"Mwalimu hukagua wanafunzi"

Translation:A teacher usually examines the students

February 22, 2017

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In case you're getting confused. The "hu-" is not a negation of "u-", as in "you do not", but is the habitual, or "hu-" tense. It is mostly used for actions that happen regularly.

In this tense, regardless of who usually does the action, the subject prefix is "hu-", so you have to specify who is doing it, by using a subject (pro)noun.


Mimi hukimbia asubuhi - I (usually) run in the morning.

Compare with:

Ninakimbia asubuhi - I am running in the morning

(No subject (pro)noun is needed, because the subject prefix specifies who's doing it)


And how would you say the negative form of an action that usually doesnt happen or is repeated?


Negate the habitual tense as for the present tense. I don't think it's compulsory, but you can precede the verb with the word "huwa" (always/usually be):

  • Mtoto hupanda basi la shule.
    [The child usually boards the school bus.]
  • Mtoto huwa hapandi basi la shule.
    [The child does not usually board the school bus.]

Lots more examples available from the University of Kansas:


So is the tense marker dropped too?


I think hu- is considered the tense marker, so it's the subject prefix that is dropped.


So, armed with this knowledge, it should be fairly simple to work whether it is a habitual or second person negative (singular) by context, based on the subject pronoun and the verb end, yes?


That is almost always true.

For regular verbs, the difference between a 2nd person singular present tense and the habitual is just the vowel change at the end of the verb.


(Wewe) Huongei Kiswahili. - You do not speak Swahili.

Wewe huongea Kiswahili. You usually speak Swahili.

But confusion may arise for verbs of Arabic origin (verbs not ending in -a). These verbs do not have a vowel change in the present negative tense, and so it might not be possible to spot the difference, except from context.


(Wewe) Hufikiri. - You do not think.

Wewe hufikiri. - You usually think.

That said, you won't be confused by this often, as the context usually will help you to understand the meaning of the sentence.


Thank you, Andreas


Thanks! I was wondering if this kind of tense marker existed but hadn't seen it yet.


Shouldn't the "hu" habitual tense accept answers of: The teacher always (usually, or typically) inspects the students?


I think you are right. This video shows some example sentences (at the beginning some are more advanced sentences, but there are other very easier to understand):

Swahili Grammar: The habitual tense "hu"



Thanks, this is a very good video!


So i have written "The teacher often checks the students". And it's wrong. Why is "often" wrong, when this specific tense denotes sth happening often?


I would say that "hu-" refers to actions carried out more regularly than "often". It translates better as "usually" in English, which is closer to "always" than "often".

According to the TUKI dictionary, "often" in Swahili is "mara nyingi" (=many times).


I'm not hearing the "m" in mwalimu being pronounced in the normal mode or slow mode.


The audio sounds like walimu not mwalimu.

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