Introduction

In this section we are going to talk about the structure of Tagalog sentences.

The most common Tagalog sentence structure contains the following elements:

Predicate* Focus Complement(s)**

  1. Doktor

  si Pedro   sa PG Hospital.      

     (is a) doctor

Pedro at PG Hospital

  2. Mabait     

ang prinsipal   sa Science High School.

      (is) kind

The principal at Science High School
  3. Sumulat                ako

ng liham kay Maria. 

      wrote

  I

a letter to Maria

Notice that Tagalog does not have an auxiliary or linking verb (such as to be   in English).

*Please notice that the use of the term Predicate in this section is only a tool to help learners. So that there will be no confusion, it should be understood that Tagalog does not really have either a subject or a predicate of the type that English speakers are accustomed to.  Instead, Tagalog has focus. In English, a predicate asserts or says something about the subject of the sentence. Predicates ordinarily have at least one verb. The difficulty in the use of term predicate here becomes clear when it is seen that in the above sentences there is no verb. Also, these sentences have a focus, not a subject (though this is debated, there is some difficulty in equating subject and focus as the same thing). For our purposes here,  a predicate will be that part of a sentence that asserts or says something about the focus.

To help further narrow the definition of a predicate in Tagalog the following distinction may be helpful: the difference between an adjective that describes the focus, and a predicate that says something about the focus can be seen in the following example:

Ang mabait na prinsipal        (translation: "the kind principal")

Here mabait is an adjective that describes prinsipal. Notice that they are linked together by the linker NA. This makes mabait and prinsipal one package, and in sense this whole string of words or package is the focus of the sentence. This statement can not stand on its own and is not a complete sentence (it needs a predicate to go with it).

Mabait ang prinsipal.         (translation: "The principal is kind.")

Here, mabait is an adjective that is functioning as a predicate. Note that it is not linked to prinsipal (there is no na or ng). When this statement is translated into English you can see that a verb (is) is suddenly added to the sentence. This statement can stand on its own as a complete sentence.

**Complements are optional except when the predicate is a transitive verb or a verb type requiring certain complements (e.g., object, some direction or location). This section will cover some of the basic sentence types following this pattern.

The noun phrases (NPs) following a verbal predicate may be rearranged without changing the meaning of the sentence. In this sense, Tagalog does not have a strict "word order" rule. Generally, the focus comes last but not when it is a pronoun.  Pronouns tend to move after the predicate.

The focus does not necessarily have to be a noun. It can also be a nominalized verb, adjective, prepositional phrase, or a full clause.

If you are unsure of the word order, follow these general guidelines: 

(1)  PCS = Predicate + Complement(s) +  Focus;

(2)  ProNP = Pronouns +  Noun Phrases; and

(3) Shorter Pronouns and/or Particles before longer ones.