There are two Anishinaabemowin words used for the English concept “to be.” Both of these words are Type 2 verbs because they involve someone existing but not connecting with anything or anyone else (which would involve Type 3 and Type 4 verbs which are discussed later. It is difficult to make a comparison to English which uses “is,” “am,” and “be” based on who is being talked about.
- Aawi is used to describe the way a person acts, typically in ways that are permanent
It is similar to these words: ikwezensiwi (to be a girl) asiiniwi (to be stone)
- Ayaa is a more passive description of someone’s existence and if often a temporary state
It is part of these concepts: mino-ayaa (be in good health), maazhi-ayaa (to be feeling bad) and bizaani-ayaa (to be quiet)
- 1. Gidaawimin gekinoo’amaaganag.
We all (including the listener) are students.
- 2. Gekinoo'amaagewikwe aawi.
She is a teacher.
- 3. Gimino-ayaam.
You all are feeling good / doing well.
- 4. Gekinoo’amaadiwigamigong ayaawag.
They are at school.
- 5. Nindayaa omaa.
I am here.
- 6. Nimbabaa-ayaamin.
We (not including the listener) are travelling around.
It is important to keep in mind this lesson focuses on using aawi and ayaa with someone or something “animate” like a person or animal or a thing that is animate such as a car or clock. To speak about the essential nature or existence of something inanimate, use aawan. To speak of an inanimate thing or idea being in a particular place ayaa can be used without changing it, or in some areas iyaa is more common.
To Be Western Examples
To Be Eastern Examples
Notice how some words are singular and some are plural.
Also notice how a verb can become a profession by adding “ikwe” or “inini” to it. Adding a gender to a verb turns it into a noun.
Note how compound words are sometimes formed by adding ‘w’ between two words, especially when the first ends in a vowel and the second starts in a vowel.
You also see some preverbs here that will come up throughout the time you’re learning the language. Preverbs are not separate words. They cannot be used on their own, but have a consistent meaning. For instance, “mino-” means good and “babaa-” means moving forward or moving around when added to other words but they are not used by themselves.
Exercise: Try to translate the following. Click on the accordions to see the answer. Test yourself first!