Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

A Grammar and Dictionary of the Samoan Language, with English and Samoan vocabulary



Generally a verb agrees with its nominative case in number.

1. Exception. Nouns of multitude take a plural verb; as ʻua mamate le lafu, the herd are dead.

2. In some cases the verb agrees with its object in number; as Ia ʻe tutuli ia te i latou, Drive thou them; here the verb is plural.

To accompany or do something with another is expressed by the dual or plural verb; as Lua te o mai ma Mareko, lit., You two come and Mark, bring Mark with you; Ta te nonofo, lit., Let us two sit, sit with me; Pe tatou te o ʻea ma i matou? Shall we (inclusive) go with us (exclusive)? Will you go with us? Pe tatou te o ea ma outou? May we go with you?

The usual historic tense is expressed by ʻua. Very often in narrating a tale ʻo will be used, as if bringing the events before the hearer's eyes. Na tago i le lauulu ʻo le aitu, ua ave le tasi fuafuati lauulu, ua nonoa, He took hold of the hair of the aitu, he took one lock and bound it.

Peculiar idioms are, ʻUa malolo, He is well—that is, he has recovered from sickness; ʻO malolo ʻea? Is he well—that is, does he continue in a state of health?

Verbal Particles

ʻUa is used to signify the present with neuter verbs; as ʻUa tagi loʻu loto, My heart weeps; ʻUa ʻou tulaʻi atu, I am standing up; ʻUa ʻou nofo iʻinei, I am sitting here.

page 33

Na and sa mark the imperfect tense; as Na ʻou le fai atu ʻea ia te ʻoe? did I not tell you? na oti, ʻa ua toe ola mai, he was dead, but is alive again. Sa is very rarely to be found in old tales, etc., “ʻO le Pitofau o Tuu, sa lavalava mai.” There seems to be little or no difference between the two particles.

E. besides marking the future, is also used with verbs signifying quality or condition, without respect to time; as E silisili leova, Jehovah is very great; E lelei le poto, wisdom is good.

The third person singular changes the pronoun ia into na for euphony: na te te mafai, he is unwilling. Ia is also sometimes heard: Ia te lavatia tai tetele, he is able to receive high tides (i.e. number of visitors).

Ona before the verb, followed by ai lea after the verb, is used in a dependent sentence, and is either past or future, according to the tense preceding it; as ʻUa sau ʻo ia, ona matou o mai ai lea, he came, and then we came; ʻA sau ʻo ia, ona matou o mai ai lea, if he comes, or when he comes, then we will come.

The Imperative

Ina is used in positive commands: ia is precative; as ina sau ia, come; ia ʻe sau, do you come. For intensity the verb is repeated, followed by ia; alu, ina alu ia, or alu ia, ina alu, go, begone.

The future tense is also used as an imperative; e te alu lava oe, you shall go. The formal ina and ia are often dispensed with; o ia outou, go you. Especially is this the case when the verb is repeated; o, ina o, go, be off. Peculiar is sau, ina alu, come, go.

The Infinitive

The infinitive is rather confined in its use; ʻOu te alu e taʻele, I go to bathe; but also, ʻou te alu, ʻou te taʻele, I go, I bathe. More common than the infinitive is the use of particles, ia, ʻina ia, ona ia making a subjunctive; as na ia faʻaeaina le ʻua mativa, ʻina ia faʻanofo, &c., he exalted him that was poor, that he might cause him to sit; ʻa ʻua lemafai ʻo ia ona faʻalogo ia te ia, but he was not willing that he should hear him.

The infinitive sometimes takes i instead of e; as ʻou te musui alu, I will not go, lit., I am unwilling in (in the matter of) going.

Directive Particles

Verbal directives are mai, atu, ane, ifo, aʻe, ese. Mai after the verb denotes direction towards the speaker; as o mai ia te aʻu, come to me. Atu is direction from the speaker; o atu ia Iosefa, go to Joseph. A nice distinction, not readily comprehended by foreigners, is found in ʻaʻami mai, to fetch from the speaker, in order to take somewhere; ʻaʻami atu, to go and fetch from a distance, in order to bring it. So also difficulty is found with faʻatau mai, to buy; faʻatau atu, to sell; ʻUa iloa mai i tatou, they can see us; ʻUa ʻou iloa atu le vaʻa, I can page 34 see the canoe; ʻUa lagona mai i tatou e i latou, they hear us; ʻua ʻou lagona atu, I can hear.

In describing boundaries, if the speaker is within the bounds, he will say, E pau mai [Lealatele], e pau mai [Safotu]. If he is outside the bounds then, E pau mai [Safotu], e pau atu i [Sasina]; the nearest, mai; the farthest off, atu.

Ane is indirect, along, aside; ʻua alu ane i le ala, he has gone along in the road; ʻUa alu ane i le fale, he has gone aside to the house.

Ifo is direction downwards; as E o ifo i latou i le tuʻugamau, they go down to the grave; Seʻi ʻou ʻai ifo, let me eat down, is peculiar.

Aʻe is direction upwards; as ʻUa lele aʻe le manu, the bird has flown up.

ʻEse is away, away from; o ʻese, begone. Doubling it makes it mean in different directions; ʻUa o ʻeseʻese, they have gone one in one way, one in another.

Accusative without a Preposition

Many verbs in Samoan (“the definite transitive”) govern an accusative directly, without any intervening preposition, as ʻUa na au mai le tala lelei, he brought good news. Verbs signifying to lay up in store, to lay aside, to put off, thus take the accusative; ʻUa to ʻese lona ʻofu, he has put off his garment. Definite transitive verbs omit the article before the noun governed by them. Verbs of plenty; as ʻua mau talo, there is abundance of taro. Verbs of scarcity: ʻua oge mea, destitute of goods. Verbs of eating; ʻUa ʻai talo, he eats taro; of buying and selling: ʻUa faʻatau ʻoloa, he sells goods; of making or building: ʻUa fai fale, he builds houses; of journeying: ʻOu te alu malaga, I am going a journey. ʻOu te alu i le malaga would mean, I am going with a party of travellers. Adding the article makes the object definite; as e fai le fale, to build the house. Taʻi suffixed in ans with, as moetaʻi, to run with.

Verbs with two Accusatives

Some verbs take two nouns after them, one in the accusative, and the other governed by a preposition. Amongst these are all causative verbs; as ʻUa latou faʻatumuina le nuʻu i le saua, they filled the land with oppression. Also verbs meaning to anoint, to plant, to stone, to feed. Sometimes each objective has a preposition, sometimes only one: ʻUa na fa aʻofu ia te ia i le ʻie vavae, he clothed him with cotton cloth; ʻUa ufiufi lona ulu i le pulou, he covered his head with a hat.

The repetition of a verb followed by its opposite denotes continuance ending in its opposite; vevela, vevela, maʻalili, after being hot it becomes cold. The alternation is denoted by reversing the order; maʻalili, maʻalili, vevela, after being cold it is hot.

Very peculiar is the use of a noun with a verbal particle; as ʻOu te se teine ʻea? am I a girl? ʻUa ʻo Toe, it is [like] Toe.

Passive verbs take after them the nominative, and the agent in the abative; as Ia faʻatoina i matou e ia, he has cursed us, or, we are cursed by him.

page 35

Verbs having a passive form are made active by placing the pronoun before them: Ia outou tuʻuina atu outou i le Atua, yield yourselves to God. This form of the verb renders unnecessary the relative ai; Ia ʻe manatua le aso sapati, ʻe te faʻapaʻiaina, or, e faʻapaʻia ai, or ʻina ia fa apaʻiaina, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.


These, like verbs, take a noun after them governed by a preposition: ʻO loʻo ʻalaga fia fia loʻu loto ma loʻu tino i le Atua soifua, My heart and my flesh are joyfully shouting to the living God. The bare participial particle ʻo loʻo is used for the verb to be; ʻO loʻo ia te ʻoe lona malosi, His strength is in Thee.

The use of the participle is confined to that which is now actually in progress; as ʻo loʻo sau, he is now coming—that is, he is on the way. Then when he or it has actually come, ʻua is added; ʻO loʻo ʻua ua, it is now raining. The future participle is expressed by ʻo le a; as ʻo le a faʻaʻumatia le ʻaʻai, the city is about to be destroyed. A peculiar use of ʻo loʻo is in reference to the existence of God: ʻO loʻo soifua le Atua, God lives. Other attributes take e: E poto lava o ia, He is wise.

Very many verbs are used also as adverbs; as ʻUa tu sipa, it stands slantingly; ʻUa moe nofo, he sleeps sitting.


Particles of negation: e leai (like the Hebrew particle), signifies non-existence; as e leai se lelei, there is nothing good. It is also used for denial, No! E te fia alu? E leai, do you wish to go? No. It takes the verbal particles; as sa leai, there was not; ʻua leai, there is not. E leʻi leai is used in a diminutive deprecatory way; thus, in answer to the question, Have you brought a payment? answer, E leʻi leai.

Leʻi besides being used with the perfect tease, has also the meaning “not yet” (nondum); E leʻi alu le eaʻa, the canoc has not yet gone, leaving it to be implied that it will go at some future time; ʻua le alu, it has not gone, and may not go at all.

A negative question is answered by an affirmation; as ʻUa le alu ʻea le malaga? Has not the party left? ioe, ʻUa le alu, yes, it has not gone; or, e leai, ʻua alu.

ʻAua is prohibitive; it is strengthened by neʻi; as ʻaua neʻi alu, do not by any means go. Neʻi is also used alone: neʻi e alu, lit. lest you go. It is strengthened by mao: Neʻi e mao alu, beware lest you go.

Le does not require the repetition of the verb in the second clause of a sentence; as Ia outou saʻili i le lelei, ʻa e le ʻo le leaga, seek ye the good, but not the bad.

Particles of limitation are na ʻo, tau; as na ʻo manu, na ave ma matou, only the cattle we look for ourselves. Tau is more subjective in its meaning than na ʻo, and refers to the views and wishes of the speaker; Tauina ʻe faʻamalosi, only be thou strong.

Optative particles are e, fia; as E! ana faʻalogo mai lo u nuʻu, O page 36 that my people had hearkened; fia oti! O that I might die! E! fia alu, I wish to be gone.

A is also an infix particle in some proper names; as Falealupo, house of lupo; Fatualavai, the stone and the lavai.

Causative Particles

Aua. Sentences beginning with a causative particle in other languages are translated positively in Samoan; as Na oulua le faʻatuatua ia te aʻu … ʻo le mea lea, &c., ye did not believe me, therefore, &c. Should the sentence not be followed up by therefore, then aua must be expressed at the beginning: aua ʻua ʻe faʻatau ʻoe ia te ʻoe … faʻauta, &c., because you sold yourself … behold, &c.

Ona ʻo, for the sake of, differs from the former word in that it is placed before a noun to point out that on account of which something is done; as ʻE te faʻaʻumatia ʻea le ʻaʻai ʻuma ona ʻo le toʻalima? Wilt thou destroy all the city on account of the five?

ʻIna ia is placed before verbs to indicate that something is done in order that the event denoted by the verb may take place: ʻOu te ʻai ai le manu a loʻu ataliʻi, ʻina ia ʻou faʻamanuia ia te ʻoe, I will eat of my son's venison, in order that I may bless you.

ʻIna neʻi is used to mark negative causality: ʻina neʻi malaia ʻoe i le sala a le nuʻu, lest you should perish in the punish ment of the place. Neʻi is also often found without the ʻina; as Neʻi ʻou iloa le leaga e oʻo i loʻu tama, lest I should behold the evil that will come to my father.

Atonu expresses partly a doubt, and partly a hope to the contrary, like perhaps in English; Atonu ʻua agasala oʻu ataliʻi, May be my sons have sinned. Ai lava indicates more certainly with the doubt; ai lava ʻua moe ia, probably he is asleep. Atonu would be improper here, as it would express the conviction of the speaker that such probably was the fact.

Aʻi is a particle of instrumentality. It follows the verb, and indicates the instrument by which anything is effected. It also causes the relative ai to be dispensed with: Au mai le toʻi e vavae aʻi le laʻau, bring an axe with which to cut the word in two.

Multiplicatives are formed with the causative faʻa; as, faʻalima, five times; ʻO lo u sau faʻalima lenci, this is my fifth coming.

Particles of Consequence

Faʻapea, though usually employed to point out similarity or conformity of one object or action to another, also intimates consequence; as, Gen. i. 7, i leʻua faʻapea lava; and it was so. Gen. xxix. 26, E le faʻapea le tu i lo matou nuʻu, such is not the custom in our country. It is used, proceded by pei, in the former sentence for the purpose of making a comparison: E pei ʻo u fanafana i le lima o le toa; e faʻapea lava, &c., like arrows in the hand of the warrior, so, &c.

ʻO le mea lea followed by ai, lit. it is that thing, or, therefore, points out an event as a consequence of a preceding event: Num. xx. 11, Na oulua le faʻatuatua ia te aʻu, … ʻo le mea lava lea lua te le faʻaoʻotia page 37 ai, &c., you (two) did not believe in me, therefore you shall not bring in, &c,

Conditional particles are ʻafai, ana, ʻa, pea.

ʻAfai is future, and introduces the condition on which the fulfilment of the event depends. Exod. xix. 5, ʻAfai toa te matua faʻalogo mai i loʻu leo, ona fai lea outou ma ʻoloa taua. If ye will hear my voice, then shall you become a peculiar treasure.

Ana is past time; Ana le mai le Atua lena tagata, na te le mafaia, If that man were not from God, he could not. Both ʻafai and ana may be used in a subjunctive sense: ʻAfai ana outou tauaso, if ye were blind.—John ix. 33, 41.

ʻA is used like ʻafai; as ʻa ua, matou te le o, if it rains we shall not go.

Ai supposes a case which may most likely occur; as Ai se le tali i le malo o le Atua, Should any one not receive the king lo[gap — reason: unclear]n of God.

Se anoa (utinam!), O that! Se anoa! ana i ai loʻu aliʻi, O that my lord were.

Pe a differs from a and afai, in that it refers to the time of an action, when; Pe a ʻe faʻatau se ʻauʻauna, when you buy a servant, Exod. xxi. 2. Then v. 3, Pe afai na sau; the afai is rendered into the past time by adding na, if he came. Ana sau would mean, Ha! he come; meaning he did not do so.

Aua introduces an account of the cause of a preceding statement; as Ona ʻou fefe ai lea, aua ʻua ʻou le lavalava, Then I was afraid, because I was naked. Peculiar is its use by way of remons rance, on hearing a false statement: ʻo le a le mea na ia le sau ai? why did he not come? aua, na sau, lit. because he did come, or, yes but, he did come.

E ui lava is always in the antecedent, never in the relative sentence. I will go although it rains, must be transposed thus; E ui ina ua, ou te alu, although it rains, I will go.

Adversatives are ʻa, peitaʻi, peisaʻi. These are emphatic, and stand with a noun or pronoun in the nominative absolute; as E le ʻo outou na ʻauina mai aʻu ʻiʻinei, ʻa ʻo le Atua, It was not you that sent me here, but God. It may also precede a verb; as ʻua le ola Napoti, ʻa ʻua oti, Naboth is not alive, but dead. It is often used in Samoan where a conjunctive is used in English; as Le aliʻi e, ʻou te alu; ʻa ua le alu, sir, I go, but he went not.

Conjunctives are ma, foi, ʻatoa, amaise.

Ma connects nouns which are subjects of the same proposition; as Ona lalafi ai lea ʻo Atamu ma lana ava, Then Adam and his wife hid themselves. Ma always causes the rejection of a preposition: Ina ʻe toe foʻi atu i lou nuʻu ma lou aiga, return to your country and your family. It connects two or more verbs relating to the same subject; as Ia uluola, ma ia tupu tele, ma ia tumu ai le sami, multiply, and increase, and fill the sea. Sometimes the verbal particle is rejected after ma; ʻUa mafu ma loua, it is musty and disagreeable. Ma, when it connects adjectives, changes the second to a noun; as ʻO le tagata tino ʻese ma le puta, a man tall and stout, lit. stoutness. Thus it apparently treats the first clause as a compound noun, to which the second is made to conform. In order to connect sentences together, foʻi is used; thus, Sa ufitia foʻi le moana i le pouliuli: na fegaoioiai, page 38 foʻi le Agaga. The deep was covered with darkness; the Spirit also moved. When there is consequence, or dependence of one sentence on the other, they are connceted by ona … ai lea. In a list of names the conjunction is sometimes expressed only before the last: ʻo Semu, ʻo Hamu, ma Iafeta, Shem, Ham, and Japhet. Or nouns may be coupled together, and ʻatoa with ma and foʻi, will then be used to gather up the last of the list; ʻO le lagi ma le lalolagi, ʻatoa foʻi ma mea ʻuma ʻo i ai, The heavens and the earth, together also with all things in them.

Amaise has much the same meaning as ʻatoa, and is sometimes joined with foʻi; Ia ʻe alofa ia te ia, amaise le fanau, have compassion on him, and also the children.

I le answers to and then; Seʻi mulumulu foʻi ʻo oulua vae; i le alausu ai, wash your feet; and then start early.


Po, or, is used before nouns, pronouns, Po o ai na te alu, po o aʻu, po o Sina? Who shall go, I or Sina? and also before ʻua. Ua sau ea, po ua maʻi? Has he come, or is he sick? Pe is used before verbs: Pe musu o ia pe leai? Is he unwilling or not?


A question is shown by the particle ʻea occurring early in the sentence; as ʻO aʻu ʻea le leoleo o loʻu uso? Am I my brother's keeper? Sometimes a question is known by the tone of the voice only.

Pe before verbs, with or without ʻea is also used in asking questions: pe matou te o atu ʻea? shall we go? Before ʻo and ʻua, po is used; as po o ʻai? who? po ʻua o mai? have they come? Besides these there are interrogative pronouns; as ʻo ai? ʻo le fea? i ni a? and also interrogative adverbs: pe faʻapefea? how? ʻo fea where? ʻo anafea? when? (past); afea? when? (future); ai se a? why? se a? what? maifea? whence?

In answering a question, the verb of the questioner must always be repeated; as ʻe te alu afea? when will you go? ʻOu te alu taeao, I go to-morrow.

Emphatic Particles

Lava, indeed, very even: Ua ati lava, He is indeed dead. Ia te ia lava, even to him. La: Faauta la ia! Behold them!


In a simple sentence the verb precedes: then follows the nominative, or, if a passive verb, the ablative (the agent), then the accusative, then a second accusative; as Na faia s le Atua le lagi ma le lalolagi i le ʻamataga. Were made by God the heavens and the earth in the beginning. In a relative sentence, the relative pronoun ai precedes the nominative to the verb; as ʻua silasila atu i ai le Atua, God beheld it. The conjunction foʻi follows the verb: ʻua fetalai mai foi le Atua, God spake also. Unless a nominative absolute begins the sentence, in that case the foʻi follows it; ʻo aʻu foʻi, ou ts alu atu, I also, I will go.