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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

Tell the time

In general the perception of time among Zarma may be very different from ours. 'We have a clock, they have time' expresses this difference in a nutshell. Often time is expressed in relation to the part of the day or the time of the prayers. However, it is possible to use the clock to say the time of the day. In addition, there are way to say now, later, before, etc. (see idiom).


we have the clock

paet of day

they have the time



Express time
   without clock
   with clock
   part of day

Express time in relation to part of the day (without clock)

Often time is expressed in relation to the part of the day which are most of the time related to the time of the prayers. For greetings related to the time of the day, see Lesson 5.C.

Zarma Prayer* English
alfazar at sunrise dawn, sunrise
adduha 9:00 till 10:00 am early morning sunrise till 10:00 am
weete 10:00 till 12:00 am mid-morning 10:00 till 11:30 am
zaari   noon
aluula 2:30 till 3:00 pm early afternoon 12:30 am till 4:30 pm
wiciri 4:30 till 5:00 pm late after noon to sunset
hiire   after sunset till supper time
almaari 8:30 till 9:00 pm after dark until bed time
ciini   night

* Formal current prayer times are different.

'Han fo', a day, shows you the main parts of the day that a distinguished by the Zarma. In total there are nine periods.
course of a day
Other expressions
  • susubay morning, from sunrise to noon (adduha and weete).
  • wiciri kambu or wucir kambu is also used for wiciri
  • almaari kambu means twilight
  • ciini bine and ciini bindi mean might night,
    ciini bine
    is said to be used for the time between 00:00 and 05:00 hours
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Express time using a clock

Although time is normally expressed in relation to the part of the day, there is a way to express time using a clock. There is a story that the origin of the Zarma word for hour guuru is derived from the iron (guuru) bells that rang, often old rims, to indicate the time to start or finish work in the days of forced labour. Therefore it is the idea of the metal sound that links hour to iron by guuru signifying both hour and iron.  

To ask and to tell time is very simple as soon as you can count in Zarma.

Zarma English
Guuru watifo no? What time is it?
   Guuru iyye.    Seven o'clock.
   Guuru hinka kaŋ sinda minti ahakku.    Eight minutes before two o'clock
The system is depicted below

The whole hours

guuru fo guuru iddu guuru yegga zaari (noon) or ciini bindi; ciini bine (midnight)

Half and quarter of the hours

guuru hinza guuru hinza nda minti way cindi gu guuru hinza nda jere guuru taaci kaŋ sinda minti way cindi gu

Before the hour: kaŋ sinda

After the hour: nda

guuru ahakku kaŋ sinda minti waranka guuru ahakku kaŋ sinda minti way guuru ahakku nda minti way guuru ahakku nda minti waranka
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Time idiom, general

A list of expressions about relative time.


English Zarma
now sohõ
now directly sohõ-sohõ
after dinner hawrey banda
before Abdou arrived, I was studying za Abdou mana kaa, ay go go caw
I will see you later on ay ga di ni nda tonton
in a little while we will eat a tonton kayna iri ga ŋwari
it´s been a little while since he came out a gay kayna, a fatta
just a bit ago I told him jinjina ay ci a se
formerly it was here he worked doŋ ne no a goy
formerly, I couldn't speak Zarma watodin, ay si ma Zarma cine
in the past, Arlit was a small town watodin, Arlit ya kwaara kayna no
in those days, Zinder was the capital of Niger watodin, Niizeer laabu kapitalo go Zinder
a long time ago he said he would come za watifo a ne nga ga ga kaa
we have know him, it's been a long time iri n´a bay, a gay
Already / Yet
you have already seen it ni jin ga di a
you haven't told me yet ni mana ci ay se jina
this time (at the identical moment)
about this time danga sohõ waato
this time tomorrow suba yacine
or suba mansaŋ cine
this time Saturday asipti mansaŋ cine
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Time idiom, part of day

The name of the part of the day is used in idiomatic expressions. For of all with greetings, but also to express that someone spent that part of the day doing something and


Term Greeting Used during
kaani Ni kaani baani? alfazar and adduha
weete Ni weete baani? weete
foy Ni foy baani? zaari and aluula
wiciri Ni wiciri baani? wiciri
hiire Ni hiire baani? hiire
almaari Ni almaari baani? almaari

To spent a part of the day or begin at a part of the day

Zarma English
hanna ka ...
    ay izo hanna ka hen
to spent the night
    my child cried all the night long
weete ka ...
    i weete ka caw
to spent the forenoon
    they spent the morning reading
    (or studying)
foy ka ...
    i foy ka koy
to spent the whole day
    they work all day long
biya ka ..
    iri ma biya ka koy naaruyaŋ
to begin early morning
    let's start our trip early in the morning
wayma ka ...
    i wayma ka tun
to begin late afternoon
    they set out late afternoon

Other expressions

Zarma English
a kaa zaaro ra he came in the day time
a ga dira zaari he will travel by day
a kaa da wayno he came in the heat of the sun
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Current prayer times and names in Arab

Formal current prayer times may differ (see here)
nr Arab name English time
1 Fajr morning between the very beginning of dawn and sunrise
2 Shurooq sunrise the time of sunrise, the time when the upper limb of the sun just starts to appear above the horizon. This marks the end time for Fajr (morning) prayer.
3 Dhuhr noon Between the declining of the sun and Asr (when the shadow of something is twice its own length)
4 Asr late afternoon Immediately after the last time limit of Dhuhr until (just before) the sunset
5 Maghrib evening Soon after the sunset
until the disappearance of the twilight
6 Isha night After the disappearance of the twilight until midnight.
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Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016