In my last post, I mentioned that when I was in primary school I found it very confusing to learn different ways to say “hello” to different numbers of people. However, I think that as adults we can probably handle it ok, and it does provide a useful introduction to the different words used.
I think it is important, before starting, to mention that the 3 forms for “you” used in these greetings are not unique to these phrases; these words are useful in all sorts of sentences, this is just an easy way to introduce them and learn one thing at a time.
So, without further ado:
- Tēnā koe – Hello (to one person)
- Tēnā kōrua – Hello (to two people)
- Tēnā koutou – Hello (to three or more people)
(Each of the Māori greetings above has a link to Māori Dictionary where you can hear them spoken, but there are many more places where you can find sound files and videos too.)
These ways of saying “hello” are a bit more formal than simply saying kia ora (kia ora is more like “hi”). Literally these phrases mean “there you are”. The koe/kōrua/koutou is the “you” part of the phrase, and koe/kōrua/koutou are used in any sentence when in English you would use the word “you” – but in te reo Māori you have to think about how many people you’re referring to. In English we did used to use thou for singular “you” and you for plural “you”, but eventually thou was dropped. So using different words for “you” is a bit of a change for a modern English speaker!
Here are some examples to start you thinking about using these greetings:
- So if you are saying “hello” to just one person, maybe your boss, you say Tēnā koe
- If you are saying “hello” to two people, maybe two guests waiting at reception, you would say Tēnā kōrua
- And if you were saying “hello” to a group of 3 or more people, for example at a meeting with your colleagues or to a room of people at a conference, you would say Tēnā koutou
For some people, it can seem like a lot to be learning so many ways to say “hello” rather than just learning one and then moving on to something else, but (besides the fact that you need to learn these at some point anyway) it is useful to start thinking about using these 3 different versions of the pronoun “you” as this is a big concept to get used to in te reo Māori.