Expressing “to be”

Expressing the idea of “to be” or “is” or “am” in Fulfulde is quite different than in English. Below are the common ways to express it.


Wonude (sometimes wonde) means “to be.” It is usually, but not always, be used to express place. The w changes to ng in the plural.

  • Mi woni Madison – I am in Madison
  • Ɓe ngoni galle maɓɓe – They are at their house
  • Ali woni goriiko – Ali is her husband

Using it at the start of the sentence expresses the idea of “it is”

  • Won bannge lekkol – It is next to the school


Woodude is typically seen as “ana woodi” and expresses the idea that something exists, that it “is.” It can also be understood in English as “there is/are.” The negative is woodaa (you drop the ana in the negative).

  • Luumo ngo ana woodi ɗoo?  – Is there a market here?
  • Ngesa nga woodaa – There isn’t a field

Yo and Wanaa

“yo” can be translated as “is” or “it is,” generally to express the idea of equal or the same. It is often used to express interpersonal relationships and professions. It cannot be used with short pronouns.

  • Mamadou yo giɗo am – Mamadou is my friend
  • Penda yo debbo Ali – Penda is Ali’s wife
  • Hannde yo luumo Konna-  Today is market day in Konna

Wanaa (wonaa) is the negative version of yo, meaning “it is not.” Technically it is the stative form of wonude, but you use it in the same places as you would use “yo” in the positive.

  • Hannde wanaa luumo Konna – Today is not market day in Konna.
  • Miriam wanaa innde am – Miriam is not my name.
  • Ummu wanaa bingel Dicko – Ummu is not Dicko’s child

No word at all

It is also possible to express to be implicitly, without a word or particle, by using the long form pronoun plus a place.

  • Miɗo ɗoo tan – I am here.
  • Omo Segou – He is in Segou
  • Mo giɗo am – She is my friend


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.