Also referred to as verbless sentences
Maori does not have a verb ‘to be,’ so this means that sentences like ‘I am a student’ look a bit different in Maori.
I’ve never had this properly covered in a classroom so I’ve had to learn out of books how this works (I’ve since used these kinds of sentences a lot in assessed work, so I know I’ve got it now!)
There are two really important words for nominal phrases: he & ko. Neither of these words have an absolute equivalent in English, however, generally speaking, ‘he’ is the indefinite article, like ‘a’ in English. But it is not necessarily singular like it is in English, so it can be used when referring to one, or some.
Ko is more like the definite article ‘the’, in that it gives slight emphasis, but otherwise functions similarly to ‘to be’ (but it is not an equivalent to that verb!)
Let’s look at some actual sentences:
He [object/oranga] [definitive article (this, that, those etc)]
He pukapuka tēnei – This is a book
He pahikara ērā – Those are bicycles
The ‘he’ is acting like a verb – but it is not a verb! The sentences in its literal meaning is ‘a book this’, ‘some bicycles those’
If you want to describe a quality the sentence is in two parts
He [quality/āhua] [definitive article] [object/oranga]
He roa tēnei pukapuka – this book is long (literally ‘long this book’)
He teitei ērā rākau – those trees are tall (literally ‘tall those trees’)
If you want to describe things in general, you leave out the specificity of ‘this’ or ‘those’
He [quality/āhua] te [object/oranga]
He tere te motopaika – Motorbikes are fast
He reka te rare – Lollies are sweet
The use of ‘te’, though seemingly singular (ngā being the plural form of ‘the’) refers to a class of things. In saying that though, you might also be sying ‘The motorbike is fast’ or ‘the lolly is sweet’ – it’s contextual
Ko is emphatic, which means that it gives emphasis on the word that follows it.
Ko tēnei te pukapuka – This is the book.
Ko te pukapuka tēnei – This is the book.
If you want to describe particular people, you will need the particle ‘a’, which has absolutely no equivalent in English.
‘a’ is used before the name of a person or before most pronouns
He [quality/āhua] a [name]
He tauira a Makere – Makere is a student (literally ‘a student Makere’)
He kaiako a rātou – They are teachers (literally ‘teachers they’)
The ‘a’ is not used before singular pronouns
He tauira ahau – I am a student
He mōhio koe – You are knowledgeable
He pirihimana ia – She is a policeman
When you want to use ‘ko’ to create emphasis when speaking about a person the particle ‘a’ is not used when ‘ko’ precedes the name
Ko te tauira a Pania – Pania is a student.
Ko Pania te tauira – Pania is a student
As you can see, when placed directly after ‘ko’ the ‘a’ is not needed.
Ko is not used with adjectives, so if you want to describe an object as ‘big’ you would use a sentence beginning with ‘he’.
Have a go at translating the following:
- He pene rākau tēnei
- He nui tērā motokā
- He kawa te rēmana
- He karaka te ngeru
- He karu ērā
- He kaha a Rewi
- He mauiui ia
- Ko te whare whero tēnei
- Ko Wiremu te kaikōrero
- He makariri te wai
- The room is big
- Anaru is a teacher
- Hemi is a doctor
- This soldier is Hinemoa
- That pen is blue
- I am an author
- He is beautiful
- They are old
- This drink is sweet
- Hone is a lawyer
Use maoridictionary.co.nz to help you. Any word you look up, add to your vocab list to learn over the next week.
For practicing together at home, use these questions:
He aha tēnei? – What is this? He aha ēnei? – What are these?
He aha tērā? What is that? He aha ērā? – What are those?
To reply, replace the ‘aha’ with the name of the object:
He aha ēnei? He tōkena ēnei. – What are these? These are socks.
Post your questions below. And feel free to post your answers to the above questions too. I’ll try to respond to let you know you’re on the right track!