አማርኛ (Amharic) Adjectives

While Amharic-learners oftentimes gravitate towards “standard adjectives” (as described in the following table), native Amharic speakers oftentimes use verb-adjectives, or adjective-verbs.

What in the world is a verb-adjective? Or an adjective-verb?
Don’t worry, these aren’t official terms. I made them up to help me wrap my mind around this grammar. If you like them, great. If not, don’t worry about it.

Read through the following table about different forms of Amharic “adjectives” (they’re not all technically, grammatically adjectives, but in terms of function, it helps to think of them as such).

FormWhat To Look ForUse in a SentenceExamples
1. standard adjectiveNo particular pattern.same as English adjectives (in front of a noun, or with the verb “to be”)
1. She is a good person.
ጥሩሰውናት።
t’ïru säw nat.
2. She is good.
ጥሩናት።
t’ïru nat.
ረጅም/räjïm
ጨዋ/č’äwa
ሩቅ/ruk’
ቆንጆ/k’onjo ድንቅ/dïnk’
2. verb-based adjectives (“verb-adjectives”)Usually, they start with የ/yä (and have a lot of “አ/ä” sounds).

Technically, these are relative clauses.
same as English adjectives (in front of a noun, or with the verb “to be”)
1. The phone is broken. ስልኩየማይሰረነው።
sïlku yämaysärä näw.
2. I didn’t buy the broken phone.
የማይሰረውስልክአልገዛሁም።
yämaysäräw sïlk algäzahum.
የተለመደ/yätälämädä የተሰበረ/yätäsäbärä የተቀደደ/yätäk’ädädä
3. adjective-based verbs (“adjective-verbs”)Oftentimes (but not always), you’ll see them in the “ይ..ል/yï…l” or “ያ…ል/ya…l” form.same as a verb in an Amharic sentence (at the end of a sentence, NOT with “to be”)
1. Your house is beautiful! 
ቤትሽያምራል!
betš yamral!
2. You are beautiful!
አንቺታምራለሽ!
anči tamraläš!
ያምራል/yamral ይበቃል/yïbäk’al ይጣፍጣል/yït’aft’al

As you can see, a verb-adjective is an adjective derived from a verb. An adjective-verb is a verb derived from an adjective. Isn’t this fun? Let’s practice.

EXERCISE: Many adjectives exist in more than one of these forms. Complete the following table, changing adjectives between their different forms.
Standard Adjective (used with “to be”/መሆን/mähon)Adjective-Based Verb (Positive Conjugation)Adjective-Based Verb (Negative Conjugation)
example: ጣፋጭ ነው/t’afač’ näw It is sweet/delicious.ይጣፍጣል/yït’aft’al It is sweet/delicious.አይጣፍጥም/ayt’aft’m It is not sweet/delicious.

ይበቃል/yïbäk’al It is enough.

ይተልቃል/yïtälïk’al
It is big.



አያምርም/ayamrïm It is not beautiful.
ትንሽ ነው/tïnš näw It is small.

When speaking/writing, you can use whichever type of adjective you’d prefer. It’s good to understand all three structures, however, so that you’ll be able to understand when reading/listening. As you become more accustomed to Amharic, you’ll start to learn when it sounds more natural to use the different options.

አማርኛ (Amharic) Language-Learning Vocabulary

If you’re working with a tutor to learn Amharic, especially if you’re in an immersion context, these words can be super helpful. These words become a part of my daily vocabulary when I was doing Amharic lessons where I lived in Ethiopia (with a tutor who didn’t speak English).

fluencyአንደበት andäbätCould you repeat that?ከደገና ድገምልኝ? kädägäna dïgämlïn?
mother-tongueየአፍ መፍቻ ቋንቋ yäaf mäfča k’wank’waPut (the words) in order.ቅድምተከተል። k’dm täkätäl.
poemግጥም gït’mformal languageመደበኛ mädäbäña
compound wordጥምር ቃል t’ïmïr k’alinformal language (or a dialect)አመደበኛ amädäbäña
titleርእስ rïïsaffixes (prefixes and suffixes)ከቅጥያ käk’t’ïya
correctionsእርማት ïrmatgibberish/nonsenseዝብርቅርቅ zïbrïk’rïk’
slangያራደ ቃል yaradä k’alto “double” (emphasize) a letterማጥብቅ mat’bïk’
abbreviationምህፃረ mïhs’aräinappropriate (“bad”) wordፀያፍ ቃል s’äyaf k’al

አማርኛ (Amharic): The “Used To” Conjugation

What do I mean by “used to” conjugation? Here are a few examples.

ወደ ትምህርትቤት በባቡር እሄድ ነበር።
wädä tïmhïrtbet bäbabur ïhed näbär.
I used to go to school by train.
በየቀኑ አምስት እንጀራ ይበላ ነበር።
bäyäk’änu amïst ïnjära yïbäla näbär.
He used to eat five injera every day.
የመንግስት ብሮ ውስጥ ትሰራ ነበር።
yämängïst bïro wïst’ tïsära näbär.
She used to work in the government office.

Here’s the general formula for setting up a “used to” sentence:
prefix + verb root (+ suffix) + näbär/ነበር

Check out this table of example conjugations.

PRONOUNFORMULAEXAMPLE (used to go)
ïne/እኔï(verb) näbär/እ(ግስ) ነበርïhed näbär/እሄድ ነበር
antä/አንተ(verb) näbär/ት(ግስ) ነበርtïhed näbär/ትሄድ ነበር
anči/አንቺ(verb)i näbär/ት(ግስ)ኢ ነበርtïheji näbär/ትሄጂ ነበር
ïsu/እሱ(verb) näbär/ይ(ግስ) ነበርyïhed näbär/ይሄድ ነበር
ïswa/እሷ(verb) näbär/ት(ግስ) ነበርtïhed näbär/ትሄድ ነበር
ïña/እኛïn(verb) näbär/እን(ግስ) ነበርïnhed näbär/እንሄድ ነበር
ïnantä/እናንተ(verb)u näbär/ት(ግስ)ኡ ነበርtïhedu näbär/ትሄዱ ነበር
ïnäsu/እነሱ(verb)u näbär/ይ(ግስ)ኡ ነበርyïhedu näbär/ይሄዱ ነበር

BONUS: Oftentimes, you’ll use the “used to” tense in connection with the phrase “when I was.” In Amharic, when I was = ïyalähu.

ተማሪ እያለሁ፣ በየቀኑ አጠና ነበር።
tämari ïyalähu, bäyäk’änu at’äna näbär.
When I was a student, I used to study every day.
አሜሪካ እያለሁ፣ አይብ ዳቦ እበላ ነበር።
amerika ïyalähu, ayb ïbäla näbär.
When I was in America, I used to eat cheese.

አማርኛ (Amharic) Verb Vocabulary (Intermediate)

Here are a few vocabulary lists and exercises using VERBS! These aren’t the most basic verbs (eat, sleep, etc), so if you’re not familiar with those, that’s probably a more practical place to start. For those who have the basic ones down, here are some useful next steps!

SET A:

to sitመቀመጥ/mäk’ämät’to cryማልቀስ/malk’äs
to stopማቆም/mak’omto changeመቀየር/mäk’äyär
to bargainመከራከር/mäkärakärto boilማፍላት/maflat
to holdማያዝ/mayazto wearመልበስ/mälbäs
to practiceመለማመድ/mälämamädto payመክፋል/mäkfal

EXERCISE: Translate the given sentences into Amharic, paying attention to tense (past/present).

I practice every day. ___________________________We bargained. ___________________________She changed houses. ___________________________
He sat. ___________________________They wear uniforms. ___________________________I pay rent. ___________________________
You (pl.) cried. ___________________________You (f.) payed. ___________________________You (m.) boiled coffee. ___________________________
I boil tea. ___________________________We practiced English. ___________________________The donkey stopped. ___________________________

EXERCISE: Select the best answer from the given options.

Select the best answer out of the given options.

  1. ዉድ ነው። __________ አለብሽ።
    wud näw. __________ aläbïš.
    a. መክፋል/mäkfal b. መለማመድ/mälämamäd c. መከራከር/mäkärakär
  2. መኪናዎች __________  ምክንያቱም የትራፊክ መብራት ቀይ ነው።
    mäkinawoč __________ mïkïnyatum yätrafik mäbrat k’äy näw:
    a. ያዘሉ/yazalu b. ይቆማሉ/yïk’omalu c. ይከፋሉ/yïkäfalu
  3. ቤቴ ምጥፎ ነው። __________  እፈልጋላሁ።
    bete mït’fo näw. __________ ïfälgalahu.
    a. መቀየር/mäk’äyär b. መከራከር/mäkärakär c. መክፋል/mäkfal
  4. ደመወዜ ፒስኮር __________።
    dämäwäze PisKor __________ .
    a. ይከፋል/yïkäfal b. ይለብሳል/yïläbsal c. ያፈላል/yafälal
  5. ዛሬ ቅዳሜ ስለሆነ፣ ተማሪዎች ዩኒፎርማቸው __________ ።
    zare k’ïdame sïlähonä, tämariwoč yuniformačäw __________.
    a. አያፈሉም/ayafälum b. አያቆሙም/ayak’omum c. አይለብሱም/ayläbsum

SET B:

to sendመላክ/mälakto be lateማርፈድ/marfäd
to fix/repairማጠገን/mat’ägänto call (on the phone)መድወል/mädwäl
to decorateማስጌጥ/masget’to flyመብረር/mäbrär
to celebrateማክበር/makbärto receiveመቀበል/mäk’äbäl
to cutመቁረጥ/mäk’urät’to describeመግለፅ/mägläs’

SET C:

to rememberማስታወስ/mastawästo driveማሽከርከር/maškärkär
to replaceመተካት/mätäkatto stealመስረቅ/mäsräk’
to restማደር/madärto begመለመን/mälämän
to winማሽነፍ/mašnäfto give birthመውለድ/mäwläd

EXERCISE: Match the given verbs to the most relevant noun (they’re not necessarily logical “objects” for the verbs, just simply related words. For example, “bed” would be a related word to “sleep”).

1. ____ ማሽነፍ/mašnäfሀ. መኪና/mäkina
2. ____ ማሽከርከር/maškärkärለ. ሌባ/leba
3. ____ መውለድ/mäwlädሐ. ልጅ/lïj
4. ____ ማስታወስ/mastawäsመ. ውድድር/wïdïrdïr
5. ____ መስረቅ/mäsräk’ሰ. አይምሮ/aymïro

EXERCISE: Fill in the blanks in the following sentences by conjugating the verb in parentheses according to the sentence.

ስልኬ _______________ (መተካት) ምክንያቱም ሌላው ስልክ ያማይሰራ ስለሆነ።
sïlku _______________ (mätäkat) mïkïnyatum lelaw sïlk yamaysära sïlähonä.

አልማዝ፣ ኢንደምን _______________ (ማደር)?
almaz, ïndämïn _______________ (madär)?

በገበያ ጊዜ፣ ወንዱ መንገድ ላይ _______________ (መለመን)።
bägäbäya gize, wändu mängäd lay _______________ (mälämän).

እሷ ሁለት ልጆች _______________ (መውለድ)።
ïswa hulät lïjoč _______________ (mäwläd).

አሜሪካ ውስት፣ ትምህርትቤት ውስጥ ተማሪዎች _______________ (ማሽከርከር) ይማራሉ።
amerika wïst’, tïmhïrtbet wïst’ tämariwoc _______________ (maškärkär) yïmaralu.

EXERCISE: Translate the following into Amharic:

Stop him! He stole my phone!
______________________________________________

Do you remember your childhood?
______________________________________________

My shoes are worn out, so I want to replace them.
______________________________________________

The students worked hard and won the competition!
______________________________________________

አማርኛ (Amharic): Simple Past Tense (Positive)

Ready for the simple past? No stress, it’s quite straightforward (and arguably easier than the present/future tense). You take the verb root, and add a suffix (depending on who the subject of the sentence is).

That’s it! Here’s a conjugation table, using the verbs መብላት/mäblat (eat) and መኖር/mänor (live), so the roots are በላ/bäla and ኖር/nor.

እኔ/ïne/I
_____ሁ/_____ኩ
_____hu/_____ku
በላሁ/bälahu
ኖርኩ/norku

እኛ/ïña/we
_____ን/_____n
በላን/bälan
ኖርን/norn
አንተ/antä/you
_____ህ/_____ክ
_____h/_____k
በላህ/bälah
ኖርክ/nork
አንቺ/anči/you
_____ሽ/_____š
በላሽ/bälaš
ኖርሽ/norš
እናንተ/ïnantä/ya’ll
_____አችሁ/_____ačhu
በላችሁ/bälačhu
ኖራችሁ/noračhu
እሱ/ïsu/he
_____አ/_____ä
በላ/bäla
ኖረ/norä
እሷ/ïswa/she
_____አች/_____äč
በላች/bälač
ኖረች/noräč
እነሱ/ïnäsu/they
_____ኡ/_____u
በሉ/bälu
ኖሩ/noru
Exercise: Complete the following table.
ENGLISHINFINITIVEROOTÏNE/እኔ: PAST
to sleep
ተኛ täña
to give permission

ፈቀደሁ
fäk’ädähu
to changeመቀየር
mäk’äyär


to adaptመለመድ mälämäd

to buy
ገዛ gäza
to findመግኘት mägñät

to arrive
ደረሰ däräsä

Once you’ve got the past simple down in the positive, changing it to the negative is also quite easy.

አማርኛ (Amharic) Infinitives and Verb Roots

The infinitive form a verb in English is the form with “to” before it. For example, the infinitive form of “run” is “to run.” In Amharic and English, we use the infinitive form in similar ways. For example, we use the infinitive form to say that we like doing something.

example: to run = መሮጥ
I like to run = መሮጥ እወዳላሁ።

The third-person-masculine-past tense is exactly what is sounds like — the verb, conjugated for the third-person-masculine (“he”) subject in the past tense.

examples:
infinitive… third-person-masculine-past
to go… he went
to play… he played

In Amharic, the third-person-masculine-past is common, and is often given in dictionaries instead of the infinitive form. It is also very useful when conjugating to other verb tenses, because the third-person-masculine-past acts as a “root” for most other verb conjugations. In most cases, if a grammar explanation says to use the verb “root,” this is what they’re talking about.

In Amharic, there are several types of infinitives. Different types of infinitives change differently into the third-person-masculine-past, based on different parts of the word.

1. CHANGES TO THE BEGINNINGS: Verbs that begin with መ (mä) drop the መ (mä) when they are conjugated. Verbs that begin with ማ (ma) drop the ም (m) but keep the አ (a).

examples:
መኖር/nor (to live) — ኖረ/norä (he lived)
ማጥናት/mat’ïnat (to study) — አጠና/at’äna (he studied)

2. CHANGES TO THE MIDDLES: If the infintive has two consonants next to each other, or a “ï” with two dots in the middle, you add an “ä” between the consonants when conjugating (or change the “ï” to an “ä”).  In Fidel-speak, a sixth-order character usually changes to a first-order when conjugated.

examples:
መብላት/mälat (to eat) — በላ/la (he ate)
መምጣት/mämt’at (to come) — መጣ/t’a (he came)

3. CHANGES TO THE ENDINGS: If the infinitive ends with “ት/t,” the “ት/t” is dropped when conjugated. If the verb doesn’t end with “ት/t,” then an extra “ä” is added to the end of the verb. In Fidel-speak, if the last character is sixth-order, it changes to first-order.

examples:
መተኛት/mätäñat (to sleep) — ተኛ/täña (he slept)
መስጠት/mäst’ät (to give) — ሰጠ/sät’ä (he gave)
መሄድ/mähed (to go) — ሄደ/hedä (he went)

Here are a few more examples. Try to identify which rules from above have been applied on these words.

መግዛት/mägzat (to buy) ገዛ/gäza (he bought)መሮጥ/märot’ (to run) ሮጠ/rot’ä  (he ran)ማወቅ/mawäk’ (to know) አወቀ/awäk’ä  (he knew)ማየት/mayät (to see) አየ/ayä (he saw)

Now, try and complete the following table by filling in the missing conjugations. This is primarily a grammar exercise, so don’t stress too much about the vocabulary/definitions. Once you’re able to change between these two forms, it will be a lot easier to look words up in the dictionary (or translate them using a phone app), because they will oftentimes be listed under the third-person-masculine-past.

INFINITIVETHIRD-PERSON-MASCULINE-PASTINFINITIVETHIRD-PERSON-MASCULINE-PAST

ጠረጠረ/t’ärät’ärä
አጨበጨበ/ač’äbäč’äbä
መምታት/mämtat
ማንቀሳቀስ/mank’äsak’äs
መስደብ/mäsdäb
ማቅናት/mak’nat

ፈረ/färäማስታወስ/mastawäs
መዘንጠል/mäzänt’äl

ቀየረ/k’äyärä

ወጋ/wägaመለመን/mälämän
መለካት/maläkat

ገዘ/gäzä
መብዛት/mäbzat
ማልቀስ/malk’äs
መበተን/mäbätän
ማብራራት/mabrarat
መርገጥ/märot’
መረብሽ/märäbš

ወደቀ/wädäk’ä
ደገመ/dägämä

አጠለቀ/at’äläk’ä
ጠራ/t’ära

ቀነሰ/k’änäsä
ቀረ/k’ärä
መጨመር/mäč’ämär
መግልበጥ/mäglbät’

ዘመረ/zämärä
ተከለ/täkälä