logo of woman with pounder Flag of United Kingdom Nederlandse vlag      

Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

map of the river Niger
print lesson

Lesson 5. Niizeer laabu ganjo ra almaney


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

5.A. Intro

arrow down arrow up

A small story about a trip of two friend who went to watch animals in the brush and on the river. Try to read the story. Words and grammar are used that will be explained in following lessons. To see the translation put the pointer on the title of he story and click the left mouse button. Names of animals are highlighted. For more information on the animals put the pointer on the name and click the left mouse button.

Niizeer laabu ganjo ra almaney

Ay nda ay cora koy saajo ra. Iri koy ka almaney ceeci. Iri dira fondo kankamante boŋ. Baru su musu beeri go fonda boŋ. A mana di iri zama a me kwaaray gaaray. Iri sobay. Iri di tobay nda danfane gu. Kan iri go no ga salan musu beero se, tuntungari bangay. Kan a di iri, a zuru. Iri weeta ka kamba saajo ra, amma iri mana di almaney koyne.
Ay cora ne: iri ma koy isa. Ay beere gonda hi. Nga hiyo ga isa jerga. Iri mana di ce beeri da haw bi da ganji-yo . Hambara iri ga te boŋ-kaanay nodin.
Cattle Egrets sitting on hippopotami in a small lake near the river
Hawray banda iri furo hiyo ra, iri kurba isa bindi mo. Iri te boŋ-kaanay. D'in ga baa ga di baŋa yaŋ kala ni ma koy isa. Bogobogo yaŋ go baŋey boŋ, i go no ga gangamizey ŋwa. Alman kayney kaŋ ga baŋa kuuru boŋ. Beene ga hanan, wayna ga koroŋ mo. Hiire, jaw da haray da farkay g' iri gaa. Iri ye ka kaa fu. Iri ŋwa gumo-gumo, iri hari haŋ gumo-gumo mo. Hawray banda iri koy daari ra. Farga ga boro jirbandi.

5.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]
baa # to like, to love, to desire, to want baa
ceeci to seek, to search, to hunt for, to look for cee ci
dira to walk, to go away, to set out, to leave di ra
fatta to go out, to exit fat ta
   fatta (laabo) ra to go out of (the country) fat ta (laa bo) ra
fun to come from, to come of something fun
furo to enter fu ro
gonda # to have (lit. to be with) go nda
haŋ to drink haŋ
konda # to take (lit. to go with) kon da


# signifies verbs that take the direct object afterwards (see Lesson 2.C.1 & 3.D.5).
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
alboro, albora male, man (not woman) al bo ro
fondo, fonda road, way (like French 'chemin') fon do
  fu fondo a way home, home road fu fon do
goroŋo, goroŋa chicken go roŋ o
hari, haro thing ri
hay, hayo thing hay, hay yo
hay fo something hay fo
jinde, jindo voice, cry jin de
laabu, laabo land, country, soil, area laa bu
Adverbs, adjectives, etc.
Zarma English Pronunciation [1]
dunguriyo, dunguriyo, dunguriya * short dun gu ri yo
futu, futu, futo * bad, mean, dangerous fu tu
hay, hayyante, hayyanta * open, wide hay, hay an ta
kankam, kankamante, kankamanta * narrow, squeezed kan kam, kan kam an te
kayna, kayniyo, kayna * little, small kay na, kay ni yo
ku, kuuku, kuuko * tall, long ku, ku ku
mo (conjunction) too, also (see grammar) mo
sohõ (adverb) now, at once so
tafay, tafay, tafo *,$ broad, wide fay


* Three forms are given for the adjectives; the predicate adjective, the indefinite singular attributive adjective, and the definite singular adjective also. The first two forms are frequently identical, see 5.D.2.
$ Indicaties that accent and/or tone may be different, perhaps related to region and/or dialect. For 'tafay' (adj.) there is no consistency between sources regarding tone : fay (1); ta fay (4)

[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

5.C. Greetings (fooyaŋey)

arrow down arrow up

In earlier lessons we have learned to greet an individual and a group, to greet a person at his work and to say goodbye. We also learned to thank someone and to ask pardon. That greetings are time dependent will be clear when you learn the greeting below. This greetings are as a matter of fact a revision what we learned in the introduction in Lesson 4.


Towards 10 a.m.

greeting : Ni weete baani ?
reply : Baani samay; ni weete ka baan day ?
answer : Baani samay.


Towards 6 p.m. to dark

greeting : Araŋ wiciri baani?
reply : Baani samay; wiciri ka baan, day ?
answer : Baani samay.


After dark until late night

greeting : Almaaray baani ?
or: Araŋ 'maaray baani ?
or: Ni 'maaray baani ?
reply : Baani samay.

5.D. Grammar

arrow down arrow up

Subjects in this lesson:

  1. Masculine and feminine
  2. The qualifying and numerical adjective
  3. The verb-uncompleted aspect (present tense)
  4. Compound nouns showing origin
  5. Uses of 'mo'

5.D.1. Masculine and feminine

Strictly speaking, there is no gender in Zarma. However, there are ways of indicating masculine and feminine, depending on the noun. Some of them are as follows:

'aru' or 'alboro' applies to masculine
'way' or 'wayboro' to feminine in general.

Certain animals have specific words for either feminine or masculine.

Zarma English Masculine Feminine
boro man alboro (man) wayboro (woman)
      wandiyo (maiden)
ize child ize aru (boy) ize way (girl)
feeji sheep feeji garu (ram) feeji way / feeji ɲa (ewe)
bari horse bari gu (stallion) bari tafa (mare)
musu cat musu aru (tomcat) musu way / musu ɲa (pussy)
hansi dog hansi daŋ (he-dog) hansi way / hansi ɲa (bitch)
goroŋo chicken goroŋgari (rooster) goroŋo way / goroŋo ɲa (hen)
yo camel yo mali (camel bull) yo way / yo ɲa (camel cow)
haw cow yeeji (bull)
daasu (ox, bullock) [1]
haw way (cow)
handay calf   zan (heifer)

[1] a bullock or ox is called a daasi (def.sin.: daaso)

Note: If a female has given birth, use 'ɲa', otherwise use 'way'.
 The word 'zan' can be applied to any animal, even a hen, that is mature but has not given birth of laid an egg.


5.D.2. The qualifying and numerical adjective

Qualifying adjective

The qualifying adjective (big, mean) is in English placed before the noun. In Zarma the qualifying adjective is uniformly placed after the noun it modifies.

Zarma English
Haw beeri go no. There is a big cow.

The qualifying adjective has different forms in Zarma. Three forms are given for the adjectives in the vocabulary; the predicate adjective, the indefinite singular attributive adjective, and the definite singular adjective also. The first two forms are frequently identical.

The predicative means that the adjective is a (part of a) nominal predicate. As attributive form the adjective is part of a attributive adjunct, see table below.

Form Zarma English
predicative Albora ga ku. The man is tall.
indefinite singular attributive Alboro kuuku. A tall man.
definite singular adjective Alboro kuuko. The tall man.

Numerical adjective

If there is also a numeral adjective (cardinal numbers such as one, five), this is placed after the qualifying adjective in Zarma.

Zarma English
Yeeji futu hinza go no. There are three mean bulls.

When the noun has a qualifying adjective, the definite article ending (if needed), either singular or plural, is placed on the adjective but not on the noun, which retains the indefinite form. When there is a numerical adjective, then neither the noun nor the qualifying adjective change from their indefinite form.

Zarma English
bariyo the horse
bari kayna the small horse
hanso the dog
hansi beero the big dog
hansey the dogs
hansi beerey the big dogs
hansi beeri hinka two big dogs

Note that no substantive may have more than one qualifying and one numeral adjective. For example, you couldn't talk about 'three big mean bulls'. It would have to be 'three big bulls that are mean'. There are one or two exceptions (special); these come later.


5.D.3. The verb-uncompleted aspect (present tense)

As has been noted earlier, our ideas of tense can not exactly be applied to Zarma, and so we see that part of the present tense of the verb uses the same auxiliary as the 'future tense' does (see section 3.D.2). Also, parts of the verb used to express 'being' are used with the main verb in some aspects of the present.

a. Immediate present with 'kaa' and 'koy'
  Use as auxiliaries 'go' or 'go no', before the verb. Or the 'go no' may be separated with the first half before the verb and the rest after it; this is more emphatic.
Zarma English
Ay go kaa. I'm on the way (I'm coming).
Ay go no kaa. I'm coming.
Ay go kaa no. I'm coming.
Ni go koy, wala? Are you going (now)?
b. Repeated or habitual action.
  Use 'ga' as the auxiliary.
Zarma English
A ga te hay fo, wala? Does he do anything?
Boro ga goy da jinay. A person works with things (tools).
I ga furo fuwo ra. They enter into the house.
Araŋ ga kaa han kulu. You come every day.
Boro ga dira fonda boŋ. A person walks on the road.
c. Progressive or continuous present
c.1 'go no ga' plus verb expresses the idea of being in the act or process of doing the action. This and the following are generally interchangeable for showing action in progress.
Zarma English
Ay mo go no ga ni ceeci I too am looking for you.
A go no ga hari haŋ. He is drinking water.
Iri go no ga goy. We are working.
c.2 'go ga' also shows the progressive or continuous aspect of the verb. It may also sometimes contains the idea of having just begun the action.
Zarma English
Ay go ga koy habu. I am going to market.
(I'm on my way to market)
Iri go g' a te. We are doing it.
d. Action about to take place
  The idea of 'to be about to' do something is shown be using 'ga ba ga' as auxiliaries before the verb.
Zarma English
Bariyo ga ba ga bu. The horse is about to die.
Hari ga ba ga kaa. It is about to rain.
Ŋwaro ga ba ga ban. The food is about all gone (finished).


5.D.4. Compound nouns showing origin

Compound nouns showing the origin of someone or a group are formed in several ways.


By adding 'nce' to the simplest form of the proper noun of the tribe or land, one gets an individual or individuals of that tribe

Zarma English
Hausa the land where they live, or the whole tribe
   Hausance    Hausa person
Gurma the land where they live, or the tribe
   Gurmance    Gurma person
Yoruba the land or tribe
   Yorubance    Yoruba person

There are several exceptions, where the names mean both the country or tribe and the individual member of it. These are: Zarma, Fulan, Surgu, Larabu, Belle, Inglisi, etc. But an 'nce' ending on a name, even one you never heard before, tells that it is a member of a certain tribe.


If one adds 'boro' to the name of a town or village, you get 'resident' or 'native' of that town.

Zarma English
Yantala boro a person from Yantala
Gao boro a person from Gao
Ɲamay boro a person from Niamey


If one adds 'laabu boro', you get a person from the area of a town, one of its out-villages, but not from the town itself.

Zarma English
Dosso laabu boro a person from the Dosso area


In the same way 'ize' may be used to indicate a resident of a town.

Zarma English
Ɲamay ize a resident of Niamey, a person from Niamey
Gaya ize a resident of Gaya, a person from Gaya

Note: Gaya is frequently called Ganyo by Zarmas.


5.D.5. Uses of 'mo'

The word 'mo' is used as adverb and as conjunction.


The Zarma word 'mo' is commonly used as an adverb, meaning 'also', 'too', 'as well'. Used thus it follows the word or phrase to which attention is being called.

Zarma English
Nga mo ga di Monsieur. He also will see Monsieur.
(that is, he as well as someone already mentioned)
A ga di ay mo. He will see me, too,
(that is, he will see me as well as seeing someone else)


The word 'mo' is also used as conjunction to connect clauses, in the way we use 'and' in English. However, it is what is called a postpositive conjunction - that is, it never stands first in the clause, between the clauses, but must follow some part of the second one. This may be the subject, it may be the verb, or it may come at the end of the whole clause. It is seen when a noun has a qualifying adjective and one wishes to describe it further.

Zarma English
Ay maa musu beeri jinde, ay mo zuru. I heard a lion's voice (roar) and I ran.
A na ni kar, ni hẽ mo. He struck you and you wept.
A kaa kwaara, a furo iri fuwa ra mo. He came to (the) town and he entered into our house.
Iri fuwo ga beeri, a ga boori mo. Our house is big and it's pretty.


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