Zulu/Lesson 2

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Talking about yourself[edit | edit source]

In this lesson, we learn how to say where we stay, where we come from and whether we work or study. The conjugating of the verbs involved is also explained.

Ngihlala eThekwini[edit | edit source]

uNandi: Sawubona Philani!
uPhilani: Yebo sawubona Nandi!
uNandi: Unjani?
uPhilani: Ngisaphila, wena unjani?
uNandi: Nami ngikhona.
uPhilani: Wena uhlalaphi?
uNandi: Ngihlala eThekwini, uhlala kuphi?
uPhalani: Mina ngihlala eGoli.

Before explaining the dialogue fully, the verb -hlala with its pronoun prefixes is given. Mina, Wena, Yena, Nina, Thina, Bona are used for emphasis, just as we can say, "Me, I live in Durban" in English. This means that Zulu is a pro-drop language like Spanish, Greek, and many others.

Pronoun isenzo isiNgisi
Mina ngiyahlala I live
Wena uyahlala You live
Yena uyahlala He/She lives
Thina siyahlala We live
Nina niyahlala You(pl) live
Bona bayahlala They live

Every verb is used in this manner, so for instance -sebenza means work so 'Ngiyasebenza' means I work. It needs to be noted here that ya is added in between subject concord, the ngi part, and the verb stem. This is only done when there is no expressed object or adjunct. It should be noted that writing 'Yena ngiyahlala' in Zulu is the same as writing "He stay" in English. Leaving out the subject concord, for instance, 'Mina hlala', is the same as "Me, stay!" in English, where the second word is a command. If the pronoun is used it must always agree with the subject concord. One way to remember the names of the pronouns is to think of them as Aunts, Thina (Tina), Mina, Nina. Say "Mina ngi, Thina si, Nina ni" aloud to yourself a few times.

isiZulu isiNgisi
Uhlalaphi? Where do you stay?
Uhlala kuphi? Where do you stay?
eThekwini At/in/from Durban
eGoli At/in/from Johannesburg

The above table introduces the -phi affix which means where. It cannot stand alone so it is either added to the end of the verb or ku- is prefixed to it. Words in Zulu beginning with 'e' mean at somewhere. A list of places in South Africa is provided below.

isiNgisi Pretoria Cape Town Johannesburg Durban Pietermaritzburg Ladysmith
isiZulu iPitoli iKapa iGoli iThekwini uMgungundlovu uMnambithi

In principle, if we want to create the name of a place that we do not know the actual name for, we can take the English word for it and add an 'i' to the beginning of it. So London would be iLondon. To turn this into the place of/at/in London we change the 'i' to an 'e'.

Ngiphuma eFlansi[edit | edit source]

Jean starts talking to an older man. So to show respect he uses Sanibona and plurals.

uJean: Sanibona baba.
uNjabulo: Yebo sawubona.
uJean: Ninjani?
uNjabulo: Ngikhona, wena unjani?
uJean: Ngisaphila.
uNjabulo:Igama lami uNjabulo. Ungubani?
uJean: NginguJean.
uNjabulo: Ngiyajabula ukukwazi.
uJean: Nami ngiyajabula ukukwazi.
uNjabulo: Uphuma kuphi?
uJean: Ngiphuma eFlansi. Niphumaphi?
uNjabulo: Ngiphuma eKapa

Here in this example eFlansi is once again a locative and means in France. We have also introduced how to ask someone's name. Ubani means who? Ungu- means you are. So Ungubani means you are who or Who are you?

Another way to ask someone's name is Igama lakho ngubani?.

In general, this is the best way to express where you come from. Below is a list of countries.


Umbuso Uhlanganisile iNgilandi isiKotilandi iWayelshi iShayina
iSpeyini iFlansi iJalimani iTaliya iRashiya
iMelika iKhanada iZilandi Elisha i-Ostreliya iNingizimu Afrika1
iZimbabwe iAngola iButswana iNamibhiya iMekisiko

1 uMzansi is also used it is a loan word from Xhosa.

Also note that depending on where you are it might be acceptable to say iFrance or iSpain. This is true of large cities. But it will always be correct to use the terms above.

Ngiyafunda/Ngiyasebenza[edit | edit source]

The above conversation continues.

uNjabulo: Wenza msebenzi muni?
uJean: Ngingumfundisi.
uNjabulo: Ngingudokotela.

Ngingudokotela[edit | edit source]

isiZulu isiNgisi isiZulu isiNgisi
udokotela doctor unesi nurse
umkhandi repairman uthisha teacher
umfundi learner/student umama mother
ugogo grandmother umkhulu grandfather
ubaba father usisi sister
umgane friend umpheki cook
umzali parent usisi sister
umfundisi preacher ubhuti brother
udadewethu my/our sister umfowethu my/our brother
umyeni husband umntwana child
yebo yes cha no

If we remember one of the ways to say our name, NginguPhilani means I am Philani. The same applies for saying you are a doctor or teacher.

uThabo: Ngingudokotela.
uNosipho: Hhayi mina ngingunesi!
uZodwa: Wena ungudokotela na?
uThabo: Yebo, ngingudokotela. Umyeni wakho ungumpheki?
uZodwa: Cha, yena ungumfundisi.

This above dialogue illustrates that the pronouns and concords apply here too with -ng-. The na at the end of Zodwa's first sentence turns it into a question. So the sentence means: 'Are you a doctor?'. 'Umyeni wakho ungumpheki?' uses tone to indicate the question. -kho means your and wa- is for agreement. So the sentence means: 'Is your husband a cook?'.

Note The words that are underlined need to be learned for the lesson and the exercises.

Summary[edit | edit source]

  • We say where we live - Ngihlala eHillbrow.
  • We can ask someone where they live - Wena uhlalaphi? or Uhlala kuphi?
  • We know words for various cities in South Africa - iGoli iKapa etc or eGoli.
  • We can form synthetic names for cities that we do not know the real name for - iLondon or iParis.
  • We can ask someone what they do - Wenza msebenzi muni?
  • We can say what we do - Ngingudokotela.
  • We have learn various nouns for certain professions - unesi, umpheki etc.

Next step[edit | edit source]

Try the Exercise or go the next Lesson 3. Or alternatively, go back to the Index.