This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

Lesson 15: Wrapping up pronouns and tenses

In the last ten lessons you have learned the present, past, and future tenses and three sets of pronouns.  This section reviews this material.  (‘E’ stands for ‘Eastern dialect’ when there is a different form in this dialect.)

All the pronouns

  Subject Object Emphatic
Me i ña
You (singular) kwō orko eok kwe
Him/Her/It e e ori e
Us(inclusive) je kōj kōj
Us(exclusive) kōm kōm   (E: kōmmem) kōm   (E: kōmmem)
You(plural) koṃ koṃ   (E: kōmi) koṃ   (E: kōmi)
Them re or er       (non-human: i) er

When to use each set of pronouns

Subject – Before an adjective (or one of a few special verbs) in the present tense – Before the marker for present, past, or future tense
Object – After a verb (as in ‘Alfred likes me’)
Emphatic – Outside of a sentence – After anything other than a verb (like ‘to,’ ‘from,’ ‘and,’ ‘what about’) – Directly before a subject pronoun (to add a little emphasis) – Directly before a noun (to make a sentence like ‘I am a teacher’)

All the tenses (positive forms)

  Present Past Past (alternate form) Future
Me ij iaar ikar inaaj
You (sing.) kwōj kwaar kwōkar kwōnaaj
Him/Her/It ej eaar ekar enaaj
Us(incl.) jej jaar jekar jenaaj
Us(excl.) kōmij kōmar kōmikar kōminaaj
You(plural) koṃij koṃar koṃikar koṃinaaj
Them rej raar rekar rōnaaj

All the tenses (negative forms)

  Present Past Past (alternate form) Future
Me ij jab iaar jab ikar jab iban
You (sing.) kwōj jab kwaar jab kwōkar jab koban
Him/Her/It ej jab eaar jab ekar jab eban
Us(incl.) jej jab jaar jab jekar jab jeban
Us(excl.) kōmij jab kōmar jab kōmikar jab kōm ban
You(plural) koṃij jab koṃar jab koṃikar jab koṃ ban
Them rej raar jab rekar jab rōban

Also remember:

1. Before an adjective (or the verbs ‘jeḷā,’ ‘jaje,’ ‘ñak,’ ‘meḷeḷe,’ ‘maroñ’ and a few others) in the present tense, you use a subject pronoun by itself. (‘Ikwōle,’ not ‘Ij kwōle’; ‘Ejeḷā’ not ‘Ej jeḷā’)

2. If you are talking about where someone or something is located, add ‘pād’ (‘to be located’).  (‘Ij pād ilo Majuro,’ not ‘Ij ilo Majuro’)

3. When the emphatic pronoun is different from the subject pronoun, you can put the emphatic pronoun right before the subject pronoun.  (‘Ña ij iukkure’ is the same as ‘Ij iukkure’)

Congratulations!  Now you can say anything in the past, present and future.


lọjet ocean (in a general sense, including both the lagoon and the open ocean)
jouj nice, friendly
kōnke because
kajjitōk ask, question Ex. Kajjitōk ippān Alfred = Ask Alfred
kilaj class, grade (as in ‘first grade,’ ‘second grade,’ not as in ‘A/B/C/D/F’)
kilaj juon/kilaj ruo /kilaj jilu/etc. first grade/second grade/third grade/etc.
ḷōmṇak think (in both the sense of ‘think about something’ and ‘be of the opinion’) Ex. Ij ḷōmṇak = I am thinking Ex. Ij ḷōmṇak inaaj etal = I think I will go
ḷōmṇak in plan to Ex. Ij ḷōmṇak in eọñōd rainin = I am planning to go fishing today
metak to hurt (as in ‘my leg hurts,’ not as in ‘don’t hurt me’) Ex. Emetak = It hurts
ṃanit custom, culture, tradition, manner

Practical Marshallese

Published by Marco Mora-Huizar

I am a Spanish and Marshallese translator. Iaar katak Kajin Majol ilo Enid, Oklahoma.

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