Tonu. an intensifier meaning still, continuously, constant, always, all along, quite, just, simply, only, immediately, actual, certain.

Most of the time tonu works as a lengthener that is used to show that something was continuous.

Hīkoi tonu atu.
Keep on walking.

Kei te ngongoro tonu ia.
She’s still snoring.

I te amuamu tonu ia mai i Pōneke ki Tāmaki.
She whinged constantly from Wellington to Auckland.

Haere tonu ana aku mahi
My work is ongoing.

When paired with adjectives, tonu seems to intensify the meaning – we use words like quite, just, simply, and only (in my mind, I hear a 1950s housewife or primary school teacher with a cutsie voice).

Pai tonu tēnā.
That’s quite good.

Kia poto tonu te kōrero.
Keep it fairly brief.

E noho tonu nei.
Sit right here.

Tika tonu!
Just perfect!

The way I think about tonu is that it doubles up the previous word. It’s not merely good, it’s a good good. She doesn’t just like him, she like likes him. It’s even true in the phrase ko au tonu.

Ko wai te kaiako? Ko au tonu.
Who’s the teacher? Just me, myself and I.

Ko wai tēnā? Ko au tonu.
Who’s there? Only me (I’m me and nobody else)

Tītiro ki a koe! Ko au tonu.
Look at you! I’m still me (still the same).

The other common definitions for tonu are straight away and immediately. These ones are the most confusing because immediately has a very different character to continuously in English. Immediately is quick and sharp, continuously is long and slow.

Ka tae ki reira, aro tonu atu rātou ki te mahi.
They arrived and immediately settled to work.

From the Māori point of view these two actions (tae and aro) happened in one continuous motion. They didn’t stop, they didn’t pass Go, they didn’t collect $200. They walked through the door and picked up a pen in one fluid motion. It’s just that we translate into English using the word immediately.

Tonu is one of the easier and more common of this group of modifiers so keep on practising until the next installment.

Next up: Rawa


3 thoughts on “Tonu

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