Verb Classes
General Remarks


Factors influencing the forms that verbs take

Unlike most European languages, differences in Hausa verbs do not usually relate to marking verb tense. However, Hausa has several verb classes that differ primarily in the forms that verbs take depending on their objects or lack of objects. The factors that affect the forms of verbs are the following:

No object at all: Ka saya?

'Did you buy (it)?'
(the object is understood, perhaps from the context)


Object not after verb: Shinkafa na saya.

'It is rice that I bought.
('rice' is the object, but it is at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis)


Word after verb not an "object": Sun shiga gida. 'They entered the house.'
(with most verbs of motion, the goal of the motion is a "locative" rather than an object)
Na sayi akwiya. 'I bought a goat.'
Ka sayi wannan? 'Did you buy this?'
(though wannan 'this' is a "pronoun"--it stands for a noun--it is not one of the special direct object pronouns)
Na saye ta. 'I bought it.'
Na saya miki akwiya. 'I have bought a goat for you.'
Na saya wa matata ita. 'I bought it for my wife.'


Variable Vowel Verbs



Variable Vowel Verbs ("VVV's"), called Grade 2 in the Hausa Grade System, change their final vowel depending on the type of object which follows the verb. This is true for all verb tenses other than the Continuative (which uses the verbal noun rather than the base verb). The vowel variants of VVV's are as follows:

No object or direct object following verb (see below for indirect object)

No object following


Pronoun object following


Noun object following


Tone--Note the following tonal features of VVV's:

  1. All transitive verbs which begin in Low tone are Variable Vowel Verbs.
  2. All but 3-5 VVV's begin in Low tone. In the Kano dialect, the VVV's which do not begin in Low tone are d'auka 'take', d'iba 'dip out', and samu 'get'. Even these verbs begin in Low tone when a pronoun or noun object follows. (See list of representative VVV's with their tones marked.)
  3. Two-syllable VVV's always have Low-High tones (see saya 'buy' in the examples above).
  4. Three-syllable VVV's have Low-High-Low tones when no object follows and Low-Low-High when there is an object (see tambaya 'ask' in the examples above). (Verbs with more than three syllables add additional Low tones at the beginning.)

Indirect objects with VVV's

Before indirect objects, VVV's take one of two patterns. One must simply learn which pattern applies to a particular verb. Some verbs can use either (as with tambaya 'ask' below).

Reversed tone pattern:
Hi-Lo(-Hi) instead of Lo-Hi(-Lo)



 All High tones with final -ar (becomes -am before m)


For more information on Variable Vowel Verbs, see discussion of verbal nouns for Variable Vowel Verbs.

Regular Verbs


other than Variable Vowel Verbs

By "regular" we mean verbs which follow predictable patterns of the majority of the basic verbs of Hausa. Here, we will consider only verbs which begin in High-Tone and end in -a or -e. (In the technical terminology of the Hausa Grade System, these are Grades 1 & 4.) These verbs have the following forms:

  1. Base form final vowel: Long -a or long -e.
  2. Base form tone: Two-syllable verbs have High-Low tones. Three-syllable verbs have High-Low-High tones. (Verbs of more than three syllables have additional High tone syllables at the beginning.) (See note on tone of pronoun objects.)
  3. Noun object following: The final vowel shortens for all verbs; three-syllable verbs have final Low tone. (See note on vowel length of final -e.)
  4. Everywhere else, regular verbs take their base form.

No object following
Pronoun object following
Noun object following
Indirect object following

Minor Verb Classes
and irregular verbs



By far the largest classes of underived verbs in Hausa are Variable Vowel Verbs and "regular" verbs ending in -a or -e. There are a few verbs in Hausa which do not follow the patterns of these verbs. We divide them into five groups here:

  1. Intransitive verbs: A number of intransitive verbs end in -i or -u. These final vowels not found with the common verb classes. A fairly large group of intransitives resemble Variable Vowel Verbs in that they end in -a and have Low-High tones, but unlike VVV's, they have short final vowels. Some intransitive verbs also have High-High tones with final short -a. Since intransitive verbs, by definition, cannot take objects, they do not undergo the types of variations that transitive verbs can undergo. (See a list of representative intransitive verbs.)
  2. Monosyllabic verbs: All but two monosyllabic verbs have High tone (the two exceptions are sa 'put on; cause' and ce 'say', which have falling tones and pattern with regular verbs in -a or -e). Monosyllabic verbs are invariant except that those that end in a short vowel lengthen their vowel before a pronoun direct object. (See a list of monosyllabic verbs.)
  3. The verbs biya 'pay' jira 'wait for', kira 'call', riga 'precede': These four verbs have High-High tones and long final -a everywhere. They are "irregular" in the sense that there are only four of them and they have unusual verbal nouns. (See a list of "irregular" verbs, including biya, jira, kira.)
  4. The verbs bari 'leave', sani 'know', gani 'see': These three verbs drop the final -i before any object. Gani drops the final -ni before noun objects. (See a list of "irregular" verbs, including bari, sani, gani.)
  5. The verb ba/bayar'give': This is the most irregular verb in Hausa. See a table with ba 'give' in all forms.

The table illustrates group (2) with bi 'follow' and ja 'pull' (monosyllabic verbs with short and long vowels respectively), (3) kira 'call' (representing also jira'wait for' and biya 'pay'), and (4) bari 'leave' (also representing sani 'know') and gani 'see'.

No object following
Pronoun object following
Noun object following
Indirect object following