Tagalog Grammar - You Can Easily Learn A New Language

By Larry M. Lynch

If you know some Spanish or are fluent in Spanish, you can learn Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. In this second article of the series you'll quickly master greetings and asking questions in Tagalog. King Philip the Second of Spain would be proud.

Spanish: Basis For Learning

King PhilipII of Spain Yes, if you know Spanish (or some other related languages), you can learn Tagalog. In learning basic Tagalog, it is necessary to know a minimal vocabulary of as few as 800 words or so to conduct conversations under most everyday conditions. With a prior knowledge of Spanish or even to an extent English, this minimal list will be reduced even further. This means that a working functional knowledge of spoken and written Tagalog could possibly be achieved in an astoundingly short period of as little as ONE MONTH!

A period this short presupposes, of course, that the learner of Tagalog could successfully manage new vocabulary acquisition at the rate of around thirty words per hour, which is by no means a difficult task, especially for an experienced language learner with a first language or dialect having similarities to Tagalog or Filipino, the national language of the Philippines. Pictured is King Philip the Second of Spain (1527 – 1598), for whom the Asian Pacific Island Republic is named.

In this respect, Spanish, English and several other indigenous Malayo-Polynesian languages would greatly accelerate the Tagalog learning process. Other languages which would provide a head-start in the learning of written or spoken Tagalog would include Hindi, Arabic, Sanskrit, Malay, Chinese, Javanese, Japanese, and Tamil, as mentioned in the related article, “If You Can Learn Spanish, You Can Learn Tagalog". Here are some more easy Tagalog examples:


Good Morning, sir magadang umaga po.

Good afternoon, sir magadang hapon po.

Good evening, sir magadang gabi po.

Good day, sir magadang araw po.

“In greetings, “magandu" literally means “beautiful".

Po" is used to express respect for both men and women. However, it’s not used informally or between young people or friends.

Degrees of Adjectives

In addition to the familiar comparative and superlative of adjectives, there is an “intensive" degree also used to emphasize an adjective without making it superlative. To accomplish this in Tagalog the positive form of the adjective is repeated.

Here are examples of this:

magadang – magada very beautiful

pangit na pangit very ugly

malinis na malinis very clean

matandang – matanda very old

Used in context you could say a sentence like, “Magadang – magada ang Miss Universe."

You can likewise use the prefix “napaka-" to mean “excessively" or “too" plus the adjective in Tagalog as demonstrated in these forms:

napakaganda too beautiful

napakapangit too ugly

napakalinis too clean

napakakandu too old

The superlative or greatest degree of an adjective in Tagalog is indicated using the prefix “pinaka-“ as illustrated in the following examples:

pinakamaganda most beautiful

pinakapangit ugliest

pinakamalinis cleanest

pinakamatanda oldest

Asking a Question

To change a statement into a question in Tagalog “ba" is added after the subject or after the object of a sentence.

Examples of this are:

Si la ay aalis na. They are leaving now.

Si la ba ay aalis na? Are they leaving now?

Sentence Patterns

While sentence patterns in Tagalog aren’t usually terribly complex or difficult, they are somewhat distinctly different from those in English or Spanish, for example.

Most often the sentence pattern sequence is: Action Doer - Receiver and Modifier

That is, first the verb is positioned followed by the subject or performer of the action. Next follows the object or receiver of the action and finally comes the modifier, if one is being used. Here are simple examples to illustrate a typical sentence pattern sequence in Tagalog.

Uminom ka ng kape. Drink you coffee. Imperative form

Kumain si Peter ng kanin. Ate Peter the rice. Past tense form

Bumabasa siya ng aklat sa paaralan. Reads she a book in school. Present tense

Bibili kami ng bahay sa Maynila. Will buy we a house in Manila. Future tense

Note: objects are usually preceded by “ng".

Tagalog: A “Simplified" Language

In many aspects Tagalog is a very simplified language. With a basic understanding of grammar and structure and a range of vocabulary that would “max out" at fewer than 5000 words, you could easily fit into the Filipino culture and casually converse with most native speakers with virtually no trouble at all. Yes you’d likely need to tweak your pronunciation some at first, but not too much more than that. You’re already headed down the “Yellow Brick Road" and will land in Oz - I mean Manila - practically conversant before you know it.

Yes, you can do this.

Paalam nap po. Hanggang sa muli.

Goodbye, sir / Madam. Until next time.

Principal Reference Text:

"Basic Tagalog: Basis of Pilipino the National Language of the Philippines" Paraluman S. Aspillera (Manila, 1981)