Word Wednesday – hinga vs. taka

Today we are talking about these two different words, hinga and taka which can both be used to mean “to fall” (although they each have a variety of other meanings, too). It is important to understand the difference between the meaningd in order to use them correctly, but luckily, it’s not a complicted distinction.

In the simplest form:

  • hinga – fall over/topple
  • taka – drop/fall off/fall down

So hinga can only be used to mean when things fall over, i.e. like when something goes from upright to horizontal. For example, a tree which falls over, or a person who trips.

Whereas taka is when something drops or falls down, or falls off something. For example, a cup falls off a table, or a stone falls down a well, or you simply drop something out of your hand.

If you have trouble remember which is which, try thinking of hinga as “topple”, but taka as “drop” and see if that helps, rather than remembering them both as “fall” and getting confused between the two.


Image: Kua taka te kapa –  The penny has dropped (this is a phrase taken from the English to mean the same thing, but the grammar is correct for a literally falling penny too)



Image: Kua hinga te jenga – The jenga has toppled/fallen over (remember that the jenga tower has to actually be falling over like in the picture, not simply dropping the pieces)




Koe, Kōrua, Koutou

So, last week I mentioned how you could say hello to people using tēnā koe/kōrua/koutou, which are all different words for “you” when speaking to different numbers of people.

So here’s a couple of little mnemonic things to help you remember – not the words themselves – but just to remember kind of which words refer to which number of people.

If we write the words out like this:

  1. Koe
  2. Kōrua
  3. Koutou

Then you can see that the words get longer the more people they refer to! So, just like in the numbering of the list, koe refers to 1 person, kōrua to 2 people and koutou to 3 or more, and the words themselves get longer as they refer to more people.

They also all have one more vowel than the word before – so koe has 2 vowels, kōrua has 3 vowels, and koutou has 4. Of course, all the words begin with “k” as well, so that’s one less thing to remember because that is consistent.

For some people this will just be really confusing, and they will be able to remember the words quite easily just as they are, but personally I find it easier to remember a rule like this than to memorise the spelling (initially of course – later I know the word well enough to know it automatically). A lot of people don’t notice these rules and connections, so I just want to point them out in case they turn out to be useful to someone.

Note: these mnemonics only work with this method of spelling/writing Māori words! If you use the double-vowel method rather than macrons, they will be written koe, koorua, koutou and they no longer create the useful pattern!

Mnemonic Monday – ngaro/ngaru

When you’re learning vocab, its best not to learn similar sounding words or words with similar meanings at the same time as they can easily get confused. If you have to learn them together, its good to have some kind of mnemonic to use to remember which is which. But it’s best to learn one word thoroughly first, and then add the second one, perhaps with a mnemonic just to make sure.

On the other hand, if you know a word really well, a good learning tactic is to chain a new word on to the one you already know.

The word ngaro, meaning to be lost, is a word I know really well. Most people will encounter this word fairly early when learning te reo Māori as not only is it a useful word, but it is used to demonstrate the use of statives.

A similar sounding word is ngaru, meaning wave, as in a wave of the sea. So I can associate ngaru with ngaro to help me learn it easier. Actually, when I first came across the word ngaru, just the similarity to ngaro was enough to enable me remember it through the power of familiarity. However, I’ve also tried to come up with some little mnemonics.

My mnemonics are:



I thought I LOST U in the WAVE

Which is supposed to make you think of NGARO – but then there is a U in the WAVE, so NGARO with a U is NGARU. Its a bit like a cryptic crossword clue, so maybe you can think of one that works better for you!


Mnemonic Monday – Marama/Mārama

I thought of doing some regular posts for mnemonics. I don’t know if there’s a Māori word for mnemonic – whakamaharatanga is already taken (meaning memorial or commemoration or similar). I was thinking I could call my mnemonics posts “Mnemonic Monday” – but of course the alliteration doesn’t work. Oh well, lets do it anyway!

For our first Mnemonics Monday we have the words marama and mārama.

  • marama means month or moon
  • mārama means to understand (amongst other things)

Most people learn these words fairly early on, but someone in my TWoA class came up with a good way to remember which one has the tohutō (macron) and which one doesn’t – which is something I ALWAYS used to forget until now.

So, how do you remember whether the tohutō goes in the word for moon, or the word for understand? Well, another word for tohutō is pōtae, meaning hat. A hat goes on your head and you use your head to understand. So, you know that mārama, with the hat, means to understand!


  • On the left, the moon with the words “He marama tēnei” (This is a moon)
  • On the right are three women graduating, wearing their graduation pōtae, with the words “Kei te mārama rātou” (They understand)

Let me know if this helps you too!

Kupu hou – Matakapua

This week I have started learning some kupu hou (new words/vocabulary) by just opening the dictionary and picking an interesting looking word. This isn’t the best way to learn vocab because the word is unlikely to be useful to me anytime soon, but it’s fun. Fun takes precedence in language learning because the most important thing is to just do something. So long as you do something rather than nothing, you’re getting somewhere.


Matakapua is one of the Māori words for stilts, and its really easy to come up with a mnemonic to help remember it.

mata – face

kapua – cloud

matakapua – when you wear stilts your face is in the clouds!

EPSON scanner image
Shepherds on stilts (Wikipedia)