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.