Category: Language Lessons

Asking Questions in Chamorro

Asking Questions is a good way to learn new things in Chamorro, and is essential in daily life.

Kåo siña hao fumino’ Chamoru?
Can you speak Chamorro?

Månu na sumasaga hao?
Where do you live?

Håfa kumeke’ilek-mu?
What do you mean?

Yes/No Questions

In Chamorro, to ask a question that can be answered with hunggan or åhe’ is easy. You simply have to start off the question with the marker kåo.

Chumochu i patgon.
The child ate.
Kåo chumochu i patgon?
Did the child eat?
Asut i kareta.
The car is blue.
Kåo asut i kareta?
Is the car blue?
Lunes på’go.
Today is Monday.
Kåo Lunes på’go.
Is today Monday?
Ya-mu na’italianu.
You like Italian food.
Kåo ya-mu na’italianu?
Do you like Italian food?

Question Words

When asking questions that require a response beyond hunggan or åhe’, you’ll need to start off your question with a question word or phrase. Here is a list of some common Chamorro question words.

sa’ håfawhy
kuånto, akuåntohow much, how many
ginen manufrom where
para månuto where
para håfafor what
pot håfaabout what

Here are some examples of Chamorro interrogative sentences.

Taimanu un fa’tinas i titiyas-mu?
How did you make your titiyas?

Ginen manu hao?
Where were you? Where did you come from?

Para månu hao?
Where are you going? Where are you off to?

Ngai’an i fiestan San Jose?
When is the San Jose fiesta?

Månu na sumåsåga hao på’go?
Where do you live now?

Håyi i na’ån-ña?
What’s her name?

Kuånto un fåhan na gimen?
How many drinks did you buy?

Para håfa este?
What is this for?

Pot håfa i lepblo?
What is the book about?

Tag Questions

A tag question is a mini question after a statement that asks for confirmation. Look at the bolded words in the following questions. These are the tag questions.

He’s tall, isn’t he?

You’re hungry, aren’t you?

The ocean is salty, isn’t it?

You don’t like me, do you?

In English, when creating tag questions, we ask the opposite of the statement. If our statement is negative, we ask the positive, and the same goes for a positive statement. In Chamorro, to ask a tag question, we simply say “no” at the end.

Guiya i ma’gas, no?
She’s the boss, isn’t she?

Månnge’ este, no?
This is good, isn’t it?

Ti matuhok hao, no?
You aren’t sleepy, are you?

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Ways to Say: How Are You in Chamorro

In this lesson we discuss the different ways to ask “how are you.” It’s a common question in most languages around the world, and there are many ways to say it in Chamorro. Why so many ways to ask the same thing? Well, for starters, varying how you ask helps you sound more like a native speaker and not a robot. Also, the form you choose may sound awkward or rude if asked to the wrong audience. But luckily for you, you’ve come to the right place, and you can avoid these pitfalls altogether. Ta tutuhon…let’s start!

  1. Actually asking someone “how are you?” This is the most common way of asking someone are you:

    Håfa tatatmanu hao?
    How are you?
  2. And here’s how to ask that same question to a group of people (3 or more people)

    Håfa manatatmanu hamyo?
    How are you all doing?

  3. Using the common Chamorro greeting Håfa Adai! Believe it or not, when someone says håfa adai, they’re saying hello by asking “how is it going?” This is similar to English when people say “how are you” as a greeting.If you actually want to know how someone is doing, you may want to ask “håfa tatatmanu hao?” or the next question…
  4. Ask if they are “still doing well”…Kåo mamaolek ha’? This is a common, less formal way of asking someone how they are. Use this with friends or with people you have some familiarity with.
  5. And more casually…mamaolek ha’? You’re omitting the question marker kåo, so be sure to say it with a question tone.
  6. And again addressing a group:Kåo manmamaolek ha’ hamyo?
    Are you (all) doing well?
  7. Asking how they’re feeling…Kao mamaolek ha’ i siniente-mu? Are you feeling well?

And, if you’re the one asked “how are you” in Chamorro, you might answer with one of the following:

  • Mamaolek ha’ yu’.  I’m still doing good.
  • Gof maolek. Very good.
  • Lamaolek i siniente-ku. I feel better.
  • Malångu  yu’. I’m sick.
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Examples of Chamorro Proverbs

A proverb is a saying that gives advice in an obscure way. The following Chamorro proverbs represent the values of the Mariana Islands and the Chamorro people. They are listed with the original Chamorro saying, its literal translation and the message being conveyed.

1. Munga mañuha ni ti gigao-mu.

Literal translation: Don’t remove the catch from a trap that isn’t yours.

Meaning: Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you.

2. Mientras mas meggai libetta-ña, mas meggai babå-ña.

Literal translation: While one has more free time, one has more foolery.

Meaning: It’s easy to find yourself engaging in mischief when you don’t have anything better to do. This is similar to the English proverb Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, which basically advocates for engaging yourself in some occupation so that the devil always finds you busy and less vulnerable to temptation.

3. Facho’cho’ ya un chochu.

Literal translation: Work and you will eat.

Meaning: This is pretty self-explanatory. Work and you will never be hungry. Similar sayings in English are hard work pays off or even no pain, no gain.

4. Un nota na tentasion nahong rason.

Literal translation: A hint of temptation is reason enough.

Meaning: Don’t allow yourself to be tempted to do something you don’t want to or shouldn’t do.

5. Maolekña manggågåo ya ti manå’i, ki manå’i ya ti ma’agradesi.

Literal translation: It is better that someone asks and it is refused than it be given and not appreciated.

Meaning: It is not as disappointing to see someone being refused something they’ve asked for than to see someone get what they ask for and not appreciate it.

6. An meggai sinangan-mu, meggai dinagi-mu.

Literal translation: The more you say, the more you lie.

Meaning: Great talker, great liar. When someone is a smooth talker, then they are probably a quicker liar.

7. Chagi ya munga madagi.

Literal translation: Try it and you will not be lied to.

Meaning: Experience is the best teacher. No one can trick or lie to you about something you’re familiar with.

8. Guse’ña un gacha’ un dakun ki un kohu.

Literal translation: You are more likely to catch a liar than a cripple.

Meaning: Liars always get caught. This comes straight from the Spanish proverb Antes se coge a un mentiroso que a un cojo, the liar is sooner caught than the cripple.

9. Munga mañaluda nu i ti tihong-mu.

Literal translation: Don’t greet someone with a hat that doesn’t belong to you.

Meaning: Do not give away what is not yours to give. This could also be interpreted as “do not take credit for something that isn’t yours”. This act of greeting someone with a hat is a reference to the Western gesture of tipping or doffing one’s hat by men to show respect to or greet someone.

10. I mesngon i manggånna.

Literal translation: The one who can endure will be the winner.

Meaning: Anyone who perseveres will always end up winning in the end. There’s a similar Latin phrase “Vincit Qui Patitur”, which translates to ‘he conquers who endures’.

11. Sångan i guaguan.

Literal translation: Speak what is valuable.

Meaning: The word guaguan is usually understood as expensive or costly, but in this context, it can be understood as valuable. In other words, let your words be worth something. 

12. Ti mamaigo’ si Yu’us.

Literal translation: God does not sleep.

Meaning: Don’t forget this if you ever think of doing something bad. God is always watching. There are quite a few references to God being eternally awake in the Bible, so it’s no surprise that this has made its way into Chamorro’s everyday speech.

13. Todu gusto, siempre disgusto.

Literal translation: All pleasures will become displeasures.

Meaning: Like the saying “Too much of a good thing”, an excessive amount of something enjoyable will make you sick or will eventually be the source of your displeasure.

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guaha and taya’

Essential Chamorro Expression

Guaha is used to indicate existence or possession. Tåya’ indicates non-existence or non-possession.

guaha – there is / there are

tåya’  – there isn’t / there aren’t
1. Guaha + indefinite noun / Tåya’ + indefinite noun

Examples :

Guaha klas Chamoru gi Lunes yan Mietkoles.
There’s Chamorro class on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Tåya’ klas gi Lunes sa’ Labor Day.
There is no class on Monday, because it is Labor Day.

Tåya’ taotao gi gima’ Yu’us.
There are no people in church.

2. Guaha + number + (na) + indefinite noun 

Guaha siette dias gi semåna.
There are seven days in a week.

Guaha dosse meses gi un año.
There are twelve months in a year.

Guaha tres na estudiånte.
There are three students.

Expressing “to have” something

If we want to say we “have” something, we follow this pattern:
Guaha OBJECT-(possessive pronoun).  The possessive pronoun used is how you inform who your subject is. Look at the following examples.

Guaha karetå-hu.
I have a car.

Guaha che’lu-ña palao’an.
He has a sister.

Guaha gima’-måmi.
We have a house. 

Tåya’ salåppe’-ña.
She has no money.

Tåya’ gimen-ta.
We have no drinks.

Kåo tåya’ maleffå-mu?
Did you forget anything? (lit. “Was there nothing you forgot?”)

Everyday Expressions: Tåya’ guaha! Literally meaning “nothing is there”, that is, there is no problem or issue, or something is of little consequence, and is the equivalent of the English expression “it’s no big deal!”

Examples of tåya’ guaha as a response:

MARIA:   Are you sure I can borrow your book?

LOLA:    Ai, tåya’ guaha! Oh, no big deal!

Or, asking for assurance:

MARIA:    Tåya’ guaha, if I use your computer?
No big deal if I use your computer?

LOLA:        Guse’ ha’. (or Tåya’ guaha!)
Just go right ahead.

It is often used with the linking particle na and can take on different meanings depending on what follows.

To indicate some and not all

Guaha can be used as a determiner to describe that something is true about some of a noun.

Guaha na + indefinite pronoun

For example:

Guaha na biahe
Sometimes (literally, “there are times”)

Guaha na taotao ti yan–ñiha matågo’.
Some people do not like to be told what to do(Lit., There are people (who) do not like to be told what to do.)

Guaha na flores manggof paopao.
Some flowers are very fragrant.

Guaha ha’ na sapåtos mangguaguan.
Some shoes are expensive.

Tåya’ ti un tungo’.
There is nothing you don’t know.

Some related words:

guinaha – wealth, possessions

mangguaha – to describe a family or group as having wealth

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Affirmative and Negative Commands in Chamorro

There are many different types of commands in Chamorro. There are affirmative commands, negative commands, indirect commands and ta commands.

As with constructing declarative sentences in Chamorro, to give commands we must take into account the number of people involved and the existence and type of an object. The number of people involved refers to the number of people you are giving the command to, and an object’s type refers to the object being specific or non-specific.

Using UM Verbs

By itself, the infinitive form of the intransitive verb is used to address one or two people.

Chochu! Eat!
Baila! Dance!
Såga! Stay!

To address three or more people, we need to use the prefix fan. This prefix is essentially the same as the prefix man used to denote the plural when constructing regular sentences.

Using Transitive MAN Verbs

Because the transitive verb takes an object, using the root verb by itself assumes there’s an object.

Kånno’! Eat it!
Taitai! Read it!
Påtik! Kick it!

The actual object can also be mentioned, and because you are using a transitive verb, the object here is specific.

Kånno’ i na’-mu. Eat your food.
Taitai i lepblo-mu. Read your book.
Påtik i petta. Kick the door.

Now, if the object is non-specific or if there is no object, you must turn the transitive command intransitive by adding fan.

Fanaitai! Read!
Fanestudia! Study!
Fama’tinas hineksa’! Make rice!

The above examples address only 1 or 2 people. To address three or more, you need to add the prefix man.

Fanmanaitai! (All of you,) read!
Fanmanestudia! (All of you,) study!
Fanmama’tinas hineksa’! (All of you,) make rice!

Negative Commands

To order someone not to do something we use the word munga, which means “don’t”, followed by the action. The verb here, no matter the type, must be conjugated in the completed form.

munga + verb

Using UM Verbs

The form of the UM is exactly the same as when conjugating it for a regular

Munga chumochu. Don’t eat.
Munga mañochu. Don’t eat (, all of you!) (3+)
Munga kumuentos. Don’t talk.
Munga manguentos. Don’t talk (, all of you!) (3+)

Using MAN Verbs

How we use MAN verbs always depends on whether or not a specific object is involved.

With specific objects
Munga mataitai i lepblo-mu. Don’t read your book.
Munga matuge’ i na’an-mu. Don’t write your name.

Without specific objects
Munga manaitai. Don’t read.
Munga manaitai lepblo. Don’t read a book. OR, Don’t read books.
Munga mangge’. Don’t write.
Munga mangge’ kåtta. Don’t write a letter.

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