A Very Useful Website to Learn Tagalog

In this brief post I just want to mention a very interesting website that has immensely helped me to grasp the structure of the Tagalog language.

The link is http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/Tagalog_mainpage.htm

I think this link can be very useful to Westerners who are trying to learn Tagalog

The Basic Structure of the Tagalog Language-Part 4 (Location/direction Focus-Beneficiary Focus-Instrumental Focus)

In part 2 of my series of posts about the basic structure of the Tagalog language (https://italpinoy1967.com/2019/11/18/the-basic-structure-of-the-tagalog-language-part-2/) I touched on actor focus (mag-,-um-, ma-) and object focus (-in, i-,-an, ma-) verbs.

In this post I am going to cover

Location/direction verbs

Beneficiary focus verbs

Instrumental verbs


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.

So these are in a nutshell the various verbal focus affixes in Tagalog.

In future posts I’ll cover some more grammar rules.

The Basic Structure of the Tagalog Language- part 3: Actor & Object Focus Verbs (video)

I have created a little YouTube channel, nothing serious for now but I have a few videos there where I touch on various topics like the Tagalog language and the Filipino culture and mentality.

I stumbled upon this video that I made few months ago and it is all about the concept of “verbal focus” in Tagalog that I started touching on in my previous post about the basic structure of the Tagalog language.

The Basic Structure of the Tagalog Language-Part 2 (Actor Focus Verbs and Object Focus Verbs)

In my first post about the basic structure of the Tagalog language https://italpinoy1967.com/2019/11/09/the-basic-structure-of-the-tagalog-language-part-1/, I touched on how words are formed in Tagalog by combining one or more affixes with a root word thereby forming nouns, adjectives and verbs.

I also touched on such aspects as the “ay” inverter, plurals, linkers and a bunch of other stuff.

Another topic I glossed over is the difference between verbal aspect and tenses and I mentioned that in Tagalog there are no tenses but only aspects being the completed aspect (ex. nagbasa ako), the incompleted aspect (nagbabasa ako) and the contemplated aspect (magbabasa ako) and this is without a doubt something that makes it easier for a foreigner who speaks a language in which there are many tenses to learn Tagalog.

A trickier thing about Tagalog grammar is the so-called focus which basically means that 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)

These two are just the two main focuses in Tagalog.

There are other focuses like beneficiary, instrumental etc. that I am going to cover in other posts.

Why Should You Learn Tagalog if you are Married to a Filipina?

You can take buses alone and no one will try to rob you or harm you in any way if you speak Tagalog because, as Filipinos say “hindi ka maibebenta”

You can take tricycles alone

You can ask your wife’s relatives who are not that fluent in English to take you to the remotest corners of the province

You can hop on and off several buses and do that alone

You can talk to local children

You can approach Filipinos in a big Western city and startle them by talking to them in Tagalog

Many Filipinas who move abroad are fluent in English and so if you come from an English speaking country, or you are otherwise fluent in English, learning Tagalog is probably not that necessary to have quality communication with your Filipina.

I am not a native English speaker but, although my Filipino wife speaks Italian really well, I prefer to use the English language to communicate with her because she speaks English definitely better than she speaks Italian.

I can speak Tagalog but I find that the English language has a much wider vocabulary than Pilipino so it gives you more options to engage in meaningful communication with your Filipino spouse. Tagalog is a rather incomplete language and does not always give you the chance to express nuanced concepts and ideas and you need to use English to bridge the language gaps.

For example, if my wife hurts me, I can use words and expressions that convey the idea of a major hurt or a minor one if I speak in English. I could say something intense like “you stabbed me in the back” or something milder like “you peeved me”. In Tagalog I know of no other expression than “sinaktan mo ako” to express both more intense and milder hurt. The word tapat is used to express both the ideas of faithful and loyal (which are not quite the same thing) and these are just few examples.

So, if you come from an English-speaking country or you are otherwise fluent in English, learning Tagalog is probably not critical to the survival of your marriage and to the quality of your communication as a couple.

So why should you learn Tagalog?

  • One reason is that, when you marry a Filipina you marry (almost literally), the entire kin-group so you are going to have regular interactions with them and it is also likely that your Filipina might want her parents, or even her brothers or sisters, to live with you and all the more so if you move to the Philippines for good, chances are that you will live in the same compound where the entire extended family lives.

Even if your Filipina’s extended family members are fluent in English (like in my case) your effort to learn Tagalog will most certainly be viewed as an effort on your part to go the extra mile.

  • Another reason why you should learn Tagalog is because you are going to have 90% of your social intercourses with Filipinos only, especially if you live in a big Western city like Rome where there is a huge population of Pinoy immigrants. Filipinos hardly widen out and have social interactions with local people (at least here in Rome).
  • Another reason why you should learn Tagalog is this: I have noticed that, unlike Italians, who only like to gossip about other people when those people are not around, Filipinos like to whisper even in the presence of the person they are tsismising about, so if you can’t understand what they say you might find yourself in the awkward situation where you are not sure if they are talking about you or about somebody else.
  • You can startle Filipinos who live in your country by talking to them in Tagalog.
  • Being able to speak Tagalog will stand you in good stead even if you only visit the Philippines as a tourist.

I remember carrying way to much hand luggage when checking in at the Manila International Airport known as NAIA and I got away with it because I talked to the officer in Tagalog and he just smiled and let me go.

A friend of mine who spent several years in the Philippines once told me about one of his fellow countrymen who was held up by a band of robbers: he started talking to them in Tagalog kind of pretending that he was being given by the Holy Spirit the gift of “speaking in tongues” and that he was some kind of “pastor” at which the thieves dropped their weapons, apologized and run away saying “sori po pastor”. Well, I am not sure whether this is a true story or an exaggeration but I have a strong feeling that it is very likely true.

Because I speak Tagalog I was able to walk the streets of my wife’s village alone and even take buses alone to go to other towns pretending that I was a mestizo (a Filipino who has Western origins) so that nobody would rob me or hold me up.

Filipinos are by and large easygoing and I’ve noticed that if you are fluent in Tagalog they become even more relaxed so if you can learn Tagalog your trip to the Philippines can be much more interesting.

Pilipino vs Tagalog: What’s the Difference?

The Philippines has an “official” language being English and a “national” language known as Filipino or Pilipino.

As for the official language, many highly educated Filipinos speak it very well and my wife, who has college education, is one of those who speak it seamlessly and effortlessly but, like almost all Filipinos, cannot avoid replacing the letter v with b and the letter f with p.

Most Filipinos whom I know, especially the taga-probinsya (or the taga-bundok) who don’t have that much of a higher education, speak a rather barok na uri ng Taglish at best, especially if they have been working as domestic helpers in my country for many years and they haven’t been practicing the English they learned while in school in the Philippines for years.

What about the “national” language or Pilipino?

Pilipino is basically Tagalog but, as far as I can understand, it is supposed to be the Tagalog spoken in Metro Manila and in the close proximity of it.

The Tagalog I hear from my wife and her relatives and friends when they communicate in a formal setting is basically identical to the written Tagalog of books, magazines and newspapers and that is, I assume, what Pilipino is, namely formal Tagalog stripped of its regional variations.

What I noticed the first time I visited the Philippines (and what I also notice when I hear my wife and her relatives speak informally) is that, if you only travel like 50 km away from Manila, the Tagalog people speak is a bit different from the language spoken in Metro Manila and that is where Tagalog and Pilipino differ.

For example, in the Tagalog spoken in San Ildefonso Bulacan (my wife’s town), the word dito meaning here is dine. The word rito becomes rine.

The word ito or this becomes ire and ganito becomes ganire.

Magparoot-parito or to walk about becomes magparoot-parine.

What this tells me is that proper Tagalog and Pilipino are one and the same while the informal Tagalog spoken sa kabukiran in some neighboring provinces is something else.

It is more or less the same here in Italy: we have standard Italian, which derives from the dialect of Tuscany, and we have huge variations in other regions, and if a foreigner who studies Italian came dine sa Roma, he would notice that the gap between the Roman dialect and standard Italian is much bigger than the gap between the dito and the dine that you can hear when you go from one part of the Katagalugan (the Tagalog speaking area) to another.

So, based on what I have gathered, Pilipino and Tagalog (the real and standard form) are the same thing and they only differ when people introduce regional variations.



Accents in Tagalog

As I mentioned in my previous posts about the Tagalog language, Tagalog has a relatively simple structure, mostly because there are only three verbal aspects to learn and not too many tenses like in many other languages.

One of the tricky parts is where to place accents in Tagalog, because, by misplacing the accent in a Tagalog word, one could convey an entirely different meaning.

Here are few examples of why learning to properly place accents in Tagalog matters:

Ba’ka (meaning “cow”) has nothing to do with baka‘ (“perhaps, maybe”)…..and much less with bak(l)a’….

Pu’no (meaning “tree”) has nothing to do with puno‘ (“full”). This means that a forest is puno’ ng mga pu’no and not puno’ ng mga puno’ or pu’no ng mga pu’no.

Makati’ (the adjective meaning “itchi”) is not to be confused with Maka’ti City in Metro Manila.

Buka’s (“open”) must not be confused with bu’kas (“tomorrow”), therefore if a shop is closed today and will open tomorrow you should say “bu’kas ay magbubuka’s ang tindahan” not “bu’kas ay magbubu’kas ang tindahan“.

So accents in tagalog are extremely important.

While Tagalog has a relatively simple structure, accents in Tagalog can make a huge difference and misplacing them can cause a Tagalog learner to convey a totally different meaning, even though Filipinos usually dismiss these blunders with a smile and just laugh away at them and, perhaps, will offer you a bottle of Red Horse (kabayong pula’……not pu’la) beer if you misplace the accent…..

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….

Tayo and Kami

One of the most confusing things for us foreigners learning Tagalog is the two personal pronouns tayo and kami.

They both mean we but, while the first includes the person you are talking to, the second does not.

This means, for example, that if I am with one person and I am saying to a third person “umalis kami” that means that me and the person I am with are leaving but the third person isn’t coming. If I said “umalis tayo” that would mean “let’s go” (the third person is coming as well).

Mistaking tayo for kami can therefore create big confusion.

Imagine that one was praying to God for forgiveness and he or she said “patawarin Mo tayo“. That would mean that God has to forgive not only the people praying but also himself. So “kami” is the pronoun to use in this case.

Tagalog has a relatively simple structure, compared to most European languages, but you have to be precise and not mistake tayo for kami for example (or ba’ka with baka’ and so on and so forth).

This is just one of the many examples where a slight mistake can convey a totally different meaning in Tagalog.