Introduction to Basque: Lesson 1

Basque for he, she or it is hura.

It seems like Basque speakers are not worrying too much about making the distinction, are they? Think he is in a hurra to remember that he/she/it is hura.

Basque for is is da.

Coincidence or not, the word da also means is in Japanese. Also just like in Japanese, the the verb comes in the end of Basque phrases so if you wanted to say that he is Aitor (Aitor is a Basque name) you would be saying he Aitor is. Try saying that:

1 translation: He is Aitor.

Basque for I is ni.
Basque for am is naiz.

Think I am nice to remember that am is naiz.

Imagine your name is Bakar (that’s another very Basque name). It goes without saying that the same verb in the end rule applies to you so you are saying I Bakar am. Say that.

2 translation: I am Bakar.

Basque for Basque (as in Basque speaker) is euskaldun.

This term comes from Euskal meaning Basque and dun meaning possesor.

The word is that. However, believe it or not, very often in Basque (much more often than in English) you have to use the definite article (the equivalent of the in English). You use it for most words. You only don’t use it with names: that’s about it (well, almost).

Thus in this situation would say the Basque instead.

Basque word for the is a and it goes in the end of the word instead of the beginning.

How would you say:

3 translation: the Basque

You could say:

4 translation: I am Basque.

So far we have ni naiz and hura da. We can talk about him or her or it and we can talk about ourselves but usually you need a you to talk to.

Basque for you is zu.
Basque for are is zara.
Zuzara... sounds a bit like Zuzana. Say:

5 translation: You are Zuzana.

Ni naiz, zu zara, hura da. That’s a combination of tools already. You could also use it to talk about places. For example:
Basque for Bilbao (a city) is Bilbo.

You could say:

6 translation: It is Bilbo.

Add koa to the end of the word to make it mean from there.

For example, Bilbao is Bilbo and if we add koa, we get Bilbokoa which means from Bilbao. How would you say:

7 translation: I am from Bilbao.


8 translation: You are from Bilbao.

There is no change needed to make these into questions: you simply say it as a statement and raise your intonation to show it’s a question. Ask:

9 translation: Are you from Bilbao?

Remember to say the Basque this time too:

10 translation: Is she Basque?

If we have a name of the place which ends in n, you change that koa to goa to make it sound nicer. For example, how would you say:

11 translation: I am from Iran.


12 translation: Is it from Iran?

Now the usual structure of the sentence is just like I told you: verb is last. That’s not very English-like because you do not verb in the end have. That strange looks.

However, there are a few cases where the structure of Basque sentences is English-like. First of those is when there is a negative. Second, it happens in questions with question words (where, what, when, etc... in other words: whenever you ask a question that you cannot answer with only yes or no). We will look into both of these.

Let’s learn how to say negatives first:

Basque for not is ez.

This word means no as well as not. It comes before the word that it is denying (by the way: if you are interested, the word for yes happens to be bai).

In negative sentences the structure is just like in English (except that ez comes before the verb). For example, the sentence I am not Aitor in Basque would be I not am Aitor. How do you say that:

13 translation: I am not Aitor.

Try these:

14 translation: I am not from Bilbao.

15 translation: It is not from Iran.

You could ask this question:

16 translation: Are you not from Bilbao?

Finally, we have the second type of phrases with English-like structure. In these phrases, the structure is completely English like. These are questions with a question word. Let’s learn to ask a few of those:

Basque for where is non.

If you were to ask Where is Bilbao you would indeed ask where is Bilbao because the structure is English-like. Try that:

17 translation: Where is Bilbao?

If you have the word non for where and you know the koa/goa rule, could you try to work out how you would say where from:

18 translation: where from

It’s nongoa instead of nonkoa because non ends in n. I hope you caught that. Ask (literally: where-from are you?):

19 translation: Where are you from?

And answer that (guess the word for America, just note that c is written as k in Basque):

20 translation: I am from America.

Awesome, nice first lesson. We will soon continue with a lot more useful Basque for you. I still want to make two points before we end this lesson.

First, it should be noted that in most cases you do just skip all of those pronouns (ni, zu, hura... especially hura) and just say for example Bakar naiz instead of ni Bakar naiz and so on. We will be using the pronouns in this course because it will help you remember and know them and you need to know them if you hear them.

Second, this is technical so don’t worry too much about it... but the word for to be to which the words we learned (naiz, zara, da) belong to is izan. You don’t need to remember that strictly but it might be helpful. Think "it is an izan" to remember that to be is izan.

Answers to Lesson 1

1 answer: Hura Aitor da.
2 answer: Ni Bakar naiz.
3 answer: euskalduna
4 answer: Ni euskalduna naiz.
5 answer: Zu Zuzana zara.
6 answer: Hura Bilbo da.
7 answer: Ni Bilbokoa naiz.
8 answer: Zu Bilbokoa zara.
9 answer: Zu Bilbokoa zara?
10 answer: Hura euskalduna da?
11 answer: Ni Irangoa naiz.
12 answer: Hura Irangoa da?
13 answer: Ni ez naiz Aitor.
14 answer: Ni ez naiz Bilbokoa.
15 answer: Hura ez da Irangoa.
16 answer: Zu ez zara Bilbokoa?
17 answer: Non da Bilbo?
18 answer: nongoa
19 answer: Nongoa zara zu?
20 answer: Ni Amerikakoa naiz.