Pseudo-verbs in Tagalog

In the English language there are the so-called modal verbs that are used to talk about needs and wants (must, shall, will, should, would, can, could, may, and might).

In Tagalog there are the so-called pseudo-verbs that have a more or less similar function.

The reason why they are called pseudo-verbs is because they have no verbal aspect, so they are not conjugated (in Tagalog there are only verbal aspects not tenses like in English), nor do they have any affixes attached to them indicating focus.

Those verbs are:

Gusto like

Ayaw dislike

Kailangan need

Pwede can

Maaari might

Dapat must


These 3 pseudo-verbs can be used both in sentences where the doer of the action is in focus and in sentences where the actor is not in focus


Actor in focus:

Pwede akong pumunta sa bahay ni Mario

Maaaring tumawag ang asawa ko sa akin (in this case, because the pseudo-verb comes before the verb, it is linked to it by –ng)

Dapat akong bumili ng pagkain

Actor not in focus


Pwede kong tulungan sila

Maaaring ibigay ko ang isang regalo sa anak ko

Dapat kong isulat ang isang liham


These pseudo-verbs always go with ng pronouns so you never say gusto ako but always gusto KO or ayaw KO.

Ayaw ko can be shortened as ayoko


“Nanay, tatay, gusto kong tinapay” (or a more modern version: “nanay, tatay, gusto ko isang tagay….”)

Gusto kong bilhin ang pagkain

Gusto kong bumili ng pagkain

Ayaw kong bumili ng pagkain (or ayoko bumili ng pagkain)

Gusto ko ng alak

Ayoko ng alak

Similarities and Differences Between English and Tagalog

The Philippines is an ex US colony and English is widely used in the Philippines.

In Tagalog there are a lot of English loan words like gadyet, kompyuter, tren etc.

However there are huge differences (and there are similarities as well) between the two languages and here are some differences and similarities (at least the ones that I have been able to find).

I think it is important to know those differences and similarities because if you are a non-English speaker who wishes to learn Tagalog you can hardly do so without learning English first.

There are Westerners whom I know who can’t speak English and they have learned some Tagalog but, because most Tagalog grammar textbooks are written in English, it is much more challenging to learn Tagalog without using English as a “bridge”.

So here are some of the differences between English and Tagalog


In Tagalog words are spelled as they are pronounced (and for an Italian like me this is a huge advantage because Italian is also this way)

Nine English consonants do not occur in Tagalog: /v/, /j/, /z/, voiced and voiceless th, sh, dz, ch, z.

English phonology includes several more vowels and diphthongs than Tagalog.

Auxiliary verbs

Tagalog does not have an auxiliary or linking verb (such as “to be” or “will” in English).

For example I will eat in Tagalog is kakain ako without any auxiliary verbs


Pronouns in Tagalog (ako, ikaw, siya etc.) do not indicate gender.

A pronoun can refer to either “he” or “she.”

For example pumunta siya sa palengke can mean both she went to the market and he went to the market


English: plural is formed by adding s while in Tagalog the word mga is placed before a noun



Aklat/mga aklat


All Tagalog nouns including proper names always require markers

Example “Peter is reading a book“. In Tagalog I can’t just say “Pedro ay nagbabasa ng isang aklat“, I have to use the marker “si” before the personal name and say “si Pedro ay nagbabasa…”

Word order is different

For example in a sentence like “I am ugly” (or beautiful….I am trying to be modest) the word order is completely switched in Tagalog and therefore the Tagalog translation is “pangit (ugly) ako (I)”.

However in Tagalog there is the “ay” inverter that, if used, the word order can be reversed and I can say “ako ay pangit” (keep in mind that “ay” is not the verb “to be”: there is no verb “to be” in Tagalog).

Word order in English conveys meaning while in Tagalog meaning is created by changing the affix

The dog bit the man”
“The man bit the dog”

By changing the order and sequence of the words the meaning changes completely.

In Tagalog you don’t change the order and sequence but only the affix”Kumagat ang aso ng tao”
“Kinagat ang aso ng tao

In Tagalog the last syllable is often stressed and changes the meaning

For example the word ba’ka means “cow” while baka’ means “perhaps”


Tense vs aspect

In English there are 3 tenses being past, present and future (even if some say that the “future” is not a real tense in English, but, for the sake of simplicity, let’s call it “tense”).

A tense is basically concerned with “when” a certain action happened

Within each tense there are four aspects in English: simple, progressive, perfect, perfect-progressive.

An aspect is concerned with if a certain action is completed, in progress or contemplated

Filipino verbs are not conjugated for tense, rather they are conjugated for aspect.

This means that instead of focusing on the past, present, and future, the verbs are conjugated in order to express:
Completed action
Incompleted action
Contemplated action

In English, for example, a past action has 4 aspects to it:

I did
I was doing
I had done
I had been doing

In Tagalog the completed action is only expressed through the completed aspect gumawa ako (or ginawa ko)


A mood is a verb category or form which indicates whether the verb expresses a fact (the indicative mood), a command (the imperative mood), a question (the interrogative mood), a condition (the conditional mood), or a wish or possibility (the subjunctive mood).

Grammatical mood is also expressed through Filipino verbs. These moods provide additional context to the sentence.

For example, in addition to the “indicative” mood, or the main mood used to talk about situations that are not characterized by uncertainty, like for example “nagbasa ako ng aklat” (I read a book), in Tagalog there are other moods like

Social mood maki-

Example: Nakikain akó sa mga kaibigan ko.
“I ate with my friends.

“Potential mood naka

Example: Hindi siya nakapagsasalita ng Tagalog.
“He was not able to speak Tagalog.”

The imperative in Tagalog is formed by using the infinitive form of a verb + the personal pronoun, example: tumayo ka=stand up, tumahimik ka=be quiet

Conditional in Tagalog: an English sentence like if I had more money I would stop working has it’s equivalent in Tagalog but, as far as I know, cannot be technically called a “conditional mood”. The Tagalog equivalent is something like: kung mayroon sana (“sana” is a Tagalog expression meaning “hopefully”) akong mas maraming pera hihinto sana ako sa trabaho

Subjunctive: an expression like I wish you were here can be translated as gusto ko sana na nandito ka but, again, I doubt that this kind of expression can be technically called a “subjunctive” in Tagalog.

Interrogative: to ask questions Filipinos use the word ba.


May pera ka is a statement=you’ve got money

May pera ka ba? is a question=have you got any money?

In English there are gerunds and participles which are formed by using verbs as nouns or adjectives. There are participles in Tagalog.

In Tagalog participles are formed by means of the affix naka– attached to the root word, ex nakatayo = standing (“standing” is a verb in English but in this context it acts as an adjective while nakatayo is not a verb, it is not the completed aspect of makatayo, it’s the prefix naka- that has nothing to do with the abilitative verbal form maka-)

As far as I know there is no such thing as a gerund (an –ing verb like singing that acts like a noun) in Tagalog, an expression like I like singing can be translated as gusto kong kumanta where kumanta is the infinitive of the verb to sing and it doesn’t act as a noun.


And, last but not least in English there are two voices: active and passive

In Tagalog there are active and passive voices too:
“Kumagat ang aso ng tao”=the dog bit the man
“Kinagat ng aso ang tao”=the man was bitten by the dog

So here are some of the differences and similarities between English and Tagalog that I have been able to find.

Let me know if I have neglected something

Personal and Demonstrative Pronouns (Pang-halip Panao at Pamatlig) in Tagalog

There are three types of pronouns in Tagalog:

  • Ang pronouns (personal and demonstrative)
  • Ng pronouns (personal and demonstrative)
  • Sa pronouns (personal and demonstrative)


These are the pronouns in focus, or, in other words, the pronouns that are used with mag-, -um-, maka-, makapag- and some ma- verbs

Personal (panao)

Ako: I

Ikaw (used at the beginning of the sentence)/ka (used in other parts of the sentence): you

Siya: he/she

Kami (we exclusive: excludes the hearer or the person being addressed)/tayo (we inclusive): we

Kayo: You

Sila: They

Example: pumunta ako sa bahay ni Mario, pumunta ka sa bahay ko etc.

Demonstrative (pamatlig)

Ito this

Iyan that (near the hearer or the person being addressed)

Iyon that (far from the speaker and the hearer)

Example: ano ba ito? (What is this?), Ano ba iyan/iyon? (What is that?)


These are the pronouns that are not in focus and go with ng verbs (i-, -in, ma-, -an)

Personal (panao)

Ko my

Mo your

Niya his/her

Namin (esclusive)/natin (inclusive) our

Ninyo Your

Nila their

Demonstrative (pamatlig)

Nito (of) this

Niyan (of) that (near the hearer)

Niyon (of) that (far from the hearer)

They indicate


Example: ang bahay ko=my house

Direct object

Example: bumili ako (focus) nito (not in focus)=I bought this

Actor not in focus

Example: binili ko ang kotse=the car is what (the car is in focus) I (actor not in focus) bought


Personal (panao)

Akin me/mine

Iyo you/yours

Kanya he/his

Amin (exclusive)/Atin (inclusive) we/our

Inyo You/Your

Kanila they/their

These pronouns have four functions:


Example: ang aking bahay (my house)


Examples: pupunta ako sa iyo=I am going to you (or your house), ibinibigay ko ang libro sa kanya=I am giving him the book


Example: ang susi ng kotse ay nasa akin=the car key is with me

Demonstrative (pamatlig)

Dito/rito here

Diyan/riyan there (near the hearer)

Doon/roon (far from the hearer)

These also indicate


Example: pupunta ako doon=I’ll go there


Example: bumili ako ng regalo para dito=I bought a gift for this


Example: dito sa Italya= here in Italy

So these are the various pang-halip (panao=personal at pamatlig=demonstrative) in Tagalog

Naka- or Nakaka-? A Common Mistake that Native Filipino Speakers Make

When I deeply immersed myself into the study of the Tagalog grammar I came across the abilitative forms of Tagalog verbs being maka- and makapag-.

These forms convey the idea of ability.

If, for example, I use the verb tumawa that verb means to laugh.

If, instead of using the infix -um- (that goes between the first consonant and the first vowel of the root word tawa), I use the prefix maka- I am communicating the idea of being able to make someone laugh.

So, whenever I use maka- or makapag-, I am conveying the idea of ability.

Now, the mistake most native Filipino people make is that they use nakaka- as prefix (or unlapi) whenever they use the verb in the incompleted aspect (more or less the equivalent of the present tense in English, but to be precise there is no such thing as tenses in Tagalog, there are only aspects).

Is that correct?

Let’s take for example the verb tumawa.

We said that the abilitative form is makatawa.

Now, because the incompleted aspect is formed by repeating the first pantig or syllable of the root word tawa, the right form should be nakatatawa, because the root word is tawa and the first syllable is ta: so ta becomes tata.

Yet most Filipinos use (quite incorrectly) the nakaka- affix instead of using naka- and repeating the first syllable of the root-word and so they say nakakatawa instead of nakatatawa, nakakatuwa instead of nakatutuwa, nakakainis instead of nakaiinis, nakakalungkot instead of nakalulungkot and so on.

I used to ask my wife why she used the nakaka- and she would reply that that’s the way they say it (which is not quite what the Tagalog Grammar textbooks I have studied say).

This example teaches me that one who is trying to learn a foreign language shouldn’t rely too heavily on native speakers…. unless they are language professors

Markers in Tagalog

Markers in Tagalog play a role similar to that of articles and prepositions in English.

A marker is, in fact, a word that comes before a noun.

Depending on the focus of the verb a marker indicates the role that the noun plays in the sentence: a marker may mark a noun as actor, object, location, direction etc.


These markers are used to point out the focus of the sentence.

1. ANG (or ANG MGA if the focus of the sentence is a plural) marks a word as the focus of the sentence except for nouns that are the names of people that are marked by SI (singular) or SINA (plural)


Pumunta ang empleyado sa opisina (singular)=the office worker went to his office

Pumunta ang mga empleyado sa opisina

Pumunta si Mario sa opisina

Pumunta sina Mario at Grace sa opisina


These markers are used when the noun is not the focus of the sentence


Binasa ng estudiante ang libro=the book is what the student read (the student is not the focus of the sentence, rather it is the book)

Binasa ng mga estudiante ang libro

Binasa ni Mario ang libro

Binasa nina Mario at Grace ang libro

NG also indicates possession


Ang libro ng estudiante (the book that belongs to the student)

Ang libro ni Mario


These markers have to do with direction, location and beneficiary and correspond to prepositions in English



Ibinigay ng titser ang isang libro sa estudiante (or sa mga estudiante=plural)=the teacher gave a book to the student

Ibinigay ng titser ang isang libro kay Mario (or kina Mario at Grace)


Pumupunta ako sa bahay=I am going (sa=to in this context) home

Pumupunta ako kay Mario=I am going to Mario



Mayroon ang isang Jollibee restaurant sa Milan, Italy=there is a Jollibee restaurant in Milan

SA also marks a future time


Magbabakasyon ako sa Agosto=I’ll go on vacation in August

Adjectives in Tagalog

An adjective describes a noun

Adjectives are words like beautiful, awesome and any other word that gives some information about the thing, the place, the person, the idea or the animal described by a noun.

In Tagalog there are adjectives that are formed by a root word+an affix (like maganda=beautiful) and adjectives that don’t require an affix (like bobo=stupid).

Here is a list of affixes that are used to form compound adjectives

1 ma– having a certain quality
Example: maganda=beautiful

2. maka- having a certain inclination
Example: makalaman=fleshly

3. maka- having a certain ability
Example: makadurug-puso=having the ability to break one’s heart

4. mala- being like
Example: malasibuyas=like an onion

5. mapag- having a certain habit
Example: mapagbiro=having the habit to joke

6. mapang~ mapan~ mapam~ one who does on a regular basis the thing described by the root word
Example: mapang-away= one who regularly engages in a quarrel

7. pala- one who is constantly doing the thing described by the root word
Example: palaisip=always thinking

8. pang-~ pan-~ pam– instrumental
Example: pampatibay=encouraging

9.-an~ han one who possesses the quality described by the root word to a large extent
Example: duguan=inclined to a large extent toward bloodshed

10. in- like the thing described by the root word
Example: sinampalok=like a tamarind

11. in/-hin one who easily catches the thing described by the root word
Example: lagnatin=one who easily catches the flu

12. ma- -in/-hin one who possesses the quality described by the root word to a large extent
Example: maawain=full of mercy

Balarilang Tagalog-Bahagi 5: mga Pang-uri (adjectives) at mga Panlaping Makauri

Ang isang importanteng bahagi ng pagsasalita ay ang mga pang-uri.

Ang mga pang-uri ay nagbibigay ng impormasyon tungkol sa isang pangngalan.

Gaya ng binanggit ko sa post tungkol sa mga pangngalan, ang isang pangngalan ay ang isang salitang tumutukoy sa:

  • Isang persona ex presidente
  • Isang lugar ex kusina
  • Isang ideya o konsepto ex katalinuhan
  • Isang hayop ex aso
  • Isang bagay ex mesa

Ang mga pang-uri ay nagbibigay ng impormasyon tungkol sa isang pangngalan. Halimbawa ang isang mesa ay may iba’t ibang katangian: may mga mesa na maganda, may mesa na pangit. Sa katulad na paraan may mga tao na pangit, maganda, matalino, bobo etc.

Para bumuo ng isang pang-uri kadalasang ginagamit ang isang panlaping makauri. Mayroon din maraming pang-uri na hindi nangangailangan ng panlapi gaya ng bobo, pangit at marami pa.

Ang iba naman ay nangangailangan ng panlapi tulad halimbawa ang pang-uring mabuti


1 ma– pagkakaroon ng katangian na nasa salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: maganda=pagkakaroon ng ganda

2. maka- nagbibigay ng ideya ng pagkiling o pagkahilig sa bagay na nasa salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: makalaman=may hilig para sa mga pagnanasa ng laman

3. maka- nagbibigay ng ideya ng isa na may kakayahang gawin ang nasa salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: makadurug-puso=may kakayahang durugin ang puso

4. mala- nagbibigay ng ideya ng pagiging gaya ng kung ano ang itinatawid ng salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: malasibuyas=gaya ng sibuyas

5. mapag- tumutukoy sa isang ugali
Halimbawa: mapagbiro=may ugali na magbiro

6. mapang~ mapan~ mapam~ isa na regular na gumagawa ng tinutukoy ng salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: mapang-away= isa na regular na nagsasangkot ng sarili sa awayan

7. pala- isa na laging gumagawa ng tinutukoy ng salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: palaisip=lagi nag-iisip, sobra nag-iisip

8. pang-~ pan-~ pam– tumutukoy sa instrumental na paggamit
Halimbawa: pampatibay=upang patibayin

Ang mga salita na nagsisimula sa pam- ay pwede kapwa ituring pangngalan o pang-uri. Sa halimbawang nasa itaas, kung sinasabi ko “pampatibay na salita” ang pampatibay ay isang pang-uri dahil nagbibigay ng impormasyon tungkol sa pangngalang “salita”. Kung sasabihin ko “kailangan ko ang isang pampatibay” sa pagkakataong ito ang salitang pampatibay ay ang isang pangngalan.

9.-an~ han pagkakaroon ng katangian na nasa salitang-ugat nang higit sa karaniwang dami, laki o tindi
Halimbawa: duguan=mahilig sa dugo ex duguan ang pag-iisip, marahas na tao

10. in- tulad sa tinutukoy ng salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: sinampalok=tulad ng sampalok

11. in/-hin katangian ng isa na madaling nagkakaroon ng tinutukoy ng salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: lagnatin=isa na madaling nilalagnat

12. ma- -in/-hin isa na nagtataglay sa malaking antas ng katangian na nasa salitang-ugat
Halimbawa: maawain=may maraming awa

Balarilang Tagalog-Bahagi 4: mga Pangngalan (Nouns) at mga Panlaping Makangalan

Ang isang pangngalan ay ang isang salita na tumutukoy sa:

Isang bagay-halimbawa mesa

Isang persona-halimbawa presidente

Isang lugar-halimbawa: tindahan

Isang ideya-halimbawa: katalinuhan

Ang karamihan ng mga salitang-ugat na walang panlapi ay mga pangngalan

Ang ilan ay katutubong Tagalog na mga salita samantala marami ay nagmumula sa Espanyol (silya, mesa) o Ingles (kompyuter, gadyet)

Bukod sa mga pangngalan na walang panlapi mayroon maraming uri na may isa o mahigit sa isang panlaping makangalan.

Heto ang isang medyo kumpletong listahan ng mga halimbawa


Ka- kasama

ex kainuman, katrabaho

ka-….-an or ka-…-han: isang ideya o konsepto
Ex: kagandahan, kaalaman, kaunawaan

Pan-: instrumento
Ex: pantulong

“-an” at “-han

1. lugar kung saan masusumpungan maraming mga bagay na tinutukoy ng salitang ugat.

Ex: aklatan, bigasan

2. Ganapan ng isang kilos
Ex: aralan, lutuan

3. Panahon na ang kilos ay nangyayari sa malaking antas
Ex: pistahan, anihan

4. Kilos na ginagawa bilang pagtugon
Ex: barilan, suntukan

5. Malaking antas ng bagay na tinutukoy ng salitang ugat
Ex: duguan

in o hin

1. relasyon
Ex: tiyuhin, inapo

2. Kahugis ng salitang ugat
Ex: sinampalok


1. Bahagi ng isang grupo
Ex: kabayan

2. Kasama sa kilos na isinasaad ng salitang ugat
Ex: kalaro


1. Grupo ng mga bagay na tinutukoy ng salitang ugat
Ex: kabahayan

2. Sukdulan ng isang situwasyon
Ex: kainitan


1. Relasyon sa loob ng pamilya
Ex: mag-ama

2. mag– + dinodoble ang unang pantig ng salitang ugat=propesyon
Ex: manggagamot


1. season
Ex: tag-ulan


Ex: tagalinis

Marami talaga ang mga panlaping makangalan. Pero hindi pa tapos ang listahan ng mga panlapi.

Bukod sa mga panlaping makangalan at makadiwa na nakubrehan ko na mayroon pa ang mga panlaping makauri na tatalakayin ko sa susunod na artikulo.

Nouns in Tagalog

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.

I started with the verbs because they are the easy as well as the tricky part, the easy part being the fact that Tagalog verbs have aspects rather than tenses and the tricky part being all the different affixes that one has to stick to the root-word depending on the focus of the sentence.

But let’s address other parts of speech and in this post I am going to talk about nouns.

What is a Noun?

A noun is a person, a place, a thing, or an idea.

I have already mentioned that in Tagalog many words are formed by combining a root-word with one or more affixes.

In Tagalog, most root words function as nouns and these includes such roots as ganda, talino and many other roots. When a root-word has no affixes attached to it that word is usually a noun.

Some nouns have Austronesian origins while many others are borrowed from other languages such as Spanish, English, other Philippine languages, etc.

Spanish: silya, mesa, aparador, kotse

English: motor, kompyuter, tren, gadyet

Many other nouns are formed by sticking one or more affixes to the root.


ka-indicating a companion or colleague

ex kainuman:drinking buddy, katrabaho: work colleague

ka-….-an or ka-…-han: collective or abstract noun.
Example: kagandahan=beauty, kaalaman=knowledge, kaunawaan=insight

Pan-: denoting instrumental use of the noun.
Example: pantulong=aid

“-an” and “-han

1. A place where you can find many of the things described by the root word.

Example: aklatan (a place with many aklat or books=library), bigasan=rice shop

2. Place where the action described by the root word takes place
Example: aralan (place where the aral or lesson takes place), lutuan (place where luto or cooking is made), laruan, labahan

3. time in which the action indicated by the root word takes place to a large extent
Example: pistahan=time for celebration, anihan=harvesting time

4. actions done for revenge
Example: barilan=shooting, suntukan=punching

5. something numerous or very large
Example: duguan=bloodshed

in or hin

1. relationship
Example: tiyuhin=uncle, inapo=offspring

2. something that has the same shape as the thing defined by the root-word
Example: sinampalok=something having the shape of sampalok or tamarind


1. part of a group
Example: kabayan=fellow countryman

2. relationship
Example: kalaro=fellow player


1. group of things described by the root word
Example: kabahayan=group of houses

2. the climax of a situation
Example: kainitan=under the sun, in a very hot environment


1. family relationship
Example: mag-ama=father and son

2. mag– + repetition of the first syllable of the root word=profession
Example: manggagamot=someone who works in the field of medicine


1. season
Example: tag-ulan=rainy season


1. one who does the job indicated by the root word
Example: tagalinis=cleaner

This list shows that in Tagalog there are really a lot of affixes.

But it doesn’t stop here. In addition to verbal and noun affixes there are also affixes that are used to form adjectives.

I will cover those in another post.

Verbal Focus in Tagalog

One of my goals in this blog is to share my knowledge of the Tagalog grammar and, in the process, study it again, as I studied it many years ago and never revisited it.

I am publishing (and rivisiting and updating) posts about the Tagalog grammar in Tagalog, English and Italian because I want to master the Tagalog grammar terminology in these 3 languages.

Tagalog is an agglutinative language.

An agglutinative language is a type of language that uses agglutination.

Agglutination means that words are formed by stringing together morphemes (the smallest meaningful unit in a language) without changing them in spelling or phonetics.

As I have said in my first post about the Tagalog grammar, in Tagalog agglutination happens by combining one or more affixes with a root-word.

There are 3 main categories of affixes in Tagalog being:

Maka-uri: to form adjectives like maganda=beautiful

Maka-ngalan: related to nouns like mag-kapatid or mag-asawa

Maka-diwa: used to form verbs and to indicate verbal focus

Maka-diwa affixes and verbal focus in Tagalog

in Tagalog you have to use the right affix to form a verb, depending on the focal point of the sentence, and there are many verbal affixes in Tagalog like -um-, mag-, maka-, makapag-, ma-, magpa-, i-, -in, -an.

You also need to use the right marker (something like what we call an article in Western languages) like ang, ng, sa (or si, ni and kay if you are talking about a person).

The focus of the sentence also determines which personal pronouns you are going to use.

The actor focus personal pronouns are:


Ikaw (or ka)=you

Siya=he or she

Kami or tayo=we (I’ll talk about the difference in another article)



The object focus personal pronouns are :




Namin or natin



To illustrate how all of this works, let’s take the root word basa, which conveys the idea of reading and let’s say that we want to say something like “I (or you, he/she, we, You, they) read a book”

In this sentence we’ve got:

A personal pronoun (I)

A verb (to read)

A marker (or article being “a”)

In this sentence I can basically emphasize two elements:

The one who is reading thereby answering the question “who reads the book?”

The object or the thing being read which answers the question “what is being read?”


The first type of focus is the actor focus type of sentence:

In this kind of sentence I am going to use such verbal affixes like -um- (that goes between the first consonant and the first vowel of the root word) or mag-.

The markers I am going to use in connection with the actor are ang or si (if the actor is a personal name, like “si Eduardo”).

And the personal pronouns are ako, ikaw etc.


Let’s make a few examples:

“The man is reading a book”

In Tagalog that would be: “Ang tao ay nagbabasa (present “tense” or, more accurately “incompleted aspect” of magbasa) ng isang aklat”. Notice that I am using the “ay” which inverts the order of the sentence that could also be rendered as “nagbabasa ang tao ng aklat”.

“Eduardo is reading the book”

“Si Eduardo ay nagbabasa ng aklat” (or “nagbabasa si Eduardo….”).

“I am reading the book”

“Ako ay nagbabasa ng aklat”

In the examples above I have used the verbal affix “mag” which turns the root word basa into a mag- verb, which is only one type of actor focus verb.

The completed aspect of magbasa is nagbasa (mag becomes nag)

The incompleted aspect is nagbabasa (mag becomes nag and I am doubling the first syllable)

The contemplated aspect (basically the “future tense”) is magbabasa.

The abilitative form (expressing the ability to do the action) of a mag- verb is makapag-, so to convey the idea that one has the ability or the possibility to read I say makapagbasa.


The other common actor focus affix is -um- by using which with basa the verb is bumasa (past: bumasa, present: bumabasa, again I am doubling the first syllable, future: babasa, I am removing the um to form the future) and the corresponding abilitative form is maka-


Another actor focus affix is ma- for actor focus verbs like:

Matulog (to sleep)

Makinig (to listen)

Maligo (to take a bath)

Manood (to watch)


The second type of focus is the object focus in which case I am answering the question “what is being read?”



“The book is what the man is reading”

“Binabasa (present “tense” or incompleted aspect of basahin) ng tao ang aklat”

“The book is what Eduardo is reading”

“Binabasa ni Eduardo ang aklat”

“The book is what I am reading”

“Binabasa ko ang aklat”

In this case I have used a verb that ends in -in like basahin, inumin, ayusin etc. (Past: binasa, present: binabasa, future: basahin)


Another common object focus verb is the one that begins with i- like ituro, idiin, itago etc. (past: itinuro, present: itinuturo, future: ituturo).


Some ma- verbs are actor focus like makinig while others are object focus like:

Makita (to see)

Marinig (to hear)

Mapansin (to pay attention)


Some object focus verbs end in -an like:

Buksan (to open)

Takpan (to cover)


In Tagalog the affix -an is used to talk about a location, and this applies not just to verbs but also to nouns.

For example the word aklatan, which is formed by combining aklat (book) with -an means “library” or “the place or location where books can be found”.

The word basurahan, which is formed by adding -an to basura (garbage) is the place where people dispose of garbage.

Similarly verbs that end with -an generally refer to an action where the focus is either the location or the direction of the action.

For example if I am going to Juan’s house I can use the verb puntahan and the house of Juan is my pupuntahan.

If I do something in behalf of someone and this person is the receiver or the direction of my action, I also use an -an verb like bigyan where the verb (“to give”) is used to talk about the person to whom an object is given, like for instance bigyan ko ng bulaklak ang misis ko (“my wife is the one to whom I give the flowers”, so my action, the action of buying flowers is directed toward my wife).

Sometimes -an can also be used for object focus verbs (see part 2) or even beneficiary focus verbs, speaking of which let’s now talk about those


These verbs are used to talk about the beneficiary of an action like for example the verb bilhan (to buy for someone) ex. bilhan mo ang bata ng kendi (“buy the candy for the child”)

In addition to -an another beneficiary focus affix is ipag- like in the following sentence: ipagluto mo ng l ang mga bata ng fried chicken (“(you) cook some fried chicken for the children”), even though, to be honest, I don’t hear ipag- verbs very much in everyday speech (my wife never uses ipag- verbs but she does use -an beneficiary verbs)

An easy way to talk about the beneficiary of an action without having to learn the beneficiary focus is by simply using the expression para sa (“for something”) or para kay (“for someone”) in an actor focus or in a object focus sentence.

For example, instead of saying ipagluto mo ang mga bata ng fried chicken you could simply say magluto ka ng fried chicken para sa mga bata (or para kay Mario if you are using a personal name)


The last type of focus is the instrumental which talks about the tool or instrument one is using to do something.

The affix here is ipang- or ipan-

So I could say something like “I am using the walis tambo to sweep the floor” and, in this case I have to use ipanlinis ko ang walis tambo ng sahig

If I wanted to avoid using the instrumental focus I could simply use an actor or object focus verb + the expression sa pamamagitan (“by means of”) like nagwawalis ako ng sahig sa pamamagitan ng walis tambo and, in reality, I have never heard my wife using ipang- verbs, she always uses either an actor focus affix or an object focus affix followed by the expression sa pamamagitan.