Using Verbs

Very basic usage

One basic way to use verbs is to say things like 'Ou te 'ai (I eat) or 'E te alu i le ā'oga? (You go to the school?). We'll start with simple sentences like that.

Here are a couple of common verbs:

fia1 » to want to do something   moe » to sleep
siva » to dance   'ai » to eat

And we will use these two pronouns:

'e » you   'ou » I

The word te shows present tense. Here are a few examples:

'Ou te siva » I dance.
'Ou te fia moe » I want to sleep.
'E te alu? » Are you going?
'E te fia 'ai? » Do you want to eat?
'E te 'ai i'a? » Do you eat fish?

There is also a negative, (not / don't), which can be added before the verb.

'Ou te 'ai i'a » I don't eat fish.
'Ou te fia 'ai » I don't want to eat.

And of course:

'Ou te mālamalama » I don't understand

The word i (to) can be used after the verb, but it must be changed to ia1 if it is used before a proper noun, and iate before a pronoun:

'Ou te alu i le fale'oloa » I go to the shop
'Ou te togia le polo ia Ioane » I throw the ball to John
'Ou te togia le polo iate 'oe » I throw the ball to you

Using tenses (past / present / future)

In Samoan, changing tense does not change the verb. Instead, one of the below words will be used to show whether you are speaking in present, past or future tense. This is a bit like saying 'I do walk' and 'I did walk', instead of 'I walk, I walked'.

We will use the verb 'ai (eat) as an example.

Past na Na 'ou 'ai I ate
2 'ou 'ai I was eating
Present 'ua 'Ua 'ou 'ai I've eaten
te 'Ou te 'ai I eat
'olo'o 'Olo'o 'ou 'ai I am eating
Future 'ole'ā 'Ole'ā 'ou 'ai I will eat

The 'ua tense is probably the most common.

With tenses, we can say a few new things:

Na 'ou alu i le lotu » I went to church
'Ole'ā 'ou moe » I will sleep

All of the simple examples above used the te tense, but we can make them more descriptive if we change the tense marker:

'Olo'o 'ou siva » I'm dancing (ongoing action)
'Ua 'ou fia 'ai » I'm hungry

These four examples show how to use verbs without a pronoun:

'Ua puna le vai » The water has boiled
'Ua timu » It's raining
'Ua 'uma » It's finished
'Olo'o tā'ele le tama » The boy is swimming

Personal Pronouns (me / you / them)

Personal pronouns let us know who is the subject of a sentence. e.g., “he chased the cat”, “we went to the market”. Here are some things to take note of:

  1. Inclusion and exclusion: When using the words for 'we', you need to think of whether the person you are talking to is a part of the group. e.g. 'Should we (including you) go home?' vs 'We (excluding you) came from New Zealand to visit'.
  2. Dual pronouns: If you are talking to or about two people, a dual pronoun (marked below with a 2) is used. For larger groups, use the pronouns which are marked with the ∞ sign.
  3. Long and short: For most pronouns, there is also a shorter form (shown in italics). These are used differently to the long forms, so don't swap between them willy-nilly.

Table of Personal Pronouns

English: Include listener Exclude listener  
1 me a'u1, 'ou Speaking about one person
you 'oe, 'e
him/her ia2
2 us tā'ua, 2 mā'ua, Speaking about two people
you 'oulua, lua2
they lā'ua
3+ our tātou matou Speaking about three or more people.
your 'outou
their latou

Building sentences with tenses and pronouns

The short forms of the pronouns are used like this:

Tense marker then pronoun then Verb.

For example, we can use the future tense ('ole'ā), and swap between some pronouns:

'Ole'ā 'ou alu i le fale'oloa » I will go to the shop
'Ole'ā ia alu i le fale'oloa » He/she will go to the shop
'Ole'ā 'ou faitau le tusi » I will read the book
'e faitau le tusi? » Were you reading the book?

The exception is the te tense. With this tense, the pronoun comes before the tense marker:

'Ou te fia moe » I want to sleep
'E te alu? » Are you going? (lit. you go?)

The longer forms of the personal pronouns are used more or less like regular nouns, so the above rule does not apply:

'O a'u na 'aia le mea'ai » It was me who ate the food
Togi mai le polo iate a'u » Throw the ball to me

Plural verbs

Like adjectives, many verbs change when they are used on more than one person. For example, the verb savali (to walk) changes to savavali when we are talking about a group of people:

Na 'ou savali i le fale'oloa » I walked to the shops
te savavali i le fale'oloa » We2 walk to the shops
'Ole'ā savavali i le faleoloa » They2 will walk to the shops

Or using the word moe (sleep):

'Ua moe ia » He/she is sleeping
'Ua momoe latou » They3+ are sleeping

Other Types of Verbs

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