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.
Guaha is used to indicate existence or possession. Tåya’ indicates non-existence or non-possession.
guaha – there is / there are
Examples showing existence and non-existence:
Guaha klas Chamoru gi Lunes yan Mietkoles.
There’s Chamorro class on Mondays and Wednesdays.
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.
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.
Tåya’ ti un tungo’.
There is nothing you don’t know.
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.
I have a car.
Guaha che’lu-ña palao’an.
He has a sister.
We have a house.
She has no money.
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.
Guaha and tåya’ are also used in other ways. It is often used with the linking particle na and can take on different meanings depending on what follows.
With na, guaha and tåya’ can mean that there is/are “some” or “none” of something.
Guaha na taotao ti yan–ñiha matågo’.
Some people do not like to be told what to do.
Guaha na flores manggof paopao.
Some flowers are very fragrant.
Some related words:
guinaha – wealth, possessions
mangguaha – to describe a family or group as having wealth
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.
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.
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!
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.
Idioms are phrases that have meanings different from the literal translation. Their use reflects a greater understanding of the language and for the second-language learner is one of the most difficult things to master. Imagine having to master grammar and memorize vocabulary only to learn that you’ve barely scratched the surface of your understanding.
Examples of idioms in English are:
- Break a leg – Good luck!
- Call it a day – Stop working on something.
- Once in a blue moon – Something that doesn’t occur very often.
Chamorro Phrases as Idioms
The following is a list of Chamorro idioms, along with the literal meaning and the colloquial meaning.
- matai ñålang literally means “to have died of hunger”. The phrase is used to express that someone is famished, that they’re about to die of starvation.
- maipi i pachot literally means “the mouth is hot.” The expression describes someone whose conversations appear to become reality.
- mababa literally means “open” or “to be opened”, referring to a person who may have once been timid and is starting to become more social.
- matåla’ literally means “to be hung out to dry.” Refers to an outgoing person; someone who is extroverted.
- Ha leleggua’ i kichalå-ña literally means “she is stirring her spoon.” Sometimes shortened to just ha leleggua’ gue’, or “she’s stirring herself.” The phrase refers to someone who overhears a conversation but does not fully grasp what is being said and then attempts to be part of the conversation.
- dinanche literally means “to have hit the target”, that is, a person aiming to hit something and did. This is how we express that something is “correct,” as in “not wrong.”
- mafak i platu means “the plate is broken”. It refers to a relationship that’s completely broken; one that cannot be repaired or put back together.
debi di – must, have to
To express obligation as in to say that we must or have to do something, we use the phrase debi di, which is a borrowed expression from Spanish. Debi di can also be used for expectation. In either case, we treat debi di as if it was a modal verb which never changes and almost always starts off the sentence.
MODELU: debi di + future phrase
The following describe how to use debi di.
debi di – must, have to (obligation)
I maolek na estudiante debi di u fanestudia kada dia, hånao para i klas-ña yan cho’gue i che’cho’-ña.
The good student must study every day, go to his class and do his work.
Debi di bai hu falak i post office pa’go sa’ mahuchom agupa’.
I have to go the post office today, because it is closed tomorrow.
Debi di un famaisen antes di un hånao.
You must ask before you leave.
Debi di u ekungok yo’.
She has to listen to me.
Debi di ta osge i mañaina-ta.
We must obey our parents.
debi di – to be expected, supposed to (expectation)
Esta alas 8, debi di u gaigi si Antonia gi che’cho’.
It’s already 8 o’clock, Antonia should be at work.
Debi di u magraduha esta si Jesse.
Jesse should have graduated already.