Reference > Verbs


A verb (inshinga) is an action or a state of being. Unlike English verbs, Kinyarwanda verbs can be conjugated to include the verb's subject, and optionally the verb's object and indirect object. This can make it hard for beginners to recognize different verbs, until they first learn to recognize the prefixes and infixes used to conjugate verbs with nouns. For example, consider the following three sentences:

  • nkunda umupira - I like football
  • ukunda umupira - you like football
  • akunda umupira - he likes football

We can see that -kunda is common to each of the conjugations so we call this the verb stem, and the prefixes n, u and a denote the subject of the verb. In this dictionary, verbs are always given in their infinitive form (if they have one), which is formed by adding a ku prefix. However because of Kinyarwanda's spelling rules, this may take several forms, e.g.

In addition to multiple prefixes (and suffixes as shown later) almost every verb has a past tense stem. For example, consider the following conjugations of the verb gukora:

  • akora - he does
  • arakora - he is doing
  • yakoze - he did (earlier today)
  • yarakoze - he did (before today)

We call -kora the present tense stem, and -koze the past tense stem.


Kinyarwanda's different tenses are formed through different combinations of prefixes, suffixes and stems. For example, for the verb gukora:

Person Past Present Future
Habitual Far Near Immediate Regular Habitual
I nakoraga - I was doing narakoze - I did nakoze - I did (today) ndakoze - I just did ndakora - I am doing nkora - I do nzakora - I will do
you (sg.) wakoraga - I was doing warakoze - I did wakoze - I did (today) urakoze - I just did urakora - I am doing ukora - I do uzakora - I will do
he/she yakoraga - I was doing yarakoze - I did yakoze - I did (today) arakoze - I just did arakora - I am doing akora - I do azakora - I will do
we twakoraga - I was doing twarakoze - I did twakoze - I did (today) turakoze - I just did turakora - I am doing dukora - I do tuzakora - I will do
you (pl.) mwakoraga - I was doing mwarakoze - I did mwakoze - I did (today) murakoze - I just did murakora - I am doing mukora - I do muzakora - I will do
they (pl.) bakoraga - I was doing barakoze - I did bakoze - I did (today) barakoze - I just did barakora - I am doing bakora - I do bazakora - I will do

Making sentences

We still need to use the appropriate prefixes even if the subject is given separately, so that the verb agrees with the noun:

  • akunda umupira - he likes football
  • Jean akunda umupira - Jean (he) likes football
  • bakunda umupira - they like football
  • Abantu bakunda umupira - people (they) like football

Like in English, verbs usually follow the order subjectverbobject (e.g. Jean akunda umupira - John likes football)