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Please note:  This Tuvalu/Ellice Islands grammar was first published in 1945.  It was first scanned and posted on the late Henry Lundsgaarde's web site in 1994. This page is currently being re-edited by Tuvalu Online to improve the readability and correct numerous typographical errors from the scanning and OCR software.




This book has been written for the guidance of Government officers and others who wish to acquire a practical knowledge of the language of the Ellice Islands. It does not pretend to be exhaustive, but anyone who assimilates its contents should find himself in a position to pursue his further studies with ease and fluency. Throughout the Ellice Group, the dialect varies to considerable extent from island to island. That used herein is the dialect of Vaitupu. This island has, for many vears, been the headquarters of both Mission and Government secondary education and its dialect is well understood throughout the group. I am indebted to my wife for the preparation and arrangement of the typescript, to Tofinga of the Western Pacific High Commission Office for much valuable criticism and assistance in the final revision of the work, and to Mr. F. W. Smith, Government Printer, Fiji, for correcting the proofs.  D. G. K.

1st March, 1945.

C O N T E N T S .


Alphabet 1-6
Articles 7
Nouns 8-12
Prepositions 13
Adjectives 14-16
Numerals 17-19
Pronouns 20
Possessive forms, O and A 21-23
Interrogative pronouns 24-26
Verbs 27-33
Verbs, passive 31
Adverbs 34
Conjunctions 35
Relative Clauses 36
Miscellaneous 37-43
Alliteration 37
Abbreviations 38
Exclamations 39
Emphasis 40
Sister-brother terms 41
Negative questions 42
Idioms 43

Common Speech.

Time 44
Hunger and Thirst 45
Speech 46
Reading and Writing 47
Questions 48
Affirming 49
Entreating 50
Consenting 51
Refusing 52
Offering Gifts, etc. 53
Expressing Satisfaction 54
Expressing Displeasure 55
Expressing Sorrow 56
Expressing Astonishment, etc. 57
Denying 59
Speaking of Friendship 60
Expressing Antipathy 61
Discussing the Weather 62
Discussing Age 63
Discussing Health 64
Greetings, etc. 65
Coming and Going 66
Discussing People 67
Asking the Way 68
Discussing Language 69
Canoeing 70
Fishing 71
Cooking and Eating 72
Sleeping and Waking 73


Folklore Tales.

Te Vaka o Manumanu 75
Tulivae Pula 76
Notes 77



1. The alphabet consists of sixteen letters:
    (a) Five vowels a, e, i, o, u.
    (b) Eleven consonants (including the diagraph ng) f, h, k, l, m, n, ng, p, s, t, v.
2. Each vowel has a long and a short duration and each consonant may be held or dwelt on in such a way as to give the succeeding vowel a slight explosive sound. Every word ends in a vowel.
    (a) short a sound:  mata, eye, face.
          Both vowels sounded as "u" in "butter"
    (b) long a sound:  fanau, offspring.
          a sounded as "a" in "father."
    (c) Short e sound:  pepe, butterfly, moth.
         Both vowels sounded as "e" in "bet"
    (d) Long e sound:  pefea, how.
         e sounded as "c" in "send"
    (e) Short i sound:  titi, woman's kilt.
         Both vowels sounded as "i" in "tin."
    (f) Long i sound:  sili, to ask.
        i sounded as "I" in "litre"
    (g) Short o sound:  popo, copra.
         Both vowels sounded as "o" in "pot"
    (h) Long o sound:  po, night.
         o sounded as "o" in "north"
    (i) Short u sound:  tuku, put, give.
         Both vowels sounded as "u" in "pull"
    (j) Long u sound:  pula, shine.
        u sounded as "u" in "rule"

3.  When vowels occur together each must be sounded separately, and distinctly. There are
     no dipthongs.
     e.g.  Taeao, tomorrow; sounded ta-eh-ah-o(r) almost as if the
             word consisted of four different syllables.

4. Consonants.
    (a) f, The fricative sound is obtained by holding the lower lip almost against the upper lip,
         and not against the upper teeth as in English f.
    (b) h, sounded as in English. (Northern dialects only.)
    (c) k, sounded as in English, but with the tongue further back on the palate.
    (d) 1, as in English.
    (e) m, as in English, but slightly heavier and more prolonged.
    (f) n, as in English, but heavier.
    (g) ng, as the "ng" in English "singing," never like the "ng" in "finger." The initial sound
          "ng"  should be practiced.
            e.g. ngongo, the black noddy, ngalu, a wave.
                    ngatala, rock cod, ngali, pretty.
(h) p, as in English, but heavier.
(i) s, as in English, but much heavier and with a suspicion
of the English "sh."
(j) t, sounded as in English, but thicker, with the flat rather than the tip, of the tongue
against the hard palate.
(k) v, the lower lip is held against the upper lip, as for Ellice f, and not against the
upper teeth.
5. Sometimes a reduplicative syllable is elided; in such cases the preceding consonant is
held so as to create a time gap, giving the succeeding syllable a slightly explosive
e.g. fakakai, a village.
On Niutao Island the three syllables of the word are pronounced distinctly. On other islands
in the Ellice group the second syllable is elided and the word becomes fakai, with the k held
for the time it takes to pronounce the other syllable. It should be noticed that the pause is
in the middle of the consonant itself, not after the preceding vowel. So:
o pepelo, to lie, becomes o pelo (pron. o ppello).
o sosolo, to wipe, becomes o solo (pron. o ssolo).
o totolo, to creep, becomes o tolo (pron. o ttolo).
te ngangana, the sound, the language, becomes te ngana (pron. te ngngana).

6. In normal spelling it is not necessary to employ doubled conson-
ants as above, to denote these lengthened consonants, but the
student is advised to use them in his own vocabulary lists. Through-
out this handbook they are rarely used to denote the length of
either vowels or consonants. No student can hope to learn from the
book alone.  The help of a native is necessary and the student
should note carefully the exact value given by his native mentor to both vowels and
consonants, and so mark them in his vocabulary lists.


7. The articles are:
Singular, te, se, a.
Plural, ni, ne, a.
They cannot easily be classified into definite or indefinite.
(a) te, generally takes the place of the English "the "
e.g. te ika, the fish.
(b) se is almost equivalent to the English "a," "an," but is not used in all cases where
"a," "an," would be used. Its use can be learned only by experience.
e.g. Aumai se potu tifa. Bring me a piece of pearl shell.
(c) a, is used before personal names and personal pronouns, especially after the prepositions
ki, i.
e.g. Tuku ki a Penaia. Give it to Penaia.
(d) ni, ne, are almost equivalent to the English "some "
e.g. E iai ni fale lelei i te fenua tela. There are (some) fine houses on that
Se ai ne lakau loa i konei. There are not any long sticks here.
(e) a, is sometimes used as the equivalent of the English definite article plural.
e.g. A tamaliki i kona ko foki i te taulekaleka. The children there are beautiful indeed.


8. Nouns are never inflected. Number is indicated by
(a) A word accompanying a noun:
e.g. Tona vae, his leg, ona vae, his legs.
Te lakau, a stick. lakau, sticks.
(b) Lengthening of the vowel of the noun:
e.g. Tangata, man, tangata, men (pron. taangata). Fafine, woman, fafine, women
(pron. faafine).

9. Words which accompany the noun and show number.

Singular Plural
te, the. a, the.
tenei, this ncar me. nei, these near me.
tena, na, that near you. kona, those near you.
tela, that away from us. kola, those away from us.
se, a, an. ni, ne, some.
tasi, one, a, an. lua, etc., two, etc.
tokotasi, one person. tokolua, etc., two persons.
taku, toku, my aku, oku, my.
te ma, our o or a maua, our.
ta, our. o or a taua, our.
te motou, our. c or a matou, our.
tou, our. o or a tatou, our.
tau, tou, your, thy. au, ou, your, thy.
tona, hna, his, her. ana, ona, his, her.
te otou, your. o (-r a kcutou, your.
te la, their. o or a laua, their.
te lotou, their. o or a latou, their.
But note, nei, may be singular or plural. e.g., te fale nei, this house. fale
nei, these houses. (The variable o, a, vowel in the possessive pronouns will be dealt with

l0. Gender is expressed by different words for masculine and feminine.
e.g., tangata, male; fafine, female.
puaka tangata, boar; puaka fafine, sow.
tamatangata, son; tamafine, daughter.

1l. As in English, common nouns are frequently used as adjectivcs. e.g.,
te fale vaka, the canoe house.
tunga nifo, teeth marks.

l2. Certain nouns which indicate time and place are important, and should be noted here; they
frequently form the key words of compound adverbs and prepositions.
lunga, the top, the upper part.
lalo,     the bottom, the under part.
loto,     the inside, the midst.
fofo, fafo, the outside, the exterior.
mua, the front, the forepart.
muli, the rear, the hindpart.
fea? (What) place? (What) time?
nei, the present.
ko, yonder place, time distant.
tua, the outer side, the back.
tai, the sea shore, as opposed to places inland.
uta,ngauta, inland, as opposed to the sea shore; the dry
                land (the shore), as opposed to the water.
va, space between two things or places.

a, of, belonging to.
a, at, (of future time).
e.g., a fea? at what time? (future).
ana, at, (of time past).
e.g., ana fea? at what time? (past).
o, of, belonging to.
ma, for.
mo, for.
i, at.
mai, from.

Compound Forms.
i lunga, upon, on top of, above.
i lunga i, upon, on top of, above.
mai lunga i, from upon.
ki lunga ki, to the top of.
i mua,    mai mua, ki mua.
i muli,    mai muli, ki muli.
i lalo,    mai lalo, ki lalo.
i loto,    mai loto, ki loto, etc.

14. The adjective always stands after the noun:
te fale lasi, the large house.
se vaka lelei, a good canoe.

15. Degrees of comparison are expressed by the adverbs:
atu, ake, aka, for the comparative degree.
sili, tomua, ki, for the superlative degree.
e.g. E lelei atu te m~a nei i te mea tena.
This thing is better than that thing.
E loa aka (ake) te lakau nei.
This stick is longer.
Te tangata tomua i te lasi.
A very big man indeed.
A ia e supa ki.
He is extremely stupid.
An idiomatic form expressing the superlative degree is here noted: 
e.g. Sei se tangata mafl pela.
He is the strongest man of all.
Sei se tamaflne ngali pela.
She is the most beautiful girl of all.

16.  Any adjective may be treated as a noun to express an abstract quality.
e.g. mafl, strong. te maii, the strength.
vave, quick.   te vave, the quickness.

1. tasi. 11. angafulu ma tasi, sefulu tasi.
2. Iua. 12. angafulu ma lua, sefulu lua.
3. tolu. 13. angafulu ma tolu, sefulu tolu.
4. fa. 2O. Iua ngafulu, lua sefulu.
5. lima. 30. tolu ngafulu.
6. ono. 40. fa ngafulu.
7. fitu. 100. se lau.
8. valu. 125. se lau lua ngafulu ma lima.
9. iva. 1000. afe.
       l0. angafulu, sefulu.
N.B..Toko must precede the numeral when applied to persons.

e.g. E fia? How many?
Tokofla? How many persons?
E tasi te vaka, one canoe.
Vaka e lua, two canoes (or Vakalua).
Vaka e tolu, three canoes (or Vakatolu).

In counting persons, tino, people, person, is frequently used for multiples of ten. e.g.
Tokofla tino? How many people?
E tokotolu. Three.
Tino fla? How many people?
Tino iva. Ninety.

18. The ordinal numeral is formed by using te before the cardinal.
e.g. Te lua, the second.
Te tolu, the third.
Te tokotolu o tangata, the third person.
but note: Te mea mua, the first item.
Te toekimua, the first born.

19. Distributive numerals are formed by prefixing taki to the ordinary numeral.
e.g. Takitolu, three each, each three.
Takitasi, each separately.
Tamaliki takitokotasi, every single child.


The personal pronouns are:

Singular. Dual. Plural.

au, I, me. taua, we (thou and I) tatou, we (yc and I)
   us (thou and me)
maua, we (he and I). matou, we (they and I)
koe, thou, thee koulua, you two. koutou, you (more than two)
ia, he, him, laua, they (they two) latou, they, them (more than two).
  she, her.   them (them two)

The pronouns arc never used in speaking of inanimate things.

21.   Possessive Case.

The personal pronouns are either:

"A" Form.


Things possessed singular Things possessed plural
Taku, my, mine. aku, my, mine.
Tau, thy, thine. au, thy, thine.
Tana, tena, his, hcr, hcrs. ana, his, her, hers.


Te ta, our, ours (thine and mine). ta, our, ours (thine and mine).
Te ma, our, ours (his and mine). ma, our, ours (his and mine).
Te lu, your, yours (his and thine). lu, your, yours (his and thine).
Te la, their (belonging to the two la, their (belonging to the two
of them). of them).


Te tou, our, ours (mine and yours). tou, our, ours (mine and yours).
Te motou, our, ours (mine and motou, our, ours (mine and
theirs). theirs).
Te otou, your, yours. otou, your, yours.
Te lotou, their, theirs. lotou or olotou, their, theirs.

Or "O" Form.


Things posessed Singular.  Things possessed Plural.
Toku, my, mine. oku, my, mine.
Tou, thy, thine. ou, thy, thine.
Tona, tena, his, her, hers. ona, his, her, hers.

Te ta, our, ours (thine and mine). ta, our, ours (thine and mine).
Te ma, our, ours (his and mine). ma, our, ours (his and mine).
Te lu, your, yours (his and thine). lu, your, yours (his and thine).
Te la, their (belonging to the two la, their (belonging to the two
of them).  
of them).

Te tou, our, ours (mine and thine). tou, our, ours (mine and thine).
Te motou, our, ours (mine and motou, our, ours (mine and
thine).     thine).
Te otou, your, yours. otou, your, yours.
Te lotou, their, theirs. lotou, olotou, their, theirs.


"A" Form.
Taku ngaluenga, my work.
Aku tamaliki, my children.
Tau lakau, your stick.
Au lakau, your sticks.
Tena meakai, his food.
Ana fanau, his offspring.

Te ta fatu, our stone (belonging to thee and me).
Ta faifainga, our actions (of thee and me).
Te ma tonganti, our trick (his and mine).
Ma tama, our children (his child and my child).
Te lu olonga, your departure (his and thine).
Lu fangongo, your coconut shells (his and thine).
Te la lakau, their stick (of the two of them).
La tama, their children (of the two of them).

Te tou ika,  ollr fish (mine and yours).
Tou ika,  our fishes (mine and yours).
Te motou toki,  our adze (theirs and mine).
Te otou mea,  your thing.
Otou mea,  your things.
  Te lotou teleatunga, their flight.
Olotou omainga, their visits.

"O" Form.

Toku tamana, my father.
Oku tupuna,  my ancestors.
Tou avanga, thy wife.
Ou vaka, thy canoes.
Tona pulou, his hat.
Ona pulou, his hats.


Te ta vaka, our canoe (belonging to thee and me).
Ta vaka, our canoes (thine and mine).
Te ma vaka, our canoe (belonging to him and me).
Ma vaka, our canoes (his and mine).
Te lu fale, your house (belonging to him and thee).
Lu fale, your houses (his and thine).
Te la manafaa, their land (belonging to the two of them).
La manafa, their lands.


Te tou fenua, our homecountry (yours and mine).
Tou tupuna, our ancestors (theirs and mine) .
Te motou fenua, our homecountry (theirs and mine).
Motou tupuna, our ancestors (theirs and mine).
Te otou umanga, your garden.
Otou umanga, your gardens.
Te lotou fale, their house.
Olotou fale, their houses.

22. "O" and "A".
It will be noticed that the first vowel in each pronoun in the singular number under
what is called the "A" form is "a", while under the "O" form the corresponding vo~vel is
"o". The deciding factor as to which form must be used is the noun representing the thing
possessed. Some nouns always take the "A" form and others the "O" form.

It will further be noticed that in the dual and plural numbers the distinction does not
appear. It does appear, however, in all three numbers, when the pronoun is used in its
genitive form to indicate possession. Using the same nouns as given in the examples above,
we have:

Genitive Construction.

"A" or "o", meaning of, or belonging to.

"A" Form.

E a ai te ngaluenga? E a aku.
Whose is the work? It is mine (lit. of me).
E a ai tamaliki kola? E a aku.
Whose are those children? They are mine.
E a ai te lakau? E a koe.
Whose is the stick? It is yours (thine lit. of thee).
E a ai lakau konei? E a koe.
Whose are these sticks? They are yours (thine).
E a ai te meakai na? E a ia (E a ana).
Whose is that food ? It is his.
E a ai tamaliki kola? E a ana.
Whose children are those? They are his.


E a ai te fatu na? E a taua.
Whose stone is that? It is ours (thine and mine).
Faifainga a ai? Faifainga a taua.
Whose actions? Our actions (thine and mine).
Te tongaflti a ai? Te tongafiti a maua.
Whose trick? Our trick (his and mine).
Tamaliki a ai? Tamaliki a maua.
Whose children? Our children (hers and mine).
Te olonga a ai? Te olonga a koulua.
Whose departure? Your departure (lit. of you two).
E a ai a fangongo kona? E a koulua.
Whose are those coconut shells? They are yours (of you two).
Te lakau a ai? Te lakau a laua.
Whose stick? Their stick (lit. of them (two)).
Tama a ai? Tama a laua.
Whose child? Their child (of the two of them).

E a ai te ika? E a tatou.
Whose is the fisht It is ours (inclusive).
E a ai ika konei? E a tatou.
Whose fish are these? They are ours.
E a ai te toki? E a matou.
Whose is the adze? It is ours (inclusive).
Toki a ai? Toki a matou.
Whose adzes? Our adzes.
E a ai te mea nei? E a koutou.
Whose is this thing? It is yours (lit. of you three or more).
Mea a ai? Mea a koutou.
Whose things? Your things.
Te teleatunga a ai? Te teleatunga a latou.
Whose flight? Their flight (of them).
Omamainga a ai? Omamainga a latou.
Whose visits? Their visits.

"O" Form.
Te tamana o ai? Te tamana o oku.
Whose father ? My father (lit. of me) .
Tupuna o ai? Tupuna o oku.
Whose ancestors ? My ancestors.
Te avanga o ai? Te avanga o koe.
The wife (husband) of whom? Your wife (of thee).
E o ai vaka kola? E o koe.
Whose are those canoes? They are yours (thine).
E o ai te pulou nei? E o ona (e o ia).
Whose hat is this? It is his.
A pulou konei, e o ai? E o ona (e o ia).
These hats, whose are they? They are his (of him).

E o ai te vaka na? E o taua.
Whose is that canoe? It is ours (belonging to thee and me).
A vaka kola, e o ai? E o taua.
Those canoes, whose are they? They are ours.
Te vaka o ai? Te vaka o maua.
Whose canoe? Our canoe (belonging to him and me?)
Vaka o ai? Vaka o maua.
Whose canoes? Our canoes (his and mine).
E o ai te fale? E o koulua.
Whose is the house? It is yours (lit. of you two)
E o ai fale kola? E o koulua.
Whose are those houses? They are yours.
E o ai te manafa? E o laua.
Whose is the land? It is theirs (lit. of them two).
A manafa konei, e o ai? E o laua.
These lands, whose are they? They are theirs.

Te fenua o ai? Te fenua o tatou.
Whose homeland ? Our homeland (inclusive) .
Tupuna o ai? Tupuna o tatou.
Whose ancestors? Our ancestors (inclusive).
E o ai te fenua? E o matou.
Whosc homeland is it? It is ours (exclusive).
Tupuna o ai? Tupuna o matou.
Whosc ancestors? Our ancestors (exclusive) .
E o ai te umanga? E o koutou.
Whosc garden? It is yours.
A umanga kola, e o ai? E o koutou.
Those gardens, whose are they? They are yours.
E o ai te fale? E o latou.
Whose is the house? It is theirs.
E o ai fale kola? E o latou.
Whose are those houses? They are theirs.

The Polynesians know intuitively with what classes of nouns or things possessed "a" should
be used, or "o" should be used. For Europeans the matter is fraught with some complexity.
Fundamentally since the "o" or "a" question arises only in the case of possessive
pronouns, and the prepositions "o" and "a" mo and ma, themselves indicating possession, it
would seem, at first sight, reasonable to assume that the distinction must be due to some
subtle difference not apparent to Europeans, in the nature of the possession, or the
degree of possession itself. Some Polynesian grammarians have attempted to explain the
distinction, but no simple, fundamental rule has yet been which would serve as a safe
guide to Europeans. Perhaps the nearest approximation to a simple rule is:
The "a" form is used when the state or degree of possession is the result of some
transitive action on the part of the possessor; and the "o" form when the state or degree
of possession is the normal state of being, through inheritance or otherwise.

Generally speaking,
         (a) food,
         (b) words indicating children,
(c) words indicating a state of being; such as verbal or other nouns formed by the
suffix nga all take the pronoun in the "a" form.
(a) Tau meakai, your food.
(b) Taku tama, my child.
(c) I tau tamalikinga, in your childhood.
         (d) words indicating names, parts and qualities of things,
         (e) feelings,
         (f) houses, land, canoes, clothing,
(g) parents and other relations except children all take the possessive pronoun in the
"o" form.
(d) Mo Penaia, for Penaia.
     Toku vae, my leg.
     Tou mafa, your weight.
   (e) Oku manatu, my opinions.
   (f) Oku fale vaka, my canoe sheds.
     Tona manafa, his land.
     Te fenua o tatou, our homeland.
      Tou paopao, your small canoe.
     Toku pulou, my hat.
      Oku taka, my sandals.
   (g) Ona matua, his parents.
      Tou tupuna, your grandfather.
                Te taina o toku tamana, the brother of my father.

23. Note: Moku, maku, for me.
e.g. Aumai se pi moku inu ake, bring me a green coconut for me to drink (for my
Aumai se pi maku, bring me a drinking nut for me.
o, a, of.
e.g. Te fale o Penaia, Penaia's house.
Te tama a Penaia, Penaia's child.


     i. Ai? who, whom?
  (a) Ro ai? who, whom?
(b) O ai? a ai? whose?
  (c) Ki ai? to whom?
  (d) I ai? with whom?
Note:  ko ai and o ai are often abbreviated to koi and oi.

ii. Te fea? Which?
iii A? What?
(a) Se a? te a? What?
(b) Ki te a? to what, for what, about what?
(c) I te a? for what?
(d) Mo a? mo te a?  for what?


   i (a) Ko ai na? who is there?
(b) E o ai te pulou nei? whose is this hat?
(b) E o ai te mea nei? whose is this?
(c) Ne tuku ne koe ki ai?  to whom did you give it?
    (b) E kai koe i ai? with whom are you eating?
  ii (a) Te fea te vaka ne ta ne ia? which is the canoe he built?
iii (a) Se a te mea nei? what is this?
   (b) E fakalongo koe ki te a?  to what are you listening?
   (b) E fakatale atu ki te a tama tena? for what is that child reaching?
(b) E faipati koe ki te a?  what are you speaking about?
       (c) E omai i te a tino kola? for what are those people coming?
    (c) E tele koe.i te a? what are you running for?
   (d) E fai mo te a te lase na? what is that lime for?
(d) Mo a te fale na? for what is that house?

25. Note:  When asking for the name
   (a) of a person, use ko ai?
  e.g.. Ko ai tou ingoa? What is your name?
   (b) of a thing, use se a?
     e.g. Se a te ingoa o te mea na? What is the name of that?

   Note the following:

    (a) Ko ai? koi? who?
   (b) Se a? te a? what?
    (c) Te fea? which, where?
   (d) Pefea? how, of what kind?
    (e) E fla? how many?
    (f) Afea? mafea? when? (future)
   (g) Anafea? when? (past)
   (h) Aia? se a te mea? why?

(a) Ko ai te tama tena? who is that person?
      (b) Se a tou taofl?     what is your opinion?
(c) Te fea toku vaka? where is my canoe?
       (d) Ne fai pefea ne ia? how did he do it?
(a) E fla fale i te fakai na? how many houses in that village?
       (f) E vau a fea tou taina? when is your sister coming?
E oti mafea?      when will it be finished?
(g) Ne oko mai anafea olotou tamaliki? when did their children arrive?
       (h) A koe ne tele aia? why did you run?
          Se a te mea ko fai
pela ei koe?      why are you acting like that?

Interrogation is also indicated the tone of voice:
Ko vau koe. you have come.
    Ko vau koe?         have you come?


The Ellice language does not possess a verb corresponding to the verb "to be." No verb is
used in such cases as the following:
Ko ia tenei,      this is he.
Ko Penaia tona ingoa, his name is Penaia.
Ko toku fale tena, that is my house.
Se fale lelei tenei, this is a good house.
Te lotou fale tela, that house yonder is theirs.
Tena te tamana o Luao, that is Luao's father.
Ko te faflne tena ne lavea ne au that is the woman whom I saw.
Konei aku tama,         these are my children.

In the following the forms e isi and e iai are used for "to be." meaning "to exist."
E iai ne vai i te ipu na? is there any water in that cup?
E isi sau foe na? have you a paddle there?
(lit. is there your paddle there?)

The use of sau instead of tau, as in this example, will be dealt with under Alliteration.

28. The Ellice verb is without inflections. The use of the passive has become almost
obsolete, it is heard only in quotations from old songs and stories, and usually takes the
form of the suffix ia, tia, sia, etc., to the active form of the verb.

Differences of tense are indicated by the particles e, ka, ne, present, future and past,
respectively. Other particles are ma, future conditional contingent, ke, future
conditional consequential, moi, perfect conditional, and mana, future conditional

The subject of the transitive verb may be indicated by the nominative particle ne
preceding the noun or pronoun. This should nt be confused with the verbal particle ne
indicating past tense.
Ne tuku mai ne ia. He gave it to me.

The first ne here is the verbal particle indicating past tense; the second is the
nominative particle, indicating the subject of the transitive verb tuku.

29.   Infinitive Mood.

Present Tense.

O tuku, to put to give, to place.

Indicative Mood.

Present Tense.

Singular. Dual and Plural.
E tuku ne au, I give. E tuku ne maua.     we give (dual exclusive).
E tuku ne koe, you give. E tuku ne taua,  we give (dual inclusive).
    E tuku ne ia, he gives. E tuku ne matou, we give (pl. exlusive)
E tuku ne tatou, ne give (pl. inclusive ) .   E tuku ne koulua, you give (dual)
E tuku ne koutou, you give (pl.) E tuku ne latou, they give.
Note: Ko may be used instead of e, Ko tuku ne au, etc.

Future Tense.

Ka tuku ne au, I shall give. Ka tuku ne maua, we shall give.
Ka tuku ne koe, you will give. Ka tuku ne taua, we shall give.
Ka tuku ne ia, he will give. Ka tuku ne matou, we shall give.
Ka tuku ne tatou, we shall give.
                        Ka tuku ne koulua, you shall give.
                       Ka tuku ne koutou, you shall give.
                       Ka tuku ne latou, they shall give.

Past Tense.

Ne tuku ne au, I gave. Ne tuku ne maua, we gave.
Ne tuku ne koe, you gave. Ne tuku ne taua, we gave.
Ne tuku ne ia, he gave. Ne tuku ne matou, we gave.
Ne tuku ne tatou, we gave.
Ne tuku ne koulua, you gave.
Ne tuku ne koutou, you give.
                    Ne tuku ne latou, they gave.

Imperative Mood.

Tuku, give ________, put ________ , place _________.
Tuku i kona, put it there.
Tuku ki a ia, give it to him.
Tuku ki loto i te fale, place it inside the house.

Subjunctive Mood.

Future Contingent.

Singular.     Dual and Plural.

Ma tuku ne au, if I should give. Ma tuku ne maua. if we should give.
Ma tuku ne koe, if you should give. Ma tuku ne taua, if we should give.
Ma tuku ne ia, if he should give. Ma tuku ne matou, if we should give.
Ma tuku ne tatou, if we should give.
Ma tuku ne koulua. if you should give.
Ma tuku ne koutou, if you should give.
Ma tuku ne latou. if they should give.


A au ma tuku. A maua ma tuku.
A koe ma tuku. A taua ma tuku.
A ia ma tuku. A matou ma tuku.
A tatou ma tuku.
A koulua ma tuku.
A koutou ma tuku.
A latou ma tuku.

Future Consequential.

Ke tuku ne au, that I may give; Ke tuku ne maua.
or, let me give, etc.
Ke tuku ne koe. Ke tuku ne tana.
Ke tuku ne ia.  Ke tuku ne matou.
  Ke tuku ne tatou.
  Ke tuku ne koulua.
  Ke tuku ne kouton.
  Ke tuku ne latou.

Future Precautionary.

A au mana tuku.  lest I should give. A maua mana tuku.
A koe mana tuku. A taua mana tuku.
A ia mana tuku. A matou mana tuku.
  A tatou mana tuku.
  A koulua mana tuku.
  A koutou mana tnku.
  A latou mana tuku.

Mana tuku ne au  Mana tuku ne maua.

Perfect and Past Perfect, Conditional.

Moi tuku ne au, if I have given, Moi tuku ne maua.
if I had given, etc.
  Moi tuku ne taua.
Moi tuku ne koe. Moi tuku ne matou.
Moi tuku ne ia. Moi tuku ne tatou.
  Moi tuku ne koulua.
  Moi tuku ne koutou.
  Moi tuku ne latou.

30.            NEGATIVE FORMS.


Present Tense.
Se tuku ne au, I do not give. Se tuku ne maua.
Se tuku ne koe.          Se tuku ne taua.
Se tuku ne ia. Se tuku ne matou.
Se tuku ne tatou.
  Se tuku ne koulua.
Se tuku ne koutou.
Se tuku ne latou.

Future Tense.
A au ka se tuku, I shall not give, etc. A maua ka se tuku.
A koe ka se tuku. A taua ka se tuku.
A ia ka se tuku. A matou ka se tuku.
  A tatou ka se tuku.
  A koulua ka se tuku.
  A koutou ka se tuku.
  A latou ka se tuku.

Past Tense.
Seki (or siki) tuku ne au. I did not Seki tuku ne maua.
give, etc.
Seki tuku ne koe. Seki tuku ne taua.

Sa tuku, donմ give..., donմ put..., donմ place...

Future Contingent.
Ma se tuku ne au. if I should not give. Ma se tuku ne maua.
or or
A au ma se tuku  A maua ma se tuku.

Future Consequential.
Ke se tuku ne au. that I may not give. Ke se tuku ne maua.

Future Precautionary.
Mana se tuku ne au. lest I should Mana se tuku ne maua.
not give.
A au mana se tuku.  A maua mana se tuku.

Perfect and Past Perfect, Conditional.

Moi se tuku ne if I had not given,etc. Moi se tuku ne maua.

Note:  In the above, the alternative forms:
i. A pronoun following the particle a preceding the verb, or
ii. the verb preceding the pronoun when it follows the particle ne (transitive only).
Ko may replace the particle e in the present indicative
e.g. Ko tuku ne Penaia, Penaia gives.
A ia ko tuku,      he gives.


As noted above the use of the passive has become almost obsolete. The form using the
suffix sia or tia is sometimes used today:

i. In such verbs as o malamatia, to be surprised by the dawn, to be found sleeping in the
early morning. (Used of lovers sleeping unaware of the stirring world.) From malama, light
(n.) to lighten (v.) hence to be lightened, to be discovered.
ii. In folk lore, especially in phrases of direct speech handed down from generation to
e.g. In the story of "Tinilau and his wives." Լbr> Koi kautia mai lunga nei?
Who are banded here above?
Kautia to be banded, from kau (n.) a band or group, o kau (v.) to band or to group.
iii. In ancient songs.
e.g. "A motou tangi, a motou tangi,
Te lau manafa ko motusia."
Our lamentation,
The piece of land has been taken from us.
Motusia (lit. cut off) from motu, cut, broken.

32. Nouns are formed from verbs, as follows:

O ngalue, to work.   ngaluenga, nork.
O tupu, lo happen, to grow. tupunga, growth.
tupulanga, generation.
O ola, to live.   olanga, life.
Oko mai, to come, to arrive. oko-mainga, arrival.
O fanatu, to depart (singular) fanatunga, departure (singular).
O olo atu, to go away (plural) olo atunga, departure (plural).
O tafao, to play. tafaonga, game.
O eva, to fiy. evanga, fiight.
O nofo, to sit. nofonga, act or state of sitting.
nofoanga, chair or seat.
O moe, to sleep. moenga, bed, or state of sleeping.

N.B. Some nouns may be used as verbs, and the verbal form when treated in the above
manner indicates the abstract quality of the original meaning.

e.g. (noun) Te tama taene, the young man.
(verb) O tamataene, to be a young man.
e.g. A ia ne tamataene fua i aso kola.
He was only a young man in those days.
(Abstract noun) Tamataenenga, youth.
e.g. Ne tupu i tena tamataenenga.
It happened in his youth.
(Likewise) Tamalikinga, childhood.
Tamafinenga, girlhood.

33. There are certain verbal forms which correspond, in some degree, to participles in
English. They are used as participles, but, unlike participles, are not derived from
verbs. The following are the more common.

Fati, broken (by transverse strain, as of a stick).
Mafu, healed.
Mau, fixed.
Motu, broken (by longitudinal strain, as of a string).
Mutu, ended, cut short.
Oti, completed, finished.
Pa, struck.
Pakia, injured.
Makona, satisfied (as of eating or drinking).

e.g. Ko mafu toku lima ne pakia.
My arm which was injured is now healed.
Tenei tau pi. Au ko se inu fakafetai i te au ko makona.
Here is a drinking nut for you. I shall not drink any more, thank you, I am satisfied.
Ko motu te kolokolo.
The string is broken.
Ko fati te lakau.
The stick is broken.
These words may be used with the causative prefix faka to form verbs:
O fakamau, to fix.
O fakaoti, to complete.
e.g. Tela ne fakamau ei ne ia te ama ki te kiato.
And so he fixed the float to the outrigger-boom.


Adverbs follow the words they qualify, with the exception of:
(a) Tai, nearly, shortly.
e.g. Ko tai oko, he is nearly there, it will shortly arrive.
Ko tai lelei, he is a little better.
Ko tai motu, it is nearly broken.
(b) Momea, slightly.
e.g. Tu atu! Momea atu.  Stand off! Slightly further away.

Adverbs of manner are formed by prefixing faka to the adjective.

e.g. Vave, quick. fakavave, quickly.
Lelei, good. fakalelei, well.
Atamai, skilful. fakaatamai, skilfully.

Adverbs indicating direction. These naturally group themselves into complementary pairs.

Atu, away from, direction Mai, towards, direction inwards as
outwards as regards the regards speaker or point of reference.
speaker or point of reference.
Ake, upwards, towards Ifo, downwards, towards speaker or
speaker or point of reference. point of reference. reference.

Note, also aka, upwards, onwards.


(a) Ne sasaele atu o onoono ki ana mea.
He walked off to examine his belongings.
(b) Ne tele mai o fai mai tena fakamatalanga.
He ran up to make his explanation.
(c) Ne kilo ifo matou, tenei e kake aka o salasala ki a matou.
We looked down and there he was climbing up in search of us.
(d) Ke tu ake.
On with the dance. Encore!
(e) Kae ne fai aka loa ne ia.
But he went on doing it.


Kae, and; denoting sequence in time.
e.g. Kave ki tena fale kae tuku ki te ia.
Take it to his house and give it to him.
Ma, and; used in numerals.
e.g. Angafulu ma lima.
Fifteen (Ten and Five).
Mo; with, and.
e.g. Aumai te takafi mo te alunga.
Bring the mat and the pillow.
Mo; with, and; used after a personal pronoun.
e.g. Tenei te vaka o Penaia, laua mo Luao, ne lama foki.
This is Penaiaճ canoe, he (lit. they two) and Luao also went torch fishing.
Me, for.
e.g. Sa ua me ko moe.
Don't make a noise, for he is asleep.
Ko, and; when a series of proper names occur, ko is repeated.
e.g. Ko Te Folasa, ko Kulu, ko Vaitefanga.
Te Folosa, Kulu, and Vaitefanga.
Foki, also, and also.
e.g. A ia ne fano o fai ika, ko Luao ne fano foki.
He went fishing, and Luao went also.
Kako, ako, but.
e.g. Matou ne olo ako ia ne nofo.
We went but he stayed behind.
Ne velo e loa ne ia ki tena tao kako te mea ne sao.
He threw his spear but it missed.
Me, whether, if. Me---me, whether---or.
e.g. Se iloa ne au me fano me ikai.
I don't know whether he is going or not.
Fano o sili ki ei me tonu ko ngalo tena vaka.
Go and ask him whether it is true that his canoe is missing.
Ne onoono atu au me nofo mai.
I looked to see whether he was still there.
I te mea, because.
e.g. Ne omai latou i te mea e manako o faipati ki a koe.
They came because they wanted to speak to you.
       Sa ua i te mea mana fakalongo mai tokolua ki a koe.
       Don't make a noise lest those two hear you (lit. because they might).
Kafai, ka, manafai, Mafai, ma, if (future).
    e.g. Kafai e malosi a ia kae olo tatou o faipati ki ei.
       If he is well we shall go and talk to him.
       Kafai e to te ua ka siu tatou.
       If it rains we shall get wet.
       Fusu la ne koe manafai e ita.
       If he is angry with you, punch him.
Note:  When kafai, ka, manafai, mafai or ma introduces the conditional clause, the
main clause is often introduced by kae (and).
e.g. Ka olo latou, kae se olo matou.
       If they go, we shall not go.
       Mafai e talia ne koutou kae flafla matou.
       If you consent we shall be happy.
       Ma talia ne koutou kae talia foki ne latou.
       If you agree, they also will agree.
Moifai, if (past).
e.g. Moifai pela e lelei ko se tiaki ne au.
       If it had been good I should not have thrown it away.


In the Ellice language there are no relative pronouns. The relative clause in English is
represented by a variety of constructions.

(a) By the use of the demonstrative pronoun.
e.g. E masaki te fafine tela e tangi.
That woman, who is weeping, is ill.
Tenei te tangata ne fai ne ia.
This is the man who did it.
(b) By the use of ei, ai, about it, in it.
e.g. Te mea ne faipati ei taua.
The matter about which we were talking.
Ne lavea ne koe te mea a maua ne fai ai?
Did you see what we were doing.
Tefea te vaka ne omai ai latou?
Where is the ship in which they came?
(c) By the uae of ki ei, to it.
e.g. Te fale ne olo tatou ki ei.
The house to which we went.
(d) By the use of the personal pronoun in the possessive case.
e.g. Tangata i o latou te manafa.
The men whose land it is.
Te fafine i a ia te meakai.
The woman whose food it is.



For euphony when following a word containing the letter "s" the possessive pronouns toku,
taku, tou, tau, tona, tena, become:  soku, saku, sou, sau, sona, sena.
e.g. Seai soku fale.     I have no house.
  E isi sau foe na?     Have you a paddle there?
Sei sena fiafia pela. He was overjoyed.
E salasala aka ne ia saku meakai. He is looking for my food.


(a) As already noted in #5, reduplicative syllables may be elided and the consonant held
silent for a space equal to the duration of the last syllable. The same occurs when the
article te is followed by a noun beginning with "t."
e.g. Te tangata, the man, is pronounced ttangata.
Te tama, the child, i.s pronounced ttama.
Te toki, the adze, is pronounced ttoki.

(b) The verb o fano, to go, followed by atu, away, or ake, aka, upwards, onwards, is
abbreviated to fanatu, fanake, fanaka (pron. fanaatu, fanaake, fanaaka).
(c) As previously noted, ko ai, o ai, may become koi, oi.
(d) Fua aka, becomes faka (pron. faaka).
Fua ake, becomes fake (pron. faake).
Fua atu, becomes fatu (pron. faatu).
Fua ai, becomes fai (pron. faai). (fua, only, just).
e.g. E fai fua aka, he just goes on doing it, becomes E fai faka.
Ne faipati fua atu, he just went on speaking, becomes Ne faipati fatu.
Ne tele fua ai, on account of it he ran away, becomes Ne tele fai.
(e) Taua bccomes ta.
e.g. Ta olo. Let us go. (This use of ta should not be confused with the possessive
ta meaning " belonging to thee and me".)

E! hey, there.
Tapa! expresses astonishment.
Tape! expresses surprise and satisfaction.
Aue! expresses satisfaction, awe.
Ai aue! expresses disappointment or sadness.
Mea or e mea! exprcsses surprise and resentment.
Ko foki! expresses surprise and delight.
Tafanga loa! excellent!
Kiloke! behold! I say!
Nake! behold ! (obsolete).
Te! nonsense.

e.g. Tape! sei se lelei pela te lotou pese. Ko foki!
Their song is beautiful indeed. Excellent!
Aue! Encore!
Ai aue! Tena tama ko tosala.
Alas! Her child has died.
Kiloke! Sa puli tena polopolokinga.
Listen! Don't forget his warning.


The chief words expressing emphasis are:
      (a) Loa, eloa, eiloa, ailoa, faeloa.
      (b) Ko foki.
      (c) Sei 8c pela.
      (d) Lele after seai to intensify the negative

e.g. E lelei loa ana pati.
His words were good indeed.
E ngali eloa taku tama.
My child is very pretty.
Ne fanatu ailoa a ia o fai tena fekau.
He went straight off to perform his task.
Ko au loa. Ko ia faeloa.
I myself. He indeed.
Tangata tenei ko foki te lelei ki a maua.
This man is very good to us.
Ko foki eloa tena alofa ki te au.
He is most kind to me.
Sei se lasi pela tena fale.
His house is extremely large.
Sei soku fiafia pela.
I am extraordinarily happy.
Seai lele eloa soku ita ki a koe.
I am not the least bit angry with you. (Lit. There is not most certainly my anger towards

41. Sister-Brother Terms.

There are no words in the Ellice language exactly equivalent to the English words "sister"
and "brother." The words taina and tuangane are used to express these relationships but in
a different manner. Brother to brother, or sister to sister is taina. Brother to sister,
or sister to brother is tuangane. In other words the relationship is expressed by taina
when the sex of both parties is the same; by tuangane when the parties are of different
e.g. Ko Penaia mo tena tuangane ko Saulenga.
Penaia and his sister Saulenga.
Seai sena tuangane.
He has no sister; or, she has no brother.
Seai sena taina.
He has no brother; or, she has no sister.
Ko Natia mo tena taina ko Melemele.
Natia and her sister Melemele.
Ko Tinilau me tena taina ko Luao.
Tinilau and his brother Luao.

42. Negative Questions.

The answer to a negative question is in the affirmative where the English would be in the
negative, and vise versa.
Ao, o, yes.
Ikai, no.
e.g. Seai Sou vaka? Have you no canoe?
Ao. No. (lit. Yes, I have no canoe).
A koutou nei ka se olo? And you are not going?
Ikai, matou ka olo. No, we are going. or
Ao, matou ka se olo. Yes, we are not going.

43. Idiomatic Speech.

(a) Ailonga. I doubt it. It is to be doubted.
e.g. Ailonga e iloa ne ia.
I doubt whether he knows about it.
Ne ingo i ona matua? Ailonga.
Has she run away from her parents? I should hardly think so.
(b) Seilonga ke, not until.
e.g. A ia ka se toe loto lelei mai ki te au seilonga ke tuku ne au tena tama ke toe
fanatu ki a ia.
He will not be friendly towards me again until I allow his child to return to him.
(c) Refu, dust (facetious; to run hard).
e.g. Ne kefu faeloa.
He ran his hardest (cf. Eng. colloq., you could not see him for dust).
(d) Pe, it is possible; I suppose so; perhaps; probably.
e.g. E ngali, pe.
Maybe she is pretty.
Ao, pe.
Yes, I suppose so.
Pe lelei pe masei?
I wonder whether it is good or bad? (cf.
Note pe means, in the manner of.
Penei, thus (in this manner).
Pena, thus (in that manner).
Pela, thus (in that manner).
Pofea? how? (in which manner?).
e.g. Se iloa ne au me fai pefea.
I don't know how it is done.
(e) Ne? Is it not so? Do you think so? (used in the manner of the French "ne c'est-ce
e.g. Tenei te konga lelei, ne?
This is a good place, isn't it?
Ta olo, ne?
Let us go, shall we not?
(f) Kae a (lit. and what), don't you agree? of course.
e.g. 0, kae a.
Yes, of course.
Ka fai pela kae tele tatou, kae a?
If that happens we shall run, don't you agree?
(g) Kai toa! it serves you right! it serves him (them, etc.), right !
(h) Mea (colloq.) in speech, when pausing in search of a word.
e.g. Penaia ne ita kae ne faipati ki te mea
Penaia was angry, and spoke about er .
(i) Maua mo Luao. Luao and I (lit. we, he and I, and Luao.
Koulua mo Fiatau. Fiatau and you (lit. you two and Fiatau) .
Laua mo Samola. Samola and he (lit. they two and Samola).
e.g. Olo la koulua mo Vaeanoa i te lu vaka na, i a maua mo Sione ka olo i te vaka nei
o maua.
Let Vaeanoa and you go in your canoe there, for Sione and I are going in this canoe
of ours.
(j) La; euphonious word commonly added to make a phrase less abrupt (cf. Eng., then,
e.g. Nofo la ki lalo.
Just sit down, will you.
Olo la koulua ki te lu matua.
Run along then, to your mother, you two.
(k) Ko ia! That's it. That's right.
e.g. E fai pefea te mea nei? Penei? Ko ia loa.
How is it done? Like this? Yes, that's the way.
Toku taofl ne fai eloa ne ia. Ko ia, pe.
I think he certainly did it. Maybe you're right.
(l) Na to, too.
e.g. Na to malunga.
It is too high.
Na to vevela (vvela) te meakai.
The food is too hot.
(m) Se na, not much, not very.
e.g. Se na lelei te fuamoa tena.
That egg is not very good.
E vave, kae se na vave foki.
It's fast, though not very.
(n) Ngofie, easy, pleasant.
Ngata, difficult, unpleasant. Used only as suffixes.
e.g. O fai, to do.
Faingofle, easy; faingata, difficult.
Te mata, the face (the appearance).
Matangofie, beautiful.
O maua, to get.
Mauangofle, easy to get; mauangata, hard to get.
(o) O fai, to make, to do, is used in many combinations such as: 
O faipati, to speak; failautusi, writer.
O faitau, to read.
When the context makes the meaning clear, the component fai is, for brevity, often used
alone with the meaning of the composite word.
e.g. Fai mai, tell me.
Fai aka, go on reading.
A koe ke se fai pela.
Do not think that
Mana fai aka pela latou i a matou e mataku.
Lest they think that we are afraid.
(p) Ri tena tongi; fakaoti ou mafi.
e.g. Ne tele eloa ki ona tongi.
He ran his hardest.
Fakaoti ou mafl (lit. exhaust your strength).
Try your hardest.
(q) E tangi ei a te fafine? (lit. Is crying about it what the woman). What is the woman
crying about?
(r) Si, wont to; accustomed to.
e.g. Au meakai si tuku e kai sale ne te kimoa.
The food you were wont to set out was always eaten by the rat.
E si tafao sale latou i konei.
They are accustomed to play here.
(s) Mata, about; approximately; perhaps.
e g. Mata e tokofia?
Approximately how many (people)?
Mata e tokofa.
About four.
Mata e masaki tena tama.
Perhaps his child is ill.
(t) E tusa mo (lit. "it is the same as"), is used with numerals indicating that a
computation has been made and that the numerals given are not mere guess work.
e.g. Ana tupe ne tuku mai ki te au, e tusa mo pauni e ono mo seleni e fltu mo peni e
The money he gave me amounted to six pounds seven shillings and threepence.
(u) Mo ona tupu (lit. "and its increase") used in numerals after a round sum to indicate
a slight surplus (not specified), of Eng. "odd."
e.g. E fa sefulu mo ona tupu. Forty odd (or e fa sefulu tupu) .
Te tupe ne aumai e tusa mo te lima se lau mo ona tupu a pauni.
The money brought in amounted to five hundred pounds and more.
(v) Nai, only (diminutive) .
e.g. Nai mu pati fua e iloa ne au.
I know only a very few words.
(w) Fui, used immediately before a verb, indicates difficulty in accomplishing the action
indicated by the verb.
e.g. E fui fai.
It is hard to do.
A ia e fui fakalongo.
He is disobcdient (obeys with difficulty).
A ia e fui talia.
He agrees with difficulty (i.e. hard to persuade).
(x) Sua sua, one other.
Ni isini isi, some others.
e.g. Sua aso e fai penei, sua as

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