I ni ce, Christy!
Tense, aspect, mood
The short answer is that Bambara uses different “predicate markers” (that is, the little helper words or “auxiliaries” that appear between the subject and the verb; i.e.,
tɛna, etc.) to express tense, aspect and mood. For this reason, some linguists call things like “predicate markers” of Bambara, “TAM markers”—tense, aspect, mood markers.
Keep in mind that the word “tense” is often used as a non-technical term that captures all three things. That is, in school grammar lessons for many Western languages, we learn that verbs are “conjugated” for different “tenses”:
In reality, a list or table of verb “tenses” (such as in a conjugation book or a webpage like this one for “wash” in English or “parler” in French") is not a list of things just related to “tense” in the linguist’s sense. It is a list of “conjugations”—that is, “inflected or periphrastic verb forms that express a combination of tense, aspect, and mood”.
The distinction between active and passive voice is different because in Bambara (and Manding in general), it is no signaled by a clear set of words (e.g., “got”, “was”, etc.) like in English:
The man ate the lion. [ACTIVE]
The man got eaten (by the lion). [PASSIVE]
Instead, a passive voice effect is created when one uses an underlyingly transitive verb in a certain way:
Cɛ ye jara dun
‘The man ate the lion’
Cɛ dunna (wara fɛ).
‘The man was eaten by the lion’
Note that the second sentence is passive but it simply uses the “perfective” or “past” inflection of the verb k’à dun. There is no element in the sentence that tells you that the sentence is passive. You need to know the verb k’à dun and its nature (i.e., the fact that its default usage is transitive) to understand that it is a passive voice sentence.