Turn, turn, turn

We use the word turn a lot in English. Turn up, down, on, off, in, out, to, against, over, or aside. Turn the handle, turn into, turn for the worse, my turn, one good turn, turn 40 years old, turn colour, turn over the engine, turn the other cheek.

In Māori there is really only one kind of turn, huri, with a few derivations.

Hurihuri ana ngā whakaaro
Her thoughts were spinning

E takahuri ana ngā wīra
The wheels are turning

Ka tahuri te wahine
The woman turned (about-face)

Ka huri tuarā ia ki tana tama.
He turned his back on his son.

Unless it’s is going around in an arc or circle (even if only metaphorically) it’s not huri. All the rest need a different kind of word, e.g. turn down the bed would be fold down the blanket, the road turns left would be the road bends left, turning colour is becoming a colour, etc.

Tō huri (incorrect)

Kei a koe (correct)
Your turn (literally, it’s with you)

One of my favourites is ‘turn the page’. Hura(ina) means to uncover or reveal (think hura kohatu), so you’re not really asking to turn this page, but to reveal the next page. Hurihia would mean something quite different.

Huraina te whārangi
Turn over the page

Hurihia te whārangi
Rotate the page

If you need to turn a car or electricals on and off, you really want to ignite and extinguish them using whakakā(ngia) and whakaweto(hia).

Whakakāngia ngā rama. Kua kē ngā rama.
Turn on the lights. They’re already on.

Kua weto te kare? Whakawetohia.
Is the heater off? Turn it off.

Turning the volume up or down in Māori is to strengthen whakakaha(ina) or diminish whakaiti(hia).

Whakakahaina te reo irirangi. Kāo, kua kaha kē.
Turn up the radio. No, it’s loud enough already.

If you are turning something use the prefix whaka as above, but if something is turning all by itself use haere instead, it’s an adverb meaning to become.

Kua whero haere ngā rau
The leaves have turned red

Kei te piro haere tēnei miraka
This milk is turning


5 thoughts on “Turn, turn, turn

  1. Technically when kids say to huri they are conceptually right. The game is more often moving around from person to person arguably in a circular motion! But I always say kei a koe to correct them, so their comeback is kei a koe te huri! Tero bums.

    • Thanks jacqs. To “take turns”is an English idiom (#45 of 66 different usages of the word turn), i.e. “the right or opportunity to do something in an agreed order or succession”; nothing at all like Maori definitions of huri. Kei a koe is a pre-European idiom. Saying kei a koe te huri is a Maolish hybrid of the two. It is conceptually right, but only if you are thinking in English concepts.

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