Possessives in Te Reo Māori
Possessives are for talking about who owns or controls something. Instead of "The Chair" or "The Chairs" possessives are for "My Chair" or "My Chairs", etc.
These are some notes on possessives I wrote a while back when I was attending a night class for te reo Māori. I'm publishing them here in case they're useful to someone else learning the language.
For me, describing things in terms of syntax and patterns is an easier way of learning and remembering - this is how this post on possessives is structured. Not everyone finds this to be a good way to learn - I've had comments that it's too technical - but for those that learn like me, hopefully it's helpful.
Possessives are for talking about who owns or controls something. Instead of "The Chair" or "The Chairs" possessives are for "My Chair" or "My Chairs", etc. In Māori, non-possessive usage is "Te tūru" and "Ngā tūru" for non-possessive singular and plural respectively. Using possessives it becomes "Tōku tūru" or "ōku tūru" for "My Chair" and "My Chairs". ie. The possessive word tōku or ōku replaces the use of "te/ngā".
The possessive words follow a pattern. They start with a prefix. The prefixes are marked in bold and the suffix in italics in the examples in the following table:
When I see one of "tō, tā, ō, ā" I know that something is being possessed/owned. The prefix itself has a pattern. It starts with a 't' for singular. Without the 't' it's plural. This plurality refers to the things being possessed (the chair, table, etc), not the number of possessors. This is followed by the a/o category - see this kupu of the day page for more on categories.
Following this prefix is a suffix that identifies the possessor, and the plurality of the possessor. In the case of a singular possessor (ie. one person), there are special suffixes to learn.
They are (where '..' is replaced by the prefix above):
..ku = mine
..na = his/hers
..u = yours
|tōku tūru||my chair||t = one chair||ō = o category||ku = mine|
|ōku tūru||my chairs||no t = plural chairs||ō = o category||ku = mine|
|tōna tūru||his/her chair||t = one chair||ō = o category||na = his/hers|
|ōna tūru||his/her chairs||no t = plural chairs||ō = o category||na = his/hers|
|tōu tūru||your chair||t = one chair||ō = o category||u = you|
|ōu tūru||your chairs||no t = plural chairs||ō = o category||u = you|
For all other possessor possibilities (more than one possessor), then instead of a ku, na, u suffix we use personal pronouns (mātou, tātou, etc):
|tō tātou tūru||all of ours chair||t = one chair||ō = o category||tātou = all of us|
|ō tātou tūru||all of ours chairs||no t = more than one chair||ō = o category||tātou = all of us|
|tō tāua tūru||you and I's chair||t = one chair||ō = o category||tāua = you and I|
|ō tātou tūru||you and I's chairs||no t = more than one chair||...||...|
|tō rātou tūru||Their chair||...||...||...|
|ō rātou tūru||Their chairs||...||...||...|
|tō mātou tūru||Our chair, but not who I'm talking to||...||...||...|
|tō Hēmi tūru||Hēmi's chair||...||...||...|
How does this work in a sentence? Replace te or ngā in the subject's noun phrase with the possessive:
|kei te tangi te pēpi||the baby is crying|
|kei te tangi tāku pēpi||my baby is crying|
|kei te tangi āku pēpi||my babies are crying|
|kei te tangi tāu pēpi||your baby is crying|
|kei te tangi āu pēpi||your babies are crying|
|kei te tangi tā rāua pēpi||their (two of them) baby is crying|
|kei te tangi tā kōrua pēpi||you two's baby is crying|
|kei te tangi ā kōrua pēpi||you two's babies are crying|
|kei te tangi tā Mere pēpi||Mere's baby is crying|
In those examples I'm using the 'a' category, as pēpi goes under children from that a/o category link.
Another way of expressing possession, when the possessor is identified by a personal noun, is to use 'a' or 'o' (without the macron) in between the thing possessed and the possessor. The 'a' or 'o' expresses the a/o category of the possession and can be thought of as 'of' in English:
|Māori 1||Māori 2||English|
|kei te tangi tā Mere pēpi||kei te tangi te pēpi a Mere||Mere's baby is crying|
|ko ngā pene a Hēmi ēnei||ko ā Hēmi pene ēnei||These are Hemi's pens|
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