It’s impossible to learn all the Swahili verbs right at the beginning — but, you’ve got to start somewhere. Here’s my base list of Swahili verbs, for someone just working towards a basic proficiency in Swahili (cough cough, myself, cough).
I’ve split the Swahili verbs into “functions,” or different situations where they’d be useful. Without further to do, here we go!
Swahili Verbs for Greetings and Introductions
- kushinda (various meanings, including “to spend a day,” so it’s often used in the greeting “umeshindaje?” asking “how was your day?”)
- kuamka (to wake up, used in the greeting “umeamkaje?” asking “how did you sleep/wake?”)
- kukutana (to meet, such as “tumekutana” meaning “we met.”)
- kukaribu (to welcome, often used in the imperative “karibu” and “karibuni,” telling people to be welcome).
- kutoka (to come from, used to ask where someone is from and say where you’re from… “unatoka wapi? mimi ninatoka…”)
Swahili Verbs for Understanding and Knowledge
- kujua (to know, ubiquitious as “sijui” — I don’t know)
- kukumbuka (to remember, “nakumbuka” means “I remember)
- kusahau (to forget, you can say “I forgot” as “nimesahau”)
- kujifunza (to learn, useful to say “ninajifunza” as a response if someone asks if you speak Kiswahili)
- kuelewa (to understand, very useful as a language learner to say “I understand”/ninaelewa or “I don’t understand”/sielewi)
Swahili Verbs about Coming and Going
- kwenda (to go, such as “twende” for “let’s go!”)
- kujaa (to come, although you’ll often hear it in the irregular imperative of “njoo” for “come here!”)
- kurudi (to return/come back, useful to tell someone “I’m coming back!” which would be “ninarudi!”)
- kukaa (to sit/stay, useful to kindly ask someone to “stay here” by saying “kaa hapa”)
- kusafiri (to travel, which is generally useful for travellers to say things like “ninasafiri” to say “I’m travelling”)
Swahili Verbs for Requests
- kutaka (to want, such as “nataka” for “I want”)
- kuhitaji (to need, such as “tunahitaji” for “we need”)
- kuomba (to ask for, often used as a polite “could I have,” such as “naomba”)
- kuleta (to bring, used in the polite request form as “lete” and then the item you’re requesting, preferably with “tafadhali”/please)
- kuwa (to be, often used to talk about the future state of things, so could be used in response to a request, such as “ilikuwa” for “it will be”)
Swahili Verbs about Food
- kula (to eat, useful for sharing dietary restrictions with “I don’t eat,” which is “sili”)
- kunywa (to drink, such as “wananywa” for “they drink”)
- kupika (to cook, to defend your own cooking abilities by saying “napika!”)
- kununua (to buy, to say that you can’t cook, but “I will buy,” as “nitanunua”)
- kupenda (to like, useful to say “ninapenda” for “I like” — show some appreciation for this delicious food you’re eating!)
Whelp, that’s about it for now! Comment if you have other basic verbs in Swahili you use all the time, that you think should be included in a list like this. Good luck with your Swahili studying!