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Use of -nge- tense in non-conditional sentences

If you have been working through the DL Swahili tree for a while, or if you know Swahili due to any other circumstances, you are familiar with this conditional tense:

(Kama) ungesema ningesikiliza. -- If you talked I would listen

(Kama) usingekunywa bia, usingelewa -- If you didn't drink beer, you wouldn't get drunk.

What I am wondering about, and the DL Swahili course does not cover this, is the use of the -nge- tense in Swahili, in the way that "would + present tense" is used in English, when there is no condition:

I would like to say a few words. Ningependa kusema maneno machache.

I would not like to be a politician. Singependa kuwa mwanasiasa.

Is this considered correct usage of the -NGE- tense in Swahili?

February 22, 2019



Actually, there are a few examples of this use in the course (Conditional, level 3, lesson 10):

Funguo zisingepotea: ”The keys would not be lost”

Kitabu kisingesomwa: ”The book would not be read”

You can also find a massive amount of examples on glosbe.com. Just look for combinations of any pers. pronoun + -nge-/-singe + any verb stem. Some examples I found:

Nisingependa kuchukua chochote kilicho chake: “I don’t want to take anything that belongs to him.”

Nilianza kwenda kanisani ambako tungekula, kunywa, na kucheza baada ya ibada:
”I began attending a church where we would eat, drink, and play various sports after the service. ”

Kama isingekuwa hivyo, Roho Mtakatifu asingeweza kukaa ndani yetu.: ”Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”

[I don't know where the "various sports" came from the second example]


Asante. I was going to use those examples from the course but I hesitated as implicitly they sound like they are clauses in "if _ then _" constructions rather than the stand alone constructions that dsimonds wanted to know about.

Glosbe looks like it will be very useful for reference. Asante tena - you always have great resources to offer.

As for the "various sports", maybe it is implied by "kucheza" in this context or maybe they are missing a "michezo mbalimbali" in the sentence...


Thanks for the examples of the use of -nge- tense in what is apparently the way I was questioning. I do have one counter-example, if it can be called that, at hand, and I think I have heard others over the years. In her book Kiswahili Kwa Kitendo, author Sharifa Zawawi gives the following bit of conversation, that takes place at a bus/train station:

Ticket Agent: "Utapenda kwenda lini?"

Passenger: "Nitapenda kwenda kesho jioni."

Here the future -TA- tense is used, where persons (influenced by English?) might have said:

"Ungependa kwenda lini?"

"Ningependa kwenda kesho jioni?"

I am sort of looking for an explicit statement that this usage is OK, or not OK, or at least a discussion of this usage. Meanwhile, I do tend to use the -NGE- tense myself in this way, and as njeri-1331 said, no one has ever seemed to mind.


I am a native speaker and some of these nge- sentences sound so awkward to me. For instance, for many of these sentences, I would use ha- as in hangeweza. I am not even sure if asingeweza is a word to be honest. That could very well be a result of my quite poor swahili or just simply something I have never seen written or said. In my attempt to translate the sentences in my head, I do feel that some of the usages are almost strangely literal in that even though "would" is used, I might not use the conditional nge- On that note, Jamii forums is a swahili forum where you can pose questions like this. While a lot of the content is in swahili, sometimes there is a mix. Sometimes, you reply in swahili to English questions and vice versa.


"Hangeweza" -- sounds good to me! :)


I've been wondering this for a while too. It made sense to me that that would be possible and acceptable usage. I have used it in this way with Swahili speakers and been understood without being corrected. I also asked and was told that you can use it like this.

For your last example, the more standard form would be "Nisingependa ..." since the -si- acts to negate -nge-, not as a negative subject prefix (although according to one source below, some speakers use negative subject prefixes to negate -nge-).

I have searched high and low to find examples of the -nge- tense being used like this and have so far found these:



Each includes an example of usage like this but it is not covered in detail.


Thanks for your detailed response, and the excellent sources you listed. Yes, long ago I learned that (si, hu-, ha-, hatu-, ham-, hawa-) could be used to conjugate these conditional tenses, as an alternative to (nisi-, usi-, asi-, tusi-, msi-, wasi-), so now I occasionally forget and mix them up. :)


Hamna tatizo. :)

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