Lesson 4 (tawa ñeqen yachay)
Nouns in Quechua.
Nouns in Quechua are treated like in English. There is one great
exception, that is that nouns are conjugated when used in what we call a possessive
our incl house
your pl house
*note: the forms wasi-y, wasi-yki and wasi-yku are
pronounced with a little prolonged, but almost imperceptable i-y,
** note: these forms with –nchis, also in verbs are often
written as –ncheh, -nchik or ncheq. The Cuzco form is
spoken as –nchis. For example there is a restaurant in Cuzco
called Tupananchis. This means “we will come together,” from
the verb tupa-y, to meet, which makes for we (incl) tupa-na-nchis.
–na is the infix that in this case points to a future event
that has some urgency. So the proper translation might be: we will have
to come together.
Simply “We will come together” in Quechua would be tupa-sunchis.
Here it is already shown that a little morpheme completely changes the
meaning. When you say goodbye in Quechua an idiomatic expression is: tupananchiskama,
which translates more or less: till we will (necessarily) meet again.
One complex word in Quechua here translates into a whole sentence in
As you may have noticed, the suffixes for the conjugation of verbs in
present tense are much alike the possessive suffixes.
To compare them:
the verb muna-y means to love, to like, to want.
As you can see this is very much alike. The differences are printed
in bold. You have to learn this by heart. It is sometimes difficult to
discern a noun form from a verb form. For instance yachanku
from yachay, which has two different meanings as a verb, to
know and to live, and as a noun it means knowledge or lesson, might have
the meaning: they know or they live. The meaning has
to be derived from the context. But, their lesson would be yachay-ni-nku.
Chay wasi-yki-chu? Literally: that
house-you (question marker), is that your house?, on which the answer
is: Arí, chay-qa wasi-y. yes, that (emphatic particle)
house-mine (is, is understood). Or: chay-qa? Chay-qa, mana wasi-y-chu
kan. That?, That (emphatic particle), not house-mine (negative
Note: -chu can be a question marker and also it is a
Negations in Quechua are composed as with ne …. pas in French. In
Quechua the construction is mana …… -chu. For example: Llama-chu?
Is it a llama? No it is not a llama: mana llama-chu.
Note the emphasis! Or: Arí, Llama! Yes it is a
llama (is, is understood). Where the negative marker –chu is
placed, also stresses the topic of the sentence. For instance: Mana
qamwan riyta munasanichu, I don’t want to go with you, also can be
stated as: Mana qamwanchu riyta munasani, which then states that it is
not with you that I want to go, but with someone else.
Are you from the US? Ustadus Unidus-manta
hamu-sa-nkichu? (US-from come-(ing-form)-you. The
answer could be: mana, noqa-qa mana Ustadus
Holanda-manta hamu-sa-ni. No, I am not from the
US, I come from Holland.
Note: Ustadus Unidus, US
and Ustadus Unidus-manta,
from the US.
The verb hamu-y means to come. Hamu-sa-ni means I
am coming, US-manta is US-from.
Constructions with prepositions:
from the house
to, in the
direction of the house
with the house (possessive)
to, at the house
in the house
of the house
for the house
All these prepositions can be combined with possessive forms.
From my house
To, at their
In our house (incl)
To your house
(in direction of)
Of you (pl), yours pl.
Note that -ta also can be the object marker of a noun. Wasi-y-ta
can be to my house of my house as the object of the sentence. Haku
wasi-y-ta, let's go to my house. Munasani wasi-y-ta, I
like my house.
Model sentence: Wasi-yki-man ri-sa-ni:
I am going to your house. Ri-y is to go. Ri-sa-ni
means that I am busy going to (-man) wasi-yki
You could say to your wife when somewhere: wasi-nchis-man ri-sun,
let's go home, when nobody hears you. But when you say it in the
open, it should be wasi-yku-man ri-sun. let's go home. The
difference is the inclusive or exclusive form for we that is used. Risun,
a friendly used imperative form makes no difference for the two forms
It is very important to get to the point of thinking in Quechua in a
way that your brain automatically uses the word order as the Quechua
language seems fit. There will be a point where it is done almost
automatically. For purposes of learning, it can be useful to try to make
small sentences in Quechua of everyday events. Don’t use complex
constructions at first (as you are used to) but only affirmative or
negative statements of no more than four or five words. Look and think
like a child. When I speak Quechua, I am like a child: Rima-spa-y
runa-simi-ta warma hina
ka-sa-ni: (literally, speak-ing. form-I Quechua
child like be-ing. form-I). About complex constructions see Lesson 8
When you relate to people ask them to speak slowly: alli-chu!
please, good-just-from speak-(command marker)-plural. When you would sound more kind you can use the untranslatable infix -yku, which is a sort of intensifier and mollifier: rima-yku-ychis. -yku is often used. For instance: tapuykuykimanchu? could I ask you? uses this infix: tapu-yku-yki-man-chu (ask-yku-I to you- condicional-Q marker)
The complete sentence could be: Tapu-yku-yki-man-chu? alli-chu!
alli-llan-manta rima-y-chis! Rima-spa
runa-simi-ta, warma hina ka-sa-ni.
Rima-spa: -spa is the infix for an independent –ing
form. Translated literally: speak-ing Quechua (runa-simi (-ta
is object marker), I am like a child. My experience is that this really
helps people to understand that if they see you as someone who is eager
to learn, they will eventually slow down and explain what they are
saying in Quechua.
Runa-simi is the Quechua word for the
language. Runa means man. Simi means word or mouth. Runa-simi
is Quechua. Used with an object marker as in speaking the language, the
word becomes runa-simi-ta, which gives a
quite different sound change. I cannot stress enough to speak this aloud
to get to this very important characteristic of the language and
indispensable to understand it when spoken to you or by you!