English vs Tagalog: Differences and Similarities

The Philippines is an ex US colony and English is widely used in the Philippines.

In Tagalog there are a lot of English loan words like gadyet, kompyuter, tren etc.

However there are huge differences (and there are similarities as well) between the two languages and here are some differences and similarities (at least the ones that I have been able to find).

I think it is important to know those differences and similarities because if you are a non-English speaker who wishes to learn Tagalog you can hardly do so without learning English first.

There are Westerners whom I know who can't speak English and they have learned some Tagalog but, because most Tagalog grammar textbooks are written in English, it is much more challenging to learn Tagalog without using English as a "bridge".

So here are some of the differences between English and Tagalog


In Tagalog words are spelled as they are pronounced (and for an Italian like me this is a huge advantage because Italian is also this way)

Nine English consonants do not occur in Tagalog: /v/, /j/, /z/, voiced and voiceless th, sh, dz, ch, z. English phonology includes several more vowels and diphthongs than Tagalog.

Auxiliary verbs

Tagalog does not have an auxiliary or linking verb (such as "to be" or "will" in English).

For example I will eat in Tagalog is kakain ako without any auxiliary verbs


Pronouns in Tagalog (ako, ikaw, siya etc.) do not indicate gender.

A pronoun can refer to either “he” or “she.”

For example pumunta siya sa palengke can mean both she went to the market and he went to the market


English: plural is formed by adding s while in Tagalog the word mga is placed before a noun

Example:Book/booksAklat/mga aklat


All Tagalog nouns including proper names always require markers

Example "Peter is reading a book". In Tagalog I can't just say "Pedro ay nagbabasa ng isang aklat", I have to use the marker "si" before the personal name and say "si Pedro ay nagbabasa..."

Word order is different

For example in a sentence like "I am ugly" (or beautiful....I am trying to be modest) the word order is completely switched in Tagalog and therefore the Tagalog translation is "pangit (ugly) ako (I)". However in Tagalog there is the "ay" inverter that, if used, the word order can be reversed and I can say "ako ay pangit" (keep in mind that "ay" is not the verb "to be": there is no verb "to be" in Tagalog).

Word order in English conveys meaning while in Tagalog meaning is created by changing the affix

"The dog bit the man"
"The man bit the dog"

By changing the order and sequence of the words the meaning changes completely.

In Tagalog you don't change the order and sequence but only the affix"

Kumagat ang aso ng tao"
"Kinagat ang aso ng tao"

In Tagalog the last syllable is often stressed and changes the meaning

For example the word ba'ka means "cow" while baka' means "perhaps"


Tense vs aspect

In English there are 3 tenses being past, present and future (even if some say that the "future" is not a real tense in English, but, for the sake of simplicity, let's call it "tense").

A tense is basically concerned with "when" a certain action happened

Within each tense there are four aspects in English: simple, progressive, perfect, perfect-progressive.

An aspect is concerned with if a certain action is completed, in progress or contemplatedFilipino verbs are not conjugated for tense, rather they are conjugated for aspect.

This means that instead of focusing on the past, present, and future, the verbs are conjugated in order to express:
Completed action
Incompleted action
Contemplated actionIn English, for example, a past action has 4 aspects to it:

I did
I was doing
I had done
I had been doing

In Tagalog the completed action is only expressed through the completed aspect gumawa ako (or ginawa ko)


A mood is a verb category or form which indicates whether the verb expresses a fact (the indicative mood), a command (the imperative mood), a question (the interrogative mood), a condition (the conditional mood), or a wish or possibility (the subjunctive mood).

Grammatical mood is also expressed through Filipino verbs. These moods provide additional context to the sentence.

For example, in addition to the "indicative" mood, or the main mood used to talk about situations that are not characterized by uncertainty, like for example "nagbasa ako ng aklat" (I read a book), in Tagalog there are other moods like

Social mood maki-Example: Nakikain akó sa mga kaibigan ko.
"I ate with my friends."

Potential mood naka-

Example: Hindi siya nakapagsasalita ng Tagalog.
"He was not able to speak Tagalog."

The imperative in Tagalog is formed by using the infinitive form of a verb + the personal pronoun, example: tumayo ka=stand up, tumahimik ka=be quiet

Conditional in Tagalog:

an English sentence like if I had more money I would stop working has it's equivalent in Tagalog but, as far as I know, cannot be technically called a "conditional mood".

The Tagalog equivalent is something like: kung mayroon sana ("sana" is a Tagalog expression meaning "hopefully") akong mas maraming pera hihinto sana ako sa trabaho

Subjunctive: an expression like I wish you were here can be translated as gusto ko sana na nandito ka but, again, I doubt that this kind of expression can be technically called a "subjunctive" in Tagalog.

Interrogative: to ask questions Filipinos use the word ba.


May pera ka is a statement=you've got money

May pera ka ba? is a question=have you got any money?

In English there are gerunds and participles which are formed by using verbs as nouns or adjectives.

There are participles in Tagalog.

In Tagalog participles are formed by means of the affix naka- attached to the root word, ex nakatayo = standing ("standing" is a verb in English but in this context it acts as an adjective while nakatayo is not a verb, it is not the completed aspect of makatayo, it's the prefix naka- that has nothing to do with the abilitative verbal form maka-)

As far as I know there is no such thing as a gerund (an -ing verb like singing that acts like a noun) in Tagalog, an expression like I like singing can be translated as gusto kong kumanta where kumanta is the infinitive of the verb to sing and it doesn't act as a noun.


And, last but not least in English there are two voices: active and passive

In Tagalog there are active and passive voices too:
"Kumagat ang aso ng tao"=the dog bit the man
"Kinagat ng aso ang tao"=the man was bitten by the dog

So here are some of the differences and similarities between English and Tagalog that I have been able to find.

Let me know if I have neglected something


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