Somali Reading/Grammar Practice: “Karin” (Level 1 Storybook)

“Karin” (“Cooking”) is a story originally from African Storybook. I’m reading it from the Global Storybooks website, which includes Somali/English translations, as well as Somali audio. Both websites use a Creative Commons license, which is great news — means that I can include the text below, and then break down some of the grammar points for you!

So, here’s the story. I highly suggest you read/listen on the Global Storybooks website first, and then come back here for the language-lesson.

Storytime: Karin (Cooking)

Waxaan diiraa baradhada.
I peel the potatoes.

Waxaan jarjaraa kaabajka.
I chop the cabbage.

Waxaan jeexaa kaarootada.
I grate the carrots.

Waxaan dhaqaa digirta.
I wash the beans.

Waxaan jaraa lowska.
I cut the butternut (squash).

Waxaan jarjaraa isbinaajka.
I chop the spinach.

Hooyaday waxay jarjartaa basasha.
My mom chops the onions.

Basasha way iiga oohisaa markii lajarjaro.
Onions make me cry when they are chopped.

Stop: Grammar Time!

Okay, so this is a great reading text for super beginners (ahem, myself) because it shows a lot of the basic grammar points I’ve been working on!

Word Order: SVO or SOV?

So, Somali uses a subject-object-verb (SOV) word order. HOWEVER, apparently it actually uses an SVO word order (like English) IF it’s a sentence built with “waxaa.”

So, looking at the sentences from the reading, you’ll notice that almost every sentence uses the subject-verb-object word order. For example, waxaan diiraa baradhada: diraa (peel) is the verb, and baradhada (the potatoes) is the object.

Thanks to u/xaayow on Reddit for their fantastic answer to my question about this!

Definite Article (“The”) Suffixes

In Somali, the definite article (“the,” in English) is shown with a suffix (/ka/), added onto the end of the noun. For example, “af” is “language”, and “afka” is “the language.” This reading passage is full of examples of Somali definite articles.

Somali (indefinite)Somali (definite)English
baradhobaradhada(the) potato
kaabajkaabajka(the) cabbage
karootokarootada(the) carrot
digirdigirta(the) beans
lowslowska(the) butternut
isbinaajisbinaajka(the) spinach
basalbasasha(the) onion
I do have one question for Somali speakers… is “lows” really butternut? Sounds pretty similar to the Amharic word for “peanuts,” and Google Translate says it means nut… can anyone confirm or deny a translation?

Here is some explanation of the grammar in the above chart:

  • Feminine nouns add /ta/ instead of /ka/ as the definite suffix.
  • For nouns ending in /o/: replace the /o/ with /a/ before adding the suffix.
  • If the last letter of the noun is a vowel, ka/ta changes to ga/da (respectively, depending on the gender of the noun).
  • When the suffix /ta/ is added after an /l/, the /l+t/ is replaced by /sh/.

Verb Conjugation: Present Tense

Of course, since nearly the entire story has the same subject (anigu), and it’s all in present tense, it’s pretty easy to conjugate the verbs (since they’re almost all conjugated the same). Still, let’s go over it.

Somali (infinitive verb)Somali (present tense, I)English
diirwaan diraaI peel
jarjarwaan jararaaI cut/chop
jeexwaan jeexaaI grate
dhaqwaan dhaqaaI wash
jarjarway jarjartaashe cuts/chops
Remember the difference between “waan” and waxaan”? If not, click here for a refresher.

So, if the subject is waan, the present-tense verb ending is “aa.” If the subject is way, it changes to “taa.” Easy peasy!

The Final Sentence?

Basasha way iiga oohisaa markii lajarjaro.
Onions make me cry when they are chopped.

Frankly, I don’t know enough grammar yet to understand how the last sentence is built. I know that “basasha” means the onions, and “jarjar” means chopped, but other than that — not sure! That’s the fun of language learning, though — there’s always plenty more to learn!

If anyone can explain that last sentence, though, please comment below!


Thanks for joining me on that reading adventure! Not sure what to say, I feel like I’m hosting a children’s television show and this is the end of the episode. ANYWAYS.

Seriously though, I really enjoy reading practice when I’m learning a language. I think it’s a great way to see examples of sentences, and start to get a sense for how to put sentences together (as opposed to the giant jumble of vocabulary that’s rattling around my brain, all dissociated).

Check out the other stories Global Storybooks has available in Somali, and comment to let me know which story you’d like me to grammar-ize next! Let’s stick with Level 1 for the moment, please, though — I’m still a beginner!

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