Filipino Pronouns
and the Tagalog Po at Opo

Filipino pronouns are rendered in the plural form to capture the tone of respect in Tagalog formal documents. Together with this, Tagalog native speakers use "po" and "opo" as they do when addressing the elderly and people in authority. 

Where the cultural nuance of respect needs to be shown, use the plural forms of the pronouns. See the sentence below:

  • Lumalapit/ po /kami /sa inyo/ para /masagot /ang ilan/ naming/ katanungan. [Come/ polite indicator/ we/ to/ plural you/ in order to/ have answer/ some of/ our/questions] (We come to you so some of our questions will be answered.)

The use of "po" (polite indicator) gives this sentence unity, unlike in the sentence below:

  • Lumalapit po kami sa iyo para masagot ang ilan naming katanungan. (We come to you so some of our questions will be answered).

The second sentence uses the singular form of the pronoun for "you" (iyo) which does not reflect the polite nuance of the sentence and makes the sentence imbalanced. [Please note that we're using the word "polite" here as a synonym for "respectful".] The regular singular pronoun for "you" (iyo) in the above sentence is correct if the Tagalog sentence did not use "po":

  • Lumalapit kami sa iyo para masagot ang ilan naming katanungan.

Other Filipino pronouns used: Kayo/ ninyo/ inyo (second person, plural) are used even if only one person is addressed to capture the polite tone of the language:

  • Ginoong Mariano ano po ang kailangan ninyo?  vs Ginoong Mariano, ano ang kailangan mo? Mr. Mariano, what do you need?
  • May kailangan po ba kayo? vs May kailangan ka? Do you need anything?
  • Maaari po bang malaman ang inyong pangalan? vs Maaari bang malaman ang pangalan mo? or Maaari bang malaman ang iyong pangalan? May I know your name?

More pronouns: sila/kanila/nila (third person,plural).

  • Sila ang may-ari ng pinakamalaking hotel dito sa bayan vs Siya ang may-ari ng pinakamalaking hotel dito sa bayan. He or she owns the biggest hotel in town.
  • Isusulat po ba nang buo ang kanilang pangalan o pumapayag po ba silang mga inisyal lamang ang gamitin? vs Isusulat ba ng buo ang pangalan mo o pumapayag ka bang mga inisyal mo lamang ang gamitin? Shall we write your whole name or shall we use your initials?

The use of the just-mentioned third person, plural makes the communication more detached but still respectful.  

Aim for consistency in tone to sound more natural and culture-friendly. An accurate translation is possible with the use of the correct 

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