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Learn the Different Tenses in Filipino Here!

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Grammatical tense is an important tool that helps us express time as it relates to actions or states of being. As such, mastering the different tenses in Filipino will help you establish effective communication in both written and oral forms. 

The challenge when it comes to Filipino grammar, though, is that the tenses are quite dissimilar from those found in English. As you might imagine, learning Filipino verb conjugation can be quite a formidable task! 

The good news is that there’s a systematic way to study and master the different verb tenses in Filipino. We already have a post about Tagalog verb conjugation that you might want to go through, but we’re going to touch on that a bit here, as well. 

First, let’s give you a brief introduction to the different Filipino tenses.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Filipino Table of Contents
  1. Introduction to Tenses in Filipino
  2. The Present Tense
  3. Past Tense
  4. Future Tense
  5. Verb Conjugation and Auxiliary Verbs Summary
  6. Learn More Than Just Verb Tenses with FilipinoPod101!

1. Introduction to Tenses in Filipino

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve probably read a few times that conjugating Filipino verbs can be a bit more complex than conjugating, let’s say, English verbs. Again, that’s because Filipino verb conjugation is not limited to conjugating verbs based on tense. In Filipino grammar, verbs are also conjugated based on their focus, mood, and aspect. 

We’re not going to deal with those other factors in this post, however. Today, we’ll simply deal with tenses. 

There are three major verb tenses in Filipino: 

  • Past
  • Present
  • Future

At first glance, it would seem that Filipino tenses are just the same as English tenses. You might be tempted to think that translating an English verb in either of the three tenses would give you its equivalent in Filipino. However, that’s not always the case because it depends on the word you’re conjugating. We’ll get into that as we move forward.

Now, let’s get into the first verb tense in Filipino.

2. The Present Tense

The present tense, or kasalukuyan in Tagalog, is a tense expressing an action that’s being done at the moment. It can also be used to express an action done habitually.

In English grammar, there are four aspects of the present tense. However, this is not the case in Filipino. 

One thing you need to understand about Tagalog verb conjugation is that Tagalog verbs are conjugated through the use of affixes (panlapi). In our article on Tagalog verb conjugation, we discussed that Tagalog verbs are grouped based on how they’re conjugated and named based on the affix used to conjugate them.

We have: 

  • MAG verbs
  • MA verbs
  • UM verbs
  • IN verbs
  • I verbs

In the present tense, a verb can be conjugated using the affix nag, na, um, in, or i depending on the root word.

Root VerbPresent Tense
aral 
“study”
nag-aaral 
(actor focus)
Nag-aaral ako ng Pilipino. 
“I am studying Filipino.”
kain 
“eat”
kumakain 
(actor focus)
Kumakain ako ngayon. 
“I am eating right now.”
kinig 
“listen”
nakikinig 
(actor focus)
Nakikinig si Kurt ng balita. 
“Kurt is listening to the news.”
bigay 
“give”
binibigay 
(object focus)
Binibigay niya sa akin ang kanyang sweldo. 
“He gives me his salary.”
sulong 
“promote”
isinusulong 
(object focus)
Isinusulong ng gobyerno ang paggamit ng face mask sa pampublikong lugar. 
“The use of face masks in public is being promoted by the government.”

While there are no direct equivalents of the four English present tense aspects in Filipino, it’s possible to translate verbs in these aspects to Filipino. Refer to the examples below:

Simple PresentI study Filipino. Nag-aaral ako ng Pilipino.
Present ContinuousI am studying Filipino.Nag-aaral ako ng Pilipino.
Present PerfectI have studied Filipino.Nakapag-aral ako ng Pilipino.
Present Perfect ContinuousI have been studying Filipino (for two years now).Nag-aaral ako ng Pilipino (ng mga dalawang taon na).

Notice that the verbs in the examples above are in actor focus. Things change when the verbs are in object focus. For instance, the simple present tense “I study Filipino,” will become Inaaral ko ang Pilipino, which is in the continuous tense.

Someone Handing Over a $100 Bill

Binibigay niya sa akin ang kanyang sweldo. (“He gives me his salary.”)

    Knowing the basic sentence structure of the Filipino language is important in learning how to conjugate Tagalog verbs.

3. Past Tense

The past tense (nagdaan) is a tense expressing an action that took place in the past. 

A verb can be conjugated in the past tense using the affix nag, na, um, in, or i depending on the root word.

Root VerbPast Tense
aral 
“study”
nag-aral 
(actor focus)
Nag-aral ako ng Pilipino. 
“I studied Filipino.”
kinig 
“listen”
nakinig 
(actor focus)
Nakinig siya ng audio lesson. 
“He listened to an audio lesson.”
kain 
“eat”
kumain 
(actor focus)
Kumain ako kaninang umaga. 
“I ate this morning.”
bigay 
“give”
binigay 
(object focus)
Binigay niya sa akin ang kanyang sweldo. 
“He gave me his salary.”
hinto 
“stop”
inihinto 
(object focus)
Inihinto na ang proyekto. 
“The project was stopped.”

English grammar has four aspects of the past tense, none of which have a direct equivalent in the Filipino language. However, it’s possible to translate verbs in these tenses to Filipino. Refer to the examples below:

Simple PastI studied Filipino. Nag-aral ako ng Pilipino.
Past ContinuousI was studying when she called.Nag-aaral ako ng tumawag siya.
Past PerfectI had studied Filipino before we decided to move to the Philippines.Nakapag-aral ako ng Pilipino bago kami nagdesisyon na lumipat sa Pilipinas.
Past Perfect ContinuousI had been studying Filipino (for two years already when we met).Nag-aaral ako ng Pilipino (ng mga dalawang taon na noong magkakilala kami).

Notice that the form of the sentences in the present perfect and past perfect are similar in Filipino grammar. In English, the distinction between the two would be in the form of the verb “to have,” which is “have” or “has” in present perfect and “had” in past perfect. The past perfect will also have a clause for the second action, prior to which the first action had been completed.

In Filipino, there is no equivalent for the verb “to have,” so you can identify the past perfect via the clause describing the second action in the sentence, which only appears in this form of the past tense.

A Baby Being Fed Baby Food

Kumain ako kaninang umaga. (“I ate this morning.”)

4. Future Tense

Similar to the future tense in English, the Filipino future tense (hinaharap) expresses an action or event that is yet to happen or be completed.

A verb can be conjugated in the future tense using the affixes mag, ma, in, and i. However, there are instances when an affix is not added, but the first syllable of the word is repeated instead. Take, for example, the verb punta (go): it becomes pupunta (will go) in the future tense.

Root VerbFuture Tense
aral 
“study”
mag-aaral 
(actor focus)
Mag-aaral ako ng Pilipino. 
“I will study Filipino.”
kinig 
“listen”
makikinig 
(actor focus)
Makikinig siya ng audio lesson. 
“She will listen to an audio lesson.”
kain 
“eat”
kakain 
(actor focus)
Kakain ako mamaya. 
“I will eat later.”
bigay 
“give”
ibibigay 
(object focus)
Ibibigay niya sa akin ang kanyang sweldo. 
“He will give me his salary.”
paliwanag 
“explain”
ipapaliwanag 
(object focus)
Ipapaliwanag din ang lahat. 
“Everything will eventually be explained.”

Now, let’s see how we can translate Tagalog verbs in the future tense to the four types of English future tenses.

Simple FutureI will study Filipino. Mag-aaral ako ng Pilipino.
Future ContinuousI will be studying Filipino.Mag-aaral ako ng Pilipino.
Future PerfectI will have studied by that time.Nakakapag-aral na ako sa mga panahon na ‘yan.
Future Perfect ContinuousI will have been studying here in the Philippines for five years in 2022.Nakapag-aral na ako dito sa Pilipinas ng limang taon pagdating ng 2022.

A Woman Listening to Something with Headphones

Makikinig siya ng audio lesson. (“She will listen to an audio lesson.”)


5. Verb Conjugation and Auxiliary Verbs Summary

We already have an entire blog post dedicated to Tagalog verb conjugation, but since we’re talking about tenses, let’s take this opportunity to learn just a little bit about how to conjugate verbs in Filipino. 

In English grammar, verbs are conjugated not only based on tense but also based on six different persons. This is not the case with Tagalog verbs. 

Each verb in Tagalog belongs to a group (as described earlier in this article), and this group plays a role in how the verb is conjugated. We discuss this in great detail in our verb conjugation article, so for now, we’ll focus more on how verbs conjugate for each tense. 

1 – Conjugating Tagalog Verbs in the Present Tense

In one of our examples, we used the word aral, or “study,” and its present tense form nag-aaral. We can conjugate the root verb in the present tense by reduplicating the first syllable of the root verb and then attaching the prefix nag before it. Thus, aral becomes nag-aaral. Please note that some verbs take the hyphen when conjugated, although there aren’t many of these verbs. Now, let’s take a look at more examples:

turo (teach)nagtuturo (teaching)
sulat (write)nagsusulat (writing)
pahinga (rest)nagpapahinga (resting)

Now, to conjugate in the present tense using the affix na, simply reduplicate the first syllable of the root verb and attach na before the newly formed word: 

nood (watch)nanonood (watching)
tulog (sleep)natutulog (sleeping)
buhay (live)nabubuhay (living)

Remember that some actor focus verbs in the present tense also use the affix um, such as in the word kumakain (eating). In this case, we reduplicate the first syllable and insert the affix um after the first letter of the newly formed word. Thus, kain becomes kumakain. Here are more examples:

hinga (breathe)humihinga (breathing)
tayo (stand)tumatayo (standing)
talon (jump)tumatalon (jumping)

We also conjugate verbs in the present tense using the affix in, particularly when the verb is in object focus. We used the word binibigay (giving) in one of our examples. To conjugate it, we reduplicated the first syllable and inserted the affix in before the root verb. Thus, bigay became binibigay. Here are more examples:

tawag (call)tinatawag (calling)
sabi (say)sinasabi (saying)
putol (cut)pinuputol (cutting)

Verbs in the present tense using the affix i are a bit tricky since there’s no clear formula involved. What’s clear, though, is that the affix is found at the beginning of the word and the first syllable of some words is reduplicated. Also, the words using this affix are object focus verbs. Study the following words to see what we mean:

pakilala (introduce)ipinapakilala (being introduced)
pahayag (declare)ipinapahayag (being declared)
bunyi (celebrate)ipinagbubunyi (being celebrated)


2 – Conjugating Tagalog Verbs in the Past Tense

Now, let’s take a look at some rules for conjugating Filipino verbs in the past tense. Just like the present tense, the past tense uses the affixes nag, na, um, in, and i.

To conjugate a verb in the past tense using nag, we simply attach the affix to the root verb. The word aral, for instance, becomes nag-aral. Some words receive the hyphen during conjugation, and aral is one of them. Let’s check out more examples below:

turo (teach)nagturo (taught)
sulat (write)nagsulat (wrote)
pahinga (rest)nagpahinga (rested)

We can also use the affix na to conjugate in the past tense. To do this, we simply add it to the beginning of the root verb. Take a look at the following examples:

nood (watch)nanood (watched)
tulog (sleep)natulog (slept)
buhay (live)nabuhay (lived)

The rule is the same when conjugating in the past tense using the affix um. Refer to the table below:

hinga (breathe)huminga (breathed)
tayo (stand)tumayo (stood)
talon (jump)tumalon (jumped)

The rule for using the affix in when conjugating in the past tense is similar to that for the present tense, only this time, the first syllable is not reduplicated.

tawag (call)tinawag (called)
sabi (say)sinabi (said)
putol (cut)pinutol (cut)

This time, let’s take a look at how the past tense is formed using the affix i

pakilala (introduce)ipinakilala (was introduced)
pahayag (declare)ipinahayag (was declared)
bunyi (celebrate)ipinagbunyi (was celebrated)


3 – Conjugating Tagalog Verbs in the Future Tense

The future tense is the easiest of the three to conjugate. As mentioned, we conjugate Tagalog verbs in the future tense using the affixes mag, ma, in, and i

To conjugate using the affix mag, what we do is reduplicate the first syllable of the root verb and add mag to the beginning. Let’s see how we can do that with our previous examples:

turo (teach)magtuturo (will teach)
sulat (write)magsusulat (will write)
pahinga (rest)magpapahinga (will rest)

The rule for conjugating in the future tense using the affix ma is pretty much the same. Observe the following examples:

nood (watch)manonood (will watch)
tulog (sleep)matutulog (will sleep)
buhay (live)mabubuhay (will live)

Now, to conjugate verbs in the future tense using the affix in, we simply reduplicate the first syllable of the root verb and attach in to the end of the word. 

tawag (call)tatawagin (will call)
sabi (say)sasabihin (will say)
putol (cut)puputulin (will cut)

In some cases, hin is used instead of in, such as in the case of sabi in the example above. The same is true for the root verb basa (read), which becomes babasahin in the future tense.

Finally, let’s conjugate in the future tense using the affix i. Here are some examples:

pakilala (introduce)ipakikilala (will be introduced)
pahayag (declare)ipapahayag (will be declared)
bunyi (celebrate)ipagbubunyi (will be celebrated)

And one more thing: Filipino sentences do not make use of auxiliary verbs. It’s long been taught that ay is a form of the copula “to be,” but we know now that this is not the case. Based on recent sources, it’s more like a replacement for a slight pause. When looking at direct translations, however, it would seem that ay is the equivalent of the verb “is,” such as in the following sentence:

  • Si Loisa ay nag-aaral ng Pilipino.
    “Loisa is studying Filipino.”

A Woman being Recognized in Front of People in a Business Meeting

Ipakikilala na siya bilang bagong presidente ng kumpanya.
(“She will finally be introduced as the new company president.”)


6. Learn More Than Just Verb Tenses with FilipinoPod101!

In this lesson, we’ve discussed the importance of studying the three main tenses of verbs in the Filipino language. We’ve also learned that conjugating Tagalog verbs is a bit different from conjugating verbs in English. We understand if this is quite overwhelming at first, but then that’s where FilipinoPod101 comes in. 

FilipinoPod101 uses a unique style of teaching Filipino grammar, allowing you to learn Filipino through a variety of lessons not limited to reading materials, audio lessons, and video classes. FilipinoPod101 provides free learning resources for anyone who’s starting their journey in learning the language of the Philippines. 

If you sign up today, you’ll gain access to these resources and more! Of course, there’s also the MyTeacher service for Premium PLUS members; this allows you to receive one-on-one lessons and non-stop feedback from a native Filipino-speaking teacher through your smartphone or tablet via our app. 

So, how was this lesson on Filipino verb tenses? Let us know in the comments section!

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