Lesson 6. Subu haabu

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


6.A. Intro

This text is part of a story told by a a young man from the Dosso region, published in Harrison et al. (1997). Some minor changes in spelling have been made to be consistent with the spelling used in this course.

Read the text below and try to answer the questions at the end. Some help is provided, move the cursor to an underlined phrase and the translation appears.

Subu haabu

To, hunkuna ay ne gonda anniya ay ma koy sajo ra ka subu haabu, kan farkay nda bari nda haw ga ŋwa. Nd'ay du subu, nd'ay ka wiciri kambu ay ga ye, ka ye ay goy zena do koyne. To, bifo alhado kan ye ka bisa, ay ye ka koy Koo beri kwaara fo kan go i jerga. Ay koy ka ay addayan hanse zamey do.

a) Ifo se n'a koy sajo ra?
b) May do a koy nga addayan hanse?

a) xxx
b) xxx


6.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.

6.B.1 Verbs
Zarma English Pronunciation
cindi to remain, to be left over (used also in cardinal numbers above 10, see 6.D.4) cin / di
ce to call ce
sabu to thank, to be thankful sa / bu
zumbu to descend, to get down; also means: to dismount, to come down, to alight zum / bu
jirbi to sleep jir / bi
tonton to add, to increase, to make more ton / ton
hay to bear (young), to give birth to, to produce (fruit), to rust hay
no to give no
no nda to give outright no / nda

6.B.2 Nouns
Zarma English Pronunciation
hincin, hincino goat hin / cin, hin / cin / o
fari, faro cultivated field, farm fà / ri
me, meyo opening, mouth, doorway, end, edge, limit me, me / yo
fenetar, fenetaro (F) window fe ne tar, fe ne tar o
ce time (as in one time, twice, many times) ce
ce fo once ce fo
isa river; Isa: Zarma name for Jesus i sa; (I )
cin, cino night cin, cin o
gaham, gahamo body, flesh (lit. body meat) / ham, gà ham o
jirbi, jirbo sleep (used also for counting days) jir bi
koy, koyo chief, master, owner koy, koy o
Irikoy, Irikoyo God (lit. our chief, note tone) Ir / i koy
hayni, hayno millet (also applied to cereal grain of any kind) hay / ni, hay / no
ham, hamo meat hàm, hàm o
kway, kwayo upper garment, sewed (as shirt, dress, blouse, jacket, etc.) kwâ / y, kway / o
zaari, zaaro daytime, day, noon / ri
hemar, hemaro harvest (season) / mar, mar o
alwaati, alwaato season, time al wa ti
wati, wato contraction of "alwaati", season, time .
baba father bâ / bâ

6.B.3 Adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation
gaa (preposition) * against, on, by, from, at gâa (long vowel)
se (preposition) * to, for (usually necessary for indirect object) se
mate (adverb) how (interrogative only; rarely equivalent to what) ma te
hinne (adverb) only, alone, solely hin ne
hanno (adjective) pure, good, beautiful, fine, holy
(it is never a predicate adjective; accent on quality rather than appearance)
han / no

    (*) note: see for use in combinations with verbs 6.D.1


6.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. We mainly learned the initial greetings. In this lesson we will learn about the greetings that may be used after the initial "hello" and the inquiry about their night or day.

  1. Greetings following the initial greetings:

    Mate ni gahamo?
    How are you? (How's your body?)
    Mate ni go?
    How are you?
    Mate ni bara?
    How are you? (How've you been?)
    Mate ni ga bara nda?
    How are you? (How're you getting along?)

  2. Replies, any of these fit any of the above greetings

    Ay g' Irikoy sabu.
    I'm thanking God.
    Ay go baani.
    I'm well.
    Baani samay.
    Just fine.
    Kala baani.
    Nothing but health.
    Tali kulu si.
    Nothing at all wrong.

  3. Replies to reply

    Irikoy ma sabu tonton.
    May God increase thanks. (To first B reply.)
    Praise the Lord! Wonderful!
    A bori.
    All right.

  4. Additional greetings and replies

    Mate ni fu?
    How're things at home?
    Fu g' Irikoy sabu.
    Home thanks God.
    reply to reply
    Irikoy ma sabu tonton.
    May God increase thanks.

    Mate ni fuborey?
    How's the folk at home?
    I g' Irikoy sabu.
    I ga sabu Irikoy se.
    They thank God.
    They are thankful (for / to) God.
    reply to reply
    Irikoy ma sabu tonton.
    May God increase thanks.


6.D. Grammar

Subjects in this lesson:

  1. The use of some verbs in combination with prepositions
  2. The indirect object
  3. The passive voice
  4. The cardinal numbers above 10 (11-20)
  5. Use of "ya ... no" (to be)

6.D.1. The use of some verbs in combination with prepositions

a) The prepositions "gaa" and "se" with the verbs "go" and "no" (to be).

The preposition "se" shows possession when the verb is "go no" or other part of to be, besides indicating the indirect object.

Zarma English
A go ay se. I have it.
Ham go ay baba se. My father has meat.
Hayni go ni se, wala? Do you have millet?
Zanka kayna go a se. She has a small child.
Alumeti no ay se. It's matches I have.

The preposition "gaa" indicates a close relation, but not of possession; more of contact or of one thing being part of another.

Zarma English
Kway go ay gaa. I have a shirt on. (lit. A shirt is upon me.)
Hari no a gaa. It's water on it.
Jirbi go ay gaa. I'm sleepy. (lit. Sleep is upon me.)
Jirbi no ay gaa. It's that I'm sleepy.

b) The prepositions "gaa", "se", "boŋ", "ra" with other verbs.

Sabu + (object) + se = to be thankful to, to be thankful for

Zarma English
Ay ga ni sabu. I thank you.
Ay ga sabu ni se. I am thankful (give thanks) for you (or to you)
Ay ga Irikoy sabu ni se. I thank God for you.

+ (object) + (prepositions) "se", "boŋ", "gaa", "ra"

"boŋ", "zumbu + (object) + boŋ" can mean "to descend from" or "to descend upon", according to the context

Zarma English
Boro ga zumbu bari boŋ. A person dismounts from a horse.
Curey zumbu tuuri-nya boŋ. The birds came down into the tree. *

    * We say birds are in the tree, but Zarmas see them "on top" of a tree.

"ra", "zumbu + (object) + ra" can mean "to descend from in" or "to get out in", according to the context.

Zarma English
Boro ga zumbu moto ra. A person gets down from in a car.
. .

"gaa", "zumbu + (object) + gaa" can mean "to come down upon", "to descend upon", or "to alight upon", according to the context.

Zarma English
Yaw hinza zumbu ay gaa hunkuna. Three guests descended on (came to stay) me today.
Curo fo zumbu ay boŋo gaa. A bird landed on my head.
Hari ga zumbu farey gaa. Rain comes down on the fields.

Tonton + (object) + (prepositions) "se", "gaa"

"gaa", "tonton + (something) + gaa" = a thing receives to increase, if "something" precedes "tonton", the meaning is slightly different, see examples.

Zarma English
I na hayni tonton a gaa. They added millet to it.
(There was already something else there.)
Iri ga tonton hayno gaa. We will put in more millet.
(There was already some millet there.)

"se", "tonton + (someone) + se" = a person receives the increase / more (additional)

Zarma English
I na goy tonton albora se. They gave the man more work.
(Literally: They increase work to the man.)
Ay ga  nooru tonton ni se. I will give you more money.
(Literally: I will increase money to you)

6.D.2. The indirect object

In Zarma the indirect object is practically always followed by the preposition "se", even with words where we customarily leave it out such as tell etc. This prepositional phrase regularly follows the verb directly. Exceptions are given in (b) and (c) below.

Three cases are discussed: the regular and the irregular verbs with respect to the direct object and the verb "no" (to give).

a) With verbs whose direct object precedes the verb (regular verb).

Zarma English
A n' a ner' ay se. He sold it to me.
I ga haw day araŋ se. They will buy a cow for you.
A na ize hay a se. She bore him a child.
Ni baba ci ay se i kaa. Your father told me they came.

b) With verbs whose direct object follow the verb.

When the indirect object is a pronoun it comes first. When the indirect object is a noun, the direct object comes first.

Zarma English
A kand' ay se hayni. She brought me millet.
Zanka konda ŋwari hanso se. The child took food to the dog.

c) The irregular verb "no" (to give).

The verb "no" is only irregular as regards the indirect object, not in other respects. Reverse the normal positions of the direct object and the indirect object (the one before, the other just after the verb), and omit the "se". This is the most used form for the indirect object with this verb "no".

Zarma English
A na Gambi no fari. He gave a field to Gambi.
Ni g' iri no goroŋo, wala? Are you going to give us a chicken?

When the verb is "no nda", indicating outright gift, the indirect object comes before the verb, without "se", and the direct object follows the "nda", which may contract with it.

Zarma English
Ay na ni no nd' a. I gave it to you.
Ni izo n' ay no nda feji. Your child gave me a sheep.

This form means an outright gift, whereas the other form may mean that the thing is put into possession of the one receiving it for a time only.

When the direct object is a noun, it may (not must) follow the indirect object, which is just after the verb.

Zarma English
A no ay se hincin. He gave him a goat.
Iri ga no ni se hay fo. We will give you something.

When the direct object of the verb "no" is a personal pronoun, the indirect object can follow the rule given in sub a (regular verbs) above. As a matter of fact, you are always safe in using this form, no matter whether the object is a noun or a pronoun.

Zarma English
Ay g' a no ni se. I 'll give it to you.
Ay ga kwayo no ni se. I 'll give you the shirt.

6.D.3. The passive voice

Strictly speaking, there is no passive form in Zarma. The effect of a passive, in a sentence where the agency is not specified, can be achieved by using the third person plural pronoun as the subject, in the same way we use "they" for an indefinite pronoun (as in "they say that ...").

Zarma English
I na farkay kar. They hit the donkey. (The donkey was hit.)
I n' a kar. They hit me. (I was hit.)
I ga hayni wi hemar alwaati. Millet is reaped in the harvest season.

A regular way to indicate a person's name is:
"I ga ne (pronoun) se (name)" = "(Pronoun) is called (name)"

Zarma English
I ga ne a se John. He is called John.

The correct way of saying someone is born is given below. If the regular form is used, the entire meaning is different.

Zarma English
I n' ay hay Niamey, Garba kwaara. I was born in Niamey at Garba's compound.

6.D.4. The cardinal numbers above 10 (11 - 20)

The cardinal numbers above 10 are formed by adding to the word for the tens (10, 20, 30, etc.) "cindi" (remains, left over) then the unit. For example, 14 is "iway cindi taci", literally ten and four left over. These numbers contract according to the rule established in Lesson 3.D.1.

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
Zarma Pronunciation
iway cindi fo i / way cindi fo
iway cindi hinka i / way cindi hin / ka
iway cindi hinza i / way cindi hin / za
iway cindi taci i / way cindi ta / ci
iway cindi gu i / way cindi gu
iway cindi iddu i / way cindi id du
iway cindi iyye i / way cindi iy / ye
iway cindi ahaku
waranka ihinha si
i / way cindi a ha ku
war an ka i hin / ka si
iway cindi yegga
waranka afo si
i / way cindi yeg ga
war an ka a fo si
waranka war an ka

6.D.5. Use of "ya.. no" (to be)

The verb "to be" has in Zarma many forms (see Lesson 4.D.3). The combination "ya ... no" is a special form of the verb "to be" which is not yet discussed. When the verb "no" has its subject stated and not implied (it is, he is, they are, etc.) the auxiliary "ya" must follow the subject. It is used for example to tell your origin or nationality, the place where you come from, or your occupation.

To express your nationality or the origin of someone there are two ways to tell this, you could say "He is English" or "He is an Englishman". In Zarma this is similar.

Zarma English
Ni ya Ingilise no. You are English.
Ni ya Ingilisi boro no. You are an Englishman.
Nga ya Amerken no. * He is American. / She is American.
Nga ya Amerik boro no. * He is an American. / She is an American (woman).
Ni ya Zarma no. You are Zarma.
Ni ya Zarma (boro) no. You are a Zarma.
Ay ya Franse no. I am French.
Ay ya Fransi boro no. I am a Frenchman.

    * The short form of the third person singular and plural personal pronoun, "a" and "i", are not used in combination with "ya ... no".

To tell someone the place where you come from you use "ya ... no" as well in combination with the name of the place were you come from: "Ay ya (name of place) boro no".

Zarma English
Ay ya Say boro no I 'm from Say. / I come from Say.
Ngey ya Niamey boroyan no. * They are from Niamey.

    * the indefinite plural form of nouns will be discussed in Lesson 12.D.2.

Finally, the form "ya ... no" is used to tell someone your occupation: "Ay ya <occupation> no".

Zarma English
Ay ya cawandiko no. I 'm a teacher (an instructor).
Araŋ ya lokolizeyan no. Your are students (apprentices, pupils).
Ni ya butikkoy no. You are a shopkeeper.
Iri ya dey fansikoyan no. We are well diggers.

The form "ya ... no" is invariable and can be used for phrases in affirmative and interrogative form.

Zarma English
Ni ya man boro no? Where are you from?
Araŋ ya Niger boroyan no. Your are Nigerien.
Ni ya motokoy no. You are a chauffeur.
Iri ya volontaireyan no. We are volunteers.

Summarising, "ya ... no" is a form of the verb "to be" used when the verb "no" has its subject stated and not implied, e.g. to tell or ask someone's origin or nationality, the place where the person comes from, or his or hers occupation.

The short form of the third person singular and plural personal pronoun, "a" and "i", are not used in combination with "ya ... no", but only the long forms "nga" and "ngey".

In certain regions one may hear "wo .. no" in stead of "ya ... no".
The negative form will be discussed in Lesson 8.D.3.


Last updated: 11 maart 2012