Helpful Phrases


The national language in Rwanda is now English. However, not everyone has adapted to the transition and Kinyarwanda is still more commonly used in smaller towns and villages. Here are some helpful phrases to help you in your travels.



Basic words and phrases in Kinyarwanda

ENGLISH                                            KINYARWANDA

Personal Pronouns

I                                               Jye

You (informal)                             Wowe

You (formal/plural)                       Mwe

He/She                                       We

We                                            Twe

They                                          Bo


Hello                                           Muraho

Good Morning                               Mwaramutse

Good Afternoon                            Mwirrwe (Mwirirweho)

Good Evening                               Mwiriwe (Mwirirweho)

Good Night                                   Muramuke (Muraramukeho)

Goodbye                                      Murabeho


A common expression for Goodbye would be to say Sowa Sowa, which is actually Swahili, but is widely used throughout Rwanda.

Also, the Rwandan alphabet does not differentiate between the “R” and “L” sounds. Rwandans use them interchangeably, for instance, “Mwiriwe” is pronounced “Mwiliwe,” but “Muraho” is pronounced just how it is spelt, with the “R” sound.


Basic Expressions:

Thank You                                     Murakoze

Thank you very much                      Murakoze cyane

You’re welcome                              Ntacyo

Yes                                              Yego

No                                                Oya

Excuse Me                                     Mumbabarire

How are you?/                                Amakuru

What is new?

How is it?                                       Bite?

Fine/ They are good…                      Ni meza

I am pleased to meet you                 Birannejeje kubamenya

Do you speak English?                       Muvuga icyongereza?

A little…                                         Gicye…

Can you translate?                           Mushobora gusobanura?

Help me…                                       Mfasha…

What does this mean?                       Ibi bisobanura iki?

What is your name?                          Mwitwa nde?

Where are you from?                        Muturuka he?

Where do you live?                           Muba he?

I live in Musanze                              Mba Musanze

Where?                                          Hehe?

Where is the market?                       Isoko riri he?

Where is the bathroom?                    Aho kwituma ni he?

Where are you going?                       Ugiye he?

What is this?                                   Iki ni iki?

What do you call this?                      Iki cyitwa iki?

What does this mean?                      Iki gisobanura iki?

Speak slowly                                   Vuga buhoro buhoro

How much?                                     Ni angahe?

Where can I find …?                         Ni he nabona…?

Where can I buy …?                         Ni he nagura…?

How much does it cost?                    N’ angahe hariya?


Common Verbs

To go                                                       kugenda/kujya

To work                                                   gukora

To read                                                    gusoma

To drink                                                    kunywa

To eat                                                      kurya

To walk                                                     gutembera

To write                                                    kwandika

To laugh                                                    guseka

To cry                                                      kurira

To run                                                      kwiruka

To help                                                      gufasha

To sleep                                                    gusinzira


1                                                               rimwe

2                                                               kabiri

3                                                               gatatu

4                                                               kane

5                                                               gatanu

6                                                               gatandatu

7                                                               karindwi

8                                                               umunani

9                                                               icyenda

10                                                              icumi

11                                                             cumi na rimwe

12                                                             cumi na kabiri

13                                                             cumi na gatatu

14                                                             cumi na kane

15                                                             cumi na gatanu

20                                                             makumyabiri

21                                                             makumyabiri na rimwe

30                                                             mirongw’itatu

40                                                            mirongw’ine

50                                                             mirongw’itanu

60                                                             mirongw’itandatu

70                                                             mirongw’irindwi

80                                                             mirongo munani

90                                                             mirongo cyenda

100                                                           ijana

1000                                                          igihumbi

1000000                                                     miliyoni

1000000000                                                 miriyari


Food                                                          ibiryo

Water                                                        amazi

Banana                                                      igitoki

Ripe bananas                                               iminuke ihiye

Rice                                                           umuceri

Mangoes                                                     imiyembe

Corn                                                          ibigori

Sugar                                                         isukari

Coffee                                                        ikawa

Tea                                                           icyayi

Irish potatoes                                             ibirayi

Sweet potatoes                                           ibijumba

Peas                                                          amashaza

Beans                                                        ibishyimbo

Tomatoes                                                  inyanya

Carrots                                                      ikaroti

Meat                                                         inyama

Vegetables                                                imboga

Passion fruit                                               amatunda

Oranges                                                    amacunga

Onions                                                       ibutunguru

Pepper                                                       uruseenda

Lemon                                                       indimu

Pineapples                                                  inanasi

Sugarcane                                                  igisheke

Chicken                                                      inkoko

Tongue                                                      ururimi

Liver                                                          umwijima

Beef                                                          inyama y’inka

Goat                                                          inyama y’ihene

Pork                                                           ingurube

Milk                                                            amata




Black                                                       umukara

Blue                                                         ubururu

Brown                                                      ibihogo

Gold                                                         izahabu

Gray                                                         isengo

Green                                                      icyatsi kibisi

Pink                                                         roza

Purple                                                      viyore

Red                                                          umutuku

Silver                                                       umuringa

White                                                       umweru

Yellow                                                     umuhondo


Time Reference

Day                                                          umunsi

Today                                                       uyu munsi

Tomorrow                                                 ejo

Yesterday                                                 ejo hashize

Now                                                         ubu / nonaha

Tonight                                                     iri joro

This morning                                             iki gitondo

Soon                                                        vuba

Later                                                       nyuma

Days of the Week

Sunday                                                    Kucyumweru

Monday                                                   Ku wa mbere

Tuesday                                                  Ku wa kabiri

Wednesday                                               Ku wa gatatu

Thursday                                                 Ku wa kane

Friday                                                      Ku wa gatanu

Saturday                                                 Ku wa gatandatu



January                                                   Mutarama

February                                                 Gashyantare

March                                                     Werurwe

April                                                        Mata

May                                                        Gicurasi

June                                                       Kamena

July                                                         Nyakanga

August                                                    Kanama

September                                              Nzeri

October                                                  Ukwakira

December                                               Ukuboza/Kaboza