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


By now you are able to tell your friends where you are; what you have; even ask them questions in K’iche’. In this lesson, we will begin to add another component into our knowledge of the language: intransitive verbs. By the end of this lesson you will not only be able to say where you are or what you have, but also whether you are sleeping, eating, or going somewhere.


This text was written by a beginner K’iche’ student, who was asked to describe what he does everyday. Read it and then go through the rest of the lesson. Come back to it after completing the other sections and read it once more. Is your day much different?

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. Aretaq kinwalijik kinchaj wib’. Kinwa’ik. K’a te k’u ri, kinel b’i 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, kachaw 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!



As we will see throughout the course, in K’iche’, there is an important distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs. Intransitive verbs in K’iche’ include verbs referencing action by an agent that does not directly affect someone/something else (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 mental experiences are also intransitive: dream, worry, be sad, be happy, etc. In this lesson we will focus in verbs referencing ongoing activities. 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)
walij(ik) to get up
wa'(ik) to eat
el(ik) to leave, to go out
chaw(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)
chaj(o)* to wash
il(o)* to see
utz -il(o)* to like
“Utz kinwil le juyub’.” “I like the mountain.”
nimatijob’al university (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.

-walij(ij) – to wake up
-chaw(ik) – to talk/speak
-chakun(ik) – to work
-b’in(ik) – to walk
-wa(ik) – to eat
-eta’maj – to learn
-etz’anik – to play
-pet(ik) – to come
-tz’ib’aj – to write

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?