Friday, 30 September 2011

Gagana: Possessive pronouns - lo'u/la'u, lou/lau

My previous post about common errors in the Samoan language generated some requests for more tips on Samoan grammar. The most requested topic this week is about understanding how to correctly use the pronouns lo’u/la’u (my) and lou/lau (your).

Possessive Pronouns
These words determine possession. In this blog entry we will only focus on the two: my and your.
The Samoan language has two sets of possessive pronouns. One set is used for the personal nouns, and the other set for the non-personal nouns. The difference between the two is a single vowel change in the pronoun, e.g. lo’u lima (my hand) and la’u taavale (my car).
lima (hand) is a personal noun; taavale (car) is a non-personal noun.

Furthermore, when referring to the noun as a plural (i.e. more than one) the letter l is dropped, e.g. o’u lima (my hands), a’u taavale (my cars).

Below is a general list of categories which may serve as a guide in deciding which vowel to use. There are exceptions, of course, but most nouns are fairly consistant to these lists.

Personal Possessions – When to apply the o  (i.e. lo’u/lou, o’u/ou)

·         Referring to relations, people:
lo’u tinā (my mother), lo’u uso/tuagane/tuafafine (my sibling)
lou tinā (your mother), lou uso/tuagane/tuafafine (your sibling)
Exceptions: tāne (husband), āvā (wife), tama (a woman's child), fānau (children)

·         The soul, emotions, feelings:
lo’u loto (my soul), lo’u māasiasi (my shame), lo'u alofa (my love)
lou loto (your soul), lou māasiasi (your shame), lou alofa (your love)

·         The body and its parts:
lo’u tino (my body), lo’u toto (my blood), lo’u lauulu (my hair)
lou tino (your body), lou toto (your blood), lou lauulu (your hair)
Exception: 'ava (beard)

·         A house and its parts, Land
lo’u fale (my house), o’u faamalama (my windows), lo’u fanua (my land)
lou fale (your house), ou faamalama (your windows), lou fanua (your land)
Exception: faato'aga (plantation)

·         A boat/canoe and its parts
lo’u vaa (my boat)
lou vaa (your boat)

·         Clothing or any garments
o’u seevae (my shoes), lo’u ofuvae (my pants)
ou seevae (your shoes), lou ofuvae (your pants)

Non-Personal Posessions – When to apply the a (i.e. la’u/lau, a’u/au)

·         Referring to language, words, speech
la’u gagana (my language), a’u upu (my words)
lau gagana (your language), au upu (your words)

·         Animals, plants
la’u maile (my dog), a’u laau (my plants)
lau maile (your dog), au laau (your plants)

·         Work, movement, action
la’u galuega (my job), la’u siva (my dance)
lau galuega (your job), lau siva (your dance)

·         Food, drink
la’u meaai (my food), la’u koko-alaisa (my cocoa-rice)
lau meaai (your food), lau koko-alaisa (your cocoa-rice)

·         Weapons and Implements
la’u sapelu (my machete), la’u sipuni (my spoon)
lau sapelu (your machete), lau sipuni (your spoon)

·         Denoting customs and conduct
la’u amio (my behaviour), a’u aga (my conduct)
lau amio (your behaviour), au aga (your conduct)

·         Other property or possessions of every kind
la’u ato (my bag), a’u fagu (my bottles)
lau ato (your bag), au fagu (your bottles)

Hope some of that helps. Ua tau oso le niniva o lo’u ulu, lol.



  1. Yeah thanks for helping me on this one, it was definitely worth asking you.

  2. THANK YOU so much for this post!! It's very kind and generous of you to share your gift of being able to clearly explain it all :) Really appreciate it :)

  3. I finally got to read this! What a great post, thank you. I actually relied on my own knowledge of the language (i.e. what sounded "right") in choosing how I used the pronouns, but this explains it much more clearly. I'm going to print this page :D

  4. I have asked this question a million times and NOT ONE of my immediate relatives (all born and raised in Samoa) could answer it. They just couldn't understand why I didn't get it??... NOW I DO!! Thank you!!

  5. Where has this been all my life? Thank you!!!

  6. English Pronouns is very important because its structure is used in every day conversation. The more you practice the subject, the closer you get to mastering the English language.

    Subject and Object Pronouns