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Tagalog for Beginners

Tagalog belongs to the same family (Malayo-Polynesian) as Malay and Indonesian so they are related. But it shows many influences from Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and, more recently, English.

Tagalog at basic level is very easy. Like Malay, it employs the use of suffixes to make the language work. It uses agglutination (adding affixes to the base of a word). It also uses particle markers to show the relationship between words in a sentence.

Part one of this course is only intended for absolute beginners.

Part One - The Basics

Lesson 1: Pronunciation

Pronunciation

The pronunciation in Tagalog is very easy. It has only FOUR pure vowels of which are a, i, o and u. The letter e also exists but is only found mainly in loanwords (mainly English and Spanish). The consonants are treated consistently in that they only have one sound each, most notably the g should always be pronounced as the hard g, never soft. The h on the other hand should be like the English h.

 Consonants
 Letter Name Sampa IPA Equivalence
 B b  ba  [ b ]  [ b ]   as b in English "but"
 K k  ka  [ k ]  [ k ]   as k in English "kill"
 D d  da  [ d ]  [ d ]   as d in English "do"
 F f  ef  [ f ]  [ f ]   as f in English "fool"
 G g  ga  [ g ]  [ g ]   as g in English "go"
 H h  ha  [ h ]  [ h ]   as h in English "ham"
 L l  la  [ l ]  [ l ]   as l in English "left"
 ly    [ L ]  [ ʎ ]   as lli in English "million"
 M m  ma  [ m ]  [ m ]   as m in English "man"
 N n  na  [ n ]  [ n ]   as n in English "no"
 ng  nga  [ N ]  [ ŋ ]   as ng in English "singer"
 ny  nya  [ J ]  [ ɲ ]   as ny in English "canyon"
 P p  pa  [ p ]  [ p ]   as p in English "pen"
 R r  ra  [ r ]  [ r ]   as r in English "run"
 S s  sa  [ s ]  [ s ]   as s in English "see"
 T t  ta  [ t ]  [ t ]   as t in English "two"
 ts    [ tS ]  [ tʃ ]   as ch in English "teach"
 W w  wa  [ w ]  [ w ]   as w in English "we"
 Y y  ya  [ j ]  [ j ]   as y in English "yes"
 Z z  za  [ z ]  [ z ]   as z in English "zoo"
 Vowels
 Letter Name Sampa IPA Equivalence
 A a  a  [ A ]  [ ɑ ]   as a in English "father"
 E e  e  [ E ]  [ ɛ ]   as e in English "bed"
 I i  i  [ i ]  [ i ]   as i in English "city"
 O o  o  [ o ]  [ o ]   as o in English "no"
 U u  u  [ u ]  [ u ]   as u in English "soon"
 Diphthongs
 Letter Sampa IPA Equivalence
 ay  [ aI ]  [ aɪ ]   as i in English "wise"
 oy  [ oI ]  [ ɔɪ ]   as oy in English "boy"
 uy  [ ui ]  [ ʊi ]   as ewy in English "chewy"
 iw  [ iu ]  [ iʊ ]   as English "you"
 aw  [ au ]  [ aʊ ]   as ow in English "now"
 ey  [ eI ]  [ eɪ ]   as ay in English "day"

Tagalog usually stresses the last syllable. It also uses glottal stop. The glottal stop can also be stressed. The diacritical marks will be used to show which vowel should be stressed and which vowel should be accompanied with the glottal stop and which should be the combination of both the stress and the glottal stop.

à - unstressed glottal stop (the syllable that comes before this accented vowel must always be stressed)
á - stressed
â - stressed glottal stop

This is very important because the meaning of a word can be changed if you don't make the stress or glottal stop correctly.

suka - vomit
sukà - vinegar

kaibígan - friend
kaibigán - desire
kaíbigan - sweetheart
káibigán - mutual consent

makaalís - to be able to leave
makáalis - to leave unintentionally

bága - live charcoal
bagà - lungs

Exercises

Exercise A: Read aloud:

1) mánunulát
2) at
3) peryodista
4) yamót
5) álak
6) tamà
7) mabúti
8) babáe
9) amá
10) ílog
11) bulaklák
12) maliít
13) iná
14) matalíno
15) siyentipiko
16) malungkót
17) matabâ
18) isdâ
19) kapé
20) malî

Lesson 2: Word Order, Adjectives, Personal Pronouns, Possessive Pronouns, Greetings

Word Order

The word order in Tagalog is different in comparison to English and many other European languages. It is rather simple. For example, in English we say "The house is beautiful." which is translated into Tagalog as "Magandá ang báhay." which literally means "Beautiful the house."

As you notice, the verb 'to be' does not exist in this sense. "Ang" is a particle marker used to mark the following noun as the topic of the sentence.

Adjectives

The Tagalog word for 'beautiful' is "magandá". In Tagalog, almost every adjective starts with "ma-". This is because "ma-" is in fact the suffix used to turn the noun into adjective. Thus the root word "gandá" is the noun meaning 'beauty'.

Personal Pronouns

 Singular Plural
 1st person  akó  I  táyo
 kamí
 we (including the listener)
 we (excluding the listener)
 2nd person  ikáw, ka, kayó  you (informal)  kayó  you (formal, polite)
 3rd person  siyá  he, she  silá  they

You have noticed that there are three words for the informal 'you'. The difference is that "ikáw" can only be used at the beginning of a sentence whereas "ka" is only used in the middle or at the end of the sentence, or in inverted word order sentence. And informal "kayó" is the plural form of "ikáw/ka".

Possessive Pronouns

And here are the possessive pronouns:

 Singular Plural
 1st person  ko  my  natin
 namin
 our (including the listener)
 our (excluding the listener)
 2nd person  mo, ninyó  your (informal)  ninyó  your (formal, polite)
 3rd person  niyá  his, her  nilá  their

Greetings

Now for useful greetings!

 Greetings
 Magandáng umága  Good morning
 Magandáng tanghalì  Good day
 Magandáng hápon  Good afternoon
 Magandáng gabí  Good night
 Paalám na  Goodbye
 (Maráming) salamat  Thank you (very much)
 Waláng anumán  You're welcome/Don't mention it
 Iskyús  Excuse me.
 Sori  Sorry.
 Kumustá (pô) kayó?  How are you? (polite, plural) * pô is there to make it more polite
 Kumustá!  Hi!
 Kumustá ka?  How are you? (informal)

To make your "Magandáng umága", etc. more polite, add "" at the end.


Vocabulary

 babáe  woman
 laláki  man
 álak  wine
 isdâ  fish
 kapé  coffee
 amá  father
 ílog  river
 bulaklák  flower
 masaráp  delicious
 magandá  beautiful
 malamíg  cold
 mayáman  rich
 mahál  expensive
 mabangó  fragrant
 masayá  happy
 malayò  far
 maliít  small
 matalíno  intelligent
 matabâ  fat
 malî  wrong
 tamà  right
 mabúti  good
 gurò  teacher
 mánunulát  writer
 siyentipiko  scientist
 péro / nguni't  but
 iná  mother
 at  and
 peryodista  journalist
 malungkót  sad
 yamót  bored
 antók  sleepy

Exercises

Exercise A: Read and translate into English:
1) Masaráp ang isdâ.
2) Magandá ang babáe.
3) Mayáman ang laláki.
4) Malayò ang ílog.
5) Masayá ang amá.
6) Mabangó ang bulaklák.
7) Mahál ang álak.
8) Malamíg ang kapé.

Exercise B: Read and translate into English:
1) Matabâ silá.
2) Malî ka.
3) Mánunulát siyá.
4) Peryodista ang amá ko at siyentipiko ang iná ko.
5) Matalíno kamí nguni't matabâ kayó.
6) Antók táyo.
7) Malungkót ang gurò ko.
8) Yamót silá nguni't mabúti akó.

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) The fish is delicious.
2) The woman is beautiful.
3) The man is rich.
4) The river is far.
5) The father is happy.
6) The flower is fragrant.
7) The wine is expensive.
8) The coffee is cold.

Solution of Exercise B:
1) They are fat.
2) You are wrong.
3) He/she is a writer.
4) My father is a journalist and my mother is a scientist.
5) We are intelligent, but you are fat.
6) We are sleepy.
7) My teacher is sad.
8) He/she is bored, but I am good.


Lesson 3: Verbs, Particle (Object Marker) Ng

Verbs

The verbs are probably the most complicated and difficult aspect of Tagalog to explain to non-Tagalog speakers. They work very differently from English ones, obviously. There are only three tenses which are past, present and future. The tenses of Tagalog verbs are only concerned with whether something happened, happens or will happen.

Since Tagalog uses agglutination, the verb is made up of the verb root and an appropriate affix. An affix can be added to the beginning (prefix), the middle (infix) or at the end (suffix) in order to change the meaning of the word and use in a sentence.

Look at this verb "kumain" which is the infinitive meaning 'to eat'. Its verb root is "kain".

The infix "-um-" is added to the root "kain" to turn it into the infinitive. This is done by adding the infix after the first consonantal letter.

Tagalog uses reduplication which is the process of repeating the syllable in order to convey its tense.

So to turn "kain" into the present tense, repeat the first syllable to get "kakain", then add the infix "-um-" after the first consonantal letter and you get "kumakain" which is the present meaning 'eat/eats'. Note that the present can also be continuous present.

step 1: kain
step 2: kakain [repeat initial syllable]
step 3: kumákain [add infix after initial consonant]

In Tagalog, the verb always comes first then the personal pronoun.

Now how do you say 'I eat/I am eating'?

For past tense, simply use the infinitive "kumain". "Kumain" is both the infinitive and the past tense.

How would you translate 'He ate/He was eating'?

In order to obtain the future, use the root verb and then simply repeat the initial syllable.

step 1: kain
step 2: kakain [repeat initial syllable]

How is 'They will eat/They will be eating'? said in Tagalog?

Summary

VERB ROOT: kain
INFINITIVE: kumain
PAST: kumain
PRESENT: kumákain
FUTURE: kakain

If the initial letter of the verb root is a vowel, for example "alís" (leave, depart, go away), the infix "-um-" becomes a prefix. That means that "um-" is attached at the beginning. So it's umalís - to leave, to depart, to go away.

VERB ROOT: alís
INFINITIVE: umalís
PAST: umalís
PRESENT: umáalís
FUTURE: áalís

Note: The double vowels are pronounced separately. For example "áalís" is pronounced as 'á-alís'. This is why reduplication of the vowel, in a string of vowels, is considered as a syllable occurs.

Remember those verbs?

 umalís  to leave, go away
 kumáin  to eat
 bumilí  to buy
 umuwî  to go/come back home
 uminóm  to drink
 gumawâ  to do, make
 bumása  to read

If not, then please learn. Now we are going to learn how to make a simple Tagalog sentence.

In Tagalog, the personal pronoun goes after the verb:

Bumabása akó. - I read. / I am reading.

In Tagalog, the word order is Verb-Subject-Object (VSO), usually. If you want to add an object, simply add it directly after the subject:

Bumabása akó ng peryodiko. - I read a newspaper.

Particle (Object Marker) Ng

You must put the particle "ng" before the object. This particle is generally known as the object marker. Its purpose is to mark the direct object of the verb. But its other purpose is to let the listener/reader know that the direct object marked is the unfocused of the sentence. This means that it's not really the topic of the sentence. It is the fact that the infix "-um-" and the word "akó" that make the subject the topic of the sentence.

This particle "ng" is pronounced 'nang'.


Vocabulary

 aklát  book
 báhay  house
 batà  child
 barô / damít  dress
 tsokolate  chocolate
 tinápay  bread
 peryodiko  newspaper
 manók  chicken
 itlóg  egg/eggs
 gátas  milk
 magasín  magazine
 mésa  table
 tsaá  tea
 kuwénto  story

Exercises

Exercise A:
Can you do the infinitive, past, present and future of these following verbs?

1) bilí (buy)
2) uwî (go home)
3) inóm (drink)
4) gawâ (do, make)
5) basa (read)

Exercise B:
Now try and write sentences in Tagalog with the verbs in the present tense.

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) bumili, bumili, bumibili, bibili
2) umuwi, umuwi, umuuwi, uuwi
3) uminom, uminom, umiinom, iinom
4) gumawa, gumawa, gumagawa, gagawa
5) bumasa, bumasa, bumabasa, babasa


Lesson 4: Negation, Plural, Grammar Points, Another Subject, Prepositions

Negation

To say that you don't read / are not reading a magazine, you put the negative word "hindî" (not) at the beginning of the phrase and the subject must follow it and the verb and the object come after:

Bumabása akó ng magasín.
Hindî akó bumabása ng magasín.
- note word order!!

If you want to say that a woman is not fat (for example) - where the verb 'to be' doesn't exist in this type of sentence structure - you just simply add "hindî" at the start and there is no need to change the formation of the sentence:

Matabâ ang babáe.
Hindî matabâ ang babáe.

Now try and negate the sentences that you have written for the previous lesson.

Plural

Forming the plural in Tagalog is dead easy. Add "mgá" before the noun.

 báhay  (a) house
 mgá báhay  houses

This word "mgá" is pronounced 'manga'.

Grammar Points - Important!

In this lesson, we are still learning about how to form simple sentences in Tagalog. You've learnt how to form with the verb plus a personal pronoun (subject) plus a noun (direct object). Before you are going to try verb plus a noun (subject) plus another noun (direct object), we need to understand a few points.

This is easy as you are only required to replace the personal pronoun with a noun:

 Bumabása akó ng aklát.  I read a book.
 Bumabása ang laláki ng aklát.  The man reads a book.

You may have noticed this word "ang". This word is a particle known as the subject marker. "Ang" also has another purpose - to make the preceding word the topic of the sentence.

But please don't confuse "ang" with the English 'the' and "ng " with 'a'. It may seem as though the translation is like this but it's not so. Let me explain the difference. In English, 'the' is used to show that the noun is definite (something that has been talked about before and is being talked about again - something specific) and 'a' is used to show that the noun is indefinite (anything but specific). This is not the case in Tagalog where "ang" simply makes the noun the topic of the sentence - something that is the point of discussion - whereas "ng" shows that the noun is mentioned but not really important or not the point of the discussion.

Usually, at the same time, "ang" also makes the noun the subject of the sentence and "ng" the direct object. But an affix such as "-um-" within the main verb makes the relationship between the particles and itself (the affix) much more complicated. After all, the Tagalog grammar is extremely complicated! But please don't be put off! It is complicated because it is different. But be glad that you're learning to speak a language with a different grammar from any major languages!!!

So, the infix in this case "-um-", which you've learnt, lets you know that the subject marked by "ang" the topic of the sentence. Tagalog has a choice of many different affixes within the verb to let you know the role of each noun marked by a particular particle in the sentence.

Tagalog can make the direct object the topic of the sentence. How? By changing the infix "-um-" to "-in-". But for now, we will keep practising with the infix "-um-" until we feel confident.

Another Subject

Using a person's name as the subject

When you want to say that Ricardo, a named person, is doing something, you must put a particle "si" before the person's name. "Si" works exactly in the same way as "ang", the only difference is that "ang" is used with a noun while "si" is used with a personal name.

 Sumusúlat ang anák ko ng líham.  My child is writing a letter.
 Sumusúlat si Ricardo ng líham.  Richard is writing a letter.
 Estudyánte ang kaibígan ko.  My friend is a student.
 Estudyánte si Ella.  Ella is a student.

Using more than one person's name as the subject

When you want to say that, for example, José and Eva are doing something, you must use "sina" instead of "si":

Hindî sumusúlat sina José at Eva ng mgá aklát. - José and Eva are not writing books.

Prepositions

Tagalog has few prepositions of which each one can have various translations depending on the context. "Sa" for example can mean either 'in', 'at' or 'to' and even 'from'! But the context makes it clear what this preposition implies.

Study the following sentences closely and try to translate them into English.

Lumangóy si José sa dágat kahápon.
Pupuntá si Eva sa páaralán bukás.
Hindî pumúpuntá sa sinehán ang iná ko at kaibígan mo ngayóng áraw.
Kakáin si Rosa ng mgá manók sa restaurán.


Vocabulary

 pumuntá  to go
 sumúlat  to write
 tumáwag  to call (telephone)
 bumalík  to return, come back
 tumakbó  to run
 lumákad  to walk
 sa  in, at, to, from
 dágat  sea
 páaralán  school
 kahápon  yesterday
 bukás  tomorrow
 ngayóng áraw  today
 at  and
 sinehán  cinema
 restaurán  restaurant


Lesson 5: Possession, Another Object, Numbers, More "Um" Verbs, Adjectives

Possession

In Tagalog, " ng" has another meaning - ' of'. In other words, it indicates possession:

 kótse ng laláki  the man's car / car of the man
 páaralán ng mgá batà  the children's school / school of the children
 pamílya ng kaibígan ko  my friend's family / family of my friend

Another Object

Using a person's name as the direct object

The direct object marker for a person's name is " ni" or " nina" (for more than one person's name):

 Tumáwag ang iná ng kaibígan niyá nina Juan at Rosa kahápon.  Her friend's mother phoned Juan and Rosa yesterday.

Now try and write a few sentences.

Numbers

Tagalog has two sets of numbers - one native Tagalog and one Spanish, written the Tagalog way. But for now you will see the Tagalog ones from 0 - 10:

 0  sero
 1  isá
 2  dalawá
 3  tatló
 4  ápat
 5  limá
 6  ánim
 7  pitó
 8  waló
 9  siyám
 10  sampû

Try and memorise the numbers, then read these outloud:
1 8 4 3 7 6 2 9 6 3 4 5 2 5 1 0 7

More "Um" Verbs

 dumatíng  to arrive
 umupô  to sit (down)
 umiyák  to cry, weep
 kumantá  to sing
 uminóm  to drink
 pumások  to go in, enter

Adjectives

Describing Nouns in Tagalog

To say, for example, " big man" in Tagalog, where there is an additional information to the noun, you put the adjective before the noun, just like in English but you must put what you call a ligature in between the two words in order to link them together. There are two ligatures to be used to link them of which they are " -ng" and " na".

If the word ends in a vowel then you must add " -ng" and if the word ends in a consonant then add " na". If it ends in " -n" then replace it with " -ng". If it ends in " -e" then change it to " -i" before adding " -ng". Look at below:

 malakí  (big) +  laláki  (man) malakíng laláki  (big man)
 malungkót  (sad) +  táo  (person) malungkót na táo  (sad person)


Vocabulary

 pelíkulá  film / movie
 kótse  car
 pamílya  family
 tindáhan  shop / store
 unibersidád / pámantasan  university
 mabúti  good (condition)
 malínis  clean
 tulâ  poem
 mahírap  poor, difficult
 malakás  strong
 malínis  clean
 pángit  ugly
 tahímik  quiet
 maíngay  noisy
 sanggól  baby
 hángin  wind
 háyop  animal

Exercises

Exercise A: Translate to Tagalog:
1) The child enters the school.
2) The boy and the girl sang.
3) My mother will drink milk tomorrow.
4) Your friend will arrive tomorrow.
5) We were sitting down.

Exercise B:
Write into Tagalog, first putting the adjectives before the nouns and do not forget the ligatures!

1) rich man
2) poor woman
3) strong wind
4) fat person
5) noisy restaurant
6) big house
7) delicious fish
8) ugly animal
9) clean car
10) quiet school

Exercise C: Translate to English:
1) Umiiyák ang matabáng sanggól.
2) Bumábasa ang mayámang gurô.
3) Kumakáin ang masayáng bátang ng masaráp na isdâ.
4) Íinóm ang pagód na estudyánte ng álak bukás. (pagód = tired)
5) Sumúlat ang malungkót na babáe ng magandáng tulâ.

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) Pumapasok ang anak ng paaralan.
2) Kumanta ang batang lalaki at batang babae.
3) Iinom ang ina ko ng gatas bukas.
4) Darating ang kaibigan mo bukas.
5) Umupo kami/tayo.

Solution of Exercise B:
1) mayamang lalaki
2) mahirap na babae
3) malakas na hangin
4) matabang tao
5) maingay na restauran
6) malaking bahay
7) masarap na isda
8) pangit na hayop
9) malinis na kotse
10) tahimik na paaralan

Solution of Exercise C:
1) The fat baby is crying.
2) The rich teacher is reading.
3) The happy children are eating delicious fish.
4) The tired student will drink wine tomorrow.
5) The sad woman is writing a beautiful poem.


End Of Part One

This is the end of part one. You can continue with part II of this course.

Continue to part II

Thanks for your interest in this course! If you discovered any mistakes or you just want to say something then please let us know . We do need feedback!

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