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Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

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Lesson 4. Han fo


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

4.A. Intro

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Han fo (A day)

Han fo, a day, the animation below shows you the main parts of the day as distinguished by the Zarma. In total there are nine periods. Move the mouse to the picture. Click the left mouse button and an animation will appear in a popup.

course of a day

Most of the initial greetings are related to the moment of the day. In the table below the this greetings are given for each moment of the day. In addition the name of some parts of the day also is related to the prayer.

Parts of the day and greetings
Greeting 1
Prayer 2
alfazar dawn, sunrise ni kani baani ? alfazar,
at sunrise
adduha early morning
sunrise till 10:00 am
ni kani baani ? adduha,
9:00 till 10:00 am
weete mid-morning
10:00 till 11:30 am
ni weete baani ? weete ,
10:00 till 12:00 am
zaari noon ni foy baani ?  
aluula early afternoon
12:30 am till 4:30 pm
ni foy baani ? aluula
2:30 till 3:00 pm
wiciri late after noon to sunset ni wiciri baani ? alaasar
4:30 till 5:00 pm
hiire after sunset till supper time ni hiire baani ?  
almaari 3 after dark until bed time ni almaaray baani ? almaari
8:30 till 9:00 pm
ciini night    
1 In some cases the word for the part of a day also is a verb. This verb means 'to pass the specific part of the day'. Exceptions are 'kani' (to rest) that refers to the night before, and 'foy' (to spent the daytime) that refers to the whole day. The verb going together with 'almaari' is 'almaaray'.
2 Formal current prayer names and times are different (see below)
3 'almari kambu' means twilight

Current prayer names and times are direved from Arab and are related to formal Islamic prayer times that differ between places and days of the year. Actual prayer times for Niamey can be find here.

nr Arab name Part of day time
1 Fajr morning between the very beginning of dawn and sunrise
2 Shurooq sunrise the time of sunrise, the time when the upper limb of the sun just starts to appear above the horizon. This marks the end time for Fajr (morning) prayer.
3 Dhuhr noon Between the declining of the sun and Asr (when the shadow of something is twice its own length)
4 Asr late afternoon Immediately after the last time limit of Dhuhr until (just before) the sunset
5 Maghrib evening Soon after the sunset
until the disappearance of the twilight
6 Isha night After the disappearance of the twilight until midnight.

4.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]
almaaray to pass the late evening
(used in greeting)
al maa ray
faham # to understand, to comprehend (usually 'nda' is put before the object which follow the verb) fa ham
goy to work goy
haw to tie, to tie up hàw
hiire to pass the early evening
(used in greeting)
hii re
kande # to bring (lit. to come with) kan de $
ŋwa to eat ŋwaa


# signifies verbs that take the direct object afterwards (see Lesson 2.C.1 & 3.D.5).
$ indicaties that accent and/or tone may be different, perhaps related to region and/or dialect. For 'kande' there is no consistency between sources regarding tone : kan de (1, 4); kan de (13)
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
boro, bora person, human, individual bo , bo ra
boro fo someone, somebody, a certain person boro fo
daari, daaro bed, bed frame daa ri
feeji, feejo sheep (singular) fee ji
goy, goyo work goy, goy o
habu, habo market, week ha bu
hab'ize, hab'izo trader, small gift from market, items purchased in market hab' i ze
ize, izo fruit, offspring, seed, child (in this sense) i ze
jinay, jinayo belongings, baggage, things (collective) ji nay, ji nay o
kubay, kubayo darkness ku bay, ku bay o
ŋwaari, ŋwaaro food, victuals ŋwaa ri\
safari, safaro medicine, magic, fetish charm far ri
susubay, susuba 1 morning su su bay
taabal, taablo (F) table taa bal
taasa (F) dish, usually of enamelled tin taa sa


1 also susubo is often used in stead of susuba
Adverbs, adjectives, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
alaasar, alaasaro (adverb) prayer time between 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. a laa sar
almaari, almaaro (adverb) prayer time 8:30 or 9:00 p.m.; by extension evening after dark up to bedtime. al maa ri
aluula (adverb) prayer time between 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. a luu la $
boori (adjective) good, good looking, pretty (always a predicate adj. m. never attribute of a noun) Note: also beautiful boo ri
cire (postposition) under, below, beneath ci re $
do (postposition, sometimes noun) to, at, by means of, at the place of, 'chez' (French) do *
kuna (postposition) inside, within (use sparingly) ku na
ra (postposition) in ra
suba (adverb) tomorrow su
suba susubey,
suba susba (adverb)
tomorrow morning su ba su su bay,
su ba
su su ba
subasi (adverb) day after tomorrow, or some other future day, not to far off su ba si
wiciri, wiciro (adverb) late afternoon to sunset, today only wi ci ri
wiciri kambu,
wiciri kambo (adverb)
late afternoon to sunset, any day wi ci ri kam bu
za (preposition or conjunction) since (precedes object rather than follows) za $


* This word has different meanings depending on pronunctiation.
$ indicaties that accent and/or tone may be different, perhaps related to region and/or dialect. For the following words there is no consistency between sources regarding tone :
  aluula : a luu la (1), a luu la (4, 13),
  za : za (1, 4); za (13)

[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

4.C. Greetings (fooyaŋey)

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As was explained in Lesson 1 and Lesson 3, greetings are time and context dependent. In those lessons we have learned to greet an individual and a group and to say goodbye. In this lesson we will learn to greet a person at his work and to thank someone. We will also learn to ask pardon.

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


To one who is working

greeting : Fonda goy (greeting to your work)
reply : Ngoyya (anyone's reply)
Ngway (only man or boy can use this)


To thank someone

greeting : Fonda goy.
reply : Ngoyya (anyone's reply)
Ngway (only man or boy can use this)

We remind you that a greeting that begins with a 'fo' or a 'fonda' will have an 'ngoyya' repley.


To ask pardon, or to excuse oneself

excuse : Alha han (mild) (Sorry. Excuse me.)
Alha kuna (more serious) (I'm sorry.)
reply : Alhasi (That's all right)

The words in parentheses are not direct translation, but are an idea equivalent. These are Arabic words and we don't know their direct translation, but this is the way Zarmas excuse themselves for an unintentional incivility.


4.D. Grammar

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Subjects in this lesson:

  1. Possessions
  2. Prepositions and postpositions
  3. The verb 'to be' , past and present positive
  4. Sentence order (continued from past lessons)

4.D.1. Possessions

The general rule for possession is to place the noun of the possessor before the thing possessed.

Zarma English
Ɲamay habu Niamey market
fu borey home folks
Alzuma kwaara Alzuma's town
Malam kwaara Teacher's compound

There are times when this construction is more easily translated into English by the formula 'the ____ of ____'; for example 'Ɲamay habu' can be understood as 'the market of Niamey', but the form is invariable in Zarma, as it is not in English.

Possessions are used as possessives when placed before a noun, and agree in number with facts. The noun very frequently has the definite ending on it ('o' or 'a' in singular, and 'ey' in plural; see respectively Lesson 1.D.2 and 1.D.3).

Zarma English Zarma English
ay bariyo my horse i bariyey & their horses
iri fuwo our house (home) a goyo & his work
araŋ tasey your dishes a haro & its water


Those short forms of the third person pronoun 'a' and 'i', are always used as possessives except as shown in the rule below for the long forms 'nga' and 'ngey'.

When two third person pronoun, referring to the same person or thing, the first one being the subject and the second having a reflexive application, occur in the same clause, the second one uses the longer form, whether it is possessive or otherwise.

Zarma English
A na nga daaro neera. He sold his (own) bed.
I kande ngey bariyey. They brought their (own) horses.
A ne nga ga koy fu. He said he (himself) will go home.

This rule also applies when the subject is a noun.

Zarma English
Zanka ne nga ga koy fu. The child said he (himself) will go home.

But when the first of the third person pronouns referring to the same person or thing is used as possessive (not the subject), this rule does not apply.

Zarma English
A wando ga koy a do. His wife will go to him.
A izo n' a fo. Her child greeted her.


4.D.2. Prepositions and postpositions

In Zarma, the adpositions, for the most part, are placed after their objects. Therefore, it are mostly postpositions (see also section 6.D.1) and not prepositions like in English. Exceptions are 'za' and 'nda' and a few others that have a double use. These can be preposition or conjunction and precede their object.

Zarma English
fuwo ra in the house
taasa ra in the dish
boro kuna in man
A koy fu za bi. He went (has been gone) home since yesterday.
Iri ma kani da gomni! May we rest with grace!


4.D.3. The verb 'to be' , past and present positive

This verb is expressed by two words, either 'go no' or 'si no'. The 'go no' is the positive and the 'si no' is the negative (see section 8.D.3). The tense is indicated by the context. These words, 'go no', may be used either together or separately, in different kinds of 'being'. Below five different situation are shown.


'go no' to show absolute existence; nearly equals French 'il y a'.

Zarma English
Hunkuna kubay go no. It is dark today (lit.: Darkness is today).
Bi ŋwari go no. Yesterday there was food (lit.: Yesterday food was).


'go' is used along between the subject and predicate nominative to indicate locations.

Zarma English
Jinay go daaro cire. The baggage is under the bed.
Hanso go fuwo ra. The dog is in the house.
Tasey go taablo boŋ. The dishes are on the table.

If one had 'go no' in any of the above, then the meaning would be: 'there is (there are) ... ', but the subject could not be definite.



'no' with a predicate nominative, very like the French "c'est" and "ce sont". No subject is needed when it is understood to be the 3rd person pronoun. If the subject of this 'no' verb is stated, there is a special auxiliary , to be learned later (section 6.D.5). This verb comes at the end of its clause, and is the most widely used, especially being added for emphasis, where we would let the main verb carry it.

Zarma English
Safari no ay kande. It is medicine I brought.
Ni do no ay koy. It was to you I went.
A taasa no. It is his dish.
Zanka no. She's a child. / He's a child


'no' when the predicate nominative is a pronoun, than the same construction is used as at 3 above. The long forms of the third person pronouns are used with this verb.

Zarma English
Ay no. It is I.
Ni no It is you.
Nga no, wala? Is it she?
Oho, ngey no go fuwa ra. Yes, it is they (who) are in the house.
Ay no g' a te. It is I (who) will do it.


When there is a predicate adjective (describing the subject) the particle 'ga' is used to link the subject to its attribute, rather than a verb. For emphasis a 'no' may be added after the adjective.

Zarma English
Bi habo ga beeri. Yesterday's market was big.
Bi habo ga beeri no. It's that yesterday's market was big.
A ga boori. It (he, she) is pretty.
A ga boori no. It's that she's pretty.


4.D.4. Sentence order (continued from past lessons)

In Lesson 1 we have learnt to phrase a question. In Lesson 2 the sentence order is reviewed for regular transitive verbs and intransitive verbs. In Lesson 3 the senstence order is reviewed for irregular transitive verbs of subjective perception or emotion. This part reviews the sentence order when expressing possession and when expressing 'being'.


Expressing possession


Possession, with ownership in subject

language possessor possession-article predicate
Zarma Ay izo zuru fuwo ra.
English My child ran into the house.


Possession with ownership in subject, regular verb

language subject auxiliary possessor possession-article verb
Zarma Zankey na araŋ hanso kar
English The children (intransitive) your dog hit


Possession with ownership in subject, irregularl verb

language subject auxiliary verb possessor possession-article
Zarma Iri (if needed) di ni fu borey
English We (intransitive) saw your family

Expressing 'being'


Absolute existence

language time element (optional) object 'go no'
Zarma Hunkuna hansi go no
English # Today a dog is
# Today there is a dog.


'Being' in location

language subject 'go' place preposition
Zarma Ni hanso go daaro ciri
English # Your dog is the bed under
# Your dog is under the bed.


'Being' with a predicate nominative

language predicate nominative (never definite) 'no'
Zarma Hansi no
English # A dog it is.
# It is a dog.


Predicate adjective after 'being'

language subject 'ga' adjective attribute of subject
Zarma Ni hanso ga boori
English Your dog is pretty


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Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016