So and so

One of our readers asked what’s the difference between nō reira and nā reira? I remember wondering the same thing a long time ago. The koroua I asked said that nō reira refers to the past, which seemed pretty clear cut until I looked at a few examples of both – all of which seemed to be located in the past – and decided it was a case of reach-exceeds-grasp-itis and I forgot all about it.

If you look up both words in a dictionary, their definitions are more or less the same.

nā reira: therefore, that’s why, so, consequently,
for that reason, hence, thus, accordingly.

nō reira: therefore, thereby, so, consequently,
for that reason, hence, thus, accordingly.

So, not much help bloody help there then. I also have a dim memory of them being as different as the words whereby and whereupon (or maybe whereat, wherefore or some other archaic where+ word), which is not much bloody help either.

Aside from that exchange 15 years ago I’ve never been taught the difference between the two (so I have absolutely no support for the following post), and yet I do use each of them in very specific ways. All I can tell you is what I know about and , and how that affects what I personally choose to use.

Firstly, nō gets used to describe times or circumstances in the past, as well as the word from. Secondly, gets used to describe the cause of a circumstance.

My computer died so I went to get a coffee.

My computer died so my report was lost.

In the first example getting coffee is simply located in a particular time & circumstance so that you have some context. The computer situation didn’t make you get a coffee, you could have had tea, or filed your nails, or tidied your desk or anything else. However in the second example the computer crash directly caused the report to get lost. It shows the direct cause-and-effect between the two events. That’s essentially how I would choose between the two.

However a lot of the time it’s up to your own personal perspective whether you think it is just context or a direct cause-and-effect.

I whakakorengia te hōtaka;  reira ka tangi nga tamariki.
I whakakorengia te hōtaka; nā reira ka tangi nga tamariki.

The show was cancelled, that’s why/consequently the children cried.

Personally I would choose nō reira for this example but I couldn’t disagree with you if you prefered nā reira. I’d maybe use nā reira if the kids had been chopping onions as that’s definitely a direct cause of crying. (BTW: I would also use ai but I don’t want to confuse anyone so have left it off for the moment).

There are lots other ways of using and. In this example the difference between the two is a bit more obvious.

Nō te matenga o te rorohiko i tīkina ai he inu kawhe māku.
When the computer died, I went and got me a coffee.

Nā te matenga o te rorohiko i ngaro ai te pūrongo.
It was because the computer died that the report was lost.

The same difference between nō and  is seen in nō te mea and nā te mea.

I tīkina he inu kawhe māku nō te mea i mate tāku rorohiko.
I ngaro te pūrongo nā te mea i mate tāku rorohiko.

By the way, I was also taught to use i instead of  if it appears in the middle of a phrase (as opposed to the beginning), as you do to mark the cause in basic stative sentences.

I ngaro te pūrongo i te mea i mate tāku rorohiko.

Considering I have no other information to support or dispute this, I could be totally and utterly wrong about all of this, but at least my madness has a foundation of great logic. How about yours?


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