Verbs – present tense
Verbs in Setswana (and most Bantu languages) are almost always accompanied by a subject marker (except in the imperative/command form).
Basic Subject Markers
We have already seen the subject markers
|ke||I (1st person)|
|o||you (2nd person)|
|o*||he/she (3rd person)|
.*in the negative, this becomes "a"
.**in some dialects, marker "lo" is used instead of "le"
These are the subject markers for people, there are many other markers for nouns which belong to other classes - see later in noun classes
Present Tense (Short Form)
In this form, the present tense is simply made by adding the subject marker and the verb. However, this can only be used when there is a word following the verb (otherwise you use the "long form" see below)
|ke bidiwa Paul||I am called Paul|
|o bidiwa Ntathi||she is called Ntathi (or you are called Ntathi)|
|monna o ja apole||the man (he) is eating an apple|
|re ithutha Setswana||we are learning Setswana|
|ke bao ko lelapeng||I am returning home|
Present Tense (long form)
If there are no words following the verb, then an extra "a" marker must be added before the verb (called the "long form marker")
|re a ithuta||we are learning|
|basadi ba a ja||the women (they) are eating|
|ke a kwala||I am writing|
|ke a bao jaanong||I am returning now *|
.* the verb still takes the long form even though followed by "jaanong". More strictly the long form applies if the verb is "questionable" (eg "I am returning now" is questionable - where are you returning? but "I am returning home" is not)
Present Tense (negative)
To form the negative, the negative article "ga" comes before the subject marker, and the end of the verb changes from "a" to "e". The long form marker "a" disappears.
|monna o ja apole||monna ga a je apole*||the man (he) is not eating an apple|
|re ithutha Setswana||ga re ithuthe Setswana||we are not learning Setswana|
|re a ithuta||ga re ithute||we are not learning|
|basadi ba a ja||basadi ga ba je||the women (they) are not eating|
|ke a kwala||ga ke kwale||I am not writing|
.* Note "o" subject marker changes to "a" in negative form
Verb "to be"
There is no direct equivalent of the verb "to be" in Setswana. The marker "ke" is used to express identity, but in other situations the normal subject marker is used.
|Jane ke moruti||Jane is a teacher|
|Jane o montle||Jane is beautiful|
This will become clearer with use
Negative of verb "to be"
The marker "se" is used as the negative of "ke"
|Jane ga se moruti||Jane is not a teacher|
|Jane ga o montle||Jane is not beautiful|
Verb "to have"
The words "na le" are used for possession, and also for association (think of it as being "to be with")
|ke na le koloi||I have a car|
|Jane o na le bana||Jane has children|
|Mary o na le Pitso||Mary is with Pitso|
|Go na le batho mo ofising||There are people in the office (literally "to be with people in the office")|
"Go" is the subject marker for infinitives (see later in noun classes)
Negative of "to have"
In the negative form as well as adding the negative article "ga", the "le" dissapears
|ke na le koloi||ga ke na koloi||I don't have a car|
|Jane o na le bana||Jane ga a na bana||Jane hasn't any children|
|Mary o na le Pitso||Mary ga a na Pitso||Mary isn't with Pitso|
|Go na le batho mo ofising||Ga go na batho mo ofising||There aren't any people in the office|
Vocabulary - Verbs
|tlhola||spend the day|
Vocabulary - Nouns
|setswana||x||language of Batswana|