Zulu/Lesson 3

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How many years[edit | edit source]

In this lesson, we learn how to say how long we've been working for, how old we are.

Ngineminyaka engu-5 ngisebenza[edit | edit source]

uNandi: Sawubona Philani!
uPhilani: Yebo sawubona Nandi!
uNandi: Unjani?
uPhilani: Ngisaphila, wena unjani?
uNandi: Nami ngikhona.
uPhilani: Uneminyaka emingaki, usebenza?
uNandi: Ngineminyaka engu-5 ngisebenza. Wena, uneminyaka emingaki ufunda eWits?
uPhilani: Ngineminyaka engu-2 ngifunda.
uNandi: Sala kahle.
uPhilani: Hamba kahle.

Pronoun iSenzo isiNgisi
Mina ngineminyaka I have years
Wena uneminyaka You have years
Yena uneminyaka He/She has years
Thina sineminyaka We have years
Nina nineminyaka You(pl) have years
Bona baneminyaka They have years

"Nginonyaka ngisebenza eKPMG" is used for one year. As said before this has the same pattern as the other verbs. To express how old we are, we use the same construction but with no verb after it or 'ubudala' may be used, which means years since birth. Note on the numbers, engu-5 should be read as engu-'five'. So the number is read as it would be in English. Thus engu-10 would be read as engu-'ten'. This is done because Zulu numbers are cumbersome particularly for numbers above 5.

Uneminyaka emingaki ubudala?[edit | edit source]

uNandi: Sawubona Philani!
uPhilani: Yebo sawubona Nandi!
uNandi: Unjani?
uPhilani: Ngiyaphila, wena unjani?
uNandi: Nami ngisaphila.
uPhilani: Uneminyaka emingaki ubudala?
uNandi: Ngineminyaka engu-25. Wena, uneminyaka emingaki?
uPhilani: Ngineminyaka engu-22 ubudala. Usebenzaphi?
uNandi: Ngisebenza eNedbank. Ubhuti wakho uyasebenza na?
uPhilani: Yebo, yena usebenza eCrispy Chicken. Umama wakho usebenza kuphi?
uNandi: Yebo, yena usebenza eChris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.
uPhilani: ungudokotela?
uNandi: Cha, yena ungunesi. Umama wakho uneminyaka emingaki?
uPhilani: Uneminyaka engu-37.
uNandi: uMama wami uneminyaka engu-41.
uPhilani: Sala kahle!
uNandi: Hamba kahle!

Here wakho means your again. The interrogative suffix -phi can also easily be used with sebenza. The characters inquire about age with or without ubudala. Notice how simply a question about someone else's age can be formed.

uGogo uya eKhaya[edit | edit source]

Remember these nouns from last lesson. We are going to make simple sentences with them. In Zulu, the subject has to provide a concord that is attached to the beginning of the verb. The words in the table below all belong to the first noun class. Unlike many other languages that just use the verb conjugated in the third person all the time. Ironically, this would be the case if all the nouns belonged to the first class. But this is not the case. The noun always determines the concord that the verb has attached to the front of it.

isiZulu isiNgisi isiZulu isiNgisi
udokotela doctor unesi nurse
umkandi 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


  • Udokotela usebenza eChris Hani Baragwanath.
  • Ugogo uya ekhaya.
  • Umngane wami usebenzela eWits.
  • Umpheki usebenzela iMacDonalds.
  • Umfundi ufunda eGoli.
  • Umyeni wami usebenza eNedbank.
  • Umkhulu uhlala eNaturena.
  • Uthisha uya esikoleni.
  • Nina nisebenza eStandard Bank.
  • Thina sihlala eHoughton.
  • Wena usebenzela iDeloite.
  • Yena ufunda eWits.
isiZulu isiNgisi
sebenza work
uya going
sebenzela work for
funda read/ study

So if we look at the sentences, we can see that all the nouns use the subject concord 'u'. This is the same subject concord that is used by 'yena' and 'wena'. The formation of one of these sentences can be summed up as follows: Umyeni u + sebenza eNedbank. So all we have to do is attach 'u' to the front of various verbs. Take note of the fact that the 'e' to form places is not used with sebenzela but it is always used with sebenza.

Summary[edit | edit source]

  • We can tell people how old we are. Nginemiyaka engu-31.
  • We can say how long we have been working. Nginemiyaka engu-11 ngisebenza.
  • We can form simple sentences with nouns as the subject. Ugogo uhamba eKhaya.
  • We have further illustrated the use of pronouns and their subject concords.

Next Step[edit | edit source]

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