In this sentence: "Wazazi waliwaambia watoto wao: 'Badala ya kufa nyumbani nendeni mupigane.'", I assume "mupigane" is a conjugated form of the verb "kupiga" (fight). However, I never encountered a verbal form starting with mu- and ending with -ne. Or is it a different verb altogether?

Edit I suspect the mu- prefix has something to do with the locative class, due to the presence of the "kwenda" verb. In this case I would expect the locative -ni, not -ne (which I've never seen before).

  • Google translates the sentence as The parents told he children: 'Instead of dying at home, go and fight.', and identifies the language as Swahili, so it would appear indeed to be a conjugation of kupiga. Just guessing from the Google translation, I would guess that it might be a plural imperative. Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 16:43
  • @JeffZeitlin I interpreted it as grammatically equivalent to "go to fight", i.e. "nendeni" is the imperative (which it is), and "mupigane" is subordinate to it.
    – Martino
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 16:47
  • I have no familiarity with any of the Bantu languages, so I'll defer to your presumed expertise. In English, I believe that's still considered the imperative, and I'd have "expanded" on the English "go and fight" into the archaic form "go forth and fight", still with both verbs ("go [forth]" and "fight") in the imperative. Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 18:49
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    I don't know what mu- is, but as for the suffixes I can tell you that mupigane is not infinitive, but a subjunctive form of -pigana “beat one another, fight” (reciprocal of -piga “beat”) with the final -a substituted for the subjunctive -e.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 18:49
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    Seconding Yellow Sky: this is a subjunctive reciprocal. But I don't know what the mu- could be except the locative class, and that doesn't make sense here.
    – Draconis
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


Mupigane is not imperative, it is a subjunctive form of -pigana “beat one another = fight” (which is reciprocal of -piga “beat”) with the final -a substituted for the subjunctive -e.

The Wiktionary conjugation chart for -pigana does list mupigane, it is among the “Forms with object concords” as
Positive subjunctive with 2nd p. pl. subject and c3/c11/c14 object.

The translation is something like “you should fight it” / “that you fight it”.

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  • 1
    Thanks, I had not figured out that this had something to do with the reciprocal -na. I guess I didn't know the object concords terminations, so that's helpful.
    – Martino
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 13:27

Mu- is either 2pl subject or object prefix, or cl. 1 object prefix. We can rule out an object prefix interpretation based on the syntax of -pigan- "beat each other" (too many object arguments). The stem is composed of -pig- "beat" plus the reciprocal extension -an-. Final -e is the subjunctive marker, so the form can roughly translate this as "2pl. should beat each other". When you have a "conjoined imperative" like "go and cook", "shut up and listen" etc. the first verb can be imperative but the second is in the subjunctive, so "go fight e.o." would be a good translation of nendeni mupigane.

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