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Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

map of the river Niger
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Lesson 2. Wayboro fo koy Ɲamay


  1. Intro
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Grammar
  4. Exercises (workbook, lesson 2)
  5. Answers (answer book, lesson 2)

2.A. Intro

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Wayboro fo koy Ɲamay

A woman on a donkey travelling in Niger

Wayboro fo koy Ɲamay. Waybora kaaru farkay boŋ. A koy Ɲamay. A na farka neera. A day haw fo da bari fo. A kaaru bariyo boŋ. A n'iri fo. A koy fu.


Listen and practice


2.B. Vocabulary

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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. When you move the pointer on the screen with your mouse over the photo the translation of the Zarma sentence will show.

Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
kaa to come kaâ speaker
fo to greet fòò speaker
wi a) to kill;
b) to reap, to harvest (grain)
wi speaker
kar to strike, to hit kar
foy to spent, to pass the daytime foy speaker
kaaru (intransitive)
a) (intransitive) to climb, to mount
b) (transitive) to ride (domestic animal, bike, etc.)
kaa ru
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
baani, baano a) health (of the body);
b) peace (of the mind)
baa ni speaker
beene, beena sky, heavens bee ne, bee na speaker
hari, haro water, liquid ha ri speaker
beene hari, beene haro rain bee ne ha ri
Adverbs, adjectives, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
boŋ (preposition) on, upon, on the top boŋ speaker
beene (preposition) above, up bee ne speaker
oho (adverb) yes o ho speaker
haŋ'a, ãhã (adverb) no haŋ ’a, ã speaker
fofo (adverb) hello, thanks, greetings fo speaker
nda (conjunction) and, with nda speaker

[1]  Legend for pronunciation (see Pronunciation guide for details)
italic tone is high
  under score tone is low
  vowel with ^ long vowel, e.g., ê
  vowel with ` short vowel, e.g. è
  bold syllable on which the principle emphasis falls

2.C. Grammar

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It is important to realise that Zarma grammar sometimes differs from English grammar or from grammar of other European languages likes German or French. With one respect Zarma grammar is not so different, the number of exception on rules is at least equal to the number of rules and sometimes it is not possible to discover rules at all. In such cases the only way to learn the language is to learn those thing by heart.

Subjects in this lesson:

  1. Direct object, introductions
  2. The auxiliary 'na' to indicate a direct object in past tense
  3. Direct object, exceptions of sentence order
  4. The verbs come and go
  5. The conjunction 'nda'
  6. Review of sentence order learned at this point

2.C.1. Direct object, introduction

First, let us review the three general types of objects of verbs:

  • Direct object, it answers the question 'what' did the verb do.
  • Indirect object, it shows for whom or to whom the action of the verb is directed (explained in Lesson 6.D.2)
  • Adverbial modifiers, they answer when, why, where, how long, how, to what extent, to what degree, who far, etc.

Note: The linking verbs, to be, to exist, do not fall into any of these categories.

General rule

The direct object in Zarma generally precedes the verb, while the indirect object and adverbial and other modifiers regularly follow it (see examples in 2.C.2 below).

General exception

There is one general class of verbs, those showing subjective perception or emotion, which regularly take the direct object afterwards, see section 2.C.3 These verbs will be marked with an # in the dictionary and the vocabulary lists as they occur in lessons.

Other exceptions

A very few common verbs (notably 'to buy' and 'to sell') will sometimes be heard with the direct object after them, but the regular way is correct as well, and more commonly heard. In section 2.C.3 to the above rules will be discussed.

Verb auxiliary

When there is a direct object before the verb, there is always some kind of verb auxiliary (also called particle) preceding it to distinguish it from the subject. But in all tenses, aspects and moods of the verb, the same sentence order is preserved.


2.C.2. The auxiliary 'na' to indicate a direct object in past tense

In the past tense, when the direct object precedes the verb, it is pointed out and distinguished from the subject by the auxiliary 'na' . This 'na' precedes the direct object (see examples below).

Zarma English
Ay na bari fo neera I sold a horse.
A na yo kaaru He rode a camel.

Note: This 'na' as a completed tense indicator only occurs where a direct object precedes the verb, whether or not the verb is followed by an adverbial modifier, indirect object or even a compound direct object when this follows the verb.

When the personal pronouns which begin with a vowel (ay, a, iri, araŋ, i) are used as direct objects, the 'na' generally contracts with 'a' and 'i' (see examples below). This contraction sometimes occurs with other pronouns beginning with a vowel as well . When this contraction occurs, the pronoun is strongly accented.

Zarma English
Iri n' a wi. We killed it.
A n' i day. He bought them
Araŋ n' iri fo. You greeted us
Zankey n' iri kar The children struck us.

The vowel of this 'na' particle, and indeed of all auxiliaries is very short, little more than a grunt.


2.C.3. Direct object, exceptions of sentence order

The direct object usually precedes the verb (see 2.C.1). There is one general class of verbs, which regularly take the direct object afterwards. These are verbs showing subjective perception or emotion, such as 'maa' (to hear) en 'kande' (to bring) (see examples below). These verbs are marked with an '#' in the dictionary and the vocabulary lists as they occur in lessons. A full list is given in the grammar book.

Zarma English
Iri maa musu beeri. We heard a lion.
Araŋ kande hansi. You brought a dog.

For direct objects which precede the verb (see 2.C.1), there is a possible exception. This is not a obligatory exception ! When two or more nouns are used as direct objects, they may follow the verb.

Zarma English
I kaaru bari da yo. They rode horse and camel.

Note that it would be just as correct to say: "I na bari da yo kaaru".

In Zarma there is a group of verbs that can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on the meaning and context, similar to English.  A transitive verb takes a direct object: it shows action upon someone or something. Intransitive verbs take no direct object; they need only a subject to make a sentence. For example, the verb 'kaaru' in combination with the postposition 'boŋ' is intransitive and means 'to mount'. Without this postposition 'kaaru' means 'to ride' and is transitive (see exampels below). The English translation of the verb might be in both cases transitive.

Djerma phrase English phrase
Ay na bariyo kaaru bariyo =
direct object
I rode a horse a horse =
direct object
Ay kaaru bariyo boŋ bariyo boŋ = object of the postposition I mounted a horse a horse =
direct object
Other examples with intransive forms of 'kaaru'
a kaaru tondo boŋ he went up onto the mountain
a kaaru ga koy a do she went up to him
a kaaru ka kaa tondo yolla gaa he came climbing to the top of the mountain
a kaaru tuuri ra she climbed a tree


2.C.4. The verbs come and go

The verbs of motion 'koy' (go) and 'kaa' (come), which ordinarily take the preposition 'to' in English before their adverbial object, do not require it in Zarma when the object is 'fu' (home, house), 'kwaara' (town, village), or the name of a specific town or country.

Zarma English
A koy kwaara He went to the village
I kaa Ɲamay They came to Niamey


2.C.5. The conjunction 'nda'

Two (or more) nouns or pronouns, with their adjective modifiers, may be connected in Zarma by the conjunction 'nda'. However, 'nda' is not used to connect adjectives, verbs, or clauses. If there is a string of nouns, where we would normally use a comma to separate all but the last two in English, in Zarma 'nda' or its abbreviation 'da' must be used for all of them, and not a comma. This 'nda' is one syllable, short vowel, and the 'n' is often not detectable.

Zarma English
Ay na haw fo da yo fo neera. I sold a cow and a camel.
Ay na bari da yo kaaru. I rode a horse and a camel.
Hansi nda musu koy. A dog and a cat went.
I kaaru bari da farkay boŋ. They mounted on a horse and a donkey.

There are ways of connecting clauses, but that comes later in Lesson 5.D.5. It isn't 'nda'. You could always make two separate sentences (see example below).

Zarma English
Iri na haw fo day. Iri na bari fo neera. We bought a cow and we sold a horse.


2.C.6. Review of sentence order learned at this point

1. With the regular transitive verbs (the article may or may not be present):

direct object-article
The dog
the cat

2. With the intransitive verb:

the house


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Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016