22 WPD Update: Two Weeks In

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that I’m behind. Today is Day 18 (or it should be, rather), and I haven’t posted vocabulary since Day 14. This isn’t a fluke of blogging — I haven’t learned any vocabulary in those four days, either. Life has (strangely enough) been busy, with a trip into Hargeisa, lots of work meetings, and seemingly not enough hours to sit and study.

But beyond a busy schedule, I’ve realized that 22 words per day is simply too much for me. I’ve genuinely committed most of the words to memory, but the constant barrage of so many words every day means that I am oftentimes catching up and reviewing words a few days later, because I just can’t seem to remember 22 new words per day, every single day. Perhaps that’s because I’m not picking the best words, or it’s because I haven’t yet found the greatest study method, but 22 words per day (every day!) has proven to be a LOT.

So, here’s the new game plan: this will remain the 22 WPD Challenge, but I won’t be doing it every day. Whatever that means for the semantics of the exercise… well, just forgive the inaccuracy in titling. I’m still studying Somali, still learning new vocabulary, but maintaining this pace has proven a bit too much. Perhaps I’ll work up to it.

In any case, the new challenge is going to be seeing how many days I can complete within 180 days. If I learn 25 days’ worth of vocabulary? Great. If I learn 100 days’ worth of vocabulary? Even better. Regardless, the standard I’m setting for myself in this challenge is no longer perfection. The goal is not to do every day without fail, but rather to just do my best.

Always good to end a blog post with a cliché, right?

Essential Language for Travel Anywhere

If you’re travelling to a place where people speak another language, it’s your responsibility to figure out how to communicate! Depending on the place, you might also expect people to speak your language. Depending on what your language is, they very well might! Remember, however, that nobody is required nor expected to speak your language just because you do.

So, it’s up to you to communicate. Sometimes, that means hiring an interpreter, checking whether your smartphone translates that language, or (if you have certain sentences you need people to understand (such as communicating a severe food allergy to every restaurant you enter), making cards with those sentences in the language.

Whatever other methods you use, I’m also a strong believer in the importance of language-learning for travel. That’s right: try and learn the language (at least a little bit). Whether you’re visiting for five days or five weeks, being able to communicate — even on the most basic level — is essential to being a respectful traveller and having positive interactions during your trip.

Never fear, if you’re a novice language-learner: I’ve put together some simple recommendations of which words you might want to learn for your trip. If you’re just trying to learn a few words for a short trip, we won’t worry about grammar or full sentences — this is all about simplicity (even if you will occasionally sound very strange).

Top 10 Essential Words/Phrases

  1. Hello: Regardless of where you’re going, learn a greeting! Some languages have complex greetings, depending on the person and time of day — don’t worry about this. Just find a greeting that works for anyone, at any time, and use it with everyone!
  2. Good: Knowing how to say “good” is the easiest way to give a compliment (you can point to your meal and tell the waiter that it was good), or assuage any concerns (you can ensure concerned people that you are indeed comfortable and good in your bus seat). It’s useful in a thousand different circumstances. If you’re feeling extra motivated, learning the words for “delicious” and “beautiful” is also a great idea.
  3. Thank you: Some cultures use “thank you” less commonly than others, but it’s still a great phrase to know and use. When you’re travelling, you’re constantly a guest in someone else’s territory, and it’s good to share your gratitude for any welcome you receive. Bonus: if you’re up for learning another word, “please” is also polite.
  4. Sorry (Excuse Me): If you’re travelling somewhere you’re unfamiliar with the customs, norms, and simple traffic patterns, you’re bound to mess up at some point. If you bump into someone or accidentally do something rude, you’ll want to know a quick apology. It’s just manners.
  5. Bathroom: Just learn it. You don’t want to play charades.
  6. Restaurant: Whether you’re wandering around a city trying to find a place to eat, or confused as to whether the place you just entered actually serves food (this happens surprisingly often), being able to ask, “restaurant?” is incredibly helpful.
  7. How much?: You’re going to want to ask the price of something. Of course, you’ll also want to understand the answer; if you’re up for it, also consider learning numbers. This can really smooth out your interactions (especially when exchanging money).
  8. When?: When arranging transportation or planning anything, it’s super helpful to know how to ask the time. Even if you sound a little strange, saying “when bus Addis Ababa?” will get your point across. Again, knowing some numbers to understand the answer is also helpful.
  9. Where?: Here’s a great word to combine with some of your other words (remember, we’re ignoring grammar). You can ask “where hotel?” or “where restaurant?” or “where bus?” — super useful.
  10. ## People: Whether you’re trying to get a table in a restaurant or seats on a bus, it’s helpful to be able to communicate the number of people in your party. Just learn the number for how many you are and the word for “people.”

Learning Amharic? You should learn fidel.

You’re about to start a long hike in the desert. It’s going to be hot, and you’re carrying a heavy load of camping gear. Naturally, you’re looking for any way to make your hike less gruelling. You consider your backpack, and think of how to eliminate some weight. For a moment, you consider bringing less water… but then you shake yourself back to reality. Less water? No way, water is essential for this trip. You need water.

Learning a language is a lot like this hike. It’s going to be a long process, and it’s not going to be easy. As a new language-learner, you look for ways to make the pack lighter, to make this process easier. But, just as water can’t be left behind on a hiking trip, writing — even if it means learning a new alphabet — can’t be left behind when learning a language.

Amharic, a language with 200+ fidels (characters), can feel especially daunting. It’s so, so tempting to learn Amharic by writing Amharic words with the Latin alphabet — frankly, though, that’s an awful idea. Whether you’re just prepping for a few weeks in Ethiopia, or whether you’re hoping to read some of Ethiopia’s famous poetry in the original language, learning fidel is an absolutely essential part of learning Amharic.

Knowing fidel is essential to correct pronunciation.

Firstly, learning fidel is key to correctly pronouncing all that Amharic vocabulary you’re learning. Amharic has sounds that don’t exist in English, which means that you’ll likely confuse yourself by trying to approximate their English equivalents. Plus, many English letters (especially vowels) can be  pronounced in multiple ways, making it hard to take accurate notes of Amharic pronunciation without fidels. For example, you might write down a pronunciation as “bi,” thinking it’s perfectly clear. Yet, when you go back to study, you might not remember whether it’s pronounced like “bicycle,” “bistro,” or “big.”

While it’s going to take some extra effort, learning fidel means you’ll consistently be able to write and pronounce words correctly — and that pronunciation matters. Mispronouncing one letter can make a big difference (think of the English words “six” and “sex”). Learning fidel helps familiarize you with the different sounds, in order to avoid such mishaps. In Amharic, for example, the words ቻው and ጨው (meaning “goodbye” and “salt,” respectively), could both be written as “chaw” by a language learner who is unfamiliar with fidel. In order to correctly pronounce the difference, learning fidel is crucial.

Knowing fidel helps you be a safe and savvy traveller.

Next, learning fidel is massively important during travel, even if you’re not fluent in the language. Being able to read basic signs is key to being a savvy traveller and staying safe. Even without knowing very much vocabulary, being able to read the destination city on your bus ticket helps you be sure you’re headed to the right place. Knowing how to recognize cognates on street signs (such as “hotel” and “pension,” which are the same in both Amharic and English) will help you spot local places to sleep. Plus, being able to spot the “ጁስ” (juice) signs is always a bonus. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fast reader, or whether you can pronounce everything perfectly. Knowing fidel just means that you’ll be able to sound out some words, which will make you a more confident and independent traveller.

Knowing fidel is essential to continuing to learn Amharic.

Finally, if you have any desire to continue your language-learning beyond the basics, knowing fidel is essential to using most language-learning resources. Most Amharic-English dictionaries don’t include transliterations, nor do many textbooks. Reading Amharic books (from childrens’ books to epic poetry, depending on your level) is a great way to practice, but it requires literacy. Plus, if you have the chance to study with an Amharic-speaker as a tutor or a language partner, it’ll be very confusing and difficult to work together if you’ve written all your notes and vocabulary lists without fidel — imagine if an Amharic speaker only knew how to write English using Amharic fidels! Learning fidel is a fundamental building block. If you don’t bother, you’re simply impairing your future language-learning progress.


So yes, it’s a lot. Especially for a language like Amharic, where the alphabet includes well over 200 fidel characters, becoming literate can feel like a monumental task. However, it’s important to even the most casual language-learner to start with fidel. Whether it’s learning to pronounce new vocabulary, being an independent traveller, or continuing your language study into the future, literacy is key to learning Amharic. Don’t ignore water on a hike, and don’t ignore fidel when learning Amharic.

22 WPD (Words Per Day): Language-Learning Challenge (Introduction)

Here are some numbers I’ve heard many times (in reference to language-learning): if you know 100-500 words in a language, you’re a beginner. If you know 1,000-3,000 words, you’ve hit the intermediate level. If you know more than 4,000 words, you’re advanced.

I know less than 100 words in Somali, so that’d make me… a pre-beginner, I suppose. Someone who hasn’t even really begun.

I’ve been “starting to learn Somali” for well over a month now, but since I still know less than 100 words, the lackadaisical approach clearly isn’t working for me. Even after I move to Somaliland, I’ll be working in an English-language environment, where Somali will (despite the multitude of opportunities to practice) remain effectively optional.

I need a goal.

Of course, proficiency in a language is more than a certain number of vocabulary words — I know that. I also know that the beginning stages of language learning requires a good amount of elbow grease… flashcards, memorisation, cramming new vocabulary words. That’s how it works.

This seems as good a way as any to quantify my goal.

Crunching the Numbers

My initial contract is to be in Somaliland for a year. My ideal language-learning goal would be to reach an advanced proficiency in approximately six months. I learned Amharic in Ethiopia on a similar timeline, so while it’s an ambitious goal, it’s workable for me. 

Here’s the plan:

  • If advanced is four thousand words, I’ll learn four thousand Somali words in six months.
  • September + October + November + December + January + February = 181 days
  • To learn 4,000 words, I need to learn 22 words per day (23 per day in February).

What’s The Plan?

The exact plan of how I do this? I’ll try a few different strategies, different methods, and let you know how they work for me. I’ll let you know what makes me feel like a language-learning whizz, and what makes me want to smash my head into the table.

If you’re also working on learning a language and want to join the challenge, or if you have suggestions on what methods I should try, please leave a comment and let me know!

I’ll start September 1. Stay tuned!

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) Relative Clauses

Present Tense Relative Clauses

Let’s just start with the formula:
relative clause = yäm + present tense prefix + verb stem (+ suffix, sometimes)

Here are some examples.

whoformulaexampletranslationexampletranslation
ïne
እኔ
yäm + ï + (verb)
የም + እ + (ግስ)
yämwädä mïgïb
የምወደ ምግብ
a food that I likeyämwädäw mïgïb
የምወደው ምግብ
the food that I like
antä
አንተ
yäm + tï + (verb)
የም + ት + (ግስ)
yämïtwädä mïgïb
የምትወደ ምግብ
a food that you likeyämïtwädäw mïgïb
የምትወደው ምግብ
the food that you like
anči
አንቺ
yäm + tï + (verb) +i
የም + ት + (ግስ) + ኢ
yämïtwäji mïgïb
የምትወጂ ምግብ
a food that you (f.) likeyämïtwäjiw mïgïb
የምትወጂው ምግብ
the food that you (f.) like
ïsu
እሱ
yäm + i* + (verb)
የም + ኢ + (ግስ)
yämiwädä mïgïb
የሚወደ ምግብ
a food that he likesyämiwädäw mïgïb
የሚወደው ምግብ
the food that he likes
ïswa
እሷ
yäm + t + (verb)
የም + ት + (ግስ)
yämïtwädä mïgïb
የምትወደ ምግብ
a food that she likesyämïtwädäw mïgïb
የምትወደው ምግብ
the food that she likes
ïña
እኛ
yäm + ïn + (verb)
የም + እን + (ግስ)
yämïnwädä mïgïb
የምንወደ ምግብ
a food that we likeyämïnwädäw mïgïb
የምንወደው ምግብ
the food that we like
ïnantä
እናንተ
yäm + t + (verb) +u
የም + ት + (ግስ) + ኡ
yämïtwädu mïgïb
የምትወዱ ምግብ
a food that you (pl.) likeyämïtwädut mïgïb
የምትወዱት ምግብ
the food that you (pl.) like
ïnäsu
እነሱ
yäm + i* + (verb) +u 
የም + ኢ + (ግስ) + ኡ
yämiwädu mïgïb
የሚወዱ ምግብ
a food that they likeyämiwädut mïgïb
የሚወዱት ምግብ
the food that they like
*For ïsu and ïnäsu, the present tense prefix is y, but for relative clauses, it changes to i.
**In Amharic, the suffix “u” means “the.” The same idea applies here. But, relative clauses always end in vowels, therefore you have to adapt the suffix (because Amharic vowels don’t like being together). If a word ends in ä or a, then the u-suffix changes into w. If the word ends in u, then the u-suffix changes into t.

Example Sentences:

  1. The people who work in the Peace Corps office are mostly Ethiopians.
    የፒስ ኮር ብሮ ውስጥ የሚሰሩት ሰዎች አብዘኛው እትዮጵያዊያን ነቸው።
    yäPis Kor bïro wïst’ yämisärut säwoč abzäñaw ityop’yawiyan näčäw.
  2. The volunteers who live in Oromia learn Afan Oromo.
    ኦሮሚያ ክልል ውስጥ የሚኖሩት በጎ ፈቃደኛዎች ኦሮምኛ ይማረሉ።
    oromiya kïlïl wist’ yäminorut bägo fäk’adäñawoč oromña yïmarälu.
  3. The men who work in the bus station wear red jackets.
    መነሀርያ ውስጥ የሚሰሩት ወንዶች ቀይ ጃኬቶች ይለብሳሉ።
    mänähärya wïst’ yämisärut wändoč k’äy jaketoč yïläbsalu.
  4. BONUS. “what is your favorite food” in Amharic translates literally as “what is the food that you like?”
    የምትወደው/የምትወጂው ምግብ ምንድን ነው?
    yämïtwädäw/yämïtwäjiw mïgïb mïndïn näw?
Exercise: Translate the following sentences into English.
  1. ሻበል (መንደር) የምትኖራው ፈረንጇ እህቴ አይደለችም።
    šabäl (mändär) yämtnoraw färänjwa ïhïte aydäläčm.
  2. የቤት ስራ የሚሰሩት ተማሪዎች ጎበዞች ነቸው።
    yäbet sïra yämisärut tämariwoč gobezoč näčäw.

Past Tense Relative Clauses

Here’s the formula, followed by a table of examples.
past tense relative clause = yä + verb (in simple past) + suffix

ïne
እኔ
yä+(verb)+t
የ+(ግስ)+ት
yäbälahut mïgïb
የበላሁት ምግብ
the food that I ate
antä
አንተ
yä+(verb)+äw
የ+(ግስ)+አው
yäbälahäw mïgïb
የበላሀው ምግብ
the food that you ate
anči
አንቺ
yä+(verb)+w
የ+(ግስ)+ው
yäbälašw mïgïb
የበላሽው ምግብ
the food that you ate
ïsu
እሱ
yä+(verb)+w
የ+(ግስ)+ው
yäbälaw mïgïb
የበላው ምግብ
the food that he ate
ïswa
እሷ
yä+(verb)+w
የ+(ግስ)+ው
yäbälačw mïgïb
የበላችው ምግብ
the food that she ate
ïña
እኛ
yä+(verb)+äw
የ+(ግስ)+አው
yäbälanäw mïgïb
የበላነው ምግብ
the food that we ate
ïnantä
እናንተ
yä+(verb)+t
የ+(ግስ)+ት
yäbälačhut mïgïb
የበላችሁት ምግብ
the food that you ate
ïnäsu
እነሱ
yä+(verb)+t
የ+(ግስ)+ት
yäbälut mïgïb
የበሉት ምግብ
the food that they ate

Now that you’ve got the formula, here are some examples of how to use past tense relative clauses in sentences.

The students who failed didn’t come to class today.
ዛሬ የወደቁት ተማሪዎች ወደ ትምህርት አልመጡም።
zare yäwädäk’ut tämariwoč tïmhïrt almät’um.
The students who studied passed the class.
የተመሩት ተማሪዎች ትምህርት አለፉ።
yätämärut tämariwoč tïmhïrt aläfu.
The tomatoes I bought were very expensive.
የገዛሁት ቲማቲም በጣም ዉድ ነበር። yägäzalut timatim bät’am wud näbär.
The letter she wrote was very long.
የጻፋችው ደብዳቤ በጣም ረጅም ነበር።
yäs’afačw däbdabe bät’am räjïm näbär.

አማርኛ (Amharic): Present Perfect Verb Tense

Make sure that you’ve got the gerundive form down (conjugations, if not usage) before you start working on this.

The present perfect tense (in both Amharic and English) is used to describe things that happened in the recent past, which are still important/influential in the present. You can think of the present perfect as happening “just before” the present. In English, the present perfect uses “have/has.”

  1. Now that I have finished my homework, I can sleep.
  2. She has already eaten. She isn’t hungry anymore.
  3. We have studied really hard for this test. I think we are ready.

Here’s the formula on how the present-perfect is formed in Amharic:
FORMULA: present perfect = gerundive verb + present perfect suffix
You’ll see below that most of the present perfect suffixes are the same — so, if you’ve got the gerundive down, the present perfect should be pretty straightforward (yipee!)

pronounpresent perfect suffixgerundive (example)present perfect (example)translation
ïne/እኔ-አለሁ/-alähuበልቼ/bälčeበልቻለሁ/bälčalähuI have eaten.
antä/አንተ-አል/-alበልተህ/bältähበልተሃል/bältähalYou have eaten.
anči/አንቺ-አል/-alበልተሽ/bältäšበልተሻል/bältäšalYou have eaten.
ïsu/እሱ-አል/-alበልቶ/bältoበልቷል/bältwalHe has eaten.
ïswa/እሷ-አለች/-äläčበልታ/bältaበልታለች/bältaläčShe has eaten.
ïña/እኛ-አል/-alበልተን/bältänበልተናል/bältänalWe have eaten.
ïnantä/እናንተ-አል/-alበልተችሁ/bältäčhuበልተችኋል/bältäčhwalYou have eaten.
ïnäsu/እነሱ-አል/-alበልተው/bältäwበልተዋል/bältäwalThey have eaten.

NB. Don’t stress about how the vowels change when you attach the suffix. For example, for “እሱ/ïsu,” በልቶ+አል/bälto+al turns into በልቷል/bältwal. It’s a question of pronunciation. If you say በልቶአል/bältoal quickly, you’ll probably end up saying በልቷል/bältwal, anyways. So, in your head, you can think of it as “በልቶአል/bältoal” or “በልቷል/bältwal” — nobody will know the difference when you’re speaking.

Here are some example sentences.

The students have gone home to eat lunch. ምሳ ለመብላት ተማሪዎቹ ቤተቸው ሄዳዋል።The teacher has gone to Addis Ababa, therefore we have cancelled his class. አስተማሪ አዲስ አበባ ሄዷል፣ ስለዚህ ትምህርቱ ሰርዛናል።
She has worked in many countries. ብዙ አገሮች ውስጥ ሰርታለች።Many students have failed, therefore they will repeat. ብርካታ ተማሪዎች ወደቀዋል፣ስለዚህ ይደግማሉ።
We have lived in Ethiopia for seven months. ለሳበት ወራት ኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ ኖራናል።He has been elected as the new president. አዲስ ፕረሲደንት ተመርጧል።

Bonus examples: Is electricity sporadic in your town? You’ll probably hear a lot of present perfect.

  • mäbratu hedwal? Has the power gone (out)?
  • mäbratu hedwal. The power has gone (out).
  • mäbratu mätwal? Has the power come (back)?
  • mäbratu mätwal. The power has come (back).

Exercise: Fill in the chart by conjugating the given verbs and pronouns into the present perfect tense.

እኔ/ïne
መስማት/mäsmat ____________________
እሱ/ïsu
መሮጥ/märot’ ____________________
እሷ/ïswa መስበር/mäsbär ____________________እነሱ/ïnäsu
መፍቀድ/mäfk’äd ____________________
አንቺ/anči
መሞከር/mämokär ____________________
እኛ/ïña
ማየት/mayät ____________________
እሱ/ïsu
ማፍላት/maflat ____________________
አንተ/antä
ማንበብ/manbäb
እሷ/ïswa
ማደን/madän ____________________
እኔ/ïne
ማስተማር/mastämar ____________________
እናንተ/ïnantä
ማለፍ/maläf ____________________
እኛ/ïña
ማቀድ/mak’äd ____________________
እሱ/ïsu
ማርፈድ/marfäd ____________________
እነሱ/ïnäsu
ማግባት/magbat ____________________
እሱ/ïsu
ማረስ/maräs ____________________
አንቺ/anči
መመለስ/mämäläs ____________________

አማርኛ (Amharic) Gerundive Verb Tense

There is no exact equivalent of the Amharic gerundive in English, but it’s very common and important in Amharic. It’s used a lot on its own, and is also helpful when conjugating in the present perfect and past perfect tenses.

We’ll start by doing the conjugations, and then give example sentences of how this tense can be used.

Part 1: Conjugating the Gerundive

The gerundive is formed from two parts — the gerundive root and the gerundive affix.

The gerundive root is very similar to the standard verb root, with one change. If the infinitive verb ended in a “አት/at” or a “አት/ät,” the “ት/t” is re-added in the gerundive form. The final “ä” or “a” is not included.

infinitive verbstandard rootgerundive root
መስማት/mäsmatሰማ/sämaሰምት/sämt
መብላት/mäblatበላ/bälaበልት/bält
መሄድ/mähedሄደ/hedäሄድ/hed
ማለፍ/maläfአለፈ/aläfäአልፍ/alf
Exercise: Give the gerundive root for each verb.
1. መሮጥ/märot’: __________4. ማጠብ/mat’äb: __________7. ማጥናት/mat’nat: __________
2. ማንበብ/manbäb: __________5. መኖር/mänor: __________8. ማደመጥ/madämät’: __________
3. መቅረት/mäk’rät: __________6. መስራት/mäsrat: __________9. መውደቅ/mäwdäk’: __________

Once you’ve got the root, the gerundive is formed by “gerundive root + gerundive affix.”

pronoungerundive affixgerundive of mähed/መሄድ (root: hed/ሄድ)gerundive of mäsrat/መስራት (root: särt/ሰርት)
ïne/እኔ-ኤ/eሄጄ/hejeሰርቼ/särče
antä/አንተ-እህ/ähሄደህ/hedähሰርተህ/särtäh
anči/አንቺ-እሽ/äšሄደሽ/hedäšሰርተሽ/särtäš
ïsu/እሱ-ኦ/oሄዶ/hedoሰርቶ/särto
ïswa/እሷ-ኣ/aሄዳ/hedaሰርታ/särta
ïña/እኛ-እን/-änሄደን/hedänሰርተን/särtän
ïnantä/እናንተ-አችሁ/-äčhuሄደችሁ/hedäčhuሰርተችሁ/särtäčhu
ïnäsu/እነሱ-እው/-äwሄደው/hedäwሰርተው/särtäw

Note: Normally, the “anči” form is the one that palatalizes (ie. changes the last consonant). In the gerundive, it’s the “ïne” form that palatalizes — so, it’s “ሄጄ/heje” and not “ሄዴ/hede.”

Exercise: Combine the given pronouns and verbs into the gerundive form:
  1. እኛ/ïña, መብካት/mäblat = ____________________
  2. እሷ/ïswa, መውደቅ/mäwdäk’ = ____________________
  3. አንተ/antä, ማጥናት/mat’nat = ____________________

Part 2: Using the Gerundive

There are various ways in which the gerundive is used in Amharic. We’ll give examples of two basic ways here, as a starting point.

Usage #1: Sentences with “having” as a state of being (where a past action creates a current state of being) 
  1. Having bought my vegetables, I returned to my village.
    አትክልት ገዘቼ መንደሬ ተመለስኩ።
  2. Having seen your results, how can you improve for the second semester?
    ወጠታችሁን አያታችሁ፣ ለሁለተኛ መንፈቀ ዓመት እንዴት ማሻሻል ትችለላችሁ?
  3. Having won the elections, she will soon be inaugurated.
    ምርጫውን አሸንፍ፣ በቅርቡ ትሾመለች።
  4. Having failed the first semester, he dropped out of school.
    በአንደኛ መንፈቀ ዓመት ወድቅቶ፣ ክትምህርት ቤት ቀረ።
  5. Having left Ethiopia, he found a job in America.
    ከኢትዮጵያ ቀርቶ አሜሪካ ውስጥ አዲስ ስራ አገኛ።
  6. Having done his homework, he went to sleep.
    የቤት ስራ ሰርቶ፣ ተኛ።
  7. Having arrived late to the bus station, the bus had already left.
    መነሃርያ ሲሄድ አረፈጄ ስለነበር፣ መኪና ሄዶአል።
  8. Having eaten dinner, we washed the dishes.
    እራት በልታን፣ እቀዎች አጠብን።
  9. Having finished their work, the students turned it in.
    ተማሪዎች የቤት ስራቸውን ጨረሰው አሰረከቡ።
Usage #2: Sentences which describe a way/method of doing something
  1. You did your work by copying!
    ኮረጃችሁ ፈተነችሁን ጸፉ!
  2. She earns money by selling grains.
    አቀንታ ገንዘቧ ታገኛለች።

አማርኛ (Amharic) Conditional Verb Tenses

The Real Conditional

The real/possible conditional is used to express things which are possible (usually causes and effects).

  • If it rains, I won’t go to the market.
  • If the students work hard, they’ll pass the exam.
  • If the grant gets accepted, we’ll build a new shint bet.

In Amharic, this sentence structure generally follows this formula:
real conditional = kä/ከ+simple past+future tense

kä/+simple past (condition)future tense (effect/result)full sentence
ከአጠኑ
käat’änu
if they study
ያለፋሉ yaläfalu they will passተማሪዎች ከአጠኑ፣ያለፋሉ።
tämariwoč käat’änu, yaläfalu.
If the students study, they will pass.
ወንድሜ ከመጣ
wändme kämät’a
if my brother comes
ቡና እንጠጣለን
buna ïnt’ät’alän
we will drink coffee
ወንድሜ ከመጣ፣ ቡና እንጠጣለን።
wändme kämät’a, buna ïnt’ät’alän.
If my brother comes, we will drink coffee.

The Unreal Conditional

The unreal conditional is used to describe things that don’t actually exist, but might hypothetically exist in an alternate universe.

  • If I were president, I’d pass a law that makes chocolate free!
  • If you had studied harder, you might have passed that exam.
  • If I had done Peace Corps in another country, I wouldn’t be studying Amharic.

In Amharic, this sentence structure generally follows this formula:
ብ/b + verb root (+ noro/ኖሮ, optional*) + verb in “would have” form
(the “would have” form is actually the same as the “used to” form)

  1. If you had studied, you would have passed.
    ብትጠኚ ኖሮ፣ አልፋሽ ነበር።
  2. If the disease had been treated, it wouldn’t have become serious.
    በሽታውን ብትቆጣጠር ኖሮ፣  አይጠናብህም ነበር።
  3. If Kenya hadn’t declared independence, their president would still be British.
    ኬንያ ባትገነጠል፣ እስካሁን ፕረሲደንታቸው ኢንግሌዘዊ ይሆን ነበር።
  4. If I were a boy, I would not wear skirts.
    እኔ ወንድ ብሆን፣ ቀሚስ አልለብስም ነበር።

አርማኛ (Amharic) Crime Vocabulary

መግደል/mägdälto killይግባኝ/yïgbañcourt case
ዳኛ/dañajudge (n.)በፍለጎት/bäflägoton purpose
እስርቤት/ïsrbetprison/jailበአጋጣሚ/bäagat’amion accident
እስረኛ/ïsräñaprisonerታሰረ/tasäräwas arrested
መንጀል/wänjälcrimeአዋል/awalwas caught/arrested
መንጀለኛ/wänjäläñacriminalተለቀቀ/täläk’äk’äescaped/got free
መስረቅ/mäsräk’to stealሌባ/lebathief