Learn Pilipino

Pilipino for English Speakers (A Tutorial)

Pilipino is the national language in the Philippines. It is based on the Tagalog dialect which is widely spoken in the Southern part of Luzon island. It is the lingua franca in the capital region of Manila and of Filipinos anywhere in the world. Tagalog is the second most commonly-spoken Asian language and the sixth non-English language spoken in America. “Pilipino” as a national language is designed to incorporate other major dialects as Cebuano, Ilocano, Bikolano, Ilonggo, and others.

I. How to read Pilipino

A. The Alphabet (Abakada)

The Pilipino alphabet uses the same English (Roman) letters.

Classic (Original Tagalog alphabet):

There are 5 vowels: A E I O U, the remaining 15 letters are consonants.

Modern alphabet: In the late 1970’s, the English and Spanish Letters were incorporated into the official Pilipino alphabet, making a total of 28 letters:

English origin: C F J Q V X Z
Spanish origin: CH LL Ñ RR
Note: only Ñ is officially incorporated. CH LL and RR are not considered distinct consonants.

For pedagogical purposes, we shall stick to classic alphabet in this tutorial. This means that prior to the expansion of the alphabet, the following letters are substituted to effect the same sound:

C = K or S – ex. kanser (cancer)
F = P – ex. pista (fiesta)
J = DY or H – ex. dyip(Jeep) or Hesus (Jesus)
Q = K or KW – ex. keso (queso, cheese)
V = B – ex. berde (verde, green)
X = KS – ex. taksi (taxi)
CH = TS – ex. titser (teacher)
LL = Y – ex. kabayo (caballo, horse)
Ñ = NY – ex. pinya (piña, pineapple)
RR = R – ex. baryo (barrio)
Z = S – ex. sigsag (zigzag)
That special letter “NG”
Although written as two letters, NG is a single letter in Pilipino alphabet. It sounds like the nasal sound you hear in the word “Language” minus the “g” sound, or that in “sing” or “bang“. This means that Pilipino words can start with “Ng” which is not found in English.

B. Pronounciation:

Pilipino words are phonetic. Except for a couple of words, all words are pronounced as they are spelled. Each letter has ONE AND ONLY ONE sound.* There are no silent letters. ALL consonants are sounded, including “H”. ALL vowels have short pronounciation, NO EXCEPTIONS.
*That’s why we can’t have a Pilipino spelling bee– there is no wrong spelling. If you can say it, you can spell it. This probably helps Pinoy kids to excel in English Spelling Bees.

“a” – is pronounced as short “a” as in “fat” ; not “a” in “say”
“e” – is pronounced as short “e” as in “beg” ; not “e” in “email”
“i” – is pronounced as short “i” as in “indian” ; not “i” in “ipod”
“o” – is pronounced as short “o” as in “roll” ; not “o” in “over”; never “o” in “other”
“u” – is pronounced as short “oo” as in “look” ; not “u” in “UK”; never “u” in “umbrella”

The other fifteen consonants sound exactly like their English counterparts.

So how do we read the alphabet?

“ba ka da e ga ha i la ma na nga o pa ra sa ta u wa ya”

(similar to — do re mi pa so la ti do!)

Practice pronunciation in its full glory:

a e i o u
ba be bi bo bu
ka ke ki ko ku
da de di do du
ga ge gi go gu
ha he hi ho hu
la le li lo lu
ma me mi mo mu
na ne ni no nu
nga nge ngi ngo ngu <-- practice this one more
pa pe pi po pu
ra re ri ro ru
sa se si so su
ta te ti to tu
wa we wi wo wu
ya ye yi yo yu

C. Practice words:

The examples below are syllabicated to aid in reading:

a·ba·ka (hemp) pa·a(foot) ka·bi·be (shell) su·si (key) a·ko (I)
ba·ka (cow) ba·ba (chin) ba·ta (child) pu·sa (cat) ba·nga (earthen pot)
o·o (yes) ta·o(person) a·so (dog) si·ya(he/she) da·la·wa (two)

Note that a syllable contains only of a SINGLE vowel, on its own or in combination with consonants. When two vowels appear one after the other, they belong to different syllables. The examples above show the MOST COMMON consonant-vowel combination (CV). The others are:

vowel-consonant combination( VC)
at (and) um·pi·sa (start) ang (the, note “ng” is a single consonant)
is·da (fish) lo·ob (inside) ay (is,are,was,were)

consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC)
tu·big (water) ka·nin (cooked rice) pa·lay (rice with husk) hindi · No
nom (drink) bi·gas (uncooked rice) kot·se (car) may(has/have) gan·da(beauty)

other combinations: words mostly derived from English/European languages

consonant-consonant-vowel (CCV) or CCVC or CVCC
plan·tsa (flatiron)
Oktubre (October, note: pronounced as “bre” in “bread”)
tren (train-transportation)
trapik (traffic)
dyip (jeep)
am·bu·lan·sya (ambulance, sounds like “shah”)

If a word is of VCV variety, then it is syllabicated as V-CV
apa(ice cream cone) is “a·pa”, not “ap·a”
ubo(cough) is u·bo

When a syllable ending in consonant is followed by another syllable beginning in a vowel, a hyphen is added.
Example: pag-ibig (love, a hyphen is needed between “g” and “i”, otherwise, it would read “pa·gi·big”, which is wrong)

Back to the letter “NG”. To pronounce “nga” properly in “ba·nga” above, say “sing-a-long” then remove the “si” and “long”. There should not be a “g” sound. This should be unlike “Singapore” which has the “g” sound. If you like the “g” sound to show up, then it is written as a separate consonant, as in
lang·gam (ant)
pang·ga·tong (wood fuel)

II. Vocabulary Build up

A. Counting numbers (some with syllabication)

1 – i·sa
2 -da·la·wa
3 – tat·lo
4 – a·pat
5 – li·ma
6 – a·nim
7 – pi·to
8 – wa·lo
9 – si·yam
10 – sam·pu
11 – la·bing-i·sa
12 – labing-dalawa
13 – labing-tatlo … (you get the idea)
20 dalawampu
21 dalawampu’t-isa (dalawampu at isa= “twenty and one”)
33 tatlumpu’t-tatlo (tatlumpu at tatlo = “thirty and three”)
94 siyamnapu’t-apat (siyamnapu at apat =”ninety and four”)
100 isang daan or sandaan
1000 isang libo or sanlibo
10000 sampung libo
1000000 isang milyon

B. Days of the Week and Months of the year

Lu·nes (Monday)
Mar·tes (Tuesday)
Mi·yer·ko·les (Wednesday)
Hu·we·bes (Thursday)
Bi·yer·nes ( Friday)
Sa·ba·do (Saturday)
Ling·go (Sunday)

NOTE: Except for Sunday, the days of the week is of Spanish origin.

(You should be able to figure these out…)
Enero Pebrero Marso
Abril Mayo Hunyo
Hulyo Agosto Setyembre
Oktubre Nobyembre Disyembre

C. Common Greetings

Almost half of the Pilipino words in common usage is of Spanish origin, although in the last sixty years many English words have been incorporated in somewhat adulterated form. Older Pilipino words come from Hindu-Sanskit, Malay, Arabic, Chinese, and Indonesian origins. Today, it is common to find Filipinos speaking what is referred to as “Tag-lish” which is a careless convolution of Tagalog ang English. Rather than deal with translation, the implosion of technology and science into everyday life forces the society to absorb the new words directly without modification to keep up with the rest of the world. Hence, the incorporation of the 11 letters into the classic alphabet made the terminology usage automatic, violating the spelling rules which now no longer apply. Now, it is alright to write “teacher” what purists would still consider “titser”.

(Practice to syllabicate these words)

Magandang umaga (good morning or “Gud morning” is common usage)
Magandang Gabi (good evening or “Gud ibning” is common, too.)
Kumusta ka? (How are you?, from Spanish “¿Como esta?”)
Mabuti naman. (I’m fine, considering…)
Mabuhay! (Long live! Modern usage connotes “Welcome”. There is no “welcome” in Pilipino. The closest is “Tuloy po kayo” which means “Please come-in”)
Maupo po kayo (Please, sit down)
Paalam (good-bye)
Kain na tayo! (Let us eat!)
Anong oras na? (What time is it?)
Ala una (one o’ clock. Times are customarily expressed in Spanish, e.g. alas dose y media, 12:30, but English is totally acceptable, too.)
Saan ka pupunta? (Where are you going?)
Uuwi na ako. (I’m going home already. Note syllabication rules: “u·u·wi” is four syllables).
Aalis na ako. (I’m leaving already. “a·a·lis” is four syllables)
Magkano ito? (How much is this?)
Salamat. (Thank you)
Walang anuman. (You’re welcome. Literally, “nothing whatsoever”)
Nasaan ang CR? (Where’s the restroom?. “CR” is comfort room)
Iniibig kita. (I love you. Cringely very formal. They say it only in movie films.)
Ay lab yu. (I love you. What you say to your first love.)
Mahal kita. (I love you. More sweet and endearing. What you say if you really mean it).
Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)

III. Accents

Pilipino words have four types of accents:
1. Mabilís (fast) – the intonation (accent) is raised in the last syllable. When written they are usually denoted by acute accent (a slanting up sign) above the last vowel, as in á, é, í, ó, ú.

ba·ríl (gun, pronounced bah·reel’, accent on “ril”)
ma·gan·dá (beautiful, pronounced mah·gun·duh’, accent on “da”).
Note: English speakers tend to pronounce this word with accent on the second syllable as is customary in English words: Magandáng umaga – Good morning

2. Malumay (slow) – the intonation goes up on the second to the last syllable. These words do not have diacritical marks. Many two-syllable English words are pronounced this way, like “ba’con”, “sal’mon”.
ku·bo(hut, kooh’·boh, accent on “ku”)
i·bon (bird, ee’·bhon, accent on “i”)
ba·hay (house, bah’·hai, accent on “ba”)
sa·ri·li (self, suh·ree’·lee, accent on “ri”)

3. Malumì (slow glottal)-accent in the last syllable with the characteristic glottal stop, usually denoted by grave accent (a slanting down sign) above the last letter (which is ALWAYS a vowel), as in à, è, ì, ò, ù. This is similar to malumay but with the last syllable ending in an abrupt stop.

pu·sò (heart, pooh’·soh?, accent on “pu”, glottal stop on “so”)
tam·bu·lì (horn, tum·booh´·lee?)
à (thought, dee’·wah?)
à (deity, but·hah’·lah?)
> Note: the symbol “?” is the phonetic sign for a glottal stop.

4. Maragsâ (fast glottal)- accent in the last syllable with the characteristic glottal stop, usually denoted by circumflex accent( a little pointy hat) above the last letter (which is ALWAYS a vowel). as in â, ê, î, ô, û. This is similar to mabilis but with the last syllable ending in an abrupt stop.
wa·lâ (none, nothing, wuh·la?‘, accent and glottal stop on “la”)
su·lô (torch)
bin·tî (leg)
sam·pû (ten)
ba·ba·lâ (warning)
The malumi and maragsâ words ALWAYS end in VOWELS. The glottal stop is a common difficulty with English speakers because of their absence in English words. The idea is to tighten the throat muscles after the last vowel. To get the idea, try to hiccup! Hik!

English speakers used to putting accents to stress syllables would find it confusing to pronounce malumay and malumi words. The second to last syllables are always intonated (or stressed), although they are not diacritically marked.
NOTE: The accent symbols are optional in literature. The standard US QWERTY keyboard is perfectly suited for Pilipino communications. Unlike European languages, the special diacritical markings are not necessary to type in Pilipino. However, two keys are missing: the Spanish letter “ñ” and the Philippine currency symbol of Philippine peso: “P” with a double overstrike. This last one is often substituted with “Php” in the internet. The “ñ” is often substituted by “ny” except in proper names inherited from Spanish colonial times. In this case, “ñ” can be obtained from extended character set: Alt-0241, obtained by typing 0241 on the numeric keypad while pressing the Alt key. Ñ is Alt-0209. Here are the Unicodes for accented vowels

Á 0193 á 0225 À 0192 à 0224 Â 0194 â 0226
É 0201 é 0233 È 0200 è 0232 Ê 0202 ê 0234
Í 0205 í 0237 Ì 0204 ì 0236 Î 0206 î 0238
Ó 0211 ó 0243 Ò 0210 ò 0242 Ô 0212 ô 0244
Ú 0218 ú 0250 Ù 0217 ù 0249 Û 0219 û 0251
Words with more than two syllables may have more than two accented syllables.
pá·a·ra·lán (school)
dá·li·tâ (poor, archaic Tagalog)
hím·pa·pa·wíd (sky)
su·má·sam·pa·la·ta·ya (believe, malumay ending)

[We will be a little sloppy in using the accents except for words that may have multiple meanings.]

IV. Uniquely Pilipino, a digression

Many similar words in Pilipino can have different meanings depending on pronounciation or placement of the accent.

ba·ga (ember)
ba·gâ (street word roughly meaning destroy or consume)
ba·gà (lung)
ba·gá (used in a phrase embelishment, roughly meaning “instance”)
a·so (dog)
a·só (smoke)
pi·tó (seven)
pi·to (whistle)
ba·tà (child)
ba·tá (to endure)
ba·ta (bathrobe)
sa·ma (join, get together)
sa·mâ (bad)
Yet, some words are pronounced exactly the same but with different meanings depending on context:

ma·hál (love)
ma·hál (expensive)

Many many words are repetition of the same syllables:

aà(dirt) babà (chin) kakâ(older sibling) lala (weave) mamà (old man) nana (aunt) sasá(a palm) wawà (lake) yaya(nanny) oo(yes) kikì(female organ) titì(male organ) yoyo(yoyo) bobo(stupid) dede(suck milk) dibdíb(chest) alaala(memory) tiktík(spy) kiti-kití(mosquito larvae) iba-ibá(variety, different) ngala-ngala(jaw) guni-guni(illusion) salasala (interwoven)

Pilipino words DO NOT have gender (PC, equality of sexes!), that is why Filipinos often interchangeably use “he” or “she” when speaking English. A liberated female colleague commented this is what English needs, so God can be a She.

Kids’ song, helps you to translate short sentences:

One day, isang araw
I saw, nakakita
One bird, isang ibon
Flying, Lumilipad
I shot, binaril ko
I picked, pinulot ko
I cooked, niluto ko
I ate, kinain ko.

One night, isang gabi
I heard, nakarinig
A car, isang kotse
Running, tumatakbo
I chased, hinabol ko
I caught, nahuli ko
I rode, sinakyan ko
I crashed, binangga ko.

So, what are those two Pilipino words that are not phonetic?

ng – pronounced “nung”, not “aing” as common English speakers do. This word is a ubiquitous conjunction tying up words together. Can be used to mean “of”.
NOTE: Some might argue that this is the consonant “ng” and therefore has no vocal sound unless a vowel is added. This is true, that’s why this is the exception.
Ex. Bumili ka ng gatas (Buy some milk)
Republika ng Pilipinas (Republic of the Philippines)
Estados Unidos ng Amerika (United States of Amerika)

mga – pronounced “ma·nga” ; article denoting plural of the following noun
Ang mga bata ay naglalaro. (The children are playing)

Note that ALL the plural noun forms in Pilipino are done this way, no -s or -es!

Note: I have seen old texts where the “ng” sound is represented by “ğ” such that “mga” is written as “mğa”.

Some more trivia:

The Longest Pilipino word:
Pinagkasampasampalatayanan (to whom the outmost faith is given)
Try to syllabicate this word!

Vocabulary Enhancement – forming adjectives

Many Filipino adjectives can formed by affixing “ma” to the root word

Root Word: Adjective:
ganda(beauty) maganda(beautiful)
lakas(strength) malakas(strong)
bilis(speed) mabilis(fast)
bagal (slowness) mabagal(slow)
laki(size) malaki(big)
liit(smallness) maliit(small)
talino(talent) matalino(smart, talented)
buti(goodness) mabuti(good)
samâ(badness) masamâ (bad)
taas(height, object or structure) mataas(tall, high)
tangkad(tallness,person) matangkad(tall)

V. Forming Phrases

Let us learn the mechanics of joining words.

A. Noun modifiers

In Pilipino, the adjective can preceed or succeed the subject noun. Both are conversationally acceptable.

Examples: join maganda(beautiful) and babae(woman)

magandang babae (beautiful woman)
babaeng maganda (woman that is beautiful)

note that the “ng” connects the two words.

Rule: if the preceeding word ends in a vowel, “ng” is affixed. If it ends in consonant, the conjuction “na” is inserted in between the words.


malakas na tinig (loud/strong voice)
tinig na malakas (voice that is loud/strong)

matangkad na lalaki (tall man)
lalaking matangkad (man that is tall)

malaking malaking buwaya (big big crocodile)

If you violate the rule:
You can say “maganda na babae” but it does not sound smooth.
You cannot say “matangkad ng lalaki” because it would mean “tall of man” which makes no sense. Note that “ng” by itself is a word pronounced “nung”.

What happens to the accent?

Maragsa and malumi words are converted to mabilis and malumay words, respectively, when the “ng” suffix is used. Mabilis and malumay words remain the same.

Example: basâ (wet), pusà (cat)
basáng pusà (wet cat)
pusang basâ (cat that is wet)

B. Subject articles: Ang, Si, Sina

As in English, nouns used in the subject can be precedeed by articles. This is almost always word for word translation.

ang bahay (the house)
ang pinto (the door)
ang mga bata (the children)

Indefinite articles “a” and “an” has no direct translation in Pilipino. Although the sense of indefiniteness can be expressed by the word “isa” (one)

isang oras (one hour or an hour)
may isang bata (there is a child)

Unlike English, names of person also need an article when used in a sentence! Use “Si” or “Sina”.

Si Roberto ay matangkad. (Roberto is tall.)
Si Susan ay mabait. (Susan is good.)
Sina Alex ay mayaman. (Alex and his family are rich.)

“Sina” is the plural form of “Si” which implies the person taken together with his companions, group, family or friends, the meaning of which is taken from the context of the sentence.

VI. Forming Sentences

A. Declarative

Now we know the mechanics, let us form sentences. Pilipino sentences can be formed in two ways:
1) Progressive form: subject-verb-predicate order (customary in English).
Ako ay mabait.
I am good.
2) Reverse form: predicate-subject order (Yoda-speak in Star Wars)
Mabait ako.
Good am I.

Formal writing style uses the first format and always use the verb “ay”. The second form is invariably used in conversations which English speakers find difficult to get used to. In this tutorial we shall switch back and forth between both forms when necessary. The formula is to translate English into Pilipino in progressive form. To make it into reverse, remove “ay” and switch the two halves of the sentence.

Try these pronouns in both forms, replacing the subject “ako” above. Say and translate:

Singular: Pronoun Progressive form: Reverse form:
1st person Ako (I, me) Ako ay mabait. Mabait ako.
2nd person Ikaw, ka (you) Ikaw ay mabait. Mabait ka.
3rd person Siya (he or she) Siya ay mabait. Mabait siya.


1st person exclusive Kami (We) Kami ay mababait. Mababait kami.
1st person inclusive Tayo(We) Tayo ay mababait. Mababait tayo.
2nd person Kayo (you, Ya’ll) Kayo ay mababait. Mababait kayo.
3rd person Sila (They) Sila ay mababait. Mababait sila.

Notes: 0) there is only one third person singular pronoun, “siya” has no gender; 1) that the verb “ay” meaning am, is, or are (number of the subject does not matter) disappears in the reverse form. 2) The reverse form for “ikaw” is “ka”. 3) The exclusive form of “we” is “kami”, which excludes the person being addressed. The inclusive form “Tayo”, includes the person addressed. The two forms are not differentiated in English. 4) Grammatically, the plural form of the adjective “mabait” is “mababait” which repeats the second syllable. However, this distinction has sometimes fallen out of common usage and both forms are conversationally acceptable unless plurality is implied.

Use the following words in both progressive and reverse forms, substituting for the predicate above:

mabilis (fast)
maganda (pretty, beautiful)
matangkad (tall)
maawain (kind)
malusog (healthy)

Now, with a little more complication:
Ako ay malakas na lalaki. (I am [a] strong man.)
Ikaw ay magandang babae. (You are [a] beautiful woman.)
Si Pilar ay mabait na bata. (Pilar is [a] good child.) -good choice for formal writing
Si Pilar ay batang mabait. (Pilar is [a] child which is good) – awkward choice

In reverse (note, remove the “ay” and switch):

Malakas na lalaki ako. (Strong man I am)
Magandang babae ka. (Beautiful woman you are)
Mabait na bata si Pilar. (Good child Pilar is) -excellent conversational structure.
Batang mabait si Pilar. (Child which is good Pilar is) -very awkward structure.

B. Interrogative pronouns

ano (what) saan (where direction) nasaan (where object location)
kailan (when) sino (who) bakit (why) kanino (whose)
paano (how) magkano (how much-price) ilan (how many number)
gaano (how much-quantity)


Ano ang pangalan mo? (What is your name?)
Saan ka nakatira? (Where do you live?)
Nasaan ang bahay mo? (Where is your house?)
Kailan ang bertdey mo? (When is your birthday?)
Bakit malakas ang hangin? (Why is the wind strong?)
Paano ka magluto ng kanin? (How do you cook rice?)
Magkano ang mangga? (How much is the mango?)
Ilan ang mga kapatid mo? (How many are your siblings?) <- no direct translation of brother and sister in Pilipino
Gaano kalakas ang hangin? (How strong is the wind?)

Other forms of interrogative sentences:

When the question is answerable by “yes” or “no”, “ba” is inserted in an otherwise declarative sentence.

Here is the reverse form:
Declarative: Interrogative:
Maganda siya. (Beautiful is She.) Maganda ba siya? ( Beautiful is she?)
Mahal ang gatas. (Expensive is milk.) Mahal ba ang gatas? (Expensive is milk?)
Mahirap sila. (Poor are they.) Mahirap ba sila? (Poor are they?)

The progressive form equivalents would have the “ba” before “ay”:

Siya ay maganda. (She is beautiful.) Siya ba ay maganda? (Is she beautiful?)
Ang gatas ay mahal. (Milk is expensive.) Ang gatas ba ay mahal? (Is milk expensive?)
Sila ay mahirap. (They are poor.) Sila ba ay mahirap? (Are they poor?)

Kumain ka na. ([You] Eat already.) Kumain ka na ba? (Did you eat already?)

As tag question:
Maganda siya, ‘di ba? (She is pretty, isn’t she?)

We’ll start using green fonts for reverse forms. Words in brackets [ ] are optional. “‘di” is a contraction of “hindi” meaning no or not.

(this may need some work…)

C. Demonstrative Pronouns

Pointing to object:
Singular: Plural form:
ito (this, close to first person) mga ito (these)
iyan (that, close to the second person) mga iyan (those)
iyon (that, far away from both persons) mga iyon (those)
ayun (that, there..?)

Pointing to place:
dito, dine (here, direction close to first person) nandito(here, location of object)
diyan(there, direction close to second person) nandiyan(there, location of object)
doon(there, direction far away to both persons) nandoon(there, location of object)

Ito ay aklat ko. (This is my book.)
Iyan ay maganda. (That is beautiful.)
Iyon ang bahay namin. (That is our house.)
Dito kami nakatira. (Here is where we live.)
Diyan, sa likod mo (There, behind your back).
Ipinanganak ako doon sa Pilipinas (I was born there in the Philippines)
Nandito ang susi mo. (Here your key is.)
Nandiyan ang mga magulang mo. (There your parents are (in your place, near second person)).
Nandoon ang bahay namin. (There our house is.(far away from both persons))

D. Possessive
akin, ko (mine, of mine)
iyo, mo (yours, of yours)
kanya, niya (his/her, of his/hers)

atin, natin (ours, of ours inclusive) amin, namin (our, exclusive)
inyo, ninyo(yours, of yours)
kanila, nila (theirs, of theirs)

….to be worked on…

—- Advanced topics:——

VII. Conjugation
of Verbs

So far, we have only used the verb “ay” in all our examples. Now, let us see some action words. In Pilipino, the verbs are usually root words in infinitive form. They do not perform “action” unless joined in with a prefix, an infix or a suffix or combination of each. In fact, the meaning of the word can be changed or it can convert to a noun or an adjective according to the nfix. It was said that 450,000* Pilipino words can be formed because of this flexibility. This is where English speakers will find difficulty. Verb conjugation in Pilipino is quite different. English verbs signify tenses by changing the pronunciation (and hence spelling) or by using helping verbs (such as “will” or “has”). Fortunately in Pilipino, the spelling of the root word does not change. If one follows the rules for conjugation it will turn out not so bad.

* This section is a digression, only for your interest
Take for example, larô (to play)
using nfixes: nag- or mag-, -in, ka-, ma-, pa-, -an, pag-, ni-, -in-, pinag-, and combination of these
naglaro (played)
naglalaro (playing)
maglalaro (will play)
paglaruan (play upon, or to be played upon, infinitive)
pinaglaruan (be played upon; a place where a game had been)
paglalaruan (will be played upon)
pinaglalaruan (being played upon)
laruin (play [with an object] on the context of command)
lalaruin (will play [with an object])
nilaro (played [a game])
nilalaro (playing [a game])
paglaruin (let play)
paglalaruin (will let play)
pinaglaro (allowed to play)
pinaglalaro (allowing to play)
pinapaglaro (variation of pinaglalaro)
paglalaro (the act of playing)
laruan (playground; toy, plaything)
palaruan (playground)
malaro (playful)
mapaglaro (playful) pinakamalaro (most playful)
palaro (game tournament)
nalaro (have played a game)
kalaro (playmate)
kinalaro (made a playmate of)
kinakalaro (making a playmate of)
kakalaruin (will make a playmate of)
pinaka-laro (something considered to be a game or play)
paki-laro (please play [something])
You should now get the idea where we’re getting into…
Note: When a word ending in “o” is suffixed with -in or -an, it changes to “u”

Verbs and Tenses

The two most common verb nfixes are “nag/mag-” prefix and the “-um-” infix. Some infinitives can use both (with subsequent change in meaning) but not all.

1. “Nag/Mag-” words
-infinitive- past present future
laba (to wash [laundry]) – naglaba(washed) naglalaba(washing) maglalaba(will wash)
linis (to clean) –naglinis (cleaned) naglilinis (cleaning) maglilinis(will clean)
salita (to speak) –nagsalita(spoke) nagsasalita(speaking) magsasalita (will speak)
lakad (to walk) –naglakad(walked) naglalakad(walking) maglalakad (will walk)
sulat(to write) –nagsulat(wrote [in a publication]) nagsusulat(writing) magsusulat(will write)
bantay (to guard) -nagbantay(guarded) nagbabantay(guarding) magbabantay(will guard)

2. “-um’ words

kain (to eat) – kumain(ate) , kumakain(eating), kakain(will eat)
takbo (to run) – tumakbo(ran), tumatakbo(running), tatakbo(will run)
hinto (to stop) – huminto (stopped) humihinto(stopping), hihinto (wil stop)
lakad (to walk) – lumakad (walked [away]), lumalakad (leaving), lalakad (will leave)
kanta (to sing) – kumanta (sang) kumakanta(singing) kakanta(will sing) <-Spanish!
awit (to sing) – umawit (sang) umaawit(singing) aawit(will sing) <-Tagalog!
inom (to drink) – uminom (drank) umiinom(drinking) iinom(will drink)
sulat(to write) – sumulat(wrote [a letter]) sumusulat (writing) susulat (will write)

Here are the rules:
1. Past Tense:

“nag-” is prefixed to the infinitive.
“-um” is an infix added before the first vowel, thus changing syllabication. If the word starts with the vowel, “um” is a prefixed.

2. Future Tense:

“mag-” is prefixed to the infinitive. The first CV syllable of the infinitive is repeated.*
“um” infix is not used. The first CV syllable of the infinitive is repeated.*
*such as in the case of takbo, it is tatakbo, rather than taktakbo. In the case of bantay, it is magbabantay, rather than magbanbantay.

3. Present tense:

“nag-” is prefixed to the infinitive. The first CV syllable of the infinitive is repeated.
“um”: Form the future tense, then insert the “um” before the first vowel.

4. There are no past participle, indicative or subjective forms. The correct sense is modified by qualification orcontext.
I am running. Ako ay tumatakbo.
I was running (yesterday). Ako ay tumatakbo (kahapon).
I wrote a letter. Ako ay sumulat ng liham.
I have written a letter. Ako ay sumulat ng liham.

Let us try some examples:

Ako ay umiinom (I am drinking) <—-note the syllabication: u·mi·i·nom
Siya ay naglaba. (She/He washed laundry)
Si Romy ay kakanta. (Romy will sing)
Ang bata ay kumakain. (The child is eating)

Note the ubiquitous use of “ay” regardless of tense, which disappears in reverse form:

Umiinom ako. (Drinking I am)
Naglaba siya. (Washed laundry she did)
Kakanta si Romy. (Sing Romy will)
Kumakain ang bata. (Eating the child is)

Subject and Object

Consider these two sentences.

Ako ay kumain. (I ate). Kumain ako.
Ako ay kinain. (I was eaten). Kinain ako.

* A common mistake among non-Tagalog speakers is to use the incorrect prefix “na-” to the root word “kain”. Nakain na ako (I was eaten already.) is used, instead of Kumain na ako (I already ate). What gets confusing is the use of another prefix “naka-” , which is also correct: Nakakain na ako (I already ate).

In the first sentence above, the pronoun “Ako” is the subject of the verb “kumain”. In the second, “Ako” is the object of the verb. The pronoun is the subject if it actively performs the action. It is the object if the action is performed to it.

This brings us to the “-in-” infix and the “in-” prefix.

3. “-in-” word conjugation

kain (to eat) – kinain(was eaten) kinakain(is being eaten) kakainin (will be eaten)
inom(to drink) – ininom(was drank) iniinom(is being drank) iinumin(will be drank)
sulat(to write) – sinulat(was written) sinusulat(is being written) susulatin(will be written)

Here are the rules: (compare this to the “um” infix above)
1. Past:

“-in-” is infixed to the infinitive before the first vowel.

2. Future:

The first syllable of the infinitive is repeated and suffix “-in” is added to the end.

3. Present:

The first syllable of the infinitive is repeated, then the “-in-” is inserted before the first vowel.

….(more examples)…

……This part under construction….

Other things to consider:

The “ay” word can be thought of a “subject-predicate separator” in a progressive form which disappears in the reverse form. So it is not just a direct translation of is, are, am, etc.

For example,
Siya ay naglalakad. He is walking.
Siya ay naglakad. He walked. <-there is no is, are or am!
Siya ay maglalakad. He will walk.

Another confusing aspect:
“ng” and “ang”

Most of the time, “ang” is a direct translation of “the”
Ang bata ay malaki. The child is big.
Malaki ang bata. Big the child is.
Malaking bata Big child

In the last example “ng” is affixed to malaki to “connect” it to “bata” as a modifier. Note that this function is served by “na” if the preceding word ends in a consonant.

Mabait na bata Good child

“ng” as a separate word almost always means “of”

Ang puso ng bata ay malaki. The heart of the child is big.
Ang ama ng bata ay mabait. The father of the child is good.

However, “Ang” can also be used in superlative comparison in the beginning of a reverse form. Here is where it gets confusing:

Ang laki ng bata! How big the child is! (Biggest in comparison to others)
*it is very awkward to say “Ang bata ay ang laki.” as progressive form.

Note that “laki” is not in proper adjective form “malaki” and yet when preceeded by “ang” becomes superlative form of the adjective. In the above example, “ng” does not mean “of” but rather a connector between the adjective and the noun.

Other example: Ang ganda ng kotse mo! How beautiful your car is!
Ang ganda mo! How beautiful you are!

Another use of “ng”

Ako ay sumulat ng liham. I wrote a letter.


Object forms

Now consider:

Ako ay kumain ng manok. ( I ate a chicken.) Kumain ako ng manok.
Ako ay kinain ng manok. (I was eaten by a chicken.) Kinain ako ng manok.
Kinain ko ang manok. (I ate the chicken)

to be continued…..
Pardon my mess, this is still in draft form. . .

Future Topics:
-hin, -in, -han, -an

din, rin
may, mayroon

Forming adjectives from rootwords


Use of Po and Opo
… and plural forms
Build respect in the language. If you want to understand the culture, you need to speak one…

Vocabulary/ Pilipino-English Lookup

Short list of common words.

Clickable Sound bytes
Filipino Spell Checker


As in any other learning environment, the best teacher is practice, practice, practice…

A. P. Reyes
Tallahassee, FL
ver. 09.2.22

Languages of the Philippines on Wiki
Learn more about the ancient Tagalog Script – the Baybayin