Tagalog grammar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tagalog grammar (Tagalog: Balarilà ng Tagalog) is the body of rules that describe the structure of expressions in the Tagalog language, the language of the Tagalog region of the Philippines.

In Tagalog, there are nine basic parts of speech: verbs (pandiwa), nouns (pangngalan), adjectives (pang-uri), adverbs (pang-abay), prepositions (pang-ukol), pronouns (panghalip), conjunctions (pangatnig), ligatures (pang-angkop) and particles. Tagalog is a slightly inflected language. Pronouns are inflected for number and verbs for focus, aspect and voice.


Tagalog verbs are morphologically complex and are conjugated by taking on a variety of affixes reflecting focus/trigger, aspect, voice, and other categories. Below is a chart of the main verbal affixes, which consist of a variety of prefixes, suffixes, infixes, and circumfixes.

Conventions used in the chart:

  • CV~ stands for the reduplicated first syllable of a root word, which is usually the first consonant and the first vowel of the word.
  • N stands for a nasal consonant which assimilates to ng, n, or m depending on the consonant following it. means that the verb root is used, therefore no affixes are added.
  • Punctuation marks indicate the type of affix a particular bound morpheme is; hyphens mark prefixes and suffixes, and ⟨um⟩ is an infix that is placed between the first consonant and the first vowel of a root word. The word sumulat (s⟨um⟩ulat) (actor focus and completed aspect or infinitive) is composed of the root word sulat and the infix ⟨um⟩. Its other conjugated forms are susulat (su~sulat) and sumusulat (s⟨um⟩u~sulat).

With object-focus verbs in the completed and progressive aspects, the infix -in- frequently becomes the infix -ni- or the prefix ni- if the root word begins with /l/, /r/, /w/, or /y/; e.g., linalapitan or nilalapitan and inilagay or ilinagay.

With the suffixes -in and -an, if the root word ends in a vowel, the suffixes insert an h at the beginning to become -hin and -han to make speaking more natural. This does not usually happen with root words ending in pseudo-vowels such as w and y. An example of this is basa which becomes basahin rather than basain.

The imperative affixes are not often used in Manila, but they do exist in other Tagalog speaking provinces.

  Complete Progressive Contemplative Infinitive Imperative
Actor trigger I ⟨um⟩
Actor trigger II nag-
Actor trigger III na-
Actor trigger IV nang-
Object trigger I ⟨in⟩
CV~ ... -(h)in
-a (or verb root)
Object trigger II i⟨in⟩-
-an (or -i)
Object trigger III ⟨in⟩ ... -(h)an
C⟨in⟩V~ ... -(h)an
CV~ ... -(h)an
Locative trigger ⟨in⟩ ... -(h)an
C⟨in⟩V~ ... -(h)an
CV~ ... -(h)an
Benefactive trigger i⟨in⟩-
Instrument trigger ip⟨in⟩aN-
Reason trigger ik⟨in⟩a-


The aspect of the verb indicates the progressiveness of the verb. It specifies whether the action happened, is happening, or will happen. Tagalog verbs are conjugated for time using aspect rather than tense.[1][2]







Recently Complete


Tagalog Nagluto ang babae Nagluluto ang babae Magluluto ang babae Kaluluto lang ng babae
English translation The woman cooked

The woman has cooked

The woman cooks

The woman is cooking

The woman will cook

The woman is going to cook

The woman has just cooked

Infinitive (Pawatas)[edit]

This is the combination of the root word and an affix. This is the basis for most verbs.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Verb (Pandiwa)
tuka (peck) + um = tumuka (to peck) = tumuka (pecked), tumutuka (pecking), tutuka (will peck)
palit (change) + mag = magpalit (to change) = nagpalit (changed), nagpapalit (changing), magpapalit (will change)

Complete (Naganap/Perpektibo)[edit]

This states that the action has been completed.

An infinitive with the affix um and a complete aspect are the same.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Complete (Naganap/Perpektibo)
alis (leave) + um = umalis (to leave) = umalis (left)
kain (eat) + um = kumain (to eat) = kumain (ate)

An infinitive with the affixes ma, mag and mang will become na, nag and nang in the complete aspect.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Complete (Naganap/Perpektibo)
tuwa (content) + ma = matuwa (to content) = natuwa (contented)
sulat (write) + mag = magsulat (to write) = nagsulat (wrote)
hingi (ask/request) + mang = manghingi (to ask/to request) = nanghingi (asked/requested)

The affix in in an infinitive will be a prefix if the root word begins with a vowel and an infix if the root word begins with a consonant. If the affix is hin, then hin will become in.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Complete (Naganap/Perpektibo)
alis (remove) + in = alisin (to remove) = inalis (remove)
mahal (love) + in = mahalin (to love) = minahal (loved)
basa (read/wet) + hin = basahin (to read/to wet) = binasa (read/wetted)

Progressive (Nagaganap/Imperpektibo)[edit]

This states that the action is still ongoing and still not done.

If the infinitive has the affix um, the first syllable or the first two letters of the root word will be repeated.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Progressive (Nagaganap/Imperpektibo)
ulan (rain) + um = umulan (to rain) = umuulan (raining)
kanta (sing) + um = kumanta (to sing) = kumakanta (singing)

If the infinitive has the affixes ma, mag and mang, change it to na, nag and nang and repeat the first syllable or first two letters of the root word.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Progressive (Nagaganap/Imperpektibo)
iyak (cry) + ma = maiyak (to almost cry) = naiiyak (almost crying)
linis (clean) + mag = maglinis (to clean) = naglilinis (cleaning)
bunggo (bump) + mang = mangbunggo (to bump) = nangbubunggo (bumping)

If the infinitive has the affixes in or hin and the root word starts with a vowel, put the affix at the start and repeat the first syllable or first two letters of the root word.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Progressive (Nagaganap/Imperpektibo)
alis (remove) + in = alisin (to remove) = inaalis (removing)
unat (iron/stretch) + in = unatin (to iron/to stretch) = inuunat (ironing/stretching)

If the infinitive has the affixes in or hin and the root word starts with a consonant, make the affix into an infix and repeat the first syllable or first two letters of the root word.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Progressive (Nagaganap/Imperpektibo)
mahal (love) + in = mahalin (to love) = minamahal (loving)
gamot (cure) + in = gamutin (to cure) = ginagamot (curing)

Contemplative (Magaganap/Kontemplatibo) [edit]

This states that the action has not yet started but anticipated.

If the infinitive has the affix um, remove the um and repeat the first syllable or first two letters of the root word.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Contemplative (Magaganap/Kontemplatibo)
asa (depend/expect) + um = umasa (to depend/to expect) = aasa (will depend/will expect)
lakad (walk) + um = lumakad (to walk) = lalakad (will walk)

If the infinitive has the affixes ma, mag and mang, retain it and repeat the first syllable or first two letters of the root word.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Contemplative (Magaganap/Kontemplatibo)
tanaw (observe/look) + ma = matanaw (to observe/to look) = matatanaw (will observe/will look)
suot (wear) + mag = magsuot (to wear) = magsusuot (will wear)
hingi (ask/request) + mang = manghingi (to ask/to request) = manghihingi (will ask/will request)

If the infinitive has the affixes in or hin, retain it and repeat the first syllable or first two letters of the root word.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Contemplative (Magaganap/Kontemplatibo)
yakap (hug) + in = yakapin (to hug) = yayakapin (will hug)
suklay (comb) + in = suklayin (to comb) = susuklayin (will comb)
bili (buy) + hin = bilihin (to buy) = bibilihin (will buy)

Recently Complete (Katatapos)[edit]

This states that the action has just been completed before the time of speaking or before a specified time.

Usually, the prefix ka is used and the first syllable or the first two letters of the root word will be repeated.

Root Word (Salitang-Ugat) + Affix (Panlapi) = Infinitive (Pawatas) = Recently Complete (Katatapos)
mano (bless) + mag = magmano (to bless) = kamamano (recently blessed)
parusa (punish) + mag = magparusa (to punish) = kapaparusa (recently punished)
ligpit (clean/fix) + mag = magligpit (to clean/to fix) = kaliligpit (recently cleaned/recently fixed)


The central feature of verbs in Tagalog and other Philippine languages is the trigger system, often called voice or focus.[3] In this system, the thematic relation (agent, patient, or other oblique relations – location, direction, etc.) of the noun marked by the direct-case particle is encoded in the verb.

In its default unmarked form, the verb triggers a reading of the direct noun as the patient of the clause. In its second most common form, it triggers the noun as the agent of the clause. Other triggers are location, beneficiary, instrument, reason, direction, and the reciprocal.

Patient trigger forms[edit]

There are three main patient-trigger affixes:

  • -in is used for:
    • Items that are moved towards the actor: kainin (to eat something), bilhín (to buy something).
    • Items that are permanently changed: basagin (to crack something), patayín (to kill something).
    • Items that are thought of: isipin (to think of something), alalahanin (to remember something).
  • i- is used for items which undergo a change of state such as being moved away from an actor: ibigáy (to give something), ilagáy (to put something), itaním (to plant something).
  • -an is used for items undergoing a surface change (e.g., cleaning): hugasan (to rinse something), walisán (to sweep something off).

Affixes can also be used in nouns or adjectives: baligtaran (from baligtád, to reverse) (reversible), katamaran (from tamád, lazy) (laziness), kasabihán (from sabi, to say) (proverb), kasagutan (from sagót, answer), bayarín (from bayad, to pay) (payment), bukirín (from bukid, farm), lupaín (from lupa, land), pagkakaroón (from doón/roón, there) (having/appearance), and pagdárasál (from dasál, prayer). Verbs with affixes (mostly suffixes) are also used as nouns, which are differentiated by stress position. Examples are panoorin (to watch or view) and panoorín (materials to be watched or viewed), hangarín (to wish) and hangarin (goal/objective), aralin (to study) and aralín (studies), and bayaran (to pay) and bayarán (someone or something for hire).

Agent trigger forms[edit]

The agent-trigger affixes are -um-, mag-, man-, and ma-. The difference between mag- and -um- is a source of confusion among learners of the language. Generally speaking, there are two main distinctions among many; mag- refers to externally directed actions and -um- for internally directed actions. For example, bumilí means to buy while magbilí means to sell. However this isn't writ law for these affixes; there are exceptions for example, mag-ahit means to shave oneself while umahit means to shave someone. magbili and umahit are rarely used; in southern dialects of Tagalog na- is used instead of -um-.

ma- is used with only a few roots which are semantically intransitive, for example, matulog (to sleep). ma- is not to be confused with ma-, the prefix for patient-triggered verb forms.

List of triggers and examples[edit]

The patient trigger takes the direct noun as the patient (object) of the action:

  • Binilí ng lalaki ang saging sa tindahan para sa unggóy.
The man bought the banana at the store for the monkey.

The agent trigger marks the direct noun as the agent:

  • Bumilí ng saging ang lalaki sa tindahan para sa unggóy.
The man bought bananas at the store for the monkey.

The locative trigger refers to the location or direction of an action or the area affected by the action.

  • Binilhan ng lalaki ng saging ang tindahan.
The man bought bananas at the store.

The benefactive trigger refers to the person or thing that benefits from the action; i.e., the beneficiary of an action.

  • Ibinilí ng lalaki ng saging ang unggóy.
The man bought bananas for the monkey.

The instrumental trigger refers to the means by which an action is performed.

  • Ipinambilí ng lalaki ng saging ang pera ng asawa niyá.
The man bought bananas with his spouse's money.

The reason trigger refers to the cause or reason why an action is performed.

  • Ikinagulat ng lalaki ang pagdatíng ng unggóy.
The man got surprised because of the monkey's arrival.

The directional trigger refers to the direction the action will go to.

  • Pinuntahan ng lalaki ang tindahan.
The man went to the store.

The reciprocal trigger refers to the action being done by the subjects at the same time. The subject is usually compound, plural or collective.

  • Naghalikan ang magkasintahan.
The couple kissed (each other).


Tagalog verbs also have affixes expressing grammatical mood; some examples are indicative, potential, social, and distributed.

Nagdalá siyá ng liham.
"(S)he brought a letter."

Bumilí kamí ng bigás sa palengke.
"We bought rice in the market."

Kumain akó.
"I ate."

Hindî siyá nagsásalitâ ng Tagalog.
"(S)he does not speak Tagalog."

Namili kamí sa palengke.
"We went shopping in the market."

Nakikain akó sa mga kaibigan ko.
"I ate with my friends."

Potential naka-
Hindî siyá nakapagsásalitâ ng Tagalog.
"(S)he was not able to speak Tagalog."


While Tagalog nouns are not inflected, they are usually preceded by case-marking particles. These follow an Austronesian alignment, also known as a trigger system, which is a distinct feature of Austronesian languages. There are three basic cases: direct (or absolutive, often less accurately labeled the nominative); indirect (which may function as an ergative, accusative, or genitive); and oblique.

The direct case is used for intransitive clauses. In transitive clauses using the default grammatical voice of Tagalog, the direct marks the patient (direct object) and the indirect marks the agent, corresponding to the subject in English. In the more marked voice the reverse occurs, with the direct marking the agent and the indirect marking the patient. Because the base form of the clause is superficially similar to the passive voice in English, this has led to a misconception that Tagalog is spoken primarily in the passive voice. It is also superficially similar to ergative languages such as those of Australia, so Tagalog has also been analyzed as an ergative language. However, the English passive clause is intransitive, and likewise in ergative languages one of the voices forms an intransitive clause, whereas in Tagalog both voices are transitive, and so align well with neither nominative–accusative languages such as English nor with ergative languages.

One of the functions of voice in Tagalog is to code definiteness, analogous to the use of definite and indefinite articles in English. When the patient is marked with the direct case particle, it is generally definite, whereas when it is marked with the indirect case it is generally indefinite.

The oblique particle and the locative derived from it are similar to prepositions in English, marking things such as location and direction.

The case particles fall into two classes: one used with names of people (proper) and one for everything else (common).

The common ergative marker is spelled ng and pronounced [naŋ]. Mgá, pronounced [maˈŋa], marks the common plural.

Tagalog has associative plural[4] in addition to additive plural.


Direct (ang) Indirect (ng) Oblique (sa)
Common singular ang, 'yung (iyong) ng, nu'ng (niyong) sa
plural ang mgá, 'yung mgá (iyong mgá) ng mgá, nu'ng mgá (niyong mgá) sa mgá
Personal singular si ni kay
plural sina nina kina

Common noun affixes[edit]

ka- indicating a companion or colleague
ka- -an collective or abstract noun
pan- denoting instrumental use of the noun




(has) arrived





Dumatíng ang lalaki.

{(has) arrived} the man

"The man arrived."




ni Juan

by (the) Juan

si María.

(the) María

Nakita {ni Juan} {si María.}

saw {by (the) Juan} {(the) María}

"Juan saw María."

Note that in Tagalog, even proper nouns require a case marker.



will go

















Pupunta siná Elena at Roberto sa bahay ni Miguel.

{will go} PL.NOM.ART Elena and Roberto at house of Miguel

"Elena and Roberto will go to Miguel's house."




ang mga




Nasaan {ang mga} libró?

Where the.PL book

"Where are the books?"


Na kay

Is with







{Na kay} Tatay ang susì.

{Is with} Father the key

"Father has the key."








Malusóg iyóng sanggól.

Healthy that baby

"That baby is healthy."












Para kina Luis ang handaan..

For the.PL Luis the party

"The party is for Luis and the others."



Like nouns, personal pronouns are categorized by case. As above, the indirect forms also function as the genitive.

Direct (ang) Indirect (ng) Oblique (sa)
1st person singular ako ko akin
dual kitá/kata[5] nita/nata[5] kanitá/kanata (ata)[5]
plural inclusive tayo natin atin
exclusive kamí namin amin
2nd person singular ikáw (ka) mo iyó
plural kayó ninyó inyó
3rd person singular siyá niyá kaniyá
plural silá nilá kanilá
  Direct second person (ang) with Indirect (ng) first person
(to) you by/from me kitá[6]

Sumulat ako.
"I wrote."

Sinulatan ako ng liham.
"He/She/They wrote me a letter."
Note: If "ng liham" is removed from the sentence, it becomes "I was written on"

Ibíbigay ko sa kaniyá.
"I will give it to him/her/them."

Genitive pronouns follow the word they modify. Oblique pronouns can take the place of the genitive pronoun but they precede the word they modify.

Ang bahay ko.
Ang aking bahay.
"My house."

The inclusive dual pronoun kata/kitá has largely disappeared from the Manila Dialect. It survives in other Tagalog dialects, particularly those spoken in the rural areas. However kitá is used to replace the pronoun sequence [verb] ko ikaw, (I [verb] you).

The 1st–2nd dual pronoun "kata/kitá" referring to "you and I" is traditionally used as follows:

Mágkaibigan kitá. (Manila Dialect: Mágkaibigan tayo.)
"You and I are friends." (Manila Dialect: “We are friends.")

As previously mentioned, the pronoun sequence [verb] ko ikáw, (I [verb] you) may be replaced by kitá.

Mahál kitá.
"I love you."

Bíbigyan kitá ng pera.
"I will give you money."

Nakita kitá sa tindahan kahapon.
"I saw you at the store yesterday."

Kaibigan kitá.
"You are my friend."

The inclusive pronoun tayo refers to the first and second persons. It may also refer to a third person(s).

The exclusive pronoun kamí refers to the first and third persons but excludes the second.

Walâ tayong bigás.
"We (you and me) have no rice."

Walâ kaming bigás.
"We (someone else and me, but not you) have no rice."

The second person singular has two forms. Ikáw is the non-enclitic form while ka is the enclitic which never begins a sentence. The plural form kayó is also used politely in the singular, similar to French vous.

Nouns are gender neutral, hence siyá means he, she, or they (singular).

Polite or formal usage[edit]

Tagalog, like many languages, marks the T–V distinction: when addressing a single person in polite/formal/respectful settings, pronouns from either the 2nd person plural or the 3rd person plural group are used instead of the singular 2nd person pronoun. They can be used with, or in lieu of, the pô/hô iterations without losing any degree of politeness, formality, or respect:

  • ikáw or ka ("you" sgl.) becomes kayó ("you" pl.) or silá ("they")
  • mo (post-substantive "your") becomes niyó or ninyó (more polite), (post-substantive "your" pl.) or nilá (post-substantive "their")
  • iyó(ng) ("yours" sgl. or pre-substantive "your" sgl.) becomes inyó(ng) ("yours" pl. or pre-substantive "your" pl.) or kanilá(ng) ("theirs" or pre-substantive "their")

English: "What's your name?"
Casual: Anó'ng pangalan mo?
Respectful: Anó'ng pangalan ninyo? or Anó'ng pangalan nilá?

Using such pluralized pronouns is quite sufficient for expressing politeness, formality or respect, particularly when an affirmative (or negative) pô/hô iteration isn't necessary.

Demonstrative pronouns[edit]

Tagalog's demonstrative pronouns are as follows.

  Direct (ang) Indirect (ng) Oblique (sa) Locative (nasa) Existential
Nearest to speaker (this, here) * iré, aré niré díne nandine ére
Near speaker and addressee (this, here) itó nitó díto/ríto nandíto/nárito héto
Nearest addressee (that, there) iyán niyán diyán/riyán nandiyán/náriyan ayán
Remote (that, there) iyón niyón doón/roón nandoón/nároon ayón

*Many Tagalog speakers may use itó in place of iré/aré.



Just like English adjectives, Tagalog adjectives modify a noun or a pronoun.


Simple (Payak)[edit]

These consist of only the root word.

Examples: hinog (ripe), sabog (exploded), ganda (beautiful)

Affixed (Maylapi)[edit]

These consist of the root word and one or more affixes.

Examples: tinanong (questioned), kumakain (eating), nagmamahal (loving)

Repeating (Inuulit)[edit]

These are formed by the repetition of the whole or part of the root word.

Examples: pulang-pula (really red), puting-puti (really white), araw-araw (every day), gabi-gabi (every night)

Compound (Tambalan)[edit]

These are compound words.

Examples: ngiting-aso (literally: "dog smile", meaning: "big smile"), balat-sibuyas (literally: "onion-skinned", meaning: "crybaby")


Descriptive (Panlarawan)[edit]

This states the size, color, form, smell, sound, texture, taste, and shape.

Examples: munti (little), biluhaba (oval), matamis (sweet), malubha (serious)

Proper (Pantangi)[edit]

This states a specific noun. This consists of a common noun and a proper noun. The proper noun (that starts with a capital letter) is modifying the type of common noun.

Examples: wikang Ingles (English language), kulturang Espanyol (Spanish culture), pagkaing Iloko (Ilokano food)


This states the number, how many, or a position in order. This has multiple types.

  • Sequence (Panunuran) – This states the position in an order. Examples: ikatlo (third), una (first), pangalawa (second)
  • Quantitative (Patakaran) – This states the actual number. Examples: isa (one), apat (four), limang libo (five thousand)
  • Fraction (Pamahagi) – This states a part of a whole. Examples: kalahati (half), limang-kawalo (five-eights), sangkapat (fourth)
  • Monetary (Pahalaga) – This states a price (equivalent to money) of a thing or any bought item. Examples: piso (one peso), limampung sentimo (fifty centavoes), sandaang piso (one hundred pesos)
  • Collective (Palansak) – This states a group of people or things. This identifies the number that forms that group. Examples: dalawahan (by two), sampu-sampu (by ten), animan (by six)
  • Patakda – This states the exact and actual number. This cannot be added or subtracted. Examples: iisa (only one), dadalawa (only two), lilima (only five)

Degrees of Comparison[edit]

Just like English adjectives, Tagalog adjectives have 3 degrees of comparison.

Positive (Lantay)[edit]

This only compares one noun/pronoun.

Example: maliit (small), kupas (peeled), mataba (fat)

Comparative (Pahambing)[edit]

This is used when 2 nouns/pronouns are being compared. This has multiple types.

  • Similar (Magkatulad) – This is the comparison when the traits compared are fair. Usually, the prefixes ga-, sing-/kasing-, and magsing-/magkasing- are used.
  • Dissimilar (Di-magkatulad) – This is the comparison if it shows the idea of disallowance, rejection or opposition.
    • Palamang – the thing that is being compared has a positive trait. The words "higit", "lalo", "mas", "di-hamak" and others are used.
    • Pasahol – the thing that is being compared has a negative trait. The words "di-gaano", "di-gasino", "di-masyado" and others are used.

Superlative (Pasukdol)[edit]

This is the highest degree of comparison. This can be positive or negative. The words "sobra", "ubod", "tunay", "talaga", "saksakan", and "hari ng ___" are used, as well as the repetition of the adjective.



Comparative (Pahambing) Superlative




Dissimilar (Di-magkatulad)
Palamang Pasahol
pangit (ugly) kasing-pangit (as ugly as) higit na pangit (uglier) di-gaanong pangit (not that ugly) pinakapangit (ugliest)
maganda (beautiful) singganda (as beautiful as) mas maganda (more beautiful) di-masyadong maganda (not that beautiful) ubod ng ganda (most beautiful)
mabango (fragrant) magkasing-bango (as fragrant as) lalong mabango (more fragrant) di-gasinong mabango (not that fragrant) tunay na mabango (most fragrant)

Degrees of Description[edit]

These degrees have no comparison.


This is when the simple/plain form of the adjective is being used for description.

Examples: matalino (smart), palatawa (risible)


This is when the adjective is accompanied by the words "medyo", "nang kaunti", "nang bahagya" or the repetition of the root word or the first two syllables of the root word.

Examples: medyo mataba (somewhat fat), malakas nang bahagya (slightly strong), malakas-lakas (somewhat strong), matabang nang kaunti (a little bit insipid)


This is when the adjective is accompanied by the words "napaka", "ubod ng", "saksakan ng", "talagang", "sobrang", "masyadong" or the repetition of the whole adjective. The description in this degree is intense.

Examples: napakalakas (so strong), ubod ng bait (really kind), talagang mabango (truly fragrant), sobrang makinis (oversmooth)


There are rules that are followed when forming adjectives that use the prefix "ma-".

Singular (Isahan)[edit]

When the adjective is describing only one noun/pronoun, "ma-" and the root word is used.

Examples: masaya (happy), malungkot (sad)

Plural (Maramihan)[edit]

When the adjective is describing two or more noun/pronoun, "ma-" is used and the first syllable or first two letters of the root word is repeated.

Examples: maliliit (small), magaganda (beautiful)

The word "mga" is not needed if the noun/pronoun is right next to the adjective.

Example: Ang magagandang damit ay kasya kina Erica at Bel. (The beautiful clothes can fit to Erica and Bel.)


Ligatures (pang-angkop) are particles that connect/link modifiers (like adjectives and adverbs) and the words that they are modifying. There are 3 ligatures in total.


This is used if the preceding word is ending on a consonant except n. This is not written on the preceding word but separated. It is between the modifier and the word it's modifying.

Example: mapagmahal na tao (loving person)


This is used if the preceding word is ending on a vowel. It is placed at the end of the preceding word.

Example: mabuting nilalang ng Diyos (good creation of God)


This is used if the preceding word is ending in n. It is placed at the end of the preceding word.

Example: huwarang mamamayan (ideal citizen)


Tagalog uses numerous conjunctions, and may belong to one of these possible functions:

  1. separate non-contrasting ideas (e.g. at "and")
  2. separate contrasting ideas (e.g. ngunit "but")
  3. give explanations (e.g. kung "if")
  4. provide circumstances (e.g. kapag "when")
  5. indicate similarities (e.g. kung saan "where")
  6. provide reasons (e.g dahil "because")
  7. indicate endings (e.g. upang "[in order] to")


Modifiers alter, qualify, clarify, or limit other elements in a sentence structure. They are optional grammatical elements but they change the meaning of the element they are modifying in particular ways. Examples of modifiers are adjectives (modifies nouns), adjectival clauses, adverbs (modifies verbs), and adverbial clauses. Nouns can also modify other nouns. In Tagalog, word categories are fluid: a word can sometimes be an adverb or an adjective depending on the word it modifies. If the word being modified is a noun, then the modifier is an adjective, if the word being modified is a verb, then it is an adverb. For example, the word 'mabilis' means 'fast' in English. The Tagalog word 'mabilis' can be used to describe nouns like 'koneho' ('rabbit') in 'konehong mabilis' ('quick rabbit'). In that phrase, 'mabilis' was used as an adjective. The same word can be used to describe verbs, one can say 'tumakbong mabilis' which means 'quickly ran'. In that phrase, 'mabilis' was used as an adverb. The Tagalog word for 'rabbit' is 'koneho' and 'ran' is 'tumakbo' but they showed up in the phrases as 'koneho-ng' and 'tumakbo-ng'. Tagalog uses something called a "linker" that always surfaces in the context of modification.[7] Modification only occurs when a linker is present. Tagalog has the linkers -ng and na. In the examples mentioned, the linker -ng was used because the word before the linker ends in a vowel. The second linker, na is used everywhere else (the na used in modification is not the same as the adverb na which means 'now' or 'already'). Seeing the enclitics -ng and na are good indications that there is modification in the clause. These linkers can appear before or after the modifier.

The following table [8] summarizes the distribution of the linker:

Required Prohibited
Attributive Adjective Predicative Adjective
Adverbial modifier Predicative Adverbial
Nominal Modifier Predicative Nominal
Relative Clause Matrix Clause

Sequence of modifiers in a noun phrase[edit]

The following tables show a possible word order of a noun phrase containing a modifier.[9] Since word order is flexible in Tagalog, there are other possible ways in which one could say these phrases. To read more on Tagalog word order, head to the Word Order section.

Marker Possessive Quantity Verbal Phrase Adjectives Noun Head Noun
Example ang kaniyang apat na piniritong mahabang Vigang lumpia
Gloss the her four fried long Vigan spring roll
Translation her four fried, long Vigan spring rolls
Example iyang inyong limang kahong binasag ng batang puting Insik na pinggan
Gloss those your five boxes that the children broke white Chinese plates
Translation those five boxes of yours of white Chinese plates that the children broke

Enclitic particles[edit]

Tagalog has enclitic particles that have important information conveying different nuances in meaning. Below is a list of Tagalog's enclitic particles.

  1. na and pa
    • na: now, already
    • pa: still, else, in addition, yet
  2. man, kahit: even, even if, even though
  3. bagamán: although
  4. ngâ: indeed; used to affirm or to emphasise. Also softens imperatives.
  5. din (after a vowel: rin): too, also
  6. lamang (contracted as lang): limiting particle; only or just
  7. daw (after a vowel: raw): a reporting particle that indicates the preceding information as secondhand; they say, he said, reportedly, supposedly, etc.
  8. (less respectful form: ): marker indicating politeness.
  9. ba: used to end yes-and-no questions and optionally in other types of questions, similar to Japanese -ka and Chinese ma (嗎), but not entirely.
  10. muna: for now, for a minute, and yet (when answering in the negative).
  11. namán: used in making contrasts; softens requests; emphasis
  12. kasí: expresses cause; because
  13. kayâ: expresses wonder; I wonder; perhaps (we should do something); also optionally used in yes-and-no questions and other forms of questions
  14. palá: expresses that the speaker has realized or suddenly remembered something; realization particle; apparently
  15. yatà: expresses uncertainty; probably, perhaps, seems
  16. tulóy: used in cause and effect; as a result
  17. sana: expresses hope, unrealized condition (with the verb in completed aspect), used in conditional sentences.

The order listed above is the order in which the particles follow if they are used in conjunction with each other. A more concise list of the orders of monosyllabic particles from Rubino (2002) is given below.[10]

  1. na / pa
  2. ngâ
  3. din ~ rin
  4. daw ~ raw
  5. pô / hô
  6. ba

The particles na and pa cannot be used in conjunction with each other as well as and .

  • Dumatíng na raw palá ang lola mo.
"Oh yes, your grandmother has apparently arrived."
  • Palitán mo na rin.
"Do change it as well."

Note for "daw/raw and rin/din": If the preceding letter is a consonant except y and w, the letter d is used in any word, vice versa for r e.g., pagdárasal, instead of pagdádasal

Although in everyday speech, this rule is often ignored.

  • Walâ pa yatang asawa ang kapatíd niyá.
"Perhaps his brother still hasn’t a wife."
  • Itó lang kayâ ang ibibigáy nilá sa amin?
"I wonder, is the only thing that they'll be giving us?"
  • Nag-aral ka na ba ng wikang Kastilà?
"Have you already studied the Spanish language?"
  • Batà pa kasí.
"He's still young, is why."
  • Pakisulat mo ngâ muna ang iyóng pangalan dito.
"Please, do write your name here first."

The words daw and raw, which mean “he said”/“she said”/“they said”, are sometimes joined to the real translations of “he said”/”she said”, which is sabi niyá, and “they said”, which is sabi nilá. They are also joined to the Tagalog of “you said”, which is sabi mo. But this time, both daw and raw mean “supposedly/reportedly”.

  • Sabi raw niyá. / Sabi daw niyá.
"He/she supposedly said."
  • Sabi raw nilá. / Sabi daw nilá.
"They supposedly said."
  • Sabi mo raw. / Sabi mo daw.
"You supposedly said."

Although the word kasí is a native Tagalog word for “because” and not slang, it is still not used in formal writing. The Tagalog word for this is sapagká’t or sapagkát. Thus, the formal form of Batà pa kasí is Sapagká’t batà pa or Sapagkát batà pa. This is sometimes shortened to pagká’t or pagkát, so Sapagká’t batà pa is also written as Pagká’t batà pa or Pagkát batà pa. In both formal and everyday writing and speech, dahil sa (the oblique form of kasí; thus, its exact translation is “because of”) is also synonymous to sapagká’t (sapagkát), so the substitute of Sapagká’t batà pa for Batà pa kasí is Dahil sa batà pa. Most of the time in speech and writing (mostly every day and sometimes formal), dahil sa as the Tagalog of “because” is reduced to dahil, so Dahil sa batà pa is spoken simply as Dahil batà pa.

Word order[edit]

Tagalog has a flexible word order compared to English. While the verb always remains in the initial position, the order of noun phrase complements that follows is flexible. An example provided by Schacter and Otanes can be seen in (1).










(Kroeger, 1991: 136 (2))


Nagbigay ng=libro sa=babae ang=lalaki

gave GEN=book DAT=woman NOM=man

The man gave the woman a book.

The flexibility of Tagalog word order can be seen in (2). There are six different ways of saying 'The man gave the woman a book.' in Tagalog. The following five sentences, along with the sentence from (1), include the same grammatical components and are all grammatical and identical in meaning but have different orders.

English: The man gave the woman a book.

(Kroeger, 1991: 136 (2))

Tagalog: Nagbigay ng=libro ang=lalaki sa=babae
Gloss: gave GEN=book NOM=man DAT=woman
Tagalog: Nagbigay sa=babae ng=libro ang=lalaki
Gloss: gave DAT=woman GEN=book NOM=man
Tagalog: Nagbigay sa=babae ang=lalaki ng=libro
Gloss: gave DAT=woman NOM=man GEN=book
Tagalog: Nagbigay ang=lalaki sa=babae ng=libro
Gloss: gave NOM=man DAT=woman GEN=book
Tagalog: Nagbigay ang=lalaki ng=libro sa=babae
Gloss: gave NOM=man GEN=book DAT=woman

The principles in (3) help to determine the ordering of possible noun phrase complements.[11] In a basic clause where the patient takes the nominative case, principles (i) and (ii) requires the actor to precede the patient. In example (4a), the patient, 'liham' (letter) takes the nominative case and satisfies principles (i) and (ii). The example in (4b) shows that the opposite ordering of the agent and patient does not result in an ungrammatical sentence but rather an unnatural one in Tagalog.

In example (5), the verb, 'binihag', (captivated) is marked for active voice and results in the actor ('Kuya Louis') to take the nominative case. Example (5) doesn't satisfy principles (i) and (ii). That is, principle (i) requires the Actor ('Kuya Louis') to precede all other arguments. However, since the Actor also takes the nominative case, principle (ii) requires the phrase 'Kuya Louis' to come last. The preferred order of agent and patient in Tagalog active clauses is still being debated. Therefore, we can assume that there are two "unmarked" word orders: VSO or VOS.




si=Kuya Luis

NOM=big brother Luis





(Kroeger, 1991: 137 (5))


Binihag {si=Kuya Luis} ng=kagandahan ni=Emma

PERF-capture-OV {NOM=big brother Luis} GEN=beauty GEN=Emma

Big brother Luis was captivated by Emma's beauty. Unknown glossing abbreviation(s) (help);

A change in word order and trigger generally corresponds to a change in definiteness ("the" vs "a") in English. Example (6) shows a change in word order, triggered by the indirect, "ng." Example (7) shows a change in word order, triggered by the direct, "ang."












B(in)asa ng tao ang libro.

PATIENT=read Indirect person Direct book

A person read the book. Unknown glossing abbreviation(s) (help);












B(um)asa ang tao ng libro

AGENT=read Direct person Indirect book

The person read a book. Unknown glossing abbreviation(s) (help);

Word order may be inverted (referred to in Tagalog grammar as Kabalikang Anyo) by way of the inversion marker 'ay ' ( ’y after vowels in informal speech, not usually used in writing). Contrary to popular belief, this is not the copula 'to be' as 'ay' does not behave as an existential marker in an SVO structure and an inverted form VSO does not require 'ay' since the existentiality is denoted by case marking. A slight, but optional, pause in speech or a comma in writing may replace the inversion marker. This construction is often viewed by native speakers as formal or literary.

In this construction (ay-inverson), the 'ay' appears between the fronted constituent and the remainder of the clause. The fronted constituent in the construction includes locations and adverbs. Example (8)- (11) shows the inverted form of the sentences in the previous examples above.










Ang bata ay kumakanta

Direct child ay singing

The child is singing.












Ang serbesa 'y iniinom nila

Direct beer ay drinking them

They are drinking the beer.










Ang mga=dalaga 'y magaganda.

Direct PL=girls ay beautiful

The girls are beautiful.










Ang ulan ay malakas

Direct rain ay strong

The rain is strong.

In (8) and (11), the fronted constituent is the subject. On the other hand, in (9), the fronted constituent is the object. Another example of a fronted constituent in Tagalog is, wh-phrases. Wh-phrases include interrogative questions that begin with: who, what, where, when, why, and how. In Tagalog, wh-phrases occur to the left of the clause. For example, in the sentence, 'Who are you?', which translates to, 'Sino ka?' occurs to the left of the clause. The syntactic tree of this sentence is found in (12a). As we can see in (12a), the complementizer position is null. However, in the case where an overt complementizer is present, Sabbagh (2014) proposes that the wh-phrase lowers from Spec, CP, and adjoins to TP when C is overt (12b). The operation in (12b) is known as, WhP lowering.

This operation of lowering can also be applied in sentences to account for the verb-initial word order in Tagalog. The subject-lowering analysis states that "the subject lowers from Spec, TP and adjoins to a projection dominated by TP.".[12] If we use the example from (2), Nagbigay ang lalaki ng libro sa babae. and applied subject lowering, we would see the syntax tree in (13a).If we lowered the subject, ang lalaki, to an intermediate position within VP, we would be able to achieve a VOS word order and still satisfy subject lowering.[12] This can be seen in (13b).

Lowering is motivated by a prosodic constraint called, WeakStart.[13] This constraint is largely based on the phonological hierarchy. This constraint requires the first phonological element within a phonological domain to be lower on the prosodic hierarchy than elements that follow it, within the same domain.[14]


There are three negation words: hindî, walâ, and huwág.

Hindî negates verbs and equations. It is sometimes contracted to ‘dî.

  • Hindî akó magtatrabaho bukas.
"I will not work tomorrow."
  • Hindî mayaman ang babae.
"The woman is not rich."

Walâ is the opposite of may and mayroón ("there is").

  • Walâ akóng pera.
  • Akó ay walang pera.
"I do not have money."
  • Waláng libró sa loób ng bahay niyá.
"There are no books in his house."

Huwág is used in expressing negative commands. It can be used for the infinitive and the future aspect. It is contracted as ‘wag.

  • Huwág kang umiyák.
"Do not cry."
  • Huwág kayóng tumakbó rito.
"Do not run here."

There are two (or more) special negative forms for common verbs:

  • Gustó/Ibig/Nais ko nang kumain.
"I would like to eat now." (Positive)
  • Ayaw ko pang kumain.
"I don't want to eat yet." (Negative)

Interrogative words[edit]

Tagalog's interrogative words are: alín, anó, bákit, gaáno, ilán, kailán, kaníno, kumustá, magkáno, nakaníno, nasaán, níno, paáno, saán, and síno. With the exceptions of bakit, kamustá, and nasaán, all of the interrogative words have optional plural forms which are formed by reduplication. They are used when the person who is asking the question anticipates a plural answer and can be called wh-phrases. The syntactic position of these types of phrases can be seen in (12a).












Aling palda ang gusto mo?

Which skirt DEF like you

Which skirt do you like?










Ano ang ginagawa mo?

What DEF doing you?

What are you doing?










Bakit nasa Barcelona sila?

Why in Barcelona they

Why are they in Barcelona?





go home



Kailan uuwi si-=Victor

When {go home} Victor

When will Victor go home?






Nasaan si=Antonia?

Where Antonia

Where is Antonia?

Gaano (from ga- + anó) means how but is used in inquiring about the quality of an adjective or an adverb. The rootword of the modifier is prefixed with ga- in this construction (16a).Ilán means how many (16b). Kumustá is used to inquire how something is (are).(16c) It is frequently used as a greeting meaning How are you? It is derived from the Spanish ¿cómo está?. Magkano (from mag- + gaano) means how much and is usually used in inquiring the price of something (16d). Paano (from pa- + anó) is used in asking how something is done or happened (16e).












Gaano ka katagal sa Montreal?

How you long in Montreal?

How long will you be in Montreal?



How many







Ilang taon ka na?

{How many} year you now?

How old are you?






Kumusta ka?

How you?

How are you?



How much







Magkano ang kotseng iyon?

{How much} DEF car that

How much is that car?








Paano mo gagawin?

How you do

How will you do this?

Nino (from ni + anó) means who, whose, and whom (18a). It is the indirect and genitive form of sino. Sino (from si + anó) means who and whom and it is in the direct form (18b). Kanino (from kay + anó) means whom or whose (18c). It is the oblique form of sino (who).






Ginawa nino?

PAST=do Who

Who did it?






Sino siya

Who she/he

Who is he/she?






Kanino ito

Whose this

Whose is this?

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tagalog Aspects: Overview".
  2. ^ http://www.seasite.niu.edu/tagalog/grammar%20activities/Grammar%202/Verbal%20Aspect/Verbalaspect-fs.htm
  3. ^ Tagalog voice does not correspond well to the terms active and passive, nor to active and antipassive in ergative languages. The term focus, as used in ergative languages, is also an inadequate way of describing the Tagalog voice, therefore the distinct term trigger has become common to describe languages with Philippine-type alignment systems.
  4. ^ Michael Daniel; Edith Moravcsik. "Datapoint Tagalog / The Associative Plural". World Atlas of Language Structures. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Kata, nita and kanita are not widely used. Kitá was the alternative pronoun for first person dual.
  6. ^ This is a contraction of "ko ikaw". Neither "ko ka" nor "ka ko" are grammatically acceptable.
  7. ^ Scontras & Nicolae (2014), 21
  8. ^ Scontras & Nicolae (2014), 23
  9. ^ Ramos (1971), 126
  10. ^ Rubino, Carl Ralph. 2002. Tagalog-English, English-Tagalog dictionary / Taláhuluganang Pilipino-Ingglés, Ingglés-Pilipino Taláhuluganang. Conshohocken, PA: Hippocrene Books.
  11. ^ Kroeger (1991), 136 (2)
  12. ^ a b Sabbagh (2014), 70 (55)
  13. ^ Sabbagh (2014), 62 (45)
  14. ^ Sabbagh (2014), 59


  • Kroeger, P. R. (1991). Phrase structure and grammatical relations in Tagalog
  • Ramos, T. (1971). Tagalog Structures. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press. p. 126.
  • Rubino, C. (2002). Tagalog-English, English-Tagalog dictionary / Taláhuluganang Pilipino-Ingglés, Ingglés-Pilipino Taláhuluganang. Conshohocken, PA: Hippocrene Books.
  • Sabbagh, J. (2014). Word order and Prosodic‐Structure constraints in Tagalog. Syntax, 17(1), 40–89. doi:10.1111/synt.12012
  • Sabbagh, J. (2011). Adjectival passives and the structure of VP in Tagalog. Lingua, 121, 1424–1452. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2011.03.006
  • Scontras, G. & Nicolae A. (2014). Saturating syntax: Linkers and modification in Tagalog. Lingua, 149, 17–33. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2014.05.005
  • Baybayin: Paglalayag sa Wika at Panitikan 8 by Remedios Infantado ISBN 978-971-23-7030-4 pp. 133–134, 169
  • Bagong Likha: Wika at Pagbasa 4, by Ester V. Raflores ISBN 978-971-655-331-4, pp. 239, 252–253, 267–268, 283, 326–327, 341–342
  • Pinagyamang Pluma 9, by Ailene G. Baisa-Julian, Mary Grace G. del Rosario, Nestor S. Lontoc ISBN 978-971-06-3652-5, p. 86, 383
  • mga-uri-ng-pang-uri.pdf. samutsamot.files.wordpress.com. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  • Baybayin: Paglalayag sa Wika at Panitikan 7 by Ramilito Correa ISBN 978-971-23-7028-1 p. 19

External links[edit]