Comparatives and Superlatives in Tagalog

In order to change an adjective into a comparative form, Filipinos use mas (meaning “more”) before the adjective and kaysa sa (meaning “than”).

So, for example, a sentence like “a dog is more beautiful than a cat” in Tagalog would be “mas maganda ang aso kaysa sa pusa”.

More examples:

Ako ay may MAS maraming balahibo KAYSA SA unggoy

Ang mga Pilipina ay MAS maganda KAYSA SA ibang lahi

Ang mga Pilipino ay mas mahilig uminom ng alak kaysa sa ibang mga lahi” (which is true by the way…)

Ang mga Pilipina ay mas mabait kaysa sa ibang uri ng babae…. kapag natutulog sila at kapag hindi mainit ang ulo nila


As for superlatives, they are formed by using the pinaka- affix.

So, for example, if I wanted to say that “dogs are the most beautiful animals in the world”, I would have to use pinaka- and, therefore, say: “ang aso ay ang pinakamagandang hayop sa mundo”.

More examples:

Ang mga Pilipina ay ang pinakamabait na uri ng babae…. kapag natutulog sila….(lol)

Ang mga Pilipinong lalaki ay ang pinakamadiskarteng uri ng lalaki



ang Pilipinas ay ang pinakamagandang lugar sa mundo

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

What is the “ay” Marker in the Tagalog Language?

In Tagalog there is no such thing as the verb to be.

In many Western languages we use the verb “to be” in such sentences as:

“I am Italian”

“I am an office worker”

I am a husband”

“She is my wife”

“Rodrigo Duterte is the president of the Philippines”

“Mocha Uson is a politician”

And so on

In Tagalog these sentences would literally read:

“Italian I”-Italyano ako

“Office worker I”-Empleyado ako

“Husband I”-Asawang lalaki ako

“My wife she”-Asawa ko siya

“President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte”-Presidente ng Pilipinas si Rodrigo Duterte (I have explained how to use the marker si before a personal name in my post about markers in Tagalog)

“Politician Mocha Uson”-Pulitiko si Mocha Uson

The order of all these sentences can be switched by using the marker ay.

So, for example, the expression Italyano ako can be flipped like this: ako ay Italyano

Pulitiko si Mocha Uson can be switched and turned into: si Mocha Uson ay (ang isang) pulitiko

The same kind of switching can be done when using verbs

If, for example, I am using the verb to go in a sentence like pumunta ako sa Pilipinas (I went to the Philippines), I can flip that sentence and say: ako ay pumunta sa Pilipinas

Or, if I say something like nagbabasa ako ng isang aklat (I am reading a book), I can switch it like this: ako ay nagbabasa ng isang aklat

Just remember that ay is just a marker that switches the order of the sentence and has nothing to do with the verb to be, as there is no verb to be in Tagalog.

Ay can also have another meaning: you can hear it in a sentence like ay naku!

In this case ay basically means oh, and the whole expression ay naku! means something like oh my goodness!

I hope this clarifies what ay means in Tagalog.

Adverbs (Pang-abay) in Tagalog

An adverb (pang-abay) is a word that modifies a verb (pandiwa).

Adverbs tell the listener

  • How (paano) the action described by the verb is done: these are known as adverbs of manner (pamaraan)
  • When (kailan) the action takes place: these are known as adverbs of time (kapanahunan)
  • Where (saan) it takes place: adverbs of place (lugar)

Adverbs of manner

In Tagalog they are usually formed by placing nang before ma+root word


I run fast: tumatakbo ako nang mabilis

Adverbs of time

The most common Tagalog words that are used to talk about when a certain action takes place are:

Kanina earlier

Mamaya later

Ngayon now or today

Kahapon yesterday

Bukas tomorrow


Bukas pupunta ako sa dagat=tomorrow I’ll go to the beach

Adverbs of place

Are used to talk about the place where the action occurs. They are usually formed by putting sa before the place.


Nag-aaral ako sa bahay=I am studying at home

Pupunta ako sa beach=I am going to the beach

The “Magpaka-” and the “Magpa-” Affixes in Tagalog

Apart from the various verbal affixes that are used in Tagalog to change verbal focus like mag-, -um-, -an, ma- etc., there are a couple of affixes that are very common in Tagalog and that have nothing to do with verbal focus (as far as I know at least): these affixes are magpaka- and magpa-.

The affix magpaka- conveys the idea of “striving to do or be something”.

For example, a Filipina mother may say to his child something like “magpakabait ka”. Because the root word bait conveys the idea of “goodness”, “magpakabait ka” means something like “be good”, “strive to be good”.

Another example with magpaka- is:

“Magpakarunong ka”=“strive to be wise”.

The affix magpaka- must not be confused with a similar affix being magpa-.

Magpa- conveys the idea of getting someone to do something for you.

A typical example is when somebody in the Philippines goes to the gupitan or “barber shop”. He will say: “magpapagupit ako”. Gupit means “hair cut” and so magpagupit means “to get the barber to cut your hair”.

A mother may say to his child something like: “anak, magpaturo ka sa akin”=“my son, let me teach you”.

So, magpaka- means “to strive to do or be something”, magpa- means to “allow (or to get) someone to do something for you”.

Tagalog is really full of affixes…..

Existentials and Negation in Tagalog: “May”, “Mayroon”, “Hindi” and “Wala”

There are two words to negate something in Tagalog: hindi and wala


The word hindi, meaning no or not, and the word wala, indicating non-existence or absence.

Hindi is the opposite of oo meaning yes, and it is also used to talk about what a person or something is not


Pilipino ka ba? (are you Filipino?)

Two possible answers: Hindi ako Pilipino=I am not Filipino; hindi=no

Hindi ako Amerikano=I am not American

Hindi siya maganda=she is not beautiful

Gusto mo bang pumunta sa Jollibee?=would you like to go to Jollibee?

Answer: hindi=no


Wala is the opposite of mayroon meaning there is (example mayroon maraming Pilipino sa Roma=there are many Filipinos in Rome) or to have (mayroon akong panahon ngayon=I have time today).

Here are few examples:

Wala maraming Pilipino sa mga maliit na bayan ng Italya=there are not that many Filipinos in small Italian towns

Wala akong pera=I haven’t got any money

nasa kusina ba ang TV?=is the TV set in the kitchen?

Answers: wala=no; wala sa kusina ang TV=the TV set is not in the kitchen


To talk about the existence of something, Filipinos use may or mayroon (sometimes Filipinos use the more colloquial form meron).

Difference between may and mayroon

Mayroon, must be followed by an adverb of place or a personal pronoun

For example, if I am using the personal pronoun ako immediately after mayroon, I can’t use may

I can say mayroon akong pera but I can’t say may akong pera. If I want to use the may instead of mayroon I have to move the personal pronoun to the end of the sentence and say: may pera ako

Mayroon is a full word that can standalone, while may has to be followed by a noun, verb, adverb, adjective.

For example, if I ask the question:

May pera ba si Mario?

I can answer with mayroon siya

If I wanted to use the may instead, I would have to say may pera si Mario

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.

These 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