Somali Writing/Documents/Speeches Vocabulary

I (strangely, to most) enjoy reading academic texts. It’s always stunning to me how much information there is on the internet, and it astounds me how easy it is to dig into some random topic, oftentimes at 2am, and quickly find yourself reading specific research from the most knowledgeable people in the world. What an era!

Oftentimes, I find myself reading academic texts about languages. While academic texts aren’t great pedagogic tools, they oftentimes contain a huge amount of really interesting vocabulary used in that language. So, my goal here is to go through an academic text (in this case, it’s Dimensions of Register Variation in Somali, by Mohamed Hared and Douglar Biber), and sort through some of the vocabulary included, making it into a more useful language-learning tool for Somali-learners.

The text itself is a really cool analysis of different variations in language and formality, and how often they’re used in different registers (comparing high school textbooks to different types of newspaper articles, speeches compared to government memos, etc.). It’s a really cool combination of the language, and mathematics — if you’re interested, would definitely recommend checking it out.

First, the article contained some useful vocabulary about written texts — here are the words I think would be most commonly used and useful for language-learners.

  1. war = news
    1. wargeysada = press
    2. ra’yiga iyo aqoonta = opinion and knowledge (title for a newspaper’s editorial page)
  2. qor = write (verb)
    1. qoraalo = writings/documents
    2. qoraalo barabagaandha = propaganda
    3. qoraalo waxbarasho = academic/educational texts (barasho = learn)
  3. warqad = letter
  4. buugta dugsiyada sare = high school textbooks
  5. suugaan = literature
  6. sheeko = stories

Next, the article contained some interesting words related to speeches and meetings — again, I’ve pulled out some vocabulary which I think would be useful to language-learners.

  1. cashar jaamcadeed = university lectures
    1. cashar = lesson (academic)
    2. jaamcada = university
  2. lakjar = academic conference lectures (this is an English cognate — “lecture”)
  3. ciyaar-tebin = sports broadcasts (ciyaar = sports)
  4. hadal raadiyo = radio broadcasts (hadal = the verb “speak”)
  5. hadal shir = meeting
    1. shir guddi = committee meeting
    2. shir qoys = family meeting

So, there you go! Happy language-learning.

Somali Bus Station Conversations

Here is a quick run-down of some essential sentences and phrases that might be useful when taking public transport.

  • Xagee tagaysaa? = Where are you going?
    (answer: ___ tagayaa = I am going to ___)
  • Gorma tagayaa? = When is it going?
    (potential answers could involve be iminka/now, maanta/today, galab/afternoon, habeen/evening, beeri/tomorrow, subax/morning, or a number plus saac/o’clock)
  • Xaggee ayaan tigidh ka soo iibsan karaa? = Where can I buy a ticket?
  • Waa immisa lacagta busku? = How much is the bus ticket (cost)?
    (the answer will probably involve numbers)
  • Immisa ayaa inoo jirta? = How far is it?
    (the answer will probably be either saacado/hours or kilometres, with numbers)
  • Ma busas kale ayaan ku baddelayaa? = Do I have to change buses?
  • Xagee ka heli kara ___? = Where can I find ___?
    (alternatively, perhaps a bit simpler: ___ meeye? = Where is ___?)
  • soco dalka = travel
  • dalxiis = visit
  • bus istob = bus stop
  • halkan = here
  • bus(ka) = bus
    (buska danbe = the next bus)
  • boyad = truck
  • gaadhi = car

As always, I am a beginner, and would appreciate any comments/corrections!

On being the one to stumble.

We have language exchange for an hour, twice a week. We sit at a picnic table, speaking English for the first half hour and Somali for the second half hour. In English, I wear my “encouraging” face, nodding with eyebrows raised, while she sputters and stumbles around absentee vocabulary. In Somali, I sputter and she encourages, repeating sentences so slowly they cease to connect — just a list of words I struggle to grasp.

I appreciate her, though. We have a sort of mutual understanding, which is surprisingly hard to come by. We both recognise that the other has thoughts and ideas far beyond what is expressible in a foreign tongue. I can see it in her eyes, the way they search and consider and crinkle around the edges when the right word doesn’t come. She can see it in my hands, in how they tense and flatten with frustration when I can’t transform my thought into Somali. We just sit there, looking at each other, trying to guess what the other wants to say. 

It must be something incredible, I think. She is already an incredible speaker in English, even though she’s missing basic words like “stone” and “roof.” To understand her in Somali would be beyond striking, and that has become my motivation. I don’t care about buying things in the market, or answering the phone — no, no. I just want to learn Somali to understand her ideas, the ones that just won’t cooperate in English.

I listen — ii gu celi? — and then listen again. I can tell she’s continuing our conversation about justice, but I lose her in translation. My response is feeble, but I’m glad for the chance to try. Otherwise, our interactions would be defined by English. I would always be fluent, and she would always have to stumble.

Somali: Present Tense (Positive)

In this post, we’re going to go through the present tense conjugation, and then do some practice with it.

Conjugating the Present Tense

The present tense in Somali is quite straightforward. You’re just going to take the verb and add suffixes, depending on who the subject is.

subjectverb ends in consonantverb ends in I or EEverb ends in “consonant-consonant-O”(drop the O)verb ends in “vowel-consonant-O”(drop the O)
waan+aa+yaa+ataa+taa
waad+taa+saa+adaa+ataa
wuu+aa+yaa+ataa+taa
way+taa+saa+adaa+ataa
waannu+naa+naa+anaa+anaa
weynu+naa+naa+anaa+anaa
waad+taan+saan+ataan+ataan
wey+aan+yaan+adaan+taan
This table shows the suffixes added in the present tense, depending on the subject.

Overall, we can notice the following patterns:

  • When the subject is either “you” (waad) or “she” (way), the suffix starts with /t/.
  • When the subject is plural, the suffix includes /n/. The /n/ comes at the beginning of the “we” (waannu/weynu) suffix, and at the end of the “you all” (waad) and “they” (wey) suffixes.

The first two columns are very similar, with the following differences:

  • The /+aa/ suffix changes to /+yaa/ when the verb ends in I or EE. This is already how we pronounce that “i+aa” sound, so just remember to actually write in that /y/.
  • The /+taa/ suffix changes to /+saan/ when the verb ends in I or EE.

The last two columns get a bit more complicated, but the general idea (especially with /n/ in plural suffixes) remains. That being said, there are some exceptions and irregularities, so consider the above table as a general rule.

Examples in Practice!

We’re going to start with a collection of sentences using household vocabulary to describe daily routines, mostly conjugated for “waan” (I). Notice how we use waxaan instead of waan when there is an object.

Somali SentenceConjugation BreakdownEnglish Translation
Maxaad sameesaa maalin kasta?samee = do/make
samee+saa = you do
What do you do every day?
Waan kacaa.kac = wake up
kac+aa = I wake up
I wake up.
Waan qubeystaa.qubeys(o) = shower
qubeys+taa = I shower
(notice how “O” drops)
I shower.
Waxaan gashtaa dharkayga.gash(o) = put on
gash+taa = I put on
I get dressed.
Waan cadaydaa.caday(o) = brush teeth
caday+daa = I brush (my) teeth
I brush my teeth.
Waxaan dhaqaa wejigayga.dhaq = wash
dhaq+aa = I wash
I wash my face.
Waan quraacdaa.quraac(o) = eat breakfast
quraac+daa = I eat breakfast
I eat breakfast.
Waxaan baxaa gurigayga.bax = leave
bax+aa = I leave
I leave my house.

Next, let’s look at some sentences which use other pronouns (we don’t want to be selfish)!

Somali SentenceConjugation BreakdownEnglish Translation
Af Soomaliga waxaannu hadalnaa.hadal = speak
hadal+naa = we speak
We speak Somali.
Hilib waxay cuntaa.cun = eat
cun+taa = she eats
She eats meat.
Qado waxay cunaan.cun = eat
cun+aan = they eat
They eat lunch.
Cunto waxuu sameeyaa.samee = make
samee+yaa = he makes
He makes food.
Buug waxaad akhrisaa.akhri = read
akhri+saa = you read
You read a book.
Way shaqtaa.shaqo = work
shaqo-o+taa = she works
She works.
Jir waxaaannu dhisidnaa.jir dhisid = exercise
dhisid+naa = we exercise
We exercise.
Way tukadtaantukado = pray
tukado-o+taan = they pray
They pray.

If anyone spots any corrections (or has any questions), please don’t hesitate to comment! Otherwise, happy studying!

Somali Questions/Interrogative (“ma” + past tense positive)

In a previous post, I wrote about subject pronouns, in the “declarative” (sentence) sense. Of course, a conversation usually consists of both sentences (declarative) and questions (interrogative). So, today will be about the interrogative, so that we can start putting together small conversations.

Here’s a table showing pronouns, the declarative marker, and the interrogative marker for each person. Just like the declarative marker is formed as “waa+suffix,” the interrogative marker is formed as “ma+suffix.” That being said, it comes out looking like “miy+suffix.”

Forming the Interrogative

ENGLISHSUBJECTDECLARATIVEDECLARATIVE (with complement)INTERROGATIVE
Ianigawaanwaxaanma+aan = miyaan
Youadigawaadwaxaadma+aad = miyaad
Heisagawuuwaxuuma+uu = miyuu
Sheiyadawaywaxayma+ay = miyay
We (exc.)aanagawaannuuwaxaannuma+aannu = miyaannu
We (inc.)innagawaynuwaxaynuma+aynu = miyaynu
Ya’llidinkawaydinwaxaydinma+aydin = miyaydin
Theyiyagawaywaxayma+ay = miyay

Using the Interrogative

Note: the rest of this post assumes you’re already familiar with the simple past tense (positive). If you need a refresher, click here for the post about the past tense.

Okay, let’s leave the jargon behind. These “ma” words are used similarly to the English question word “do.” Yes/no questions which would begin with “do” in English begin with these “ma+suffix” participles (words) in Somali.

Did you eat lunch?
Qado miyaad cuntay?
Yes, I ate lunch.
Haa, qado waxaan cunay.
Did you sleep?
Miyaad seexatay?
Yes, I slept.
Haa, waan seextay.
Did you (all) arrive?
Miyaydin gaadhteen?
Yes, we arrived.
Haa, waannu gadhnay.
Did they go to Somaliland?
Somaliland miyay tageen?
Yes, they went to Somaliland.
Haa, Somaliland waxay tageen.
Did you (all) drink tea?
Shaah miyaydin cabteen?
Yes, we drank tea.
Haa, shaah waxaannu cabteen.
Did he enter the house?
Guriga miyuu galay?
Yes, he entered the house.
Haa, guriga waxuu galay.
Did she bring breakfast?
Quraac miyay keentay?
Yes, she brought breakfast.
Haa, quraac waxay keentay.
Reminder: I am a language-learner, and am very open to any corrections! Please comment if you see any errors!

Obviously, there aren’t any “no” answers so far — I haven’t learned the negative version of the past tense yes, but I’ll be sure to share when I do!

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!

Ta-da!

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!

Somali Proverbs: A Grammar Lesson

As a language-learner, I love proverbs. They’re an easy way to express complex thoughts and reactions to situations. Of course, you don’t use them in daily conversation, but they’re nice to have in your back pocket. Then, once in a while, during that deep conversation where you really need to express something more, you can pull one out (or understand if someone else pulls one out). Plus, they’re fun as a party trick (and to show some familiarity with a culture).

On top of that, when you can find proverbs translated, they’re a great way to learn a language! In this post, I’m going to sort through some proverbs (which I found here and here), group them together by grammatical features, and hopefully get some practice in Somali!

“[A] waa [B].”

The first common sentence structure I noticed in the proverbs is “[A] waa [B],” which is a simple grammatical structure meaning “[A] is [B].” These are great for language-learning practice, because they’re so straightforward. Once we know the vocabulary, we can understand the whole proverb!

  • Af daboolan waa dehab.
    (af = mouth, daboolan = covered/closed, dehab = gold)
    A covered/closed mouth (ie. silence) is golden.
  • Nin is faanshay waa ri’is nuugtay.
    (nin is = he who faanshay = bragged, ri’is = she-goat, nuugtay = suckled)
    He who bragged is a she-goat who suckled [herself].
  • Rag waa shaah, dumarna waa sheeko
    (men = rag, shaah = tea, dumarna = women, sheeko = stories)
    Men are tea, women are conversation.

“[A] la’aani waa [B] la’aan.”

This type of proverb is grammatically similar to the “[A] waa [B]” type, except that this time, the proverbs are saying “the absence of [A] is the absence of [B].”

  • Aqoon la’aani waa iftiin la’aan.
    (aqoon = knowledge, iftiin = light)
    The absence of knowledge is the absence of light.
  • Naag la’aani waa naf la’aan.
    (naag = woman, naf = soul)
    The absence of woman is the absence of a soul (ie. life).
  • Haween la’aani waa hoy la’aan.
    (haween = woman, hoy = shelter)
    The absence of woman is the absence of shelter (ie. home).

“[A] ma [verb].”

“[A] ma [verb]” means “[A] does not [verb].” The main grammatical feature of these proverbs is going to be the negative present tense. Notice that the object in the sentence (when present) comes right before the “ma” (Somali is a SOV language, with the subject-object-verb sentence order).

  • Sirow ma hodmo.
    (sirow = cheater/liar, hodmo = prosper/succeed)
    A cheater doesn’t prosper.
  • Hadal badan haan ma buuxsho.
    (hadal = talk, badan = a lot/much, haan = vessel, buuxsho = fill)
    Lots of talk doesn’t fill the vessel.
  • Tuug tuug ma xado.
    (tuug = thief, xado = steal/rob)
    A thief doesn’t rob a thief.
  • Far keliya fool ma dhaqdo.
    (far = finger, keliya = only/one/single, fool = face, dhaqdo = wash)
    One finger doesn’t [can’t] wash a face.

Looking at all these proverbs, I realize that the ones I actually understand have the simplest grammatical structures. Hopefully, as I keep learning more about Af-Soomaali, I’ll be able to go back and repeat this exercise with some more advanced grammar!

Somali: Past Tense (Positive)

I’ve learned numbers, pronouns, some basic nouns, greetings, and some basic verb vocabulary… but I still can’t really make sentences.

The missing piece? Grammar, mostly. It’s time for some verb conjugations.

When I’m learning a new language, I usually learn the “past tense positive” as the first verb tense. While many textbooks instinctively start with the present tense, I find that the past tense is more useful. So, that’s what I’m doing here today — past tense, here we come!

Conjugating the Past Tense

Note: The rest of this post assumes you’re already familiar with verbal pronouns in Af-Soomaali (for example “waan” is “I,” “waad” is “you,” etc). If you need a refresher, click here and scroll to the bottom.

Regular Verbs Ending in Consonants

Let’s start with the basic conjugation chart for regular verbs, ending with a consonant. The chart shows the verbal pronoun, and then the suffix attached to the verb in past tense.

waan: : verb+aywaannu: verb+nay
weynu: verb+nay
waad: verb+tayweydin: verb+teen
wuu: verb+ay
way: verb+tay
wey: verb+een
Past tense suffixes for regular verbs ending in consonants, depending on the verbal pronouns.

Frankly, that chart looks like nonsensical jargon, so let’s look at some examples as well.

TAG (go)KEEN (bring)CUN (eat)CAB (drink)
waan tagay
(I went)
waan keenay
(I brought)
waan cunay
(I ate)
waan cabay
(I drank)
waad tagtay
(you went)
waad keentay
(you brought)
waad cuntay
(you ate)
waad cabtay
(you drank)
wuu tagay
(he went)
way tagtay
(she went)
wuu keenay
(he brought)
way keentay
(she brought)
wuu cunay
(he ate)
way cuntay
(she ate)
wuu cabay
(he drank)
way cabtay
(she drank)
waannu tagnay
(we went, exc.)
weynu tagnay
(we went, inc.)
waannu keenay
(we brought, exc.)
weynu keenay
(we brought, inc.)
waannu cunnay
(we ate, exc.)
weynu cunnay
(we are, inc.)
waannu cabnay
(we drank, exc.)
weynu cabnay
(we drank, inc.)
weydin tagteen
(you all went)
weydin keenteen
(you all brought)
weydin cunteen
(you all ate)
weydin cabteen
(you all drank)
wey tageen
(they went)
wey keeneen
(they brought)
wey cuneen
(they ate)
wey cabeen
(they drank)
Here are four regular verbs, ending in consonants, conjugated in the past tense.
Regular Verbs Ending in ‘i’ or ‘ee’

For verbs ending in ‘i’ or ‘ee,’ the conjugations are very, very similar, with some slight adjustments. Notice that when the suffix began with a vowel, a “y” has been added, and when the suffix began with a “t,” the suffix now begins with “s.”

waan: verb+yaywaannu: verb+nay
weynu: verb+nay
waad: verb+sayweydin: verb+seen
wuu: verb+yay
way: verb+say
wey: verb+yeen
Past tense suffixes for regular verbs ending in “i” or “ee,” depending on the verbal pronouns.

Let’s add another chart with some examples.

AKHRI (read)SAMEE (do/make)KARI (cook)QADEE (have lunch)
waan akhriyay
(I read)
waan sameeyay
(I did/made)
waan kariyay
(I cooked)
waan qadeeyay
(I had lunch)
waad akhrisay
(you read)
waad sameesay
(you did/made)
waad karisay
(you cooked)
waad qadeesay
(you had lunch)
wuu akhriyay
(he read)
way akhrisay
(she read)
wuu sameeyay
(he did/made)
way sameesay
(she did/made)
wuu kariyay
(he cooked)
way karisay
(she cooked)
wuu qadeeyay
(he had lunch)
way qadeesay
(she had lunch)
waanuu akhrinay
(we read, exc.)
weynu akhrinay
(we read, inc.)
waannuu sameenay
(we did/made, exc.)
weynu sameenay
(we did/made, inc.)
waannuu karinay
(we cooked, exc.)
weynu karinay
(we cooked, inc.)
waannuu qadeenay
(we had lunch, exc.)
weynu qadeenay
(we had lunch, inc.)
weydin akhriseen
(you all read)
weydin sameeseen
(you all did/made)
weydin kariseen
(you all cooked)
weydin qadeeseen
(you all had lunch)
wey akhriyeen
(they read)
wey sameeyeen
(they did/made)
wey kariyeen
(they cooked)
wey qadeeyeen
(they had lunch)
Here are four regular verbs, ending in “i” and “ee,” conjugated in the past tense.

Here’s a great video to show an example of samee (do/make), conjugated in the past tense. Listen closely for the pronunciation!

Shout-out: Vector Culture has been starting to put out Youtube videos which are PERFECT for language-learners trying to learn Somali. With short videos demonstrating a simple grammar point (plus great sound quality and graphics), they’re building their channel into a fantastic resource for language-learners… hopefully more videos will be coming soon! Here’s their video showing how to conjugate “samee” (do/make) in the past tense (embedded with permission).
Regular Verbs Ending in “o”

For verbs ending with “o,” there are two potential conjugations.

  1. If there are two consecutive consonants (C+C+O) before the final “o” (such as iibso/buy or guurso/marry), then the final “o” changes to an “a” when conjugated.
  2. If there is one vowel and one consonant (V+C+O) before the final “o” (such as noqo/become or seexo/sleep), then the final “o” is dropped with “waan,” “wey,” and “wuu” when conjugated. Verbs which end in “Y+consonant+O” (such as dhegeyso/listen) are included in this group.

There are exceptions to this dichotomy, but this is the general rule for “o-ending” verbs.

ends with C+C+Oends with V+C+O
waan: verb+adaywaan: verb+tay
waad: verb+ataywaad: verb+atay
wuu: verb+aday
way: verb+atay
wuu: verb+tay
way: verb+atay
waannuu: verb+annay
weynu: verb+annay
waannuu: verb+annay
weynu: verb+annay
weydin: verb+ateenweydin: verb+ateen
wey: verb+adeenwey: verb+teen
Past tense suffixes for regular verbs ending in “O,” depending on the verbal pronouns.

As always, here’s a chart with some more example verbs, conjugated in the past tense.

SEEXO (to sleep)GUURSO (to marry)DHIMO (to die)JOOGSO (to stop)
waan seextay
(I slept)
waan guursaday
(I married)
waan dhimtay
(I died)
waan joogsaday
(I stopped)
waad seexatay
(you slept)
waad guursatay
(you married)
waad dhimatay
(you died)
waad joogsatay
(you stopped)
wuu seextay
(he slept) way seexatay
(she slept)
wuu guursaday
(he married)
way guursatay
(she married)
wuu dhimtay
(he died)
way dhimatay
(she died)
wuu joogsaday
(he stopped)
way joogsatay
(she stopped)
waannuu seexannay
(we slept, exc.)
weynu seexannay
(we slept, inc.)
waannuu guursannay
(we married, exc.)
weynu guursannay
(we married, inc.)
waannuu dhimannay
(we died, exc.)
weynu dhimannay
(we died, inc.)
waannuu joogsannay
(we stopped, exc.)
waannuu joogsannay
(we stopped, inc.)
weydin seexateen
(you all sleep)
weydin guursateen
(you all married)
weydin dhimateen
(you all died)
weydin joogsateen
(you all stopped)
wey seexteen
(they slept)
wey guursadeen
(they married)
wey dhimteen
(they died)
wey joogsadeen
(they stopped)
Here are four verbs, ending in “o,” conjugated in the past tense.

Somali Greetings and Introductions

As the clock ticks down on my departure for Somaliland, it’s about time I learned the basics of conversation (some of them, at least). My goal for today is to learn a handful of basic questions and basic answers (and to break down the grammar/vocabulary), which would be useful when meeting and greeting someone new.

As a beginner, I’m working on understanding the mechanics of these phrases, but don’t completely understand how the grammar works on each one. If you can fill in the gaps on one that I don’t seem to fully understand, please leave a comment!

I’ve collected and adapted my “phrasebook” from Hawa Abdillahi Ali’s website, Omniglot, and Joy Carter’s book.

Greetings
Ma nabad baa? = Is it peace? Nabad means “peace.”
Ma shows us that this sentence is a question.
Baa is technically a “focus marker,” but in this context effectively just means “is.”
Nabad miyaa? = Is it peace? Using miyaa is another way to phrase this question.
Miyaa means “is it?”
Waa nabad. = It is peace. Waa means “is.”
Iska waraan? = How’s life? Tell me your news!War means “news.”
Waa la fiicanyahay. = I’m fine.This literally translates to the third person (ie. actually means “it is fine.”)
Ficaan means “fine.”
Yahay is the ending added to an adjective, also effectively meaning “is.”
Introductions
Magacagu waa maxay? = What’s your name?Magaca means “name.”
Magacaga means “your name.”
Magacaga changes to magacagu when it is the subject of the sentence (like it is here).
Waa maxay means “what?”
Magacaygu waa… = My name is…Magacayga (“my name”) changes to magacaygu when it’s the subject.
Shaqadaadu waa maxay? = What is your work?Shaqo means “work.”
Shaqadaada means “your work,” and it changes to shaqadaadu when it’s the subject.
[Macalin] baan ahay. = I am a teacher.Macalin means “teacher” (for example).
Baan ahay means “I am.”
Xagee ka timid? = Where are you from?Xagee means “where?”
… waxaan ka imid = I am from…Waxaan means “I am”
Appreciation
Barasho wanaagsan = Pleased to meet you.Baro means “learn.” Barasho is derived from that, and means “meet/acquaint.”
Wanaagsan means “good.”
Waan ku faraxsanahay inaan halkan joogo. = I’m happy to be here.Joog means “stay” (or be in a place).
Faraxsa means “happy.”
Waan means “I am.”
Halkan means “here.”
Mahadsanid. = Thank you.

Somali Basic Verbs Vocabulary

Another day, another new set of Somali vocabulary! Today, I’m going to learn some verbs. Eventually, I’m going to want to make sentences, and verbs are fairly important to that end.

I’m going to focus on the verbs in the imperative tense, because that appears to be the most straightforward conjugation (ie. not really conjugated at all), and because imperatives are quite magical — learn one word, and you’ve got a whole imperative sentence! Eat! Study! Speak! This (from what I’ve read) isn’t rude in Somali, even though such blunt instructions might seem strange in English.

Now, there are two types of imperatives — those given to one person, and those given to a group. In Somali, singular imperatives are just the verb, whereas plural imperatives get an /a/ added to the end of the verb.

Here’s a chart of some basic verbs (in the imperative) I’ve collected from around the internet — here’s to hoping they’re all correct, and please let me know if they’re not!

Somali (singular, to one person)Somali (plural, to a group)English
Akhri!Akhriya!Read!
Tag!Taga!Go!
Cun!Cuna!Eat!
Gal!Gala!Enter!
Qor!Qora!Write!
Joog!Jooga!Stay!
Cab!Caba!Drink!
Hadal!Hadala!Speak!
Aamus!Aamusa!Hush!
Dhiib!Dhiiba!Give!
Gee!Geeya!Take!
Sug!Suga!Wait!
Seex!Seexa!Sleep!
Dhegeys!Dhegeysa!Listen!
Kari!Kariya!Cook!
Samee!Sameea!Do! Make!
Bax!Baxa!Leave! Go out!
Noq!Noqa!Come back!
Dhaq!Dhaqa!Wash!
Eeg!Eega!Look!
Fur!Fura!Open!

Exercises

Now, we’ve got 19 vocabulary words to get stuck in the brain. I like making up exercises to practice vocabulary (making the exercise is a first review, and then actually doing the exercise is a second review) — you can either use mine, or make your own (or both)!

Exercise 1: Match the Somali words with the English translations.
  1. Eeg!
  2. Cab!
  3. Akhri!
  4. Bax!
  5. Sug!
  6. Cun!
  7. Dhaq!
  8. Joog!
  9. Dhegeys!
  10. Qor!

a. Listen!
b. Eat!
c. Look!
d. Read!
e. Leave!
f. Write!
g. Wash!
h. Drink!
i. Stay!
j. Wait!

Exercise 2: Give the Somali translation for each English word.
  1. Cook! = __________
  2. Come back! = __________
  3. Drink! = __________
  4. Speak! = __________
  5. Enter! = __________
  6. Stay! = __________
  7. Go! = __________
  8. Give! = __________
  9. Take! = __________
Exercise 3: Think of a Somali imperative you might use in the given situation (more than one answer may be possible). Make sure you’re using the correct form (either singular or plural).
  1. You’ve invited a guest over to your house, and made them lunch. You give them the plate, and then tell them, “______!”
  2. You’re taking care of your neighbour’s kids one evening, and it’s bedtime. They’re all in bed, but they keep talking and laughing. You tell them, “_____!”
  3. You’re hanging out at home, when an enormous snake starts slithering into your house. You want it to go away, and so you yell, “__________!” at it.
  4. You’re an office worker, and someone knocks on your office door. You reply by saying, “_____!”

Answers

Exercise 1: 1. c, 2. h, 3. d, 4. e, 5. j, 6. b, 7. g, 8. i, 9. a, 10. f

Exercise 2: 1. kari, 2. noq, 3. cab, 4. hadal, 5. gal, 6. joog, 7. tag, 8. dhiib, 9. geey

Exercise 3: 1. cun, 2. aamusa and/or seexa, 3. bax and/or tag, 4. gal