Preverbs

Observation
ᓂᒌ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮ Click here to hear this word nichii miichisun. I ate.
ᓂᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮ Click here to hear this word nimiichisun. I am eating.

The chii 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 of events, such as, ‘begin to…’, ‘stop…’, etc.

Preverbs expressing tense and modality are written separately. Other preverbs are written attached to the verb. These tend to express aspectual dimensions or qualities of events. Often the can also function as an initial.

The order of preverbs is relatively fixed, with some appearing closer to the verb than others when several are used together.

Person PrefixPreverbsVerb StemSuffixes
ᒌ ᐧᐄ ᐙᐸᐦᑦ ᐁᓐ
ni chii wii waapaht e n
I past want see it
ᒌ ᐧᐄ ᐙᐸᒻ ᐁᐅᒡ
ni chii wii waapam e u ch
I past want see them
  • Note: The suffixes include information on the theme, person, obviation, and number.

Below is a list of common preverbs with their meaning, function and examples on how they are used.

PreverbUsageExamples
Click here to hear this word che future marker for conjunct verbs   ᒉ ᓂᑲᒧᔮᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word che nikamuyaan.
  I will sing.
  ᒉ ᓂᑲᒧᔨᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word che nikamuyin.
  You will sing.
  ᒉ ᓂᑲᒧᑦ᙮
Click here to hear this word che nikamut.
  S/he will sing.
Click here to hear this word chii past tense marker   ᓂᒌ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word nichii miichisun.
  I ate.
  ᒋᒌ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word chichii miichisun.
  You ate.
  ᒌ ᒦᒋᓲ᙮
Click here to hear this word chii miichisuu.
  S/he ate.
  ᐁ ᒌ ᒦᒋᓱᔮᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word e chii miichisuyaan.
  When I ate
ᑲᑕ Click here to hear this word kata future preverb for independent verbs used only with third persons: ᐧᐄ wii, ᐧᐄᐧᐋᐤ wiiwaau (incl. Obv)   ᑲᑕ ᒦᒋᓲ ᐅᑖᑯᔑᔨᒉ᙮
Click here to hear this word kata miichisuu utaakushiyiche
  S/he will eat this evening.
ᒋᑲ Click here to hear this word chika future preverb for independent verbs used with second and third persons: chii, ᒌᔮᓅ chiiyaanuu, ᒌᐙᐤ chiiwaau, wii, ᐐᐙᐤ wiiwaau (incl. Obv)   ᒋᑲ ᒦᒋᓲ ᐅᑖᑯᔑᔨᒉ᙮
Click here to hear this word chika miichisuu utaakushiyiche.
  S/he will eat this evening.
  ᒋᑲ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ ᐅᑖᑯᔑᒉ᙮
Click here to hear this word chika miichisun utaakushiche.
  You will eat this evening.
ᓂᑲ Click here to hear this word nika future preverb for independent verbs used with first persons: nii, ᓂᔮᓐ niyaan   ᓂᑲ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ ᐅᑖᑯᔑᒉ᙮
Click here to hear this word nika miichisun utaakushiche.
  I will eat this evening.
ᒉᒌ Click here to hear this word chechii conjunct preverb   ᐧᐊᓂᒋᔅᒋᓲ ᒉᒌ ᐯᑖᑦ ᐊᓂᔫ ᐊᑯᐦᐱᔫ᙮
Click here to hear this word wanichischisuu chechii petaat aniyuu akuhpiyuu.
  He forgot to bring that jacket.
  ᓂᑐᐧᐁᔨᒫᐤ ᒉᒌ ᐃᐦᑑᑕᐦᒃ᙮
Click here to hear this word nituweyimaau chechii ihtuutahk.
  I want him to do it.
Click here to hear this word chii can always preceded by a future preverb (ᓂᑲ nika and ᒋᑲ chika in the independent, che in the conjunct)   ᓂᑲ ᒌ ᐃᐦᑐᐦᑌᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word nika chii ihtuhten.
  I can go.
  ᒋᑲ ᒌ ᐃᐦᑐᑌᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word chika chii ihtuten.
  You can go.
  ᒋᑲ ᒌ ᐃᐦᑐᑌᐤ᙮
Click here to hear this word chika chii ihtuteu.
  S/he can go.
  ᒉ ᒌ ᐃᐦᑐᐦᑌᐧᐋᓀ᙮
Click here to hear this word che chii ihtuhtewaane.
  If I can go.
ᐧᐄ Click here to hear this word wii want   ᓂᐧᐄ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word niwii miichisun.
  I want to eat.
  ᒋᐧᐄ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word chiwii miichisun.
  You want to eat.
  ᐧᐄ ᒦᒋᓲ᙮
Click here to hear this word wii miichisuu.
  S/he wants to eat.
ᓂᐸᐦ Click here to hear this word nipah (C) should used with first persons: nii, ᓂᔮᓐ niyaan   ᔖᔥ ᓂᐸᐦ ᑰᔑᒨᓐ ᐆ ᐁ ᐃᔥᐱᔑᐸᔨᒡ᙮
      Click here to hear this word shaash nipah kuushimuun uu e ishpishipayich.
ᓂᐹ Click here to hear this word nipaa (I)   I should be in bed at this hour.
ᒋᐸᐦ Click here to hear this word chipah (C) should used with second and third persons: chii, ᒌᔮᓅ chiiyaanuu, ᒌᐧᐋᐤ chiiwaau, ᐧᐄ wii, ᐧᐄᐧᐋᐤ wiiwaau (incl. Obv)   ᔖᔥ ᒋᐸᐦ ᑰᔑᒨᓐ ᐆ ᐁ ᐃᔥᐱᔑᐸᔨᒡ᙮
Click here to hear this word shaash chipah kuushimuun uu e ishpishipayich.
  You should be in bed at this hour.
ᒋᐹ Click here to hear this word chipaa (I)   ᔖᔥ ᒋᐸᐦ ᑰᔑᒨ ᐆᔫ ᐁ ᐃᔥᐱᔑᐸᔨᔨᒡ᙮
Click here to hear this word shaash chipah kuushimuu uuyuu e ishpishipayiyich.
  S/he should be in bed at this hour.
Click here to hear this word e conjunct preverb   ᓂᒥᔦᔨᐦᑌᓐ ᐁ ᒪᓯᓇᐦᐄᒉᔮᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word nimiyeyihten e masinahiicheyaan.
  I like to write.
  ᒋᒥᔦᔨᐦᑌᓐ ᐁ ᒪᓯᓇᐦᐄᒉᔨᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word chimiyeyihten e masinahiicheyin.
  You like to write.
  ᒥᔦᔨᐦᑕᒻ ᐁ ᒪᓯᓇᐦᐄᒉᑦ᙮
Click here to hear this word miyeyihtam e masinahiichet.
  S/he likes to write.
Click here to hear this word kaa conjunct preverb   ᑳ ᐊᔨᒥᔮᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word kaa ayimiyaan.
  When I spoke.
  ᑳ ᐊᔨᒥᔨᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word kaa ayimiyin.
  When you spoke.
  ᑳ ᐊᔨᒥᑦ᙮
Click here to hear this word kaa ayimit.
  When s/he spoke.
ᐅᐦᒋ Click here to hear this word uhchi from, because used in the negative independent with ᓇᒧᐃ namui or in the negative conjunct with ᐁᑳ ekaa   ᓇᒧᐃ ᐅᐦᒋ ᒌ ᓂᐹᐤ ᐁ ᒌ ᑯᔥᑖᒋᑦ᙮
Click here to hear this word namui uhchi chii nipaau e chii kushtaachit.
  S/he could not sleep because s/he was afraid.
  ᓇᒧᐃ ᓅᐦᒋ ᒌ ᓂᐹᓐ ᐁ ᒌ ᑯᔥᑖᒋᔮᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word namui nuuhchi chii nipaan e chii kushtaachiyaan.
  I could not sleep because I was afraid.

The grammatical and modal preverbs above are always written separately from the stem, while aspectual and lexical preverbs can be with the stem. Here is a list of common aspectual preverbs, which can also be found as verb initials. See Word Formation.

PreverbUsageExamples
ᐊᑎ Click here to hear this word ati about to   ᐊᑎ ᒥᔅᐳᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word ati mispun.
  It is about to snow.
  ᒌ ᐊᑎ ᒥᔅᐳᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word chii ati mispun.
  It started to snow.
  ᒌ ᐊᑎ ᒫᒌᐤ ᑳ ᐧᐋᐸᒪᒃ᙮
Click here to hear this word chii ati maachiiu kaa waapamak.
  S/he was about to leave, when I saw her.
ᒋᐦᒋ Click here to hear this word chihchi starting to   ᒋᐦᒋᒥᔅᐳᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word chihchimispun.
  It is starting to snow.
  ᓂᒋᐦᒋ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word nichihchi miichisun.
  I am starting to eat.
ᒌᔑ Click here to hear this word chiishi finished   ᔖᔥ ᓂᒌᔑ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word shaash nichiishi miichisun.
  I am finished eating.
ᐃᔥᐧᑳ Click here to hear this word iskwaa finished   ᔖᔥ ᓂᑦ ᐃᔥᐧᑳ ᒦᒋᓱᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word shaash nit ishkwaa miichisun.
  I have finished eating.
  ᐃᔥᐧᑳ ᐋᐱᐦᑖᒌᔑᑳᐤ᙮
Click here to hear this word ishkwaa aapihtaachiishikaau.
  It is afternoon.
ᐴᓂ Click here to hear this word puuni stop   ᔖᔥ ᓂᐴᓈᐸᑎᓰᓐ᙮
Click here to hear this word shaash nipuunaapatisiin.
  I stop working.

For more on preverbs, especially lexical preverbs, see Word Formation.

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 ᐃᔥᑲ ishka 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-. ᐃᔥᑭᑲ ᒋᐸᐹᒧᐦᑌᐙᓈᓇᐙ ᓂᒌ ᐃᔑᓈᓐ᙮ ishka chipapaamuhtewaanaanawaa nichii ishinaan. ‘I dreamt that we were walking.’ ᐃᔥᑲ ᓂᐹᐦᐳᐙ ᒫᓈ ᓈᐯᐤ᙮ ishka nipaahpuwaa maanaa naapeu. ‘That man is really laughing.’ ᐃᔥᑲ ᒥᐦᒀᐙ᙮ ishka 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 ᒋᐦᒋᐸᔫ᙮ chihchipayuu. ‘It starts to move’, we cannot remove the ᒋᐦ chihchi part. ᐸᔫ payuu alone is not a verb (it is called a final). We thus say that ᒋᐦᒋ chihchi is an initial. ᒋᐦᒋᐱᔨᐤ᙮ chihchipiyiu. ‘It starts to move.’/’S/he is leaving by vehicle.’ The conclusion is that ᒋᐦᒋ chihchi ‘start to’ is one of these words that 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