Quechua Lesson 1

Lesson 1 (Ñawpaq ñiqin yachay)

An important part of the language of the street and daily life is numbers and counting.

0 ch’usah,(empty)
1 uk, huk, uh
2 iskay
3 kimsa or kinsa
4 tawa
5 phiska or pisqa
6 suhta or suqta
7 qanchis
8 pusah or pusaq
9 hiskun, or isqun
10 chunka

Here we encounter a difficulty in pronounciation. Normally you can pronounce as you read. There are some exceptions. For example in Suqta, the q is pronounced as in Loch (lake in Scotland, England). The Ch in Chunka is pronounced as in chew. (see the table of pronunciation in the Introduction)

11 Chunka-huk-ni-yuq
12 Chunka-iskay-ni-yuq
13 Chunka-kinsa-yuq
14 Chunka-tawa-yuq
15 Chunka-pisqa-yuq
16 Chunka-suqta-yuq
17 Chunka-qanchis-ni-yuq
18 Chunka-pusaq-ni-yuq
19 Chunka-isqun-ni-yuq
20 Iskay chunka

The suffix –yuq, (also written as –yoq, yuh or yoh) means “with.” Later on this suffix will be used frequently. Here it says that there is ten-with- etc. Another typical feature can be seen here as well. After a vowel, -yoh can be used, but after a consonant the euphonic particle –ni is inserted first. So it is not chunka-qanchis-yuq*, which does not feel right in Quechua, but chunka-qanchis-ni-yuq. Whenever –yoh or any other suffix is used, if the basic already composed word ends on a consonant, the euphonic particle –ni is infixed in the word. Here is an example in which the Spanish word amiga (female friend) becomes amiga-y (my female friend). In plural this becomes: amiga-s-ni-y, my (female) friends. The –s is a plural marker, derived from the Spanish language and often used for these borrowed words. For the use of the euphonic particle –ni, -ay or -uy as a diphthong is a consonant. For example chunka-iskay-ni-yoh and not chunka-iskay-yoh (although I have seen that too!).

Numbers go on:

20 Iskay chunka
30 Kimsa chunka
40 tawa chunka, et cetera
100 pachaq
120 Pachaq iskay-chunka-yuq
200 Iskay pachaq
300 kimsa pachaq et cetera
1000 waranqa
2000 Iskay waranqa et cetera
2010 Iskay waranqa chunka-yuq
2008 Iskay waranqa pusaq-ni-yuq
2012 Iskay waranqa chunka-iskay-ni-yuq
2100 Iskay waranqa pachaq-ni-yuq

Note: the last number, even if it is plain 10 or 100 is always written with –(ni)-yuq.

On this basis you can count and haggle in the marketplace and in shops. It is my experience that, if you know something of the language and you can count in it, you always get a better price. The people simply love it when someone speaks to them in their own language, even at this level of haggling in the marketplace! Learn this by heart, and you will see, and be amazed at the results!

Asking what something costs is simple: Haykataq solis? Hayka is a question word, meaning, “how much?” Note that the question marker –chu (of which later more) is never used in combination with question words.

When you want to say “first,” “second,” and so forth, the word ñiqin (ñeqen) is added: 2nd is iskay ñiqin, 3rd is kimsa ñiqin, etc.

As an exercise you might do some numbers on your own: Learn the numbers 0-10 by heart, as well as the numbers 10 to 100. Then try to say your telephone number in Quechua.


To add: goes with the suffix -wan. 3+4=7: kimsa-wan tawa, qanchis-mi. -mi is an euphonic particle that expresses certainty of the speaker. Chunka iskayniyuqwan iskay chunka tawayuq, kimsa chunka pusaqniyuqmi. (12+24=36)

To distract: there are several way to express. This is rather complicatated. I present one method: chunka-manta pusah-ta qorqo-spa, iskay qipan. literally: ten-off eight-object marker taken-away, two stay behind. Qurqu-y means to take away, or reap; qipa-y or qhipay means to stay behind.

To multiplay: this goes with kuti, (times): iskay kuti tawa, pusaqmi, Litterally: 2 times 4, 8-euphonic particle.

To divide: there are 2 ways, with rakisqa (divided) with the suffix -pi, or takasqa (struck), or with the suffix -man or -wan: chunka iskay-ni-yuq kimsa-pi raki-sqa, tawa-m. Or chunka iskay-ni-yuq kimsa-wan taka-sqa, tawa-m. The suffix -pi means: in. So litterally: 12 3-in divided = 4. Or 12 3-with struck = 4. -m is the euphonic particle that expresses certainty of the speaker.

Go to Quechua Lesson 2