First Lessons in Maori
The difference between a and o, which applies also to na, no, ma, mo, ta, to, taku, toku, etc., is this: page 21 a is used in speaking of (a) transitive actions including works accomplished or in progress, (b) movable property, instruments, (c) food, (d) husband, wife, children, slaves, etc.; o in speaking of (e) intransitive actions, (f) parts of anything, names, qualities, (g) feelings, (h) houses, land, canoes, (i) inhabitants, (j) water for drinking, medicine, clothes, (k) parents, and other relatives (except husband tane, wife wahine, and children or grandchildren with their collaterals; but uri takes o), superiors, companions (including hoa when applied to husband or wife), also (l) with derivative nouns (§§ 58 and 68) of adjectives, participles, and intransitive verbs and with those of transitive verbs when they are used in a passive sense.
Te tahunga a Raumati i a Te Arawa, Raumati's burning of the Arawa (canoe).
Nga tao a Manaia, Manaia's spears.
He kai mau, food for you.
Te wahine a Rua me ana tamariki, Rua's wife and his children.
To raua totohe ki a raua, their contending with one another.
Te pakitara o te whare, the wall of the house.
Te aroha o Kuiwai ki a Manaia, Kuiwai's love for Manaia.
Te whare o Tinirau, Tinirau's house.
Nga tangata o tenei motu, the men of this island.
He wai mo Te Ponga, some water for Te Ponga.
Nga tungane me nga teina o to raua whaea, the brothers and younger sisters of their mother.
Te hokinga o Kupe ki Hawaiki, Kupe's return to Hawaiki.
Te tahunga o Te Arawa e Raumati, the burning of the Arawa (canoe) by Raumati.
Taku ingoa (f) mou, my name for you (i.e., the name which I have given you).