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Te taetae ni Kiribati

The language of Kiribati

Grammar Handbook


Lesson 6


Part 2 - Who, Whose


Like English, Kiribati uses a set of question words to get information about a missing element in a sentence. Functionally, some of these act as pronouns, being replaceable by a noun which answers the question. Some function as adjectives, asking for descriptive information about a specific noun in a sentence. Others are like adverbs, requesting information about the verb of the sentence, or an entire clause. Still another group acts as complete interrogative verbs, needing only a subject pronoun to form a complete question.

a. antai? who?

Antai, 'who', is used directly before nouns and person demonstratives when asking for identification:

Antai teuaaei?
who this person (masc. sing.)
Who is this man?

Antai te tia mm'akuri aanne?
who the worker that
Who is that workman?

It is used similarly when asking someone's name directly:

Antai aram?
who your name
What's your name?

Antai aran tamam?
who his name your father?
What's your father's name?

When asking who did some action, when there is a verb involved, antai must be followed by an appropriate relative pronoun, such as ae. (see the lesson on relative pronouns.):

Antai ae e na nako Tarawa?
who that will go-to Tarawa?
Who (is it [sg.] that) will go to Tarawa?

Antai aika a tia ni karaoia?
who that already do-it
Who (is it [pl.] that) did it?

Dialect Note: In Butaritari/Makin, Nanta is used in place of Antai.

b. antena? whose?

Antena, 'whose', can be seen as a contraction of:

antai ana = antena.

Antai ana b'ai? = Antena b'ai?
who his thing = whose thing
Whose thing (is this)?

Before nouns which must take the possessive suffixes, ante is used. (see lesson on possessive suffixes). Compare:

Ante waa-na?
Whose canoe (is this)?

Antena matau?
Whose fishhook (is this)?

Notes:1) Before certain sounds, anto may be heard in place of ante:

anto um'ana? = ante um'ana?
whose house?
 2) Antai will sometimes be heard before non-animate nouns (this is rather colloquial):

Antai te auti aanne?
who the house that
Whose house is that?


A. Form questions from the following sentences, assuming the underlined word to be missing information.

example:  Teuaarei boni Bauro.
that manboni         Paul
 Antai teuaarei?

(Note that bon(i) 'truly', is omitted when forming the question.)

 1.  Neierei boni Maria.
that woman
 2.  Bon Iaone te tia reirei aarei.
Bon Iaone te  teacher
 3.  Te unimm'aane aei bon tamau.
Te  old manaei bon tamamy father
 4.  Bon tinau te aiine aarei.
Bon my mother
 5.  Kaain au auti bon tamau ao tinau.
people of
 6.  Aran au kaawa bon Teaoraereke.
Aran au  village
 7.  Au tia reirei Titi.
 8.  Bon Roniti te minita aarei.
Bon Roniti te  minister
 9.  Te tama aarei bon Ioteba.
10.  Aran te teei aarei boni Karianako.
Aran te child

B. Use Antai ae (singular) or Antai aika (plural), to form questions from the following statements, assuming the underlined word to be missing information, as above:

example:  E na nako Tiaon.
 Antai ae e na nako?

 1.  E na nakon te titooa Kaitara.
 2.  A katea au auti taani mm'akuri.
A buildkatea au auti workmen
 3.  A taua te bure bureitiman aikai.
A holdte criminal   policemen these
 4.  E na roko ningaabong Tiaon.
 5.  E na kawarai tamau ningaabong.
E na visit me
 6.  N na nako Betio n te wiiki ae e na roko.
 7.  I kauka te mataroa n te biti.
  open         doorwith the      knife
 8.  E a maeka iroun te tia mm'akuri te unimm'aane aarei.
E a live         by
 9.  A kana te am'arake ataeinimm'aane.
A  eatkana tfoodam       boys
10.  Ti matuu n te auti n iruwa.
Ti sleepmatuu n te guest house

C. Use Antena or Ante to form questions based on the following sentences:

 1.  Bon ana b'aatika Tiaon.
Bon ana bicycle
 2.  Boni b'aran Bauro aei.
Boni his hat
 3.  Ana karewe tamau aarei.
Ana toddy
 4.  Au kunnikai ae e uraura aei.
Au clothesae e aurared
 5.  Bon am booti aarei.
Bon am boat
 6.  Ana boki Nei Tebora aarei.
ana book
 7.  Bon ana b'ai n takaakaro natiu.
Bon ana b'toy (thing-of-play)
 8.  Bon um'an Tiaon are e uareereke.
Bon his houseTiaon are e small
 9.  Bon ana rebwerebwe tariu aio.
Bon ana motorcycle         my sibling
10.  Arei bon ana matiati te unimm'aane.
Arei bon ana   matches
11.  Boni waan tamau aanne.
Boni  his canoe

Kiribati page

© 1979, 2003 Stephen Trussel, ACTION / Peace Corps, The Experiment in International Living. The Experiment in International Living, Inc., prepared this handbook for the U. S. Government under ACTION Contract number 78-043-1037. The reproduction of any part of this handbook other than for such purposes as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, or other "fair use" is subject to the prior written permission of ACTION.