Preverbs

Observation
ᓂᒌᐦ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮ Click here to hear this word nichiih miichisun. I ate.
ᓂᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮ Click here to hear this word nimiichisun. I am eating.
The ᒌᐦ chiih part in the above example is called a preverb. Preverbs are found just before the verb, and after the personal prefix in the Independent order. Preverbs can express variation of tense (past, future) and modality (‘want’, ‘can’), as well as aspectual dimensions or qualities of events such a ‘begin to…’, ‘stop…’, etc. Preverbs should be written separately from the verb (see Spelling Manual). The preverbs that express aspectual dimensions or qualities of events and they can also function as initials. Whenever these lexical preverbs are before a verb that exists on its own, the preverb will be separated, unless the verb is a very common verb. The order of preverbs is relatively fixed, with some appearing closer to the verb than others when several are used.

List of common preverbs with examples

Preverb Usage Examples
ᐋᐦ Click here to hear this word aa(h) conjunct neutral preverb Click here to hear this word ᓂᒥᔻᔨᐦᑖᓐ ᐋᐦ ᒥᓯᓂᐦᐄᒑᔮᓐ᙮
nimiywaayihtaan aah misinihiichaayaan.
I like to write.
Click here to hear this word kaa conjunct preverb Click here to hear this word ᓂᐹᑦ᙮
for relative clauses ‘who’ kaa nipaat.
The one who is sleeping.
ᑳᐦ Click here to hear this word kaa(h) indicating past time ‘when’ Click here to hear this word ᑳᐦ ᐊᔨᒥᔮᓐ ᐅᑖᑯᔒᐦᒡ ᒌᐦ ᒥᐦᒑᑎᓈᓂᐤ᙮
kaah ayimiyaan utaakushiihch chiih mihchaatinaaniu.
When I spoke yesterday there were many people.
also found with chii(h) ᐋᑯᐦ ᐅᔮᔨᐤ ᑳ ᒌ ᐃᐦᑎᒃ ᐄᓈᓂᐤ ᐋᐦᐋᐱᒄ , ᑳᐦ ᑭᐧᐃ ᔑᒧᓈᓂᐧᐃᐧᐃᔨᒡᐦ ᑳ ᒌ ᐃᐦᐄᐱᐦᒑᑦ ᐋᑳ ᓂᑎᐧᐋᔨᐦᑎᐦᒃ ᒑ ᑭᓂᐧᐋᐱᒫᑭᓂᐧᐃᑦ᙮
(kaa chii ‘used to’) aakuh uyaayiu kaa chii ihtik iinaaniu aahaapikw , kaah kiwishimunaaniwiwiyichh kaa chii ihiipihchaat aakaa nitiwaayihtihk chaa kiniwaapimaakiniwit.
Aahaapikw used to make his net at night when everyone had gone to bed, because he didn’t want to anyone to watch him.
Click here to hear this word chaa conjunct future preverb Click here to hear this word ᓂᑭᒧᔮᓐ᙮
chaa nikimuyaan.
I will sing.
Click here to hear this word ᓂᑭᒧᔨᓐ᙮
chaa nikimuyin.
You will sing.
Click here to hear this word ᓂᑭᒧᑦ᙮
chaa nikimut.
S/he will sing.
ᐹᒋ ᐧᐄᒑᐧᐃᔨᓐ ᐄᑐᐦᑖᔮᓈ ᐋᐦ ᒥᑯᔖᓂᐧᐃᒡ᙮
chaa paachi wiichaawiyin iituhtaayaanaa aai mikushaaniwich.
You will come with me when I go to the feast.
ᓂᒋᔅᒑᔨᒫᐤ ᔖᔥ ᐧᐄᐱᒡ ᑎᑯᔑᐦᒃ᙮
nichischaayimaau shaash wiipich chaa tikushihk.
I now know that s/he will return soon.
ᑭᑎ Click here to hear this word kiti independent future preverb Click here to hear this word ᑭᑎ ᒦᒋᓲ ᐅᑖᑯᔑᔨᒑ᙮
(for 3rd persons only) kiti miichisuu utaakushiyichaa.
She will eat this evening.
Click here to hear this word ᐧᐋᐱᐦᒑ ᑭᑎ ᐄᔅᐱᔨᐤ ᐅᓂᑑᐦᐆᑭᒥᑯᔑᐦᒡ᙮
waapihchaa kiti iispiyiu unituuhuukimikushihch.
S/he will go to his/her hunting cabin tomorrow.
ᒋᑭ Click here to hear this word chiki independent future preverb Click here to hear this word ᒋᑭ ᒦᒋᓲ ᐅᑖᑯᔑᔨᒑ᙮
(for 3rd persons) chiki miichisuu utaakushiyichaa.
He will eat this evening.
ᐧᐋᐱᐦᒑ ᒋᑭ ᐃᔅᐱᔨᐤ ᐅᓂᑑᐦᐆᑭᒥᑯᔑᐦᒡ᙮
waapihchaa chiki ispiyiu. unituuhuukimikushihch.
S/he will go to her/his hunting cabin tomorrow.
ᒋᑭ ᒫᒌᐤ ᐧᐋᓵ ᐋᐦ ᒥᐦᒑᑎᓈᓂᐧᐃᔨᒡ᙮
chiki maachiiu waasaa aah mihchaatinaaniwiyich.
S/he will be leaving because there are too many people.
-ki independent future preverb Click here to hear this word ᒦᒋᓱᓐ ᐅᑖᑯᔑᒑ᙮
ᓂᑭ Click here to hear this word niki (for 1st persons) niki miichisun utaakushichaa.
I will eat this evening.
Click here to hear this word ᒦᒋᓱᓐ ᐅᑖᑯᔑᒑ᙮
ᒋᑭ Click here to hear this word chiki (for 2nd persons) chiki miichisun utaakushichaa.
You will eat this evening.
ᒌᐦ Click here to hear this word chii(h) past tense preverb Click here to hear this word ᒌᐦ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
nichiih miichisun.
I ate.
Click here to hear this word ᒌᐦ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
chichiih miichisun.
You ate.
Click here to hear this word ᒌᐦ ᒦᒋᓲ᙮
chiih miichisuu.
S/he ate.
Click here to hear this word … ᐋᐦ ᒌᐦ ᒦᒋᓱᔮᓐ᙮
… aah chiih miichisuyaan.
…when I ate.
Click here to hear this word ᐱᔮᔑᐙᑭᓂᐎᔨᒡᐦ ᓂᒫᔅᐦ ᐄᔮᒄ ᑳ ᒌ ᒦᒋᓱᑦ᙮
piyaashiwaakiniwiyichh nimaas-h iiyaakw kaa chii miichisut.
Whenever the fish were brought, then he would eat.
ᒋᐱᐦ Click here to hear this word chipih obligation-conditional Click here to hear this word ᔖᔥ ᒋᐱᐦ ᑯᐎᔑᒨ ᐅᔮ ᔖᔥ ᐋ ᐃᔥᐱᔑᐱᔨᔨᒡ᙮
‘should/could’ (for second and third person of independent verbs) shaash chipih kuwishimuu uyaa shaash aa ishpishipiyiyich.
‘S/he should be in bed at this hour.’
ᓂᐱᐦ nipih obligation-conditional
‘should/could’
(for first person of independent verbs)
ᒌᐦ Click here to hear this word chii(h) modality preverb Click here to hear this word ᓂᑭ ᒌᐦ ᐃᐦᑐᐦᑖᓐ᙮
indicating possibility ‘can'(preceded by the future preverb:niki and chiki or chaa) niki chiih ihtuhtaan.
‘I can go.’
Click here to hear this word ᒋᑭ ᒌᐦ ᐃᐦᑐᑖᓐ᙮
chiki chiih ihtutaan.
‘You can go.’
Click here to hear this word ᑭᑎ ᒌᐦ ᐃᐦᑐᑖᐤ᙮
kiti chiih ihtutaau.
‘S/he can go.’
Click here to hear this word ᒋᑭ ᒌᐦ ᐃᐦᑐᑖᐤ᙮
chiki chiih ihtutaau.
‘S/he can go.’
Click here to hear this word ᒌᐦ ᐃᐦᑐᐦᑖᐙᓈ …
chaa chiih ihtuhtaawaanaa…
‘ If I can go.’
ᑭᔨᐧᐹ ᒑ ᒌᐦ ᐱᒥᓂᐧᐋᔮᓐ ᒥᑯᔖᓂᐧᐃᒑ᙮
kiyipwaa chaa chiih piminiwaayaan mikushaaniwichaa.
‘Yes, I will be able to cook for the feast.’
ᐧᐄᐦ Click here to hear this word wii(h) modality preverb Click here to hear this word ᐐᐦ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
indicating volition ‘want’ ni wiih miichisun.
‘I want to eat.’
Click here to hear this word ᐐᐦ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
chi wiih miichisun.
‘You want to eat.’
Click here to hear this word ᐐᐦ ᒦᒋᓲ᙮
wiih miichisuu.
‘S/he wants to eat.’
ᐙᐦ Click here to hear this word waa(h) conjunct modality preverb Click here to hear this word ᐙᐦ ᒦᒋᓱᐎᓈ …
indicating volition ‘want’ waah miichisuwinaa…
‘If you want to eat …’
(changed conjunct of wiih) Click here to hear this word ᐙᐦ ᓂᐹᒡᐦ …
waah nipaachh…
‘If s/he wants to sleep…’
Click here to hear this word ᐙᐦ ᒦᒋᓱᒡᐦ …
waah miichisuchh…
‘If s/he wants to eat…’
ᐅᐦᒋ Click here to hear this word uhchi past preverb accompanies the negation with independent and conjunct verbs Click here to hear this word ᓂᒥ ᐅᐦᒋ ᒌᐦ ᓂᐹᐤ ᐋᐦ ᒌᐦ ᑯᔥᑖᒋᑦ᙮
nimi uhchi chiih nipaau aah chiih kushtaachit.
‘He could not sleep because he was afraid.’
Click here to hear this word ᑖᐹ ᐅᐦᒋ ᐃᐦᑎᑯᓐ᙮
taapaa uhchi ihtikun.
‘There was none.’
Click here to hear this word ᑖᐹ ᐃᐦᑎᑯᓐ᙮
taapaa ihtikun.
‘There is none.’
Click here to hear this word ᐋᐅᒄ ᐧᐋᔥ ᑳ ᒋᔅᑯᑎᒫᐅᓱᐧᐋᒑᔨᐦᒄ ᑭᔮᐦ , ᐋᑳ ᐅᐦᒋ ᐃᐦᑎᑯᐦᒡ ᑯᑎᒡ ᐊᔨᒧᐧᐃᓐ᙮
aaukw waash kaa chiskutimaausuwaachaayihkw kiyaah, aakaa uhchi ihtikuhch kutich ayimuwin.
‘We used it to teach our children, before there was any other language.’
ᐊᑎ Click here to hear this word ati Aspectual preverb Click here to hear this word ᔖᔥ ᐊᑎ ᒥᔅᐳᓐ᙮
(inchoative) shaash ati mispun.
‘begin, start to’ Now, it is starting to snow.’ ‘It is already starting to snow.
Click here to hear this word ᒌᐦ ᐊᑎ ᒥᔅᐳᓐ᙮
chiih ati mispun.
It started to snow.
… ᐄᔮᒄ ᑳ ᐋᑎ ᒦᒋᓱᔮᐦᒡ᙮
… iiyaakw kaa ati miichisuyaahch.
… then, we started to eat.
ᒫᒀᒡ ᐋᐦ ᐊᑎ ᐱᒧᐦᑖᔮᓐ᙮
maakwaach aah ati pimuhtaayaan.
while I was walking, …
ᐋᑎ Click here to hear this word aati Conjunct preverb ᐅᔥᑭᒡ ᐋᑎ ᐧᐃᔨᐧᐄᒡᐦ ᐧᐋᑎᑯᐦᒡ ᐋᑎ ᓰᑯᓂᔨᒡᐦ ᓂᒫᔅᐦ ᐋᐦ ᐋᒥᔨᒡᐦ ᐋᔪᐧᐃᑯᓐᐦ ᒧᐧᐋᑦ, ᓅᑖᒧᐧᐋᑦ᙮
(inchoative) ‘begin, start to’, ushkich aati wiyiwiichh waatikuhch aati siikuniyichh nimaas-h aah aamiyichh aayuwikunh muwaat , nuutaamuwaat.
sometimes also means ‘while’, ‘as’ When it (the bear) first comes out in the beginning of spring, it eats fish when they spawn, it catches spawning fish.
Click here to hear this word ᐋᑎ ᐱᒧᐦᑖᔮᓐ ᐎᔮᐱᒥᒀᐤ ᓂᔅᑭᒡ᙮
aati pimuhtaayaan wiyaapimikwaau niskich.
As I was walking, I saw geese.
ᒋᐦᒋ chihchi ‘starting to’ ᒋᐦᒋ ᒥᔅᐳᓐ᙮
as preverb: chihchi mispun.
It is starting to snow.
ᒋᐦᒋ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
nichihchi miichisun.
I am starting to eat.
as initial: ᒋᐦᒋᐱᔨᐤ᙮
chihchipiyiu.
It starts to move.’ ‘S/he is leaving by vehicle.
ᒌᔑ chiishi finish, stop ᔖᔥ ᓂᒌᔑ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
as preverb: shaash nichiishi miichisun.
I am finished eating.
ᔕᔥ ᒌᔑᐱᔨᐤ᙮
as initial: shash chiishipiyiu.
It stopped, the cyle is finished. (stops after a planned length of time)
ᐃᔅᒀ iskwaa finished, completed ᔖᔥ ᓂᑎᔅᒀ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
as preverb: shaash nitiskwaa miichisun.
I have finished eating.
ᐃᔅᒀᐱᐦᑖᒌᔑᑳᐤ᙮
as initial: iskwaapihtaachiishikaau.
It is afternoon.
ᐃᔅᒀᐸᔨᐤ᙮
iskwaapayiu.
It is finished (end of year, New Year’s Eve)
ᐴᓂ puun(i) ‘stop’ ᐴᓐ ᐋᐱᑎᓰᓐ᙮
nipuun aapitisiin.
I stop working.
ᐴᓐ ᐋᐱᑎᓰᐤ᙮
puun aapitisiiu.
He stops working.
ᓂᑑ nituu go to (do something) ᓂᑑ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
as preverb: ninituu miichisun.
I am going there to eat.
ᓂᑑᐦᐆ᙮
as initial: nituuhuu.
S/he goes hunting.
ᓈᓂᑑ naanituu look for ᓈᓂᑑ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
ninaanituu miichisun.
I am looking around (for something) to eat.
ᓃᐹ niipaa at night ᓃᐹ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
chiniipaa miichisun.
You are eating at night.
ᒥᔪ miyu good ᒥᔪᐋᐱᑎᓰᓐ᙮
as preverb: nimiyu aapitisiin.
I am working well.
ᒥᒋ michi bad ᒥᒋᒥᒋᐦᐆᓐ᙮
as preverb: nimichi aapitisiin.
I am working badly.
as initial: ᒥᒋᒥᒋᐦᐆᓐ᙮
nimichimichihuun.
I feel bad.
ᓂᐦᑖᐤ nihtaau ‘be competent, be good at’ ᓈᔥᑖᑆ ᔖᔥ ᓂᐦᑖᐅᒀᓲ ᑳ ᐃᔥᐱᔑ ᐐᒋᒫᑦ ᐅᐦᑯᒻᐦ᙮
naashtaapwaa shaash nihtaaukwaasuu kaa ishpishi wiichimaat uhkumh.
as initial: S/he knows how to sew now since s/he has been living with her/his grandmother.
ᓂᐦᑖᐤ ᐱᒧᐦᑖᓐ᙮
as preverb: ninihtaau pimuhtaan.
It is my habit to walk, I walk all the time.
More examples can be found in the Spelling Manual and the Dictionary under Parts of speech: Preverbs.

Preverb or particle?

Small words that occur before the personal prefix in the Independent order, or before the conjunct preverbs are not considered preverbs, but particles. For example ᐃᔥᑭ ishki is a particle found with the Independent Subjective conjugation. The test we use is that it always occurs before the personal prefixes ni– and chi-. ᐃᔥᑭ ᒋᐱᐹᒧᐦᑖᓈᓂᐙ ᓂᒌ ᐃᔑᓈᓐ᙮ ishki chipipaamuhtaanaaniwaa nichii ishinaan. ‘I dreamt that we were walking.’ ᐃᔥᑭ ᓂᐹᐦᐱᐙ ᓈ ᓈᐹᐤ᙮ ishki nipaahpiwaa naa naapaau. ‘That man is really laughing.’ ᐃᔥᑭ ᒥᐦᒀᐙ᙮ ishki mihkwaawaa. ‘It looks like it is red.’

Preverb or initial?

Sometimes, it is hard to decide if a preverb is a preverb or the initial of a verb. This is further complicated by the fact that some preverbs can be used both as preverbs and as initials. And that some initials can be complex initials (made of several parts- see Word formation). The rough test we use is this: If you remove it and you still have a verb, then it is a preverb. If you remove it and what is left is not a verb on its own, then it is an initial. For example, ᒋᐦᒋ chihchi ‘start to’ can be combined with the verb ᒥᔅᐳᓐ mispun in: ᒋᐦᒋ ᒥᔅᐳᓐ᙮ chihchi mispun. ‘It is starting to snow.’ We would say it is a preverb, because we can remove ᒋᐦᒋ chihchi and still get a verb: ᒥᔅᐳᓐ mispun. In ᒋᐦᒋᐱᔨᐤ᙮ chihchipiyiu. ‘It starts to move’, we cannot remove the ᒋᐦ chihchi part: ᐱᔨᐤpiyiu alone is not a verb (it is called a final). We thus say that ᒋᐦᒋ chihchi is an initial. The conclusion is that ᒋᐦᒋ chihchi ‘start to’ can be used both a a preverb and an initial.

Preverb combinations and the order of preverbs

Some preverbs are exclusively used for the independent order, some for the conjunct order and some for all orders, including imperative. Some conjugations can take a lot of preverbs like #01 and #11. Aspectual preverbs combine only with certain verbs. When several preverbs are used, their order is usually fixed:
  • 1. conjunct preverbs
  • 2. tense preverbs
  • 3. modality preverbs
  • 4. aspectual preverbs
The aspectual preverbs are the ones occuring closest to the stem, with some functioning either as a preverb or an initial. Below is a brief summary of our general observations about preverb combinations:

ORDER OF PREVERBS

1 2 3 4 STEM suffixes
Conjunct Tense: Modality: Aspect
future volition Quality
past possibility
conditional
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