Resources for Learning Ge’ez/Fidel (Amharic/Tigrinya Script)

Ge’ez (also known as “fidel”) is the writing system used to write Amharic, Tigrinya, and several other Ethiopian (and Eritrean) languages. It’s technically an abugida (not an alphabet). While alphabets use one letter per sound, an abugida uses one character per consonant, which is modified according to the vowel sound which follows. The result is that there are a LOT of characters, but they follow a regular pattern, making them rather satisfying to learn!

Here are some resources you can use, made for adults (not children or younger students) looking to learn to read/write.

  1. So Many Fidels: This printable ebook has everything you need — pronunciation guides, handwriting practice, and even exercises to help you read and write Amharic words, in fidel. I wrote this book to be the reading/writing guide I wish I’d had when learning Amharic. Of course, I’ve got author bias, but it is truly one of the most user-friendly, detailed, practice-filled tools out there.
  2. Amharic Tutor: This is a website where you can click on the different fidels to hear them pronounced. It’s a great tool in the beginning to familiarize yourself with the sounds and patterns of the script.
  3. Amharic Beginnings: This is a printable review sheet, where you can practice re-writing the individual letters into the chart.
  4. T is for Timhirt: This workbook provides little explanation, but is another option for printouts if you’d like to practice writing and re-writing individual letters

There are also an abundance of Youtube videos to go over the sounds of each letter. Good luck with your language-learning!

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.
t’ïru säw nat.
2. She is good.
t’ïru nat.
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.
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! 
betš yamral!
2. You are beautiful!
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.

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.

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!


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


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’


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.


Exercise: Complete the following table.
to sleep
ተኛ täña
to give permission

to changeመቀየር

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

To conjugate a verb in Amharic, you have to know the verb root, and knowing the verb root starts with knowing the infinitive.

Infinitive Verbs in Amharic

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 (The Verb Root) in Amharic

The third-person-masculine-past tense is exactly what is sounds like — the verb, conjugated for the third-person-masculine (“he”) subject in the Amharic past tense (although to be clear, you don’t need to know the past tense to form the third-person-masculine-past tense root — just keep reading).

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.

Changing Infinitives into Amharic Verb Roots

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.


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).

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


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.

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


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.

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)

Practice Exercise: Amharic Infinitives and Verb Roots

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.