Bemba Lesson 15.1 – How to Ask a Question – WHAT? – To Want

One of the fastest ways of learning any language is by asking the right questions. Ici Bemba (the Bemba language) is no exception. One way of politely correcting someone is by asking him a question about what he is doing. Knowing how to ask a question and knowing when you are being asked one is therefore a useful skill to acquire early in your learning adventure.

There are different ways of indicating that a statement is meant to be a question. When your language skills fail you, eye contact with a raised eyebrow or open palms with a shrug of the shoulders, or even an open mouth with a creased forehead can pose a question. Raising the tone of the voice is another way – as in “Tea, anyone?”

  • Mu ciBemba (In Bemba) the same words are used to refer to a man and to a woman (He / She).
  • In the following examples, remember that the plural form (pl.) is used to address one person as a sign of respect. (The plural form of “You”).
  • Where you can use different words to mean the same thing, a forward slash (/) is used, e.g. Ninshi / Cinshi / Finshi means you can use “Ninshi”, or “Cinshi” or “Finshi.”



What is this? – Cinshi ? (Short for “Cintu nshi?” – What (big) thing is it?)

What is it? – Kanshi? (Short for “Kantu nshi?” – What (small) thing is it?)

What are these? – Finshi? (Short for “Fintu nshi?” – What (several) things are they?)



What is your name? = Nimwe bani shina?

What is this? =Cinshi ici?

What is that? = Cinshi cilya? (also:)  Cinshi ico?


Detailed examples:

There are different ways of asking questions.  Questions starting  with WHAT can be related to the verbs:

  1. To want
  2. To say
  3. To do
  4. To eat
  5. To drink
  6. To mean
  7. To have
  8. To hold
  9. To leave
  10. To find
  11. To touch
  12. To feel
The following examples show you how to use the words in the pastpresent and future tenses. The examples are also related to who the question is about: I, you, he or she and them.


Bemba Lesson - To Want - kitweonline

Bemba Lesson – To Want – kitweonline

Want = Fwaya

(You can use “Ninshi”, “Cinshi” (What thing) or “Finshi” (What things) wherever  each of them is used below).


What do I want? = Finshi ndefwaya?

What do you want? (sing.) =  Finshi ulefwaya?

What do you want? (pl.) =  Finshi mulefwaya?

What does he / she want? (sing.) =  Finshi alefwaya?

What does he / she want? (pl.) = Finshi balefwaya?

What do they want? =  Finshi balefwaya?


What did I want? =  Finshi naalefwaya?

What did you want? (sing.) = Finshi waalefwaya?

What did you want? (pl.) =  Finshi mwaalefwaya?

What did he / she want? (sing.)  =  Finshi / aalefwaya?

What did he / she want? (pl.)  =  Finshi / baalefwaya?

What did they want? =  Finshi / baalefwaya?


What will I want? =  Finshi nkafwaya?

What will you want? (sing.) =  Finshi ukafwaya?

What will you want? (pl.) =  Finshi mukafwaya?

What will he / she want? (sing.) =  Finshi akafwaya?

What will he / she want? (pl.) =  Finshi bakafwaya?

What will they want? =  Finshi bakafwaya?


Look out for further lessons from the numbered list above.

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