This is a quick bonus post in my current series about greetings!

“Mōrena!” is a quick and easy greeting meaning “Morning!” You can click this link to hear a rather uninspriring rendition of this greeting. I encourage you to say it with more enthusiasm!

Mōrena is a transliteration of the English word “morning”, and its pretty easy to pronounce as the first sound is the same in both words. Be careful though – you can only use this word to mean “(good) morning” – you can’t use it to mean “morning” in any other contexts (for example, you couldn’t use it in the phrase “see you in the morning”).

Tēnā koe, Tēnā kōrua, Tēnā koutou

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:

(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.


The Most Basic of Basics

I remember that when I was at primary school, we learnt some Māori. I was not impressed. We learnt multiple ways to say hello and goodbye, and I couldn’t understand why you had to use different words for different numbers of people, or for if they were staying or going. I couldn’t remember them, and it made no sense to me.

So that’s why I’d make this my introductory lesson in te reo  Māori:

Kia ora! A nice simple way to say hello. It literally means “be well” which makes it a really positive thing to say. Say it to as many people as you like, to whomever you like. Its more informal than the other options, but for the most part this’ll be fine. Just like you probably say “hello” rather than “good morning”, informal is the Kiwi way. You’ll hear Kia ora said in a variety of different ways, but use the link above to hear one way.

Ka kite! A simple say to say bye, see you. Literally this means “(I) will see (you)”. This is also very informal, but when you’re a beginner, “ka kite” is easy to remember and easy to pronounce . It also provides a foundation to learning longer variations later, and leads into some of the initial grammar. I couldn’t find an audio file for just ka kite but you can click here to hear kite and a longer phrase beginning with  ka kite.

Lesson Posts

I’ve started writing some very basic lesson posts – like, kia-ora-means-hi kind of basic. I don’t have a curriculum plan or anything, so I don’t know how its going to progress or if its going to go up strictly in order of difficulty (hint: it seems unlikely), but maybe one day if I have a lot then I can organise them into something useful.

But anyway, that’s why on Monday I’ll be telling you that kia ora means hi. 🙂

Doesn’t feel like learning

So I think I forgot that I had a blog. Or actually, I wasn’t doing a lot of te reo Māori, and so I had nothing to write about. But that has all changed!… at least for this week…

One of the hard things about language learning is knowing whether you are actually learning the language.

When I study grammar and vocab, I feel that I am learning because I can point to tangible things that I have seen or heard that I didn’t know before. But then on the other hand I do not feel I have really learnt anything at all because I don’t feel like it has made any change to my ability – for instance, what is the chances I will remember all these grammatical nuances I just read about?

If I listen to and read materials in Māori, I feel like theoretically I must be improving my skill, but on the other hand it is hard to say what was actually learnt; if I understand it I feel I must have learnt nothing because I already know it, and if I don’t understand it then I feel I must have learnt nothing because how could I?

The end result is that it’s very hard to plan learning activities because its hard to tell whether you’re learning anything by doing them! What do you do that makes you feel like you’re really getting somewhere in your language learning?

Nōku te Whiwhi – He Kīwaha

A couple of months ago we went through a bunch of kīwaha (idioms) at a noho, and included in that list was Nōku te whiwhi. I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time, but then someone used it in class a couple of weeks ago and now it is stuck in my head – which is useful for learning, but annoying because now I would like to think something else now please! So I’d thought I’d write a blog post and perhaps “unstick” it a little bit. 🙂

Like any colloquialism or idioim, a kīwaha doesn’t usually mean literally what it says. However, they’re useful to know – not only because you know more of the language and can speak more naturally, but because any memorised set phrase (waiata/song, kīwaha/idiom, whakatauki/saying, karakia/prayer) gives you a building block for understanding similarly structured phrases later on.

But first, what does it mean?!

Nōku te whiwhi

is a positive statement about how lucky you are. In class we translated it as I’m blessed but you could also say my gain, lucky me, I’ve got a beauty, I am fortunate (from MaoriDictionary). If you want to hear how to pronounce this kīwaha, you can listen on the entry on MaoriDictionary.

Whiwhi itself can also be translated in many ways, but boils down to meaning to have, get or gain but usually with a positive spin on it, for example to receive or win something.

Nōku means belonging to me, mine.

So you can see in our kīwaha that “te whiwhi” is “mine” or “I have the whiwhi”, which is to say, I have the luck, the blessing, the gain, the positive thing.

You can use this kīwaha in a variety of ways:

  • just by itself, as a statement when something good has happened
  • before a sentence describing why you’re blessed
  • as part of a longer kīwaha, such as:
    • Nōku te whiwhi, nōku te harikoa
    • Nōku te waimarie, nōku te whiwhi

If this kīwaha sticks in your head like it did mine, you now have a really handy grammar example for how to use nōku! For some reason it’s much easier to remember a kīwaha than a grammar rule – it might take a while before it sticks, but once it does then it’s really in there. Check out these simple examples that all follow the same form as Nōku te whiwhi:

  • Nōku te hē – the fault is mine, it’s my fault
  • Nōku te whare – it’s my house
  • Nōku te pōtae – it’s my hat
  • Nāku te pene – it’s my pen (note change of a/o category)
  • Nāku tēnā ngeru – that cat is mine
  • Nāku tenei tamariki – this child is mine

So next time someone picks up your book in class and asks whose it is, if you remember nōku te whiwhi, you’ll easily be able to say nōku tēnā pukapuka!


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.