1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Swahili
  4. >
  5. Definite/indefinite articles


Definite/indefinite articles

I am so in the weeds with when to include definite or indefinite articles in the translations. Sometimes they seem essential and are marked incorrect when included. Other times when they would appear to be optional, they are evidently mandatory. Also is there a way to determine when to use A/The? I can't figure out any sort of logical system. It all seems random and arbitrary. Is this a inherent flaw with the course here or am I supernaturally dense?

September 13, 2017



Usually A and The are interchangeable, but for some words adding a 'ni' to the end can make it more specific. Nyumba means home but nyumbani means house. Do you kinda understand what I'm tryna say? Good question BTW!


It's the other way around

nyumba = (a/the) house(s)
nyumbani = (at) home, in/at/to/from (a/the) house(s)


OMG Sorry XD I had a total brain fart!


Yes, I do see what you mean. That makes sense and I think I can get my head around it. Thank you. The part I find really vexing is why "mattress of child" is considered a correct translation when "a child's mattress" or "the mattress of a child" are not when they are much more logical English sentences and do not imply that the mattress is actually made out of a child.


Yeah it can be confusing but the course is still in Beta so I just try to work through the mistakes of it. Hopefully it doesn't discourage you and helps you work harder :)

Usiku mwema :)


It's basically just that the course creators were rushed to finish it long before they were ready and haven't had much time to fix it up yet, so there are a lot of errors in the course and not all options have been added. Unfortunately it gets worse, the further into the course you get. You can learn a lot but you also just have to remember the idiosyncratic answers you have to give. There are very few mistakes in the Swahili - the English side is the problem.


It's a shame it's worked out that way, but it's good to know the Swahili is correct even if the English is sometimes a little peculiar.

(By the way, your username made me grin!)


Here's a maddening example of what I'm talking about: "Sharp knife" is an unacceptable translation while "a sharp knife" is correct. Three questions later: "A green pepper is also a vegetable" = wrong "Green pepper is vegetable too" =right!


Exactly. This is driving me crazy. I keep marking things as incorrect, but it doesn't seem like anything is ever fixed.

Learn Swahili in just 5 minutes a day. For free.