The concept of Relationship




The "-A" of RELATIONSHIP" is a particle which is very common in Swahili. The main idea is that of connection, association or relationship.


It combines with various prefixes or class particles of the designated noun ( y, sh, z, l, or w) and its uses vary accordingly. There are three main uses of the -A of Relationship:


1.      Combined with the pronominal prefix,it expresses a concept of possession or description.


2. With N- it expresses the concept of association.






To express possession, the "-A phrase" corresponds to the genitive in European languages.  The prefix may change accordingly with the number and class of the possessed:


Shio sha fundi. The teacher's book.


Nguo za  watrotro. Children's clothes.


ifiniho sha sufuria. The lid of the pot.


Triho  la nyimba. The roof of the house.


Mwana wa  mama.  Mother's kid


Combined with the pronominal class prefix and a possessive stem, it forms the possessive pronoun.    From the above examples, we can rewrite the sentences in a way that we use the possessive pronoun concerned:


Shio sha fundi. The teacher's book.      Shio sha hahe  His book     Shahahe   His


Nguo za  watrotro. Children's clothes. Nguo za hao    Their clothes  Zahao      Theirs


ifiniho sha sufuria. The lid of the pot.   Ifiniho sha hayo  Its lid          Shahayo     Its


Triho  la nyimba. The roof of the house. Triho la hayo     Its roof        Lahayo        Its


Mwana wa  mama.  Mother's kid      Mwana wa hahe       Her son        Wahahe         Hers

The following table may help us to understand how the possessive pronoun is constructed.  We arbitrarly choose Y as been our class prefix for the sake of making thins easier.


Class prefix of the noun




A of



Possessive stem




y, sh, z, l,  w








Ya hangu


y, sh, z, l,  w








Ya haho


y, sh, z, l,  w









Ya hahe

Ya hayo

Ya halo

Ya hasho


y, sh, z, l,  w








Ya hatru


y, sh, z, l,  w








Ya hanyu


y, sh, z, l,  w









Ya hao

Ya hazo

Ya hasho

Ya halo



Used with adjectival phrases to express a descriptive function


It serves a desriptive function in adjectibval phrases made with -A and a variety of word types :


- A  noun                       Likoli ya ntsini           Primary school

- A  infinitive                  Djitihadi ya hufanya hazi  Courage to work

- A  Prepositional of      Hiri sha hukantsia     Chair to sit on

- A  Cardinal number     Hazi ya mwando         The first job

- A   adverb                           Zana za dahoni  Household goods




HA has a variety of uses, but the main idea is an adverbial one: i.e., where or how or by what means an action is carried out. Five categories of phrases with kwa are designated:




WOHA indicates location with respect to people; it may precede names of people or nouns referring to people.


Ngamdjohenda woha mdjomba hangu. I will go to my uncle.


Ngwawo woha fundi. They are at the teacher's.


Wakaa woha Said. We were at Said's place.


Hampveha woha mbaba yatsahe shio. She sent him to father to get a book.


Tsipariza  barua yala woha mwandzani. I got a letter from a friend.



WOHA is not  used with locative nouns (those ending in -ni), nor with proper names of places. This includes likoli, poste and lapitali, as the following examples demonstrate:


Ngamdjohenda Ungudja. I will go to Zanzibar.


Wende shambani. They went to the farm.


Riparisa barua yala Ulaya. We got a letter from Europe.


Wowatrotro wala likoli wadja. The children have come from school.



H-A is used to introduce the instrument by means of which an action is performed.


Handziha ha kalamu ya nyumeni. He wrote with a new pen.


Simba iulwawa ha sumu. The lion was killed by poison.


Tsindza ye nyama ha shononde. Cut the meat with a knife.


Note this contrast: following passive verbs, the doer of the action is introduced by NI or  NE, but the instrument -- if one is named -- is introduced by HA, or it may stand alone.


Haulwawa (ha) bwe ne mdjeni wola..

                        OR                                         He was struck with a stone by that guest

Haulwawa (ha) bwe ni mdjeni tsola.


Hatsindzwa (ha)  shononde ne (or ni) mwidzi. He was cut with a knife by the thief.


Le shamba lilimwa ha shononde ni fundi. The field was cultivated with a knife by father.




HA precedes nouns or infinitives in phrases indicating purpose or aim of the action.


Wamdjilia ha (sibabu) msaada. They came to him for help.


Hadja ha (sibabu) dalawo. She came for medicine.


It combines to make phrases such as: ha sibabu


Ha sibabu hindri wamenya le gari? Why (for what purpose) have you spoiled the car?




HA introduces adverbial phrases of manner: "how" an action is performed.


Hafanya hazi ha haraka. He worked hurriedly.


Watimizi ye hazi ha taabu. They finished the work with difficulty.


Unandzishie ha Shingazidja. Write to me in Shingazidja.


Piha mafeleke ha muda mfupvi. Cook the vegetables for a short time.


Ritwaliya ha kuu. We study hard (diligently).


Ngamdjohudja ha furaha. I will gladly come.




HA is used idiomatically between two adverbs to strengthen the idea of repetition or continuation of the action.


Tshihwambia  mara ha mara. I have told you time and again.


Vuriza ye mawe dzima ha dzima  Throw the stones one by one


Tsiwaswili ngayo ha ngayo  I reached there step by step


Hapasua wo  mkatre sawa ha sawa. She divided the loaf in equal parts.


HA is also used between two nouns commonly used together, or which identify a common combination; or to express a relationship.


Tuliomba wali kwa mchuzi. We asked for rice and curry.


Haparisa ntsanu ha djana. He got 5 percent of the vote.


Wowandru pia wadja,  ha mhuu ha mtiti, ha mshe ha mume. Everyone came, big and little (i.e., old and young), men and women.


Ngwadjiwanao wawo ha wawo. They are fighting a civil war.




The basic idea is association: sometimes it could be translated "and"; sometimes "with". It stands alone or combines in contraction with personal pronouns or with the -O of reference.



NA as a connector between words, phrases and clauses:


Balia ntsohole na madjwai. Bring rice and eggs.


Hasomo Kifarantsa, Kidjeremani na Kingereza. He knew French, German and English.


If NA is used between adjectives, these refer to different nouns


Watrotro wahuu na watiti. Small children and big ones.


Mdru tadjiri na maskini. A rich person and a poor one (2 people).




Mru mwade tsena maskini. A sick and poor person (one person).


When two verbs are joined by NA the second is always an infinitive. The subject and tense indicated in the first verb apply also to the second.


Rikahula na hunwa.  We were eating and drinking.


NA may be used between clauses:


v     If the subjects are different the NA is doubled:


Wowahadja na na wowatsuhudja. Those who came and those who did not


v     If the verbs are in different verb constructions:


Mtsirentsi wowatrotro, na yeka ngapvo za djiri , namridjuze ha haraka. Don't leave the children and if something happen, inform us quickly.


v     If one verb is positive and the other negative.


Ye zendrongo izo hazidjua dje naye kadjasoma? How does he know these things not being educated (not having studied)?


If the first verb is positive and the second negative, wala is often a better choice:


Eka ngopandro mlima, balia mkongodjo, wala utsidiwaze nguo za djoto. If you climb the mountain, take a stick along, and don't forget warm clothing.


NA is used in the absolute sense of "also."


In this use NA precedes a noun or pronoun in a contracted form with a personal pronoun. In a case the tense is different to imperative, NA is combined with the subjet particle (mi = I, we = you, ye =he/she/it, si = we,  nyi = you, wo = they ).


Ye ngapvo na zasaya ? Is there anything else as well?


Nipve ( or nike)  na  cai. Give me tea also.


 Nami ngamwandzo  cai. I also like tea.


 Naye hapvolewa. He also is late.


Note: for the sake of insisting or for the frequent use of eloquence, shingazidja speakers, prefer to use PVA+ pronoun  ( Nami = me too,  nawe = you too, naye = him/hers too, nasi = us too, nanyi = you too, nawo = them too) in this case.  It usually follows the verb and the object.  Let's rewrite the two last sentences  above.


Ngamwandzo  cai pvangu. I also like tea or I like tea too.


Hapvolewa pvahe. He also is late  or he is late too.


NA is used following various verb forms:


Following reciprocal forms, it introduces the second party to the action. It has the meaning of (with + person) or ( with + pronoun). The construction seen above [ ( nami = and + I/me, nawe = and + you, naye = and + (he/she/it/him/her), nasi = and + we/us,  nanyi =  and + you, nawo = and + they/them )]  could be used here


Nilifuatana naye. I accompanied him ( na + ye = with him).


Walishindana na timu ya Arusha. They competed with the Arusha team.


v     Following HUKAA to form HUKAA  NA. "to be with" - i.e., "to have."


Tsikaa  na sababu ndraru. I had three reasons.


Ze sababu nakaa nizo muhimu. The reasons I had were good.(here, - na izo = with them- becomes nizo )


v     Following verbs (other than KUWA) the same idea of association applies. Note the variety of items that follow NA:


Dja na zila karatasi. Come with those papers.


Dja nizo. Come with them (i.e. the papers).


v     The following use of NA introduces an adverb ( nda + pronoun = demonstrative pronoun )  [ ndami= me, ndawe  = you, ndaye = him,  ndasi = us, ndanyi = you,  ndawo = them ]


Haroha ndaye na mama hahe. She left with her mother.


Haroha ndaye naye.  She left with her. (na+ye = with her )


Tsihadisi ndami na Mbaba. I talked with father


Tsihadisi ndami naye  I talked with him.


Ye neneni ngutsapvuho ndaye na ye mwana. The maid is playing with the child.


NA preceding a subjunctive gives emphasis to the subjunctive form.


Na dje. So let him come.


Wowandru wontsi na wadjue. All the people should (by all means) know.


Mwendza mashishio na ishie ! The one who has ears, let him hear!


NA following certain adverbs make prepositions


Mbali na far from


Karibu na near to


Pvadzima na together with


Sawa na equal to, same as


Tafauti na different from


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