I’d almost forgotten about this wee trick until I came across some notes buried under a pile of books. For years I’ve been trying to break students of a bad habit when they use the English SVO (subject-verb-object) pattern in te reo instead of the proper VSO pattern.
Ka kai (V) tātou (S) i ngā pāua (O)
We’re going to eat pāua.
Well, it turns out that this SVO pattern makes a grammatically correct sentence – although perhaps not what was intended.
Tātou (S) ka kai (V) i ngā pāua (O)
Let’s eat pāua
So far I’ve only been able to find examples using tāua or tātou. It still sounds good to my ears with words like kōrua or rātou, but not with the singular (au/koe/ia). However I haven’t found any examples for anything other than tāua or tātou, it may just be one of those colloquial oddities. So if you have read or use this phrasing with other pronouns, please let us know.
This phrasing is used most often in the sentence ‘let’s go’; it’s so common that the words ka haere can be left off altogether.
Tāua ki te marae.
Let’s go to the marae.
Back when there was that big brouhaha with Tāwhirimātea and the other atua, the tūpuna of lizards and fish tried to get the hell out of dodge. They ended up having an argument about where to hide so they’ve lived apart ever since; this was their argument:
Tāua ki uta. Tāua ki te wai.
Let’s go to land. No, let’s go to the water.
Now you have lots of arguments with your kids with lovely succinct phrasing.
Tāua ki te papa tākaro. Kāo, tāua ki te kai.
Let’s go to the playground. No, let’s go eat.