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Review of Focus


What is FOCUS?


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Nagbabasa ang bata ng libro.
Binabasa ng bata
ang libro.

In a Tagalog sentence, a Tagalog speaker will pick out a word that they most want to emphasize. This word could be the most important word in the sentence, or it could have some special sense of prominence. This chosen word of special emphasis is said to be the focus of the sentence.

Focus is the key to the Tagalog language. Once you understand focus, much of the rest of the language will fall into place.

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Binabasahan ni Lola si Ben ng kuwento.
Nagbabasa
sina Ben at Lola.
Binasa ni Lola
ang kuwento kay Ben.

How does Tagalog indicate which word is the focus of the sentence?

Tagalog indicates which word is the focus of the sentence by placing a marker in front of the word that is the focus. This marker is like a little sign that grabs your attention and shouts out to you: "Hey! the word that comes after me is the focus of the sentence!"

Let's look at the following English sentence as an example:

The dog bit the man.

If this sentence were in Tagalog, I would choose one of the nouns to be the focus of the sentence. How do I know which word to choose to be the focus? It all depends on what I as the speaker want to emphasize.   It might be helpful to ask myself "why am I saying this?," or "what is the point of this sentence?"

Let's say that I want to emphasize what the dog is biting. In other words, my main point is to tell you what it was that the dog bit. Because I want to tell you that the dog bit the man (and not something else),  I would choose man to be the focus of the sentence.

On the other hand, let's say that I want to emphasize the dog. Perhaps I was surprised to see that a  normally friendly dog bit a man. Here the word dog would be in focus: The dog bit the man.

In spoken English we indicate something similar to focus by emphasizing the word with our voice, using stress. If the big deal in the sentence was that it was the dog that bit the man, then I would emphasize the word dog with my voice:

The dog bit the man.

Or if the important point is what the dog bit (the man in this case), then I would emphasize the word man with my voice:

The dog bit the man.

The concept of focus is extremely important in Tagalog grammar. It is vital that you know which word is the focus of the sentence.