አማርኛ (Amharic): “When” Clauses

To start: in non-technical terms, a “when” clause is a part of a sentence (not a question) that begins with “when.” In English, you have to change the verb in a “when” clause to match the tense of the sentence. “When” clauses about the past use the past, and “when” clauses about the future use the present.

  • When he arrived home, we ate dinner.
  • When he arrives home, we will eat dinner

Amharic is easier. The “when” clauses are always the same, and the tense is determined by the rest of the sentence. In the following example, the “when” clauses for “when he arrived” and “when he arrives” are grammatically the same. The tense is shown by the second verb in the sentence.

  • When he arrived home, we ate dinner.
    ቤት ሲደርስ፣ እራት በላን።
    bet sidärs, ïrat bälan.
  • When he arrives home, we will eat dinner.
    ቤት ሲደርስ፣ እራት እንበላላን።
    bet sidärs, ïrat ïnbälalan.

Conjugating “When” Clauses in Amharic

Pronoun“When” ClauseExample (mä verb)Example (ma verb)
ïne/እኔስ-/sï-ስሄድ/sïhedሳጥእና/sat’äna
antä/አንተስት-/sït-ስትሄድ/sïthedስታጠና/sïtat’äna
anči/አንቺስት-ኢ/sït-iስትሄጂ/sïthejiስታጠኚ/sïtat’äñi
ïsu/እሱሲ-/si-ሲሄድ/sihedሲያጠና/siyat’äna
ïswa/እሷስት-/sït-ስትሄድ/sïthedስታጠና/sïtat’äna
ïña/እኛስን-/sïn-ስንሄድ/sïnhedስናጠና/sïnat’äna
ïnantä/እናንተስት-ኡ/sït-uስትሄዱ/sïtheduስታጠኑ/sïtat’änu
ïnäsu/እነሱሲ-ኡ/si-uሲሄዱ/siheduሲያጠኑ/siyat’änu

NOTE: When conjugating for “አንቺ/anči,” you have to palatalize that last consonant.

NOTE: Remember, Amharic is funny about combining vowels. This is important for using “when” clauses with “ma” verbs, because the root starts with “a.” Here are two tips to make your life easier.

  1. In Fidel, “sï” and “s” are the same thing (ስ). Therefore, sï+a = sa (ስ+አ=ሳ).
  2. Amharic vowels don’t like to be next to each other, so you need to add a “ይ/y” buffer between them. Therefore, si+a = siya (ሲ+አ=ሲያ).

NOTE: For the endings, it’s very similar to other tenses. If the infinitive form ended in “-at” or “-ät,” just drop the t. If the infinitive ended in something else, just leave it.

“When” Clauses in Rural Areas

Especially in rural areas, it’s common to hear people using “when” clauses with “tï” instead of “sï’ prefixes. You can answer using either; both prefixes are understood.

English: When you go to the market, tell me and let’s go together.

  • standard Amharic:
    ገበያ ስትሄጂ፣ ነጋርኝ እና አብራን እንሄድ.
    gäbäya sïtheji, nägarïñ ïna abran ïnhed.
  • rural Amharic:
    ገበያ ትትሄጂ፣ ነጋርኝ እና አብራን እንሄድ.
    gäbäya tïtheji, nägarïñ ïna abran ïnhed.

Exercise: Complete the following sentences using “when” clauses.

example: አሜሪካ ስሄድ, እናቴ አያላሁ። 
amerika sïhed, ïnate ayalahu

___________________________________, ትምህርትቤት ትሄዳለች።
___________________________________, tïmhïrtbet tïhedaläč.

___________________________________, ቡና ፈሉ።
___________________________________, buna fälu.

___________________________________, ቤት መጣሽ።
___________________________________, bet mät’aš.

___________________________________, ድግስ ይኖራል።
___________________________________, dïgïs yïnoral.

___________________________________, እራት እበላላሁ።
___________________________________, ïrat ïbälalahu.

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