The Verb: Aspect and Focus


Focus is the expression in the verb of the grammatical role of the subject of the sentence. The role can be one of actor, object, benefactor, location, instrument, or cause. As in Aspect, this expression is in the form of verbal affixes. Different roles induce different affixes on the verb.

When the subject performs the role of an actor, the verb is in actor focus; when the subject of the sentence is an object, the verb is in object focus, and so forth. Thus, in addition to these two focuses, the verb may be in benefactor focus, locative focus, instrumental focus, or causative focus.

Focus is similar to voice, except that in Tagalog, as shown above, the division would not be limited to the English active (actor) and passive (object) voices.

The verbal affixes that indicate that the actor, doer, or the originator of the action is in focus are -um-, mag-, mang-, and ma-.

[The baker made some bread.]

Verb Affix Verb Subject Object
-um- Gumawa ang panadero ng tinapay.

[(You) sell some vegetables.]

Verb Affix Verb Subject Object
mag- Magbili ka ng gulay.

[You catch some mice.]

Verb Affix Verb Subject Object
mang- Manghuli kayo ng daga.

[You sleep.]

Verb Affix Verb Subject Object
ma- Matulog na kayo.

As observed earlier, each of these focus affixes follow unique ways of inflecting the aspect.

Verbal affixes that indicate that the subject of the sentence is the object or goal of the action include the suffixes -in and -an and the prefix i-.

[(You) hammer the nail.]

Verb Affix Verb Actor Object (subject)
-in Pukpukin mo ang pako.

[(You) wash the car.]

Verb Affix Verb Actor Object (subject)
-an Huagasan mo ang kotse.

[(You) write the story.]

Verb Affix Verb Actor Object (subject)
-l Isulat mo ang kuwento.

The -in Object-Focus Suffix

The neutral form of the -in verb is formed by suffixing -in to the verb root.

Neutral alis + in alisin
basa + in basahin

If the root ends in a vowel, -hin is suffixed to the root rather than -in. With the addition of the suffix -in there is also a shift in stress to the next syllable toward the end of the word.

The completed aspect is formed by placing -in before the first vowel of the root.

Completed in + alis inalis
in + basa binasa

In the incompleted aspect, the first syllable of the root is reduplicated and then the infix is inserted before the first vowel of the base.

Incompleted in + alis in + basa
aalis1 babasa1
inaalis2 binabasa2

1Reduplicate first consonant-vowel

2Then insert -in- before first vowel

The -I Object-Focus Prefix

The neutral aspect of the i- verb is formed by prefixing i- to the verb root. To this neutral form, insert the infix -in- before the first vowel of the root and the completed aspect is formed. If instead the first (consonant)-vowel of the neutral form is reduplicated, the contemplated aspect is formed. If the first (consonant)-vowel of the neutral form is reduplicated and then the infix -in- is inserted before the first vowel of this reduplicated syllable, the incompleted aspect is formed.

Root abot tapon
Neutral iabot itapon
Completed iniabot5,* itinapon5
Contemplated iaabot6 itatapon6
Incompleted iniaabot7,* itinatapon7

5To the neutral form, insert -in before the first vowel of root

6Reduplicate first (C)V- of root in the neutral forms

7Reduplicate first (C)V- of root, then insert -in before first vowel of reduplicated syllable

*Remember that the infix -in- becomes ni- before vowels and the consonants h, y, n, l.

The verbal affixes that indicate that the subject is the location of the action or that the action is done toward that direction include -in, -an, and

Locative Affix Verb Actor Locative Subject
-an Punasan mo ang mesa.
-in Balibagin mo ang mangga. Pagsabihan mo si Belen.

-An and -in follow a consonant sound, and -han and -hin a vowel sound. There is also an accompanying shift in stress to the next syllable with the addition of the suffix.

punas + an balibag + in pag + sabi + an
Neutral punasan balibagin pagsabihan
Completed pinunasan binalibag pinagsabihan
Contemplated pupunasan babalibagin pagsasabihan
Incompleted pinupunasan binabalibag pinagsasabihan

A couple of things to note: The locative suffix -in is dropped in the completed aspect, and the incompleted aspect infix -in- is inserted in the reduplicated CV in both the -an and -in verbs.

If the verb has a directional meaning, for example, balibag (throw something at), the focus of the verb is sometimes referred to as "source" or "goal" depending on the direction of the action.

The verbal affixes that indicate that the beneficiary of the action is the subject are generally i- or ipag-.

[You buy a pair of shoes for Mother.]

Verb Actor Beneficiary-Subject Goal/Object
i- Ibili mo ang Nanay ng sapatos.

[You wash clothes for the sick one.]

Verb Actor Beneficiary-Subject Goal/Object
ipag- Ipaglaba mo ang maysakit ng damit.

The ipag- verbs behave like the i- verbs except that the -in- or the indicator of the action started is infixed in the prefix rather than in the root.

Neutral ipagluto ibili
Completed ipinagluto ibinili
Contemplated ipagluluto ibibili
Incompleted ipinagluluto ibinibili

The verbal affix that refers to anything used or acted upon to bring about the action as subject is ipang-, usually shortened to i-.

[You use the knife to cut the mango.]

Verb Actor Instrument-Subject Goal
ipang- Ipanghiwa mo ang kutsilyo ng mangga.

The ipang-verb is inflected in the same manner as the ipag- verb. In addition, its final nasal undergoes the same sound changes mang- undergoes.

ipang + tahi
Neutral ipangtahi, ipanahi
Completed ipinangtahi, ipinanahi
Contemplated ipangtatahi, ipananahi
Incompleted ipinangtatahi, ipinananahi