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Tïjonïk 17 In k’o pa uk’u’x tinamit (I am at the center of town)


K’iche’ prepositions are of two kinds: standard and complex. Standard prepositions are single words similar to English to, on and in. Complex prepositions consist of several elements, usually a standard preposition followed by a possessed noun. We use these complex phrases to reference spatial relationships (on top of, at the side, in front of, etc.).


Our ajtij, Xwan, describes the center of town in Nahualá:



Pa marks a location in which something happens or is located. It can be translated in different ways into English. For example:

  1. K’o jun xa’r pa ja.
    There is one jar in the house.
  1. Xekos le ixoqib’ pa le b’e.
    The women got tired on the road

When combined with verbs of movement (go, come, arrive), pa introduces the location while the trajectory/path of the event is indicated in the semantics of the verb.

  1. Kape le a Wel pa Nawalja’.
    a. Manuel comes from Nahuala. (=he is from there)
    b. Manuel is coming to Nahuala.
  1. Kintzalij pa le nutinamit.
    I return to my hometown
  1. Kul le al We’l pa Nashville chaq’ab’.
    Nela arrives (here) to Nashville tonight.
  1. Ke’l le e winaq pa le tyox.
    The people are coming out of (leaving) the church.


Chi means at or towards, but is mostly as a component of toponyms (place names):

  1. Pa le jun wokaj ub’i’ Chi Masat kape wi le achi.
    lit: From a hamlet called Chi Masat comes the man
    The man comes from a hamlet called Chi Masat (Place of Deers).
  1. Chi kaj.
    lit.: In the sky

Nota bene: Chi is also a conjunction introducing object complement clauses of transitive verbs (Ex. I see that you did this). It is also part of complex prepositions as we will see below. Be careful not to confuse the preposition chi with the adverb chi(k) “again”; “already” or the locative demonstrative chi’ “here.”

The complex preposition Ch(i) + E+ chi’ “along side; at the edge of” (see below) may be shortened to chi:

  1. E k’i le taq che’ tikil chi le b’e.
    There are many trees planted on the side of the road.

Please also note that chi is sometimes used with the special meaning “with.

  1. Xkamisax chi ch’ich’.
    He/she was killed with a machete.COMPLEX PREPOSITIONS

K’iche’ shows a variety of complex prepositions made of three elements:

pa or chi         + possessive pronoun (E)     + (relational) noun.

Pa                    +   qa                                       +wi’

On                   our                                           top (lit.: hair) i.e. on top of us/above us

Relational nouns are nouns, often body parts, which are inflected with the possession markers and never occur without a possessive marker. Their function is to relate two arguments in a phrase with each other in terms of belonging, causal, reflexive, temporal, or spatial relationships (we will have a full lesson on relational nouns in Lesson 20).

Sometimes, the i in chi, or the a in pa are dropped:

chi+ nu+wach                         chinuwach
in front of me (no vowel cluster, no vowel dropping of the i)

in front of him/her (vowel clustering, vowel dropping of the i)

on top of us (no vowel cluster, no vowel dropping of the a)

on top of you (vowel clustering, vowel dropping of the a)

When honorific or formal possessive pronouns are used, they follow the relational noun:

chi wach la
in front of you (sg, formal)

chi xo’l alaq
among you (pl, formal)

Chi + E + wach
This preposition of one of the most commonly used. meaning in front of, before.

  • In the third person singular (chuwach), it is often used in its contracted forms:

Chuwach                                                before her/him/it
Chwach                                                  before her/him/it
Chuwa                                                    before her/him/it
Cho                                                          before her/him/it

  1. Le ro’ch le a Te’k k’o chwach le uk’ay le nunan.
    Diego’s house is in front of my mom’s (market) stall.
  1. Xink’ut le elaq’om chiwach.
    I showed you the thief. (Lit.: I showed the thief in front of you/to your face).
  1. Xuk’ut le K’iche’ ch’ab’al le al Nela chqawach.
    Manuela taught us the K’iche’ language. (Lit.: Mauela taught us the K’iche’ language in front of us/to our faces).

*Some verbs require an indication of how the event is acting upon its referent. In those cases chuwach refers to the surface of something, but it cannot always be translated to English:

  1. Xatxuli’ chuwach le juyub’.
    You came down (the surface of) the hill.

*The shortened forms of chuwach (chuwa/chwa/cho) are used together with ja (house) for home or patio.

  1. Xb’e le achi chwa ro’ch.
    The man went home
  1. K’o chwa ro’ch le pare.
    He/she is at the priest’s house.
  1. K’o cho ja.
    He/she is at home.

Remember that chi + E + wach is also used phrases with a comparative sense. Comparative phrases can usually be recognized by a focused element (are for third person) followed by a form of chi + E + wach as the expression introducing the comparison (see lesson on adjectives).

chi + E + ech
This complex preposition introduces an event’s beneficiary. It can be translated with English to; for; from. The majority of speakers use a contracted form (indicated in bold), but the complete form is also heard.

for me/to me

for you/to you

che(ch) la
for you/to you (formal)

for him, her/to him, her

for us/to us

for you all/to you all

che(ch) alaq
for you/to you (formal pl.)

for them/to them

  1. Xaya’ jun awuj chwech.
    You gave me one of your books. (lit.: you gave your book to me)
  2. Maltyox chawe
    Thank you. (lit.: thanks to you)
  3. Maltyox chech la
    Thank you (formal). (lit.: thanks to you)

The third person sg. che is used to introduce “infinitive constructions” which include passive verbal nouns (see later lesson on passives).

chi +E+ –xe’
This preposition means under, at the foot of (see example 22)

  1. K’o jun chikop chuxe’ le tz’alam.
    There’s an animal under the wooden plank.
  1. Xinxuli’ chuxe’ le juyub’.
    I went down to the foot of the mountain.
  1. Xekanaj kan chuxe’ le ul.
    They stayed/remained under the land slide.

It can also indicate before in terms of time, not space

  1. Kink’uli’ chuxe’ unimaq’ij le qanan Talin.
    I will marry before St. Catharine’s (Day). (St. Catherine is Nahuala’s patron saint)
  1. Chuxe’ le qachomal kaqatij wi jun qameq’in.
    We drink a hot beverage (coffee, atole) before our meeting.

chi + E + wi’
This preposition appears in composition with pa and chi meaning on top of or above.

  1. Xintik’ib’a le q’eb’al chuwi’ le wanke’t.
    I put the jar on the table.
  1. Xeqil le chikop puwi le ja.
    We saw the animals on top of the house.
  1. Le alkalte k’o paqawi’ oj, le oj ajch’amiyab’.
    The mayor is above all of us, town marshals.

chi + E + ij
In combination with chi it means behind as locative expression, about when introducing a ‘topic’, or after when referencing time.

  1. Ke’tz’an le ak’alab’ chiqij.
    The children play behind us.
  1. K’o le qachet chirij le tuj.
    Our granary is behind the sweat bath.
  1. Xinsik’ij jun wuj chirij le ub’antajik le tinamit Chwimeq’ina.
    I read a book about the ways of the town of Totonicapán (lit.: above hot water).
  1. Chirij le qachomal kaqatij le qameq’in.
    After the meeting we drink a hot beverage (coffee, atole).

chi + E + xo’l
This preposition translates as among or in between

  1. K’o jun alaj tz’i’ chikixo’l le alaj taq ak’.
    There is a puppy dog among the chicks.
  1. Q’alaj le tyox chuxo’l taq le ja.
    The church is visible among the houses.

chi+ E+ pam
This preposition translates as inside of.

  1. K’o kinaq’ chupam le t’u’y.
    There are beans in the cooking pot.

pa+E+ tzalaj
This preposition follows both pa and chi, both meaning to/at the side of.

  1. K’o le ixoq pakitzalaj le achijab’.
    The woman is to the side of the men.
  1. Are le nuchaq’ le k’o pa kitzalaj le e wanab’.

    It is my younger brother who is beside my sisters.

  2. Keb’in le achijab’ chikitzalaj le ixoqib’.
    The men are walking at the women’s side.

Left and right are used in K’iche’ only to describe stationary objects. They are rarely used for spatial directions. Going up or going down are used instead.

pa+E+ mox
to the left of…

  1. Pa umox le tyox kilitaj le uwachib’al le nunan.
    On the left of the church my mother’s picture can be seen.

pa+ E+wikiq’ab’ to the right of…

  1. Puwikiq’ab’ le tyox kilitaj le uwachib’al le nunan.
    On the right of the church my mother’s picture can be seen.
K’AK’A TAQ TZIJVocabulary
toq’ob favor
kaxlan tzij Spanish
ak’al child
k’ut(u) (vtr) to show, to teach
k’olb’al pwaq bank
uxlanb’al park
tyox (ja) church
qatb’al tzij government; municipality
komon community; neighborhood; in Spanish comunidad
wokaj hamlet; a group of houses; in Spanish caserío
ojer tzij a long time ago
k’ayb’al  market
ichaj herbs
saqwach potatoes
rikil dish (as in prepared food)

Translate the following sentences to K’iche’.

  1. My house is next to the park.
  2. There is a dog on the side of the road.
  3. My sister gives the food to me.
  4. I am going to the game after my lesson.
  5. Do you want to go to the market before class?

Translate the following phrases from K’iche’ to English

  1. K’o le k’ayb’al chirij le uxlanb’al.
  2. K’o le ak’al chikixol le utat unan.
  3. Rajawaxik kab’an toq’ob chwe.
  4. We kiwaj, kaqak’ut le ch’ab’al kaxlan tzij chiwach.
  5. Maltyox chech alaq.