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Pronoun Use


It's come to my attention that there is a little bit of confusion when it comes to pronoun use in Swahili. First, the basics:

Pronouns Viwakilishi vya nafsi Possessive Pronoun Viwakilishi vimilikishi
I Mimi Mine -angu
We Sisi Our(s) -etu
You Wewe Your(s) -ako
You (pl) Ninyi/Nyinyi Your(s) -enu
He/She Yeye His/Her(s) -ake
They Wao Their(s) -ao

NOTE: For possessive pronouns, the prefix is determined by the object/"possession" being referenced. Refer to the Noun Class post for noun class prefixes

These pronouns also have corresponding pronoun subject prefixes, which are typically used with verb stems, as follows:

Pronoun Prefix Example
Mimi nina-/na- Ninataka kuondoka (I want to leave)
Sisi tu- Tunataka kuondoka
Wewe u- Umechoka (You are tired)
Nyinyi/ninyi m- Mmechoka
Yeye a- Aliolewa (He/She got married)
Wao wa- Watatutembelea (They will visit us)

The same concords are used in the negative if the pronoun is the subject.

They also have pronoun object infixes to stand in for objects in the sentence (which are the same in the negative if the pronoun is the object):

Pronoun Infix Example
Me -ni- (Yeye) Alinipigia simu (He/She rang me)
Us -tu- Walitupigia simu
You -ku- Mama anakuita (Mother is calling you)
You(pl) -wa- Mama anawaita
Her/Him -m- Rashidi alimpikia chakula (Rashidi cooked for him/her)
Them -wa- Rehema atawakaribisha (Rehema will welcome them)
  • 2nd person (pl) and 3rd person (pl) share the same infix. Typically more context is needed to distinguish which one applies

For the verb 'to be' i.e. 'ni', these pronouns are used as they appear above, e.g. 'Mimi ni mpishi' - 'I am a cook/chef'

Note: it is not necessary to include the pronouns mimi, wewe, yeye and their plural form in sentences when referring to the subject, as the verbs following them will contain the pronoun prefix i.e. instead of saying Mimi nitakupigia wewe simu, which is essentially saying 'I I will call you you', one would say Nitakupigia simu.

If you're just starting out, something like 'Umechoka' does constitute a complete sentence. It breaks down in the order of: subject pronoun prefix - tense infix - object pronoun infix (optional) - conjugated verb stem. So 'Umechoka' breaks down to U- (subject pronoun prefix for you, singular) -me- (tense infix, present perfect tense) -choka (stem verb for 'kuchoka', i.e. 'to be tired', in the conjugation 'to do').

I hope this clarified the concept, and do comment below if you have questions (on anything)! Happy learning :)

April 10, 2019



I am a fluent speaker and literally learning grammar not because I can't use it but I have never in my life even thought about swahili grammar. I often explain things with an "it just is." I was telling my family that swahili has noun classes and everyone was like "What is that?" I really like these clarifications. I should learn enough to be able to teach it.


"It just is."

I speak the Maa language of the Maasai people. One day I came across an expression with a bit of grammar that was beyond me. So I asked one of my Maasai friends (who is fluent in Maa, English, and Swahili) what was up. Why was that form used?

"It makes the verb happy" was his reply.


I can totally relate. I've been away from home for a while now, and started doing this as a challenge to myself to maintain my knowledge of Swahili, since I don't get to speak it as often as I would like. I'm glad they're useful!


Your Flashcards are great!
https://tinycards.duolingo.com/users/machieng Today I started with them. Thank you!


yeah, your flashcards are pretty darn cool...


Hello machieng, this is still too difficult for me. I reached level 7 now.
But one question, studying your post: is it the same
" Mimi ninataka kuondoka " - I want to leave
and " Mimi nataka kuondoka " - I want to leave ???


hi! Yes, they mean the same :) More commonly, however, would be 'Nataka kuondoka' or 'Ninataka kuondoka'. 'Na-' is more commonly used in speech, as opposed to 'Nina-'

Is there anything you'd like me to clarify from the post?


Later, perhaps in some days I will have more questions.


I see you are studying German. I'm German and if you have questions, tell me.


thanks very much! Falling behind a bit, but I might take you up on that :)


Thanks this really helped :)


Can you please share the link to the noun class post, please?

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