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Classical Nahuatl. Transitive Verbs. TRANSITIVE VERBS. Present Tense of Transitive Verbs. Up to now we have seen two types of Predicates: nominal predicates and intransitive predicates.

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Classical Nahuatl

Transitive Verbs



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Present Tense of Transitive Verbs

  • Up to now we have seen two types of Predicates: nominal predicates and intransitive predicates.

  • Each of these predicates have in common the fact that they both possess a subject and do not have a complement.

  • Transitive verbs, which we will analyze now, are verbs which have both a subject and an object.


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In Nahuatl, the direct object is marked by an object prefix which is situated in the word directly following the subject prefix.

For Example for the verb “itta” “to see”:

Nimitziita {I see you}

mitziita {he, she, it sees you}

Niquiita {I see him, her, it}

Quiita {He, she, it sees him, her, it}

Tinechiita {You see me}

Namechitta {I see you all}

Tiquitta {You see him, her, it}

Niquimitta {I see them}

Nechiita {He, she, or it sees me}

Titechiita {You see us}


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As you see in the previous verb, the object prefixes are: which is situated in the word directly following the subject prefix.


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These prefixes are the same for all verbs in all times. which is situated in the word directly following the subject prefix.

Before the vowel a of –amech- we evidently have the form of the subject prefix without the “I” (namechiita “I see you all”) or (tamechittah “We see them”)

Unlike what happens with the subject, a plural object does not need a plural suffix.

Verbs in Nahuatl agree in number with the subject, not the object


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Quiita which is situated in the word directly following the subject prefix.{He, she it, sees him, her, it.}

Quimitta{He, she, it sees them}

Quiitah{They see him, her, it}

Quimittah{They see them}

NOTE: The reflexive forms of verbs utilize special prefixes…So you would never have

Ninechitta {I see myself}


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The 3 which is situated in the word directly following the subject prefix.rd person –qu- is only one of the possible 3rd person particles for object pronouns.

Before a vowel or consonant that is not “e” or “i”, it is written as “c”. Example (verb ana {to trap, make a prisoner”})

Nimitzana{I trap you/ I take you prisoner}

Nicana{I trapped him, her it, I took him,

her, it a prisoner}

Nimitztlazotla{I love you}

Nictlazotla{I love him, her, it}


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Just like the n-, y, t the object prefix –qu- also often uses a helping vowel. There are two cases when this happens:

1). When the verb root begins with a consonant and the subject is in the 2rd person.

Example: cana {he traps, takes a prisoner}

Quitlazotla {he, she, it loves} (*ctlazotla is impossible).


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2). The verb root begins with a consonant and the subject is in the 2nd person plural which takes the form “an-”…This helps to avoid three internal consonants.

Ancanah{You all trap him, her, it}

Anquitlazotla{You all love him, her, it}

NOTE: That anctlazotla is impossible


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Indefinite Prefixes in the 2

  • Sometimes the speaker may want to use a transitive verb, but not specify a specific subject.

  • This is done in Nahuatl by using prefixes that generally mean “someone” or “something.”

  • Nitetlazotla {I love someone, some people}

  • Nitlacua{I eat something}


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-te- in the 2Is the indefinite prefix used for

people meaning “someone”

-tla-is the indefinite prefix used for

non-humans (things or indefinite animals)

These prefixes say nothing about number or plurality. They are translated depending on the specific case


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Examples in the 2

  • Ni-te-ana

    Niteana{I take a prisoner}

    or {I take prisoners}

  • Ni-tla-caqui

    Nitlacaqui{I hear something(s)}

  • Ni-te-itta

    Niteitta{I see people}


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Exceptions in the 2

  • When using the –tla- particle, when the root of the Nahuatl verb begins with “i” and is followed by 2 consonants, the “i” disappears.

  • Ni-mitz-itta{I see you}

  • Ni-tla-tta{I see something(s)}

  • Ni-qu-itoa{I say it}

  • Ni-tla-toa{I say something(s)}

  • Ni-qu-icuiloa{I paint it, I write it}

  • Ni-tla-cuiloa{I paint/write something(s)}


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The same is not true for the –te- indefinite particle in the 2

  • Ni-te-itta{I see someone/people}

  • Ni-te-itoa{I speak to someone}


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Word order in transitive sentences in Nahuatl in the 2

  • 1). When the subject is expressed by a name and not only a simple pronoun particle, we usually have the order V-S (verb-Subject) or S-V (Subject-Verb).

  • The first manner (V-S) is the neutral form, and the second S-V is used to emphasize or mark the subject.


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If we have both a subject and an object, then the most common word order in Nahuatl would be V-S-O (Verb-Subject-Object)

Quitta in cihuatl in calli

{The woman sees the house}

Literally {She sees it, the woman, the house}


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Emphasizing the object is possible in nahuatl, but not common:

In calli quitta in cihuatl

{the house, she sees it, the woman}

It is also possible to see the order S-O-V

In cihuatl in calli quitta

{The woman, the house, she sees it}

The word order of Object-Subject-Verbs is not used in Nahuatl

NEVER: in calli, in cihuatl quitta

{The house, the woman, she sees it}


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Examples common:

  • Quicua nacatl in cihuatl

  • {the woman eats meat}

  • Quichihua calli in Pedro

  • (Chihua-to make, build, construct)

  • {Pedro constructs houses}


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  • Niquitta in pilli common:{I see the child}

  • Here in pilli is the object, because there is a first person subject and a third person object. The same with:

  • Nechitta in pilli{The child sees me}

  • But if both the subject and the object are in the third person:


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  • Quitlazotla in pilla common:

  • This can mean either:

  • {He, she it loves the child} or

  • {The child is loved by he, she it}


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Quitlazotlah in pilli common:{They love the child}

Quintlazotla in pilli {The child loves them}

Quitlazotlah in pipiltin {They love the children}

But there is ambiguity about the meaning of the following:

Quintlazotlah in pipiltin

It could mean

{They love the children} or {The children loves them}

You can avoid this ambiguity by using the O-V-S word order


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