Guugu Yimithirr Lesson 11

Personal pronouns in singular

In this lesson we review what we have learned about personal pronouns in singular, and learn a few more pronouns.

First person singular: ngayu; nganhi; ngathu

First person is the person(s) speaking. We know the word for “I”: ngayu.

We also know the word for “my”: ngathu

The new word for this lesson is nganhi, which means “me”.

We recall that nhulu means “he or she”. Gunday means “hit” (past tense, as in “He hit me”). The wordlist form is gundal. Let’s make a sentence with the word nganhi:

Nhulu nganhi gunday nambaalngun. “He hit me with a stone.”

The word nambal, which means “stone” (or “money”), has the “doer”-suffix –ngun. Of course the stone isn’t doing anything, but we use the same ending to mark the tools, implements or instruments that we use to do something.

Let’s learn these three words by heart as a string of words:

ngayu – nganhi – ngathu

I – me – my (or “to me”)

Ngathu can mean two things: “my” or “to me”, when a thing is given to me.

Ngathu nambal – “My money”

Ngathu nambal wuwaa! – “Give the money to me!”

Second person singular: nhundu; nhanu

Second person is the person spoken to: “you”.

We only need to learn two words for second person singular: nhundu and nhanu.

Nhundu we already know from the greeting Nhundu wanhtharra? – “How are you?”

We have also learned the word nhanu; we learned that it can mean “your”.

But nhanu has a second meaning: it can be the object in a sentence.

“I saw you” is Ngayu nhanu nhaathi.

You see the difference between nhundu and nhanu? If the “you” is not the object of a verb action, the form is “nhundu”, as in “Nhundu Bama”. But if the “you” is the object in a sentence, the form is nhanu. English doesn’t make any distinction between these two “you”-words:

“You are Bama.”

“I saw you.”

Third person singular: nhulu; nhangu

In third person singular we need to learn two words:

Nhulu means “she” or “he”

Nhangu means “him” or “his” or “her”.

Let’s put these two words in a sentence. We recall that pronouns often go together with the name of the person or persons we’re talking about:

Nhulu Johnnyngun nhangu buliman nhaathi.

“He Johnny saw him the policeman.”

Conclusion: It’s hard to remember all this.

We’ve studied seven words in this lesson. Most of them we’ve seen before. But there’s one difficulty with these words: one easily gets confused which is which. They all contain the sounds NH and NG, and the vowels A and U. Let’s write them down on three lines:

ngayu, nganhi, ngathu

nhundu, nhanu

nhulu, nhangu

From our experience it takes a long time to memorise which one is which. Especially nhanu and nhangu take a long time to learn.


We have learned personal pronouns in singular.


ngayu – “I”

nganhi – “me”

ngathu – “my, to me”

nhundu – “you” (one person)

nhanu – “you” (one person, object)

nhulu – “he or she”

nhangu – “him or his or her”

gundal – “hit”

gunday – “hit” (past tense)


Pronouns often have one form for subject and one form for object of the sentence. “I” is a subject form in English, and “me” is an object form.

English doesn’t have a subject form and an object form for “you”. But Guugu Yimithirr has two different forms: nhundu and nhanu.

Some Guugu Yimithirr personal pronouns have a double function: nhanu and nhangu are object forms but also ownership forms.


Now go to the Quizlet web site to practice what you learned in this lesson:

If the link doesn’t work, cut and past the URL.


Grammar fact

“Singular” means forms for one of something.

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