Saturday, September 17, 2011

Amharic commands

One thing that we've learned from our Amharic tutors is that the way middle-class Americans talk to their children doesn't translate to Amharic. They say that instead of, "Do you want to eat?" or "It's time to take a bath" or "Let's get dressed" we should just say, "Eat!" "Wash!" and "Get dressed!" This definitely helps simplify our language learning.

I've compiled a list of commands / imperatives and posted them here. They're in three columns, depending on if you are talking to a boy, a girl or more than one child. To make a command negative, just add the prefix at- in front of the word.


  1. Very helpful - thanks for posting!

  2. This is so great! We are trying to reintroduce some Amharic words to our daughter; it's not her first language (Sidamigna is), but we have a ton of Ethiopian friends and plan to travel to Ethiopia on a regular basis, so we figure it's good for her to keep some Amharic words. Your list will be easy to keep handy in case we forget the words we're reintroducing.

    A funny thing regarding commands: When we first took custody, most our commands and questions were of the nice variety, but when we had been together awhile and wanted her to to start doing as we asked, I busted out the list of Mama's Serious Now commands. The look on her face when I said the first one (zimbay--"be quiet") was priceless, as if she were thinking, "Who taught you the not fun word?" When we starting telling her "don't hit" and (even worse!) "share," she knew that things were going downhill fast.

  3. Semi-Feral Mama told me about your blog months ago, and I am just now getting around to commenting. We too are trying to learn Amharic, though you are definitely way ahead of us. Thank you so much for sharing all your Amharic goodness. The verb chart seemed over my head, but I am loving this command chart. Thank you, thank you, thank you!