woensdag 18 mei 2016

Maltese verbs - learn the present Maltese tense!

Learning Maltese verbs can be quite complicated, especially since they're based on Arabic. Here's how you can understand how Maltese verbs are conjugated in the present tense. So that's the tense for what's happening now.

First of all: Maltese verbs don't have infinitives. They have mamma's. And that doesn't have anything to do with their mother. The mamma, or verb stem, is the third person of the past tense. However, you don't have much use to it for the present. Let's take the example of to work

Here's a picture of Malta to motivate you  ©
The mamma is ħadem. The ħ is a hard h. So ħadem means: he worked. To form the present tense, you need to study the imperative. There's a single and a plural imperative for each verb. For to work, that's aħdem (single) and aħdmu (plural). Usually the plural ends with -u. If the single imperative ends with a vowel (e in this case) and than a consonant (m), the vowel (e) is eaten and the -u is placed at the end.

To form the conjugation of most of the Maltese verbs, you have to put the following letters in front of the imperatives: N T J T for the single and N T J for the plural.

So here's the conjugation of to work in the present tense:
  • naħdem (I work)       So that's a combination of N - aħdem
  • taħdem (you work)                                              T - aħdem
  • jaħdem (he works)                                               J - aħdem
  • taħdem (she works)                                             T - aħdem
  • naħdmu (we work)                                              N - aħdmu
  • taħdmu (you work)                                              T - aħdmu
  • jaħdmu (they work)                                             J - aħdmu
It looks complicated, but it isn't. N is for the 1st person (in the single and the plural), T for the 2nd person (again, single AND plural) and J for the 3rd person (single and plural). The female form in the third person is exactly the same as for the second person - so if you say you work or she works, that's the same in Maltese.

Another difference with English: you has a single and a plural form. Just think of it as you're speaking to one person or to more than one person, that's the difference. 

Exception 1: plural ends with -w. Some verbs, usually shorter ones, have a plural that ends with -w, as in 'to see'. Let's see the conjugation (imperative ara, araw):

  • nara (I see)
  • tara (you see)
  • jara (he sees)
  • tara (she sees)
  • naraw (we see)
  • taraw (you see)
  • jaraw (they see)

Apart from the -w, it's a regular verb.

Exception 2: to be and to have. Those verbs are quite different, so you need to learn them by heart.

  • Jien / jiena (I am)
  • Int / inti (you are)
  • Hu / huwa (he is)
  • Hi / hija (she is)
  • Aħna (we are)
  • Intom (you are)
  • Huma (they are)

For to be, note that before and after the '/' can be used interchangeably. For example you can either use jien or jiena to say I am, there's no difference. Mind as well that the conjugation of to be is the same as the pronouns. Only if you want to stress the pronoun, you'll use it. For example, if it's important that I see something, you'd say jien nara.

  • Għandi (I have)
  • Għandek (you have)
  • Għandu (he has)
  • Għandha (she has)
  • Għandna (we have)
  • Għandkom (you have)
  • Għandhom (they have)

More grammar in my book
To have changes at the end, not at the beginning.

There are some more exceptions to the rule. However, it's important to know: you only need to learn the single and plural imperative, and apply the NTJT - NTJ rule. Plus, learn to be and to have by heart. And that's it!

Interested in the other Maltese tenses? Learn the past, the present continuous and the future!

Here's my free Maltese course, my paid course and some extra resources to further learn Maltese.