Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino language. She also speaks Ilocano.
Filipino verbs may seem daunting to those studying the language, especially for beginners. Despite that, learning verbs is a vital part of learning to speak Filipino as verbs describe all the actions we do on a day-to-day basis. Figuring out how to correctly conjugate Tagalog or Filipino verbs is rewarding, and it brings you a step closer to speaking Filipino fluently.
While studying another language, focusing on something that interests you or something that will come in handy is a good strategy. That includes learning verbs. There's a wide range of Filipino verbs to learn, but it's smart to start with words that you'll likely encounter and use in everyday conversations. With that said, we're going to start with commonly used Filipino verbs.
Learning the Common Affixes
It's definitely a challenging subject, but let's tackle the different types of Filipino verbs. We'll start with the most commonly used Filipino or Tagalog verbs in the past, present and future tenses, along with their basic and imperative forms. (What is the imperative form? This is the verb form you use when you want to command or order someone to do something.)
There are also actor-focus verbs and object-focus verbs. To add to that, there are verbs that can only be actor-focus verbs and verbs that can only be object-focus verbs.
Filipino verbs are formed with the help of Tagalog affixes to indicate their tense. Affixes may be placed at the beginning, middle or end of a word, and they're called prefixes, infixes and suffixes, respectively. We'll cover the following affixes:
We'll also look at O to U verbs.
The MAG Verbs
Some of the most-used verbs in Filipino or Tagalog are the MAG verbs. These are called MAG verbs because they all feature the prefix MAG at the beginning. MAG helps indicate the tense of the verb: It's used to form the future tense, as well as the basic and imperative forms of the verb.
Below is a table of MAG verbs and their tenses. MAG verbs are actor-focus verbs, and the conjugation of these verbs is explained next.
|Root Verb||Future Tense||Present Tense||Past Tense||Imperative|
laba (wash clothes)
dilig (water plants)
tupi (fold clothes)
hain (setting table ready)
bihis (change clothes)
saing (cook rice)
Conjugating MAG Verbs in Tagalog
Don't worry—MAG verbs are easy to form. Using the table above as your guide, let's start with the future tense of the MAG verbs. Follow these steps:
- Place MAG at the beginning of the verb.
- Identify the first syllable of the verb and write it after MAG. (It gets repeated within the conjugated verb.)
- Follow that with the full root verb.
Let's look at the verb lakad. Its future tense, maglalakad, is a perfect example:
- mag is the prefix used,
- la is the first syllable of the root verb, which is repeated,
- and lakad is the full root verb.
When forming the present tense, NAG takes the place of MAG—for example, naglalakad, which means 'walking'. Nothing else changes. The first syllable of the root verb is still repeated, followed by the full root verb.
For the past tense, you use NAG followed only by the root verb: naglakad.
For the imperative form (just in case you need to order someone to walk!), MAG is used as a prefix, followed by the root verb. Maglakad is the imperative form.
The MA Verbs
The MA verbs are also actor-focus verbs, and it's not that hard to form their tenses, either.
Let's use the table of MA verbs below as a guide. The future tense is formed using the MA prefix. The first syllable of the root verb comes next, then the root verb follows—just like with the MAG verbs. Let's take the first one in the table as an example—maliligo:
- ma is the prefix,
- li is the first syllable of the root verb,
- and ligo is the full root verb.
The present and past tenses of MA verbs are formed in the same way as the MAG verbs, but with NA rather than NAG. For example, naliligo is the present tense of ligo, and naligo is the past tense.
To form the imperative of Tagalog MA verbs, you use the prefix MA plus the root verb. Maligo is the imperative form.
|Root Verb||Future Tense||Present Tense||Past Tense||Imperative|
panatag (at ease)
The UM Verbs
The group of actor-focus verbs also includes the UM verbs. UM is an infix used in some of the verb tenses, which means it is placed in between the letters.
Starting with the future tense and using the table below as a guide, let's look at kain (the first word in the table). The future tense does not actually use the UM infix. You simply begin with the first syllable of the root verb, ka, then the root verb follows it: kakain.
When forming the present tense of an UM verb, UM will be used as an infix. Referring to the table below and using kain again, we actually start with the future tense conjugation, kakain. UM is placed between the first consonant and the first vowel, so between the K and the A in this case. This results in the present tense kUMakain. In English, this means 'eating'.
To form the past tense of an UM verb in Tagalog, take the root verb, kain. Place the infix UM in between the first consonant and the first vowel: kUMain.
The imperative form of an UM verb is the same as the past tense: kumain.
|Root Verb||Future Tense||Present Tense||Past Tense (Also Imperative)|
higa (lie down)
tilaok (crow as in the crowing of a rooster)
talak (root word referring to a person's non-stop talking specially when angry or irritated)
takas (escape/run off)
bangon (get up or rise up)
higa (lie down)
dapa (prone position/face down)
tihaya (lying on the back)
harurot (speed off)
sandal (lean on)
Tip: For verbs where the first syllable ends in a consonant, such as lundag (the first syllable is lun-, and the second syllable is dag), only the first two letters are repeated when forming the future tense rather than the whole syllable—for example, lulundag.
The IN Verbs
IN verbs are the opposite of the verb types we've covered so far. IN verbs are object-focus verbs, which means that when these verbs are used in a sentence, the focus is on the object of the sentence rather than the actor or doer.
How do you form or conjugate Tagalog IN verbs? Let's use the table below as a guide, starting with the future tense. The future tense of an IN verb is formed by repeating the first syllable in front of the root verb, much like we've done with the other verb types. However, some IN verbs also add a suffix at the end of the root verb, such as -in or -hin. The future tense kakainin is a perfect example of the use of the suffix:
- ka is the first syllable of the root verb,
- kain is the full root verb,
- and the suffix -in is added at the end: ka-kain-in.
For the present tense, first write down the future tense of an IN verb. Next, place IN between the first consonant and the first vowel: kINakainin. Finally, remove the suffix -in. Now you have your present tense form: kinakain.
To form the past tense, start with the root verb. In this example, our root verb is kain. Make a space between the first consonant and the first vowel for the infix IN: kINain.
The imperative and basic form consists of the root verb followed by the suffix. Kainin is the imperative form.
|Root Verb||Future Tense||Present Tense||Past Tense||Basic/Imperative Form|
tawag (call someone by name)
init (heat up/warm up)
agaw (snatch/grab something from someone)
paandar (root word that refers to starting an engine)
kusut/kusot (a root word referring to the act of washing clothes by hands)
kaladkad (drag someone)
ako (take the blame)
singil (collect payment)
O to U Verbs
Root verbs ending with the letter O have some special conjugation rules about changing the O to a U. Sundo is a good example of a verb ending in an O that sometimes needs to be changed to a U; for instance, the imperative form is sunduin.
The same goes for verbs ending in O followed by a consonant, like -ol. Habol is a good example. The O has to be changed to a U when you're forming certain tenses—for example, hahabulin in the future tense.
Refer to the table below for more examples of these verbs. These are all IN verbs. After the ending letters were changed, the tenses were conjugated the same way as the rest of the IN verbs.
Examples of O to U Verbs
|Root Verb||Future Tense||Present Tense||Past Tense||Imperative|
bunot (pluck/pull out/uproot)
habol (run after someone)
sundo (fetch/pick up someone)
simot (entirely consume)
guyumos (crumple/crush paper)
bunot (the act of pulling plants/weeds)
sundo (pick up someone)
salubong (meet a person on his/her way)
kuskos (scrub or scour)
What to Do When the First Syllable Ends in a Consonant
Some IN verbs can be a little confusing because the rule of repeating the first syllable of the root verb isn't applied.
Referring to the table above, take the root verb sundo as an example. It has two syllables: sun-do. With verbs like this where the first syllable has three letters, ending in a consonant, only the first two letters are repeated. The third letter is dropped, giving us the future tense susunduin. We still apply the rule of changing the O to a U before the suffix -in.
What to Do When the Verb Starts With a Vowel
If a verb starts with a vowel, like in the case of ayos (which is fourth on the table above), IN becomes a prefix when forming the present and the past tense: inaayos and inayos.
Notice that with the present and past tenses, the O was not changed to a U. However, this rule is applied when forming the future tense, and the suffix -in is also used: aayusin.
What to Do When You Get Confused
When the conjugation process becomes frustrating and confusing, especially for verbs starting with vowels, practice writing down the verb and separating it into pieces. Let's use ayos as an example again and try to conjugate it to the future tense:
- Check the syllables in the verb. Our root verb has two syllables: a-yos.
- Repeat the first syllable. This gives us a-ayos.
- Change the O to a U. This will give us a-a-yus.
- Attach the suffix -in. Now we've correctly formed the future tense: a-a-yu-sin.
For the present tense of ayos, we keep the letter O. IN becomes a prefix in the present tense, followed by the repeated first syllable and the full root verb: in-a-ayos.
IN remains a prefix when forming the past tense, followed by the root. We also keep the letter O rather than changing it to a U: in-ayos.
When it comes to the imperative, the letter O needs to be changed to a U, and the suffix -in is used: ayus-in.
The I Verbs
I verbs are object-focus verbs. A lot of them can also be actor-focus verbs, depending on the affixes used.
Let's look at the first root verb from the table below—luto, which means 'cook'. It can be both an I verb and a MAG verb.
Iluluto ng babae ang isda para sa hapunan. 'The fish will be cooked by the woman for dinner'. This is an example of an object-focus verb where the fish is the focus of the sentence. The sentence literally means 'Will be cooked by the woman the fish for dinner'. (Unlike English sentences, Tagalog or Filipino sentences usually start with verbs or adjectives.)
Magluluto ang babae ng isda para sa hapunan. 'The woman will cook fish for dinner'. The focus is now on the actor or doer, which is the woman. By making the root verb luto into a future tense MAG verb, the focus of the sentence switches to the actor since MAG verbs are actor-focus verbs.
|Root Verb||Future Tense||Preset Tense||Past Tense||Basic/Imperative Form|
hain (set table for meals)
labas (take out/show)
sampay (hang dry)
subo (put something in the mouth)
tapon (throw/get rid of)
hatid (walk/drive someone to his/her destination)
kula (whiten/rid clothes of stain by laying them out in the sun)
salang (to start the process of cooking)
bintang (blame/accuse someone)
balik (return/bring back)
sumbong (report/telling on someone)
halo (add/include something such as an ingredient)
pitas (pick/harvest for someone)
dahak (to cough up and spit out mucus)
Ang and Ng
This is a little trick I'd like to share: Keep an eye on ang and ng, since these two words will help you identify the focus of the sentence. Let's call them markers: Ang marks the focus, and ng marks the object. The noun that comes after ang is the focus so keep an eye on ang.
Looking at our previous examples again, let's apply this trick. Keep an eye on the nouns that comes after ang and ng in the following sentences:
Iluluto ng babae ang isda para sa hapunan. Fish or isda follows after the marker ang. Iluluto is an I verb, which is an object-focus verb.
Magluluto ang babae ng isda para sa hapunan. The ng now comes before isda or 'fish', letting you know the object here is the fish. Ang now comes before babae, letting you know that the focus is on babae, the actor. The verb used is a MAG verb, which is an actor-focus verb.
Need More Help?
This isn't a complete list of Filipino or Tagalog verbs. If you have a verb in mind that you need help with and you'd like to see it added here, let me know in the comment section below.
As to whether a verb is an IN, I, UM or MAG verb, there is no clear rule to follow. My advice is to familiarize yourself with as many verbs as possible, starting with the most commonly used ones.
Erika on May 23, 2020:
Thank you so, so, so much for taking your time to post this. I really needed this to learn my native language. This is deeply appreciated. Thank you for your work.
Danish on April 28, 2020:
.keep it up
.it is helping me a lot
MJOE on April 26, 2020:
I would like to request if also you can prepare for us madaling paggamit ng present perfect tense, present perfect continuous, past perfect tense and past perfect continuous tense. Thanks a lot
MJOE on April 22, 2020:
Hello! You made it very clear ...Thanks a lot.
Marcos on April 12, 2020:
Wow very helpful!! Thanks!!
Rudy on March 22, 2020:
Hy there thanks a looot !!! What about direction focus verbs with "an" ?? O please i feel lost about that... Do you have an explanation ?? Thanks again !!
precy anza (author) from USA on February 21, 2020:
Hi. Sentences often start with verbs and adjectives with the help of markers like ang and ng (these you can read more from my other articles). But for a quick lesson, ang marks the subject/doer while ng marks the object.
Now for few examples of sentences with these verbs. Like I said, a Tagalog sentence usually starts with a verb.
Kumain ang inspector ng burger.
The inspector ate burger.
Kumain (verb past tense) ang (marker) marking the subject which is the inspector while ng which is also a marker, marks the object, the burger.
To add an extension/s such as time of the day, you can include it at the end of our sentence example -- Kumain ang inspector ng burger kanina (earlier).
Let's add more extension and say, earlier this morning -- Kumain ang inspector ng burger kaninang umaga. Kaninang umaga means earlier this morning. Umaga means morning. Also notice the -ng attached to the word "kanina" this time which shows connection to the next word. This is done with words ending in vowels.
For another simple and easier example, let's have two with adjectives.
Gwapo ang bata.
The kid is handsome.
Maganda ang babae.
The woman is beautiful.
precy anza (author) from USA on February 21, 2020:
The "kainin" can't be found on the UM verb table since it is not an UM verb. Kainin is an IN verb, it has the suffix -in. The following is the form and yes you're correct, "What do you want to eat?" is "Anong gustong mong kainin?"
- also used in the question as it is
Now, I don't know if there's any other explanation for it in addition to what I'm gonna say but, in Tagalog for questions like the example you gave -- What do you want to __? Often the word/verb uses an IN suffix. Two examples are --
Anong gusto mong laruin?
What do you want to play?
Anong gusto mong lutuin?
What do you want to cook?
This to "What do you want to __?" questions. And to add, these verbs are also the ones used when giving imperatives or commands.
But to add that if the question is "Do you want to __?" and NOT "What do you want to __?"
MAG and UM are used instead.
Gusto mong maglaro?
Do you want to play?
Gusto mong magluto?
Do you want to cook?
And last one is your example root verb "kain"
Gusto mong kumain?
Do you want to eat?
What do you want to eat?
Anong gusto mong kainin?
Hope that helps. :)
Meyn on December 20, 2019:
While in ilocano is kabayatan or bayat.
KAMALDEEP on November 21, 2019:
Precy Anza, thanks for your easy tagalog verbs, but i want to know how to use these tagalog verbs in sentences, thanks again for your hard work, what is sentence structure in tagalog.
Kweli Nzito on November 10, 2019:
How is the verb kainin derived from the root word Kain? If I ask what do you want to eat, as I understand it it is "Anong gusto mong kainin?". In the table of UM verb conjugation, I have no idea how this form is derived. It does not appear there. In other words, how does a pseudo verb affect the UM (or other) verb conjugation rules? Thanks!
precy anza (author) from USA on October 22, 2019:
It will be the first one - Bumibisita lang ako sa Pilipinas. The second one translates to "I will just visit the Philippines."
Chris on October 06, 2019:
Hello, what is the proper way to say "I am just visiting the Philippines"?
Bumibisita lang ako sa Pilipinas? or Bibisita lang ako sa Pilipinas?
PATRICK RENÉ HENRI JOUANNÈS from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE on August 19, 2019:
Precy ! Ok ! I understand your situation. My Grand Ma, wife of the Grand Pa I was writing about was from Poland and she came to France in 1921 and she forgot her mother tongue because she was surrrounded by French speakers most of her life. She met my Grand Pa and my mother never spoke Polish with her. I am the only one able to speak in Polish because when I was a student I started to learn Polish beeing 18 years old. Polish and French are not similar, you could compare Tagalog and Malagasay if you want to imagine the difference. By the way I am happy to tell you I am so quick with Tagalog that I created a French/Tagalog dictionary online on my site www.dictionaric.com It's far from prefect right now but I will improve it step by step. If I can I will try to do the same with Ilocano and Bisaya. It's only a question of time. Now with Internet everything is much easier. I remember in 1997 when I got my first Internet connection, I tried to gather information about Nahuatl and Maya languages in Mexico but there was very little online. Plus these languages are not really strong enough in front of Spanish. Neverthless I am sure all these languages are not going to die because there will always be people, native or not, who will sustain them. The mere fact to create a site about a language is enough for saving this language from oblivion especially if on the ground there are people who still use this language in their every day life.
Keep going. I hope you will have the opportunity to visit often The Philippines.
Sincerely Yours, Patrick Jouannès from France.
Please, feel free to contact me for any kind of linguistical help. My eternal email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Last thing I wanted to say about my humble self :-) I have two sons and they forsook me :-) One is living in Australia for 11 years and the other in Beijing for 7 years and I hate to travel by plane. Thanks God I have the Internet and a car :-) But I am waiting to have a bridge made to Australia :-) For The Philippines I will to find a boat :-)
precy anza (author) from USA on August 18, 2019:
Hi. I asked my mom what the Ilocano word is for 'while' or 'habang' in Tagalog but she didn't know. I can't find it online either. I'll keep it in mind though as I'm wondering now as well if there is or what could be the word for that. I totally forgot Ilocano when we evacuated from the province where I was born to another province because of volcanic eruption when I was 6 to 7 years old. But it slowly came back to me when we arrived here in US. Hearing Ilocano being spoken at home with the relative we stayed for a year helped. There are still words I don't know though but I do share what I know through writing and video lessons.
PATRICK RENÉ HENRI JOUANNÈS from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE on August 12, 2019:
I understood you are now living in the USA and of course you lost contact with Ilocano, plus Tagalog is fore sure overwhelming the other languages. I just wanted to say, keep collecting everything you can from your mother and I wish her a very long life in health.
I was born in 1958 and one of my grand fathers died when he was 98 years old. He knew many many words lost today in French especially in the rural area because he was a peasant. You can imagine how much I learned from him. Keeping the memory of the past is a treasure.
precy anza (author) from USA on August 12, 2019:
Hi. No I am not. But glad to know another YouTuber is doing Bisaya lessons as for sure her lessons will help you with your Philippine languages comparison.
As with "while" in Ilocano, I don't know either as I am not fluent 100% in Ilocano. Will ask my mom for you.
PATRICK RENÉ HENRI JOUANNÈS from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE on August 10, 2019:
Hello Precy !
Just wanted to know if you are in contact with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCmS8gwggA4
She is doing the same with Bisaya.
PATRICK RENÉ HENRI JOUANNÈS from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE on August 05, 2019:
Thank You very much Precy !
I started learning Tagalog one month ago surfing the net and I found two other examples : habang nakangiti "while I am smiling" and habang natutulog "while I am sleeping". I was not sure of myself and now you confirm I understood well.
Summarizing we can say now that gerund in Tagalog is just a little bit different from English but similar to Spanish. Next step I will try to find how it works in Ilocano :-) Can you help ? I want to compare the languages of The Philippines but will I live long enough ? That's the question ;-)
In French : I do in doing
In English : I do while doing
In Tagalog : I do while I do
In Spanish : I do MIENTRAS I do
precy anza (author) from USA on August 04, 2019:
With the given example, the Tagalog equivalent of that is habang -
Sumisipol ako habang naglalakad.
Sumisipol ako I AM WHISTLING
JE MARCHE EN SIFFLANT.
PATRICK RENÉ HENRI JOUANNÈS from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE on July 27, 2019:
Thanks for your answer. In fact my question was a "French question" :-) In French we use very much the gerundive, more than in English and we form it using two parts. I will give you more precise examples :
I am walking in the street (and in the same time) I am whistling = I am whistling while walking.
In French it gives : JE MARCHE EN SIFFLANT = litterally I WALK IN WHISTLING.
What is the equivalent in Tagalog ? I noticed for many years that English uses WHILE instead of our IN : I WHISTLE WHILE WALKING
MANY THANKS ONE MORE TIME !
precy anza (author) from USA on July 27, 2019:
@ Patrick René Henri Jouannès
Thanks for the heads up. Already edited the verb's past tense and imperative form.
With your questions, first with the gerund, it is formed with the prefix pag + the root verb, also with pag + the first syllable of the root verb + the root verb. Two examples are pag-akyat (climbing) and paglalakad (walking).
The basic or infinitive forms are the same with the imperative forms, examples are kUMain (imperative and past tense), magluto (imperative for MAG verb), kaINin (imperative form IN verb) and ilabas (imperative I verb).
precy anza (author) from USA on July 23, 2019:
Salamat Dee Jay. And glad you found this helpful although one section is confusing you.
The noun that comes after ng, in this example is the woman or babae, took the spot of being the object of the sentence since it's an I verb which is an object-focus verb. But she's not really the topic of the sentence but the fish.
Iluluto ng babae ang isda para sa hapunan.
The fish will be cooked by the woman for dinner.
With the second example using MAG verb, which is an actor-focus verb, the woman will do the action - the cooking.
Magluluto ang babae ng isda para sa hapunan.
The woman will cook fish for dinner.
precy anza (author) from USA on July 23, 2019:
Hi. You've probably confused my article with Seasite website which has a good list of verbs, or maybe thought I was the owner of the site. But no I am not.
In regards to your question, I haven't added new verbs yet here in my article but thanks for mentioning, I should add more when I get the time. With the other question you asked, the prefix MAG is only use for the future tense and imperative and not for the past tense. The MAG (for future tense) changes to NAG to form the present and past tense. As to why it changes to NAG, I don't have any other reason besides NAG is the present and past tense form.
PATRICK RENÉ HENRI JOUANNÈS from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE on July 20, 2019:
OOPS ! you made a mistake in the line !
PATRICK RENÉ HENRI JOUANNÈS from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE on July 19, 2019:
I have questions : - )
1 How to build a past participle ?
2 How to build a gerondive ?
3 How to recognize that a word is an infinitive ?
MANY THANKS !
PATRICK RENÉ HENRI JOUANNÈS from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE on July 16, 2019:
DHanz888 on July 13, 2019:
Hi Precy, thanks again for your insights and hardwork in preparing and sharing this with us.
I have a question, why in some books when the "Mag" is used for a verb as a past tense, but the present tense changes the "Nag"?
Dee Jay on July 07, 2019:
Hello, this is very helpful and clear. Maraming salamat po!
There is one section which is confusing, that I saw twice, so could you please clarify:
"The noun 'babae' or woman comes after ng letting you know that the focus of the sentence is babae."
"Ang now comes before 'babae' or woman letting you know that the focus is on babae, the actor"
In both instances, you said the the "babae"/"woman" is the focus, regardless of whether it is preceded by ng or ang. Is this correct? Did you not mean to say that the object/fish is the focus for one of the sentences?
DHanz888 on July 07, 2019:
I was wondering if there were a new chart of verbs or any awesome updates? Your site has been an awesome learning tool. Thank you for providing it.
Rowena Aguila on June 15, 2019:
thanks much, Cynthia..very useful for my Tagalog students..
precy anza (author) from USA on June 12, 2019:
@ Cynthia Blair
Salamat. :) Glad to know the article is easy to understand and explained well. Salamat din for sharing the link sa mga friends mo.
Cynthia Blair on June 08, 2019:
Wow! Ang mga pandiwa sa isang lugar! Malinaw ang explanation din! I have been sending your link to my friends, who are learning Tagalog. Maraming salamat po.
Ricky on May 27, 2019:
this is very helpful. salamat
Jill young on May 26, 2019:
I kinda dont get it I need it for a lesson in school I find this info useful but I can’t read everything
the timothy james on March 30, 2019:
Salamat, I found this very helpful
Aouie on March 09, 2019:
When do you use MAG- and not -UM-? Is there a rule as when to use the Mag- form instead of -UM- form & vice versa?
Olivia ruel on November 02, 2018:
It's easy to understand, really helpful.thanks.
Romon-Ben on October 22, 2018:
This is really helpfull salamat po
Precy on September 23, 2018:
Thanks for leaving a comment @Gregory Probst.
Gregory Probst on July 29, 2018:
Thank you for all of your hard work. I have learned so much from your videos and articles. Maraming salamat.