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).
|Form||What To Look For||Use in a Sentence||Examples|
|1. standard adjective||No particular pattern.||same as English adjectives (in front of a noun, or with the verb “to be”)|
1. She is a good person.
t’ïru säw nat.
2. She is good.
|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.
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!
2. You are beautiful!
|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.|
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.