Tagalog Nouns: Modification

Beginning Tagalog 1 Grammar

Noun Modification

Noun modification in Tagalog may be done in a variety of ways. In this section, the most common ways of modifying the noun will be discussed, and examples will be presented.

To modify a noun means to qualify or add some further description to the noun. In grammar, the word modification means to limit the meaning of something. Here is one example from English. Let’s say that I want to tell someone that I own a car. However, I don’t just want to mention that I have a car, but I also want to say something about the car. So I might say that it is an old car. The use of the word old is a way of modifying the noun car.

Adjectives/Descriptive Words

In Tagalog, the use of adjectives and/or descriptive words is one common way of modifying nouns (for more information about adjectives see the Adjectives section in the main grammar page). Tagalog adjectives may be grouped into two types according to their structure:  1) the maadjectives (ma + root) ;  and 2)  the simple adjectives (roots). There are other descriptive words that are not members of either group. These descriptors are often formed by combining adjectival affix(es) with root words. Here are some examples of adjectives/descriptive words and sentences where these might be used:

Ma-AdjectivesSimple AdjectivesOther Descriptors
maganda
(beautiful)
payat
(slim)
nakakalito
(confusing)
masipag
(industrious)
luma
(old)
nakakatuwa
(amusing)
magaling
(great)
gutom*
(hungry)
nakakatawa
(funny)
mainit
(hot/warm)
pangit
(ugly)
nakakainis
(irritating)
malamig
(cold)
pagod*
(tired)
nakakapagod
(tiring)
mahangin
(windy)
galit*
(angry)
kahindik-hindik
(horrible)
malayo
(far)
bago
(new)
kaawa-awa
(pitiful)
malapit
(near)
buhay*
(alive)
kagulat-gulat
(shocking)
matangkad
(tall person)
patay
(dead)
kasiya-siya
(entertaining)
mabigat
(heavy)
pikon
(touchy)
kapana-panabik
(exciting)

The Linker NA

Using adjectives and/or descriptive words to modify nouns may be done by employing one of two ways: 1) placing the modifier (the word that modifies the noun) before the noun;  or 2) placing the modifier after the noun.  In either case the linker NA should connect the two elements.

The linker NA is used to link or hook up the modifier and the noun it is describing. That way you know that the words go together.

The linker NA has three forms: 1) -ng following a word ending in a vowel;  2-g following a word that ends in the letter n;   and  3na following a word ending in a consonant. -Ng and -g are attached directly onto the end of the word, while the third form na is written as a separate word.

Here is one example. Let’s say that I want to talk about a certain land, and that I also want to state that is a land that is far. So I take the word in Tagalog for land (bayan) and I place it next to the word for far (malayo). It’s up to me whether I put bayan first or malayo first, so I decide to place malayo first.

malayo bayan

However, my job is not yet done. In Tagalog, I need NA to link these two words together. Since malayo ends in a vowel (o), I need to use the -ng form of NA, and I place the -ng directly onto the end of the word malayo.

malayong bayan

Now let’s say that I want to reverse the word order, and I want to put bayan first

bayan malayo

I still need a linker, and because bayan ends in the letter n, I take the -g form of NA and I place the -g directly onto the end of the word bayan

bayang malayo

Below are some more examples:

Modifier + Linker + NounNoun + Linker + ModifierMeaning
malayong bayanbayang malayofaraway land
mahanging panahonpanahong mahanginwindy weather
bagong kotsekotseng bagonew car
pangit na pelikulapelikulang pangittrash film
nakakapagod na biyahebiyaheng nakakapagodtiring trip
nakakatawang kuwentokuwentong nakakatawafunny story
kasiya-siyang palabaspalabas na kasiya-siyaentertaining show

Colors

When colors are used to modify nouns, they function as adjectives. They may also come either before or after the noun(s) being modified. Here are the basic colors in Tagalog, followed by example noun phrases:


PULA

KULAYKAHEL

DILAW

LUNTIAN/ BERDE 

BUGHAW/   ASUL

KULAY-UBE/ LILA

PUTI

ITIM

KULAY-ABO

KULAY-KAPE
Color + Linker +Noun COLOR Noun+ Linker +Color
pulang kamatis kamatis na pula
kulay-kahel na kotse kotseng kulay-kahel
dilaw na sisiw sisiw na dilaw
berdeng puno (or luntian) punong berde (or luntian)
asul na barko (or bughaw) barkong asul (or bughaw)
kulay-ubeng basuraha (or lila) basurahang kulay-ube (or lila)
itim na payong payong na itim
kulay-abong telepono teleponong kulay-abo
kulay-kapeng kabayo kabayong kulay-kape

Numbers

When used as modifiers of nouns, numbers behave differently from adjectives in that they can only come before the noun being modified. The linker NA is still necessary.  Here are some examples:

Number + Linker + Noun Image
limang lobo
May limang lobo ako. (I have five balloons.)
sampung minuto
Sampung minuto na lang bago mag-alas otso. (It’s only ten minutes before eight o’clock.)
walong bata
Naglalaro ang walong bata sa kalye. (The eight kids are playing on the street.)
dalawang singsing
Bumili siya ng dalawang singsing. (He bought two rings.)
isang milyong dolyar
Nanalo siya ng isang milyong dolyar sa lotto. (She won a mllion dollars in the lottery.)

Tagalog Numbers

Roman NumeralTagalogTagalog (Spanish root)English
1isauno
(uno)
one
2dalawados
(dos)
two
3tatlotres
(tres)
three
4apatkwatro
(cuatro)
four
5limasinko
(cinco)
five
6animsais
(seis)
six
7pitosyete
(siete)
seven
8walootso
(ocho)
eight
9siyamnuwebe
(nueve)
nine
10sampudiyes
(diez)
ten
11labing-isaonse
(once)
eleven
12labing-dalawadose
(doce)
twelve
13labing-tatlotrese
(trece)
thirteen
20dalawampubeynte
(veinte)
twenty
21dalawampu’t-isabeynteuno
(veinte-uno)
twenty-one
30tatlumputrenta
(treinta)
thirty
40apatnapukwarenta
(cuarenta)
forty
50limampusingkwenta
(cinquenta)
fifty
60animnapusisenta
(seisenta)
sixty
100isang daansiyento
(ciento)
hundred
200dalawang daandos siyentos
(dos cientos)
two hundred
1,000isang libomil
(mil)
one thousand
2,000dalawang libodos mil
(dos mil)
two thousand
10,000sampung libodies mil
(diez mil)
ten thousand
100,000isang daang libosiyento mil
(ciento mil)
one hundred thousand
1,000,000isang milyonmilyon
(milion)
one million

Shapes

There are very few words refering to shapes of things in Tagalog. When used as modifiers of nouns, these words may come before or after the noun. Here are some examples: 

Shape Hugis + Linker + Noun Noun + Linker + Shape Image
bilog (round) bilog na globo globong bilog
parisukat (square) hugis-parisukat na days days na parisukat
parihaba (rectangle) parihabang papel papel na parihaba
trayanggulo (triangle) hugis-trayanggulong tulay tulay na hugis-trayanggulo

In Tagalog the word hugis means shape. When hugis- is added to the front of a noun this expresses the idea that the noun being modified looks like or is similar in shape to the noun that has hugis attached to it. Here are some examples:

Shape Shape + Linker + Noun Noun + Linker + Shape Image
hugis-tala (star-shaped) hugis-talang medalya medalyang hugis-tala
hugis-peras (pear-shaped) hugis-peras na bombilya bombilyang hugis-peras
hugis-pitsel (shaped liked a pitcher) hugis-pitsel na tropeyo tropeyong hugis-pitsel

Size and Weight

Tagalog speakers use metric and English system terminologies interchangeably to express size and weight measurements accurately. However, Tagalog also has its own terms of measurement that are not according to the English or metric systems (like ‘dangaw’- size of a thumb).

Weight/ Volume

Metric System
TagalogMeaning
gramo gram
kilo kilogram
litro liter
English System
TagalogMeaning
libra pound
galon gallon
Tagalog Measurements
Container/ Instrument

Proximate Measure
balde  pail
bandehado serving-plateful
basket a basketful
baso a glass
bayong bagful, contents normally fill a native bag for shopping called bayong
bigkis a bunch, for bigger objects like firewood, etc.
bilao winnower-ful, contents fill a winnower, standard size of which is about 1- 1/2 ft. in diameter
bilog appx. 12 oz.  bottle
bloke block, e.g. of ice
bote  bottle
buntol a bunch, e.g., of fruits
kaing a big basketful, contents fill a container made of materials such as rattan, bamboo, etc. called kaing
kaldero pot-ful
kawaliwok-ful
kurota pinch
kutsaraa spoonful
kutsarita teaspoonful
kwatro-kantosappx. 750 ml bottle
dakota handful
drambarrel
ganta appx.  1kilo, measured with a square wooden box called ganta
guhit measurement based on  lines (e.g., of the fingers) for volume, and of measuring instruments such as rulers, weighing scales, etc.
lapad appx. 250 ml bottle
mangkok a bowl
palanggana basin
pinggan a plateful
platito  a saucer
sako a sackful (e.g., a sack of rice is 50 kilos)
salop appx. 2 kilos, contents fill a brown bag called salop
sandok serving-spoonful
tabo appx. 2 pint-container
tali a bunch, e.g. of flowers
tasa a cup

Height/Length/Distance

Metric System
TagalogMeaning
sentimetro centimeter
metro meter
kilometro kilometer
English System
TagalogMeaning
pulgada inch
piye foot
milya mile
Tagalog Terms
TagalogMeaning
dangawsize of a thumb
dangkallength between tips of stretched index and thumb
dipalength between outstretched arms from fingertips
baytangstep
hakbangpace
taomeasurement based on the number people of average height to scale a building or structure

When used as modifiers of nouns, expressions and units of weights and measurements behave like numerals in that they can only come before the noun being modified. Here are a few examples:

Tagalog Terms
isang tasang kapecupful of coffee
dalawang bilaong pansittwo-winnowerful noodles
tatlong kaing na manggathree-basketful mangoes
apat na dangkal* na lasofour-dangkal ribbon
limang dipang** lubid five-dipa rope

dangkal = roughly the distance between the tip of one’s middle-finger and the tip of his/her thumb, when the two are stretched out.

**dipa = roughly the distance between the tip of one’s middle fingers when both of his/her   arms are stretched out (approximately 3 ft or 1 meter)

Borrowed Terms
anim na gramong gintosix-gram gold
pitong litrong serbesa seven-liter beer
walong kilometrong biyaheeight-kilometer trip
siyam na litrong gasolinanine-liter gasoline
sampung pulgadang pisiten-inch string