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Tïjonïk 10 Kinopan pa le nimatijob’al (I arrive at the university)
Intransitive verbs in K’iche’


By now you should be able to say where you are, speak about your possessions and ask questions in K’iche’. In this lesson, we will start learning verbs, in particular intransitive verbs. By the end of this lesson you will be able to say  whether you are sleeping, eating, or going somewhere.


This text was written by a beginner K’iche’ student when asked to describe his daily routine. Try to read it noting any new words and then complete the rest of the lesson. Come back to text then and read it once more. Is your own day much different from Mauricio’s?

Mauricio le nub’i. Kimpe pa le tinamit Austin, pa le amaq’ Estados Unidos. In tijoxel pa le nimatijob’al. Ronojel q’ij kimb’e pa le nimatijob’al. Aretas kinwa’lijik kinch’aj wib’. Kinwa’ik. K’a te k’u ri’, kinel pa le nimatijob’al. Kinb’inik. Utz kinwil le rilik le nutinamit. Aretaq kinopan pa le nimatijob’al, k’o le nutijonik rech k’iche’. Al We’l ub’i le wajtij. Pa le tijonik, kach’aw le qajtij quk’. Sib’alaj sak’aj le qajtij. Sib’alaj utz kinwil le nutijonik rech K’iche’!

Show/Hide English translation

My name is Mauricio. I am from the city of Austin in the United States. I am a student at the university. Everyday I go to the university. When I get up I shower. I eat. Then I leave for school. I walk. I like the view of my town. When I arrive at school, I have K’iche’ class. My teacher’s name is We’l. In class, our teacher talks with us. She is very smart. I like my K’iche’ class a lot!



In K’iche’, there is an important distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs. Intransitive verbs in K’iche’ include verbs referencing events that do not directly affect anyone/anything except the subject (You can think about them as having a subject but not an object, if it helps). Verbs like walk, go, dance, sleep, etc. are intransitive. Verbs referencing feelings are also intransitive: dream, worry, be sad, be happy, etc. We will focus first on ongoing events. In later chapters we will discuss completed and upcoming actions and events. Intransitive verbs are marked for person (agent) with a set of prefixes generally known by Mayanists as set B.


Person Singular Gloss Plural Gloss
1st -in- or –im- before b’ I -oj- We
2nd -at- You -ix- You all
2nd (Formal) -la You (Formal) -alaq You all (Formal)
3rd Ø He/she/it -e- or glottal stop They

Table 1. Intransitive verb subject markers (Set B)

Ex. 1
Kimb’e pa le tinamit.
K-im-b’e pa le tinamit.
Incompletive Aspect – 1st person singular Set B – go locative article town
I go to (the) town. 

We’ve seen with constructions such as possession that K’iche’ is an agglutinative language, which means that particles attach to words to determine their meaning (You should now know the difference between the words tinamit, nutinamit, qatinamit, for example). To form a verb in k’iche’, the marker for the person that is doing the action (the agent) becomes part of the verb, as we see with the marker im (1sB: first person singular, set B) in Ex. 1. –B’e is the verb root for the verb “to go.” The k- at the beginning marks the tense or aspect of the verb. In this case, it is in incompletive (INC) aspect; the action is taking place. (This is similar, though not equivalent to what we would call the present tense in English).

Ex. 2
La katb’e pa le tinamit?
La   k-at-b’e       pa le tinamit
INT INC-2sB-go loc. art. town
Are you going to town?

In Ex. 2 the second person singular markerat (2sB) precedes the verbal root b’e. The so-called incompletive aspect marker k- (INC) precedes the person marker. The marker k- references ongoing or habitual actions. Note the interrogative proclitic la (INT) preceding the phrase. Like in the first example, the particle pa (loc) is a locative and le is an article (art).

Ex. 3
Je’, kimb’ek
Je’, k-im-b’e-k
Yes, INC-1sB-go-PFM
Yes, I am going to town

When an intransitive verb comes at the end of a phrase, it takes a phrase final marker (PFM). This marker is usually -ik, though for the verb b’e it’s just -k. In Ex. 3 the suffix –k is a phrase final marker (PFM).

As you can see in the table above,  the third person singular (he/she/it) is not marked. Instead of the marker, as a place holder we’ve written as Ø. In Nahualá, if the intransitive verb begins with a vowel, an a is added to the aspect marker k- in order to avoid having two consonants in a row. The third person singular form of to go, then, as you will see below, is kab’ek in phrase final position, or kab’e in a sentence such as “the student goes” “Kab’e le tijoxel.” where the verb is not at the end of the phrase. The formal markers for the second person singular and plural actually come after the verb, so verbs in the formal will never have a phrase final marker. Look over the following table, where b’e is marked and broken down for each person:

Person marker Root Formal marker Phrase final marker Full form Gloss
k- in/
im (only before b’ or p)
(1st sing.)
b’e -k
I go
k- at
(2nd sing.)
b’e -k
you go
(2nd sing. formal)
b’e la
you go (f)
ka Ø
(3rd sing.)
 b’e  —  -k  
 he/she/it goes
k oj/uj
(1st pl.)
b’e -k
we go
k ix
(2nd pl.)
b’e -k
you all go
(2nd pl. formal)
b’e alaq
you all go (f)
k e
(3rd pl.)
b’e -k
they go

Now take a look at the verb war(ik), “to sleep.” Can you predict how this verb would be marked for each person before looking at the table?

Person Root Formal pronoun Phrase final marker Full form Gloss
k- in war -ik
I sleep
k- at war -ik
you sleep
ka war la
kawar la
you sleep (f)
ka Ø war -ik
he/she/it sleeps
k oj war -ik
we sleep
k ix war -ik
you all sleep
ka war alaq
kawar alaq
you allsleep (f)
k e war -ik
they sleep


K’AK’A TAQ TZIJVocabulary
pet(ik) to come
“Kimpe pa…” “I am from…” (Literally: I come from)
wa’lij(ik) to get up
wa'(ik) to eat
el(ik) to leave, to go out
ch’aw(ik) to speak
opan(ik) to arrive (at a place where you are not at the time)
ul(ik) to arrive (at the place where you are at the time)
“Kinopan pa le tijob’al.” “I arrive at school” (said if you are not at school)
“Kinul pa le tijob’al.” “I arrive at school” (said if you are at school)
“Utz kinwil le juyub’.””I like the mountain.”nimatijob’aluniversity (literally: the big school)

*These are transitive verbs. We will learn about them in an upcoming lesson.


Mark the following verb roots with each grammatical person.

-wa’lij(ij) – to wake up
-ch’aw(ik) – to talk/speak
-chakun(ik) – to work
-b’in(ik) – to walk
-wa'(ik) – to eat
-etz’anik – to play
-pet(ik) – to come

Go back to the tzijonik. Can you understand it better than the first time you read it? Can you write a few sentences about yourself and what you do everyday?