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Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

Boys on a donkey cart in a Zarma village in western Niger
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Grammar help

Cardinal numbers

All the numbers in Zarma are based on these first ten, except for the specific words of the tens (20, 30, ...), 'hundred' (zangu) and 'thousand' (zambar).

All of the cardinal numbers, except 6, 7, and 8, drop the prefix vowel ('i' or 'a') when they are qualifying adjectives

Money in Zarma is based on the 5-Franc unit. To a Zarma this is not five of everything: it is one, 1 dala.


afo ihinka ihinza  




musu fo musu beeri hinka alboro hinza  
photo of a cat photo of lions photo of three man  



   10s, 100, 1000
   20 onwards
Counting money


Counting from 0 to 10

All the numbers in Zarma are based on these first ten, except for the specific words of the tens, 'hundred' and 'thousand'.

Cardinal numbers 0 - 10
Zarma number pronunciation Zarma number pronunciation
yaamo 0 yaa mo      
afo 1 à iddu 6 id du
ihinka 2 î hin ka iyye 7 iy ye
ihinza 3 î hin za ahakku 8 â hak ku
itaaci 4 î taa ci iyegga 9 î yeg ga
iggu 5 i ggu iway 10 î way

A half in Zarma is expressed with 'jare'. Jare literally means a part.
Ay ga ba buuru hinka nda jare. I want two and a half loaf of bread.

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Counting from 11 to 20

The cardinal numbers above 10 are formed by adding to the word for the tens (10, 20, 30, etc.) the word 'cindi' (remains, left over) andthen add the unit. For example, 14 is 'iway cindi taci', literally ten and four left over.

The numbers just below the tens ending on a '8' or '9' can be expressed in two ways. In addition to the regular way using 'cindi' one can use 'si' (without, missing). For example 'waranka ihinka si' and 'waranka afo si"' represent 'twenty less two' and 'twenty less one', respectively, and are alternate way of saying "18" and "19".


Cardinal numbers 11-20
number Zarma pronunciation
11 iway cindi fo i way cindi fo
12 iway cindi hinka i way cindi hin ka
13 iway cindi hinza i way cindi hin za
14 iway cindi taaci i way cindi taa ci
15 iway cindi gu i way cindi gu
16 iway cindi iddu i way cindi id du
17 iway cindi iyye i way cindi iy ye
18 iway cindi ahakku
waranka ihinka si
i way cindi a hak ku
 war an ka i hin ka si
19 iway cindi yegga
waranka afo si
i way cindi yeg ga
 war an ka a fo si
20 waranka war an ka
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The tens, hundreds and thousands

The tens (iway-wayey) are more or less based on a junction of 'ten' (iway) and the numbers one to nine. Hundred and thousand have their own name, but the hundreds (zangu-zangey) and the thousands (zambar-zambarey) are formed similar to English. As you may notice in the tens is the only instance where 'iddu' and 'iyye' are shortened.
Cardinal numbers 10s, 100s, 1000s
number Zarma pronunciation
10 iway î way
20 waranka (not wayhinka) war an ka
30 waranza (not wayhinza) war an za
40 waytaaci way taa ci
50 waygu way gu
60 waydu (sometimes wayiddu) way du
70 wayye (sometimes wayiyye) way ye
80 wahakku (not wayahakku) wa hak ku
90 wayyega (sometimes wayga) way yeg ga
100 zangu zan gu
200 zangu hinka zan gu  hin ka
1000 zambar zam bar
2000 zambar hinka zam bar  hin ka
1,000,000 milyo / miliyo / million / zambar dubu  
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Counting from 20 onwards

The cardinal numbers above 20 are formed by adding to the word for the tens (20, 30, 40, etc.) the word 'cindi' (remains, left over) and then the unit (1, 2, ect.).

In counting over 100 'nda' or 'da' unites the tens to the hundreds, and the hundreds to the thousands. In counting under two thousand, one may count by hundreds all the way.

As we have seen for 11-20, when the unit lack one or two 'subunits' an idiom can be formed, not only for the number below hundred as we have discussed.

Counting from 20 onwards
number Zarma English (literally)
24 waranka cindi hinka twenty remains four
56 waygu cindi iddu fifty remains six
67 waydu cindi iyye sixty remains seven
90 zangu iway si / wayyega one hundred without ten / ninety
91 wayyega cindi fo ninety remains one
98 zangu ihinka si one hundred without two
99 zangu afo si one hundred without one
156 zangu da waygu cindi iddu hundred and fifty remains six
1001 zambar fo cindi fo one thousand remains one
1011 zambar fo nd' iway cindi fo one thousand and ten remains one
1111 zambar fo da zangu nd' iway cindi fo one thousand and hundred and ten remains one
1400 zangu way cindi taaci
zambar fo da zangu taaci
ten remains four hundreds
one thousand and four hundred
2372 zambar hinka da zangu hinza da wayye cindi hinka two thousand and three hundred and seventy remains two
888888 zambar zangu ahakku nda wahakku cindi ahakku nda zangu ahakku nda wahakku cindi ahakku eight hundred and eighty remains eight thousands and eight hundred and eighty remains eight
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Numerical adjective

All of the cardinal numbers, except 6, 7, and 8, drop the prefix vowel ('i' or 'a') when they are qualifying adjectives, directly following a noun or a noun with an adjective modifier. The noun does not take either a definite (see 1.D.2) or a plural ending (see 1.D.3), these being carried by the number if needed.
Zarma English
bari fo one horse, a horse
curo hinka two birds
farkay gu five donkeys
wayboro iyye seven women
yo ahakku eight camels
Numerical adjective in combination with qualifying adjective (5.D.2) If there is also a numeral adjective (one, five), this is placed after the qualifying adjective in Zarma.
Zarma English
Yeeji futu hinza go no. There are three mean bulls.
When the noun has a qualifying adjective, the definite article ending (if needed), either singular or plural, is placed on the adjective but not on the noun, which retains the indefinite form. When there is a numerical adjective, then neither the noun nor the qualifying adjective change from their indefinite form.
Zarma English
bariyo the horse
bari kayna the small horse
hanso the dog
hansi beero the big dog
hansi beerey the big dogs
hansi beeri hinka two big dogs
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Counting money

Money in Zarma is based on the 5-Franc unit. To a Zarma this is not five of everything: it is one, 1 dala. Instead of dala you may also hear dela.

Some of them may have heard of the Franc, but it is no more a money unit to them than a farthing is to you. They look at a 25-Franc piece and they think "five". They see a 100-Franc bill and they think "twenty". There used to be 5-Franc bills, so few people will see "billet" for this unit, and may use "katibi" for it, but this is still the smallest money unit now in use. Smaller units were formerly common, but only older people remember them; even they were not called Francs, but other names.

Money to 100 Francs
Zarma English Zarma English
dala fo 5 Francs dala way 50 Francs
dala hinka 10 Francs dala way cindi taaci 70 Francs
dala hinza 15 Francs dala way cindi iddu 80 Francs
dala taaci 20 Francs (dala) waranka hinka si 90 Francs
dala gu 25 Francs (dala) waranka af si 95 Francs
dala iddu 30 Francs (dala) waranka 100 Francs
When counting money in the hundreds and thousands, one often does not specify if it is 'dala' when the context is clear. On the other hand, in the higher numbers, if it is people or other things, this must be specified, as the hearer may think you mean so much money's worth. In areas with Hausa influence, you will hear 'zika fo' for a thousand franc bill.
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      Dico Fraters, the Netherlands © 2004-2016      
Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016