Ultimate List of 200+ Swahili Verbs plus Example Sentences

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This is a list of all the important Swahili verbs we learned while studying Swahili in Tanzania and Kenya.

The Usambara Mountains, where Swahili verbs are used to say things like "Inapendeza"
The Usambara mountains in Tanzania, where Swahili is spoken

These Swahili verbs are important everyday ones that we’d recommend anyone who wants to learn Swahili memorize.

To understand how to use any of these verbs in Swahili, we’ve put down example sentences, too — sometimes, multiple!

We learned these verbs (and others) while studying Swahili in Tanzania and Kenya for two months. It went pretty well — see our final speaking videos here. So these are from my own personal notes.

Sources for the Swahili example sentences: The example sentences came from

  • Teachers (Thank you Philip and Angel in particular!)
  • Textbooks like Colloquial Swahili (that’s what I used, anyway)
  • BBC Swahili — sometimes I’d search for a word, or sometimes I’d just breading an article
  • Glossika, a sentence bank I regularly used for Swahili

I’ve checked them over a few times — and it took many hours — but please let me know if you find a mistake. It even happens in textbooks!

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The Epic List of All Swahili Verbs

Without further ado, here are all the Swahili verbs!

I’ve put examples of how all of them are conjugated in Swahili.

If you have another verb/sentence you want to add to the list — contact us any time and make a request and we’ll add the verb and/or sentence.

See below for a basic introduction to Swahili grammar in using these verbs. That introduction doesn’t cover the structures used in all these sentences. Check out our Swahili resource page (everything’s free!) for more about learning Swahili.

Downloadable/printable link: Here for a PDF in A4 size. Last updated 1 March 2020. Optimised to not waste too much paper. Check back here for updates.

English verbSwahili verbEnglish sample sentence(s)Swahili sample sentences
to be (past/future)
-kuwaI will be a student next year.
I was hungry.
You will be our guest
It will be different next time.
Mwaka ijayo nitakuwa mwanafunzi.
Nilikuwa na njaa.
Utakuwa mgeni wetu
Mara ijayo itakuwa tofauti.
to be (in a place)-kuwa po/ko, kuwa po/koIs he there? No, he’s not here.
Where are my keys? They’re on the table.
I’m at home
I’ll be at home/I won’t be at home
I was at home/I wasn’t at home
Yuko hapa? Hapana, hayupo.
Funguo zangu ziko wapi? Ziko mezani.
Mimi nipo nyumbani
Nitakuwepo nyumbani baadae/sitakuwepo nyumbani
Nilikuwepo/sikuwepo
to be fine, or suitable-faaIt’s good, it works (describing a thing)
It’s no good, it doesn’t work (describing a thing)
I don’t like my coworkers they’re no good.
This drink is no good; those drinks are fine.
Inafaa
Haifai
Siwapendi wafanya kazi wenzangu, wote hawafai.
Kinywaji kile hakifai, vinyiwaji hivi vinafaa.
to happen, to occur-fanyikaWhat’s happening now?
The party will happen tomorrow.
Nini inafanyika sasa?
Sherehe itafanyika kesho.
to end-ishaIt will end soon
Our time is finished.
Itaisha karibu
Wakati wetu umeisha.
to open-funguaYou can open the window.
I opened the door.
What time will the shops open?
Unaweza kufungua dirisha.
Nilifungua mlango.
Maduka yatafunguliwa saa ngapi?
to close-fungaI closed the door.
The shops will close soon.
Sorry, it’s closed today.
Nilifunga mlango.
Maduma yatafungwa karibu.
Samahani, limefungwa leo.
to start/begin-anzaI haven’t started yet.
I started a week ago.
Sijaanza bado
Nimeanza wiki iliyopita.
to inform, explain-fahamishaI will inform you.
If there is any problem, plese let me know.
Nitakufahamisha.
Ikiwa kuna shida yoyote, tafadhali nifahamisha.
to mean-maanishaWhat I mean is…
What does this word mean?
Ninamaanisha
Neno hili linamaanisha nini?
to say-semaWhat are you saying?
Did they say we should go?
You said yesterday there will be no rain.
As I was saying, we need more time.
Unasema nini?
Walisema twende?
Ulisema jana hatakuwa na mvua leo.
Kama nilivyosema, tunahitaji muda zaidi.
to speak
-ongea
Do you speak English?
Please speak to me in Swahili.
No, I don’t speak Swahili
Unaongea kiingereza?
Tafadhali ongea na mimi kwa Kiswahili.
Hapana, siongei Kiswahili
to understand-elewaDo you understand?
I don’t understand how to do this
Did you understand?
Unaelewa?
Sielewi namna ya kufanya hii
Umeelewa?
to speak/converse-zungumzaI want to speak Swahili with you
I spoke with you yesterday
Nataka kuzungumza Kiswahili na wewe
Nilizungumza na wewe jana!
to request, ask for-ombaI’d like [to order] bananas and meat.
We’d like [to order] fish
I’d like some help.
Naomba ndizi na nyama.
Tunaomba samaki
Naomba msaada.
to tell-ambiaShe told me to come today.
Did they say we should go today?
Aliniambia nije leo.
Je, walituambia twende leo?
to write-andikaWrite [it] here.
I’ve written two books.
Can you write it?
Andika hapa
Nimeshaandika vitabu viwili.
Unaweza kuandika?
to showkuonyeshaLet me show you!
Can you show me?
I want to show her
Hebu nikuonyeshe!
Unaweza kunionyesha?
Ninataka kumwonyesha.
to recommend-sifiaWhat food do you recommend?Unasifia chakula gani?
to communicate (with each other)-wasilianaWe can communicate in Swahili
My goal is to be able to communicate
Tunaweza kuwasiliana kwa Kiswahili sasa
Lengo langu ni kuwasiliiana
to confirm/to make sure-hakikishaI have to confirm something.
Make sure you understand what he tells you.
Ninahitaji kuhakikisha kitu.
Hakikisha unaelewa ambacho anakuambia
to read, to study-somaI need to study
I read an article about politics this morning
Ninahitaji kusoma
Nilisoma makala kuhusu siasa asubuhi
to explain-eleza (from elewa)I can’t explain it well.
He explained it to us.
I explained it to you once.
Siwezi kueleza vizuri.
Alitueleza.
Nilikueleza mara moja.
to be called, to be named-itwaMy name is Dana, what’s your name?
What’s this thing called in Swahili?
What is your brother’s name?
Ninaitwa dana, unaitwa nani?
Kitu hiki kinaitwa nini kwa Kiswahili?
Kaka yako anaitwa nani?
to come from, out of-tokaI come from Australia. Where are you from?
I just came from eating.
Ninatoka Australia. Unatoka wapi?
Nimetoka kula.
to live/live at-ishiIt’s the first time they lived outside the house
We live together
We don’t live here
Ni mara ya kwanza wameishi nje ya nyumba
Tunaishi pamoja
Hatuishi hapa
to stay (to live in a place)-kaaYou can sit here
We’re staying for two weeks.
Where do you (pl) live?
We don’t live in the village; we live in the city.
Unaweza kukaa hapa.
Tunakaa kwa wiki mbili.
Mumekaa wapi?
Hatukai kijijini, tunakaa mjini.
to die-kufaYou might die!
I won’t die today.
Unaweza kufa!
Sitakufa leo.
to be born-zaliwaWhere were you born?
I was born in London
Umezaliwa wapi?
Nimezaliwa London
to give, offer, take out, subtract-toaI got divorced
They gave them money.
nimetoa talaka
Waliwatolea pesa
to pay-lipaI didn’t want to pay
We want to pay now
We will pay tomorrow
Sikutaka kulipa pesa
Ninataka kulipa sasa
Tutalipa kesho
to give-pa (pea)It will give us more time.
I can’t give you money, but I can give you food.
I gave you 1000.
Itatupea muda zaidi.
Siwezi kukupea pesa, lakini naweza kukupea chakula.
Nilikupea elfu moja.
to get, to find-pataI will get water later.
I need to get more food.
I found eggs but they were very expensive!
Nitapata maji baadaye.
Ninahitaji kupata chakula zaidi.
Nilipata mayai lakini yalikuwa ghali san!
to bring
-leta
Did you bring money?
I forgot to bring my wallet.
Can you bring us a bottle of water?
I brought you bread.
Umeleta pesa?
Nimesahau kuleta mkoba wangu.
Unaweza kutuletea chupa ya maji?
Nilikuletea mkate.
to take-chukuaHow long will this journey take?
It will take two hours
Take this money.
Safari hii itachukua muda gani?
Itachukua saa mbili
Chukua pesa hizi.
to put-wekaWhere should I put it?
Put the plate there.
Where did you put the keys?
Nikiweke wapi?
Weka sahani huko.
Uliweka funguo wapi?
to take-pelekaYou can take the eggs
I have taken your time
Unaweza kupeleka mayai
Nilipeleka wakati wako
to carry-bebaI can carry your bagNinaweza kubeba begi yako
to pass (by), to turn-pitaDo not pass here
Turn left here
Usipite hapa
Pita kulia hapa
to pick up-otokaIt fell and I picked it upImeshuka na niliiotoka
to send-tuma (tumia for “to” someone)I sent you an email
Did you receive the thing I sent you?
Nilikutumia baruapepe
Umepokea kito ambacho nilikutumia?
to receive-pokeaDid you receive the message I sent you?Umepokea ujumbe ambao nilikutumia?
to come-kujaI’m coming on foot
The cat came inside
Ninakuja kwa miguu
Paka alikuja ndani
to go-elekeaWhere are you going?
Heading home now
Unaelekea wapi?
Naelekea nyumbani sasa.
to leave, depart-ondokaThe train will leave at 11
We’ll leave tomorrow morning
Leave!
Treni itaondoka saa tano asubuhi
Tunaondoka kesho asubuhi
Ondoka!
to come back, to return-rudiWe’ll come back every day
I’ll come back in five minutes
Tutarudi kila siku
Nitarudi baada dakika tano
to visit/pass through (place)-pitiaHow many countries have you visited?Ulipitia nchi ngapi?
to do-fanyaWhat are you doing
They already did it
Unafanya nini?
Wameshafanya kitu
to have-na, kuwa naI have a pen
Excuse me, I don’t have time now
When I was young I had a dog
Ninayo kalamu
Samahani, sina muda sasa
Nilipokuwa mdogo nilikuwa na mbwa
to go, to travel-kwendaI’ll go by car
Where are you going?
Go straight ahead
Nitakwenda kwa gari
Unakwenda wapi?
Nenda moja kwa moja
to arrive, come to-fikaFortunately, you can come to class by foot.
The train will arrive at 9:30am
We arrived!
Kwa bahati wewe unaweza kufika darasani kwa miguu.
Treni itafika saa tatu na nusu asubuhu
Tulifika!
to walk, take a walk-tembeaIt’s not far, so I prefer to walk.
Can I walk here?
Siyo mbali sana, kwa hivyo ninapendelea kutembea.
Je, naweza kutembea hapa?
to be lost-poteaI’m lost!
Are you lost? No we’re not lost.
Nimepotea!
Mumepotea? La, hatujapotea.
to turn (left/right)-pindaTurn right, then turn leftPinda kulia, halafu pinda kushoto
to arrive at-fikiaWe have arrived at the hotel a little early
You’ve already arrived at home?
Tumefikia hoteli mapema kidogo
Mumeshafikia nyumbani?
to run-kimbiaI ran 20km todayNilikimbia kilomita ishirini leo.
to use-tumiaI’m learning using a book.
You can use this pen.
I want to use a phone.
Ninakujifunza kwa kutumia kitabu.
Unaweza kutumia kalamu hii.
Nataka kutumia simu
to buy-nunuaWe need to buy more milk.
I bought you something.
Tunahitaji kununua maziwa zaidi.
Nilikununulia kitu
to sell-uzaThey want to sell us things
How much are you selling it for? (You sell it for what price?)
What food are you selling?
Maybe we can sell them
Wanataka kutuuzia vitu
Unauza bei gani?
Unauza chakula gani?
Labda tunaweza kuwauza.
to eat
-kulaEat!
I want to eat something
Kula!
Ninataka kula kitu
to wash (things)-osha, -nawaI’m washing my face, hands.Ninaosha uso.
Ninanawa uso, mikono
to turn off-zimaTurn off the light.
I forgot to turn off the light
Zima taa
Nimesahau kuzima taa
to turn on-kuwashaTurn on the lightWasha taa.
to make-tengenezaI’m making bread.Ninatengeneza mkate.
to add-ongezaAdd a little sugar
It’s too little. Add a little more (money)
Ongeza kidogo sukari
Ni rahisi sana, ongeza kidogo
to reduce-punguzaPlease try to reduce the price for me
Reduce [the price] for me!
Tafadhali jaribu kunipunguza bei!
Nipunguzie!
to leave (something)-achaLeave [it] here.
He left the others inside
Acha hapa.
Aliwaacha watu wengine humo ndani
to organise, to prepare-andaI organised everything.
She organised a party for me!
Nilianda kila kitu.
Aliniandalia sherehe!
to mix-changanyaI don’t like to mix different foods
You mix flour and water
We mix languages.
Sipendi kuchaganya vyakula tofauti.
Unachanganya unga na maji
Tunachanganya lugha
to bite-umaThe dog might bite you.Mbwa anaweza kukuuma
to boil (food)-chemshaBoil the water.
I boil the water, but then I forget right away.
Chemsha maji.
Ninachemsha maji, lakini halafu ninasahau mara moja.
to cut-kataCut the pineapple with a knife!
I cut myself.
Kata nanasi kwa kisu!
Nimejikata.
to modify, to adapt, repair, fix-rekebishaWe can modify the style
We’ll fix the window tomorrow.
Tunaweza kurekebisha mtindo.
Tutarekebisha dirisha kesho.
to drink-kunywaDrink!Kunywa! (pronounced kunioa)
to break-vunjaWho broke it?
I broke it!
Nani aliivunja?
Niliivunja!
to break (itself)-vunjikaThe window broke!Dirisha limevunjika!
to lose-potezaI lost it!
I lost my key
Niliipoteza.
Nilipoteza ufunguo wangu
to look for-tafutaI’m looking for my friend.
I’ll have to find her.
Ninatafuta rafiki yangu.
Nitahitaji kumtafuta
to know-juaI know this person
I don’t know, do you know?
Namjua!
Sijui, unajua?
to remember-kumbukaNow I remember.
Remember your phone!
I just remembered.
Sasa ninakumbuka.
Kumbuka simu yako!
Nilikumbuka tu.
to forget-sahauI forgot
I didn’t forget what you said (your news)
Nimesahau
Sisahau habari zako
to ask-ulizaI will ask
I want to ask a question
Nitauliza
Nataka kuuliza swali.
to learn-jifunzaI have to study more
We’re learning Swahili here.
We have been learning for two weeks.
Ninahitaji kujifunza zaidi.
Tunajifunza Kiswahili hapa.
Tumejifunza kwa wiki mbili.
to remind-kumbusha
Can you remind me? Otherwise I’ll forget.
I’ll remind you later.
Unaweza kunikumbushia? Vinginevyo nitasahau.
Nitakukumbushia.
to be wrong-koseaYou are wrong!
I thought the village was close, but I was wrong.
Umekosea!
Nilifikiri kijiji kilikuwa karibu na hapa, lakini nimekosea.
to think-fikiriI thought it was something different
What do you think we should do?
Nilifikiri ilikuwa kitu tofauti
Unafikiri tunapaswa kufanya nini?
to be able to, can
-wezaCan you please help me?
I wanted to go, but I wasn’t able to.
Je unaweza kunisaidia?
Nilitaka kuenda pale, lakini sikuweza.
to be going to-endaWhat are you going to buy?Unaenda kununua nini?
to have to-takiwaYou have to try once.
Children should be told what to do.
Unatakiwa kujaribu mara moja.
Watoto wanatakiwa kuelezwa.
to ‘should’-paswaYou should come.
I realised I should have gone.
Unapaswa kuja.
Nilitambua kuwa nilipaswa kwenda.
to like-pendaDo you like bananas?
I don’t like it much
She didn’t like it.
Unapenda ndizi?
Sipendi sana.
Hakuipenda.
to be thirsty-na kiu, -ona kiuI’m thirsty.
Are you thirsty?
Nina kiu/Naona kiu.
Una/Uona kiu?
to be satisfied, full (after eating)-shibaAre you full?
I’m full, thanks
Umeshiba?
Nimeshiba, asante
to get tired-chokaAre you tired?Umechoka?
to prefer-pendeleaI prefer to wake up early.Ninapendelea kuamka mapema.
to be afraid of, to be scared-ogopaI am afraid of accidents
Foreigners are afraid of getting sick.
Don’t be scared!
Ninaogopa ajali
Wageni wanaogopa kuumwa.
Usiogope!
to be used to-zoeaI’m used to the heat
We have to get used to it.
I’m not used to the humidity.
Are you used to the food?
Nimezoea joto
Tunahitaji kuzoea
Sijazoea mvuke
Umezoea chakula?
to hate, dislike-chukiaSomething I hate a lot…Kitu ambacho ninachukia sana…
to listen-sikilizaAre you listening?
Sorry, I wasn’t listening
Unasikiliza?
Samahani, sikusikiliza
to hear-sikiaCan you hear the sound of that bird?
I heard his news
Unasikia sauti ya ndege ile?
Nilisikia habari zake
to see-onaLet’s see…
What do you think?
See you tomorrow
Natuone
Unaionaje?
Tuonane kesho
to look at, to watch
-angaliaLook, a lion!
Don’t look at me!
It’s free to look
Angalia! Simba!
Usiniangalie!
Kuangalia ni bure
to help-saidiaCan I help you?
Can you help us?
Naweza kukusaidia?
Unaweza kutusaidia?
to wait-subiriWait for a minute please
I have waited for half an hour.
Subiri tafadhali
Nilisubiri kwa muda wa nusu saa.
to stand up/stop (bus, taxi)-simamaPlease stop here.
Don’t stand close to me.
Tafadhali simama hapa.
Usimame karibu na mimi.
to wake (oneself) up-amkaI wake up very early
What time did you wake up?
How did you sleep (lit. wake up)?
Mimi huamka mapema sana
Umeamka saa ngapi?
Umeamka vipi?
to cook-pikaCan you show me how to cook octopus?
I cooked dinner for you
Unaweza kunionyesha namna ya kupika pweza?
Nilikupikia chakula cha jioni
to have a shower-oga bafuniI have to have a shower twice a dayNinahitaji kuoga bafuni mara mawili kila siku
to rest-pumzikaI need to rest today
She needs to rest
Nahitaji kupumzika leo
Lazima apumzike
to sleep-lalaShe likes to sleep more.
He’s asleep!
Sleep well!
Yeye anapenda kulala zaidi.
Amelala!
Lala salama!
to relax-stareheI usually relax after a lesson.Mimi hustarehe baada ya darasa
to order-agizaWe (would like to) some food
Would you like to order now?
Tunaagiza chakula
Munataka kuagiza sasa?
to buy (cut) tickets-kata tiketiWhen you get tickets, you can choose your food.Ukikata tiketi, utaweza kuchagua chakula chako.
to hope-tumainiI hope you liked it.
Small businesses hope Obama’s visit will lift their business.
Ninatumaini umependa.
Wafanyabiashara wadogo wanatumaini ziara ya Obama kuinua biashara zao.
to be married (female)-olewaAre you (f) married?
Yes, I (f) am married
No, I (f) am not yet married
Je, umeolewa?
Ndiyo, nimeshaolewa.
Hapana, bado sijaolewa.
to be married (male), to marry-oaWhen I was married
Are you (m) married sir?
Yes, I’m (m) married.
No, I’m (m) not yet married
He married again
Nilipokuwa nimeoa…
Umeoa bwana?
Ndiyo, nimeshaoa.
Hapana, bado sijaoa
Ameoa tena
to hope, to plan-tegemeaWhen do you hope to come?
We hope to arrive at 4pm.
Unategemea kuja lini?
Tunategemea
to give birth-zaaWhen will you give birth?Utazaa lini?
late, to be late-chelewaWe’re going to be late!Tutachelewa!
to watch-tazamaI am watching television
I like watching TV, but not much
Ninatazama TV
Ninapenda kutazama TV, lakini si mengi
to be enough
-toshaOne kilo is enough
I don’t have enough money now.
We don’t have enough time
Kilo moja kinatosha
Sina pesa za kutosha sasa.
Hatuna muda wa kutosha
to feel cold (see/hear)ona baridi, sikia baridi (see/hear)I feel cold.
Do you feel cold?
Ninaona/Ninasikia baridi.
Unaona/Unasikia baridi?
to think (Bantu)-wazaI thought you said you were hungry. And now?Niliwaza umesema unanjaa. Na sasa?
to answer-jibuI can answer
Can you answer this question?
Naweza kujibu
Unaweza kujibu swali hili?
to swim-ogeleaI can’t swim well.
If the water were warm, I’d have swum
Siwezi kuogelea vizuri.
Ikiwa maji yangalikuwa joto, ningaliogelea.
to wash (self, hands)-nawaI need to wash my handsNinahitaji kunawa mikono.
to watch (television)-angalizaI like watching televisionNapenda san kuangaliza TV.
to try-jaribuI try to speak with everyone.Ninajaribu kuzungumza na kila mtu.
to argue-gombanaWhy are we arguing?
They argue all the time.
Kwa nini tunagombana?
Wanagombana siku zote.
to dance, to play-chezaWe will dance tonight!Tutacheza usiku!
to agree-kubaliI agree
Do you agree?
She agrees.
I disagree completely!
Nakubali.
Unakubali?
Anakubali.
Sikubali kabisa!
to disagree-bishaI disagree!Nabisha!
to enter, go inside, go in-ingiaCan we go inside here?Tunaweza kuingia kwa hapa?
to expect, hope, wait for-tarajiaToday I expect to come at 2Leo natarajia kuja saa nane.
to continue, to keep-endeleaContinue, please.
We’re going to keep using it.
Tafadhali endelea.
Tutaendelea kuutumia.
to wear, to put on-vaaPut on a hat
I’m wearing a hat
They’re wearing shoes
Vaa kofia
Nimevaa kofia
Wamevaa viatu
hunger/to feel hungry-ona njaaAre you hungry?
I’m hungry.
Unaona njaa?
Naona njaa
to taste-onjaTaste this!
Can I taste?
Onja hili!
Naweza kuionja?
to phone someone-piga simuCall me tomorrow.
I’ll call you later.
Nipigia simu kesho.
Nitakupigia simu baadaye.
to pray-saliDo you pray five times a day?Unasali mara tano kwa siku?
to clean-safisha (from -safa)I’m cleaning the plates.
You don’t need to clean today.
Ninawasafisha sahani
Huhitaji kusafisha leo.
to touch-gusaI touched my eyes.
I touched it.
Don’t touch me!
Niliyagusa macho.
Niliigusa
Usiniguse!
to realize, recognise-tambuaI realized it was not true.Nilitambua kwamba hii ni si kweli.
to decide-amuaWe decided to go.
My uncle decided to start a business.
I decided I want to see my family more.
Tuliamua kwenda
Mjomba wangu aliamua kuanza biashara.
Niliamua kwamba nataka kuona zaidi familia yangu.
share (ar.), to participate-shirikiWe will share everything.
Every person wants to participate.
Girls can also participate.
Tutashiriki kila kitu.
Kila mtu anataka kushiriki.
Wasichana wanaweza pia kushiriki.
share-gawanaWe will share everything.Tutagawana kila kitu.
to sing-imbaShe is good at singing
Sing a song!
Yeye Nni mzuri katika kuimba
Imba wimbo!
to laugh/smile-chekaSmile! (to group)
What’s so funny?
Chekeni!
Unacheka nini?
to play-chezaWhat game are you playing?
Can I play with you?
Mnacheza mchezo gani?Naweza kucheza na ninyi?
to be happyx-furahiAre you happy?
We had a lot of fun.
If I lived in America, I wouldn’t be happy.
Umefurahi?
Tulifurahi sana.
Ningaliishi America, nisingalifurahi.
to be angry-kasirikaWhy are you angry?
Don’t be angry.
Umekasirika kwa nini?
Usikasirike.
to cross (a road)-vukaCross this streetVuka barabara hii
to be sick, in pain-umwaI’m sick.
I have a stomach-ache, or headache
She’s sick
If I eat eggs, I don’t get sick
Ninaumwa.
Ninaumwa na tumbo/kichwa
Naumwa tumbo/kichwa
Anaumwa
Ningekula mayai, nisingeumwa
to finish-malizaThe lesson is finished
What time will it finish?
We should finish now.
Have you finished yet?
If we hurry now, we’ll finish our work
Darasa alimaliza
Itamaliza lini/saa ngapi?
Tunapaswa kumaliza sasa
Umemaliza bado?
Kama tukifanya haraka, tutamaliza kazi yetu.
to be closed-fungwaWhat time do they close?
The shop closed.
Duka limefungwa.
Yanafungwa saa ngapi?
to feel-hisiI feel hotNahisi joto
to look like (sw)-fanana kama/naYou look like your brother
It looks a little big
Unafanana kama kaka yako
Linafanana nkubwa kidogo
to look like (thing)-onekanaIt looks like an apple.Inaonekana tofaa.
to rain-nyeshaIt’ll rain tonight
It’ll continue to rain for two weeks.
Kutanyesha usiku
Kutaendelea kunyesha muda wiki wawili.
to improve-jitahidiYou’re improvingUnajitahidi!
to feel (listen)-sikiaI feel good being here.Najisikia vizuri kuwa hapa.
to change, exchange with-badilishanaDid you exchange money with anyone else?Umebadilishana pesa na watu wengi?
to kill-uaI killed the fly!Niliua nzi!
to mean
-maana/-maanishaIt means…
They mean the same thing
Inamaana/inamaanisha
Yanamaanisha sawa.
to drive (a car)-endeshaThey drive 3 hours a dayWanaendesha masaa matatu kila siku.
to plan (to)
-panga
They’re organising a function
We plan to go to Kenya next month
Wanapanga shehere.
Tunapanga kuenda Kenya mwezi ijayo
to choose-chaguaI can’t choose one.Sijui kuchagua moja.
to teach-funzaI’ll teach you English.Nitakufunza Kiingereza.
to hurry-fanya harakaCan you hurry?Unaweza kufanya haraka? (or Unaweza haraka?)
to build-jengaThey are building a new houseWanajenga nyumba mpya
to be shocked-shtukaI was shocked!Nilishtuka!
to be interesting, to look great-pendezaShe looks great today!
You look great!
Anapendeza leo!
Umependeza!
to worry-sumbukaDon’t worry!Usisumbuke!
to grow up-kuliaShe grew up by the seaAlikulia karibu ya bahari
to be cold-a baridiIt was cold this morning
It’ll be cold next month
Kulikuwa na baridi asubuhi
Kutakuwa na baridi mwezi ijayo
to visit-tembeleaWill they visit another place?
I visit my familiy once a year.
Watatembelea sehemu nyingine?
Ninatembelea familia yangu mara moja kwa mwaka.
to fast-fungaIn East Africa, Muslims on average will fast for 13 hours a day.Afrika Mashariki, Waislamu kwa wastani watafunga saa 13 kwa siku.
to cry-liaDon’t cry!
I don’t know why he is crying.
Usilie!
Sijui kwa nini analia.
to compare, to be comapared-linganisha (linganishwa = to be compared)I can’t compare these things
If you compared me to other people
Siwezi kulinganisha vitu hivi
Nikilinganishwa na watu wengine
to spoil-haribikaIt spoils, gets destroyed
This milk has spoiled
Kinaharibika
Maziwa hawa yameharibika
to steal-ibaI’m afraid they will steal it
The monkeys will steal your food
Ninaogopa wataiiba
Nyani wataiba chakula chako
to believe-aminiI believe you.
Do you believe me?
I don’t believe it!
Ninakuamini
Unaniamini?
Siamini!
to be proud-jivuniaIt’s nothing to be proud ofSiyo kitu cha kujivunia
to be required to-stahiliI am required to go to workNinastahili kwenda kufanya kazi.
to think about (consider)-fikiriaI’ll think about your offerNitafikiria ombi lako.
to put on weight, to be fat-nenepaMy friend got fat
I don’t want to get fat
Rafiki yangu amenenepa
Sitaki kunenepa
To get thin, to be thin-kondaI got very thinNimekonda sana
to quit-achaI quit my job!
Don’t quit your job!
Niliacha kazi yangu!
Usiacha kazi yako!
to approach, to be about to be-karibiaI’m approaching old age
We’re approaching the city
He’s about to arrive
Ninakaribia kuwa mzee
Tunakaribia mji sasa
Anakaribia kufika
to fall-angukaI fell in the mud
Don’t fall!
Nilianguka chini katika matope.
Usianguke chini!
to permit, to allow-ruhusuThey don’t allow itHawairuhusu
to rent (to let out)
to rent (receive)
-kodisha
-kodishwa
Do you rent (out) motorcycles here?
Yesterday we rented a motorcycle
We want to rent a motorcycle for one day.
Munakodisha pikipiki hapa?
Jana tulikodishwa pikipiki
Nataka kukodishwa pikipiki kwa siku moja.
to trust-na imani naI trust you!
You don’t trust this country.
Nina imani na wewe
Wewe huna imani na nchi hii
to call (someone a name)-itaWhat do they call you?
They call me mzungu
Unaitwa nini? (itwa = passive form of ita)
Wananiita mzungu
to pass away-farikiHis parents passed awayWazazi wake walifariki
to worry, care-jaliDon’t worry!
Do you even care?
Usijali!
Unajali hata?
to fry-kaangaIt’s good for frying.Ni nzuri kwa kukaanga.
to study (in university)-someaShe’s studying martial arts.
The students are studying under the trees.
Anasomea elimu ya kupigana.
Wanafunzi sasa wanasomea chini ya miti.
to strengthen-imarishaCardio exercise (exercise that strengthens the heart) is very importantMazoezi ya kuimarisha moyo ni muhimu sama
to educate-elimishaMy goal is to educate people
Empowering a woman without educating a man is futile
Lengo langu ni kuelimisha watu
Kuwezesha mwanamke bila kuelimisha mwanaume ni bure
to wish-tamaniI wish I had more money
I wish you would come
Ninatamani niwe pesa zaidi
Ninatamani uje

Notes on Conjugating Swahili Verbs

Conjugating Swahili verbs is pretty easy, but of course it takes a lot of practise — and there’s a lot of nuance.

A pretty good reference for Swahili grammar is the Kansas University website. It may take a while to go through it all…

We’re putting together a full grammar guide to Swahili, covering using verbs in Swahili as well as many other cases. It’s in draft form right now (as of early 2020), but if you join our mailing list, we’ll let you know when it’s published (we’re not sure but we might just give it away).

In brief, Swahili verbs are based on stems. The stems usually don’t change, and go in the middle of a verb.

The structure of a simple conjugated Swahili verb is

PREFIX — TENSE MARKER — VERB STEM

Pronouns (like “I”, “you” etc.) do exist, but usually are only for emphasis or more complex sentences. People usually just use a pronoun prefix. These are:

PersonPronoun prefix
Ini-
Youu-
He/shea-
Wetu-
Youm-/mu- (depending on whether a vowel follows or not)
Theywa-

The second part of conjugating Swahili verbs is the tense marker.

The tense marker goes between the pronoun marker and the verb stem.

So a typical Swahili verb, conjugated, looks like:

  • I want: I-present-want
  • She went: He/she-past-go
  • Will you eat?: You-future-eat?

Here are the most common tense markers used for conjugating Swahili verbs:

TenseTense marker
Present-na-
Past-li-
Past completed-me-
Future-ta-

Now for some examples, putting them all together.

EnglishConstructionSwahili
I wantI-present-wantNi+na+taka = Ninataka
She wentHe/she-past-goA+li+enda = Alienda
Will you eat?You+future+eatU+ta+kula = Utakula?

That’s just a brief introduction into conjugating Swahili verbs.

There’s lots more to know, like

  • How to use direct and indirect objects (like “I will eat it“, or “I will give it to you“)
  • More complicated constructions like saying “if” (which also goes inside the verb)
  • And much more…

Again if you’re interested, sign up to our email list and we’ll let you know when the grammar guide is done. It’ll be awesome!

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