Aloha, can someone teach me about the word poʻe? In Duolingo we learn it means "people," but I've come to find out through Ulukau that it is also a plural marker for other words. How does that work? Why does it have these two oddly separate meanings? How do I use it?

Mahalo nui :)

January 26, 2020


Aloha nō e @MitchTalmadge. This is a good question. My manaʻo from context and my own learnings on "poʻe" is as follows:

  • Poʻe is not so much "people" as kānaka means people (humans). Poʻe is more like a group of people/living things. It is more commonly used as "ka poʻe hawaiʻi" - Hawaiian people (living things); where the end is modified for whatever people you are talking about. And though context, just "poʻe" will be understood to mean "ka poʻe ___".
  • since it is a grouping for living things, you can think of it as "a herd of" or a "swarm of"..."a cluster of" as in: ka poʻe pōhaku (a family of rocks - rocks are living things in Hawaiian culture), ka poʻe nalo meli (a swarm of bees), ka poʻe manu (a flock of birds); etc.

Hope this helps you a bit!

some other words to remember that have similar meaning: - ka lāhui (the race/nation) - nā kānaka (the people -- has the connotation of referring to indigenous Hawaiians) - ka poʻe _. (the people "of "; ka poʻe Kepanī, Japanese people; etc.) - nā ʻoiwi (the ones "of the bones")--> refers exclusively to the indigenous on the land that you are on or referring to (that you are not physically on) through context. - and I am sure there are more I am forgetting rn haha

Mahalo e @KekoaMonkey!

That helps a lot. What do you think: if I wanted to say "people" in general, indefinitely unlike "the people," would one of these be correct?

  • "Poʻe"
  • "Mau kānaka"
  • "He mau kānaka"
  • "Poʻe kānaka"

I'm certain some (or all) of them are wrong and I'm sure you can see that I'm a bit confused about the usage of he and mau, but I'm trying to learn. :) From what I understand, he can replace ke/ka and is indefinite, and adding mau makes it plural (or, "nullifies the singularity" of he). But I could be wrong.

Aloha e @MitchTalmadge, ʻaʻole pilikia ;]

Ahhh, okay well in general I would probably use "Nā Poʻe" to refer to "People" generally. I am guessing that you may be wanting to use this as a title for something or like a section header? Just fyi, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi usually does not drop the "THE" marker in front, even when in English this is commonplace. Ex: "The People" vs. "People" connote more or less definite. ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi would read "Nā Poʻe" as both "The People" and "People," but both are understood as being general. The particles canʻt be dropped as easily as in other languages. One reason is that just "Poʻe" could be a name of someone or a location. Including "Nā Poʻe" makes it certain you are talking about the thing. I hope this makes sense, haha.

Okay, for your question on what "he" does and if you can switch "ke/ka" interchangeably when you want to create definite/indefinite, this is not entirely correct. It depends on the Hawaiian sentence pattern used and itʻs place in it. Contrast he following below:

  • ʻAi au i ka maiʻa.
  • He maiʻa kēnā.

  • I eat bananas. (habitually)

  • That (near you) is a banana.

In the first sentence it is in present tense (habitual sense); so "ka maiʻa" is not actually "the banana" in Hawaiian sense. It is understood to refer to "bananas in general" (even tho in English this is not the case), but ma ka ʻōlelo hawaiʻi, you cannot leave out the "ka" in that sentence pattern.

In the second sentence, you are equating that something IS something (A=B/B=A; B -> maiʻa, A -> kēnā). Another way to think about it is that you are saying the state of something (A) is the thing (B). In an equational sentence pattern, Hawaiian still requires particles to be before each word, so that you know what the function of the word is. "maiʻa" is an object with a physical body, not a condition like "wela" (hot), so it needs a particle before it. In this case "he maiʻa" lets the listener know you are talking about the "general state of a banana." Sorry if this makes it more confusing... lol.

Anyways, there are more rules of when you can and cannot use "he / he mau." But essentially it just depends on that specific sentence pattern. Just pay attention and you will be fine haha. But for headings/titles, follow what I said about leaving "ka/ke/nā" in place lol.

po'e means: 1. people; persons; personnel; population; assemblage; group of; company of. example: Eight groups of warriors. 'Ewalu ka po'e kaua. 2. (plural marker) [similar to the use of "mau" as a plural marker] example: The women. Ka po'e wāhine. Houses. Po’e hale.

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