logo of woman with pounder Flag of United Kingdom Nederlandse vlag      

Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

map of the river Niger
print lesson

Lesson 3. Iri ga jinay kabu


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

3.A. Intro

arrow down arrow up

Iri ga jinay kabu (We will count things)

Practise counting things from one to ten using the examples given below. Move the pointer with your mouse over the picture and the translation appears. If the colour of the picture changes, click the left mouse button and the large version of the picture will appear.

One lion Musu beeri fo speaker   Six women Wayboro iddu speaker
Two bulls Yeeji hinka speaker   Seven day Han iyye speaker
Three birds Curo hinza speaker   Eight dogs Hansi ahakku speaker
Four houses Fu taaci speaker   Nine men Boro yegga speaker
Five children Zanka gu speaker   Ten trees Tuuri way speaker

3.B. Vocabulary

arrow down arrow up

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]
bu to die bu
di # to see di
donton to send (a person) don ton
goro to sit, to dwell, to reside, to remain ro
guna to look, to look at, to watch gu na
hẽ to cry, to weep (aloud);
by extension: to roar (lion), to bray (donkey), to moo (cow), to bellow (bull)
maa # to hear;
by extension: to understand
ne say (never 'to tell') ne
samba to send (an object) sam ba$
te to make, to do, to happen te
Notes :  
# signifies verbs that take the direct object afterwards, see Lesson 2.C.1 & 3.D.5.
The verb 'maa' takes an 'r' for euphony attached to the direct object when it is 'a' or 'ey' (see Grammar in part 3.D.4 for this form of 'ngey'):
examples: ay maa r'a I heard it (him); iri maa r'ey we heard them.
$ indicaties that accent and/or tone may be different, perhaps related to region and/or dialect. For 'samba' there is no consistency between sources regarding tone : sam ba (1), sam ba (4), sam ba (13)
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
musu beeri, musu beero lion (lit. big cat) muu su bee ri

yeeji, yeejo

bull yee ji
curo, cura bird cu ro
han, hano day (limited use) han, no
alfa religious teacher; by extension a priest (marabou) al fa
alfaga religious teacher; by extension a priest (marabou) àl fa ga
malam (H) religious teacher; by extension a priest (marabou) ma lam
gomni, gomno grace, free gift (no return expected) gom ni
Adverbs, adjectives, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
bi yesterday bi speaker
bi fo before yesterday
 (usually two days ago, but may be some recent day)
bi fo speaker
beeri (adj.) big bee ri speaker
hunkuna today hun ku na 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

3.C. Greetings (fooyaŋey)

arrow down arrow up

As was explained in Lesson 1, greetings are time and context dependent. In Lesson 1 we have learned to greet an individual. In this lesson we will learn to greet a group and to say goodbye.

In the greetings grammar is used beyond the grammar explained in this lesson.


Morning to a group

greeting : Araŋ kani baani?
reply : Baani samay. Ni kani ka baan, day? (see Lesson 1)


Afternoon to a group

greeting : Araŋ foy baani?
reply : Baani samay. Ni foy ka baan, day? (see Lesson 1)


Goodbye late in the forenoon until late afternoon

greeting : Iri ma foy baani! (May we have a good day!)
reply : Iri ma foy da gomni! (May we have a gracious day!)
  (Literally: May we spend the day in health; may we spend the day with grace!)


Goodbye late in the evening

greeting : Greeting: Iri ma kani baani! (May we have a good night!)
reply : Reply: Iri ma kani da gomni! (May we have a gracious night!)
  (Literally: May we rest with health; may we rest with grace!)

3.D. Grammar

arrow down arrow up

Grammar subjects in this lesson are:

  1. The cardinal numbers 1-10
  2. The verb-uncompleted aspect (future tense)
  3. The indefinite pronoun
  4. The word 'ey' as a direct object
  5. Sentence order (continued)

3.D.1. The cardinal numbers 1-10

All the cardinal numbers in Zarma are based on these first ten, except for the specific words of the tens, 'hundred' and 'thousand', so learn them thoroughly.

Zarma number pronunciation Zarma number pronunciation
afo 1 à iddu 6 id du
ihinka 2 î hin ka iyye 7 iy ye
ihinza 3 î hin za ahakku 8 â hak ku
itaaci 4 î taa ci iyegga 9 î yeg ga
iggu 5 ig gu iway 10 î way

Qualifying adjective

All of the cardinal numbers, except 6, 7, and 8, drop the prefix vowel ('i' or 'a') when they are qualifying adjectives directly following a noun or a noun with an adjective modifier. The noun does not take either a definite (see 1.D.2) or a plural ending (see 1.D.3), these being carried by the number if needed.

Zarma English
bari fo one horse, a horse
curo hinka two birds
farkay gu five donkeys
wayboro iyye seven women
yo ahaku eight camels


3.D.2. The verb-uncompleted aspect (future tense)

The future tense denotes action to be completed in the future - something that will happen - and the particle (or auxiliary) 'ga' (very short vowel) is used before the verb. If there is a direct object preceding the verb, it comes between the 'ga' and the verb.

Zarma English
Ay ga koy. I will go. I'm going to go.
Ni ga kaa. You will come. You 're going to come
I ga maa. They will hear. They are going to hear.
Also means: "I 'll see to it they hear", in taking message.
A ga zuru. He will run. He 's going to run.
Zanka ga cura guna. The child will look at the bird.


  • The tone for 'ga' is flexible, being the opposite of the tone of the next syllable in the sentence.
  • This particle 'ga' is used with all the simple tenses in the incomplete aspect of the verb, not just with the future.

When a noun or pronoun beginning with a vowel is used as a direct object, it can (and does) contract the 'a' of the 'ga', in the future tense.

Zarma English
A g' i neera He will sell them.
Iri g' Abdu donton. We will send Abdu.


3.D.3. The indefinite pronoun

The indefinite pronoun (non-specific pronoun) 'they' is expressed by the third person plural 'i' in Zarma, much as we do in English.

Zarma English
I ne a koy fu. They said he went home.
I ne hari ga kaa. They said it is going to rain.


3.D.4. The word 'ey' as a direct object

The Zarma word for third person plural pronoun 'them' is 'i' (see Lesson 1.D.1). There are two other forms that are used in specific situations. One of those forms is 'ey'.

When a verb requiring the direct object after it needs the third person plural pronoun "them", use 'ey' rather then 'i'. This has something to do with ease of pronunciation.

Zarma English
Ni bariyey kaa. Oho, ay di ey. Your horses came. Yes, I saw them.
Araŋ di ey, wala? Did you see them?
Zankey hẽ. Iri maa r' ey. The children cried. We heard them.


3.D.5. Sentence Order (continued)

When a transitive verb is one of subjective perception or emotion, the sentence order is:

subject-article auxiliary
(unless past tense)
verb object article
Wando di ywa
The wife saw the camels
Iri ga maa farkay hinza
We shall hear three donkeys


arrow down arrow up


Site Search Site Search
Dictionary Zarma - English
Zarma grammar book
Pronunciation guide


        disclaimer contact        
      Dico Fraters, the Netherlands © 2004-2016      
Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016