Suffixes -n and -r

The -n and -r suffix have four different major uses in Hausa grammar. Each use is laid out in detail below.

1. Used as definite articles

When used to make a noun definite, the selection of -n or -r is determined by gender. As a general rule of thumb, nouns that end in -a are feminine and nouns that end in sounds other than -a are masculine. There are, however exceptions to this rule.


Noun Meaning Indefinite Noun Meaning
Kare Dog Karen The dog
Hula Hat Hular The hat

As you can see, in the examples above kare is masculine and hula is feminine.


2. Used to show possession

When used to show possession, unlike in English where ‘s is used, Hausa uses -n or -r. Once again the selection of -n or -r is determined by gender. The suffix -n is used for masculine and plural nouns while -r is used for feminine nouns.


Noun Meaning Noun with possession Meaning
Biro Pen Biron Tanya Tanya’s pen
Jaka Bag Jakar Tanya Tanya’s bag
Iyaye Parents Iyayen Tanya Tanya’s parents

**Note that in English ‘s is attached to the possessor whereas in Hausa -n or -r is attached to the possessed noun.


3. Used to link adjectives of quality to their noun

The suffixes -n and -r can also be used to connect an adjective to its noun. When used, -n and -r refer to/describe their nouns. The choice of -n or -r is determined by gender. While in English it makes sense to say blue pen, in Hausa you need to use -n or -r to link the color blue (adjective of quality) to pen.


Incorrect Correct Meaning Clarification
Fari gida Farin gida White house fari=white; gida=house
Fara mage Farar mage White cat fara=white; mage=cat

**Note how gida, although ending in a is still masculine and mage, although not ending in a is feminine. These are two exceptions to the general rule. Also note the use of the masculine and feminine adjectives for the color white, fari and fara, respectively.


4. Used to relate a noun to another noun

One noun can be directly related to another noun by attaching -n or -r to the first noun. Unlike English where an adjective would be introduced first followed by the noun it is relating to/describing, in Hausa, the arrangement is reversed.


Incorrect Correct Meaning Clarification
Littafi Tauranci Littafin Tauranci English book littafi=book; Tauranci=English
Waka soyayya Wakar soyayaa Love song waka=song; soyayaa=love


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