Hawaiian/Lesson One

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Basic Grammar[edit]

This section talks about the structure of Hawaiian, and simple things to note when learning the language. Hawaiian is a fairly simple language to learn, if one just applies themself, and studies every day. Some words can be a little tricky, since there are only 12 letters plus the 'okina, and pua could be pronounced, pua, pu'a, puā, or pūa. Not to be discouraging though. This language is a beautiful array of sounds and culture, and with a little practice on the grammar, you can be speaking in no time!


Hawaiian consists of h, k, l, m, n, p, w, and an 'okina, which represents a glottal stop in the voice when speaking, as in the English phrase, uh-oh. The 'okina is basically an apostrophe between two vowels and does not have a specific sound, other than the slight stop. The vowels are the same as in English, a, e, i, o, u, with one exception: a kahakō can be placed over any vowel to make its length increase- expressed as a line over a vowel.

Note how hale (house) has a short a, compared to kāne (man).

Notice that 'okina has an 'okina, and kahakō has a kahakō.

Another rule in Hawaiian is that consonants cannot double up. That is, they can't be side by side in a word. Vowels have more freedom because they can lie next to each other, however consonants cannot. Consonants cannot end a word either (the 'okina is considered a consonant).

Note the following sounds:

Hawaiian Sound With the Kahakō
A Ah ā - Aah
E Eh ē - Eeh
I Ee ī - Eee
O Oh ō - Ohh
U Oo ū - Ooo

A makes an ah sound, as in father.

E makes an eh sound, as in elephant.

I makes an ee sound, as in bee.

O makes an oh sound, as in ocean.

U makes an oo sound, as in blue.

All of the consonants are pronounced the same as in English, except the w which is usually pronounced as a v.

W is pronounced as a "V" after a, i, or e. It is pronounced as a "W" at the beginning of a word, or after o, or u.

Do Not Get Confused[edit]

There are some sets of vowels that can be a bit tricky to distinguish. For example, determining ao from au, or ae from ai. Study the table, and try to make the last vowel in each diphthong noticeable.

Ae Ai
Ao Au
E Ei
Oe Oi
O Ou
Ou Au


In each lesson, you will be given a short list of vocabulary words to learn. These will help you in future lessons, and increase your knowledge about the language.

Ke Kāne- man Ka Wahine- woman
Ke Kumu- teacher Ka Haumana- student
Ka Hoaaloha- friend Ke Keiki- child
Ka Pua- flower Ke One- sand
Ke Kula- school Ka 'Ohana- family
Ke Ka'a- car Ka Hale- house
Maika'i- good Ma'i- sick
Hau'oli- happy Kaumaha- sad
Māluhiluhi- tired 'Olu'olu- kind
Li'ili'i- little Nui- big
Nani- pretty Pupuka- ugly

Nā Ka'i[edit]

A ka'i is a lead word that helps a noun along. A noun cannot sit by itself: the noun and the "noun announcer" are locked together like they are married. The most common are the two, ka and ke, which mean the in Hawaiian. Ke is used before any word beginning with k, e, a, or o. An easy trick to remember this is that the letters it goes with spells out "ke ao" which means the cloud in Hawaiian.

Another common pair of ka'i are he and . He means a or an. goes along with ka and ke, meaning the, but indicates the noun is plural.

for example:

ke kāne vs. nā kāne - the man vs. the men

ka wahine vs. nā wahine - the woman vs. the women

he kāne - a man

he wahine - a woman

More ka'i include kēlā and kēia; this and that, ko'u; my, kou; your, kona; his, her, or its. These all can occur before a noun, which has to be preceded by one of these. Be aware of the 'okina in ko'u, compared to kou. Make sure to blend the o and the u. And it does not make an ow sound, as in couch, but rather the sound of a regular o, with the u-sound emphasised at the end.

Word Use
Ke The (before: k, e, a or o - definite article)
Ka The (singular, definite article)
He A or An (indefinite article)
The (plural, definite article)
Kēlā That
Kēia This
Ko'u My
Kou Your
Kona His, Her or Its


I'm sure this is what you've been waiting for; how to say hello, and have a basic conversation with someone. but first, we need to learn eight very important puzzle pieces to put together. The basic greeting is formed by saying Aloha, followed by the time of day, then how many people are in the conversation, ending with addressing the person.

Greeting Time Number
Kakahiaka (6:00-10:00)
Aloha Awakea (10:00-2:00) Kāua
'Auinalā (2:00-6:00) Kākou
Ahiahi (6:00-10:00)

Now to explain all of this. Aloha literally means love, but here, it is used as a normal greeting. Kakahiaka is morning, usually said from 6:00-10:00 am, as awakea is said from 10:00-2:00 and means noontime. 'Auinalā is afternoon, from 2:00-6:00, and ahiahi is evening, from 6:00-10:00. Note that these times are approximate, and do not need to be followed exactly, but they are helpful guidlines when talking with a native speaker.

Kāua refers to the dual form, which is the speaker and the person spoken to. Kākou is the plural form, and refers to more than three people in the group (Greetings to all of us). Notice how Hawaiian finds it respectful to add oneself in the greeting, therefore more than three people indicates that the speaker of the greeting is talking to two people. When addressing the other person, start with e and say their name.

And of course, any of these can be left out. It is not wrong for one to only say "aloha", "aloha ahiahi", or even "aloha kāua". Even the address to the other person may be left out, but it is good to know all of the greetings.

Hawaiian English
Aloha kāua, e Kanani! Hello, Kanani!
Aloha kakahiaka, e Niala. Pehea 'oe? Good morning, Niala. How are you?
Maika'i au. A 'o 'oe, pehea 'oe? I'm good/well. And you, how are you?
Ma'i au I'm sick.

Or if you are meeting someone for the first time, you could ask them their name:

Aloha. Greetings.
Aloha kāua. 'O wai kou inoa? Hello to both of us. What is your name?
'O name ko'u inoa. name is my name


'O- shows the subject of a sentence when a proper noun.

Wai- Who
Kou- Your
Inoa- Name

Note: Keep in mind that one does not answer the question, "Pehea 'oe?" with how they are actually feeling. It is more appropriate to respond with "Maika'i", rather than anything else. Negative words have negative power, and are looked at by the Hawaiians as people of the mainland see profanity. "Everyone knows such words, and may use them in some circumstances, but they are not appropriate in most circumstances." (-Ho'olele Hualono HAW101 Podcast; Mokuna 2, Helu 1) It is somewhat fine to find such words with close friends, or in historical writings. It is inappropriate to say them in a classroom, or in a formal setting.

Note: Another little tidbit to know, would be the three words that always come together: Please, Thank you, and You're Welcome. 'Olu'olu (please), Mahalo (thank you), and He mea iki (you're welcome- or litterally: "a little thing").

Simple Sentence[edit]

A simple Hawaiian sentence's general structure is adjective-noun announcer-noun/proper noun. This is used to say "a noun" is "an adjective", as in Maika'i ka pua. Literally: Good the Flower; the flower is good. Notice how the adjective goes to the front of the sentence, and the subject comes after it. If the subject comes first, it would make an entirely different phrase. It would not be a complete sentence, but rather, a fragment, or a part of a complete sentence. In a different sentence structure, the adjective comes after the object it describes. ex: ka pua maika'i: the good flower. Compare the two groups of words:

Maika'i ka pua. The flower is good.
Ka pua maika'i The good flower

One must be consciously aware of this switch, and organize their sentence accordingly.

Nani ka wahine. The woman is pretty.
Ka wahine nani The beautiful woman

Pupuka ka hale. The house is ugly.
Ka hale pupuka The ugly house

Nui ke keiki. The child is big.
Ke keiki nui The big child

See the difference?

Common Pronouns[edit]

In Hawaiian, pronouns are called Papani. Papani, as in English, are people, being I, You, He/She/It/One, We, You, They. I suppose the first, and most obvious, pronouns that you should learn would be, I, you (singular) and he/she/it.

English Hawaiian Notes
I au or wau
you 'oe Do not forget the 'okina at the beginning; it is part of the word.
he or she 'o ia 'o ia is two words and not one; it is never one word.

Aia Sentences[edit]

Most Hawaiian sentences resemble a squid, having three parts; the head- po'o, the connector- piko, and the tentacles- 'awe. The head represents the main idea of that sentence, the connector being the subject, and the tentacles are the rest of the sentence. An aia sentence is a location sentence in Hawaiian. It describes when or where something is. These sentences are so called because they always start with the word "aia". Its closest translation in English would be to be. (am, is, are, etc.)

To form an Aia sentence, first you must know what an "'ami" is. An 'ami is a joint word that tells one of four things;

Hawaiian English Notes
i to, on, in, at
o of
ma on, in, at notice that "ma" means the same as "i", except for "to". Do not get mixed up.
me with

Helpful Hint: Try not to mix up "ma" and "me". They look very much alike, so remember that ma means in, on or at, and me means with.


With the family Me ka 'ohana
to the school I ke kula
in the car Ma ke ka'a

Aia au ma ke kula. I am at (the) school.
Aia 'oe me ke keiki. You are with the child.
Aia ke luau i kēia lā. The luau is today.

Try creating your own Aia sentences using the following pattern:

Aia + (noun announcer) + Noun + Rest of the Sentence ('Ami + Direct Object)

More Pronouns[edit]

The next pronouns that one must learn, are as follows:

English Hawaiian
we kākou
you all 'oukou
they lākou

Note how they all end in -kou, and we and they both end in -ākou. It is important that the student make these type of connections when studying, so that the information gets permanently located in their memory. Also, all of these pronouns refer to three or more people; Hawaiian has different sets of pronouns that can be used, depending on the situation. We will explain those in later lessons.


Nani lākou. They are pretty.
Nui 'oukou. You all are big.
E Kanani, ma'i kākou. Kanani, we are sick.

All that you've learned[edit]

Go through the list of what you were supposed to learn from this lesson, and if you cannot identify something, go back and reread about it.

Ke Kāne, Ka Wahine, Ke Keiki, Ka Haumana, Ke Kumu, Ka Hoaaloha, Ka Pua, Ke One, Ke Kula, Ka 'Ohana, Ke Ka'a, Ka Hale, Maika'i, Ma'i, Hau'oli, Kaumaha, Māluhiluhi, 'Olu'olu, Li'ili'i, Nui, Nani, Pupuka, Ka/Ke, the rest of the Ka'i, Aloha: Kakahiaka/Awakea/'Auinalā/Ahiahi, Kāua, Kākou, 'O wai kou inoa and how to respond, Au/'Oe/'O ia, How to form an Aia sentence, kākou, 'oukou, Lākou.

Maika'i! You have finished lesson 1 of Hawaiian! Make sure to practice what you've learned by creating your own sentences, and rereading anything you did not understand fully.