Consider the following sentences:

a. Tatu loves her children

b. Tatu is loved by her children

In both sentences Tatu is the subject but she is not the doer in the second sentence, She is said to be passive. This is the passive voice. The first sentence is in the active voice. Tatu is the doer, i.e, she loves…..In Swahili, he passive voice is rendered by wa added at the end of the verb following the rules given below:

  1. Verbs ending in -a,-ea and -ia ,insert w before the final vowel a, e.g kupenda,”to love”; kupendwa,”to be loved”, Now you know how to translate sentence (b) above, Remember the English verb is not directly translated in the Swahili verb. Thus Tatu anapendwa na watoto wake is the rendering of (b). If you analyse the Swahili rendering you will see that the conjunction na stands for the English “by” although it also means “and”.

2. Verbs ending in -aa, ua, insert liw before the final a,e.g kukataa,”to refuse”; amekataa,”he/she has refused”; kukataliwa,”to be refused”: amekataliwa, “he/she has been refused.”

3. Verbs ending in -au add liwa at the end: e.g. kusahau, to forget; kusahauliwa,”to be forgotten”.

4. Verbs ending in e and I add wa at the end;e.g. kusamehe,”to forgive”; kusamehewa,”to be forgiven”.

5. Verbs ending in oa insert Lew before the last a,e.g. kuoa,”to marry (man)”; kuolewa, to be married (woman).

6. Verbs ending in u drop the u and add wa: e.g. kujibu,”to answer”; kujibiwa,” to be answered,”

The doer in the passive voice is called the agent. In the sentence Tatu anapendwa na watoto wake, Tatu’s children are the agents, they do the act of loving while their mother receives the act of loving . Consider this sentence also: Dada anapendwa na Kila mtu “(my ) sister is loved by every one.”

To express the agent Swahili uses the word na as already pointed out. If however the action is accomplished by means of an instrument, Swahili uses the word kwa to express the idea of instrumentality.

e.g. Aliandika barua kwa winon, He /she wrote a letter with (in)ink

Alipigwa kwa fimbo,He/she was hit with a stick.

Walipigwa mawe, They were stoned.

In the last example the word kwa has been omitted, but it is understood. The sentence should correctly read; walipigwa kwa mawe.

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