Episode 8: Question Words

Mba’éichapa. How are things? Good, I hope. I have a little tweak on something we talked about last week, using oiko to mean something works. Like food that’s just ok, oiko, it’s work, it’ll do the trick. And then I said that Oiko porã means that it works well. Well apparently, there is a third level I was previously unaware of, the top level of "That really works very well," would be Oikoite. This is a combo we’ll learn about later, but just so you know, if you want to say that anything works really well, it’s oikoite. If someone asks about the food they made you, Oiko? The best thing you can say about it is Oikoite.

Ok, now on to today’s lessons: Questions!

For the most part, when a stranger comes up to in Paraguay and just starts jabblin’ in Guaraní, they’re probably asking you some kind of question. Who are you? What’s your name? Where’s the nearest liquor store? Today we’re going to figure out what those question are and how to answer. First we’ll look at how questions are formed in Guarani, then we’ll learn how to use those question words, such as who, what, when and where.

As a mostly oral language, Guaraní doesn’t have question marks. Instead, they have little cabooses that show they’re asking a question. Let’s start looking at these while using our old buddy mba’e as an example. You’ll remember that mba’e means “what”.

One of the cabooses you will hear to show that someone is asking “What?” is Like, "whaaaat?" Sometimes you’ll also hear someone just say piko. Mba’e piko.piko. I picture this like in a cartoon when a question mark just pops over someone’s head. Or I guess you could translate it as like, “really?”

You’ll hear piko a lot with that word , which mean to be, as in, Oĩ pizza, “There’s pizza.” So to ask, “Is there pizza?”, you’d say Oĩ piko pizza. How would you say “Is there sushi?” Oĩ piko sushi?

Sometimes you will hear this shortened to just iko. In my host family, when the mom calls one of the kids, they always respond with Mba’eiko! Like, “Suzy!” “Whaaaaaat?” Mba’eiko! That sounds familiar, right? The two words kind of meld together. It’s not Mba’e...iko. It’s Mba’eiko.

Another of these endings that will form a question is -pa. You’ll hear this thrown in to the sentence wherever to show that the sentence is a question. Mba’epa is another way to say “What?” You’ll also hear Chepa, to mean, me? Like, “Go milk the cows." Chepa.

Also, sometimes when the siblings in my host family are fighting, one says, Mba’epa nde? And that is Mba’e + pa + nde, the word for “you”. It’s kind of like, “What’s your deal?” “What do you want?” Mba’pa nde?

Another one that is invented and not in the Guaraní books is pio. My expert on the down and dirty street language laughed when I tried to find this in the books. He said it’s invented but also the one they use most. Mba’epio, you might hear. Or, you might just hear it shortened even more to just io. Using pio, how would you ask, “You?” Ndépio. How about “You’re going to speak?” Ndépio reñe’ẽta. How about “I’m going to speak?” Chepio añe’ẽta. How about “You’re going to speak in Guarani?” Ndepio reñe’ẽta Guaranime.

In that example, you could put the question caboose, pio, after then noun, nde, or the verb, reñe’ẽ. Or some people just throw them on the back of the sentence as if they really were question marks. I think it depends on what you’re question emphasizes. For example, this one is “You are going to speak in Guaraní," with the emphasis on you. If someone were going to say, “You’re going to skydive?,” the pio would probably come after the skydive. Think of which word sounds like it might be written in italics.

We also need to go over one more tidbit. It’s kind of like -kuri’s twin brother, that steps in once it’s question. This is the caboose -ra’e. You’re going to attach -ra’e to the back of verbs, as in questions about the recent past, such as, “Did you clean?” Ndépa remopotĩra’e. “Did they go out?” Ha’ekuérapio osẽra’e. Just like -kuri, ra’e is optional. You’re going to use it when it makes things clearer. But you can leave it off when it’s obvious that you’re asking about the past. If I say, “Did you clean yesterday,” I could phrase it as Kuehe remopotĩ piko. And because I started out with the word for yesterday, it’s obvious that I’m talking about the past tense.

Now let’s figure out what those strangers might be mumbling to us in Guaraní. We can use that old reporter’s guide, the Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Number one, who? “Who used my ipod?” The word for “who” is spelled máva, but I have never heard anyone pronounce the v in this word, so it comes out ma-a. So let’s use piko on this one. “Who used my ipod?” How would we start with “Who” as a question. Máva piko then we’ll continue on, using the third person with that aireal verb "to use", which is poru. So now we have Máva piko oiporu, and then my ipod, che ipod. Máva piko oiporu che ipod.

How about, "Who’s going to clean?" Máva piko omopotĩta. What does this mean: Máva piko ojapo ko sushi. "Who made this sushi?"

(***When someone says, "Did you hear that Stacy made out with that crazy guy?" And you want to say, "Stacy who?", in Guaraní you put the "who" before Stacy. So you'd say, "Máva Stacy?"***)

Something else you might hear with máva is the caboose, ndi, with means “with”. Mávandi is “with whom,” With whom am I rollin’ to the party? I’m going with Rebecca would be Aha Rebeccandi. How about, “I will work with Liam.” Amba’apota Liamndi. How about, “With whom will I speak?” using pa as the question word. Mávandipa añe’ẽta.

Ok, so we got the who, now on to the what. You already know the word for what, which is mba’e. One of the questions you’ll hear a lot with this is Mba’e rejapo, which means “What are you doing?” Kind of like, “What’s up?” Mba’e rejapo doesn’t have a pa or a piko, right, so how will the other person know it’s a question? Well, would it make more sense for me to say, “Hey, what are you doing?” Or “Hey, what you do"? That’s just another lesson in the spirit of Guaraní, that if we know what you’re saying, no worries. So you’ll hear some questions without a question caboose, if it’s obvious that it’s a question.

Another phrase you’ll hear with mba’e as a question is mba’epe, that pe which means “in, to or at.” In this case, mba’epe, it’s mostly used as “in what.” If I say Ahata Brazilpe, “I’m going to Brazil,” someone might say, Mba’epe, In what. As in, am I going in a bus or in a plane.

Something else you’ll hear with mba’e is Mba’e reipota. What does that mean? It means “What do you want.” Whoa, easy, a little rude, right? Not really in Guaraní, think of it as "May I help you?"

How would you ask, “What are you going to do today?”, putting the -pa ending on the mba’e. Mba’epa rejapota ko’ara. How about “What are you making?”, again using -pa. Mba’epa rejapo hína.

FYI, mba’e can also mean, "which"? As in "which one"? You also might hear this combined that word oiko, mba’e piko oiko, to mean, “What happened?”

How about “when”? When is, akara’e. But this is more of a when in a general sense. If you’re asking when today, like what time, people are more likely to use, Mba’e óra, which is “what hour”, with the Guaraní “what” and Spanish hora, (Guaranize to be spelled óra,) which is hour. You can also use mba’e día, which is “what day,” with the Spanish día for day. Akara’e is more for time in general. “When will I go” would be Araka’e piko ahata. What time are we cleaning today would be Mba’e óra ñamopotĩta ko’ara. How about "When will you use my ipod?," using the -pa ending after araka’e. Araka’epa reiporuta che ipod.

Ok, now how about where. Where is moõ, like cows moõ. To remember this I thought, Where are the cows? Moõ. Or that’s where. Moõ I hear a lot with piko. Free beer! Moõ piko. Or you might use this a lot with that ime verb we learned in the last podcast. To say "where is", like where is my sushi? Moõ oime che sushi. A question you’ll hear all the time is Moõ reho. Where are you going? Moõ reho. Reho is the you form of "to go", wheras aha is the first person. We’ll get to irregular verbs in the next episode, although I really don’t want to because they suck. Anyway, Moõ reho. So how would you say, "Where’s my sushi?" Using -piko. Moõ piko oime che sushi. And what does this mean? Moõ reho Suzyndi. “Where are you going with Suzy?”

The idea of “why” is kind of broken into two parts. One is used more for the past tense. “Why did you punch your brother in face?” That one is mba’ére. This is why. The other one is more “for what, why?” And that is ma’erã. (Also spelled marã) In Spanish, this is “para que.” I can’t help but think of that because my host mom always yells it at me when I spend money. Para que did you buy another pair of shoes.

I guess you could say the mba’ére is more about the past, about causes. Like if I said, I think my dog is sick, someone would say, Mba’ére? Why? Ma’erã is more about the future. For what. Ma’erã reipota y. “For what do you want water?" I think in a lot of cases you could use either one.

How is mba’éicha. You’ll use this alot with pa. And now you realize that you’ve been walking around saying Mba’éichapa, which is just “How,” like a cartoon indian. When you’re not using it as a greeting, mostly you’ll use Mba’éichapa with oiko, to mean what’s the deal with something or how does something work. Oiko comes from iko, that word that you’ll remember means to work or function. Mba’éichapa oiko the stock market. Mba’éichapa oiko quantum physics. You can also use it more literally, like, “How did you make this sushi?” Mba’éichapa rejapora’e ko sushi.

Next we have mboy, which means how much or how many. You’ll use this in the store. Sometimes someone will pick up and item and just look at the cashier and say, Mboy. You can also use this with that verb sẽ, which means to go out but also means to cost. If you want to ask how much something costs, you can just hold it up and say Mboýpa osẽ. How would you say, “How many are there?” Mboýpa oĩ.

piko, pio, io: ?, really?
pa: ?
máva: who
ndi: with
araka’e: when
moõ: where
mba’ére: why
ma’erã: for what
mboy: how much
ra’e: ? in past tense

1. When will I know? (use pa)
Araka’epa aikuaata?

2. How much does this sushi cost? (use piko)
Mboy piko osẽ ko sushi.

3. Who will make pizza tonight? (use piko)
Máva piko ojapota pizza ko pyhare.

4. What time do you all want to terere today?
Mba’e órapa petererese ko’ara.

5. Where is my sushi? (pio)
Moõ pio che sushi.

6. Mba’ere oiporura’e che y.
Why did they use my water?

7. Ma’erãpio remopotĩta mandi’o.
For what are you going to clean the mandioca?

8. Mavandi ahata Brazilpe.
With whom am I going to Brazil?

9. Mba’éichapa peiko.
How ya’ll doin?

10. Nde ikatu remopotĩ ko’ara
Can you clean today?

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