Noun Modification

Noun modification in Tagalog may be done in a variety of ways. In this section, the most common ways of modifying the noun will be discussed, and examples will be presented.

To modify a noun means to qualify or add some further description to the noun. In grammar, the word modification means to limit the meaning of something. Here is one example from English. Let's say that I want to tell someone that I own a car. However, I don't just want to mention that I have a car, but I also want to say something about the car. So I might say that it is an old car. The use of the word old is a way of modifying the noun car.

Adjectives/Descriptive Words

In Tagalog, the use of adjectives and/or descriptive words is one common way of modifying nouns (for more information about adjectives see the Adjectives section in the main grammar page). Tagalog adjectives may be grouped into two types according to their structure:  1) the ma-adjectives (ma + root) ;  and 2)  the simple adjectives (roots). There are other descriptive words that are not members of either group. These descriptors are often formed by combining adjectival affix(es) with root words. Here are some examples of adjectives/descriptive words and sentences where these might be used:

Ma-Adjectives Simple Adjectives Other Descriptors
maganda beautiful payat slim nakakalito   confusing
masipag industrious luma old nakakatuwa   amusing
magaling great gutom* hungry nakakatawa funny
mainit hot/warm pangit ugly nakakainis  irritating
malamig cold pagod* tired nakakapagod   tiring
mahangin windy galit* angry kahindik-hindik horrible
malayo far bago new kaawa-awa pitiful
malapit near buhay* alive kagulat-gulat  shocking
matangkad tall (pers.) patay  dead kasiya-siya  entertaining
mabigat heavy pikon  touchy kapana-panabik exciting

The Linker NA

Using adjectives and/or descriptive words to modify nouns may be done by employing one of two ways: 1) placing the modifier (the word that modifies the noun) before the noun;  or 2) placing the modifier after the noun.  In either case the linker NA should connect the two elements.

The linker NA is used to link or hook up the modifier and the noun it is describing. That way you know that the words go together.

The linker NA has three forms: 1) -ng following a word ending in a vowel;  2) -g following a word that ends in the letter n;   and  3) na following a word ending in a consonant. -Ng and -g are attached directly onto the end of the word, while the third form na is written as a separate word.

Here is one example. Let's say that I want to talk about a certain land, and that I also want to state that is a land that is far. So I take the word in Tagalog for land (bayan) and I place it next to the word for far (malayo). It's up to me whether I put bayan first or malayo first, so I decide to place malayo first.

malayo bayan

However, my job is not yet done. In Tagalog, I need NA to link these two words together. Since malayo ends in a vowel (o), I need to use the -ng form of NA, and I place the -ng directly onto the end of the word malayo.

malayong bayan

Now let's say that I want to reverse the word order, and I want to put bayan first

bayan malayo

I still need a linker, and because bayan ends in the letter n, I take the -g form of NA and I place the -g directly onto the end of the word bayan

bayang malayo

Below are some more examples:

Modifier+Linker+Noun Noun+Linker+Modifier Meaning
malayong bayan bayang malayo faraway land
mahanging panahon panahong mahangin windy weather
bagong kotse kotseng bago new car
pangit na pelikula pelikulang pangit trash film
nakakapagod na biyahe biyaheng nakakapagod tiring trip
nakakatawang kuwento kuwentong nakakatawa funny story
kasiya-siyang palabas palabas na kasiya-siya entertaining show



When colors are used to modify nouns, they function as adjectives. They may also come either before or after the noun(s) being modified. Here are the basic colors in Tagalog, followed by example noun phrases:












Color+Linker+Noun COLOR Noun+Linker+Color
pulang kamatis

WB01507_.gif (516 bytes)

kamatis na pula
kulay-kahel na kotse

TN00897_.gif (2529 bytes)

kotseng kulay-kahel
dilaw na sisiw

Chickegg.jpg (2133 bytes)

sisiw na dilaw
berdeng puno
(or luntian)

island31.jpg (25174 bytes)

punong berde
(or luntian)
asul na barko
(or bughaw)

TN00572A.gif (3542 bytes)

barkong asul
(or bughaw)
kulay-ubeng basuraha
(or lila)

HH01446A.gif (2371 bytes)

basurahang kulay-ube
(or lila)
itim na payong

Umbrell4.jpg (1627 bytes)

payong na itim
kulay-abong telepono

HH01499A.gif (1090 bytes)

teleponong kulay-abo
kulay-kapeng kabayo

horsjmp.jpg (24213 bytes)

kabayong kulay-kape



When used as modifiers of nouns, numbers behave differently from adjectives in that they can only come before the noun being modified. The linker NA is still necessary.  Here are some examples:

Number +  Linker  +  Noun Image
limang lobo

May lima
ng lobo ako.
(I have five balloons.)

Balloon3.jpg (4730 bytes)

sampung minuto

Sampung minuto na lang bago mag-alas otso.
(It's only ten minutes before eight o'clock.)

clock.jpg (16697 bytes)

walong bata

Naglalaro ang walong bata sa kalye.
(The eight kids are playing on the street.)

games.jpg (44961 bytes)

dalawang singsing

Bumili siya ng dalawang singsing.
(He bought two rings.)

hrtsring.jpg (23890 bytes)

isang milyong dolyar

Nanalo siya ng isang milyong dolyar sa lotto.
(She won a mllion dollars in the lottery.)

WB01515_.gif (482 bytes)

Tagalog Numbers

Tagalog Tagalog
(Spanish root)
1 isa uno
2 dalawa dos
3 tatlo tres
4 apat kwatro
5 lima sinko
6 anim sais
7 pito syete
8 walo otso
9 siyam nuwebe
10 sampu diyes
11 labing-isa onse
12 labing-dalawa dose
13 labing-tatlo trese
20 dalawampu beynte
21 dalawampu't-isa beynteuno
30 tatlumpu trenta
40 apatnapu kwarenta
50 limampu singkwenta
60 animnapu sisenta
100 isang daan siyento
200 dalawang daan dos siyentos
(dos cientos)
two hundred
1,000 isang libo mil
one thousand
2,000 dalawang libo dos mil
(dos mil)
two thousand
10,000 sampung libo dies mil
(diez mil)
ten thousand
100,000 isang daang libo siyento mil
(ciento mil)
one hundred thousand
1,000,000 isang milyon milyon
one million



There are very few words refering to shapes of things in Tagalog. When used as modifiers of nouns, these words may come before or after the noun.  Here are some examples: 

Shape Hugis+Linker+Noun Noun+Linker+Shape Image
bilog na globo globong bilog

TN00605A.gif (2512 bytes)

na days
days na

BS00825A.gif (3117 bytes)

    parihaba     (rectangle) parihabang papel papel na parihaba

BS00877A.gif (1713 bytes)

hugis-trayanggulong tulay tulay na hugis-trayanggulo

TN00051A.gif (1724 bytes)

In Tagalog the word hugis means shape. When hugis- is added to the front of a noun this expresses the idea that the noun being modified looks like or is similar in shape to the noun that has hugis attached to it. Here are some examples:

Shape Shape+Linker+Noun Noun+Linker+Shape Image

WB01395_1.gif (262 bytes)

hugis-peras (pear-shaped) hugis-peras
na bombilya
bombilyang hugis-peras

HH01478A.gif (2560 bytes)

hugis-pitsel (shaped liked
a pitcher)
na tropeyo
tropeyong hugis-pitsel

trophy.wmf (3862 bytes)


Size and Weight

Tagalog speakers use metric and English system terminologies interchangeably to express size and weight measurements accurately. However, Tagalog also has its own terms of measurement that are not according to the English or metric systems (like 'dangaw'- size of a thumb). 

Weight / Volume
Metric System
gramo gram
kilo kilogram
litro liter
English System
libra pound
galon gallon
Tagalog Measurements
Container/Instrument Proximate Measure
balde  pail
bandehado serving-plateful
basket a basketful
baso a glass
bayong bagful, contents normally fill a
native bag for shopping
bigkis a bunch, for bigger objects
like firewood, etc.
bilao winnower-ful, contents fill a
winnower, standard size of which
is about 1- 1/2 ft. in diameter
bilog appx. 12 oz.  bottle
bloke block, e.g. of ice
bote  bottle
buntol a bunch, e.g., of fruits
kaing a big basketful, contents fill a
container made of materials such
as rattan, bamboo, etc.
kaldero pot-ful
kawali    wok-ful
kurot a pinch
kutsara a spoonful
kutsarita teaspoonful
kwatro-kantos appx. 750 ml bottle
dakot a handful
dram   barrel
ganta appx.  1kilo, measured
with a square wooden box
guhit measurement based on  lines
(e.g., of the fingers) for volume,
and of measuring instruments
such as rulers, weighing
scales, etc.
lapad appx. 250 ml bottle
mangkok a bowl
palanggana basin
pinggan a plateful
platito  a saucer
sako a sackful (e.g., a
sack of rice is 50 kilos)
salop appx. 2 kilos, contents fill a
brown bag called
sandok serving-spoonful
tabo appx. 2 pint-container
tali a bunch, e.g. of flowers
tasa a cup


Metric System English System
sentimetro centimeter pulgada inch
metro meter piye foot
kilometro kilometer milya mile

Tagalog Terms


size of a thumb


dangkal length between
tips  of stretched index and thumb
hakbang pace
dipa length between outstreched arms from fingertips tao   measurement based on the number people of average height to scale a building or structure

When used as modifiers of nouns, expressions and units of weights and measurements behave like numerals in that they can only come before the noun being modified. Here are a few examples:

Tagalog Terms Borrowed Terms

isang tasang kape

a cupful
of coffee

anim na gramong ginto

dalawang bilaong pansit two-winnowerful
pitong litrong
tatlong kaing
na mangga
walong kilometrong biyahe eight-kilometer
apat na dangkal*
na laso
siyam na litrong gasolina nine-liter
limang dipang** lubid five-dipa
sampung pulgadang pisi ten-inch

* dangkal = roughly the distance between the tip of one's middle-finger and the tip of his/her thumb, when the two are stretched out.

dipa = roughly the distance between the tip of one's middle fingers when both of his/her   arms are stretched out (approximately 3 ft or 1 meter)

Back to Top