Wrong end of the stick

I apologise for writing again so soon after my last post – I’m truly not trying to spam your inbox – but I thought I’d post while this is currently in discussion.

There’s been a bit of debate on Te Mana o Te Reo Māori Facebook page today about the correct way to negate adjectives. I didn’t even know that it was worth debating until a couple of months ago when a student of mine (who is also a University student) had some trouble in class. It turns out that what I was teaching and what they are being taught are two different things.

At this University they’re taught that any sentence beginning with ‘he’ is negated with ehara.

He roa tēnei rākau. Ehara tēnei rākau i te roa
This stick is long. This stick isn’t long.

But I was taught that qualities are translated with kāore, regardless of whether they are prefaced by ‘he’ or ‘kei te’…

He roa tēnei rākau. Kāore tēnei rākau i te roa.
This stick is long. This stick isn’t long.
(i.e. this stick doesn’t possess the quality ‘long’)

… and ehara is used for nouns (including names, places, etc.).

He rākau roa tēnei. Ehara tēnei i te rākau roa.
This is a long stick. This isn’t a long stick.

The inclusion of a noun changes the type of negative you need. The problem (because there’s always a problem) is that many adjectives are also nouns.

He roa … to be long (adjective)
Ko te roa … the length (noun)

So if I heard ehara being used, this is what I would ‘hear’ being said.

Koinei te roa (o te rākau).
This is the length (of the stick).

Ehara tēnei i te roa (o te rākau).
This is not the length (of the stick).

This is also why you hear ‘ehara’ and ‘kāore’ both being used for words like ‘pai’ and ‘hē’ which are commonly used as both nouns and adjectives.

Kāore tēnei i te hē. This isn’t wrong.
Ehara tēnei i te hē. This isn’t an error.

But then again, nobody is paying me loads of money to teach University…. maybe I’m the one with the wrong end of the stick?


7 thoughts on “Wrong end of the stick

  1. Ka pai. He tino pai tō whakamāramatanga..
    ka haere au ki te kura raumati. Anei ngā tauira mā te mahi

    He kōtiro ia Ehara ia i te kōtiro
    Nō te kōtiro te whare Ehara te whare nō te kōtiro
    Mōku tēnei whare Ehara tēnei whare mōku .
    Māna ēnei āporo Ehara ēnei āporo māna

    ——–noun phrase
    ——–Possesive noun phrase

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