Family in Shona

Shona Family

In Shona, family consists of the extended family, not just the nuclear. Family is an important unit among the Shona. Respect for the elders is paramount and they are consulted on all important matters.

Family Vocabulary

mwana/vana – child/children

mukomana – boy

musikana – girl

husband/man – murume

wife/woman – mukadzi

baba – father

amai – mother

mwanakomana – son

mukunda/mwanasikana – daughter

Mukoma– elder brother

hanzvadzi – sibling of the opposite sex – hanzvadzi sikana/sisi (sister), hanzvadzi konama/budhi (brother)

Munin’ina – younger sibling

sekuru – grandfather

ambuya/gogo – grandmother

babamukuru – older paternal uncle

babamunini – younger paternal uncle

sekuru- uncle/mothers brother

tete – aunt/father’s sister

amaiguru – aunt/mother’s older sister

amainini – aunt/mother’s younger sister

Counting in Shona

posi – one

piri – two

tatu – three

china/ina – four

shanu – five

tanhatu/nhanhatu – six

nomwe – seven

sere – eight

pfumbamwe – nine

gumi – ten

gumi neimwe – eleven

gumi nembiri – twelve

gumi nenhatu – thirteen

gumi nena – fourteen…

makumi maviri – twenty

makumi maviri ane imwechete – twenty-one

makumi maviri ane mbiri – twenty-two

makumi maviri ane nhatu – twenty-three

makumi maviri ane ina – twenty-four…

makumi matatu – thirty

makumi mana – forty…

zana – hundred

chiuru – thousand

Scenario: A man (3- Anesu) is introducing u to his family using a photo.

1 & 2 – his parents

4 – his wife

5&6 – his children

“Mhoroi! Ndinonzi Anesu. Ava ndi mhuri yangu. ava vari shanu. posi, ndaVaChoga, baba vangu. Piri, ndaVaMaria, amai vangu. Tatu, ndiini, Anesu. Ina, vaRevai, mukadzi vangu, Mai Anesu. Tine vana vaviri. Shanu, Danai, mwanasikana wedu. Nhanhatu, Tinashe, mwanakomana wedu. Danai isisi Tinashe. Tinashe ibudhi, Danai. Danai ndiye mukoma yaTinashe. Ndatenda/maita basa.”

“Hello all! My name is Anesu. This is (lit. these are) my family, they are five in number. One, Mr. Choga, my father. Two, Mrs Maria, my mother. Three, me. Four, Mrs. Revai, my wife, Mrs Anesu. We have two children. Five, Danai, our daughter. Six, Tinashe, our son. Danai is Tinashe’s sister. Tinashe is Danai’s brother. Danai is Tinashe’s older sibling. Thank you.”

Grammar notes: a case of three languages

Personal pronouns and their prefixes

While English does not have personal pronoun prefixes, Bantu languages do. They are highly agglutinative, having prefixes, suffixes, and cases of reduplication.

Pronoun/prefix chiShona Gĩkǔyǔ Kiswahili
I Ini/ndi- Niĩ/ndĩ- Mimi/ni-
We Isu/ti- Ithuĩ/tǔ- Sisi/tu-
You (sing.) Iwe/u- Wee/ǔ- Wewe/u-
You (pl.) Imi/mu- Inyuĩ/mǔ- Nyinyi/m-
He/she Iye/a- We/a- Yeye/a-
They Ivo/va- o/ma- Wao/wa-


In Bantu languages, possessive are roots that have prefixes that show grammatical agreement, which is determined by the noun class of the subject/object.

Possessive chiShona Gĩkǔyǔ Kiswahili
Mine -ngu -akwa -angu
Our -idu -itǔ -etu
Your (sing.) -ako -aku -ako
Your (pl.) -inyu -anyu -enu
His/hers -ke -ake -ake
Their -vo -ao -ao




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