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Noun classes and typos

I've had a look online and found various resources to different levels of detail, but I still get confused sometimes between noun class agreement (wa, la, ya etc)

Is there a very clear and simple table somewhere that will briefly explain what letter needs to go before a word for which nouns? the amount of times I've typed ya instead of la for example is becoming very frustrating as I'm practically learning the wrong thing.

I think the main issue here that needs addressing is Duolingo's lack of a toggle for accepting typos, but for now I would really like to read up and learn what needs to be used where to avoid any confusion or false correct answers.

Many thanks for any suggestions.

February 8, 2019



I normally refer to the Wikipedia article on the Swahili language: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swahili_language#Agreement.

And I fully agree with you on this issue: one can almost always write 'ya' and it will just be counted as a typo.


I have found the following to be pretty useful getting a "leg-up" on the noun-class conversation. http://www.swahilicheatsheet.com/#nounclass

Also, https://www2.ku.edu/~kiswahili/pdfs/lesson_51.pdf

But you still must know the noun and its class to know which one to use. Also, I have found this whole series to be useful. The class is ...01.pdf -> through .65.pdf (just change the last digits in the link).

Finally, not what you asked, but an excellent online dictionary reference: https://www.africanlanguages.com/swahili/

Good luck!


You can actually find this information in the "Tips and Notes" for the Duolingo Swahili course. Look in the notes for the lessons on noun classes for more information on agreements: "People" (M/Wa), "M/Mi", "Ki/Vi", "N/N", "Ji/Ma", "U/N", "Places" (Mahali). For your specific query, look in these notes under the section "-a of association".

The app doesn't have the "Tips and Notes" but the desktop/browser version of Duolingo does.


Ernst cites a good source and there are probably many more available online. As an ongoing exercise, you might find it useful to build up your own table of "concords" containing a lot more than just the letter(s) to use with -a. That table could include what many of the older Swahili grammar books refer to as demonstrative adjective, possessive adjective, relative infix, object infix, and so on. Example: "Kile kitabu cha sayansi alichokinunua jana ni kizuri lakini sasa kimepotea." Each element of the sentence that is in agreement with KITABU would have an entry in your table. Something to work on over time -- might even be fun. You could do it on paper, but a spreadsheet program would be ideal. Just a suggestion ...

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