If you’re a regular lurker on here you know I post lessons in mixed fashion i.e. I mix all levels and don’t follow a certain pattern. My favourite topic is hands down this simple one that teaches you how to create a simple Swahili sentence using the above formula, STOVE (borrowed from Simplified Swahili). So what does it stand for?
S– Subject prefix T– Tense O– Object infix V– Verb E– Ending vowel
To easily understand this topic, my approach is that we break the formula into the different little sections, discuss them, and once we’ve covered all 5, we bring them together to form a simple, complete sentence. Note that in Swahili 1 sentence could be equal to 5 or more words in English.
eg, Ninakufundisha (1) = I am teaching you (4), pretty cool huh?!
With that in mind let’s start off with S (subject prefix). In English we have a 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person and it. These are represented by personal pronouns and subject prefixes. As in:
Personal pronoun Subject Prefix
1st person Me (Us) I (We)
2nd person You (You) You (You)
3rd person Him/Her (Them) He/She (They)
First of all note that, unlike in English, Swahili has many variations of it (about 7-8 of them). This is due to the use of noun classes- which I might cover at some point. Also note that when dealing with STOVE, it is all about humans (and other living beings i.e. animals, birds, insects and fish). So we are learning how to form sentences involving living beings ONLY as the main subjects or objects of a particular sentence. eg. We are not learning how to say the chair broke, because a chair is an inanimate object, rather we are learning how to say the girl broke a nail, or they carried many loads etc etc. Speaking of subjects (and objects) just what are they? A subject in a sentence is the one doing the act while the object is the one for which or to which an act is done. eg. If a sentence says the girl carried the dog, the girl here is doing the main act of carrying a dog hence she is the subject while the dog is the object because the main act in the sentence (carrying) is being done to them.
With that in mind, let’s see what personal pronouns and subject prefixes we have in Swahili (which perfectly match with the English ones). Note that whatever’s in brackets is the plural, also in Swahili he/she & him/her are each represented by only one personal pronoun/subject prefix unlike in English:
Personal pronoun Subject Prefix
1st person Mimi (Sisi) Ni (Tu)
2nd person Wewe (Nyinyi/Ninyi) U (M)
3rd person Yeye (Wao) A (Wa)
So knowing all about subject prefixes let’s go back to the very first example sentence, ninakufundisha. Using STOVE, we now know what ni, stands for, it stands for I. So even if we didn’t know what ninakufundisha means, at least we’d know the sentence is saying I am doing, did, will do….. something. So the next thing to learn is T which stands for Tense, which will be the next topic I cover. Before signing off it is also important to note the fact that in Swahili sentences tend to sound repetitive, eg. The girl carried a dog= msichana (the girl) alibeba (she carried) mbwa (a dog). Note the repetition, the girl she carried a dog, in English the subject prefix is deemed unnecessary and repetitive but in Swahili it is not, it is absolutely imperative that it be included. Cant explain any further, it’s just one of those things so just know that.
I have written this lesson the way I would usually present it, some students get it right off the bat whilst others take a bit longer. No sweat, that’s why the comment section is for, ask and it shall be answered for thee.
Till next time…