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First Lessons in Maori

VIII. Verbs

VIII. Verbs.

§ 43. Inflexions.

The Maori verb has no true inflexions, but the Passive Voice is formed by adding a passive termination to the Active form, (§ 51), while another termination forms the verbal noun. (§ 58.)

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§ 44.

Differences of Tense are denoted by auxiliary particles, e, ana, kua, i, ka, the same form in each case serving for all persons and numbers. Particular attention must be given to the use of the negative adverbs, which cannot be used indiscriminately, and also to the fact that, in the negative form of the Perfect, kua is changed into kia.

The Inceptive denotes a change from one state or action to another, or the commencement of a new action or condition, and may be either Past, Present, or Future; the actual time to be determined by the context. With a negative it may often be translated by “cease to.”

§ 45.

It must be understood that the tenses of a Maori verb indicate the condition of the action, but do not, except in the case of the Past Indefinite and the Future, connote a time relationship. The Imperfect and Perfect may have a past, present, or future reference according to the context.

  • E huihui ana nga tangata, the men are assembling.

  • Kua huihui nga tangata, the men have assembled.

  • E huihui ana nga tangata inanahi, the men were assembling yesterday.

  • Kua huihui nga tangata inanahi, the men had assembled yesterday.

  • Apopo e huihui ana ratou, to-morrow they will be assembling.

  • Apopo kua huihui ratou, to-morrow they will have assembled.

  • Ka huihui ratou inanahi, they assembled (or began to assemble) yesterday.

  • Ka huihui ratou apopo, they will assemble (or begin to assemble) to-morrow.

  • Ka kore ahau e pupuri, I cease to hold.

  • Te matenga o Tohi, ka kore a Pi e hanga i te whare, when Tohi died, Pi ceased to build the house.

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§ 46. Active Voice.

i. Indicative.
1. Inceptive (Past, present, or future).

Ka karanga ahau, I began (begin or shall begin) calling, or I became, etc.

Ka kore ahau e karanga, I became (become or shall become) not catting, or I ceased (cease or shall cease) calling.

2. Imperfect (Continuous; past, present, or future).

E karanga ana ahau, I was, am, or will be calling.

Kahore ahau e karanga ana, I was not, am not, or will not be calling.

3. Perfect (Completed; past, present, or future).

Kua karanga ahau, I had, have, or will have called.

Kahore ahau kia karanga, I had not, have not, or will not have called.

4. Past (Indefinite).
  • I karanga ahau, I called.

  • Kihai ahau i karanga, I did not call.

5. Future (Indefinite).
  • E karanga ahau, I shall call.

  • E kore ahau e karanga, I shall not call.

6. Future (Emphatic).
  • Tera ahau e karanga, I shall (or will) call.

  • Tera ahau e kore e karanga, I shall (or will) not call.

7. Narrative form.
  • Karanga ana ahau, I called.

(Not used in the negative).

ii. Imperative.
1. Strong (Mandatory or Precatory).
  • Karanga! call! E noho! sit!

  • Kaua e karanga! Do not call!

2. Weak (Hortatory or Deliberative).
  • Me karanga ahau, I had better call or let me call.

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iii. Subjunctive.
1. Inceptive (Future).
  • Ki te mea ka karanga ahau, If I should begin calling.

  • Ki te mea ka kore ahau e karanga, If I should not begin calling, or If I should cease calling.

2. Imperfect (Continuous).
  • Mehemea (or me) e karanga ana ahau, If I were calling.

  • Mehemea (or me) kahore ahau e karanga ana, If I were not calling.

3. Perfect (Completed).
  • Mehemea kua karanga ahau, If I had called.

  • Mehemea kahore ahau kia karanga, If I had not called.

4. Past (Indefinite).
  • Mehemea (or me) i karanga ahau, If I called.

  • Mehemea kihai (or me i kahore) ahau i karanga, If I did not call.

5. Future (Contingent).
  • Ki te karanga ahau, If I should call.

  • Ki te kore ahau e karanga, If I should not call.

6. Future (Consequential).
  • Kia karanga ahau, That I may call, or Let me call.

  • Kia kaua ahau e karanga, That I may not call.

7. Future (Deprecatory or Precautionary).
  • Kei karanga ahau, Lest I should call, or Let me not call.

  • Kei kore ahau e karanga, Lest I should not call. (This negative is used only in dependent sentences).

iv. Infinitive.
  • Karanga, call, preceded by an article or definitive pronoun, thus: he karanga, te karanga, tana karanga, etc.

§ 47.

The Imperative is generally used in the second person, but in speaking of parts of the human body it will be used in the third person. (§ 62). If the verb is a word of one syllable or two, or if the command is negative, the particle e is used in the Imperative; otherwise it is not.

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  • E noho, sit down.

  • Whakatika, stand up.

  • Hamama tou waha, open your mouth.

  • Titiro ou kanohi, open your eyes.

The translation of the Future Consequential Subjunctive with kia will depend upon whether it is used in a dependent sentence or as an entreaty.

The Future Deprecatory, with kei, used in the second person is equivalent to an Imperative.

§ 48.

Mehemea and me with the Subjunctive imply that the contrary to the alternative expressed is the fact: ki te mea and ki te imply simple uncertainty.

§ 49.

The Infinitive Active is merely the verb treated as a noun, and is always, as stated (§ 46), attended by one or other of the definitives (§ 18). It may be used with the preposition kei, making a present imperfect indicative, or with the preposition i, making a past imperfect indicative.

  • He aha tana? He pupuri i tou hoiho, What is his (object)? To hold your horse.

  • E haere ana ia ki te mahi, he is going to work.

  • Kei te pupuri ahau, I am holding.

  • I te pupuri ahau, I was holding.

  • Kei te aha ia? What is he doing? (What is he at?).

  • Kei te mahi ia, He is at work.

§ 50. Uses of Subjunctive and Infinitive.

—After a word expressing (a) eagerness, desire, intention to do anything, and (b) after one signifying go, come, stay, etc., and (c) after teach, use the infinitive with the preposition ki; (d) after learn, use the infinitive with the preposition i; but (e) after a word expressing request, page 35 command, advice, consent, or permission to another person to do anything, use the subjunctive. (f) In a clause expressing the object in view, use the subjunctive followed by the particle ai.


E hiahia ana ratou ki te haere, they desire to go.


E noho ana ia ki te hanga i te taiepa, he is staying to make the fence.


Na wai koe i whakaako ki te whakairo rakau? Who taught you to carve wood?


E ako ana taku tamaiti i te tuhituhi, my child is learning to write.


I ki mai ia kia haere ahau, he told me to go, or he said that I should go.

I tuku ahau i a ia kia haere, I allowed him to go.


I haere mai ia inanahi kia kite ai ia i a Te Hau, he came yesterday in order that he might see Te Hau.

§ 51. Passive Voice.

—The passive voice is formed generally by the addition of one of the following terminations to the active: -a, -ia, -hia, -kia, -mia, -ngia, -ria, -tia, -whia, -na, -nga, -ina, -hina, -kina, -rina, -whina, -hanga. Thus:—

poro forms poroa tiki forms tikina
ki forms kiia aroha forms arohaina
waru forms waruhia roko* forms rokohina or rokohanga
moto forms motokia
aru forms arumia tātā forms tātākina
rere forms rerengia whakaatu forms whakaaturia or whakaaturina
mau forms mauria
awhi forms awhitia.
whawhao forms whaowhia or whaowhina hapai forms hapainga
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Of these terminations nga appears to be used only with verbs ending in ai, mia only with those ending in o or u, and ina only with those ending in a; but in all these cases other terminations also are used. For the rest it is questionable whether any rule can be formulated. Usage varies so much in different parts of the country that it appears to be a mere matter of custom, some regard being had to euphony. In a few cases the consonant of the termination represents the final consonant of the primitive root; but this fact is of no assistance to the beginner, and it will be advisable then, to learn the passive in each case with the active. Verbs which have the first syllable doubled in the active generally drop the repetition in the passive; thus pupuri becomes (not pupuritia, but) puritia. In a few of these cases the vowel is lengthened, as tāria from tatari.

§ 51·1.

The passive termination, tia, may be used with a noun, adjective, or participle to indicate a change to the thing or condition which the simple word signifies.

  • Ka tamahinetia, ka wahinetia ia, she grew to girlhood and womanhood.

  • Aua e taparurutia te haere, do not let the rate of travelling become slow.

The passive termination may also be used with a noun to denote the bringing of the subject of the sentence under the action of what is represented by the noun.

  • Kei pongia matou, lest we be benighted.

  • Ka uaina ratou, they were rained upon.

This construction may even be extended to a clause, as: Ma-te-matapihitia, let it be passed through the window, from ma te matapihi, through the window.

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§ 52.

The Tenses of the different moods in the Passive voice are formed in the same way as in the Active, the passive form of the verb being substituted for the active —puritia for pupuri.

The Imperative Passive, unlike the Imperative Active, seldom refers to the second person, but more commonly to the first or third person, the command at the same time being addressed to the second person.

  • Kaua ahau e whakarerea, let me not be left (by thee); i.e., do not leave me!

  • Puritia tenei taura! be this rope held (by thee), i.e., hold this rope!

§ 53. Transitive Prepositions, etc.

—Every transitive verb in Maori is connected with its object, or the thing acted upon, by either of the propositions i or ki; some verbs requiring one, some the other, and some again taking either. These prepositions may in some cases be translated by an English preposition; but in most cases they merely represent the connexion between the verb and its object, and may therefore be called transitive prepositions.

It is difficult to formulate a rule for the use of these prepositions, but it will be found that i is the one generally used. The more important verbs which take ki are noted in the English-Maori Vocabulary, pp. 94119.

Every passive verb is connected with the agent by the preposition e, by.

The instrument requires the preposition ki, with.

  • E tiki ana ia i tetahi kai mana, he is fetching some food for himself.

  • E matau ana ahau ki taua tangata, I know that man.

  • I mahia e wai? by whom was it done?

  • Kua topea te rakau ki te toki, the tree has been felled with an axe.

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§ 54. Uses of Active and Passive.

—The Passive Voice is generally used when the action is emphatic rather than the agent, and therefore in the case of transitive verbs it is more frequently required than the Active Voice. But when a transitive follows an intransitive verb expressing an action consequent upon it, both verbs will be in the active voice.

  • I mauria e ia te kaheru, the spade was taken by him, i.e., he took the spade.

  • Ka haere ahau ka mau i taku toki, I will go and take my axe.

Obs. The Maori language allows of the use of an intransitive verb in the passive, but in such a case a preposition will generally have to be added in English to make the sense complete.

  • Noho, sit. Nohoia, be sat upon.

  • Kihai tera wahi i whitingia e te ra, that place was not shone upon by the sun.

§ 55. Agent Emphatic.

—When special emphasis is to be laid on the agent an irregular construction is used, the preposition na being placed before the subject for past time, and ma for future. In sentences of this kind the subject, being the most emphatic member of the sentence, stands first, and the object either before or after the verb, but without any transitive preposition, the verb being in the active. This construction is not properly used with neuter verbs.

  • Naku i pupuri tena tangata, or Naku tena tangata i pupuri, I detained that man, i.e., it was I who detained him.

  • Ma Horo e hanga he whare mou, or Ma Horo he whare mou e hanga, Horo shall build a house for you.

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§ 56. Imperative Future.

—Another irregular construction is the formation of what may be called the Imperative Future with me, in which the verb is active in form but passive in sense. This construction is never used with a negative.

  • Me kawe e koe taku toki, you shall carry my axe (or, my axe must be carried by you).

  • I mahara ahau me patu tenei manu, I thought that this bird was to be killed.

§ 57.

The Causative Prefix, whaka-, may be used:—

i. With a verb, adjective or participle (§ 66), to form a verb signifying the attempt at, beginning of, or approach to the action or condition indicated by the root word.

  • Na ka whakawhiti a Kupe i te moana o Raukawa, a, ka whiti. Then Kupe set about crossing the straits of Raukawa, and crossed over.

  • Po rua a Tukutuku e whakatata ana ki a Paoa, kihai i tata, For two nights Tukutuku was trying to get near to Paoa, but did not succeed.

ii. With a noun to form an intransitive verb signifying the assumption of the character or form appropriate to the noun.

  • Kua whakatangata taua kukupa, The pigeon had assumed the form of a man.

  • Ka mea a Wairaka, Kia whakatane ake ahau, Wairaka said I must play the part of a man.

iii. With a verb, adjective, participle (§ 66), or noun to form a causative verb, generally transitive. Thus, whakamahi, cause to work; but whakakite, cause to be seen.

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  • Ka mea nga hoa kia whakarerea nga kahu, His companions told him to discard his clothes.

  • Kia nunui nga tao, kaua e whakaririkitia, Let the spears be large, don't make them small.

  • Whakamau te titiro ki te kapua rere mai, Fix your gaze on the cloud flying hither.

  • Hei konei au whakamau ai, I will remain established here.

  • Katahi ano a Rupe ka whakakukupa i a ia, Then Rupe made himself into a pigeon.

Of course these compounds with whaka- may, like other words, be used otherwise than as verbs.

  • Ka puta whakarere mai te hau, The wind sprang up suddenly.

  • Ka nui rawa te whakama o Paoa, Paoa's shame was very great.

§ 58. Derivative Nouns are formed—

i. From transitive verbs, by prefixing kai, to denote the agent, thus:

Hanga, make. Kaihanga, maker.

ii. From verbs generally, by adding as a suffix one of the terminations, -nga, -anga, -hanga, -kanga, -manga, -ranga, -tanga, -inga, as:—

  • mahinga from mahi

  • nohoanga from noho

  • tirohanga from tiro

  • tomokanga from tomo

  • ngaromanga from ngaro

  • turanga from tu

  • puritanga from pupuri

  • kāinga from kā

The termination suitable to any particular verb will, as in the case of the passive, have to be learned; but page 41 it will be noticed that in many cases it bears some relation to the passive termination (§ 51), thus:—

titiro tirohia tirohanga
motu motukia motukanga
tanu tanumia tanumanga
man mauria mauranga
pupuri puritia puritanga

A few verbs preserve an ancient verbal suffix, hi or ki; and these form the verbal noun direct from the root; as, arahi, arahanga, rumaki, rumakanga.

The noun thus formed denotes the (a) circumstance, (b) time, (c) place, or (d) matter of the action expressed by the verb. In the case of a transitive verb the noun may be used in either the active or the passive sense. (§ 22 a, b).


Mo taku patunga i tana tamaiti, on account of my striking his child.


I tona taenga atu, at the time of his arrival, or, when he arrived.


Ko te turanga tena o Horo, that is the place where Horo stood.


Tena etahi purapura hei whakatokanga mau, there is some seed for you to plant.

§ 59.

An Intransitive Compound Verb may be formed by treating a transitive verb and its object grammatically as one word, thus:

E tope rakau ana a Turi, Turi is felling trees (or tree-felling).

§ 60. Interrogative Verbs.

—The interrogatives aha, what, and pehea, of what nature, may be used as verbs; aha, to ask what a person is doing, or what is being done; and pehea, to ask how a person is acting, or in what way a thing is being done. In rendering into English another word will often be needed to complete the sense.

For other interrogative sentences see § 41.

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  • E aha ana ia? what is he doing?

  • I ahatia te kuri? what was done to the dog?

  • I peheatia e ia te waka i mānu ai? How was the canoe [treated] by him that it floated? or, How did he get the canoe afloat?

  • Ka pehea koe a tona taenga mai? How shall you [act] on his arrival?

  • I pehea mai ia ki tau ki? How did he [answer] what you said?

  • Me pehea tenei? How is this to be [treated]?

§ 61. Verbal clauses.

—A verb, active in form but active or passive in sense, may be used, with or without an object or indirect object, to form a clause qualifying a noun.

  • He kararahe kai tangata, a man-eating beast.

  • Te hoiho e here mai ra, the horse tied yonder.

Descriptive details will sometimes be introduced by the use of he mea with a construction similar to the above.

  • Ko te matamata he mea tahu ki te ahi, the point having been set on fire.

  • He mea heru te mahunga, the head having been dressed with a comb.

§ 62.

In speaking of movements of different parts of the body, the member spoken of in each case is regarded as the agent, and is spoken of, or addressed, as if it were capable of independent action, the verb being, of course, intransitive.

  • Hamama tou mangai, open your mouth.

  • Kua totoro tona ringaringa, he has stretched out his hand.

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§ 63.

Doubling the di-syllabic root of a verb gives it a frequentative force. Doubling the first syllable only often gives intensity; but sometimes it denotes reciprocal action.

  • Kimo, wink the eyes.

  • Kimokimo, wink frequently.

  • Kikimo, keep the eyes firmly closed.

  • Patu, strike. Papatu. strike against one another: clash.

§ 64. The Verb ai, “there is,” “it is,” etc.

1. Imperfect.
  • E ai ki tana, or E ai tana, according to his (saying) it is, i.e., he says.

  • E ai ta wai? Who says so?

2. Inceptive.
  • Ka ai he toki mana, there is an axe for him, i.e., he has an axe.

1. Imperfect.
  • Me e ai ana he toki. if there were an axe.

2. Future (contingent).
  • Ki te ai he toki, if there should be an axe.

3. Future (consequential).
  • Kia ai he toki, let there be an axe, i.e., when, or, as soon as there is an axe.

4. Future (deprecatory).
  • Kei ai he toki, lest there should be an axe.

§ 65.

The Verb “to have” having no equivalent in Maori its place is supplied by the following expedients:

i. By the use of one of the possessive particles, to, ta. o, a, with a pronoun, noun, or proper name (§§ 6, 18); the time (past, present, or future) being gathered from the context.

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  • He patu tāna, he has a weapon, or, he had a weapon.

  • Kahore ā Ripi patu, Ripi has, or, had no weapon.

ii. By the use of the prepositions kei, i, hei, respectively for present, past, and future. (§ 40, f).

  • Kei ahau tāu kaheru, I have your spade, or, your spade is in my possession.

  • Kāhore i ahau tāu kaheru, I have not your spade.

  • I a ia toku waka, he had my canoe.

  • Kahore i a ia te waka, he had not the canoe.

  • Hei a Ripi te kuri, Ripi shall have the dog, or, let Ripi have the dog.

  • Kauaka hei a Ripi te kuri, let not Ripi have the dog.

  • Mehemea i a ia te taura, kua mauria e ahau, if he had had the rope I should have taken it.

iii. By using the verb ai (§ 64) followed by the preposition ma or mo; but this use is permissible only when the noun is preceded by the definitive he.

  • Ka ai he toki mana, he has an axe, or there is an axe for him.

  • Me e ai ana he whare mou, if you had a house, or, if there were a house for you.

iv. By using the adjective whai, which signifies possessing, the thing possessed being used as another adjective qualifying whai.

  • Kua whai whare ranei koe? have you a house? (literally have you become house-possessing?)

* Not used in the active.

Except the irregular form meinga from mea.