Tagalog Adjectives: Neutral Forms

Beginning Tagalog 1 Grammar

Neutral Adjective Forms

Neutral Adjectives are the standard, regular type of adjective used in Tagalog. These adjectives may be classified into two kinds according to their structures: simple adjectives (root words) and MA-adjectives (MA- + root word).

In other words, there are some adjectives that by their nature can be adjectives on their own, and nothing needs to be added to make them adjectives. Think for example of the word slow in English. This word works naturally as an adjective without any modification, as for example in the sentence “That is a slow cat.” These type of adjectives in Tagalog are called simple adjectives (like payatbansot, etc.).

On the other hand, there are some words in English that need to be modified before they can be used as an adjective. Take for example the word beauty. On its own, it is a noun. But if I want to turn it into an adjective, I have to make some changes in the word. Take for example the sentence: “I saw the beautiful mountain.” Here I added the marker or affix -FUL onto the word beauty. -FUL really just goes back to the English word full, so when I say beautiful, I am really saying “full of beauty.”

There are similar adjectives in Tagalog. Tagalog has a lot of root words that on their own simply function as nouns (e.g., ganda, taba). If I want to use these words as adjectives, then I have to stick an affix onto the word.

An AFFIX is like a little code or marker that is added on to a word. Affixes package into a word extra bits of meaning. There are three kinds of affixes. A PREFIX is added to the start of a word, an INFIX is added inside a word, and a SUFFIX is added on to the end of a word.

In order to make Tagalog root words adjectives, I add the affix MA to the beginning of the word. Like English -FULMA essentially means “full of.” For example, let’s take the root word (noun) ganda beauty. To make this word an adjective, I add on the MA:

ma + ganda = maganda beautiful (or literally ‘full of beauty’)

These type of adjectives are called MA-adjectives, and these are the type you will see most often. The MA prefix is a tip off to the learner that you have an adjective in front of you.

Here are some more examples:

Simple Adjectives MAAdjectives
payat (slim/thin) mataba (fat)
bansot (short) matangkad (tall)
mahal (expensive) masarap (delicious)
mura (cheap) mayaman (rich)

Adjectives may function as a modifiers of noun(s) or noun phrase(s) or as predicates of adjectival sentences. Here are a few examples:

Noun Modifier

magandang pelikula good movie
matalinong bata smart kid
mabait na kapitbahay nice neighbor
maliit na kwarto small room

Predicate of an Adjectival Sentence

Maganda ang pelikula. The movie is good.
Matalino ang bata. The kid is smart.
Mabait si Pina. Pina is nice.
Maliit ang kwarto ko. My room is small.

Adjectives in Tagalog can also  play the role of what is known as an adverb in English. An adverb describes a verb in the same way that an adjective describes a noun. For example, look at the following sentence:

    Bob walked to the house.

Let’s say we wanted to add something about how Bob walked to the house. We could say:

    Bob walked slowly to the house.

Slowly is an adverb in this sentence.

Tagalog does not distinguish between adverbs and adjectives. The same forms used as adjectives are also used as adverbs. Here are some examples:

Mabilis tumakbo si Juan. Juan runs fast.
Mabagal na naglakad si Mario. Mario walked slowly.
Mahusay na kumanta si Minda. Minda sang well.
Masayang naglalaro ang mga bata. The kids are playing happily.