Describing Objects

In this section we will work mainly with adjectives (e.g. big, small, blue) and nouns (e.g. table, cat) to form simple sentences. This section also covers articles and possessive pronouns.

Articles and counting (the book / two books)

'O le tusi » The book
'O le lā'au » The tree
'O le tama » The boy

The word le is the definite article, like 'the' in English. If we take it out, the sentence becomes plural:

'O tusi » Books
'O lā'au » Trees
'O tama » Boys

To specify how many items there are, we can remove the 'o le and add the number like this:

E lima tusi » There are five books
E sefulu lā'au » There are ten trees
E to'aiva tama » There are nine boys

When you count people, to'a- should be added to the start of the number. This is shown in the last example above.

Numbers can also come after the noun (see the Numbers and Time section):

E lua fale » Two buildings
'O fale e lua » Two buildings

There are also two indefinite articles. se1 (a or an) is singular, whilst ni (some) is plural.

'O se moa » A chicken
'O ni moa » Some chickens

The indefinite article is only used if you are pointing out one chicken out of a group, so to point out 'a chicken' on its own, you would be better to use 'O le moa (the chicken). You could also try one of these:

E tele moa » Many chickens
E tele moa » Not many chickens

Using adjectives (tall / big / small)

Adjectives are usually added after the noun. We will use the word lā'au (tree) again, but this time add one, and then two adjectives.

'O le lā'au » The tree
'O le lā'au 'umi » The tall tree
'O le lā'au miti ma 'umi » The thin and tall tree

The conjunction ma means 'and'. There are also other correct word orders, but to show them we have to bring back the word e1, which simply shows present tense:

'O le fasipovi e mānaia » The beef is good
E mānaia le fasipovi » The beef is good

Plural adjectives

When you are speaking about more than one thing, many adjectives change to a plural form. For example:

'O le pua'a la'itiiti » The small pig
'O pua'a lā'iti » Small pigs

Nouns don't usually have plural forms. The ones that do are usually compound words with adjectives in them, so keep an eye out for them:

tamaitiiti » child   tamaiti » children

Placement of objects (on / under / behind)

To describe the location of objects, we use one of the following words (aptly called "locative bases"):

luga » on   lalo » under
luma » in front   tua » behind
totonu » inside   fafo » outside

The sentences are quite simple to construct. We will use these nouns:

'O le tusi » The book
'O le laulau » The table
'O le ma'a » The rock

We can put together these sentences to place the objects relative to eachother:

'O le tusi i luga o le laulau » The book on the table
'O le tusi i lalo o le laulau » The book under the table
'O le tusi i tua o le ma'a » The book behind the rock
'O le tusi i luma o le ma'a » The book infront of the rock

When used on one noun, they have fairly intuitive meanings:

'O le ma'a i fafo » The rock outside
'O le faletupe totonu » The central bank

Other useful locative bases to learn include 2 (here) 2 (there).

Possession (Sina's car / Sione's books)

The simplest way to show possession is with the wordso and a – These mean 'of'.

'O le fale o Sione » Sione's house (lit. House of Sione).
'O le toniga a leoleo » Police uniform (lit. The uniform of police).

The a is generally used for less personal possessions, while o is for personal ones. More detail about this is shown in the possessive pronouns section below.


The Samoan word for 'colour' is . Here are a few colours:

'ena'ena » brown   lanumoana » blue
pa'epa'e » white   lanumeamata » green
'efu'efu » grey   lanumoli » orange
uliuli » black   violē » purple
mūmū » red   pīniki » pink
samasama » yellow        

There are a few correct ways to describe colour. I'll start with the hardest:

'O le lanu o le povi e mūmū » The colour of the cow is red
E lanu pa'epa'e le iputī » Its colour is white, the mug
'O le lā'au e lanumeamata » The tree is green
'O le peni e lanu mūmū » The pen is coloured red
'O le peni mūmū » The red pen

The word lanu is often used before the colour names. This is only really required with three colour names (lanumoana, lanumeamata, lanumoli). The other halves of the words have different meanings on their own. Prefixing the other colours with lanu is optional.

To describe multiple colours, the colour names are treated the same as other adjectives:

'O le toniga e lanumeamata ma samasama » The uniform is green and yellow

Or we can describe Sione's car:

'O le ta'avale a Sione e lanu samasama » Sione's car is yellow

Of course, the colour list above is not exhaustive, so you may have to use these questions:

'O le ā le lanu lea? » What is this colour?
'O le ā le lanu o le mea lea? » What colour is this thing?

Note on plural colours

Like other adjectives in Samoan, many colour names change to a different word when describing more than one object. For example:

'O le pua'a e lanu uliuli » The pig is black
'O pua'a e lanu uli » The pigs are black

Types of colour words

In the table at the top of this section, there are three obvious types of colour words:

  1. Colours with their own Samoan name. Many of these have a plural form.
  2. Colours described in terms of something which is that colour. For example, lanumoli simply means "the colour of a moli" (orange).
  3. Colours described with a borrowed word.

Demonstrative Pronouns (this / that / those)

This: lea lenei (pl. nei)
That: lele2 lenā (pl. )
That (far): lale lelā (pl. 2)

Demonstrative pronouns are words like "this, that, these, those", which help you distinguish between different things that you're speaking about.

These words are normally used after the noun. The two forms shown for each word are completely interchangeable:

'O le ta'avale lea » This car
'O le ta'avale lenei » This car

To form a plural, take lenei, lenā or lelā and remove the leading le – making nei, and 2. Don't forget to also change the article to a plural to match:

'O ta'avale » Those (far) cars
'O ta'avale nei » These cars
'O le povi lale » That (far) cow

The word mea (thing) often appears in these sentences, and makes it possible to build on the examples from the rest of this section.

'O le mea lea » This thing
'O le povi lanu mūmū » The red cow
'O le mea lea 'o le povi lanu mūmū » This thing, it's a red cow
'O le ā 'o le mea lea? » What is this thing?

Possessive Personal Pronouns (my / your)

Samoan has an astoundingly large number of possessive pronouns.

Possessive pronouns take the place of the article which would otherwise be used for the object — usually le or no article at all. This means that they indicate the number of objects:

'O le tusi » The book   'O tusi » Books
'O la'u tusi » My book   'O a'u tusi » My books

Note that the word la'u turns into a'u2. Now, remembering the start of the section, there are also two indefinite articles se1 (plural ni), so we have to choose between definite or indefinite forms of the pronoun:

'O se tusi » A book   'O ni tusi » Some books
'O sa'u tusi » One of my books   'O ni a'u tusi » Some of my books

In the same way as there are two words for "of" (a and o), there are two sets of possessive pronouns. One set for personal possessions, the other for impersonal. We would say:

'O la'u ta'avale » My car   'O lau peni » Your pen
'O lo'u lima » My arm   'O lou fale » Your house

So what makes a noun personal? If it's a part of you, you wear it, think it, or you live in it, then it's probably personal. This includes names, arms, shirts, parents, land, villages and emotions. Most other things are impersonal, including children, property, and spouses.

This is the type of thing which must learned in short pieces. Using 'my' and 'your' in their singular, definite forms is the simplest way to start:

'O la'u se'evae » My shoes.
'O lo'u igoa o Ioane. » My name is John.
'O lau telefoni » Your telephone.
'O le 'isumu i luga o lou ulu » he mouse on your head.

There are also two other things to take into account, because possessive pronouns are derived from regular personal pronouns.

  1. Dual pronouns: English has singular and plural possessive pronouns. (eg. 'my car' vs. 'our car'). Samoan has a third category of possessive pronouns, used for groups of two. If two people own a car, it is lo ta'avale ('their2 car'), whereas if more people own the car, it is lo latou ta'avale ('their3+ car').
  2. Inclusion and exclusion: For the English word 'our', different Samoan pronouns must be used depending on whether or not the person being addressed is a part of the group you are speaking about.

Below is a table of possessive pronouns in their singular, personal, definite form. The rules underneath the table will allow you to construct the correct possessive pronouns for any situation.

Table of Possessive Pronouns

English: Include listener Exclude listener  
1 my lo'u For possessions of one person.
your lou
his/hers lona
2 our lo ta lo ma For possessions of two people.
your lo lua
their lo la
3+ our lo tatou lo matou For possessions of three or more people.
your lo outou
their lo latou

How to use this table:

  1. Select a possessive pronoun from the table based on who has the object.
  2. If what you are talking about is not a personal item, then replace the o with an a. lou becomes lau1, lo tatou becomes la tatou, etc
  3. Decide to use indefinite or definite:
    1. For definite objects: (eg, 'my pen', 'your family', 'my pens', 'your pigs')
      1. Singular: No change: 'O la'u peni; 'O lo tou a'iga
      2. Plural: Drop the first 'l': 'O a'u peni, 'O au pua'a
    2. or, Indefinite: (eg, 'one of my pens', 'some of his chickens')
      1. c) Singular: Replace the first 'l' with an 's': 'O sa'u peni '; O sana moa
      2. d) Plural: Drop the first 'l', and add the word 'ni': 'O ni a'u peni; 'O ni ana moa