Subjunctive ( -a )

Expressing whether something might or should happen within English is done by using these additional words (and other similar ones) and is the closest we have to creating a subjunctive tense. In Lingala we have a special form of verb that does exactly this:


We have the prefix (na-), the –zal– root and then the suffix which is an ‘a’. This means our word structure is:


This subjunctive form indicates that something is not certain. It may happen, or it it should happen. This is different to using the future tense to express that something will happen, where it is certain.

Notice some examples of how we use this form of verb in Lingala:

LingalaEnglish (meaning)English (literal)
azala na nyonso oyo esengelihe/she may have all that is neededhe/she may be with all this it is needed
basala na mabɔkɔ na bango mosalathey may do their work with his handsthey may do with hands of them work
oyoka nzala mpe oliya limpayou may feel hunger and you should eat breadyou may feel hunger and you should eat bread
nasalisa binoI should help you (plural)I should help you (plural)

In most cases we can use the subjunctive to show whether something should or may happen, with context explaining it the meaning.

Note: This subjunctive tense can be confused with the distant past and plural imperative tense which both use a prefix, root and then ‘a’ to end the word. However, the other two tenses either use an accented/stressed prefix or suffix. The subjunctive doesn’t stress either end of the word. That can make it sound like the tones rises from the prefix into the root, then drops for the suffix.

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