Lesson 7. Ay fu borey

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


7.A. Intro

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.

Ay fu borey

Fofo. Ay maa Mariama. Ay gonda jiiri wey cindi fo. Deseno kan go hantumyan cire, a cabe ay fu borey. Iri go iri fuwo jina. Ay baba da nya go ay kamba ŋwaro ga. Ay kayne go ay kamba waw ga. Ay armo go a kamba waw ga.

Ay baba ya alfari no. A gonda fari fo kan ga beri. Ay nya gonda kali kayna man a ga albassan da dunguriyan da layan da tonkoyan da damsi fattandi laabo ra. Ay nda ay kayne ga koy lokol. Iri ga dira guru fo ma koy lokkol ce gu habu ra. Ay ga ba ga tirayan caw, amma Fransi cineyo ga sandi. Ay arme si koy lokol, zamma a gonda jiiri iddu.

Ay fu borey (My family)

a) May no ga koy lokol?
b) May no go Mariama kamba ŋwaro ga?

a) xxx
b) xxx


7.B. Vocabulary
  1. Verbs
  2. Nouns
  3. Adjectives, prepositions, etc.

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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.
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7.B.1 Verbs
Zarma English Pronunciation
caw to read caw
cabe to show, to point out ce / be
du # to get, to obtain, to acquire du
gana to follow, to obey ga / na
hantum (~) to write (h) an / tum
(~) do not pronopunce "h"
kabu to count, to number ka bu
to # to come up to, to equal, to overtake, to arrive at, to catch up to, to be full, to be worthy, to deserve
wani # to know how to wâ ni

Summary of verbs passing various portions of the day
Zarma English Pronunciation
weete to pass the forenoon to 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. / te
foy to pass the middle of the day foy
wiciri to pass the the late afternoon until sundown. wi ci / ri
hire to pass the early evening; dusk until suppertime. hi / re
almare to pass the later evening until bedtime. al / ma re
hanna to pass the night. han / na

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


7.B.2 Nouns
Zarma English Pronunciation
arme, armo * brother (of a female) ar / me
bere, bero * older brother or sister (or other close relative) / re
bindi, bindo middle, centre bin / di, bin / do
foyyan # state of being during the day foy / yan
ganji, ganjo uninhabited area, "bush" gàn / ji, gàn / jo
kaayan, kaayŋo # arrival, coming; return kaa yaŋ
kalam, kalamo pen, pencil / lam
kayne, kayno * younger brother or sister (or other close relative) kay / ne
nya *
(nyaŋo demonstrative &)
mother, maternal aunt ny a
saji, sajo wilderness, "bush", unfarmed area, dessert ji
tira letter, book, paper with writing or printing ti / ra
wayme, waymo * sister (of a male) way me


7.B.3 Conjunctions, adjectives, prepositions, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation
amma (adverb) but, however am / ma
kala (conjunction) until, except ka / la
nda (conjunction) if, when n da (also nda)
kan (conjunction) when; which, that, who ka n
wo (adjective) this w o
wodin (pronoun) that (one) w o din
afo koyne (adjective) another a fo koy / ne
wala (conjunction) or, either la
teeji, teejo (adjective) new te / ji
kulu (adverb) each, every (with singular nouns), all (with plural nouns) ku / lu
yongo (adverb) yonder yon / go
hendi (adverb) beyond, the other side hen / di
ne, ne wo (adverb) here, right here ne, ne / wo
koyne (adverb) again (with negative: no more) koy / ne
zama (conjunction) because (with indicative mood) za ma



7.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 learned the initial greetings and about the greetings that may be used after the initial "hello" and the inquiry about their night or day. This lesson we'll learn more about initial greeting, saying welcome and goodbye and talking about someone else.

  1. Talking about someone else

    Question Mate (name) go?
    How is (name)?
    A go baani samay.
    He/She is well.
    A g' Irikoy sabu
    He/She is thanking God.

    Question Ma (name) fo.
    Greet (name).
    A ga maa (nd' Irikoy ba).
    He/She will hear (if God wills)

  2. Saying welcome and goodbye

    Remark Fonda kaayan
    (fo nda kaayan).
    literally: Greeting to your arrival (or return)
    (thank you)

    Remark Kala ni kaayan.
    Until your return.
    Kala han fo koyne. Until someother (another) day.
    Irikoy m' iri ceb'a
    May God show it to us.
    Irikoy m' iri to r'a.
    May God bring it to us.

  3. Additional greetings and replies

    Other ways to say "Ni kani bani? " and "Ni foy baani?"

    Mate ni foyan?
    How was your day?
    (in late afternoon or evening)
    Baani samay.
    Just fine.

    Mate ni kani?
    How did you sleep?
    (in morning)
    Baani samay.
    Just fine.


7.D. Grammar

Subjects in this lesson:

  1. The demonstrative pronoun and adjectives
  2. The demonstrative suffix "din"
  3. Contractions of demonstrative adjective "wo"
  4. The relative pronoun in combinations
  5. Gerunds (verbal nouns)
  6. Combination "han kan ga"
  7. Close family relationships
  8. The conjunction "kan" and "nda" for "when"

7.D.1. The demonstrative pronoun and adjectives

Demonstrative pronouns stand in for a person, place or thing that must be pointed to. They may function as subjects, objects or objects of the preposition. The demonstrative adjectives -in English "this", "these", "that", "those" and "what"- are identical to the demonstrative pronouns, but are used as adjectives to modify nouns or noun phrases. They show whether the noun they refer to is singular or plural and whether it is located near to or far from the speaker or writer. In Zarma some are only used as adjective, some only as pronoun and some as both, see list below.

wo (adjective)
wone (pronoun) this one here (one or two or more; one that is here not there)
woneyan (pronoun) these (plural of wone)
wodin that one, that one there
wohendi the one beyond
woyongo yonder one, the one over there
wohendiyan those beyond, those over beyond there
woyongoyan yonder ones, those over there

In Zarma, unlike English, the demonstrative adjective follows the noun to modify. Examples of the uses of the demonstrative pronouns and adjectives are given below.

Zarma English
Dari wo ga hay. This bed is wide.
Tira hinka go ne. Wone n' ay ga ba. Two books are here. It is this one I want.
Wayboro iddu go ne. Woneyan fun Goudel. Six women are here. They came from Goudel.
Ay maa wodin. I heard that. (particular piece of news)
Tira woyongo ay kand'a ay wayme se. Yonder book I brought it for my sister. (man speaking)
Wone ga kayna amma wohendiyan ga beri. This one is small, but those over beyond there are big.

7.D.2. The demonstrative suffix "din".

In Zarma to modify nouns the suffix "din" can be added to singular nouns with their definite article endings to form demonstrative nouns.

Zarma English
Kalamodin ga ku. That pen is long.
Boradin kaa ay nya di susuba. That person came to see my mother in the morning.

Some people use the suffix "dini" (and some only the "din"), added to nouns in the definite plural to make them demonstrative: "those ...".

Zarma English
Tireydini go yongo. Those books are yonder.
Zankeydini go no ga kaa. Those children are coming.

Note: In both singular and plural, the definite endings are strongly accented, regardless of where the accent normally falls in that word.

Sometimes the suffix "din" or "dini" is separated from its noun and placed after the adjective clause.

Zarma English
Bora kan kaa bi din ... That person who came yesterday ...
Fuwey kan go bindo ra dini ... Those houses that are in the middle ...

7.D.3. Contraction of the demonstrative adjective "wo"

In a few instances the demonstrative adjective "wo" is contracted with the noun, especially when the noun ends with a vowel. The final syllable is strongly accented.

Zarma English Zarma English
susubo a morning susubo wo => susub'o this morning
boro a person boro wo => bor'o this person

7.D.4. The relative pronoun in combinations

The relative pronoun "kan" may be combined with the demonstrative adjectives in both singular and plural to give the idea of the "one which" and "those which".

Zarma English
Wokulu kan. Everyone.
Ay di wokan ni ga ba. I saw the one that you want.
Boreydini wokanyan araŋ ga di yongo, i ga tirey hantum. Those people whom you see yonder, (they) write the letters.
Wokulu kan kaa, ay ga fo. All those that come, I greet.

7.D.5. Gerunds (verbal nouns)

One way of making a noun from a verb is by adding the suffix "yan" to the verb, somewhat as we add "ing". The idea of a definite article (the) is expressed by adding the vowel "o" on the end of the noun in the singular and changing the "n" by and "ŋ".

Zarma English
hantumyan, hantumyaŋo writing (words that are written, or the art of writing)
cawyan, cawyaŋo reading (the art of reading, or a religion based on a sacred book), studying
haŋyan, haŋyaŋo (the act of) drinking; a drink
kaayan, kaayaŋo arrival or coming
kuyan, kuyaŋo depth, height, length; (by extension) waist-size
tinyan, tinyaŋo weight

Some examples of the use of these words are given in the table below.

Example sentences
Zarma English
Hantumanyaŋo go tira ga. The writing is on the paper.
In da Jean kulu kuyan fo. (*) Jean and I have the same waist-size
Nin da Mariama kulu tinyan fo no. (*) Mariama and you have the same weight.
Fonda kaayan. Greeting to your coming.

    * "In da" and "Nin da " are the contraction of, respectively, "Ay nda" and "Ni nda", see Lesson 11.D.3.

This form is often used in combination with the verb "wani" (to know how to). Some more examples are in the next table.

Example sentences
Zarma English
Araŋ ga wani hantumyan, wala? Do you know how to write?
Ni ga wani moto hanseyan. You know how to repair a car.
Ay ga wani cawyan sohon. I know how to read now.

The above construction ("yan" added to the verb) can also be used as a participle, especially in combination with words indicating locality.

Zarma English
hantumyan do writing place
cawyan fu house religious services are held
kaniyan do. sleeping place
haŋyan hari drinking water
buyan hane dying day.

7.D.6 Combination "han kan ga"

The phrase "han kan ga" (that which will or does), when joined to a verb, indicates the thing or agency through which the action of the verb is carried out.

Zarma English
han kan ga haŋ something that is drunk, something to drink
han kan ga hantum a writing instrument
han kan ga haw something to tie with
han kan ga hanse something to repair with
han kan ga goro something to sit on


Example sentences
Zarma English
Ni g' ay no han ga haŋ, wala? Are you going to give me something to drink?
Boradin ga ba han kan ga hantum. That person wants something to write with.
A kande han kan ga hincino haw. He brought something to tie the goat with.

7.D.7 Close family relationships

A person speaking of his older sister or brother says "ay bere"; of his younger sister or brother "ay kayne".

A man refers to his sister as "ay wayme", A woman may refer to her brother as "ay arme", but a relative age is not indicated.

That is, only a man has "wayme", though he may use "bere" or "kayne" for his sisters (as he must for his brothers). Only a woman has "arme", though she may refer to her brothers as "bere" or "kayne" instead (as she must for her sisters).


  • "bere" and "kayne" are also used for cousins of about the same age;
  • "baba" is also used for all uncles on father's side;
  • "nya" applies to all aunts on mother's side;
  • "bere" and "kayne" do not follow the regular rule of needing the definite ending when they have a possessive adjective in 1st of 2nd person (iri bere, araŋ kayne);
  • A "bere" or a "kayne" can only be known as male or female if the specifying words "alboro" or "waybora" are added. Often the relative age is what is important to the speaker and not the gender.

The diagram below shows the family relationships.

Family relationship


7.D.8 The conjunction "kan" and "nda" for "when"

If you want to use the idea of "when" in the past (or a completed action) context, you use the conjunction "kan" (short for "watokan", the time when). However, if your context is present or future, something that has not finished happening, then use "nda". This is really "if" since there is always a doubt as to whether there will be a future. Zarmas seem to look at time from a different perspective.

Zarma English
Kan ni kaa wiciri kambu, ni di ay wayme fuwo ra, wala? When you came this evening, did you see my sister in the house?
Da ni ban goyo ga, ay ga ni donton Musa do. When you finish the job, I will send you to Musa.

Verb forms in conditional sentences will be discussed in detail in Lesson 10.



Last updated: 11 maart 2012