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Ilocano Tenses of Verbs, Pronouns and How to Construct Simple Ilocano Sentences

Updated on June 11, 2020
precy anza profile image

Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino and Ilocano language. She also writes about Filipino culture.


Ilocano is the third most spoken language in the Philippines. Although it isn't the national language, it is spoken by many, mainly in the northern, northwestern and central Luzon provinces. And because of Ilocano speakers establishing themselves in other non Ilocano provinces, learning to speak Ilocano peaks interest over newly made friends. Add to it that nonspeakers settling in Ilocano speaking provinces, it is vital to learn how to speak Ilocano to be able to communicate.

With that said, I am no different being a learner myself. Although I was born in an Ilocano speaking province from my mother's side, leaving the province at an early age and not being around Ilocano speakers for years, the language was wiped off my system. Not until I was 19 years of age when it starts coming back to me little by little.

Learning Ilocano

You're reading this because you want to learn. And one of the few Ilocano related questions I get asked is, 'How to learn Ilocano easily?' There wouldn't be one straight answer to this. Everyone learns differently and it isn't always going to be easy. And it wouldn't be as easy as you want it to be. But if I would be asked, 'How to not get bored or discouraged in learning Ilocano?' To that I have one answer up my sleeve. I know how it feels getting all pumped up and excited in learning a new language or dialect and later on lost your interest realizing it isn't easy.

Start learning with something you are interested in is often my response. Why is that? Isn't it easier to remember words, phrases or even lessons if it interests you? Another great way of learning is mingling and having conversations with Ilocano speakers. You may not understand the whole conversation or not at all but you'll learn new words and it is a good way to immerse yourself in the language. Of course you can start by reading a book specially if you're just starting out and is a great way to learn vocabularies. But nothing beats being around speakers. It's like having yourself soaked in a water and getting the feel of it instead of just looking and studying the water, if you get what I mean. And I'll say it works. You'll be surprised how you able to grasp the meaning of a word you haven't even heard used before but just listening works wonders in learning.

Ilocano Pronouns

Ilocano uses agglutination where a prefix, a verb and the pronoun all comes together, becoming one. If that is still a little bit unclear, think of a chair that you just bought for example and you have to assemble the chair, connecting all pieces together including the legs, the seat and the backrest to make the chair usable.

With that said, let's start by taking a look at some Ilocano pronouns. What are the Ilocano pronouns you will often hear and see using agglutination? See the table below. I've also included the Tagalog equivalent for Tagalog speakers. This isn't a complete list.

Ilocano Pronouns


Ilocano Verbs

With the agglutination being mentioned and explained previously as well as some Ilocano pronouns, let's now have Ilocano verbs in their future, present and past tenses before having examples of forming the tenses and creating simple Ilocano sentences.

Verb in English
Ilocano Future Tense
Wash (clothes)

Ag- is a prefix commonly used with Ilocano verbs that is used to form an imperative form as well as the future and present tense of the verb.

Commonly Used Ilocano Affixes

Affixes are pretty much used in Ilocano, mostly prefixes and suffixes.

Looking at the table above with the verbs, you will notice that most of the verbs in their future and present tense forms used the prefix ag-. Ag- is also used in forming imperative forms in Ilocano. Imperative is when you tell a person what to do, a command or being authoritative.

While ag- is used as a prefix, most of the past tenses of these Ilocano verbs with ag- prefix uses nag-. See table above with the past tense of verbs.

In addition to ag-, there are other prefixes used in Ilocano although not used as much as the ag- prefix. One good example is maturturog which is in the present tense. It has the ma- prefix and not ag-. Maturturog means sleeping. Except for the ma- prefix used, the process of forming the present tense is similar to those with ag- prefix.

Verb with ag- prefix takes nag- suffix for its past tense. And a verb with ma- prefix in its future and present tense takes na- suffix for its past tense. Refer to table above for the suffixes used in the past tense.

Agglutination and Using Affixes With Verbs

Let's use ag- as an example as it is a prefix mostly used.

Being the mostly used prefix with Ilocano verbs, let's have examples of agglutination using the prefix ag- along with a verb. We are going to use one of the verbs on the list on the table above, second from the top. Let's form a present tense. The root verb is luto.

The root verb has two syllables: lu-to. But it could make a person wonder sometimes how the tenses of verbs are formed. So let's have an example.

Let's do it this way. Let's have the prefix ag- and the first syllable of the root verb with the first letter of the second syllable. Next is the root verb. The first syllable is lu, and the first letter of the second syllable is letter t. The root verb is luto. That will give us aglutluto.

Let's chop it by pieces.

Ag(prefix) lut(first syllable and the first letter of the second syllable) luto(root verb)

Let's have another example, still with the prefix ag-. The root verb this time is buya (watch). It also has two syllables: bu-ya. Starting with the prefix ag-, let's add the first syllable of the root verb and the first letter of the second syllable, which is letter y. Then the root verb. That will give us agbuybuya.

Ag(prefix) buy(first syllable and the first letter of the second syllable) buya(root verb)

Present Tense of Ilocano Verb Using Ag- Prefix

First Syllable + Letter From Root
Root Verb

Simple Ilocano Sentences

Now that we've covered how to form tenses in Ilocano, Ilocano affixes as well as some Ilocano pronouns, let's have Ilocano sentences.

Referring to the table above with Ilocano verbs, choose the tense of verb. The pronoun comes after.

Aglutluto isuna. She/He is cooking.

For the pronoun I, to say that you did the action or the verb, -ak is attached to the verb.

Mangmanganak. I am eating.

The root verb is mangan. It has two syllables: ma-ngan. Notice that the first syllable of the root verb is duplicated and the ng from the second syllable is copied as well, giving us mang + the root verb. Mang + mangan = Mangmangan. The -ak attached to the verb is the pronoun I.

Using Ti for Sentence Expansion

Ti in Ilocano is used to expand a basic or simple Ilocano sentence. From the previous example of 'Mangmanganak,' ti will serve as a bridge that will connect this simple sentence to whatever is being eaten. For Tagalog speakers, the equivalent of ti in Tagalog is ng which is an object marker in a sentence.

Mangmanganak ti pansit. I am eating noodles.

Let's have another example with the future tense of the verb. Notice that it is just the root verb and the pronoun -ak for the future tense.

Manganak ti pansit.

Common Ilocano Sentences

I'm taking a bath/shower.
Naliligo ako.
Mangmanganak ti pinya.
I'm eating pineapple.
Kumakain ako ng pinya.
Agbuybuya isuna ti tv.
She/He's watching television.
Nanonood siya ng telebisyon.
I'm sleeping.
Natutulog ako.
Aglablaba isuna.
She/He's doing the laundry.
Naglalaba siya.

Those are just some simple Ilocano sentences that will come in handy using tenses of verbs and pronouns that were discussed in this article. Ti is used to expand sentences but it is used as well as a marker. More on that on the next article.


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    • patrick jouannes profile image


      14 months ago from LACHAPELLE SAINT PIERRE

      Keep going !!!

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      thank you madam,

      I am a bisaya, andi want to learn more local languages, specially ilocano language, and you're helping a lot..

    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      2 years ago from USA

      Thank you @Cecile Tajon. Glad to know the article is being a great help, as I know understanding the Ilocano tenses could be confusing. I want it explained in an easier way. :) I sure would be writing more when ideas come to mind as there's not much about Ilocano online.

    • profile image

      Cecile Tajon 

      2 years ago

      This is a great article, and the charts you included are really enhancing my understanding of verb tenses in Ilocano. Please write many more articles!!


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