Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ningependa kusafiri Kenya

There are several ways to express hypothetical situations in Swahili. Each of them has a bit different meaning and they are not interchangeable. Although some authors say that even some Swahili speakers sometimes mix tenses, for a beginner it’s still better to stick to the rules. 

How to say express “if” in Swahili:
  • situational infix -ki-
  • infix -nge-
  • infix -ngali-

 The first one, namely -ki- infix is used to build a hypothetical sentence, as in English “if” but it can also serve other meanings – in particular it describes the background of the action – in English we use for this purpose a word “while (doing)”.
The other two serve to build conditional sentence, but bear in mind that we use the same infix in both parts of the sentence. They are used to express actions that are rather unlikely to happen, of which -ngali- is highly unlikely. It’s easy to remember this rule, as it contains “li” which (do you remember?) is a past infix.

-ki- tense
This tense expresses the simultaneity of an action in relation to another. Its meaning changes slightly according to its position in the sentence:
  • *if it’s the first verb it corresponds to a present conditional in English: if; the following verb is in the future or imperative;
  • *if it follows the first verb (in the present, past or future) it corresponds to a present participle (verb ending in -ing) or to an infinitive in English – this matter will be dealt in one of the future posts

  • ni-ki-sema – if I say
  • u-ki-sema – if you say
  • a-ki-sema – if he/she says
  • tu-ki-sema – if we say
  • m-ki-sema – if you say
  • wa-ki-sema – if they say

Monosyllabic verbs don’t take -ku- with the stem, example
  • ni-ki-ja – if I come
  • ni-ki-enda – if I go

Technically -ki- infix doesn’t have a negative form. To construct a negative phrase we have to employ the negative tense marker -sipo- which means “if not"/"unless". Examples:
  • ni-sipo-fanya – if I don’t make
  • ni-sipo-sema – if I don’t read

Monosyllabic verbs keep -ku- infix, examples:
  • ni-sipo-kuja – if I don’t come
  • u-sipo-kwenda – if you don’t come

Examples of sentences 
(to make them more clear you can add “kama”/”ikiwa” at the beginning of the sentence):
Ukimwona Hamisi, mwambie aje hapa. – If you see Hamisi, tell him to come here.
Ukifanya kazi, unapewa tuzo. – If you work you are rewarded.
Ukifanya kazi, utapewa tuzo. – If you work you will be rewarded.
Kama ukienda Zanzibar, utaona jumba la sultani. / If you go to Zanzibar, you will see the Sultan palace.
Ulifanya kazi, ulipewa tuzo. – If you worked you were rewarded.
Tukifanya haraka tutamaliza kazi kabla ya saa kumi. – If we hurry we will finish work before 4 o’clock.

Present Conditional
  • ningependa – if I liked / I would like
  • ungependa
  • angependa
  • tungependa
  • mngependa
  • wangependa

To express a negative – add “si” as in other tenses:
nisingependa, usingependa, asingepensa etc.

Monosyllabic verbs take -ku- marker, e.g.
ningekuja – if I came / I would come

Past Conditional
  • ningalipenda – if I had liked / I would have liked
  • ungalipenda
  • angalipenda
  • tungalipenda
  • mngalipenda
  • wangalipenda

nisingalipenda, usingalipenda, asingalipenda etc.

Monosyllabic verbs take -ku- marker, e.g.
ningalikula – if I had eaten / I would have eaten

Examples of sentences
Ningeweza kuja kesho. – I would be able to come tomorrow.
Ningalifanya kazi jana… - I would have worked yesterday.
Ningekwenda sasa, ningemwona. – I I go now, I will see him/her.
Ningejaribu sana, ningeweza kusema Kiswahili. – If I tried hard I would be able to speak/read Swahili.
Ungesoma gazeti ile, ungejua habari zote. – If you read this paper you would know all the news.
Ningalijaribu sana, ningaweza kusema. – If I had tried hard, I would have been able to read/speak Swahili.
Ningekuwa na pesa nyingi ningekuoa. – If I had a lot of money I would marry you.
Nisingejua, nisingekuja. – If I didn’t know I wouldn’t come.
Ningalijua ningalikuja. – If I had known I would have come.


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