of the household distributes fields to each of the family members for cultivation. Men are responsible for clearing, sowing, weeding, and harvesting the millet. Women, in addition to their domestic tasks, help in the sowing and harvesting of millet and are also responsible for small plots of peanuts, okra, and peas. They will also plant and tend dry-season gardens in areas with access to water. During the growing season, the animals of the Zarma are generally given to Fulani herdsmen who take care of them against payment in kind or in exchange of land. The mutual dependence between Zarma and Fulani has created a highly complex agro pastoral system in Southwest Niger.

The text below is a part of the story of the farmer Abdou. He describes his and his families farming activities during a the year. The Zarma distinguish four seasons: hayni, the hot, dry season, kaydiya, the raining season, hemar, the harvest season, and jaw (hargu), the cold, dry season. Each season demand different activities. In this part you can learn about the agricultural activities during hayni and  the start of kaydiya.

Source of Abdou's story: Jackson Neisse and Noelle Smith (1995)
Sources and further information on the web: Furber (1997), Neef (2000), Zermateam, Joshuaproject


Abdou sanni no

Part 1  
Hayni kan wayno ga futu gumo, iri sintin ga zoru . Iri ga hayni kwaari ton, iri ma fari hanse ma bori. Iri ga kwaarey kar. Iri ga hangan kala korsolo ma ka. Cutting down millet stalks after harvest.
Alhamdulilahi. Nda Irikoy ma saye te, kaydiya ma tar ga ka. Hala hari ga kaŋ, iri ga koy fari ga di hala laabu tay ga bori. Nda a ga sundu kambe fatta kuyan laabu ra, a wasa ga duma.

Iri ga kwaarey kar, iri sintin ga zuru.

Borey go no kan i ga duma ba haro man ma gumo. Amma borey kulu si bay hala a ga te ya cine. Ay bumbo ga hangan hala haro ma gumo ga duma.  
  Wind blowing sand from field
Han fo kan iri ga koy fari ga duma, ay wande, Haoua, nda ay izey kulu ga ka ay banda. Ay ga duma kaa nda kalma. I ga ay gana ga daŋ kambe-ize hinza hayni teejiizey bungey kulu ra. I ga i taamu nda ngey ce. Iri ga sobay ga koy ya cine kala fari kulu ma ban.

Haro man ma gumo.

Part 2  
Nda Irikoy ma yedda, hayni  ga zay jirbi hinza ga koy itaci [2] banda. I ga n' a se hayni buzugu. Hatta-hatta nda haro si tar ga ka, nda a ga gay gumo, kwaara borey kulu ga koy jingara do ga jingar Irikoy se a ma kande hari. I ga te alfatiya Irikoy se a ma kande hari. Mosque of Zinder
Kaydiya waate, borey kulu pat ga goy. Susubey alcirikaaray banda ay ga koy fari nda ay izey, Bachirou nda Himu. Iri ga goy kala alula to.

borey kulu ga koy jingara do

Ay wande, Haoua, nda ay izo Binta ga kand' iri se donu kan zaaro to. Iri fari si kala kilometter hinza nda Bongu Jinde.  A ga moru. Wodin se iri ga ne: kadiya goy beri lookaci no.  
  Field with young millet plants just aftersand storm, Sadore Niger
Hayni dumi hinka go no. Hayni cire go no. A ga tar ga beri jirbi 75 ga koy jirbi 100 ra. Nda afo koyne: sumno. A si tar ga beri amma a ga te hayni ibobo. A si te kala jirbi 120 ga koy 180 kala a ma hay. Hayni cire koptey gonda hamni bobo i ga.

Hayni  ga zay.

Source: Jackson Neisse and Noelle Smith (1995)

After answering the questions, you can read the translation here. 

Questions to practice your reading skills

  1. Ifo se no borey kulu ga koy jingara do?
  2. Hayni dumi marge go no?


  1. xxx
  2. xxx

If you like to see things for yourself, there are two photo sessions showing all farming activities regarding raising millet.

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15.B. Vocabulary
  1. Verbs
  2. Nouns
  3. Adjectives, adverbs, etc.

Open the Pronunciation Guide in new window

Learn these words by heart.

Move the mouse to one of the underlined words and a sentence in which the word is used will appear. Click the left mouse button and a photo will appear in a popup.
When you move the pointer on the screen with your mouse over the photo the translation of the Zarma sentence will show.

15.B.1 Verbs
Zarma English Pronunciation
dangey to be quiet, to be still, to hush dan / gey
garaw to loan g / raw
garaw sambu to borrow money, take up a loan g / raw  sam / bu
garaw bana to repay a loan g / raw ba / na
     hi ... se
     hi ... ga
to lend, to borrow [same object to be returned]
     to lend to
     to lend from
di to catch, to lay hold of, to seize di
turu to dress hair tu / ru
sufurey to rent, to hire su / fu rey
daabu to cover, to close, to shut daa / bu
suban to choose, to select, to elect su / ban
nin to be ripe, to be cooked nin
windi to go around, to encircle win / di
hin to be able to, can [with compound verb] hin
no ya is, are [emphatic] no ya
ho to intend, to plan, to think, to expect, to purpose [also pronounced as "haw"] h
maray to injure, to be wounded, to be hurt, to be injured [not to feel pain] ma / re
tamaha to suppose, to think ta / ma ha
ye to put back, to give back, to restore; to be healed ye

# signifies verb that take the direct object afterwards, see Lesson 2.C.1 & 3.D.5


15.B.2 Nouns
Zarma English Pronunciation
wandiyo, wandiya adolescent girl [literally: virgin], unmarried woman [that is never was married], girl friend, fiance wan / di yo,
wan / di ya
garaw, garawa a loan, a debt g / raw
hamni, hamno hair, feather, fur ham ni
boŋ hamni, boŋ hamno hair of head boŋ ham ni
nangu, nango place nan / gu
dabirji, dabirjo cover, lid da bir ji
kunta blanket, coverlet kun ta
kasu, kaso jail ka / su
danfane, danfano small common lizard dan / fa ne
handu, hando moon; month han / du
windi, windo fence encircling an area, compound enclosed by such a fence or wall win / di
hina ability, the authorities or the government hi na /


15.B.3 Adjectives, adverbs, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation
wone (demonstrative adjective) this one here wo / ne
mannaŋ (adverb) last year man / naŋ [nasal]
yeesi (adverb) next year y / si
doŋ (adverb) (1) of old, formerly do ŋ
neya (adverb)
   Nga neya !
right here [emphatic]
   Here it is !
n ya

In Lesson 10 we have already had the conjunction "doŋ",
 meaning "then, in that case".



15.C Practical idiomatic winks

The following two topics are discussed:

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Ye (Lesson 15: to put back, to give back, to restore)

The word "ye", besides being a verb in its own right, when used with the verb-link "ga" (or "ka") and another verb, gives repeated action to the second verb (again) or indicates that something is returned (back). Examples below show how this is done, though this form cannot be used with all verbs.

Second verb

         Combination with ye ga

Zarma English Zarma English
kaa to come ye ga kaa to come again, to return, to come back
ci to tell ye ga ci to tell over again, to repeat
    ye ga kaa ga ci Come to retell
te to do ye ga te to do again, to repeat an action
ha to ask ye ga ha to ask again
maray to be injured ye ga maray to be injured again
jisi to place, to put ye ga jisi to place back, to put back


Sometime ye ga is used with a noun [in some cases a gerund] to give this repeat idea:

ci [to tell] ► ciyan [communication] ► ye ga ciyan [repetition]

The word ye with a noun only gives an idea of returning

bande [back, rear (side)] ► ye bande [go back(wards)]


In section D.2 of this lesson others uses of the verb-link "ga" are discussed.



Ba (lesson 5: to like, to love, to desire, to want;  to be abundant, numerous,
                     a lot)

The Zarma verb ba  has several meanings. You may use it to say you like or prefer something or like of love someone.

Zarma English
Ay ga ba nin. I like you.
Ay ga ba nin. I love you
Feji nda hincin, wofo ni ga ba? Which do you prefer a sheep or a goat

The verb can also be used to say you desire or want something or you want something to do or to be done. Of course you may also use in a negative form.

Zarma English
Tira hinka go ne. Wone n' ay ga ba. Two books are here. It is this one I want.
Tira hinka go ne. Wone n' ay ga ba. Two books are here. It is this one I desire.
Ay ga ba ay ma koy fu suba. I want to go home tomorrow
Literally: I want that I go home tomorrow.
A si ba nga izo ma goy ne. He doesn't want his child to work here.


Action about to take place
The idea of "to be about to" do something is shown be using "ga ba ga" as auxiliaries before the verb
Zarma English
Bariyo ga ba ga bu. The horse is about to die.
Hari ga ba ga kaa. It is about to rain.
Iri jaw kala iri ga ba ga bu. We were so thirsty we about died.
Ŋwaro ga ba ga ban. The food is about all gone (finished).



15.D. Grammar

Subjects in this lesson:

  1. Imperfect and past progressive tenses
  2. Verb-link conjunction for compound verbs and infinitives 
  3. Common expression and exclamations 

15.D.1 Imperfect and past progressive tenses

1. Imperfect tense

As we saw several lessons ago, the particle "ga" is used with the non-completed action aspect of the verb. Often the actual time comes from the context, whether simple present or future. Therefore, this is the particle for use in the non-completed action aspects.

With repeated or habitual action in the past, where you got the time from elements in the sentence, it can be translated by our "used to" or "would".



Manan Musa ga kande iri se gunguri watikulu, amma ay mana di a haraŋ. Last year Musa would bring us eggs all the time, but I haven't seen him this year.
Jirbeydin ra zankey ga kaa ne watikulu. In those days the children used to come here all the time.
Watodin a ga ne iri ŋwaro ga kaan nga se, amma sohon a si kaa iri do koyne. At that time he used to say our food was pleasing to him, but now he doesn't come to us any more.


2. Progressive or continuous past

We saw in Lesson 5 that certain auxiliaries are used with the verb to form progressive or continuous present. Exactly the same forms (go no ga and go ga) are used to form the progressive or continuous past.

Zarma English
Watokan i kaa bi, a go no ga tirey hantum. When they came yesterday, he was writing letters.
Nango kan a ra ni goy mannaŋ, i go ga ni bana, wala? Where you worked last year, did they pay you (regularly)?
A bina sara hal' a ga ba ga hen. She was so sad that she was about to weep.


15.D.2. Verb-link conjunction for compound verbs and infinitives

We have already studied the conjunction "nda" which connects substantives, and the conjunction "mo" to connect clauses. The conjunction that connects verbs is "ga" (Zarma) or "ka" (Songhay). It is a very short sound. Ga sounds like the combination of the "g" in "give" and the "a" in "cinema".  Ka sounds like first syllable of the English word "canal". It is sometime pronounce as "ha" (Songhay Wodo)[1]. 

The verb-link conjunction is never accented or drawn out. It can connect a verb and all its modifiers, always provided the subject and tenses do not change, nor the mood.

The conjunction "ga" can contract with the direct object as "na", "ga", and "ma" do. With certain verbs the verb-link "ga" will come out in translation as an infinitive, rather than as a compound verb. Ordinarily the infinitive is formed with the particle "ma" having a separate subject, but the "ga" is used with certain verbs.

Zarma English
A kaa ga ŋwa. He came and ate.
A kaa zama nga ma ŋwa. He came to eat.
I goro ga hantum. They sat down and wrote.
Iri n' a di g' a wi. We caught it and killed it.
Ay maa zanka fo kan go no ga hen ga ne a se a ma dangey. I heard a child who was weeping and said to him he should hush.


The verb "koy" (to go) can be -not must- an exception in that it can be used directly before another verb for a compound predicate.

Zarma English
Koy ci a se a ma kaa. Go and tell him to come
Koy ga ci a se a ma kaa.
Suba ay ga koy di. Tomorrow I will go and see.
Suba ay ga koy ga di.

The verb "ba" (to like, etc.) never forms an infinitive with the particle "ga", but always with "ma", as in Lesson 10. The combination "ga ba ga" plus verb means uniformly "to be about to ..." (see above).

There are several other uses of the link auxiliary "ga", as we have seen in part C of this lesson. With the following verbs one can form an infinitive or a gerund phrase.

To form an infinitive
combination with "ga" examples
hima ga to ought to A ga hima g' a te. He ought to do it.
ho ga to plan to Iri ho ga koy. we planned to go.
sintin ga to start to Sintin ga koy. Start to go.
du ga to get to Araŋ du ga don. You got to sing.
wani ga to know how to Ay ga wani ga hanse moto. I know how to repair a car.
hin ga can A ga hin g' a te. He can do it.
si hin ga can't Ay si hin g' a te. I can't do it.
To form a gerund phrase
ga ban to finish A g' a hanse ga ban. He will finish fixing it.
ga tonton the more I zuru ga tonton. They ran the more.
gay ga to delay Ni gay ga kaa you delayed coming


15.D.3. Common expressions and exclamations

You 'll find here a list of useful idiomatic expressions and exclamations.

Zarma English
Madala ! That's wonderful !
literally: Praise the Lord !
Alhamdulilahi ! Praise be to God !
Ni ga cim ! You' re right !
Jam ! That's too bad ! ; How awful !
Haba? Oh yeah? ; Is that right? ; Is that so?
[exclamation of doubt, incredulity]
Kay ! Uch ! , Yech ! ,Yuck ! ; Mind !
[exclamation of disgust, disapproval, surprise, warning]
To ! O.K. ! ; Check ! ; Well !
[expression of attention, agreement, satisfaction]
Hay fo ! Say you ! ; Hey there !
Gasa ! Brother ! ; (rare: for crying out loud)
Wi za ! What do you know ! ; Low and behold, honestly !
As a matter of fact ....
Dahir ! Truly ! , of a truth
Wey ! Ouch !
Na'am. Yeah
[man 's answer on being called]
Yu ! Yeah
[woman's answer on being called; pronounced rising infliction on this and preceding]




Last updated: 11 maart 2012