#1 Best Guide To Tricky Tagalog Grammar Rules

Tricky Tagalog grammar rules

Tagalog is a language that seems easy to learn until you’re faced with tricky Tagalog grammar rules. And honestly? We can’t blame you! So in this article, I will help you understand grammar rules to improve your Tagalog or Filipino vocabulary and skills. Let’s learn from the common mistakes and cite samples of the proper usage of common Tagalog words and phrases. After all, it is also crucial that you practice composing a sentence in Tagalog, as you learn about all its aspects, including syllables, pronouns, noun, prepositions, and more.

How Difficult Is Tagalog Grammar?

Tagalog is a Category IV language in the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) ranking. This means that it can be difficult to learn, especially for native English speakers. However, other language speakers may find it easy to familiarize themselves with Tagalog, a common Manila dialect, since it shares many similar features and words with other languages.

What’s the most challenging part of learning Filipino for a native English speaker? Despite most Tagalog grammatical features being simple, many English speakers will find it challenging to master Tagalog verbs and pronoun relationships and other grammatical differences.

Tagalog belongs to the Austronesian language family, which doesn’t share many things in common with the English language. This means that it is quite unlikely that you’ll hear a Tagalog word and guess its meaning because it sounds like certain English words. However, you might find it useful in learning Tagalog that it doesn’t have grammatical gender.

The language can be confusing since certain words change their meanings depending on how they are spoken. Here are some samples and their English translations:

Tagalog WordMeaning(s) In English
PákoPÁKO: Refers to a nail (for construction); PAKÓ: Refers to ferns (a type of plant).
BakaBÁKA: Means “cow” or “cattle.”; BAKÁ: Means “maybe” or “perhaps.”
SálaSÁLA: Means “sin” or “wrongdoing.”; SALÁ: Means “to sift.”
BólaBÓLA: Refers to a ball (sports ball, like basketball or soccer ball).; BOLA: Refers to gossip or a fib/lie.
people lined up holding different shapes and colors of speech bubbles

Tricky Tagalog Grammar Rules

Similar to English, Tagalog native speakers in the Philippines also commit certain grammatical mistakes, especially in casual conversations or everyday speech. Most of these mistakes become part of common exchanges and are accepted as slang words as you hear or use them more often. However, it doesn’t mean they are right. You cannot use grammatically incorrect words or phrases when engaged in formal conversations or if you are in a business meeting and the like.

Here’s a look at the common mistakes made, even by Filipino native speakers:

“Kamusta Ka?”

The proper way of saying the phrase that translates to “How are you?” is “Kumusta ka?” This is because it is rooted in the Spanish phrase “¿cómo estás?


It has become a common word many Filipinos use, meaning “I don’t like/want.” The proper way of saying it is “Ayaw ko.


The word means you. But some Filipinos and foreigners alike misuse it. For example, to ask someone if they have eaten already, you must say, “Kumain ka na ba?” However, you’d often hear in casual conversations changing “Ka” to “Ikaw.” So, in the sample, they’d say, “Kumain na ba ikaw?” Other samples include saying the incorrect “Tapos na ba ikaw?” instead of the proper way, “Tapos ka na ba?” meaning “Are you done?”


This word is an accepted slang word with the correct form, “Pahingi,” meaning “Can I have or May I ask.”


This is often used in everyday conversations than its proper form, “Mayroon,” meaning “There is/are.” Native speakers may have been accustomed to saying the shortened versions of certain words, like this example, because it’s faster and easier to say.

The Use Of Affixes And Prefixes In Tagalog Grammar

Tagalog prominently uses affixes to change the meaning of words. Specifically, the language often adds -an or -han to the root word, resulting in a different word. Here are some samples:

Tagalog Root Word (English Meaning)With -an or -hanEnglish Translation
Oras (hour) OrasanClock or watch
Basura (garbage)BasurahanTrash bin
Tulog (sleep)TuluganPlace to rest
Kain (eat)KainanPlace to eat
Kanta (song)KantahanSinging competition or show/To sing for an audience

On the other hand, a Tagalog root word also changes its meaning when the prefix mag- is added to it. This prefix can create a new word indicating the action done by the subject or relationship of things or people:

Tagalog Root Word (English Meaning) With mag- English Translation
Kapatid (sibling)Magkapatid Siblings
Ina (mother)Mag-inaMother and child
Tago (hidden)MagtagoTo hide
Klase (class)MagkaklaseClassmates
Nakaw (stolen)MagnanakawThief

What’s Easy To Learn About Tagalog?

Breathe easy because the good news is there are parts of the Filipino language you’ll find easy to learn, even as a beginner. First, the Tagalog alphabet is the Latin alphabet, so expect the written words to be phonetic. All letters, except for two, are similar in the English alphabet. The two variations are “ñ” and “ng”.

Additionally, the Filipino language only has five vowels with the same pronunciation as the Spanish language. They are A, E, I, O, and U. So, if you are already familiar with Spanish pronunciation, this will be a breeze.

Another thing that makes the Filipino language easy to learn is that it’s not a tonal language despite the prevalence of tone languages in Asia. While there are many cases when words change their meanings depending on the stress made in pronouncing a syllable, it is still relatively easier to learn than most tonal languages, such as Chinese or Vietnamese.

How To Learn Tagalog Grammar Fast

Ready to crack the code of Tagalog grammar? Fantastic! Here we’ve gathered some tips and tricks that are like the turbo buttons on your language learning console. Go ahead, and let’s speed up this Tagalog grammar journey!

  • Start small: As with any journey, start with baby steps. Familiarize yourself with basic Tagalog words, phrases, and their usage. Get comfortable with these building blocks before diving into more complex structures.
  • Embrace the verbs: Tagalog loves to put the verbs in the spotlight. Grasp this quirk early on, and you’ll get on the fast track to the grammar VIP lounge.
  • Make friends with affixes: Tagalog affixes are like magic, transforming root words into new expressions. Take time to understand common affixes; they’re the shortcut to expanding your vocabulary exponentially.
  • Master the ‘focus’: Remember the focus shift in sentences? It’s like directing a spotlight onto different actors on a stage. Practice writing and speaking sentences with different focuses.
  • Practice, practice, practice: The more you engage with Tagalog, the quicker it becomes second nature: Read Tagalog books, watch Filipino movies, converse with native speakers.

Learn Tagalog Grammar Using Ling

If you haven’t explored the language-learning app called Ling, this is the best time to do it. Download the app at the Play Store or App Store, and start using it to improve your Tagalog. What’s more, Ling offers interactive tutorials for many languages, including French, Arabic, Estonian, Urdu, Croatian, and more. Start exploring the app and be a better linguist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

People also read