Tagalog Pseudo-Verbs: Introduction

Beginning Tagalog 2 Grammar


Pseudo-verbs indicate some of the modalities (e.g., wants and obligations) expressed by modal verbs in English (e.g, canmayshould). This page presents some of the most common ones grouped according to their focuses.

The word pseudo means false, so pseudo-verbs are “false verbs.” They are similar to regular verbs, but they behave a little differently. For example, unlike other Tagalog verbs, pseudo-verbs do not use markers or affixes to indicate aspect. Nor do pseudo- verbs use affixes to state which part of the sentence is in focus.

Because of this, they are in some ways easy to use. With pseudo-verbs, you just simply use the root word (like ayaw) without changing it or modifying it. Because the pseudo-verb is not really a “complete” verb, it often is accompanied by a main or regular Tagalog verb. Take the following English sentence as an example:

must run to the store.

The word must would be the equivalent of the pseudo-verb while run is the main verb.

At this point we have talked about how pseudo-verbs are both similar and not similar to verbs. Now let’s talk more about what pseudo-verbs do, or why they are even included in the sentence at all. Pseudo-verbs are also called modals. Using a modal puts the sentence into a different mood. This might be confusing, but hold on for a bit. Using a modal is like shifting your car into a different gear. For example, in what we might think of as a “regular” sentence, a speaker will make a statement in a plain, matter of fact sort of way. Look at the following sentence:

I have a house.

Here the speaker merely states the facts as they are. This type of statement is said to be in the indicative mood, and you can think of this as sort of like having your car in neutral. You do not need any modals (pseudo verbs) to state something in a factual way.

On the other hand, if you want to state something that is contrary to fact, then you use a modal (pseudo verb). A modal is a way of saying that something should have happened, or that something should happen. It is contrary to fact. Modals are words like puwede (can), dapat (must), gusto(like), ayaw (dislike), maaari (might), and kailangan (need). Let’s use the modal need (kailangan) as an example:

need Mary to go to the store.

Note that in this sentence Mary is not actually in the store. Nor is it a fact that she is going to the store. You have merely expressed that you would like to have Mary go to the store. You are wishing for or demanding something that is not actually happening according to the facts of the moment (Mary is not at the store). You really would like for her to go, or need her to go, but she might not go. 

As you can probably guess, you will need to use modals frequently. In this section we will learn more about the different modals. Note also that enclitic particles also help express moods or states that are contrary to fact. We will talk about those later.

Remember that sentences with Pseudo-verbs may not follow the regular rules. They may throw you some surprises.

Review the link below to learn proper use of the pseudo-verbs in Tagalog:

The lullaby above uses some of the more commonly used pseudo-verbs. Listen to it, and take note on the usage.

Brown Madonna by Galo B. Ocampo, 1938
 Sa Ugoy Ng Duyan

Sana'y di magmaliw
ang dati kong araw
Nang munti pang bata
sa piling ni nanay.
Nais kong maulit
ang awit ni inang mahal,
Awit ng pag-ibig
habang ako'y nasa duyan.

Sa aking pagtulog
na labis ang himbing
Ang bantay ko'y tala,
ang tanod ko'y bituin
Sa piling ni nanay
langit ang buhay
Puso kong may dusa,
sabik sa ugoy ng duyan.