Lesson 5. Niger laabu ganjo ra almaney.

  1. Intro
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Greetings
  4. Grammar
  5. Exercises


5.A. Intro

A small story about a trip of two friend who went to watch animals in the brush and on the river.
Try to read the story. Words and grammar are used that will be explained in following lessons.
To see the translation put the pointer on the title of he story and click the left mouse button. Names of animals are highlighted. For more information on the animals put the pointer on the name and click the left mouse button.

Niger laabu ganjo ra almanizey.

Ay nda ay cora koy sajo ra. Iri koy ka almaney ceci. Iri dira fondo kankamante boŋ. Baru su musu beri go fonda boŋ. A mana di iri zama a me kwarei garey. Iri sobay. Iri di tobey nda dan fana gu. Kan iri go no ga salan musu bero se, tuntungari bangey. Kan a di iri, a zuru. Iri weta ka kamba sajo ra, amma iri mana di almaney koyne.
Ay cora ne: Iri ma koy isa. Ay bere gonda hi. A hi ga isa jerga. Iri mana di ce beri da haw bi da ganjiyo. Hambara iri ga te boŋkaney nodin.

Hawrey banda iri furo hiyo ra, iri kurba isa bindi mo. Iri te boŋkaney. D'in ga ba ga di baŋayan kala ni ma koy isa. Bogobogoyan go baŋey boŋ, i go no ga gangamizeyŋwa. Alman kayney kan ga baŋa kuuru boŋ. Bene ga hanan, wayna ga koroŋ mo. Hire, jaw da haray da farkay g' iri gaa. Iri ye ka kaa fu. Iri ŋwa gumo-gumo, iri hari haŋ gumo-gumo mo. Hawrey banda iri koy dari ra. Farga ga boro jirbandi.

Bogobogoyan ga bagney bon, i go no ga gangamizey nwa

Click list of names of animals to see a comprehensive list of animals that more or less frequently occur in Niger.


5.B. Vocabulary
  1. Verbs
  2. Nouns
  3. Adjectives, prepositions, 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.

5.B.1 Verbs
Zarma English Pronunciation
ceci to seek, to search, to hunt for, to look for ce / ci
haŋ to drink ha ŋ
dira to walk, to go away, to set out, to leave di / ra
furo to enter fu / ro
konda # (~) to take (lit. to go with) kon / da
(~) pronounce: kwan / da
ba # to like, to love, to desire, to want b a
gonda # to have (lit. to be with) gon / da
fatta to go out, to exit fàr ta
fatta (laabo) ra to go out of (the country) fàr ta la / bo ra
fun to come from, to come of something f un

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

      As "konda" and "gonda" are actually combinations of a verb of motion (koy) and a verb of being (go) with the prepositional "nda", they take their object after, like any other verb having an adverbial modifier.
      The verb "ba" needs an "r" for euphony when the direct object is "a" or "ey", just as "maa" does (see Lesson 3.B.1), for example, "Ay ga ba r'a". [I like it.]


5.B.2 Nouns
Zarma English Pronunciation
alboro, albora male, man (not woman) al / bo / ro
fondo, fonda road, way (like French 'chemin') fon / do
fu fondo a way home, home road fu fon / do
hay, hayo thing hay , hay / yo
hari, haro thing hà ri
hay fo something hay / fo
goroŋo, goroŋa chicken go / roŋo
laabu, laabo land, country, soil, area / bu
jinde, jindo voice, cry jin / de

5.B.3 Adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation
futu, futu, futo (*) bad, mean, dangerous fu tu /
ku, kuku, kuko (*) tall, long ku / ku
tafey, tafey, tafo (*) broad, wide ta fay
hay, hayyante, hayyanta (*) open, wide hay an ta
kankam, kankamante, kankamanta (*) narrow, squeezed kan / kam , kan / kam an te
kayna, kayniyo, kayna (*) little, small kay / na, kay / ni yo
dunguriyo, dunguriyo, dunguriya (*) short dun gu ri / yo
sohon (adverb) now, at once so / hòn
mo (conjunction) too, also (see grammar) mo

    (*) note:
    Three forms are given for the adjectives; the predicate adjective, the indefinite singular attributive adjective, and the definite singular adjective also. The first two forms are frequently identical, see 5.D.2.


5.C. Greeting (foyan)

In earlier lessons we have learned to greet an individual and a group, to greet a person at his work and to say goodbye. We also learned to thank someone and to ask pardon. That greetings are time dependent will be clear when you learn the greeting below. This greetings are as a matter of fact a revision what we learned in the introduction in Lesson 4.

  1. Toward 10 a.m.:

    Ni weete baani?

    Baani samay; ni weete ka baan dey?

    Baani samay.

  2. Towards 6 p.m. to dark:

    Araŋ wiciri baani?

    Baani samay; wiciri ka baan, dey?

    Baani samay.

  3. After dark until late night:


    Almare baani? or
    Araŋ 'mare baani? or
    Ni mare baani?

    Baani samay.

5.D. Grammar

Subjects in this lesson:

  1. Masculine and feminine
  2. The qualifying and numerical adjective
  3. The verb-uncompleted aspect (present tense)
  4. Compound nouns showing origin
  5. Uses of "mo"

5.D.1. Masculine and feminine

Strictly speaking, there is no gender in Zarma. However, there are ways of indicating masculine and feminine, depending on the noun. Some of them are as follows:

"aru" or "alboro" applies to masculine
"way" or "wayboro" to feminine in general.

Certain animals have specific words for either feminine or masculine.

Zarma English Masculine Feminine
boro man alboro (man) wayboro (woman)
. . . wandiyo (maiden)
ize child ize aru (boy) ize way (girl)
feji sheep feji garu (ram) feji way / feji nya (ewe)
bari horse bari gu (stallion) bari tafa (mare)
musu cat musu aru (tomcat) musu way / musu nya (pussy)
hansi dog hansi daŋ (he-dog) hansi way / hansi nya (bitch)
goroŋo chicken goroŋgari (rooster) goroŋo way / goroŋo nya (hen)
yo camel yo mali (camel bull) yo way / yo nya (camel cow)
haw cow yeji (bull)[1] haw way (cow)
handay calf dasu (steer) zan (heifer)

[1] a bullock or ox is called a dasi (daso)


If a female has given birth, use "nya", otherwise use "way".
The word "zan" can be applied to any animal, even a hen, that is mature but has not given birth of laid an egg.

5.D.2. The qualifying and numerical adjective

Qualifying adjective

The qualifying adjective (big, mean) is in English placed before the noun. In Zarma the qualifying adjective is uniformly placed after the noun it modifies.

Zarma English
Haw beri go no. There is a big cow.

The qualifying adjective has different forms in Zarma. Three forms are given for the adjectives in the vocabulary; the predicate adjective, the indefinite singular attributive adjective, and the definite singular adjective also. The first two forms are frequently identical.

The predicative means that the adjective is a (part of a) nominal predicate. As attributive form the adjective is part of a attributive adjunct, see table below.

Form Zarma English
predicative Albora ga ku. The man is tall.
indefinite singular attributive Alboro kuku. A tall man.
definite singular adjective Alboro kuko. The tall man.

Numerical adjective

If there is also a numeral adjective (one, five), this is placed after the qualifying adjective in Zarma.

Zarma English
Yeji 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 bero the big dog
hansey the dogs
hansi berey the big dogs
hansi beri hinka two big dogs

Note that no substantive may have more than one qualifying and one numeral adjective. For example, you couldn't talk about 'three big mean bulls'. It would have to be 'three big bulls that are mean'. There are one or two exceptions (special); these come later.

5.D.3. The verb-uncompleted aspect (present tense).

As has been noted earlier, our ideas of tense can not exactly be applied to Zarma, and so we see that part of the present tense of the verb uses the same auxiliary as the 'future tense' does
(see 3.D.2). Also, parts of the verb used to express 'being' are used with the main verb in some aspects of the present.

  • Immediate present with "kaa" and "koy
    Use as auxiliaries ""go" or "go no", before the verb. Or the "go no" may be separated with the first half before the verb and the rest after it; this is more emphatic.

Zarma English
Ay go kaa. I'm on the way (I'm coming).
Ay go no kaa. I'm coming.
Ay go kaa no. I'm coming.
Ni go koy, wala? Are you going (now)?

  • Repeated or habitual action.
    Use "ga" for the auxiliary.

Zarma English
A ga te hay fo, wala? Does he do anything?
Boro ga goy da jiney. A person works with things (tools).
I ga furo fuwo ra. They enter into the house.
Araŋ ga kaa han kulu. You come every day.
Boro ga dira fonda boŋ. A person walks on the road.

  • Progressive or Continuous Present

    • "go no ga" plus verb expresses the idea of being in the act or process of doing the action. This and the following are generally interchangeable for showing action in progress.

Zarma English
Ay mo go no ga ni ceci I too am looking for you.
A go no ga hari haŋ. He is drinking water.
Iri go no ga goy. We are working.

    • "go ga" also shows the progressive or continuous aspect of the verb. It may also sometimes contains the idea of having just begun the action.

Zarma English
Ay go ga koy habu. I am going to market.
(I'm on my way to market)
Iri go g' a te. We are doing it.

  • 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.
Ŋwaro ga ba ga ban. The food is about all gone (finished).

5.D.4. Compound nouns showing origin

Compound nouns are formed in several ways

  1. By adding "nce" to the simplest form of the proper noun of the tribe or land, one gets an individual or individuals of that tribe.

    Zarma English
    Hausa the land where they live, or the whole tribe
    Hausance Hausa person
    Gurma the land where they live, or the tribe
    Gurmance Gurma person
    Yoruba the land or tribe
    Yorubance Yoruba person

    There are several exceptions, where the names mean both the country or tribe and the individual member of it. These are: Zarma, Fulan, Surgu, Larabu, Belle, Inglisi, etc.
    But an "nce" ending on a name, even one you never heard before, tells that it is a member of a certain tribe.

  2. If one adds "boro" to the name of a town or village, you get 'resident' or 'native' of that town.

    Zarma English
    Yantala boro a person from Yantala
    Gao boro a person from Gao
    Niamey boro a person from Niamey

  3. If one adds "laabu boro", you get a person from the area of a town, one of its out-villages, but not from the town itself.

    Zarma English
    Dosso laabu boro a person from the Dosso area

  4. In the same way "ize" may be used to indicate a resident of a town.

    Zarma English
    Niamey ize a resident of Niamey, a person from Niamey
    Gaya ize a resident of Gaya, a person from Gaya

    Note: Gaya is frequently called Ganyo by Zarmas.

5.D.5. Uses of "mo"


The Zarma word "mo" is commonly used as an adverb, meaning 'also', 'too', 'as well'. Used thus it follows the word or phrase to which attention is being called.

Zarma English
Nga mo ga di Monsieur. He also will see Monsieur.
(that is, he as well as someone already mentioned)
A ga di ay mo. He will see me, too,
(that is, he will see me as well as seeing someone else)


The word "mo" is also used as conjunction to connect clauses, in the way we use 'and' in English. However, it is what is called a postpositive conjunction - that is, it never stands first in the clause, between the clauses, but must follow some part of the second one. This may be the subject, it may be the verb, or it may come at the end of the whole clause. It is seen when a noun has a qualifying adjective and one wishes to describe it further.

Zarma English
Ay maa musu beri jinde, ay mo zuru. I heard a lion's voice (roar) and I ran.
A na ni kar, ni hen mo. He struck you and you wept.
A kaa kwaara, a furo iri fuwa ra mo. He came to (the) town and he entered into our house.
Iri fuwo ga beri, a ga bori mo. Our house is big and it's pretty.


Last updated: 11 maart 2012