Monday, 15 July 2019

Ngoni Sentence Structure (Present Tense)

To understand this properly please make sure you have read Chapter 3 - Ngoni Nouns.

In the lesson on Nouns we learnt that understanding noun classes is very important if anyone is to have more than a superficial understanding of the Ngoni language and any bantu language to be honest. This is because the noun prefix attaches itself or part of it on some parts of the sentence.

In this post we will show how nouns combine with verbs to form some sentences. 

To show this lets take a look at a simple sentence in English. 

"The boy loves the Ngoni language". 

In the above sentence we have the noun, "boy" as the subject and "loves" as the verb and "Ngoni language" as the object.

Below is the ngoni translation of this sentence. Remember there are no definite and indefinite articles in ngoni language. Umfana (boy) therefore stands for both the boy and a boy.

Umfana uthanda isiNgoni.

Here the subject noun is "umfana", the verb is "uthanda" and the object is is "isiNgoni".

I hope you may have noticed in the above sentence the importance of knowing the classes. This should not be a problem with anyone who speaks a bantu language as these classes and rules apply to other bantu languages as well. Therefore if you speak a bantu language this should be easy peasy.

The "uthanda" in the above sentence can be broken down as follows:

u + thanda

-thanda is the stem of the verb to which can be added prefixes depending on the noun class of the subject.

The "u" in the sentence above is what is now called an agreement marker or subject concord. The ngoni verb must show agreement with noun class by use of these agreement marker. There are therefore agreement markers for each noun class. Umfana is a class 1 noun and therefore "u" is the subject agreement marker for class 1 nouns. Therefore any verb for class 1 nouns subjects will always commence with "u".

To illustrate this let us see the following sentences:

Umfana uthanda isiNgoni.
The boy loves/likes the Ngoni language.

Udade uthanda isiNgoni
The sister loves/likes the Ngoni language.

If you were to change the noun in the above sentence to plural (class 2), below is how the agreement marker will change.

Abafana bathanda isiNgoni. - The boys love the Ngoni language

Bodade bathanda isiNgoni. - The sisters love isiNgoni.

Below are the agreement markers for each class. Remember in everyday ngoni language as spoken now class 14 does not exist but I have included it because there is evidence that this class was in use before it was abandoned.


Singular                             Plural
1  u                                     2 ba
1a u                                    2a ba
3  u                                     4   i
5 li                                      6   a
7 si                                      8 zi
9 i                                       10 zi
11 lu                                   Plural same as 10
14 bu                                  No plural.
15 ku                                  No plural

Below are nouns with their agreement markers or subject concords as some call them.

Noun Class      Noun Prefix    Agreement marker(Subject concord)
1                       um-                  u-
2                       aba-                 ba-
3                       um-                 u-
4                       imi-                 i-
5                       i-                     li-
6                       ama-               a-
7                       isi-                  si-
8                       izi-                   zi-
9                       IN-/i-               i-
10                     iziN-/izi-         zi-
11                     u-                     lu-
14                     ubu-               bu-
15                     uku-                ku-

Below are examples to show how this works for some of the classes:

Umuntu uthanda isiNgoni.
Abantu bathanda isiNgoni.
Umama uthanda isiNgoni.
Omama bathanda isiNgoni.
Umuzi wonke ubuthana emnyango. - All the village is gathering together at the door.
Imizi yonke ibuthana emnyango. All the villages are gathering together at the door.
Ivila lidla amabele. The lazy person eats grain.
Amavila adla amabele. The lazy persons eat grain.
Sonke isixuku sabantu sihamba kuye. All the multitude go to him.
Zizwe zonke zimemeleni thina. All nations are summoned against us.
Indoda ilala endlini. The man (my husband) sleeps in the house.
Izinja zidla inyama. The dogs eat meat
Uluthi lukhona lapha. The rod is here.
Utswala buyabila. The liquor is boiling. (see Present Progressive Tense heading for use of "ya")
Ukudla kufika. The food arrives.


Now let's take a look at agreement markers when the subject used is I, we, you (singular), you(plural), he, they.

The Ngoni agreement markers for these are as follows:

I               ngi (The Ngoni usually use "ni" here but old praise poems used "ngi")
We           si (The Ngoni changed this to "ti" but the old Ngoni in the 1890s used "si")
You (sing) u 
You (plur) ni (The Ngoni use "mu" which was adopted from Tumbuka)
He/She      u
They         ba


Ngithanda isiNgoni. - I like the Ngoni language.
Sithanda isiNgoni. - We like the Ngoni language
Uthanda isiNgoni  -  You like the Ngoni language
Nithanda isNgoni  - You (plural) like the Ngoni language(As indicated in the previous paragraph the Ngoni nowadays say mufunda isingoni, Tumbuka mu replacing the ni)
Ufunda isiNgoni - He/she likes the Ngoni language.
Bafunda isiNgoni - They like the Ngoni language.

Ngoni Present Progressive Tense 

The present progressive indicates an action that is continuing, something going on now. The -ing sentences in English. In Ngoni this tense is shown by adding "ya" after the agreement marker.


Bonke bayafuna wena.- All are seeking/seek you.
Uyathuka Umkulumqango. He is speaking/speaks blasphemies.

In other Nguni languages this form usually is not followed by an object.

For your practice, below are some verb stems that you should use to create sentences:

-thuma  send
-dla eat
-wa fall
-ngena enter
-vala close
-vula open
-lima, plough
-popha tie
-akha build
-ya go to
-pha give
-za come
-na rain
-ona sin, do wrong 
-otha, warm oneself
-biza call
-lwa fight
-hleka, laugh
-shiya or -tshiya leave behind
-thenga buy
-phela come to an end
-khuluphala become fat
-khula grow.
-fiphala become dark

Note on Verb Stems that Start With a Vowel:

For most verbs that start with a vowel ngoni language inserts a "y" before the stem. This will apply to all the tenses.

For example in the case of the verb -ona, in Zulu the infinitive would be Ukwona (uku+ona) to sin, while in Ngoni it would be Ukuyona (uku+y+ona) to sin. For -otha, warm oneself becomes ukuyotha, to warm oneself where zulu says, ukotha (uku+otha)

Below is a youtube video in creating sentences in isiZulu which is a nguni language which therefore has a lot of vocabulary similar to Ngoni. It also helps to learn some pronunciation too.

Negative for the Ngoni Present Progressive.

As a reminder the present progressive tense is used to indicate something that is happening right now. This is found in sentences such as Ngiyahamba, I am leaving.

To create the negative for the present progressive we follow the pattern below

A + Subject concord + Verb root + i


A + SC + VR + i
a + ngi + fun + i > Angifuni. I dont want.

Below is an example of a conjugation of the verb ukuthanda, to love.

Angithandi. I do not love.
Awuthandi/Akuthandi. You do not love.
Akathandi. He does not love.
Asithandi. We do not love.
Anithandi. You do not love.
Abathandi. They do not love.

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