Swahili I/Numbers and Time

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1 = Moja (adj. -moja)
2 = Mbili (adj. -wili)
3 = Tatu (adj. -tatu)
4 = Nne (adj. -nne)
5 = Tano (adj. -tano)
6 = Sita
7 = Saba
8 = Nane
9 = Tisa/Kenda
Kenda is used in a different dialect mostly from Burundi, Rwanda and D.R.C but Tisa is used by Tanzania and Kenya more often.

10 = Kumi


11 = Kumi na moja (Na = And -> Kumi na moja = Ten and One)
12 = Kumi na mbili
13 = Kumi na tatu
... 20 = Ishirini
(21 = Ishirini na moja... )


30 = Thelathini
40 = Arobaini
50 = Hamsini
60 = Sitini
70 = Sabini
80 = Themanini
90 = Tisini


100 = Mia moja
(101 = Mia moja na moja... )
200 = Mia mbili
... 1,000 = Elfu


Swahili time is expressed very differently from standard time in other parts of the world. Instead of noon and midnight, Swahili time is based on sunrise and sunset. As most Swahili-speaking countries are located near the equator, sunrise and sunset are mostly constant year-round, and defined to be 6:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M., respectively in standard time. Hence, 6:00 A.M. is the zero hour (0:00 or 12:00) in Swahili time, 7:00 A.M. is the first hour (1:00 in the morning) and so on. An easy translation to Swahili time is to subtract six hours from the standard clock time, which is how many natives adjust. For example, 11:30 A.M. in standard time is 5:30 in the morning in Swahili time. Instead of A.M. and P.M., Swahili time expresses the hour followed by the portion of the day.

  • Alfajiri = early morning, before the sun has fully risen
  • Asubuhi = morning, roughly between sunrise and noon
  • Mchana = afternoon, between noon and 3:00 P.M.
  • Jioni = evening, which lasts until sunset
  • Usiku = night time, from sunset until early morning again

As with standard time, the hour (saa) is expressed first, followed by the minutes (dakika). There are also abbreviations for half past (nusu, half) and others (kasorobo, less a quarter). Here are some examples of time-telling to help you understand how it is done.

Standard Time Swahili Time Translation Note
12:00 A.M. 6:00 at night saa sita usiku literally hour six night
3:00 P.M. 9:00 in the afternoon saa tisa mchana
7:30 P.M. 1:30 in the evening saa moja na nusu jioni literally hour one and a half evening
1:05 P.M. 7:05 in the afternoon saa saba na dakika tano mchana literally hour seven and minutes five afternoon
A quarter to (15 minutes before) 8:00 A.M. A quarter to 2:00 in the morning saa mbili kasorobo asubuhi literally hour two less one quarter morning
Almost 11:00 A.M. Almost 5:00 in the morning saa tano kasoro asubuhi literally hour five less morning


You should make flashcards for these with the actual digits on one side and the Swahili word on the other and quiz yourself, looking at both sides and saying, aloud, what is on the other.