Lesson 3. Iri ga jiney kabu.

  1. Intro (this may take some time to load)
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Greetings
  4. Grammar
  5. Exercises


3.B. Vocabulary
  1. Verbs
  2. Nouns
  3. Adverbs of time and adjectives
  4. Cardinal numbers

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Learn these words by heart.

3.B.1 Verbs
Zarma English Pronunciation
bu to die bu
hen to cry, to weep (aloud), by extension: to roar (lion), to bray (donkey), to moo (cow), to bellow (bull) hen (nasal)
guna to look, to look at, to watch gu/ na
ne to say (never "to tell") ne
goro to sit, to dwell, to reside, to remain / ro
te to make, to do, to happen te
donton to send (a person) don/ ton
samba to send (an object) sam/ ba
maa # to hear; by extension, to understand maa
di # to see di

    • # signifies verb that take the direct object afterwards, see Lesson 2.C.1 & 3.D.5
    • The verb "maa" takes an "r" for euphony attached to the direct object when it is "a" or "ey" (see Grammar in part 3.D.4 for this form of "ngey"):

Ay maa r'a. I heard it (him).

Iri maa r'ey. We heard them.

3.B.2 Nouns
Zarma English Pronunciation
musu beri, musu bero lion (literally: big cat) mu / su / ri
yeeji, yeejo bull / ji
curo, cura bird cu / ro
han, hano day (limited use) hân; hân / o
alfa religious teacher; by extension a priest (marabou) al / fa (vocative)
alfaga religious teacher; by extension a priest (marabou) àl fa / ga
malam (H) religious teacher; by extension a priest (marabou) ma / lam
gomni, gomno grace, free gift (no return expected) gom / ni

3.B.3 Adverbs of time, adjectives
Zarma English Pronunciation
hunkuna today hun / ku / na
bi yesterday bi
bi fo before yesterday
(usually two days ago, but may be some recent day)
bi fo
beri (adjective) big / ri

3.B.4 Cardinal numbers
pronunciation Zarma number pronunciation
à / iddu
îd / du
î hin / ka iyye
îy / ye
î hin / za ahaku
â ha / ku
î ta / ci iyegga
î yeg / ga
î gu / iway
î way /


3.C. Greeting (foyan)

As was explained in Lesson 1 greetings are time and context dependent. In Lesson 1 we have learned to greet an individual. In this lesson we will learn to greet a group and to say goodbye.

In the greetings grammar is used beyond the grammar explained in this lesson.

  1. Morning, to a group
    Greeting: Araŋ kani baani?
    Reply: Baani samay. Ni kani ka baan, dey? (see Lesson 1)

  2. Afternoon to a group
    Greeting: Araŋ foy baani?
    Reply: Baani samay. Ni foy ka baan, dey? (see Lesson 1)

  3. Goodbye late in the forenoon until late afternoon
    Greeting: Iri ma foy baani! (May we have a good day!)
    Reply: Iri ma foy da gomni! (May we have a gracious day!)
    (Literally: May we spend the day in health; may we spend the day with grace!)

  4. Goodbye late in the evening
    Greeting: Iri ma kani baani! (May we have a good night!)
    Reply: Iri ma kani da gomni! (May we have a gracious night!)
    (Literally: May we rest with health; may we rest with grace!)

3.D. Grammar

Subjects in this lesson

  1. The cardinal numbers 1 - 10
  2. The verb-uncompleted aspect (future tense)
  3. The indefinite pronoun
  4. The word "ey" as a direct object
  5. Sentence order (continued)

3.D.1. The cardinal numbers 1-10

All the numbers in Zarma are based on these first ten, except for the specific words of the tens, "hundred" and "thousand", so learn them thoroughly (see 3.B.4).

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 ahaku eight camels

3.D.2. The verb-uncompleted aspect (future tense)

The future tense denotes action to be completed in the future - something that will happen - and the particle (or auxiliary) "ga" (very short vowel) is used before the verb. If there is a direct object preceding the verb, it comes between the "ga" and the verb.

Zarma English
Ay ga koy. I will go. I'm going to go.
Ni ga kaa. You will come. You 're going to come
I ga maa. They will hear. They are going to hear.
(Also means: "I 'll see to it they hear", in taking message.)
A ga zuru. He will run. He 's going to run.
Zanka ga cura guna. The child will look at the bird.


  • The tone for "ga" is flexible, being the opposite of the tone of the next syllable in the sentence.
  • This particle "ga" is used with all the simple tenses in the incomplete aspect of the verb, not just with the future.

When a noun or pronoun beginning with a vowel is used as a direct object, it can (and does) contract the "a" of the "ga", in the future tense.

Zarma English
A g' I neera He will sell them.
Iri g' Abdu donton. We will send Abdu.

3.D.3. The Indefinite Pronoun

The indefinite pronoun (non-specific pronoun) "they" is expressed by the third person plural "i" in Zarma, much as we do in English.

Zarma English
I ne a koy fu. They said he went home.
I ne hari ga kaa. They said it is going to rain.

3.D.4. The word "ey" as a direct object

The Zarma word for third person plural pronoun "them" is "i" (see Lesson 1.D.1). There are two other forms that are used in specific situations. One of those forms is "ey".

When a verb requiring the direct object after it needs the third person plural pronoun "them", use "ey" rather then "i". This has something to do with ease of pronunciation.

Zarma English
Ni bariyey kaa. Oho, ay di ey. Your horses came. Yes, I saw them.
Araŋ di ey, wala? Did you see them?
Zankey hen. Iri maa r' ey. The children cried. We heard them.

3.D.5. Sentence Order (continued)

When a transitive verb is one of subjective perception or emotion, the sentence order is:

auxiliary (unless past tense)
object article
The wife
the camels
farkay hinza
three donkeys


Last updated: 22 augustus 2013