Quechua Lesson 2
Lesson 2 (iskay ñiqin yachay)

I am afraid that some rules and words have to be learned. But there is an escape. If you are willing to speak these lessons on a tape and put them into your Ipod, cell phone or another device, you can listen to and replay them in your car or in bed, you will learn faster and far more easily.

We go on.

I noqa
you qan of qam
He/she pay
We (excl) noqa-yku
We (incl) noqa-nchis
You (plural) qan-kuna
They pay-kuna

This is the normal arrangement every language uses on the basis of Latin Grammar. But for Quechua a better arrangement is the following:

I noqa
we (excl) noqayku
we (incl) noqa-nchis
you qan or qam
you (plural) qam-kuna
he/she/it pay
they pay-kuna

The reason to put it this way is that lateron the logic of the conjugation of verbs is much easier to understand and thus to remember.

The Quechua language has two words for “we.” The first (excl: noqa-yku) is used when the speaker talks about We and is excluding the person(s) addressed. The second (incl: noqa-nchis), is when the speaker talks about We and includes the person(s) addressed. The Lord’s Prayer, Our Father who et cetera in Quechua begins with: Tayta-nchis, (literally, father-our (incl)), Our (inclusive, so of all beings) Father. It is also the name of the initiation Creator Rites called Taytanchis.

Here we see the plural marker –kuna. In Quechua -s as a plural marker is used like in Spanish and most other languages. This –s as plural marker is what I call Spanquech, often used with words that are borrowed from Spanish. The original plural marker in Quechua is -kuna. For example runa means man, runa-kuna means men. Warmi means woman, warmi-kuna means women. Warma means child, warma-kuna means children, et cetera.

but: uh runa, iskay runa, kimsa runa, et cetera is also possible, or:

Uh warmi, iskay warmi, kimsa warmi, et cetera. In cases like these the number indicates the plural. Also the verb does not have to be conjugated in plural then: for instance: Iskay warmikuna takisanku (two women are singing), but also iskay warmi takisan is good. This form is very often used. But to say iskay warmi takisanku is not right.

Note: The influence of Spanish on Quechua makes plural forms with –s quite common. So in the city you might hear runas as a plural for runa (man). In proper Quechua, however, the suffix –s has nothing to do with plural; it is a suffix that means that what is said is based on hearsay. So runa-s wasi-n-man ri-n, would mean: it is said that the man, or they say that the man goes to his house (literally, man-is-said-of, house-his-to go-he).

Model sentence: Are you married? This question will be asked early in the conversation. In Quechua this will be: to a male: warmi-yuq kankichu?

To a female: qhusa-yuq ka-nki-chu?

Qhusa is husband. Here a characteristic of Quechua comes to the fore. The sentence translated literally says: husband-with be-you (chu marks this as a question). This is further elaborated on in Lesson 3.

Here we encounter the very important verb ka-y or kasa-y. Both mean to be and they are used mostly interchangeable. There is a difference however. Kay is used for a more permanent situation and kasay for impermanence. For instance: Unqusqa runa kani means that I am a man that is always sick. Unqusqa runa kasani, would mean that I am being sick only now.

We also encounter the question marker –chu. –chu is always used to mark that the sentence holds a question. An exception to this rule is when question words are used: what, how, when etc. (More about this later.)

Ka-nki, means you are. So ka-nki-chu: are you?

All verbs in Quechua are regular. There are no exceptions like in most other languages. If you know one, you know them all! This is a great help to learn the language.

I demonstrate this with the verb ka-y, to be and ka-sa-y, also to be. The present tense is:

I am Ka-ni Ka-sa-ni
We excl are Ka-niku* Ka-sa-niku*
We incl are Ka-nchis Ka-sanchis
You are Ka-nki Ka-sanki
You pl. are Ka-nkichis Ka-sa-nkichis
He is Ka-n Ka-sa-n
They are Ka-nku Ka-sanku

*Note Ka-sa-niku (ka-niku) is “we are,” but also in some dialects the form ka-sa-yku (ka-yku) exists.

Note: remember that the emphasis of a two-syllable word is always is on the first syllable. In a word with three syllables, it is always on the middle syllable.

Note again that the emphasis in pronunciation has nothing to do with the building of the word. The spoken syllables do not coincide with the building blocks!

Note that in the spoken form of Quechua words as ka-yku, ka-sa-yku, and always when there is a form with …..ay…… it is spoken as ay. But I mentioned that sometimes the original form is more or less kept by prolonging the vowels a little bit so they still can be discerned as separate.

The infix –sa, has the meaning that things are in the course of happening. It is the equivalent of –ing in the progressive form of the English language. Whenever in English one would use the form with –ing, in Qechua it is save to use the infix –sa. It can be used in almost every verb. The pronunciation of -sa is as -sha or -sia. So kasani phonetically is pronounced as “kasiani”. Some Quechua speakers also write it in this way. In the several dialects the infix -sa is written quite different, like in the Ayacucho form: -chka, then kasani is written as kachkani.

The use of the infix -sa is very common. For example: the verb muna-y. This seems the most versatile verb that exists in Quechua. It can have the meaning of to want, to like, to love. If you want to say that you like to do something, one can use a construction with muna-sa-ni, I want, like, love et cetera.

Sama-y-ta muna-sa-ni: I want to rest. Mikhu-y-ta muna-sa-ni: I like to eat. The construction is: stem-infinitive marker-object marker and then the verb form of what is wanted. Do you want to eat: mikhu-y-ta muna-nki-chu? If you speak too fast, I can(lit. know) not understand you: utkayta rima-pti-yki, mana hapi-y-ta yacha-ni-chu. (literally, Fast speak-ing form(for complex sentences)-you, not hold-inf. marker-object marker know-I-negative marker. Rima-y is to speak, Hapi-y is to hold, to grab and to understand). Yacha-y is to know, often used in the sense of to be able to. To be able, can, is ati-y

The suffix -ta is an object marker. It is used to delineate the object of a sentence or as an adverb marker. Yacha-ku-sa-ni runa-simi-ta means I am learning Quechua, (lit. know-self-ing,form-I man-tongue-object marker) runasimita is the object of the sentence. This also applies to adverbs: Runasimita ancha sumaqta rimasanki, you speak very beautiful Quechua. Sumaq is beautiful and to make it an adverb the suffix –ta is added.

The form kan, (he/she/it is) is never used in affirmative statements. For example, if you want to say that a person is tall, one would say: pay-qa suni and never payqa suni kan. This applies only to the third person singular in the present tense. If another tense, past or future is applied, the third person form of the verb is used. In the third person plural the use of this form: kanku is optional, pay-kuna-qa hatun (ka-nku), they are big, the form ka-nku is optional, but in a negative statement or with the question marker –chu, kanku needs to be used: are they tall?: pay-kuna-qa suni ka-nku-chu?

I wrote: pay-qa suni. –qa is an emphatic particle, a sort of filler, without meaning in itself, but stressing the topic. For proper Quechua it should be used, but everyone will understand you when you would say: pay suni.

In sentences with questions the form kan is always used: unu ka-n-chu? means: Is there water? Or kuñi unu kan-chu? Is there hot water? Or unu timpu-sqa ka-n-chu, is there boiled water?

Words related to location

The main words are:

Kay: here, this

Chay: there, that

Hakay: over there (further away), also wakay.

Kay-neh-pi: here around (-pi: in)

Examples: Kay runa Pidru-m: This man is Pedro. Note that kan (he is) is omitted.

In cases like this the official Quechua form is: Kay runa-qa Pedru-m. The euphonic particles, that also stres the amount of security of the speaker are -qa and -m or -mi. It is –m after a vowel or –mi after a consonant. Chay runaqa Raulmi. That man is Raoul. But everybody will understand as you say Kay runa Raul, even though it is not quite correct.

Kay-nih-pi huk mikhu-y wasi ka-n-chu? Is there a restaurant around here?

(literally, here-around one infinitive marker house  is-it-Q marker).


These are often used in combination with interrogative particles as shown below.

The most common interrogative particles are:

Ima: what

Imay: what?

Imayna: how?

Imaynapi: how much?

Imanasqa: why?

May- where? (along with other suffixes that point out direction)

Maylaw: Which side?

Maylawpi: at which side?

Mayna: how big?

Maychika: how much? (with general attribution see examples*

Mayqen/Mayqan: which?

Hayka: how many?

Haykapi: When, at what time?

Pi: who?

Note that -pi is “in” and “who?” The actual meaning is derived from the context. Wasi-pi: in the house. Holanda-pi: in Holland. But: Pi-taq kay runa? Who is this man?

These question words are in sentence always used with –taq.

Some other less common interrogative particles:

Imamantataq: because of what?

Imapaq: what for?

Imaynapikama: for how much?

Mayna: how big?

Mayninta: through what? Maynintataq chay ñan rin? Through what goes this road?

These interrogative particles are used with the suffixes –taq (and) or –m or mi (-m stresses more, but in itself it is untranslatable)

Examples: Imataq kay? What is this?

Imataq chay? What is that?

Imataq hakay? What is that over there?

Imay urataq hamun? When does he come?

Pitaq Pidro? Who is Pedro?

Maychika sibulla? How much onions?

Haykataq sulis? How much money? (Sol being the name of the Peruvian currency).

Note: When an interrogative particle is used, the question marker –chu cannot be used.

Someone and something are also composed with ima:

Someone: pipas and no one: mana pipas

Something: imapas and nothing: mana imapas. (-chu is omitted here)

Go to Quechua Lesson 3