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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. In English we use complex phrases to reference spatial relationships (on top of, at the side, in front of).


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



Pa marks a location in which something happens or is located. It’s equivalent to English “at” or “on”.

  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 Austin chaq’ab’ kamik.
    Nela arrives (here) in Austin tonight.
  1. Ke’l le e winaq pa le tyox.
    The people are coming out of the church.


Chi means “at” or “towards” but is mostly as a component of place names.

  1. Pa le jun wokaj ub’i’ Chi Masat kape wi le achi.
    The man comes from a hamlet called Chi Masa’t (Place of Deers).
  1. Chi kaj.
    (Lit. “In the sky) Above

Nota bene: Chi is also a conjunction introducing object complement clauses of transitive verbs (I see that you did this). It is also part of complex prepositions (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 taq le 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 was killed with a machete


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                                           above us/on top of 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 and 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)

chi+u+wach    à        chuwach in front of him (vowel clustering, vowel dropping)


pa+qa+wi’                  pa qawi’ on top of us (no vowel cluster, no vowel dropping)

pa+a+wi’        à        pawi’ on top of you (vowel clustering, vowel dropping)

When honorific or formal possessive pronouns are used, they follows 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.

The third person singular (chuwach) preposition is often used in its contracted forms:

Chuwach                                             before her/him/it

Chwach                                               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 stand.
  1. Xink’ut le elaq’om chiwach.
    I showed you the thief (Lit. I showed the thief in front you/to your face)
  1. Xuk’ut le K’iche’ ch’ab’al le al Nela chqawach.
    Manuela taught us the K’iche’ language.

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 in English:

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

A shortened form of chuwach (chuwa) is used together with 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) is at the priest’s house.
  1. K’o cho ja.
    He 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 comparision (see handout on adjectives)


chi + E + ech
This complex preposition introduces an event beneficiary. It can be translated with English to…; for…; from …

Most speakers use a contracted form, here indicated in bold, but you will also hear the full forms.

chwe(ch)                                             for me/to me

chawe(ch)                                           for you/to you

che(ch)                                                for him/to him//for her/to her

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

chqe(ch)                                              for us/to us

chiwech(ch)                                            for you all/to you all

chke(ch)                                             for them/to them

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

  1. Xaya jun awuj chwech.
    You gave me one of your books. (lit: you gave your book to me
  2. Maltyox chawe                                  Thank you

Maltyox chech la                               Thank you! (lit.: Thanks to you)

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

chi +E+ –xe
This preposition means under and 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) before the 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 children on the roof of the house.
  1. Le alkalte k’o pa qawi’ 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 Chwimiq’ina.
    I read a book about the ways of the town of Totonicapán. (Lit. ‘Above Hot Water’)
  1. Chirij le qachomal kaqatij le qamiq’in
    After the meeting we drink coffee.

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 pa kitzalaj le achijab’.
    The woman is to the side of the men.
  1. Are nuchaq’ le k’o pa kitzalaj le e wanab’.
    It is my younger brother who is beside my sisters.

chi+ E + tzalaj
at the side of …

  1. Keb’in le achijab’ chikitzalaj le ixoqib’.
    The men are going by 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+ewikiq’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 (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.