Common Verbs and Their Variants Compiled by Nathaniel Maxson

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Common Verbs and Their Variants
Compiled by Nathaniel Maxson
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all the verb forms possible with each verb. Rather it is a listing of , I hope, enough of the common variations to show the way variants relate to the basic verb. I am sure that much has been left out. You will notice definite patterns as you watch the verb change from active to passive, intransitive to transitive, concrete to possible, verb to noun, verb to ideophone, etc. I'm sure you will also notice that there is quite a bit of irregularity in how the variation actually affects the meaning of the word; each word really must be learned on its own.

Note that some of the root verbs themselves are no longer in use or are very rare. An asterisk (*) after a word shows that that form is not very common.

Before every verb stem, I put the prefix “ku – ” which makes it infinitive or gerund (to walk or walking) so that you would get used to seeing each verb in a realistic form .


English Meaning

Common Modifications


to steal

kubera – to steal from

kubedwa – to be stolen

kuberedwa – to be stolen from

mbabva – thief, robber

mbala – thief, robber

umbabva – theft


to give birth to, bear

kubalitsa – to propagate

kubadwa – to be born

kubadwira – to be born at

chibaliro\zi – womb

chibalo\zi – result

chibadwa\zi – nature

chibadwidwe\zi – nature

mbadwa – citizen, native

mbadwo\mibadwo – generation

mbale\abale – relative, sibling of same gender

chibale\zi – state of being a relative

ubale\maubale – relationship

kubatiza (from English)

to baptize

kubatizidwa – to be baptized

ubatizo – baptism

mbatizi\abatizi – baptist


to pierce, stab

kubayidwa – to be pierced

kubayira – to make holes for a purpose, ie. to plant or fertilize

chibayo – pneumonia

chibayiro\zi – stake, stabber


to give birth, carry on back

kubereketsa – to cause to bear

kuberekana – to reproduce much

kuberekera – to bear for

kuberekedwa – to be born, carried

chiberekero\zi – womb


to be green

biriwiri – green (ideophone)


to hide something

kubisira – to hide something from someone

kubisika – to be hidden

chibisibisi\zi – secrecy


to hide oneself

kubisalika – to be hidden

kubisalira – to hide from


to pierce, push through

kubooka – to have a hole, be pierced ('it just happened')

kubooledwa – to be pierced, etc. (someone did it)

kubooleza – to drill, pierce into?

bowo\mabowo – hole

mbowo\mibowo – hole

chiboolera\zi – drill, thing that makes holes


to put on clothes

kuveka – to clothe someone else, to adorn, decorate someone

kuvekedwa – to be clothed by another, to be adorned

kuvula – to take clothes off

kavalidwe\mavalidwe – fashion, way of wearing


to dance

kuvinidwa – to be initiated

kavinidwe\mabvinidwe – way of dancing


to give assent, accept

kuvomera – to accept, agree, give assent

kuvomereza – to confess

kuvomerezeka – to be proper, acceptable, approvable

chivomerezo\zi – agreement, confession

chisavomerezo\zi – disagreement


to be injured, hurt

kuvulaza – to injure someone else

kuvulazidwa – to be injured


to trouble, be troublesome

kuvutitsa – to cause trouble

kuvutika – to be troubled

vuto\mavuto – trouble, problem


to come

kubweretsa – to bring

kubweretsedwa – to be brought

kubweretsera – to bring to

kubwetsa – to bring

kubwerera – to return

kubwereka – to borrow, lend

kubwereketsa – to lend, lease

kubwereza – to repeat, do again

chibwereza\zi – repetition


1 to revenge; 2 restore; 3 give back

kubwezera – to take revenge

kubwezeretsa – to give back, bring back

kubwezetsa – to cause to go back, to put back to former state

kubwezedwa – to be given back, restored

kubzala (alt. kudzala)

to plant

kubzalidwa – to be planted

kucha (don't confuse with 'kutcha')

1 to become ripe, ripen; 2 to dawn

2 kuchera – to dawn at, on, for

2 Kwacha\Makwacha – money of Malawi and Zambia (meaning: it has dawned)


to wash clothes

kuchapidwa – to be washed


to be late, be too late

kuchedwetsa – to delay someone

kuchedwetsedwa – to be delayed

kucheredwa – to be belated, made late


to cut into, cut person, animal, tree etc.; make incision; saw boards

kuchekera – to cut for a tattoo or medicine

kuchekedwa – to be cut into


to be clever, smart

kuchenjerera – to trick, get the better of

kuchenjeretsa – to trick

kuchenjeretsedwa – to be tricked

kuchenjeretsetsa – to be very, very clever or tricky

kuchenjeza – to warn

chenjezo\machenjezo –warning


to be few, little; to be too little or few

kuchepetsa – to make few or small, be too few or small

kuchepera – to be fewer, smaller


to chat, play, joke

kuchezera – to stay up all night doing something

kuchezerana – to chat together

kuchezetsa – to cheer up, entertain

kuchezeka – to be easy to talk to

kuchereza – to cheer up, entertain, chat with

mchezo – any kind of kucheza, but especially all night


to sin

kuchimwira – to sin against

kuchimwitsa – to offend, cause to sin

tchimo\ machimo – sin


to recover, be healed

kuchiza – to heal

kuchiritsa – to heal

kuchiritsika – to be curable

kuchiritsidwa – to be healed

machiritso – healings (especially miraculous)

mchiritsi\achiritsi – healer


to do

kuchititsa – to cause

kuchitira – to do to someone

kuchitika – to happen

kuchitidwa – to be done to someone

mchitidwe – way of acting

Machitidwe – Acts (Bible)

machitachita – action

ntchito – work


to leave, go away

kuchokera – to come from

kuchotsa – to remove, take away

machokero – leaving, reason for leaving


to be many, much

kuchulukira – to be more than, be too much for

kuchulukitsa – to make more

kuchulukana – to bear many offspring


to be dark, black; hate

kudana – to hate each other

kudanitsa – to cause to hate each other

kuderera – to despise

kudetsa – to make dirty, black

kudetsedwa – to be made dirty

kudedwa – to be hated

mdani\adani – enemy

chidani\zi – hatred, enmity

madedwe – blackness, dirtyness


to wonder, be amazed

kudabwitsa – to be wonderful


to be blessed

kudalitsa – to bless

kudalitsika – to be blessed

dalitso\madalitso – blessing

dalo\madalo – blessing

mdala\ madala – familiar name for older man, plural form most common, singular is disrespectful


to rely on

kudalirika – to be reliable


to complain

kudandaulira – to reprove, talk to about

dandaulo\madandaulo – complaint


to wait, wait for

kudikirira – to wait for


to cut, cut off

kudulidwa – to be cut

kuduka – to be cut

kudutsa – to pass by, through

kudulidwa – to be circumcised

mdulidwe – circumcision

mdulo – traditional taboos

chidule\zi – shortness, summary, shortcut

madulira – short cut

chidutswa\zi – scrap, broken piece

duka\maduka – broken piece of brick


to be expensive

kudulitsa – to make expensive


to be sick

kudwalika – to be very sick

kudwalitsa – to make sick


to eat

kudyetsa – to feed

kudyedwa – to be eaten

kudyerera – to feast, eat well

kudibwa – to be eaten

kujiwa – to be eaten

kudyera – to eat from, off of

dyerero\madyerero – feast

chidyerano\zi – sharing food together

madyedwe – diet, way of eating

dyera – selfishness, greediness


to come

kudzetsa – to bring

kudzera – to go by, through


to fill, be full

kudzaza – to be full, fill


to know

kudziwitsa – to let someone know

kudziwika – to be known

chidziwitso\zi – knowledge


to rub, smear, anoint oneself

kudzoza – to anoint, smear oil on another another

mdzodzo\midzodzo (mu mi) – big black ant that stinks


to wake up

kudzutsa – to wake up someone

mdzukiro – breakfast

kadzutsa – breakfast


to die

kufetsa – to lose by death (anafetsa ana awiri – two of his children died)

kufedwa – to be bereaved

kufera – to die for, on

imfa – death

namfedwa\anamfedwa – bereaved person


to be similar to, resemble

kufanana – to resemble each other

kufanafana – to resemble

kufananitsa – to make similar

kufaniza – to compare

kufanizira – to stand for, represent

fanizo\mafanizo – parable, comparison (alt. faniziro)

fano\mafano – idol

chifanizo\zifanizo – image, representation (alt. chifaniziro)

chifanifani\zi – similar thing

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