Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Chapter 9: Ngoni Verbs


I. The simple form of the verb contains the root and root idea unmodified. Verbs usually end in a, but some (three as in Zulu and Kaffir end in i and o). The second person singular, imperative mood presents the root of the verb. To this is prefixed uku- to form the infinitive mood.


Ukuthanda, to love, from (u) ku-, to, and -thanda, love.

From the simple form, other forms are derived by means of changes in the ending of the root. There are primary, secondary, and tertiary derived forms, as noted below, but very few verbs are used in all these forms. It is also to be noted that many verbs have ceased to be used in the simple form, and are only used in the objective form, which has the force of the simple form as well. The derived forms are conjugated like simple verbs.

Simple form, uku-thanda,

ukuthanda, to love.

Subjective form uku-thandeka > ukuthandeka, to be loveable, or beloved.

Objective form uku-thandela > ukuthandela, to love for, or on account of.

Causative form uku-thandisa > ukuthandisa, to cause to love.

Reflective form uku zithanda > ukuzithanda, to love oneself.

Reciprocal form uku-thandana > ukuthandana, to love one another.

Frequentative form uku thandathanda > ukuthandathanda, to love on, or frequently.

Secondary derived forms may be used thus-

Ukuthandisela, to cause to love for.

Ukuthandanisa, to cause one another to love.

2. Uses of the various forms of the verb: -

(1). Simple. Expresses the bare affirmation of the action signified by the verb.


Ngiyahamba, I am going.

(2). Subjective. This form is derived from the simple form by inserting ek before the final vowel of the root. It expresses the state of being which is the result of the action of the verb in the simple form.


Ngithandekile, I am beloved.

It also means that the state is possible.

NOTE 1: - This form of the verb is variously termed neuter passive, intransitive, and its meaning is closely allied to the passive voice. In the passive voice, however, the state signified refers the action to some agent.

NOTE 2: - Some verbs add -kala to the root, thus forming an intransitive verb.

Bona, see; bonakala, be visible.

Such modifications are treated as distinct verbs when conjugated and denote various ideas.

Bona, see; bonisa, cause to see.

Bonakala, be visible; Bonakalisa, cause to be, or make visible.

In these examples bona—simple form of verb.

bonisa bonakala — primary derived forms.

Bonakalisa = secondary derived form.

(1). Objective. Derived from the simple form by inserting -el- before the final vowel of the root.


Ukuthandela, to love for.

Its more frequent use is with nouns and pronouns in the locative case or governed by the preposition ku; and before adverbs of place.


Ngilinda, I wait; ngimlindela, I wait for him.

Wafela ekhaya, he died at home.

Wafela lapho, he died there.

It is used to express "for," "on account of," &c.


Wasithengelani na? for what (or why) did he buy it?

NOTE 1: - Tsho, forms the objective in lo=tsholo.

(4). Causative. Derived from the simple form by inserting -is- before the final vowel.

It is used,

1. In extending the action to a second agent.

2. It implies helping to do a thing.

3. It implies energy, thoroughness, in the action.


Zwa, feel, &c.; zwisa, cause to feel.

Bema, snuff; bemisa, cause to (give, help to) snuff.

Bopha, bind; bophisa, cause to bind; bophisisa, bind thoroughly.

NOTE 1. —The causative form of verb may constitute a true translation of, or stand for a word quite different from, that denoted by the simple form.


Goduka, go home; godusa, send home. Suka, go away; susa, take away.

NOTE 2: - Simple verbs ending in -la form their causatives in -za.

Some ending in -ka make their causative ending in -sa (vt sup.)


Vela, come from; veza, bring forth, &c.
Sondela, come near; sondeza, bring near.

(5). Reflective. Derived from the simple form by inserting -zi- (see Pronoun) before the root. It denotes that the action of the verb is upon the subject.

Wazibulala, he killed himself.

(6). Reciprocal. Derived from the simple form by adding -na to the root. It may be used with either a singular or plural pronoun.


Ngilinga naye, or Silingana, we are equals.

(7). Frequentative. The root is reduplicated to imply frequent or continuous action.


The active voice is seen in the foregoing examples, and the passive voice is formed by inserting w-(o) before the final vowel of the root in the active voice.


Ukuthanda, to love; ukuthandwa, to be loved.

NOTE 1: - Monosyllabic verbs form the passive in -iw-, as tsho, speak; tshiwo, spoken.

NOTE 2: - Those verbs which were originally (in Zulu) vowel verbs (see chap. 2. 3. (21.), but are disyllabic in Ngoni, also insert -iw- to form the passive.

EXAMPLE. Ukuyiba, to steal; ukuyibiwa, to be stolen. „

NOTE 3: - The reflective, reciprocal, and subjective forms, from the nature of their signification, can have no passive voice.

NOTE 4.—Refer to 2. (2) Note 1. ante.


There are five moods, or modes in which the action of the verb may take place, viz.:-

1. Imperative. The 2nd person singular of the verb in this mood exhibits the root of the verb. To form the plural, add -ni to the singular. If the verb is monosyllabic yi- is prefixed to the root for both singular and plural.


Bopha, bind thou; bophani, bind ye.

Yizwa, hear thou; yizwani, hear ye (from zwa).

2. Infinitive. The root preceded by uku-. Uku-thanda, ukuthanda, to love. Krapf says "The sign or particle of the infinitive is [uku]. It appears to us very improper to write [ukuthanda] as if it were one word, but [ukuthanda], as in English " to love." At all events, the lexicographer and grammarian must separate the particle from the verb when writing, for foreigners who wish to learn [Ngoni], whereas the natives know how to pronounce their mother-tongue and may write and read [ukuthanda] as one word if they choose. We must never forget the difference between a grammar and a translation.".... (Swahili-English Dictionary).

3. Indicative. This mood is used in making any unconditional statement, or in describing any unconditional action. Ex. Ngibona, I see.

4. Subjunctive. This mood is used in making conditional statements. It expresses also, uncertainty, and is used as a polite imperative.


Ngihambe, that I may go.

Ngihambe, let me go.

5. Potential. This mood is expressive of permission, possibility, conditionality, liberty, and obligation. There is no real potential mood, but the idea of mental ability to do anything is commonly expressed by means of ukuyazi, to know, followed by the infinitive of the principal verb; and physical ability may be expressed by ukuba, to be, and na, with, followed by amandla, to be with strength, and the infinitive of the principal verb.


Ngiyazi ukulemba, (the lemba part is a Tumbuka word and not Isingoni, this should read, Ngiyazi ukubhala, I know to write—I can write.

Nginamandla ukugamula, I have strength (am able) to hew (trees).

Nga and nge in this mood are derivatives of the same verb ukunga, to wish. Nga, denotes the possibility or probability; and nge the propriety and expediency of the action taking place. - (Colenso).


There are three tenses to denote the time in which an action takes place, viz.: - present, past, and future; and there are three forms for each of these to denote the state of the action, viz. :- indefinite or incomplete, progressive, and perfect or complete.

The indicative mood may contain these nine forms, but general usage does not require that each mood should possess that number. Compound tense forms may readily be formed, but such a full statement of the verb has not been found to be in common use, and so only those forms found in general use are noted. Attention to the subject has not enabled us to give a fuller statement of the verb.

Present indefinite. It expresses what is true at all times, and also a present act only.

Present progressive. It denotes that the action continues.

Present perfect. It denotes an action just completed, or one whose consequences still remain. Hence this form is frequently used in the formation of adjectives.

Past indefinite. Expresses what was formerly true but is no longer so. In this, it differs from the present perfect.

Past progressive. Like the present it affirms continuance. It expresses an action that was taking place at a certain point in time in the near past eg I was unwell, they were asleep. To achieve this you use be-.

For subject concords that start with a consonant you place be- in front of the subject concord.

eg. Bengigula izolo. I was sick yesterday.

Bekushisa kakhulu izolo. It was very hot yesterday.

For subject concords that have vowels only the subject concords start and e in be is dropped and replaced with the subject concord.

Example: 2nd person singular. Ubu-(<ub(e)-u) Ubukuphi izolo Thandi? Where were you yesterday?

class 9 Ibi-(<ib(e)-i) ibikuphi inja yakho Yethukile? Where was your dog, Yethukile.

As always make sure to insert -s- between the subject concord and the following locative noun.

Example: To answer the class 9 question above one would respond, Ibisekhaya, It was at home.
Past perfect. It denotes that the action was completed at a definite past time.

Future immediate.

Future indefinite.

These two forms 7 and 8 are used promiscuously.

A future progressive and future perfect may be formed by using an auxiliary verb but are not in general use.

NOTE I. - It is to be noted that we do not find in the native tongue equivalents for all the English tenses of a verb. Take for instance the past progressive indicative mood, " I was going," there is a proper tense form which makes use of an adverb and either a present or a past tense. Kade ngihamba, I was going —then (long. ago) I going. Kade ngihambile, then I have gone—I had gone. In like manner, other tenses are formed, but it is not to be regarded as a distinct tense form.


The formation of participles is the same as in Zulu, but frequently the ordinary tense forms are used as participles. The infinitive (verbal) noun is very frequently used, corresponding to English infinitives ending in -ing.


There are two conjugations, viz., positive and negative. The negative is indicated by various changes in the positive which may readily be observed on referring to the scheme of verb.

Ngoni Headmen 1890s

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