Introductory Shona Language - Lesson 4
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Lesson 4: Possessives & Concords Exercise


Lesson 4 - Who does it belong to?

This lesson is about one of the most important things in any language - possessives!

This means how to say 'mine' or 'yours', 'of' etc, whether in a colloquial or ownership sense. It also brings in an idea you might have noticed already: that nouns can affect the words around them.

Let's start with an example in English. Compare the two phrases:
my mother
my hoe

In English the word 'my' is the same whatever word it is referring to. However in Shona things are a bit different: we would say the above as:
my mother - amai vangu
my hoe - badza rangu

You can see that the word for 'mine' is almost the same in both phrases: but the start is different.  These 'starting letters' are called concords. Each kind, or group, of nouns is Shona has its own concord.  Basically, there is no way to avoid simply learning which concords go with which nouns, but the task is not as difficult as it sounds.

Firstly, many nouns have concords which are very similar to the start of the noun, for instance:
my children - vana vangu

We will see more of this later.

Secondly, nouns in the same group tend to be a similar kind of thing in real life: for instance almost all nouns for people are in the same group, while most plants are in another group.  So if you don't know or can't remember the right concord, you can often make a fair guess.

Finally, if you get it wrong people will probably still understand you, and probably be happy to correct you if you ask.

Anyway, once you have the right concord, you have to add it to the right possessive 'stem': like you have already been adding prefixes to noun stems.  The stems are:    

My...         -ngu Our...     -du
Yours...       -ko Yours (plural)...     -nyu
His/her/its...     -ke Their...     -vo

Putting these into practice, we would get: 

my mother...       amai vangu our mother...   amai vedu
your mother...     amai vako your (plural) mother...   amai venyu
his/her mother...  amai vake their mother...     amai  vavo

So now we need to learn some concords for the nouns we already know.  Altogether in Shona, there are 20 different noun groups, each with their own concord.  Luckily this isn't so scary as it seems: some of the groups are not used very regularly, and almost all of the groups go in pairs, where one is the plural of the other.   For now I will concentrate on 3 very commonly used noun groups.

In the table below I will put more details than you need to know just now, as they may be helpful for your own further learning.  The noun group number is irrelevant for speaking, but useful for looking up grammar books and some dictionaries.  The verb concord is added to the start of a verb stem, but I will not deal with this here. 

Group No. Used for Concord Verb concord Example
1 People (singular) wa- a- mwana wangu (my child)
2 Plural of group 1, also respect va- va- vana vako (your children)
3 Plants (singular) wa- u- muti wake (his tree)
4 Plural of group 4 ya- i- miriwo yedu (our vegetables)
9

Some animals, objects (esp. modern things)
(singular)

ya- i- mbudzi yavo (their goat)
10 Plural of group 9 dza- dzi- dzimba dzangu (my houses)

Here are some more examples:  

Shona English
Amai vangu vanogara (ku)Harare My mother lives in Harare
Tiri kudya miriwo yedu We are eating our vegetables
Anoda badza rake He wants his hoe.
BUT: ndiri kuenda kumba kwangu I'm going home (I'm going to my house).


In this last case, the 'kw- ' of  'kwangu' goes with the 'ku-' of 'kuenda': another concord which is used sometimes.  Its hard to know when to use it so just listen to people and learn.

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EXERCISE 3: Translate solutions here (or click ? to see answer)
1. Mbudzi dzangu. Click to show answer 5. Tatenda is cooking his vegetables. Click to show answer
2. Vana vedu. Click to show answer 6. The girls are going home. Click to show answer
3. Ndiri kutema miti yavo. Click to show answer 7. Can you help my brother? Click to show answer
4. Edson ari kurima munda wangu. Click to show answer 8. Where are your (plural) friends? Click to show answer

Introductory Shona Language

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