A dynamic verb describes an action on the part of the subject (e.g. I am walking) whereas a stative verb is one that expresses a property of the subject (e.g. I am tired). However a verb which is considered stative in English (e.g. to like) may be dynamic in Kinyarwanda (e.g. gukunda) and visa versa.
There are two important differences in Kinyarwanda in how dynamic and stative verbs are conjugated in the present tense. Firstly dynamic verbs use the present tense stem, e.g.
- arakora - he is doing (from gukora)
- aravuga - he is speaking (from kuvuga)
- ariga - he is learning (from kwiga)
- arakonje - he is cold (from gukonja)
- arananiwe - he is tired (from kunanirwa)
- ararwaye - he is sick (from kurwara)
- arakora akazi - he is doing work
- aravuga akazi - he is speaking about work
- ariga Ikinyarwanda - he is learning Kinyarwanda
- arwaye mutwe - he has a headache (sickness of the head)
Conjugating a dynamic verb with the present tense marker but the past tense stem creates an immediate past tense which is equivalent to using 'just' in English, e.g.
- arakoze - he just did
- aravuze - he just spoke
- guteka - to cook, is conjugated like stative verb, e.g.
- aratetse - he is cooking (present tense)
- atetse inyama - he is cooking meat (present tense)
- kujya - to go, has an immediate past when used without an object (like a dynamic verb), but not when used with an object (like a stative verb), e.g.
- aragiye - he just went (immediate past tense)
- agiye mu mujyi - he is going to town (present tense)