Quality Verbs in Ateso

                                                                           Some verbs express a quality

Definition of quality verbs:

Some verbs express a quality and not an action: E.g. “to be wide“, “to be strong“.  In English, this idea of quality is expressed by means of an adjective and the verb “to be“, but in Ateso there are separate verbs to express it.

These verbs are termed quality verbs (paragraph 15) the quality verbs are conjugated differently from ordinary verbs; personal prefixes are the same but the endings vary.*

Three classes of quality verbs —- present tense:

There are three classes of quality verbs which differ from each other in the formation of their plural suffixes.

Class I: No suffixes in the plural persons. This class mainly contains verbs formed by reduplication of the root: E.g. egogong (egogongok), ededeng (ededengak).

Class II:  The suffix  —- ak (or  —- ok) or  —- iak ( —- iok) is added in all three plural persons. (In the example quoted below the t of the stem is also changed to s.)

Class III: All verbs ending in  —- na (or  —-  no) are in this class.

The  —- na (or  —- no) is changed to  —- ka (or  —- ko) in all three plural persons. Many of the verbs in this class are derived from other verbs or occasionally from nouns:

  1. Einer —- to talk Inerana —- he is talkative

Akoko —- to steal             Ekokolana —- he is thievish

Asuliany —- luck                isulianyana —- he is lucky

Ebit — selfish                         Ibitiono —- he is selfish

It should be noted that in class II and III the first person plural, unlike other verbs in the present indicative tense, has the same suffixes as the second and third persons plural.

There is no convenient rule to enable any one quality verb to be placed in its appropriate class. The plural form will therefe be shown in brackets in the vocabularies, Examples of the three classes are:

  1. Adedeng —- I am fierce

Idedeng —- you are fierce

Ededeng —- he is fierce

Kidedeng —- we are fierce

Idedeng —- you are fierce

Ededeng  —-  they are fierce


  1. adit —- I am small

Idit —- you are small

Edit —-  etc.

Kidisiak  —-

Idisiak  —- You are small

Edisiak  —-


iii.       Eriono —- i am black

Iriono —- you are black

Iriono —-  etc.




It will be seen from the above examples that quality verbs may belong to the ko or to the ki class

Other moods and tenses:

(i) Since quality verbs express a continuing quality the past tense used is the a —- or e —-  tense.

(ii) The subjunctive/imperative is formed by prefixing the usual personal prefixes of the subjunctive/imperative to the root:

  1. kojok ngesi —- it must be good

(It is, however, usual in some cases to use the derived forms of quality verbs in the subjunctive/imperative. These forms will be explained in Chapter XIV.)

  1. kojokunar —- beit became good

(iii) The infinitive of quality verbs very often does not exist that is the reason the third person singular will be the form given in the vocabularies. The third person plural will be shown

in brackets. The personal prefixes, e —-  and i —- , will indicate whether the verb belongs to the ko or to the ki class.


Ejok (ejokak) —- be good

Edit (edisiak) —- be small

Ededeng (ededengak) —- be severe

Egogong (egogongok)—be strong

Itet (itetiak)—be new

Ebangaana (ebaŋaaka) —- be stupid

Erono (eroko) —- be bad

Epatana (epataka)—be easy

Etiono (etioko) —- be difficult

Adumun (kodum)—to get

Aisisia (kisisia)—to learn

Epakasit (ipakasin) —- porter, labourer

Amojongu—be old


  • Ateso is easy to learn.
  • The porters are old and foolish and cannot carry the things.
  • You are a good man; please help me.
  • It is wicked to drink beer now.
  • His is a permanent (strong) house.
  • You are stupid; I shall beat you (plural).
  • The books he wanted to get were new ones.
  • They have not understood what I am saying; they are very naughty,
  • It is not difficult to get rats for our dogs.
  • The girls were good yesterday.