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Tïjonïk 10 Kinwar pa le nuch’at. Kinwarik. (I sleep on my bed. I sleep)
Intransitive verbs in K’iche’


In this lesson, we will study intransitive verbs. By the end of this lesson, you will be able to say what you do, for example, eat, sleep, and travel.


This following text was written by a beginner K’iche’ student when asked to describe his daily routine.

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 kinwa’lijik kinwa’ik. K’a te k’u ri’, kimb’e pa le nimatijob’al. Kinb’inik. Utz kinwil le nutinamit. Aretaq kinopan pa le nimatijob’al, k’o le nutijonik rech k’iche’. Tat Wel ub’i’ le wajtij. Pa le tijonik, kojch’aw ruk’ le qajtij pa k’iche’ ch’ab’al. 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 eat. Then I go to the university. I walk. I like my town. When I arrive at school, I have my K’iche’ class. My teacher’s name is tat Wel. In class, we talk with our teacher in K’iche’.  I like my K’iche’ class a lot!



In K’iche’, there is an important distinction between the morphology of transitive and intransitive verbs. Intransitive verbs in K’iche’ include verbs referencing actions that do not directly affect anyone/anything except the agent (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 and mental states are also intransitive: dream, worry, be sad, be happy, etc.

In K’iche’ the person (agent) is marked in intransitive verbs using 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 have already seen with constructions such as possession that K’iche’ is an agglutinative language, which means that particles attach to words to determine their meaning (for example: tinamit, nutinamit, qatinamit). 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 consonant, 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 (la, alaq) 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:

Aspect Person Root  Formal PFM Complete Gloss
k- in / im b’e -k
I go
k- at b’e -k
you go
ka- b’e la
kab’e la
you go (formal)
ka- Ø b’e -k  
he / she goes
k- oj / uj b’e -k
we go
k- ix b’e -k
you all go
ka- b’e alaq
kab’e alaq
you all go (formal)
k e 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?

Aspect Person Root  Formal PFM Complete Gloss
k- in / im war -ik
I sleep
k- at war -ik
you sleep
ka- war la
kawar la
you sleep (formal)
ka- Ø war -ik
he / she sleeps
k- oj / uj war -ik
we sleep
k- ix war -ik
you all sleep
ka- war alaq
kawar alaq
you all sleep (formal)
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)



Mark the following verb roots with each grammatical person.

-wa’lij(ik) – to get up
-ch’aw(ik) – to talk/speak
-chakun(ik) – to work
-b’in(ik) – to walk
-wa'(ik) – to eat
-etz’an(ik) – 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?