Is the "Ay" Marker in Tagalog the Same as the English Verb "To be"?

One of the most common markers in the Tagalog language is ay. It may appear as if ay  is the equivalent of the English verb "to be", because, for example, the literal translation of a phrase like ako ay Pilipino is "I am  Filipino". However, in reality, far from being a verb, let alone the verb "to be", which doesn't really exist in Tagalog, the function of ay is simply to invert the order of a phrase, and in the example above ako ay Pilipino is merely the inverted form of Pilipino ako. In other words, because in Tagalog there is no such thing as the verb "to be", such phrases as "I am Italian", "she is beautiful" or "Mario is a doctor" in Tagalog have no verb and are literally rendered as "Italian I" ("Italiano ako"), "beautiful she" ("maganda siya") and "doctor Mario" ("doktor si Mario"). The "ay" marker simply switches the order of such phr

Affixes in Tagalog

Tagalog is one of the major languages spoken in the Philippines.

It is spoken in Metro Manila and in its neighboring provinces, like Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and others.

A National Park in the province of Bulacan, one of the Tagalog speaking provinces of the Philippines

Tagalog is an Austronesian language, a language family comprising languages spoken in the Malay Peninsula, in South East Asia, in Taiwan, in the islands of the Pacific Ocean and in Magadascar.


Tagalog, like most Austronesian languages, is an agglutinative language.

An agglutinative language is characterized by words that are made up of different morphems (morpema in Tagalog), a morphem being the smallest part of a word having a meaning of its own (like, for example, the English word doable: if I separate the two morphems, do and able each of them has a meaning of its own and can stand on its own)

Agglutination in Tagalog: Root Words and Affixes

Generally words in Tagalog are formed by combining a "salitang ugat" or "root word" with one or more "panlapi" or affixes.

There are three types of affixes in Tagalog: 

  1. Unlapi or prefix
  2. Gitlapi or infix
  3. Hulapi or suffix

"Unlapi" or "Prefix"

For example, I could combine the "root word" talino, which conveys the idea of "intelligence", with the affix ma to form the adjective ("pang-uri") matalino (intelligent).

In this case the "affix" or "panlapi" is called "prefix" or "unlapi", because it occurs before the "root word"

"Prefixes" can also be used to form verbs, like, for example, the verb magbasa (to read) and nouns like inapo or katrabaho, kaibigan etc.

"Gitlapi" or "Infix"

The "gitlapi" is an affix that goes in between the root word.

A typical example is the verb "kumain" (to eat), where the "um" affix goes between the first consonant and the first vowel of the root word "kain"

"Hulapi" or "Suffix"

The "hulapi" occurs at the end of the root word. A typical example are the -in verbs like "basahin" (to read) or such nouns as "aklatan" (library).

The challenging thing in Tagalog is that there are way too many affixes.

I have glossed over the concept of focus in Tagalog and the various affixes in my post

However in the coming posts I'll cover the various affixes in more detail.


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