Reference > Demonstratives


A demonstrative is used to indicate which object we are referring to. For example, if speaking about a particular man, we can say uyu mugabo 'this man' or uwo mugabo 'that man'. Kinyarwanda, like some European languages distinguishes between 'that object near' and 'that object far away' giving three possible spatial demonstratives:

  • uyu mugabo - this man (in the presence of the speaker)
  • uwo mugabo - that man (near the speaker)
  • uriya mugabo - that man (over there, far from the speaker)

In addition to these, there is another discourse demonstrative for indicating objects previously mentioned:

  • wa mugabo - that man (previously mentioned)

In each case, the demonstrative precedes the noun and causes it to drop its initial vowel. As with adjectives, demonstratives must agree with the noun they modify, and the table below shows an example of this for each noun class:

# Example This That near That far That mentioned
1 umugabo uyu mugabo - this man uwo mugabo - that man uriya mugabo - that man wa mugabo - that man
2 abagore aba bagore - these women abo bagore - those women bariya bagore - those women ba bagore - those women
3 umusozi uyu musozi - this hill uwo musozi - that hill uriya musozi - that hill wa musozi - that hill
4 imyenda iyi myenda - these clothes iyo myenda - those clothes iriya myenda - those clothes ya myenda - those clothes
5 ijambo iri jambo - this word iryo jambo - that word ririya jambo - that word rya jambo - that word
6 amazi aya mazi - this water ayo mazi - that water ariya mazi - that water ya mazi - that water
7 igitabo iki gitabo - this book icyo gitabo - that book kiriya gitabo - that book cya gitabo - that book
8 ibirayi ibi birayi - this potato ibyo birayi - that potato biriya birayi - that potato bya birayi - that potato
9 inka iyi nka - this cow iyo nka - that cow iriya nka - that cow ya nka - that cow
10 izi nka - these cows izo nka - those cows ziriya nka - those cows za nka - those cows
11 urwego uru rwego - this ladder urwo rwego - that ladder ruriya rwego - that ladder rwa rwego - that ladder
12 akabande aka kabande - this valley ako kabande - that valley kariya kabande - that valley ka kabande - that valley
13 udutsiko utu dutsiko - these groups utwo dutsiko - those groups turiya dutsiko - those groups twa dutsiko - those groups
14 ubwato ubu bwato - this boat ubwo bwato - that boat buriya bwato - that boat bwa bwato - that boat
15 ukuguru uku kuguru - this leg ukwo kuguru - that leg kuriya kuguru - that leg kwa kuguru - that leg
16 ahantu aha hantu - this place aho hantu - that place hariya hantu - that place ha hantu - that place