In this lesson, we will start learning verbs, in particular intransitive verbs. By the end of this lesson you will be able to say what you do, for example, eat, sleep, or travel.
This 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’!
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 school. I walk. I like my town. When I arrive at school, I have K’iche’ class. My teacher’s name is tat Wel. In class, we talk with our teacher. 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.
Intransitive verbs are marked for person (agent) with a set of prefixes generally known by Mayanists as set B.
|1st||-in- or –im- before b’||I||-oj-||We|
|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)
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 (for example: tinamit, nutinamit, qatinamit, por ejemplo). 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).
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 marker –at– (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).
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:
|Person marker||Root||Formal marker||Phrase final marker||Full form||Gloss|
im (only before b’ or p)
(2nd sing. formal)
|you go (f)|
|you all go|
(2nd pl. formal)
|you all go (f)|
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|
|you sleep (f)|
|you all sleep|
|you allsleep (f)|
|“Kimpe pa…”||“I am from…” (Literally: I come from)|
|wa’lij(ik)||to get up|
|el(ik)||to leave, to go out|
|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?