have ways of expressing how, where, or
when an event took place. Traditionally the expressions carrying this
information are called ADVERBS.
A useful way to indicate the function an adverb
performs is by the letters M, L,
and T for:
"How" i.e. "Manner" – M
"Where" i.e. "Location" – L
"When" i.e. "Time" – T
Swahili, these concepts are expressed in a number of ways, using words, phrases,
and clauses. A few examples are given with each of these types of expression in
this section, but a more detailed list of adverbs is included under each of the
functions (M, L, T) in paragraph B. The
ways by which adverbial concepts are expressed is by:
of them are nouns. Many are
non-Bantu loan words. For instance:
Hule distant, far away
Zamani long ago
are nouns ending in ni.
These are limited to location and time expressions. Examples:
mdjini in town
formed by nominal and pronominal roots with adverbial agreements
Those adverbial agreements are HA
for location, the KI
of likeness and adverbial N for
Hatru our place
emakhua way (an insult )
introduced by a variety of propositions
asubuhi since morning
verb constructions, using the relative particle
HEHLI IKAO/YE HALI IKAO, YE NAMNA IKAO for Manner, PVO,
IHO, and IMO for Location, and PVO
for Time. Examples:
heli udjohushinda as (much as) you can
Pvoyahadja when he came
are a unique feature in Bantu languages. They are defined as the representation
of an idea in sound, and some, but not all, are onamatopoeic, i.e., imitations
of a sound. Most of the ideophones are adverbs; some of these have given rise to
Note also these ideophonic verbs: hula mwau, to yawn
Examples of Swahili adverbs, grouped according to
function, Manner, Location, Time. Examples of their use are given. Sometimes
there are multiple examples where one term is used for what in Euopean languages
would require several different terms.
Adverbs of Manner.
Exceedingly, too much.
baridi ya mno. It was extremely cold.
mlo wa mno He ate too much
mnene swafi I am very fat
wawade swafi We are very sick
gari lohudjisa swafi The car is very beautiful
ha mbapvi. We walked slowly.
ha mbapvi He spoke slowly
hazi ha upesi. He worked fast.
ha upesi He
Note: shingazidja speakers can replace it
with haraka at any time.
hakuu. We sang loudly.
hazi hakuu. They worked hard.
hakuu. I had much pain.
wabaki hakuu. The guests stayed a long
gari likahwenda hakuu. The car was speeding.
ndro. She reads well.
ndro swafi. I can see very well.
nayi. They were badly hurt.
nayi. He is badly dressed
ndziro horongowa shingazidja. It is not difficult to speak
ndziro homdumiza hodahoni hangu. I find it difficult to throw him out of my house
shahula sha hutosha He ate enough food
hamba za hutosha. He have said enough
madji ya hutosha. He draw enough water
In any manner, anyhow, any way.
haina heli udjohushinda. Do it in any way you
rangu pvotrasi, haina heli hasa hadja She
left since the morning, he is back in any way
Carelessly, recklessly, without order
maesha ya msadjadja He has lived an undisciplined
rentsi ye zombo ha msadjadja.
Don’t leave the tools in a mess.
In another way, differently, otherwise.
ye mvua ngedjohunya, lakini mimi tsidhwani ye kinyume.
She thought it would rain but I thought
ne zambishihao, tsifikiri hukaya wewe nde udjo trende udji ulawuliye mbaba
Contrary to what people say, I thought that you
would be the first to have come to see dad
In that/this manner; likewise; like that/this
helio, kwana huishia.
If you read like that, they won’t hear you.
helinu. Do like this
helinu. Write like this. (as I showed you)
Sawa or Hama
wo mdzo pvo ntsi, pvangu tsifanya sawa (hama) ndaye.
He put his load down, and I did exactly the same.
ze nyile sawa hama ndawe
I cut the hairs exactly the same like you
and hama are
sometimes used together, the second one emphasizing first one. You can use
either of them in most of the cases. Also,
a personnal pronoun has to be introduced as a comparative agent.
+ pronoun suffix
pronoun + too
pva-ngu = me too, pva-ho
= you too, pva-he = him/her too, pva-tru
= we too, pva-nyu = you too,
pva-wo = them too )
wo msafara halemewa ; wowadungana naye walemewa pvawo.
After the journey he was tired; his companions
madjimbo mayili, ye mwana hahe haheza pvahe
He sang two songs, his son did likewise
In a……..way ( depending on what the
"KI of likeness" is prefixed to):
kidjeishi to walk in a military fashion
kitrotro to speak childishly
kistanrabu to dress in a modern way
kizungu to live in European style
kimapinduzi to think in a revolutionary
Ha + (phrase)
With ….., or ……ly, depending on what
haraka hastily, hurriedly
hazi ha haraka. They worked fast.
ha siri. They are married secretly.
furaha joyously, happily
ha furaha. We welcomed them heartily.
ye barua yahaho ha makini. I read your letter
yehudja saa mpvili haina asubuhi.
She usually comes at eight every morning.
ufupvi briefly, in summary
ze habari zahe adjali ha ufupvi.
He briefly described the accident to me.
ule at length
hurongowa ha ule.
He kept on talking at length.
ha ule. He explained fully.
in a verb construction with relative particle.
ye madji ye kiasi udjohushinda ( or,
Draw as much water as you can.
ye kiasi udjohushinda
Read as much as possible.
ye ziri pvo ndze. Take the chairs outside.
pvo ndze. I was outside
away, at a distance
wala hule. The guests came from far away.
nguenshi hule. Mother lives far away.
djirani yehuenshi karibu. The neighbour lives nearby.
hende hahulu ndrovi karibu nasi pvanu.
mother went to buy bananas near us
Above, upstairs, on top
ye mizigo iho ha djuu. They have left the
Down, below, on the ground (ntsi),
Tsivuriza ze nguo pvo ntsi. I spread out the clothes on the ground.
ngwalalao ho ntsini The children stay downstairs
wazee ngwawo ho ndani. The old people are
ho ndani We
are eating inside
(litt: in the heart )is usually used to replace ndani. See the
mapesa ngayo ho mwoni mwa ye shiyo
The money is inside the book.
nguo ngizo ho mwoni mwa ye sanduku The
inside the suitcase.
ho dingoni. He has gone backwards.
mshana nguo ho dingoni The
toilet is behind
Ahead, forward, in front
ho usoni. Keep going forward.
wana ngwao ho usoni mwatru The children are in
front of us
In the centre, in the middle, in the midst
(usually preceded by pvo)
karatasi, fanya picha pvo hari. Get
paper and draw a picture in the center
pvo hari mwe hadisi. He found us (came) at the middle of the story
ze ntsa za he mbondzi pvadzima. Join
the two ends of the rope together.
pvadzima . We
At home, in the house
watrotro wabaki ho dahoni. The children stayed at home.
ho dahoni ha mdjomba hangu. We are at the house of my uncle
A list of these adverbial nouns could be
expanded almost endlessly : mdjini, ntsini,
Some other (place or persone), elsewhere,
hunu, mtsahe mahala hundrwadji. She
is not here; look for her somewhere else.
wona mdru mdrwadji I am the one, see someone else.
shioni shindrsadji He learns in another place
Everywhere, all over, all around, all
have cleaned everywhere.
went all around
pia. They all came
she iwandza pia. The surrounded all around the place
Note: in this case, we suppose that we
speak about a place (mahala) which is
replaced by "it" or "hu"
(underlined in both sentence)
yakohenda, yetso zingara she imani sha hahe Wherever
he goes, he keeps his faith.
wowahadja, waribailia zindru Anyone who came brought us something
+ personnal pronoun
At one's place (hangu = my place, haho = your place, hahe = his/her place, hatru = our place, hanyu = your place, hawo =
their place ). It is usually followed by "ho" or by "wo"
which designate "at".
ho hatru! Welcome to us (our place)!
wo hawo. They went at their place.
hukaya pvakaa taabu wo haho. I heard there were problems
at your place.
There, over there (an undefined area)
rienshiyo ngapvo milima mindji. There,
where we live there are many mountains.
iho. We are not going there.
There, over there (a definite place at a
distance). Sometimes, when
insisting that the place is very distant, shingazidja speakers end the above
adverbs with an "e" instead
of the "a". Hule is also used
as "very high".
pvala. She is over there.
went over there
Here, over here, by here (a definite and close
pvanu djana . He
passed by here yesterday.
does not come here anymore.
In, inside, in the middle
shio in a book
ye mapesa harumwa shio. I put the money in a book.
barua yala Bushini. We have received a letter
shahula shala Farantsa. I
was sent (received) food from France
as far as
ndo mroni as far as the river
henda hata mpaka ndo mroni. They went as far to the
river and back.
hudja mpaka hende zahe. I will not come until she leave.
hata mpaka ndo pvodjioni we are going until this
Ntsini mwa/ koni mwa
ho koni mwa mdri. We sat under a tree.
sanduku ngio ho ntsini mwa ye latabu
The suitcase is under the table.
Near, close to
isima karibu na ye nyumba. They have built a well near
karibu nami He sat close
Now It can also be used to mean
"recently" or "soon" in many cases
Farantsa hapvaha (hapvasa). We are in France now.
hudja hapvasa He
will come soon
pvanu hapvasa He
passed by here recently
(future tense), recently
(past tense). When used as "recently"
it is usually followed by "pvanu"
used as intensifier to mean "not
hudja tsihale He will come soon
hunu tsihale pvanu He passed by here recently
tsihale pvanu They are married rencently (not long ago)
lebundjilio tsihale. We will begin (start) the meaning soon
ngodjodjikomeya umaruhe Soon, you will regret it (proverb. litt: you will
touchyourself and will be surprised).
zamani / hale / zama za hale
Formerly, long ago
nyumba pvanu. Formerly,
there was a house here.
pvakaya masitehi Long
ago, people were polite
Hale ridohula homhono. Formely, we ate with our
Later, after, then (must precede a clause)
ye marunku randzi, halafu ridje riyaundjilie. We
shall cut the grass first;later we will gather it up.
halafu ridjerirohe ratembeye
We are eating, then will go around.
will come later
After (used in a relative clause)
baada hutwaliya. We play after studying.
Before/early/soon/in good time
hupvonesa uwade na kabula
It is good to treat illness in good time
hutwaliya kabula ya hula
We will study before eating
Then, next (must precede the clause)
ze nguo, irudi hazipasi. She
washed the clothes, then she ironed them.
irudi hende zahe. He came and then went back.
ye zana, irudu haziwaza, irudi hazieha. He gathered the materials, next he counted them,
then he stored them.
Again; when following a negative verb, it means
tsena. She has come back again.
hurudi tsena. She won't come back any more.
Always, constantly, continually
hodahoni daima They
stayed home constantly
am always happy
ye heza daima. I always hear him singing.
tsikeri hosafiri masihu. It is no good to
travel at night.
the noun masihu, night, all other
nouns designating times of day, or days, weeks, months, years, can be used as
time adverbs e.g. djana, yesterday; leo,
today; maudu, tomorrow; alfadjiri, dawn;
asubuhi, morning; adhuhuri,
noon; mtsana, afternoon (early part); jioni, late afternoon, evening
mwana hazalwa nyumeni. The child was born recently.
saw him recently.
was told recently
ye mvua yohandisa wo mwezi wunu,
nyakati yowuhoma ho hudja. Sometimes the rain begins in
this month; sometimes it begins late.
yehudja harilaulia Sometimes, he comes to visit us
ngudjohudja leo; ambwesee hadiwaza. She
said she would come today; maybe she has forgotten.
mama ngemwade ba hatsolala. Perhaps mother is sick because (since) she is still in bed.
first / from ………to (rangu
rangu pvo asubuhi. We have waited since
rangu hale He has come since
rangu, nge ridje rirohe
He will come first, then we will go out
rangu, nge hakahula. He came first, then he
rangu djana hata leo
We sat down from yesterday to
wowade unu randzi ho utrotroni hahe.
She has had this illness since her childhood.
randzi nge rikahula. We ate first, then we drank.
hazi mpaka nde masihu. She worked until night.
hula mpaka hudja I
will not eat until you come
When - in verb constructions with the relative time particle PVO
nahenda ho mdjini tsionana no wandzani wangu. When
I went to town, I met my friend.
waredjeyi wayela. When they returned, they had
adverb which modifies an adjective or another adverb will follow the verb it
modifies, as in :
motro woyi nge mradji kabisa This child is extremely large
ha upesi kabisa Run
more fast (faster)
Only adverbs of Manner will enter into the sort of combinations cited above.
modifying verbs may be of any type: Manner,
Location, or Time. They have a relatively fixed order of occurrence in
relation to one another; there is some flexibility but within specific limits.
Manner adverbs normally follow the verb they modify. A
seeming exception to this rule is found in a few adverbs that modify not only
the verb but the whole clause: ha kawaida,
haina heli. These precede the clause they refer to. This does not contradict
the rule that Manner adverbs
modifying the verb will come after
ndro. She read well.
M (modifies Hasomo)
wo msomo wahao ha
djitihadi. They learn their studies diligently.
M (modifies Wohutwalia)
mihudja hodahoni saya kume na mbili. Usually
(I) come home at six.
M (modifies the whole clause)
ngwadjo hudja warione nge wende zao. In
any case, they will come to see us before they leave.
M (modifies the whole clause)
Location adverbs normally follow the verb:
ho ntsini mwa wo mri. They sat beneath the tree.
ye shahula sha hatru hunu. We ate our food here.
Time adverbs may come either before or after the verb:
huroha hwenda msafara pvo asubuhi. We
will leave to go to a travel in the
ngaridjo huroha hwenda msafara. In the morning we will
leave to go for a trip.
When all three types - Manner,
Location, Time - occur in a sentence:
a. If all three adverbs follow the verb,
the preferred order will be M - L - T:
watrotro watsapvuha ndro hunu djana. The children played well here yesterday.
M L T
b. If the Location
adverb is shorter than the Manner adverb, it may precede the Manner adverb,
thus making the order L - M - T:
zioni wohutwaliya hunu ha kawaida pvo masihu. The students studied here usually at night.
ndro ho ntsini mwa wo
mri djana. They studied well under the tree yesterday.
M L T
c. When all three adverbs follow the verb,
the position of the Time adverb does
not change; it is always in the series. However, it makes for better
distribution of modifiers if the Time adverb is placed before the verb:
watwalia ndo ho ntsini mwa wi mri. Yesterdaythey
studied well under the tree.
T M L
This is especially important when both
Manner and Location are fairly long phrases. Note that the preferred order M
- L is retained:
ha makini hodjumwa
ye sakafu. In
the (early) afternoon she climb
carefully on the roof.
T M L
Notice that in all cases when there is a noun object in the sentence it
comes after the verb and before the adverbs.