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Tïjonïk 19 Chaq’aluj le ne’! (Hold the baby!)
Requests and commands


In this unit you will learn to make requests and commands in K’iche’ (hortative forms). We will start with morphology of the imperative, the verbal forms required for requests and commands.


Alida and Charlotte, two k’iche’ students from the United States, practice vocabulary and commands with Silveria, their teacher.


Imperative verbs are marked with a prefix, called TAM marker (time, aspect, and mood marker) and a series of ad-hoc suffixes. These prefixes and suffixes vary between intransitive and transitive verbs.

The primary TAM marker used in the imperative is ch- which attaches at the verbal TAM slot. The incompletive prefix k- prefix may be used as well entailing a more forceful request/command. The ch- marker has multiple functions in K’iche’. It is also used as a sort of subjunctive called also relative aspect (Mondloch) or dependent mood.

In contrast to English, in K’iche’ the addressee is marked on every imperative verb. Just like in normal active verbs, imperative intransitive verbs use Set B pronouns and imperative transitive verbs use Set A and Set B pronouns to indicate the agent/subject and object. These imperative/hortative forms can also be derived from other intransitive verb stems like passives, or anti-passive verb stems (later lessons will delve into these verb stems).

Intransitive verbs
The imperative/hortative of intransitive verbs is marked by the prefix k-/ch- and a phrase-medial suffix –a, or a phrase final suffix –oq.

The intransitive imperatives in phrase medial position are not stressed on the last syllable but rather on the penultimate syllable, usually part of the verb root.

TAM prefix: ch-/k-
Suffix: -a/-oq (phrase final)

  1. Katwaroq!
  2. Chinuxlanoq
    Let me rest!
  3. Chixwara cho ja!
    You all sleep at home!

The verbs “enter,” “come,” and “go” take irregular forms in the imperative as can be seen below:

  1. ok – enter (verbal root)

Come in!

You all come in!

Sa’j la!
Come in! (you, formal)

Sa’j alaq!
You all come in! (formal, pl)

  1. pe(t) – come (verbal root)

Come here! (you, informal)

You all come here

Chixpeta waral!
You all come here!

Peta la!
Come here (formal, sg)

Peta alaq!
You all come here (formal, pl)

Peta la jewa’
Come over here! (formal)

  1. b’e(k) go (verbal root)

Let’s go!

Go! (sg.)

Jat jela’
Go away! (sg.)

Go! (you, pl)

Oj la jela’!
You all go over there! (formal)

Transitive verbs

There are two kinds of transitive imperatives:

Non-CVC/derived transitive verbs
The imperative/hortative of non-CVC/derived verbs is marked by the either of the prefixes k- or ch-. No phrase final markers or suffixes exist.

TAM prefix: ch-/k-
Suffix: none

  1. Chatijoj!
    Teach him/her!
  1. Chkitijoj!
    Let them teach him/her!
  1. Chinkitijoj!
    Let them teach me!
  1. Chawesaj le apowi’!
    Take off your hat!

CVC/ root transitive verbs
The imperative of root transitive verbs is marked by either of the prefixes k- or ch- as well as the suffix –V (vowel) followed by a glottal stop.

TAM prefix: ch-/k-
CoC (root vowel o) –o(’)
CuC (root vowel u) –u(’)
Ca/e/iC (root vowel everything else) –a(’)

Phrase-final glottal stop
A final glottal stop is required in hortative forms in final position when the verb ends the phrase or when it is followed by a vowel different from the terminal marker vowel

  1. Chaloq’o’!
    Buy it!
  2. Chab’ana’!
    Do it! (you, sg. informal)
  3. Loq’o’ alaq!
    Buy it! (formal, pl.)

If the verb is not in phrase final position or if the vowel that follows is the same vowel as that of the terminal marker, the glottal stop is dropped and terminal marker vowel is lengthened.

  1. Loq’o la!
    Buy it! (you sg., formal)
  2. B’ana la!
    Do it! (you sg., formal)
  3. b’ana alaq!
    Do it! (you pl., formal)

Imperatives can be formed with reflexives as well (reflexives are discussed in further detail in lesson 24):

  1. Chichajij iwib’!
    (You all) Take care!

A. The prefix ch- does not appear when the agent is 1st person plural and the object 3rd person singular:

  1. Qabana’!
    Let’s do it!
  2. Qatijoj!
    Let’s teach him/it!

B. In formal imperative forms (la/alaq) a 3rd person singular object pronoun (Ø) is used, the TAM ch-/k- is sometimes dropped to avoid a consonant cluster:

*indicates non-grammatical form

  1. *Chwara la!
  2. Wara la!
    Sleep! (you, formal)
  1. *Chtijoj la!
  2. Tijoj la!
    Teach! (you, formal)

When the first element after the ch-marker is a vowel, no such cluster appears and the ch- marker is retained:

  1. Chesaj la!
    Take it out! (you sg., formal)
K’AK’A TAQ TZIJVocabulary
b’an(o) (vtr) to do
mes(o) (vtr) to sweep
il(o) (vtr) to see
loq'(o) (vtr) to buy
loq’oj (vtr) to love
tij(o) (vtr) to eat, to drink, to consume, to ingest
k’ut(o) (vtr) to show, to teach
ya'(o) (vtr) to give
q’i'(o) (vtr) to bear, to withstand; to tolerate
to'(o) (vtr) to help someone
su'(u) (vtr) to wipe
chakuj (vtr) to work
chajij (vtr) to take care, to guard
k’ayij (vtr) to sell
tzuq(u) (vtr) to nourish, feed
iye’j (vtr) to wait for
ux(ik) (vit) to become (indicates a change of state)
num(ik) (vit) to be hungry
aj ik’ maid (monthly worker)
chi(k) again, already. Spanish: ya.
si’ firewood
we if, whether.

Translate the following sentences into English.

  1. Chateloq!
  2. Chixopanoq!
  3. Chatq’ab’aroq!
  4. Wara alaq!
  5. Chachakuj le ulew!
  6. Chichajij le kej!
  7. Chuk’ayij le qasi’!
  8. Chiloq’oj le iwalk’wal!
  9. Chinawiye’j!
  10. Chawila’!
  11. Chu’tijoj le ak’alab’!
  12. Chajij ib’ alaq!
  13. Chichajij iwib’!

Translate the following sentences from English to K’iche’.

  1. Take care of yourself, sir!
  2. Teach (k’ut) your (sg.) children every day!
  3. Work (alaq) the land in the hills (pa le juyub’)!
  4. You all speak with the woman!
  5. Let him carry the firewood!
  6. Carry (sg.) the baby in your arms / Hold the baby!
  7. Take care of me!
  8. Talk (you all) to us!
  9. Kill the animals!
  10. Work (lal) the land!