Basic Articles

Disc 1, Part 2: “A”, “An”, “Some”, and “The”


Congratulations! Now that you have learned the essentials of Hawaiian pronunciation, let’s turn our attention to some basic words that you’ll need as you progress through this language series by Topics Entertainment.

First are the words “he” and “he mau”. In English, these are equivalent to saying “a” or “an”, and “some”. “He” means “a” or “an”; and “he mau” means “some”.

Let’s say “a car” and “some cars”. The word for car is “kaʻa”. It almost sounds like English, doesn’t it? To say “a car” I say “He kaʻa”. And so say “some cars”, I say “He mau kaʻa”. Let’s try together. Repeat after me:


He kaʻa – a car
He mau kaʻa – some cars


Did you notice that the word “kaʻa” didn’t change, no matter whether it was singular “he” or plural “he mau”? We would have to change it in English, saying “a car” for one, but “some cars” for many. In Hawaiian, the words “he” and “he mau” tell us if the kaʻa is one or many, singular or plural.

Let’s do that last excercise once more for good measure:


He kaʻa – a car
He mau kaʻa – some cars


Great! Now let’s learn the word for “book”. It is “puke”, from the English. Puke. Say it after me: Puke. So now how would we say “a book”? – He puke. Right!

Repeat after me:


He puke – a book
He mau puke – some books


Do you think you can say “a telephone”? The word for telephone is “kelepona”. Say it after me: kelepona.


He kelepona – a telephone
He mau kelepona – some telephones


And now the word for “elephant”. “ʻElepani” – similar to the English. This should help you remember it better. Say it after me: ʻElepani. The word “ʻelepani” starts with an ʻokina, or glottal-stop, before the “e”, so to be sure to listen for it in the two examples, and pronounce it correctly.


He ʻelepani – an elephant
He mau ʻelepani – some elephants


So far, we have learned the words kaʻa, puke, kelepona, and ʻelepani. Now it’s your turn to help me to speak Hawaiian! Tell me how to say the following English phrases in Hawaiian. You’ll hear the correct answer after a short delay. Hoʻomākaukau – get ready!


A telephone – he kelepona
Some telephones – he mau kelepona
A book – he puke
Some books – he mau puke
A car – he kaʻa
Some cars – he mau kaʻa
An elephant – he ʻelepani
Some elephants – he mau ʻelepani


How did you do? If you had a hard time, try going through the lesson once again. It won’t be long before you understand. If you are ready to move on, we are going to learn how to say “the car” and “the cars”, using the definite articles “ka”, “ke”, and “nā”.


When we want to talk about a particular car, or a group of cars, we use the articles “ka” or “ke” for “the” singular, and “nā” for “the” plural.

“Ka” and “ke” both mean “the”. In very ancient times, the only article was “ke” (te). But over time, as languages change, new things are introduced. So for whatever reason, there are now two articles for the singular definite article “the” in Hawaiian.

Here is a good general rule to help you remember when to use “ka” and “ke”. “Ke” comes only before words starting with K, ʻĒ, Ā, or ʻŌ. This spells “ke ao” meaning “the cloud”. Any other letter starting a word (including the glottal stop!), and you use “ka”.

Let’s try some examples:

ke kaʻa – the car – “kaʻa” starts with a “k”, so you say “ke kaʻa”. Say it again- ke kaʻa
ka puke – the book – ka puke – “puke” does not start with “k-e-a or o” so we use “ka”. Say it again ka puke.
ke kelepona – the telephone – ke kelepona “kelepona” starts with a “k”. So we say “ke kelepona” lets say it again “ke kelepona”
ka ʻelepani – the elephant – “ka ʻelepani” what does “ʻelepani” start with? Yes, it starts with an ʻokina before the “e”,
so you have to use “ka” to say “the”, because only words starting with “k, a, e, and o” use “ke”. Lets say it again, “ka ʻelepani”


For our audio lessons, it will probably be best for you just to remember which word to use by saying the combinations of words that you hear enough times to yourself that it would sound strange to use the incorrect article. That’s the way that we all learned our native language in the first place, and it is for that reason that if I say “Do you see those car over there?” that you think “those car” sounds very strange. After listening to the complete program for some time, you will start to get a feeling for what sounds “right” and “not so right.”


Now for the way to say “the” plural. “Nā” is the word to use. Letʻs try it “Nā”. So to say “the cars”, we say “Nā kaʻa”. Let’s try some examples. Repeat after me:


nā kaʻa – the cars
nā puke – the books
nā kelepona – the telephones
nā ʻelepani – the elephants


Now we have come to the end of this section of the program. You have covered a lot of material, and you are encouraged to review it as many times as you can, until you have practially memorised every word.


So far, you have learned how to pronounce the Hawaiian vocabulary ʻĀ, ʻĒ, ʻĪ, ʻŌ, ʻŪ, H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and ʻokina. You learned about the ʻokina and about lengthened vowels. You also learned how to say “a car”, “some books”, “the telephone” and “the elephants”.

In the next section, we are going to travel to the island of Hawaiʻi and continue our lessons there. E hele kākou. Let’s go!

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