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Verb Phrases

Verbs can be modified by phrases.  Verb phrases describe the action of the verb in more detail, including what the verb is affecting and where the action is taking place.

This lesson describes verb phrases, the direct object, and two classes of preposition commonly used with verbs: conjunctions and the special Wi (wih, "verb-with") preposition.

More detail on using objects with verbs can be found in the (advanced) Verb Forms lesson.

Direct Object

The subject of a sentence is the noun that "performs" a verb.  The direct object of the verb is the noun that gets acted upon by the subject.  In Primal, a verb phrase starting with su (suh, "containing") introduces the direct object.  For example:

  • I feel animalistic: Wy sw su kaN. (wee sooh s'kang, "me feel-emotion containing animal.")

Here, the direct object is kaN (kang, "animal").

Don't forget to use su (suh, "containing") to introduce the direct object!  This is the most common error made by new Primal speakers.  It is never acceptable grammar to omit a preposition, unless the preposition is an implied word as described in the (advanced) Prepositions II lesson.

The preposition suj (suhch, "member-of") is used with verbs to create passive voice, where the meaning of the subject and object are reversed.  This topic is described in the (advanced) Verb Forms lesson.

All verbs in Primal are transitive, meaning all verbs can take a meaningful direct object.  If no direct object is used, one may be assumed from context.

A verb may have more than one direct object.  For example:

  • I like butterflies and clouds: Wy qON su nuDev su nuWUs. (wee thallng s'n'dzehv s'n'wuls, "me enjoy containing indefinite butterfly containing indefinite cloud.")

A verb's direct object will be listed in a dictionary listing if it is unclear by English comparison.  For example, there are two general types of motion verbs in Primal; one that means "to move an object" such as "move the dresser", and another that means "to move oneself in a manner similar to" such as "move like a panther".  The location moved to requires a different preposition, as described in the next section.

Expressing Aim

The preposition pw (pooh, "to-target") means "toward".  It is used to express a target for an action.  (This is often an analogue to the "indirect object" in English.)

Some English verbs may treat the target of a directed action or motion as the direct object, but in Primal this object always appears in a pw (pooh, "to-target") phrase.  For example, the English word "shoot" often takes a target as its direct object.  In Primal, "shoot" always takes the projectile being shot as its direct object.  To specify the target, you must use pw (pooh, "to-target") instead:

  • I shoot a bullet (object): Wy kak su Quxrq. (wee kak s'dth'shurth, "I shoot containing a bullet.")
  • I shoot you (target): Wy kak pw Yw. (wee kak pooh yooh, "I shoot to-target you.")

Even though pw (pooh, "to-target") specifies the "target", the use of this preposition after a motion verb implies that the target was met successfully.  So, the above translation of "I shoot you" implies that the person was actually shot.  Be careful not to use pw (pooh, "to-target") as if it were English "at", which implies "attempt".  Use the verb suffix RU (rul, "attempting") if you need to indicate an attempt.

Warning! The word "to" in English has many functions.  Primal's pw (pooh, "to-target") is only used to indicate intent, aim, or motion toward a target or destination.  If you mean "in order to cause", use the compound preposition jwfw (chooh-fooh, "to-help-with therefore"), as described in the (advanced) Prepositions II lesson.  If you mean "to do something", this is a verb form called the "infinitive"; see the (advanced) Verb Forms lesson for more.  Don't use pw (pooh, "to-target") for these things!  Only use it to mean "toward".

Location and Motion

Verbs affect phrases that specify location.  Without a verb, the preposition specifies the initial location of the subject.  With a motion verb, the location is where the movement aims or approaches:

  • I, who am already above it, jump:  Wy xy Ww fim.  (wee shee wooh fihm, "me above it jump-over").
  • I jump above it:  Wy fim xy Ww.  (wee fihm shee wooh, "me jump-over above it").

Object Tense

Sometimes a verb is needed to express tense, when the sentence otherwise wouldn't require a verb.  The generic verb ,ly (lee, "do") is used for this purpose.  Phrases that modify the generic verb ,ly (lee, "do") act as if they modify the subject directly, except that tense and mood are included.  Consider how these examples differ:

  • This place is new (verb not needed): RuDr su jGf. (r'dzur s'chohlf, "this place containing newness.")
  • The new place was fun: RuDr su jGf puly su mr. (r'dzur s'chohlf p'lee s'mur, "this place containing newness past do containing pleasure.")
  • This place was new: RuDr puly su jGf. (r'dzur p'lee s'chohlf, "this place past do containing newness.")

In the first two examples, "new" is a constant quality of the place being described.  But in the last example, "new" modifies the generic verb, which uses past tense.  This places "new" in the past tense, too.  Phrases that modify a verb acquire the tense of that verb.


Conjunctive prepositions, also called conjunctions, introduce an additional subject to a sentence.  This is similar to the word "and" in English "The dog and the cat played."

If a conjunction phrase modifies a subject, the additional subject performs all the verbs in a sentence.  If a conjunction phrase modifies a verb, the additional subject only performs that verb:

  • You and I both talk and write: Yw mu Wy ,lr prk. (yooh m'wee lur purk, "you and me talk write.")
  • You and I talk, and you write: Yw ,lr mu Wy prk. (yooh lur m'wee purk, "you talk and me write.")

This is somewhat counterintuitive for English-speakers, because in English, conjunctions commonly join sentences.  It may seem unusual that the Primal pidgin of "you talk and me write" ties "me" to the preceding verb "talk", not to the following verb "write".  But "write" is only performed by the subject "you".  A more English-intuitive version occurs when two sentences are linked by a conjunction, as discussed in the (advanced) Special Phrases lesson.

It is considered poor grammar to modify the subject with a conjunction phrase if the sentence has fewer than two verbs.  This is a common mistake made by new Primal speakers.  If a sentence has no verbs, you must use the generic verb ,ly (lee, "do") to introduce a conjunction:

  • You and I (do): Yw ,ly mu Wy. (yooh lee m'wee, "you do and me.")

Conjunctions have special effects when using preposition prefixes, or when Yy (yee, "that") is used to form compound sentences.  These topics discussed in the (advanced) Special Phrases lesson.

There are ten conjunctions, repeated here for reference.  The definitions of the conjunctions express conditional relationships between the subject and object.  The shaded conjunctions are reflexive:

Preposition Pronounced Meaning Description
mu (muh) and The subject and object both perform the verb.
muj (muhch) neither-nor Neither the subject, nor the object, perform the verb.
hw (hooh) if-only The subject performs the verb if and only if the
object does.  Either both do, or neither does.
hwj (hoohch) exclusive-or Either the subject does, or the object does.  Exactly
one of them, and only one, must perform the verb.
Dw (dzooh) whether The subject does perform the verb, whether or not
the object performs the verb.
Dwj (dzoohch) whether-then Whether or not the subject performs the verb, the
object does perform the verb.
fi (fih) if The subject is bound to perform the verb if the
object does so.  Subject does, if object does.
fij (fihch) if-then If the subject performs the verb, the object is bound
to do so as well.  If subject does, then object does.
Yu (yuh) and-or The subject does and/or the object does.  At least
one must perform the verb, and possibly both.
Yuj (yuhch) not-both The subject and object cannot both perform the
verb.  At least one, or both, does not perform it.

The definitions should be clear from the description.  There is similarity between the meaning of prepositions fi (fih, "if") and fwj (foohch, "because-of"), as well as between fij (fihch, "if-then") and fw (fooh, "therefore").  Note that the causality of the base preposition fi (fih, "if") is the opposite direction from the base preposition fw (fooh, "therefore").

Most conjunctions imply something about the truth or falsehood of the subject and object.  This implication is only valid for whichever verb that the conjunction targets:

  • You create, and neither you nor I reveal,": Yw Xw Ncx muj Wy. (yooh zhooh nguosh muhch wee, "you create reveal neither-nor me.")

This means the subject "you" performs the verb "create", but neither "you" nor "me" perform the verb "reveal".

Verb Modification

Although many phrases may appear in the predicate of a sentence, most do not directly modify the meaning of the verb.  To modify the meaning of a verb, use the preposition Wi (wih, "verb-with").  This preposition has no converse, although Wij (wihch, "camouflage-verb") is (coincidentally) a real word.

The object of a Wi (wih, "verb-with") phrase directly describes characteristics of the verb's action.  Consider the example:

  • You move quickly: Yw WP Wi xwxTy. (yooh wair wih shoosh-tsee, "you move-like verb-with speed great.")

Since Wi (wih, "verb-with") can only modify a verb, it may never take a preposition prefix.  It may be modified by other phrases, however.

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