The Verb: Aspect and Focus


Aspect indicates, by means of verbal inflection, whether the action has been started or not, and if started, whether it has been completed or if it is still continuing. Verbal inflection includes affixation and/or reduplication. Reduplication is the repetition of parts of the affix or of the root.

The three aspects of verbs are:

  • completed, for action started and terminated,
  • contemplated, for action not started
  • incomplete, for action started but not yet completed or action still in progress.

The form of the verb that does not imply any aspect is the neutral or infinitive form. Ka- verbs, discussed earlier, are sometimes considered to form another aspect category, referred to as recent perfective.

The closest equivalent in English to the completed aspect is the past tense, to the contemplated aspect the future tense, and to the incompleted aspect the progressive.

Verbal inflection to indicate aspect differs according to the affix class of the verb. The four verb affix classes are -um, mag-, ma-, and mang-.

The neutral or infinitive form of the -um- verb is constructed by placing -um- before the first vowel of the verb or base. The completed aspect is similarly formed.

Root langoy to swim
alis to go away
Neutral *lumangoy
Completed *lumangoy

*-um- inserted before first vowel of root

The contemplated aspect is formed by reduplicating the first consonant and vowel of the root, or simply the vowel in roots that begin with a vowel.

Contemplated **lalangoy

**The first CV or first V of root is reduplicated

Here are more examples:

Root Neutral / Completed Contemplated Incompleted
ulan umulan uulan umuulan
takbo tumakbo tatakbo tumatakbo
tanggi tumanggi tatanggi tumatanggi
yakap yumakap yayakap yumayakap
salubong sumalubong sasalubong sumasalubong

The neutral form of this class of verbs is constructed by prefixing mag- to the verb root.

Root laba to wash
Neutral form maglaba

The neutral form of this class of verbs is constructed by prefixing mag- to the verb root.

Completed naglaba

The contemplated aspect is formed by reduplicating the first syllable of the root and prefixing mag- to the base.

Contemplated maglalaba


Root Neutral Completed Contemplated Incompleted
dala magdala nagdala magdadala nagdadala
tanim magtanim nagtanim magtatanim nagtatanim

The ma- verb follows the same aspect formation as does the mag- verb. N- replaces the m- of the prefix for the started action and the first consonant-vowel or vowel of the root is reduplicated for action not terminated.

Root tulog to sleep
Neutral matulog to sleep
Completed natulog slept
Incompleted natutulog sleeping
Contemplated matutulog will sleep

The mang- affix undergoes the same m- to n- replacement for started action and reduplication for non-terminated action, but there are some changes in the final nasal sound of the affix as it gets influenced by the following initial sound of the root. The first consonant of the root may drop under certain conditions. These changes may be represented by the following rule, where p, t, k, b, or d are initial sounds of the root or base.

  • mang + b (or p) -> mam
  • mang + t (or d) -> man
  • mang + k -> mang


mang + buli mamili
mang + pulot mamulot

After the affixed verb form has undergone changes, the second syllable is reduplicated to form the incompleted and completed forms.

mang + gulo manggulo
mang + huli manghuli

The consonant h, g, the semivowels y and w, and the vowels do not influence the final nasal of the prefix mang- to change.

Neutral mamili
Completed namili
Contemplated mamimili
Incompleted mamimili

Verb bases having initial consonants l and a few with d retain these sounds after the final nasal of mang- has undergone the sound change.

mang + likum manlikum
mang + loko manloko
mang + lito manlito