6 Jan 2020

Māori Phrase a Day - Kei whea ngā kī?

From Summer Times, 11:40 am on 6 January 2020

We're checking in with Hēmi Kelly, to learn some useful te reo Māori phrases you can use in your day-to-day life.

Hemi's a lecturer in Te Ara Poutama - the Faculty of Māori & Indigenous Development at Auckland University of Technology, and his book A Māori Phrase a Day: 365 Phrases to Kickstart Your Reo will be released on January 7.

Last time on the show we learned the phrase: Haere mai ki te kai!

Today's phrase: Kei whea ngā kī?

Translation: Where are the keys?

Hēmi Kelly

Hēmi Kelly Photo: Supplied/Hēmi Kelly


"We're taking today's phrase from section 8 - I runga i te waka - which means 'in the car' - though we're not in the car yet!"

"I use this one more than once on a daily basis."

The tricky 'ng' sound

"There's two digraphs in te reo Māori - the 'wh', which makes a 'f' sound - and then the 'ng', which makes the 'nga' sound."

"It's similar to the sound we produce when we say 'singer' or 'winger'' - so it's really from that part of the mouth."

It definitely is NOT a 'n' sound - unless you're from a certain part of the country, Hēmi says.

"The Tūhoi tribe don't say the 'ng' sound - they say 'na', without the 'ng'".

But what about if you're talking TO someone who is Tūhoi - is it polite, or the done thing, to ADOPT the dialectal pronunciation? 

No, says Hēmi - stick to what you know.

"If you're from a particular tribe that has a dialectal difference and you've learned it, then speak it. And if you're a speaker of the language you can easily understand anyone that speaks Māori - there are just a few preferences within different tribes. So I wouldn't say someone SHOULD talk like this - but it's up to the individual."

It's a similar situation with Ngāi Tahu folk - in the South Island, the 'ng' sound is pronounced like a 'k': 'kai tahu."


Click the play button above to hear Hēmi pronounce this phrase and take you through any pronunciation nuances