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Grammar Notes Tagalog

Over hundreds of years, Tagalog written form has been maintained and the Tagalog grammar remains unchanged from its original form despite having new words being added. A lot of the words that have been incorporated were derived from Malay, Spanish, and English.

Speakers of the English language will observe that Tagalog vocabulary is very similar to English: 'kompyuter' means computer, 'bolpen' means ballpen, and 'plastik' means plastic. It is important to note that although some words have been derived from English and mean the same thing, other words have totally different meanings. For example, 'yelo' means ice instead of yellow, and 'mama' doesn't only refer to 'mother' but can also mean 'mister'.

The basic level of Tagalog is relatively easy. It is similar to Malay and makes use of suffixes for this language to work. It adds affixes to the base of words and particle markers to illustrate how words relate to each other in a sentence.

The Tagalog alphabet is comprised of 28 letters. It uses syllable stress to indicate the difference between words that are similar. The sounds are represented by the letters in writing.

Since Tagalog is a phonetic language, you will find it easy to pronounce words because you can read them exactly the way they are spelled.

Tagalog / Filipino Alphabet:

A - ey
B- bi
C - si
D - di
E - i
F - ef
G- dzi
H - eyts
I - ay
J – dzey
K- key
L – el
M – em
N - en
Ñ – enye
NG – endzi
O – o
P – pi
Q – kyu
R – ar
S – es
T – ti
U – u
V – vi
W - dobol yu
X – eks
Y – way
Z - zi

In Tagalog, Nouns are called Pangngalan. This should not be confused with 'Pangalan' which is the Tagalog term for 'name'.

Nouns (Pangngalan) are used to name people, things, location, animals, and events.

lalaki - man
babae – woman
halaman – plant

To change a noun into its plural form, we do not add an (s) like how it is done in English, but the word 'mga' (pronounced as ma-nga) is simply added before the noun.

Ang sekretarya ay nag-bibigay ng mga papel sa kanyang boss.
The secretary is giving the boss some papers.

In the example above, the noun is 'papel' or 'paper'. In English, we would simply add (s) at the end to change it into its plural form, so we'll come up with 'papers'. In Tagalog, we simply add 'mga' before 'papel', it would then be 'mga papel'.

Tagalog Verbs also have 3 tenses: past, present, and future. However, they follow certain rules that are way different from English. In the Tagalog language, affixes are used.

There are three types of affixes:

1. those added at the beginning of a verb (prefix) – mag-, nag-
2. at the middle (infix) – -um, -in
3. at the end of the verb (suffix) – -an


Word: run
Past: ran
Present: running
Future: will run

You will notice that in English, the word 'run' is easy to convert to the future tense by simply adding the word 'will'. In Tagalog, you need to insert affixes in between letters and repeat some letters, and even a combination of these rules in order to change them into the past, present, and future tense.

Verb tenses will be discussed in details in Chapter 6.

Tagalog Adjectives describes nouns or pronouns. Some adjectives are Simple or Payak – without any affixes.

sariwa na prutas / fresh fruit

Or some are formed using affixes like the prefix (ma)

sipag / diligence(noun) – masipag (adj) / industrious.

Future Tense

To form the Future tense of the verb we need to remember the following rules:

1. Using the affix -mag and repeating the first letter of the root word.

root word: salita / talk
future tense: magsasalita / will talk

2. Repeating the first syllable of the root word.

root word: takbo / run
future tense: tatakbo / will run– just repeat the first syllable of the root word.

Past Tense

The rule in forming a verb into its past form is to use the following Tagalog affixes, um, na-, nag-, -in.

takbo / run
Present: tumatakbo / running
Past: tumakbo / ran – notice that the affix -um is added after the first letter 't'.

Another example is the word 'sew' or in Tagalog 'tahi'. To form its past tense just add the affix -in right after the first letter 't', that would then be 'tinahi'. But it would not be always that the affix of the word will be added after the first letter of the word, especially with the affix -um it could also be before the first letter of the word.

leave – alis
Past: Umalis

Just take note that when using the affix -um, it is added before the first letter of the word if it is a vowel and added after the first letter of the word if it is a consonant.

Akyat (climb) – umakyat
Tayo (stand-up) – tumayo

Present Tense

To form the Present tense of the word you just have to remember the following rules:

1. Using the affix -um and repeating the first vowel of the root word.

leave / alis – root word
(a) – first vowel of the root word = aalis

2. Using the affix nag- and repeating the first syllable of the root word.

Salita – to talk / Nagsasalita

Another Example is for the word word takbo / run, you just have to put together the rules in forming the past and future tense of the verb.

1. First is to repeat the first syllable of the root word which is takbo so that would be tatakbo (future tense form rule)

2. Add the affix -um after the first letter that would be 'tumatakbo' (since the first letter is a consonant affix (um) is added after the first letter: past tense form rule)


Ang lalaki ay nasa estasyon ng tren.
The man is in the train station.

Nasa means 'in' when translated to English. The preposition banda means 'around' which indicates time and location. The prepositions ng, ni and sa means 'of'. This serves as objective markers for nouns or phrases, aside from serving as markers for names of persons.

Ang paradahan ng bus. / The bus stop.
A Baby in a car. / Ang sanggol ay nasa sasakyan.


Tagalog Pronouns are categorized into cases. The three cases are direct or the first person, indirect or the second person, and oblique or the third person.

1st person:
ako (which means I)
tayo (which means we) - takes in the listener
kami (which means us) - does not include the listener

2nd person:
ikaw, ka, kayo (which means you)

3rd person:
siya (he or she)
sila (they)

Notice that there are three words to stand for the informal 'you'. However, the difference is that 'ikaw' cannot be used anywhere else in the sentence but at the beginning.

Meanwhile, 'ka' is only suitable for use at the middle or end of a sentence. The informal 'kayo' is the plural form for 'ikaw' or 'ka'.

In Tagalog, there are three words used for negation: hindî, walâ, and huwág.

The word Hindî is used to negate verbs and equations. Oftentimes Filipinos and Tagalog-speaking people shorten it to 'dî' (which is informal).

Ang sekretarya ay hindî nakatayo.
Ang sekretarya ay di nakatayo.
The secretary is not standing.

Wala conveys not anything, nil, or simply nothing.

Ang batang lalaki ay walang bola. / The boy has no ball.

On the other hand, Huwag is used to articulate negative commands, and can also be applied for infinitive and future aspect.

Huwag kang sumigaw. / Don't shout.

Tagalog Question words:

sino (who)
saan (where) – inquires about the location wherein an action was performed
nasaan (where) – inquires about the location of an object and not used with verbs
paano (how)
nino – either means who, whose, or whom
kanino (whom or whose)
nakanino (with whom)
magkano (how much)
kumusta (how are you)
kailan (when)
ilan (how many)
gaano (how) – although it means how, it is used to ask about the quality of an adverb or an adjective
bakit (why)
ano (what)
alin (which)


Question word 'ano' or 'what'.

Ano ang ginagawa ng babae?
What is the woman doing?

You will notice that in the above example, Tagalog questions are constructed in the same way as English questions. When translated to Tagalog, the be-verb is omitted.


'Where' questions in Tagalog are normally constructed the same way in English.

Where is the man?
Saan ang lalaki?

Where is the baby?
Saan ang sanggol?

Where – saan
The – ang
Baby – bata

The only difference is that the be-verb (is) is missing in the sentence when it is translated to Tagalog. This is how it works, in Tagalog, the be-verb is omitted.

For making comparisons, the word 'mas' is added to the word, 'mas' means more.

maganda / beautiful
Ang babae ay mas maganda kaysa lalaki.
The woman is more beautiful than the man.

Mataba / fat
Ang lalaki ay mas mataba kaysa babae.
The man is fatter than the woman.

Superlative Comparison

The word 'pinaka' which means 'the most' is used to compare in a superlative degree. If you want to say 'biggest', you will add 'pinaka' before the Tagalog word 'malaki' which is the term for 'big'.

pinaka + malaki / big = pinakamalaki / biggest

Ang elepante ang pinakamalaking hayop na nasa litrato.
The elephant is the biggest animal in the picture.

Adjectives in Tagalog are added with -ng at the end, which is why the word 'pinakamalaki' or biggest would be 'pinakamalaking'.

It is very important to learn how to count in Tagalog, as much as it is important in any other language.

Tagalog is a mixture of Tagalog and Spanish. Having two sets of numbers, the Tagalog language incorporates Spanish. Tagalog is used for counting numbers while Spanish is used for counting numbers, and money or currency.

Numbers using Tagalog words.

0 = sero
1 = isá
2 = dalawá
3 = tatló
4 = ápat
5 = limá
6 = ánim
7 = pitó
8 = waló
9 = siyám
10 = sampû
11 = labing-isa
20 = dalawampu
21 = dalawamput isa
30 = tatlumpu
40 = apatnapu
50 = limampu
60 = animnapu
70 = pitumpu
80 = walumpu
90 = siyamnapu
100 = isang daan
1000 = isang libo
1,000,000 = isang milyon