Verbal Aspect in Tagalog vs Tenses in Other Languages

As I have already said, Tagalog verbs don’t have tenses but aspects, which make it quite easy for a Westerner like me, who speaks a language that has a tricky grammar, to learn the structure of the Tagalog language (what makes things a little harder though is the verbal focus).

A nice way to illustrate the difference between a tense and the verbal aspect is the example of the boss of a company and the secretary (which I’ve found on the Tagalog page of the official website of the department of Asian studies of the University of Illinois): the boss of a company is only concerned with whether his employee has done his job or not, the secretary is concerned with when the employee did his job because she has to calculate the amount of his paycheck. Similarly the verbal aspect only communicates if a certain action has been done or not while a tense communicates when the action has taken place or will take place.

If I say something like binasa ko ang aklat (I read the book) that expression simply tells me that I did the action of reading the book, it could have happened one moment ago, yesterday, one year ago, 20 years ago.

If I say babasahin ko ang aklat I am stating my intention to read the book: it could happen in 5 minutes or 5 years.

So, in order to give the listener a clue about the when Filipinos need time expressions like kanina (earlier), kahapon (yesterday), ngayon (today), mamaya (later), bukas (tomorrow) and many others.

In my language (Italian) not only do we have tenses but we have plenty of them, 21 to be specific.

We have 8 tenses in the indicative mode, 4 in the subjunctive, 2 in the conditional, one in the imperative, 2 in the infinitive, 2 in the participle and 2 in the gerund!

How the heck can a Filipino learn how to use Italian verbs?

An easy way (which is, by the way, what many Pinoy who speak barok Italian do) is by using the present infinitive only and by sticking a time expression to it!

It sounds terrible and very wrong but it works.

Ieri (yesterday) io (I) andare (to go)

Domani (tomorrow) io (I) andare

5 minuti fa (5 minutes ago) io andare

Prossimo anno (next year) io andare………..

……………

Barok na barok! But it works….

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