Kia ora, te whānau

Note: I have checked 3 beginners books on te reo Māori and none of them have brought up this point, because they all only address greeting an individual or “you” (kōrua/koutou). So, I don’t know if this might be a bit controversial and if the “wrong” option might not be considered wrong by everyone? I will go with my teacher’s guidance on this. 

One of the mistakes that our kaiako picked up in our weekend noho was the common use of phrases in the incorrect form “Kia ora, whānau” rather than the correct “Kia ora, te whānau”. I had picked up on this usage a while back, but this is the first time anyone had mentioned it, and after thinking about it, I would say that “Kia ora, whānau” is not always wrong as such…

One of the things I find very interesting is the use of Māori words when speaking English, and twice as interesting is the transposition of those English versions back into te reo Māori. When speaking either English or Māori, whānau means family, both in the literal sense, but also in the sense of any connected group of people, for example your language learning class, or perhaps a club. In te reo Māori, whānau also means to be born, but this meaning hasn’t come over into the English usage of the word. I’m sure someone’s done a study on it, but it seems that its mainly nouns that transfer over into English, not the verbs.

So, if we look at English, we know you can say any of the following:

  • Hello, George
  • Hello, guys
  • Hello, class

Thus it follows that, when speaking English, you can also say (where kia ora means hello):

  • Kia ora, George
  • Kia ora, guys
  • Kia ora, class
  • Kia ora, whānau

So, in English, the phrase Kia ora, whānau is correct – even though those are both Māori words, they’re effectively being used “in English” and this is how we structure English. Therefore I think it is technically acceptable to say, “Kia ora, whānau, this evening we’re going to …” because we are speaking English and using the words in their English usage and meaning.

However, when speaking te reo Māori, you can’t just have nouns hanging out unsupported; although there’s bound to be some sneaky exceptions, as a general rule you need a definite or indefinite particle (te, ngā, he), a possessive (taku, tōna, etc), and so on before your noun, supporting it. So in te reo, you need to say something like one of the following:

  • Kia ora, te whānau
  • Kia ora, e te whānau

So “in Māori” you might say, “Kia ora, te whānau, ā tēnei pō …”.

However, what tends to happen is that the “English usage” is used by people speaking te reo, where it is no longer correct. For this reason, even though it might be technically correct to use the English usage when speaking the English language, I think it is better to get into the habit of using “te whānau” in English, even if you’re just throwing it in there as a greeting to a bunch of English-only speakers.



4 thoughts on “Kia ora, te whānau

  1. Its an interesting interface sometimes when the two languages combine. I’d feel relaxed (sounding like John Key) about saying ‘Kia ora whānau’… Though I get that nouns don’t just ‘float’. What about Kia ora, e te whānau? I’d tend to put ‘e’ before ‘te’ when addressing people. He mihi nui ki a koe mō te tuku whakaaro kia korikori ai a Hinengaro!


    1. Yeah, I didn’t talk about “e te whanau” because I don’t really 100% get that one, but Merirangi said it was ok.
      I think the choice to use “kia ora whanau” or “kia ora te whanau” probably depends on who’s listening to you and how annoyed they will be at you :O


  2. Kia ora, nga hoa. How about with a person’s name. Should I be saying Kia ora e (name)? E,g, Kia ora, e Hone? Or in my first greeting, kia ora e nga hoa? Or te (as in te whanau)!!???


    1. Sorry I did not reply to this months ago when you actually asked it.
      The use of “e” can seem complicated, but basically you are supposed to use it in front of Māori names with one long vowel or two short vowels.
      So “Kia ora, e Hone” but “Kia ora, John” (because English name) and “Kia ora, Hoani” (because 3 vowels).
      Similarly, “Kia ora, e hoa” (because hoa has two vowels) but “Kia ora, tamariki mā” (because tamariki has more than 2 vowels). Although, following what I’ve written above in the blog post, it should be “Kia ora, e ngā tamariki” which I think sounds a bit odd, to be honest.
      For your plural example of “kia ora e ngā hoa” you would actually go with “Kia ora e hoa mā”
      There’s a whole bunch of terms of address which only have 2 vowels and are used with “e”: e hoa (friend), e kare (dear), e hine (girl, younger woman), e tama (boy, younger man), e kui (older woman), e koro (older man). You can then add “mā” on the end to address multiple people: “e hoa mā” (friends) “e tama mā” (boys), etc.
      I hope this helps.


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