Using “Ua” to Make the Past Tense

We have already learned how to say that something will happen in the future. For example, “e hele ana ke kanaka” means “the person will go”, because “hele” means to go, and the e-ana around it means that it will occur in the future. The last two words, “ke kanaka” is the subject – who or what is going to perform the action.

We can say things in the past very easily, by just replacing the e-ana with the single word “ua” before the action. For example, “ua hele ke kanaka” means “the person went”. “Ua” is the past marker; “hele” is to go; and “ke kanaka” is the person. See how easy?

We can use descriptive ʻaʻano words with “ua”, past marker, too, just like with the future markers “e- ana”. So for example, we can say, “ua maikaʻi ka hana” – the work was good: “ua maikaʻi” means “was good”, and “ka hana” means “the work”. Ua maikaʻi ka hana. In fact, “ua maikaʻi ka hana” can also mean that the work is still good, since it was good in the past, and it still has not stopped being so. Ua maika’i ka hana. Work is good. This only works with ʻaʻano words that describe a state or condition: words like maika’i, good, pololei, correct, ikaika, strong, paʻakikī, difficult, and so on.

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OK. Are you ready to practice? E hoʻomaʻamaʻa kākou. We’ll only try to change one word at a time to make it easy. Repeat each word or phrase after me. Hoʻomākaukau!

Ua ʻōlelo ka malihini – the visitor spoke
Ua kū nā keiki – the children stood
Ua holoholo nā malihini – the visitors all went for a ride
Ua hele ke kanaka – the person went
Ua hele nā kānaka – the people went
Ua holo ka moku – the ship sailed
Ua maikaʻi ka hana – the work was good, or, the work is good
Ua nui nā hale – the houses were big, or, the houses are big
Ua nui nā kānaka – there were lots of people, or there are lots of people

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A ʻo ia! Now it’s your turn to see how you remember those expressions! Try to say the Hawaiian after hearing the English. You’ll hear the correct answer after a brief pause. Hoʻomākaukau!

  • The visitor spoke – Ua ʻōlelo ka malihini
  • The children stood – Ua kū nā keiki
  • The visitors all went for a ride – Ua holoholo nā malihini
  • The person went – Ua hele ke kanaka
  • The people went – Ua hele nā kānaka
  • The ship sailed – Ua holo ka moku
  • The work was good – Ua maikaʻi ka hana
  • The houses were big – Ua nui nā hale
  • There were many people – Ua nui nā kānaka
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