Link to enlarge K6042 (Las Bocas - Ceramic Vessel) THE FOUNDATION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language
by David & Alejandra Bolles


Transitive Verbs

77.  The transitive verb endings appended to the verb root to form the transitive verbs are:

-ic general form
-ah second form
-ma / -mah third form
-e, or no ending fourth form

Notice that for the fourth form there are two alternatives. Judging from what we have noticed in formal speech and also the way this form is generally written in the colonial texts the true form of the fourth form is -e. However even in the colonial texts there are examples of this suffix being contracted out, indicating that the custom of omitting the fourth form suffix has long been in effect. In the sample verbs that follow only one, hay (to stretch out), is shown in the fourth form with the suffix -e, whereas the other verbs are shown with no suffix. That is because in our judgement things have gotten to the state today with the fourth form that the standard way of using this form is without the suffix -e. The verb hay retains the suffix most probably because of the consonant -l- which forces the retention of the -e or the -l- would also be lost.

The fourth form suffix -e is not to be confused with the third person singular accusative case pronoun -e which can also appended onto the verb. Generally when the suffix -e is a pronoun it is clear that it is the pronoun because the verbal suffix comes in between it and the verb root. For example with the general form for the verb bet (to do, to make) the addition of the pronoun "-e" would produce betice or more commonly betce in which the -i- is contracted out. However when the -e is used with the fourth form it is not exactly clear what the -e is without looking at the context in which the verb appears. If the verb is followed by a direct object then the -e is the fourth form suffix, but if there is no apparent direct object, then -e is itself the object.

The third form: -mah is also written -ma in the colonial dictionaries and grammars written by the Spanish friars and in the colonial literature written by the Maya themselves, but more frequently written -mah in modern literature.

The fourth form in colonial usage: -Vb is a transitive verb form suffix given in the colonial dictionaries and texts which was used with verb roots which do not take an intervening consonant or particle. However, for those verbs which had and have the consonants -t- and -z- or the particles -ez-, -bez-, -cint-, -cunt-, etc., their fourth forms used the suffix -Ce (ie. -te, -ze, -beze, -cinte, -cunte, etc.) as they still do presently, or alternatively, in the case of the particles, used no suffix (ie. -ez, -bez, -cun, -cint, -cunt, etc.). The first and second examples below are parallel in grammatical construction and show the use of -Vb and -te. The third and fourth examples are also parallel examples of the use of the fourth forms, but example the third example is unusual in that it uses both -Vb and -te in the verbal suffix. In the fifth, sixth, and seventh examples both fourth form transitive suffixes can be seen being used as transitive infinitives in parallel sentences. The last example is an example of the fourth form transitive with the suffix -cunt.

Bin u tuzub homol tza, hoc muc tza.
Bin u mucchekte u halach uinicil cah.
Ca emi u chekebte u pach Itzam Cab Ain.
Ca tali u chekeb u pach Chac Xib Chac te Chi Cħeen.
Uatal in caah in chucub hunac ah chibal.
Uatal in caah in colpayte u kan.
Uatal in caah in paab bla u kax can, ix hun pedz kin can.
Ocol tun bacin in caah in zizcunt a uol.

Thus for example in the colonial literature the verb root mek (to embrace) would be given as follows:

mekic, mekah, mekmah, mekeb

It is not clear when the suffix -Vb became obsolete, but in our experience it is no longer used today.


Model Transitive Verbs

78. Given below are the four forms of model verbs:

Mek is the verb root for "embrace". The transitive forms are:

mekic, mekah, mekmah, mek

Naac is the verb root for indicating upward motion. In the transitive conjugation naac appears with the causative marker particle -z- placed between it and the verbal endings. The meaning of the verb is "lift".

naaczic, naaczah, naaczmah, naacz

Han is the verb root for "eat". In the transitive conjugation han appears with the particle -t- placed between it and the verbal endings.

hantic, hantah, hantmah, hant

Hay is the verb root for "stretched out". In the transitive conjugation hay appears with the particle -l- placed between it and the verbal endings.

haylic, haylah, haylmah, hayle


79.  Transitive conjugation time sequence. Note that the transitive verb must express an object. The model verb used here is bet (to make) (betic, betah, betmah, bet), and u col (his garden) is used as the object for the purpose of example.

Tu betah u col uch caachi.

"He made his garden long ago." Past perfect modified by uch caachi (long ago).

Cu betic u col uch caachi.

"He used to make his garden long ago." Past habitual modified by uch caachi.

U betmah u col uch caachi.

"He made and used his garden long ago." Past action - continuing purpose modified by uch caachi. This tense is explained in its unmodified state.

Uch u bet u col.

"He made his garden long ago and is using it still." Very past action - continuing purpose. Similar to the past action - continuing purpose tense except that the action took place further in the past.

Tu betah u col caachi.

Past perfect modified by caachi (a while ago).

Cu betic u col caachi.

Past habitual modified by caachi (a while ago).

U betmah u col caachi.

Past action - continuing purpose modified by caachi.

Tu betah u col.

"He made his garden." Past perfect.

U betmah u col.

"He made his garden and is using it." Past action - continuing purpose. The sense of this tense is that the actual action is completed, but the purpose for which the action was performed continues. In this case, the garden was made and continues to be used.

Dzoc (a specified time) u bet u col.

"He made his garden a specified time ago." Specified past perfect. Example: Dzoc humppel haab u bet u col. (He made his garden one year ago.)

Dzoc u betic u col.

"He just made his garden." Immediate past perfect. Dzoc has the sense of "just", but doubles as the verb root for "to finish".

Cu betic u col.

"He makes his garden." Habitual action. This tense is often modified by some expression which states when the action takes place. Example: Zanzamal cu betic u col. (Daily he makes his garden.)

Zuc u betic u col.

"He is accustomed to making his garden." Accustomed habitual tense.

Tan u betic u col.

"He is making his garden." Immediate present.

Bet in col!

"Make my garden!" Imperative. The plural is Beteex in col!

Bete! / Beteex!

Often when this tense is used as a response then the pronominal suffix -e takes the place of the direct object in the singular, but is not present in the plural.

Nu caah u bet u col.

"He is just going to make his garden." Immediate future. The sense of this tense is that the action is going to begin at this moment.

Tac u betic u col.

"He wants to make his garden." Desired future. The desired action should happen fairly immediately.

Yan u betic u col.

"He has to make his garden." Obligated future. This tense implies that the action will necessarily be done in the near future.

Kabet u betic u col.

"He needs to make his garden." Necessitated future.

He u betic u col…

"He will make his garden (if)" Conditional future. This tense is usually followed by a clause which gives the conditions under which the action will occur.

Ca u bet u col.

"… that he should make his garden." Suggested future (called Subjunctive). The sense of this tense is that the action expressed should be carried out. Example: Dzoc in ualic ti ca u bet u col. (I just told him that he should make his garden.)

Bin u bet u col.
Cun u bet u col.
Cun u betic u col.

"He will make his garden." Definite future. The second and third alternatives are used only after adverbial particles. Notice that for the second and third alternatives either the general form or the fourth form of the verb may be used. The fourth form is preferred.

The pronominal changes for these tenses are regular and are to be found in Sections 32 and 37.


80.  The imperative is, as in English, defective, being used only in the second person singular and plural. However, from examples in the colonial literature it seems that the transitive imperative is in fact derived from the transitive suggested future tense, and that the introductory words Ca a ... (That you) have been dropped in the modern imperative.

Ca a talez ten in uah.
Talez ten in uah.

"Bring me my tortillas." Colonial usage. There are examples of the imperative with and without Ca a

Taz ten in uah.

"Bring me my tortillas." Modern usage.


"Bring it!" Used when the object to be brought is already known.


81.  Negation: the negation of the foregoing tenses is generally accomplished by preceding the tense by ma (not).

Ma tan u betic u col.

"He is not making his garden."

Exceptions are the following:

Ma tu betic u col.

Negated habitual tense. The time indicator consonant is changed from c- to t-. Note that the negation of the contraction of the immediate present is the same.

Ma tun u bet u col.

Negated definite future. Tun is the contraction of tu bin which can also be used.

For the negation of the habitual action and immediate present tenses however some verbs are irregular. For the habitual action tense instead of changing the time indicator from c- to t- the time indicator is eliminated. For the immediate present the auxiliary verb tense indicator tan is replaced by ma. The quality of the negation is imperative.

Ma a cimzcen. "Don't kill me."
Ma a dzaic dzac ti. "Don't give him medicine."


82.  Interrogatives: interrogative phrases using the foregoing conjugation generally use the tenses as they are.

Tuux tu betah u col? "Where did he make his garden?"


Tuux cun u bet u col?
Tuux cun u betic u col?

"Where is he going to make his garden?" Interrogative definite future. The bin is replaced by cun which is a contraction of cu bin, which can also be used.


A Note about the Listing of Transitive Verbs in Colonial Dictionaries and Grammars

In the colonial dictionaries and grammars transitive verbs are normally listed using the following format:

alin.tah,te to give birth
an.tah,te to help
bak.ah,ab to tie up
cħa nuc.tah,te to take into consideration
mançah .l. maneçah to pass something along
mek.ah,eb to embrace

However, it is clear from examples of usage given in these colonial works that the four transitive forms of these verbs are as follows:

alintic, alintah, alintmah, alinte
antic, antah, antmah, ante
bakic, bakah, bakmah, bakab
cħa nuctic, cħa nuctah, cħa nuctmah, cħa nucte
manzic, manzah / manezah, manzmah, manez
mekic, mekah, mekmah, mekeb

For some undetermined reason transitive verbs are listed in the colonial works using the second form, and depending on the verb type, the fourth form, whereas the intransitive and passive verbs are listed using the general form. In fact, the grammars of Coronel (1620) and San Buenaventura (1684) ignore the general form of the transitive verb in their exposition on verbs, but oddly enough give plenty of examples of usage of the general form when working with other parts of speech. The grammar of Beltran (1746) rectifies this deficiency, but in his list of verbs he still gives the transitive verbs with their second and fourth forms, while listing the intransitive verbs with their general, second, and fourth forms.

To add to the confusion, from time to time a transitive verb will be listed in the colonial dictionaries and grammars using the third form -ma / -mah, such as almah / halmah (to say). However, the four forms of this verb still follow the general format:

alic, alah, almah, alab / ale

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