Introduction to verbs


Review of the four types of verbs:

There are four basic verb types in Delaware, classified according to gender, as we discussed in an earlier chapter. Each verb type conjugates by adding prefixes and suffixes to a verb stem. Conjugating verbs will be discussed later. These examples are intended only to familiarize the reader with the four main verb types and illustrate the way the verbs contain information about the subject and object.

Inanimate Subject (No object) = VII

It red.  It is red.  

Mbúy máxkeew.     
Water, it red. The water is red.  

It is there. (It there)  

Yóolak wíineew.      
It is snowing way over there.   

Animate Subject (No object) = VAI

He/she is sleeping. literally 'He sleeps'  

He red. He is red.  

Pámbiil máxksuw.     
The book, he red. The book is red.  

He is there  ('he' means s.t. or s.o. animate)  

Iiyaach apúw?           
Stlll he is there? (Is he still there?)  

Inanimate Object (animate subject) = VTI

He sees it.   

Áaha wunéemun miichŭwáakan.   
Yes he sees it, the food.  
(miichŭwáakan is an inanimate noun)  

Animate Object (animate subject) = VTA

He sees him.   

Láapii wŭneewáawal na lúnuwal.       
Again, he saw him, that man. He saw that man again.  

Verbs may stand alone without nouns as in the above examples because the subject and object as the case may be are included in the verb.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns were discussed for use with noun possession. They may be used with verbs, in which case they are technically redundant in most cases, but they can give a certain rhythm to the phrase and may give extra emphasis and in some cases provide clarity to the subject of a verb.

Personal Pronouns

Grammatical term Pronoun Uses
1st person singular (1st sg or 1s) nii me,I
2nd person singular (2nd sg or 2s) kii you, thee
3rd person singular (3rd sg or 3s) néeka him,her ; he,she
1st person plural (1st pl or 1p) niilóona us,we (exclusive)
1+2 person plural (1+2 pl or 12p) kiilóona us,we (inclusive)
2nd person plural (2nd pl or 2p) kiilóowa you, ye
3rd person plural (3rd pl or 3p)
neekáawa them,they
Indefinite subject (or X) X someone, something, some group

As each verb type is explained, it will be helpful to know this list of pronouns and their abbreviations. Verb conjugation charts always follow this basic order. Details of how to conjugate verbs in all verb classes will be the object of the next several chapters.

The 2 versions of “we” …

Yoon ndapíhna.    
We are here.  
Us, the ones talking to you (excluding the listener) ... are here.  

Yoon ktapíhna.    
We are here.  
All of us including you (including the listener) ... are here.  


Preverbs (PVs) function much the same way as prenouns. Preverbs are precede the verb and the ‘preverb-verb compound stem’ functions like one newly created big word. Prefixes, if any, are added to the beginning of the preverb part of the compound word and endings are added onto the very end of it.


Preverbs are listed in the dictionary in a neutral, non-inflected form. Personal prefixes may trigger beginning pattern phonology rules affecting the preverb instead of the initial verb root. In some cases this changes things around quite a bit. For this reason I will often provide examples of verb forms with and without preverbs.

Example (1)

He sees him.  


He can't see him.   

aalu- pv  unable to      


Note how the (wu) prefix attaches to the pv and not to the verb stem
The beginning pattern for the pv aalu– (wu + aa = wtaa) applies

Example (2)

He sees it.  


He wants to see it     

kata- pv want, intend to   

(wu + k = kw)  beginning pattern  

Extra words, including other pv’s, may be inserted between the pv and the verb, forming an expanded preverb-verb compound stem.

prefix-(preverb)-(extra words)-(verb)-suffix  


Is it going to snow?  

Ootéeneeng ndáalu-maw-míitsi.          
I am not able to go eat in town.  

maw pv go to (do something)  

He wants to see him early.  

aapŭwu-  aapwi- pv early, easily  

Go to the verb intro practicum

Back to top