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Swahili Interrogative Words

Interrogative Words

We use questions in our daily life and it will be more necessary to ask questions as you learn Kiswahili. There are various interrogative words in Kiswahili .These interrogative words are generally at the end, but they may also appear at the beginning or middle of a sentence.

Here are some of the Interrogative words:

Question Word

Meaning

 

Example

 

 

 

Lini?

 

 

 

when

ü  used to ask questions that inquire about the time when an act takes place

ü  appears where the answer is placed

Q. Utasoma Kiswahili lini? [When will you study Kiswahili?]

 

A. Nitasoma Kiswahili kesho. [I will study Kiswahili tomorrow.]

Nani?

who

ü   ‘nani’ is only used to inquire about people

 

Q. Unaitwa nani?

[What is your name?]

A.   Jina langu ni Peter (my name is Peter)

Wapi?

where

ü  ‘wapi’ is used to inquire about places

Q.Wewe unaishi wapi?

 A. [Where do you live?]

 

 

gani

which

ü   used to inquire about specific things

ü   its meaning varies depending on the context

1. Wewe unatoka nchi gani? [Which country do you come from?]

2. Wewe unasoma kitabu gani? [Which book are you reading?]

3. Wewe unapenda chakula gani? [What kind of food do you like?]

Ngapi

How many

ü  used only with plural nouns

ü   answer to the question must be provided in numerical form

ü   the noun marker is attached to the question word ‘-ngapi’

ü   works like an adjective, so it is placed after the noun and agrees in class

ü  with it

 

Nini?

what

ü  used to inquire about things that are being done or will be done

Q. Hii ni nini?

A. [What is this?]

je

how

ü  usually affixed to the verb, meaning ‘what’ or ‘how’

Q.Je, utasoma Kiswahili jioni?

A.[Are you going to study Kiswahili in the evening?]

Na wewe je?

how about you

ü  used to inquire about the other person

Q. Ninakwenda kazini. Na wewe je?

A. [I am going to work. How about you?]

kwa nini/mbona

why

ü  seeks reason for doing something

Q. Kwa nini unasoma Kiswahili? A. [Why are you studying Kiswahili?]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:

Questions are indicated by intonation or by including “je”. I recommend to use Je when asking questions before getting comfortable speaking Kiswahili.

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