Aspects of Tagalog and English Verb Tenses

A translator may think that Tagalog and English Verb tenses are the same but this is not the case. English verb tenses will often translate in an aspect of Tagalog verb that will have a different time-of-action interpretation. To stay close to the meaning of the exact time of the action in the source text, the equivalent aspect in the target text must be fully utilized.

1 Present

In English to Tagalog translation, a simple present verb tense will translate into a progressive tense:

I place, we place, she/he places, you place, they place<br> is translated "inilalagay" in Tagalog

inilalagay ko, inilalagay natin, inilalagay niya, inilalagay mo, inilalagay nila 

This back translates literally into "is being placed or is placing". 

The Tagalog verb "inilalagay" is not in the simple present but in an aspect that is ongoing, which is like the present progressive tense in English.

2 Past

inilagay niya. She placed/put

nailagay na niya or inilagay na niya She has placed/put 

The word na "already" - is redundant in English but is necessary in Tagalog because na serves as a marker that denotes an aspect that is more or less equivalent to a perfect tense. Putting "na" also makes this more idiomatic.

3 Future

The simple future tense of verbs sometimes requires the words "will" and "shall". For the verb "place" the Tagalog yet to be completed aspect  "ilalagay" will back translate into both:

"will place" /"shall place"

Nagko-computer ang mga kids. 

and "is going to place / shall be placed" 

"Place" being imperative calls for an aspect that is still to be completed: 

Ilagay- literally meaning "to place" or simply "place"

paki-lagay - please put/place

4 For the aspects below note the markers "pa" and "sana" 

a. Pending Action - "to be placed" - ilalagay pa. 

Ilalagay ko pa ang bulaklak sa masitera. I still have to arrange the flowers on the vase. 

b. Ongoing action - "being placed" - inilalagay pa 

Inilalagay pa niya ang mga dekorasyon. She is still setting up the decorations.

c. Completed sense and also denoting additional action or intentioninilagay pa.  

Inilagay pa ang mga kutsarita kahit di naman kailangan. Teaspoons were set up even if they're not necessary.

d. Frustrated actionuses the marker sana inilagay sana, ilalagay sana, nalagyan sana, nilagyan sana, lalagyan sana

  • Lalagyan ko sana ng buod pero wala nang panahon. 

I could have placed/written a summary but there was no more time.

  • Kung inilagay mo lang sana ang lahat ng impormasyon ay mas mabilis sana ang proseso.

If you only supplied/placed all the information, then the process could have been faster.

5 Idiomatic modal aspect always parallels the English future tense that is 

  • "Kung ilalagay mo" (if you place, or if you are going to place). 

"If you place it on the sink, the cat will eat it." "Kung ilalagay mo 'yan sa lababo kakainin yan ng pusa."

  • "If you tell the truth, the truth will set you free." "Kung magsasabi ka ng totoo, palalayain ka ng katotohanan." 

"If you tell me about what you know, I will give you money" "Kung sasabihin mo sa akin ang nalalaman mo, bibigyan kita ng pera."

However, the following conjugations sometimes find their way in the translation. 

  • "Kung ilagay mo sa lababo kakanin yan...;"
  • "Kung magsabi ka ng totoo...;"
  • "Kung sabihin mo ang nalalaman mo..."

The reason for this variation is simply that the translator is not a native speaker of Tagalog. Usually in other regions where Tagalog is not the native language, the people will speak the language, but will conjugate it differently. Non-native speakers of Tagalog often short cut the affixations and only the ear of a native speaker will catch the  variations. If only for this reason, a closer study and application of the aspects of Tagalog and English verbs poses a challenge to translators who are non-native speakers of Tagalog.

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