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Each consonant in Standard Tibetan implicitly carries a vowel along with it. By convention, each consonant carries an «a» with it. To add an «e», «i» or «o» after a consonant, one simply adds an accent over a consonant; to add a «u» after a consonant, one adds an accent below the consonant. The Tibetan consonants are shown below.

Tibetan letters.png

On this page, I have given examples of Tibetan morphology. In general, Morphology is concerned with how words are formed in a language. Throughout this page, I use the Apertium tagset to describe the properties of the words and phrases given as examples. The main resource I used to create this page was Hand-book of Colloquial Tibetan: A Practical Guide to the Language of Central Tibet. I used an online Tibetan transliterator to transliterate the text on this page. I also used this Tibetan grammar wiki page.

Other good resources are this grammar book which has good stuff on plurals. Also this book has analysis and glosses at the end.

Parts of Speech

The main parts of speech in Standard Tibetan are similar to those of English. In particular, these include articles, nouns, adjectives, cardinal & ordinal numbers, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, postpositions and conjunctions. Examples for these parts of speech are given in the sections below.

I included two tags that are not in the Apertium tag-set. They are <agt> for the agentive noun case and <fut> for the future verb tense.

it would be good to have a short list of the tags here, but it's not crucial



Verb tenses are expressed in two ways: either the verb root or spelling is modified or additional syllables are added to convey a different meaning. This later case can use affixes or parts of other verbs to convey the desired meaning. In English, the simplest form of a verb is its infinitive; this is not the case in Tibetan. To create an infinitive, an affix must usually be added to a given verb. In general, this participle is almost always «pa» or «wa». The suffix «pa» is added when the final letter of the root is any consonant except for «r» or «l». On the other hand, the suffix «wa» is used if the verb root ends in «r», «l» or any vowel. Some examples of this pattern are shown here:

  • ལོཀ<v><inf> ↔ ལོཀ་པ ("read" → "to read") ("lok" → "lok-pa")
  • དོ<v><inf> ↔ དོ་ཝ ("go" → "to go") ("do" → "do-wa")
  • ཉེན<v><inf> ↔ ཉེན་པ ("hear" → "to hear") ("nyen" → "nyen-pa")
  • ཇལ<v><inf> ↔ ཇལ་ཝ ("measure" → "to measure") ("jal" → "jal-wa")
  • ཛིང<v><inf> ↔ ཛིང་པ ("fight" → "to fight") ("dzing" → "dzing-pa")
  • <v><inf> ↔ ས་ཝ ("eat" → "to eat") ("sa" → "sa-wa")

Note how the roots of Lok-pa, Nyen-pa and Dzing-pa all end in consonants that are not «r» or «l», and so they are followed with the «pa» suffix to produce the infinitive. In the same way, the roots of Do-wa, Jal-wa and Sa-wa all end either in vowels or in «r» or «l», and so they use the suffix «wa» to produce the infinitive.


The pronoun generally indicates the tense of a verb. This structure is similar to English. The pronoun determines the "doer" of the verb, while the verb does not change. This is the case in the following examples. Notice how the tense does not change between present, future or past.

  • སྐྲག་པ།<v><pres><iv> ↔ སྐྲག་པ། ("to be afraid" → "am afraid")
  • སྐྲག་པ།<v><fut><iv> ↔ སྐྲག་པ། ("to be afraid" → "will be afraid")
  • སྐྲག་པ།<v><past><iv> ↔ སྐྲག་པ། ("to be afraid" → "was afraid")
  • སྐྱོ་བ།<v><pres><iv> ↔ སྐྱོ་བ། ("to be sad" → "am sad")
  • སྐྱོ་བ།<v><fut><iv> ↔ སྐྱོ་བ། ("to be sad" → "will be sad")
  • སྐྱོ་བ།<v><past><iv> ↔ སྐྱོ་བ། ("to be sad" → "was sad")
  • བྱམས་པ།<v><pres><iv> ↔ བྱམས་པ། ("to love" → "love")
  • བྱམས་པ།<v><fut><iv> ↔ བྱམས་པ། ("to love" → "will love")
  • བྱམས་པ།<v><past><iv> ↔ བྱམས་པ། ("to love" → "loved")

Past Tenses

There are several ways of expressing the past/perfect tense in Standard Tibetan. Most commonly, the past tense of a verb assumes the root of the verb (see infinitive section above) with one of two affixes. These affixes are ཇཧུང ("jhung" - sounded "chung") or སོང ("song"). This Tibetan grammar book indicates that "no rule seems to determine the affix chosen, custom deciding the usage with each particular verb." Here are several examples:

  • ཤི་ཝ<v><past> ↔ ཤི་སོང ("to die" → "died") ("shi-wa" → "shi song")
  • ཙར་ཝ<v><past> ↔ ཙར་སོང ("to finish" → "finished") ("ts'ar-wa" → "ts'ar song")
  • ཏོང་ཝ<v><past> ↔ ཏོང་ཇཧུང ("to see" → "saw") ("t'ong-wa" → "t'ong jhung")
  • ཏོབ་པ<v><past> ↔ ཏོབ་ཇཧུང ("to receive/obtain" → "received/got") ("t'ob-pa" → "t'ob jhung")


Imperatives are generally formed by replacing the verbal root with the central vowel change into an "o."

  • ཛེ་པ<v><imp> ↔ ཛོ ("to do/make" → "Do it!") ("dze'pa" → "dzo")
  • ཏང་ཝ<v><imp> ↔ ཏོང ("to let go/send" → "Let go!") ("tang-wa" → "tong")
  • ཡར་ལང་ཝ<v><imp> ↔ ཡར་ལོང ("to get up/rise up" → "get up!") ("yar lang-wa" → "yar long")
  • ཏོ་ས་ཝ<v><imp> ↔ ཏོ་སོ ("to eat" → "eat!") ("to sa-wa" → "to so")

However, there are cases in which "tang" or "dhang" (literally "and") must be annexing to the verbal root. Other words take the prefix "shok" ("come") to create the imperative.

  • ཏ་ཝ<v><imp> ↔ ཏོ་དྷང ("to see" → "see!") ("ta-wa" → "to dhang")
  • ཏི་ཝ<v><imp> ↔ ཏི་ཤོཀ ("to lead" → "lead!") ("ti-wa" → "ti shok")



Declension of nouns involves changing suffixes. Here is a first example, which deals with the noun ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི (Kyermen chi) meaning "a wife."

  • ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི<n><sing><nom> ↔ ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི ("A wife" → "A wife") ("Kyermen chi" Kyermen chi)
  • ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི<n><sing><gen> ↔ ཀྱེརྨེན་ཀྱི ("A wife" → "Of a wife") ("Kyermen chi" → "Kyermen kyi")
  • ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི<n><sing><dat> ↔ ཀྱེརྨེན་ལ ("A wife" → "To a wife") ("Kyermen chi" → "Kyermen la")
  • ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི<n><sing><acc> ↔ ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི ("A wife" → "A wife") ("Kyermen chi" → "Kyermen")
  • ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི<n><sing><loc> ↔ ཀྱེརྨེན་ན ("A wife" → "On or at a wife") ("Kyermen chi" → "Kyermen na")
  • ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི<n><sing><abl> ↔ ཀྱེརྨེན་ནེ ("A wife" → "From a wife") ("Kyermen chi" → "Kyermen ne")
  • ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི<n><sing><agt> ↔ ཀྱེརྨེན་ཀྱི ("A wife" → "By a wife") ("Kyermen chi" → "Kyermen kyi")

Slight variations are used in the affixes for the genitive and agentive cases when the noun ends in «k» or «ng». For example

  • གྷྱོཀ་ཆི<n><sing><nom> ↔ གྷྱོཀ་ཆི ("A cannon" → "A cannon") ("Ghyok chi" → "Ghyok-chi")
  • གྷྱོཀ་ཆི<n><sing><gen> ↔ གྷྱོཀ་གྷི ("A cannon" → "Of a cannon") ("Ghyok chi" → "Ghyok-ghi")
  • གྷྱོཀ་ཆི<n><sing><agt> ↔ གྷྱོཀ་གྷི ("A cannon" → "By a cannon") ("Ghyok chi" → "Ghyok-ghi")


  • ཆཧང<n><sing><nom> ↔ ཆཧང ("A beer" → "A beer") ("Chhang" → "Chhang")
  • ཆཧང<n><sing><gen> ↔ ཆཧང་གྷི ("A beer" → "Of a beer") ("Chhang" → "Chhang-ghi)
  • ཆཧང<n><sing><agt> ↔ ཆཧང་གྷི ("A beer" → "By a beer") ("Chhang" → "Chhang-ghi")

The following are declension for two singular nouns. Their plural declensions are shown below for comparison:

  • ནང<n><sing><nom> ↔ ནང ("house" → "house") ("nang" → "nang")
  • ནང<n><sing><gen> ↔ ནང་གི ("house" → "of a house") ("nang" → "nang gi")
  • ནང<n><sing><dat> ↔ ནང་ལ ("house" → "to a house") ("nang" → "nang la")
  • ནང<n><sing><acc> ↔ ནང ("house" → "house") ("nang" → "nang")
  • ནང<n><sing><loc> ↔ ནང་ལ ("house" → "in a house") ("nang" → "nang la")
  • ནང<n><sing><abl> ↔ ནང་ནེ ("house" → "from a house") ("nang" → "nang ne")
  • ནང<n><sing><agt> ↔ ནང་གི ("house" → "by a house") ("nang" → "nang gi")


  • ལེ་པོ<n><sing><nom> ↔ ལེ་པོ ("basket" → "basket") ("le po" → "le po")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><sing><gen> ↔ ལེ་པོའི ("basket" → "of a basket") ("le po" → "le po-i")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><sing><dat> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ལ ("basket" → "to a basket") ("le po" → "le po la")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><sing><acc> ↔ ལེ་པོ ("basket" → "basket") ("le po" → "le po")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><sing><loc> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ལ ("basket" → "in a basket") ("le po" → "le po la")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><sing><abl> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ནེ ("basket" → "from a basket") ("le po" → "le po ne")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><sing><agt> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ཡི ("basket" → "by a basket") ("le po" → "le po yi")


The plural number for nouns is not always expressed in Tibetan. Oftentimes, the substantive is accompanied by a modifying adjective such as "some," "many" or "all" which indicates that a noun should be considered plural. This is usually the case with inanimate verbs (i.e. ones that do not directly refer to people). When referring to people, the suffix «ts'o», «tsh'o», «cha», «chak» or sometimes «nam» can be added to pluralize a noun.

  • ཏེབ<n><pl><nom> ↔ ཏེབ་ཙོ ("Book"→"Books") (Teb) (Teb-tso)
  • མི<n><pl><nom> ↔ མི་ཙོ ("Person"→"Persons/People") (Mi) (Mi-tso)
  • པི་ལིང<n><pl><nom> ↔ པི་ལིང་ཙོ ("Englishman"→"Englishmen") (P'i-ling) (P'i-ling-ts'o)

In general, it seems that there are two main classes of nouns that are important when considering how to pluralize a particular noun: nouns ending with a vowel and nouns ending with a consonant. The following illustrates the case in which a noun ends in a vowel:

  • ལེ་པོ<n><pl><nom> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ཚོ ("basket" → "baskets") ("le po" → "le po tsh'o")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><pl><gen> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ཚོཨི ("basket" → "of baskets") ("le po" → "le po tsh'o-i")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><pl><dat> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ཚོ་ལ ("basket" → "to baskets") ("le po" → "le po tsh'o la")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><pl><acc> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ཚོ ("basket" → "baskets") ("le po" → "le po tsh'o")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><pl><loc> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ཚོ་ལ ("basket" → "in baskets") ("le po" → "le po tsh'o la")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><pl><agt> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ཚོ་ཡི ("basket" → "by baskets") ("le po" → "le po tsh'o yi")
  • ལེ་པོ<n><pl><abl> ↔ ལེ་པོ་ཚོ་ནེ ("basket" → "from baskets") ("le po" → "le po tsh'o ne")

The following is an example of the noun "house" ending in a consonant:

  • ནང<n><pl><nom> ↔ ནང་ཚོ ("house" → "houses") ("nang" → "nang tsh'o" or "nang ts'o")
  • ནང<n><pl><gen> ↔ ནང་ཚོཨི ("house" → "of houses") ("nang" → "nang tsho-i")
  • ནང<n><pl><dat> ↔ ནང་ཚོ་ལ ("house" → "to houses") ("nang" → "nang tsho-i")
  • ནང<n><pl><acc> ↔ ནང་ཚོ ("house" → "houses") ("nang" → "nang tsh'o" or "nang ts'o")
  • ནང<n><pl><loc> ↔ ནང་ཚོ་ལ ("house" → "in houses") ("nang" → "nang tsho-i")
  • ནང<n><pl><agt> ↔ ནང་ཚོཨི ("house" → "by houses") ("nang" → "nang tsho-i")
  • ནང<n><pl><abl> ↔ ནང་ཚོ་ནེ ("house" → "from houses") ("nang" → "nang tsho ne")

Genitive Case

The genitive case marks possession and is translated as "of." In Tibetan, the last sound of the noun determines the genitive suffix. The following rules determine the appropriate suffixes:

  • Last sound: འ་ «'a» or any vowel → suffix: འི་ «'i»
  • Last sound: ག་ «'g» or ང་ «-ng» → suffix: གི་ «gi»
  • Last sound: ད་ «-d», བ་ «-b», ས་ «-s» or any other secondary suffix (i.e. འོ «'o») → suffix: ཀྱི་ «kyi»
  • Last sound: ན་ «-n», མ་ «-m», ར་ «-r» or ལ་ «-l» → suffix: གྱི་ «gyi»

Consider the following examples of the genitive case.

  • ཆོས<n><sing><gen> ↔ ཆོས་ཀྱི ("dharma" → "of dharma")
    • ཆོས (Chos) (dharma) and འཁོར་ལོ (Khro-lo) (wheel) becomes ཆོས་ཀྱི་འཁོར་ལོ (Chos-kyi khor-lo) (wheel of dharma)
  • ལུག<n><sing><gen> ↔ ལུག་གི ("sheep" → "of sheep")
    • ལུག (Lug) (sheep) and པགས་པ (Pags-pa) (wheel) becomes ལུག་གི་པགས་པ (Lug-gi pags-pa) (skin of sheep or sheepskin)
  • པི་ལིང་ཙོ<n><sing><gen> ↔ པི་ལིང་ཙོཨི ("Englishmen" → "Of the Englishmen")
    • པི་ལིང་ཙོ (P'i-ling-ts'o) becomes པི་ལིང་ཙོཨི (P'i-ling-t'soi)

Agentive Case

The agentive is built on top of the genitive case. It is generally translated as "by." In Tibetan, the difference is represented in a suffix. The rules for which suffix to use are as follows;

  • Last sound: འ་ «'a» or any vowel → suffix: ས་་ «-s»
  • Last sound: ག་ «'g» or ང་ «-ng» → suffix: གིས་ «gis»
  • Last sound: ན་ «-n», མ་ «-m», ར་ «-r» or ལ་ «-l» or any other secondary suffix (i.e. འོ «'o») → suffix: ཀྱིས་ «kyis»
  • Last sound: ན་ «-n», མ་ «-m», ར་ «-r» or ལ་ «-l» → suffix: གྱིས་ «gyis»

Consider the following examples of the agentive case.

  • ཀྱེརྨེན་ཆི<n><sing><agt> ↔ ཀྱེརྨེན་ཀྱི ("A wife"→"By a wife")
    • "Kyermen chi" → "Kyermen kyis"
  • མབཇཧ་ཤི<n><sing><agt> ↔ མབཇཧ་ཡི ("A peacock"→"By a peacock")
    • "Mabjha shi" → "Mabjha yi"


There are three numbers for pronouns: one, two and many. Pronouns in the second and third person can also vary in a number of classes. In particular, the second person can be in one of three classes: ordinary, honorific or pejorative. On the other hand, the third person can take on three forms: ordinary, familiar (male) and familiar (female). These are enumerated below.

Person Category Tags Singular Dual Plural
First N/A <prn><pers> ང་ (Nga) ང་གཉིས་ (Nga-gnyis) ང་ཚོ་ (Nga-tsho)
Second Ordinary <prn><pers> རང་ (Rang) རང་གཉིས་ (Rang-gnyis) རང་ཚོ་ (Rang-tsho)
Honorific <prn><pers> ཁྱེད་རང་ (Khyed-rang) ཁྱེད་རང་གཉིས་ (Khyed-rang-gnyis) ཁྱེད་རང་ཚོ་ (Khyed-rang-tsho)
Pejorative <prn><pers> ཁྱོད་ (Khyod) ཁྱོད་གཉིས་ (Khyod-gnyis) ཁྱོད་ཚོ་ (Khyod-tsho)
Third Ordinary <prn><pers> ཁོང་ (Khong) ཁོང་གཉིས་ (Khong-gnyis) ཁོང་ཚོ་ (Khong-tsho)
Familiar (male) <prn><pers> ཁོ་(རང་) (Kho-(rang)) ཁོ་(རང་)གཉིས་ (Kho-(rang)-gnyis) ཁོ་(རང་)ཚོ་ (Kho-(rang)-tsho)
Familiar (female) <prn><pers> མོ་(རང་) (Mo-(rang)) མོ་(རང་)གཉིས་ (Mo-(rang)-gnyis) མོ་(རང་)ཚོ་ (Mo-(rang)-tsho)

For example, Tibetan has the following correspondences:

  • <prn><pers><pl> ↔ ང་ཚོ་ ("I" → "We") (Nga) (Nga-tsho)
  • ཁྱེ་རང<prn><pers><pl> ↔ ཐེ་རང་ཚོ ("You" → "You all") (Khye-rang) (Khe-rang-tsho)
  • ཁོང<prn><pers><pl> ↔ ཁོང་ཚོ ("He/She" → "They") (Khong) (Khong-tsho)

Note that «tsho» and «tso» are sometimes interchangeable as suffixes for plural pronouns. Thus we could write ངན་ཚོ (Ngan-tsho) or ངན་ཙོ (Ngan-tso) for "we." Also, the third-person singular pronoun ཁོང (Khong) means either he or she. If one wants to refer to someone by their gender, one can use ཁོ (Kho) or ཁོ་རང (Kho-rang) for a male and མོ (Mo) or མོ་རང (Mo-rang) for a female.

This is one way to do this. It'll probably be okay for now.



There are four ways of formatting comparative adjectives:

  • Adjective + normalizing participle + "-pa" or "-ba"
  • Adjective + verb participle + "-kyi" or "-gi" or "-gyi" or "-red"
  • Adjective + "-pa" or "-ba" with lengthened vowel at predicator position
  • Adjective + causative verb participle "-ru"

Examples of adjectives of the first kind are shown below. The first kind seems to be the most common way to form a comparative:

  • བཙོག་པ<adj><comp> ↔ བཙོག་པ ("dirty" → "dirtier") ("btsog pa" → "btsog pa")
  • གཙང་མ<adj><comp> ↔ གཙང་བ ("clean" → "cleaner") ("gtsang ma" → "gtsang ba")
  • གྲང་མོ<adj><comp> ↔ གྲང་བ ("cold" → "colder") ("grang mo" → "grang ba")
  • ལྗིད་པོ<adj><comp> ↔ ལྗིད་པ ("heavy" → "heavier") ("ljid po" → "ljid pa")
  • དཀོན་པོ<adj><comp> ↔ དཀོན་པ ("rare" → "rarer") ("dkon po" → "dkon pa")

Note from the first example that it is possible for the comparative participle to be spelled the same as the positive participle.


The superlative is generally formed by adding "-shos" as an affix.

  • མགྱོགས<adj><sup> ↔ མགྱོགས་ཤོས ("fast" → "fastest") ("mgyogs" → "mgyogs-shos")

Usage (Not Useful)

In Tibetan, adjectives can go before or after the verb they're modifying. It seems that in writing, adjectives almost always follow nouns. However, it is commonplace in common speech to precede a noun with a modifying adjective. When this occurs, the noun is always spoken in the genitive case. Consider this example:

  • པུཙ་ཙོཀ་པ་ཨི་ཨཀ་དི (Putsa tsok-pa-i ak di) → "The hand of the dirty boy"

In this case, the adjective ཏོཨོཀ་པ་ཨི (Tsok-pai-i) meaning "dirty" directly follows the noun པུཙ (Putsa) which we saw above in the discussion of gendered nouns. In this case, པུཙ is in the nominative case because it precedes the adjective. Literally, the order of this sentence reads "Boy dirty of hand the." in English.

Now consider another example:

  • ཐེ་མོ་ཆཧེམཔོ་དི་ཡི་མིཀ་སེརཔོ་དི (Dhe-mo chhempo di-yi mik serpo di) → "The yellow eye of the large bear"

The adjectives in this sentence are ཆཧེམཔོ (Chempo) meaning "large" and སེརཔོ (Serpo) meaning "yellow". Word for word, this sentence translates to "Bear large the eye yellow the." Here too, all adjectives appear after the nouns.

This is not always the case. The following sentence is an example:

  • དི་ལོ་མ་ལེནཆེན་ཀྱི་ས་ལ་ཤོ་དྷུ་དི (Di lo-ma lenchen-kyi sho-dhu di) → "The leaf down on the wet ground"

Word for word, the adjective ལེནཆེན (Lenchen) meaning "wet" qualifies and precedes the noun ས (Sa) meaning "ground." In this case, ས is in the genitive case because it follows the adjective, which contrasts with the sentence structures of the previous two examples.

where are the morphTests?


In Standard Tibetan, conjunctions are generally expressed by means of the gerundial and continuative particles. Interestingly, the counterpart of the common English word "and" is དྷང (Dhang), which translates literally to "with." In this way, a sentence like "horses and cows and sheep and goats" would be rendered in the following way:

  • ཏཊསའོ་དྷང,་བྷམོ་ཙའོ་དྷང,་ལུཀ་ཙའོ་དྷང,་རམཊསའོ (Ta-ts'o dhang, dbamo ts'o dhang, luk-ts'o dhang, rama-ts'o)
    • "With horses, with cows, with sheep, goats"

In this way, it is important to note that each "dhang" accompanies the word preceding it. In longer enumerations/lists, it is common to completely omit "dhang." It would not be uncommon for the above sentence to be written as

  • ཏ་བྷ་ལུཀ་ར་ཙའོ (Ta-bha luk ra-ts'o)

where the plural suffix ts'o indicates that the noun is plural (see noun section above). Similarly, we could write

  • ལཔུཀ་ཉུངམ་ཡེརྨ་ཉོ་ཤིཀ (Lapuk nyungma yerman yo shik!)
    • "Buy radishes, turnips and peppers"

where are the morphTests?