Tim Ferriss’ sentences in te reo Māori

Updated on 23rd August 2020: I made some changes to the translations based on feedback and things I've learnt since writing this article.

Tim Ferriss has a video about how he learns languages and one of the things he talks about is thirteen sentences he likes to learn in the target language. These sentences are what he uses to quickly learn how a language can express certain concepts that he feels make it easy to converse using that language.

I've made an attempt at translating the sentences in te reo Māori, with the caveat that one of the hardest parts of translating is working out what the sentence actually means in the original language. I've also tried to do a passive sentence version as well as the active version so I can practice my passives. I welcome corrections or more idiomatic ways of saying things.

1. The apple is red.
He whero te āporo.

2. It is John’s apple.
Nā John taua āporo.

"taua āporo" means "the aforementioned apple", and I'm using "Nā" for possession. The literal meaning is "The aforementioned apple belongs to John".

3) I give John the apple.
(active) E hoatu ana au i te āporo ki a John.
(passive) E hoatungia ana te āporo e au ki a John.

Different books I've read say hoatu doesn't get a passive suffix (the -ngia in this example) but others say modern Māori does.

4) We give him the apple.
(active) E hoatu ana mātou i te āporo ki a ia.
(passive) E hoatungia ana te āporo e mātou ki a ia.

For "we" I used mātou which is "me, excluding the person being talked to but including two or more other people". Te reo Māori has multiple possible meanings for "we". I could have gone for māua (me, excluding the person being talked to, including one other person), tātou (me, and the person being talked to and anyone else), or tāua (me and the person being talked to, no one else).

5) He gives it to John.
(active) E hoatu ana ia i te mea ki a John.
(passive) E hoatungia ana te mea e ia ki a John.

I'm using "te mea", or "the thing" for "it" in this translation. Another possibility might be "taua" to mean the aforementioned thing, assuming we've talked about it before.

6) She gives it to him.
(active) E hoatu ana ia i te mea ki a ia.
(passive) E hoatungia ana te mea e ia ki a ia.

There's no differentiation between he/she in te reo Māori. It's possible that this could be read as "She gives it to herself", but usually if the second "ia" is the same referrent as the first "ia" then I believe the second "ia" would be marked with "anō".

7) Is the apple red?
He whero te āporo?

8) The apples are red.
He whero ngā āporo.

9) I must give it to him.
(active) Me hoatu au i te mea ki a ia.
(passive) Me hoatu te mea e au ki a ia.

For "must" I used me, which is a weak imperative. The passive form of verbs aren't used with me, even though the sentence is in passive form which is why I used hoatu and not hoatungia.

10) I want to give it to her.
E hiahia ana au ki te hoatu i te mea ki a ia.

11) I’m going to know tomorrow.
Ka mōhio au, āpōpō.

In the case of translating "going" I took that as meaning as "something will happen" rather than physically going somewhere so the te reo sentence is "I will know tomorrow".

12) I can’t eat the apple.
Kāore au e āhei te āporo te kai.
Kāore e taea e au te āporo te kai.

For "can't", I used āhei but maybe taea would work to. "āhei" is "can't because I don't have permission", and taea is "can't because I'm physically incapable of". Notice the difference in how "āhei" and "taea" are written compared to other sentences. They are in passive form, using "e" to mark the agent and there are two subjects - one being the action that can't be done, and the other being the thing that it can't be done to.

13) I have eaten the apple.
Kua kai au i te āporo.

Translation exercises like this are great for pointing out what parts of the language I need to brush up on.

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