Aw ni ce! I have come across the verb ‘ɲininka’ in a sentence that would, in my understanding, make it an intransitive verb but it’s only listed as a transitive verb in the two dictionaries that I have looked in.

An ka taa

SIL lexicon

I heard it here (starting at 1:01) and it sounds like an intransitive verb usage… and after asking about it I’m just confused about it now… :weary:

Is the verb ‘ɲininka’ both transitive and intransitive? Or am I not hearing what’s being said clearly? Or is this some other sentence structure form?

transitive verb

K’a ɲininka

Safi tɛ an ɲininka.

intransitive verb?

Ka ɲininka

A tɛ ɲininka.

Hi Christy! Ɲininka is transitive:

Safi tɛ an ɲininka

“Safi doesn’t ask us”

But like all verbs it can also be used intransitively to express the passive voice. For instance:

Safi tɛ ɲininka

“Safi doesn’t get asked”


An tɛ ɲininka (Safi fɛ)

“We don’t get asked (by Safi)”

This is very distinct from English since it means that passives are created with no formal marking. That’s why it’s so important to learn whether a verb is underlyingly transitive or intransitive :grimacing: Hope that helps!

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Oh, yes! It most definitely helps! Thank you! :slightly_smiling_face: But that’s what I was trying to learn/understand from the dictionaries. Some verbs in the dictionaries have transitive and intransitive by them so that’s why this ‘passive voice’ confused me.

But am I misunderstanding something here?

How would one learn whether a verb is underlyingly transitive or intransitive beyond looking in the dictionary and then asking for clarification help from there?

I took your Beginner Bambara Course and I don’t remember anything being mentioned in there that a verb can be underlyingly transitive or intransitive… nothing noting the importance of learning whether a verb is underlyingly transitive or intransitive… nothing about the passive voice…

Is this kind of information for a more advanced course? :thinking:

Anyway, happy that it’s all clear for me now. I’m on a ‘passive voice’ learning path now. And maybe more on this info is in the Peace Corps Bambara Manual? :thinking::smile: The journey continues! :raised_hands:t5:

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The dictionaries tell whether a verb is underlyingly transitive, intransitive, reflexive and/or both/all of the above :upside_down_face: Otherwise, there is no way to know – you just have to memorize it!

No, I didn’t mention the passive usage in the Beginner Bambara course because you gotta take things step by step! Looks like you are there now :slight_smile:


I don’t say it in BB16, but in the text section of the full chapter in the course, I say that you should learn verbs as ka VERB (intransitive) or k'à VERB (transitive) and that you’ll learn later why this distinction is important :grimacing:

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