Kau. alone, per se, without appendage, bare, empty, only, as soon as, without hindrance, to no purpose, neat, sole, unaccompanied, freely, independantly.

Imagine that you’re watching a car roll down the hill. There’s no help – no engine, nobody steering or pushing – but there’s also no hindrance – no brakes, no road bumps. There’s no purpose – it’s not going to or for something – and no deviation or hesitation; it just goes directly on. This is an ideal time to use the word kau.

rere kau iho te motoka i te puke
the car rolls straight down the hill

In my opinion, kau is the trickest of our Super-5 modifing words to use – mainly because there are so many varying (and seemingly contradictory) translations.

I found that the easiest way to think of kau is that it is without anything. It’s used to describe being without support or company, accoutrements or money, help or hindrance, impetus or purpose, deviation or distraction; the way in which you choose to translate it into English is up to you.

tū kau ia i te tokomaha

In this example, there’s only one person standing in crowd of people. Maybe they’re alone due to lack of support. Maybe they’re facing down a mob like a Wild West sheriff. Depending on the context tū kau could mean that they stood without the usual accessories (e.g. note cards/lecturn/projector) or perhaps they’re naked (either literally or metaphorically).

The phrase by itself can’t tell us which of the above possibilities are true but they all give a sense of aloneness, independence and being without something.

noho kau ia
he lives alone

kaua e tae kau atu ki te marae
don’t arrive at the marae with just yourself
(empty-handed/badly dressed/no speakers/no notice/no purpose)

e tangi kau ana te tamaiti
the child’s crying over nothing

kau ana te whare
the house is empty/abandoned

Once you get your head around kau meaning to be without things or purpose, there’s one other common definition to think of: directly.

aro kau atu ki te atamira
look directly at the stage

Directly seems to be the opposite of without purpose. This type of kau is instead without hindrance, obstacle or diversions. When you remove all distractions, all deviations, all barriers as well as accoutrements as above, then the entire purpose is that single activity, (i.e. looking in the example above). In translation you’ll use any number of words like focussed, intently, directly, or straight.

E whakarongo kau atu ana ngā tamariki ki a Hana Koko.
The children are listening intently for Santa Claus.

E rere kau atu ana ngā kākahu i te huanui.
The clothes are flying straight up the road.

E tangi kau ana te tamaiti
The child is crying freely / unrestrained.

As I said, kau is really difficult to get your head around sometimes. There’s no help for it but studying as many varying examples as you can find.

Last but by no means least: Making modifications. Again.


3 thoughts on “Kau

  1. Pingback: Kē | upokopakaru

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