Grammar Reference Essentials

Basic Grammar Notes

So many students have spoken to me of having had virtually no formal training in grammar that I decided to include these fundamentals of grammar here on our site, which should supplement the other references I have listed on the various hotlinks menus. This is by far neither exhaustive nor the answer to all questions, but it should be handy and always within reach (cybernetically speaking).


There are seven vowels: (one symbol, one sound)
        e               long a sound, as in bait
        i               short i sound as in bit
        ii              short e sound as in bet (held longer)
        a               as in about
        aa              as in father (held longer)
        o               as in book
        oo              as in boot (held longer)
Three are short:

Four are long:

  b		big             bakade	are you hungry?
  ch		tch, stitch     michaa	it is big (mi-tchaa)
  j		ch			jiimaan	canoe, boat cheeman/geemaan)
		j			maajaa 	he leaves (maachaa)
lenis b	b - bin
		p - pin
fortis p				bimibatoo/pimibatoo (he runs)
fortis g	get             never as gee or j sound
     k(kk)	pick			double k sound:  makizin, pikka
					never in initial position
	m	man			miinan
	n	name			naanan
	p	rip			opin (can hear a double pin) both)


Number Singular 1st person speaker (I) 2nd person you (person talking to) 3rd person he/she her/him Plural 1st person inclusive we/exclusive we 2nd person you all 3rd person they / them Gender animate (+) inanimate (-) independent pronouns - chart of prefixes 1st person pronouns singular (I/me) PAST TENSE gii- PRESENT TENSE use when word begins with ni w, z, n, m nin d, g, j, z nim b nind any vowel niin emphatic (me!) FUTURE TENSE wii- indefinite ga- definite 2nd person singular- you PRESENT TENSE use when word begins with gi any consonant gid any vowel PAST TENSE gigii- FUTURE TENSE gii- indefinite ga- definite 3rd person singular - s/he PAST TENSE gii- PRESENT TENSE * all words already in 3rd person FUTURE TENSE wii- indefinite da- definite 1st person plural - we PAST TENSE ningii-____min exclusive gigii-_____min inclusive PRESENT TENSE ni nin nind nim_____min exclusive gi______min inclusive FUTURE TENSE (min always includes you) niwii-_____min indefinite ninga-_____min definite 2nd person plural - you all PAST TENSE gigii-_____in PRESENT TENSE gi___ gid_____ m if ends in am, lengthen vowel to aam if ends in n, use o as sound connector om FUTURE TENSE (m - everyone but you) giwii-_____m indefinite giga-_____m definite 3rd person plural - they PAST TENSE gii-_____wag PRESENT TENSE _____wag no marker if ends in m or n, use oog FUTURE TENSE (wag = they) wii-_____wag indefinite da-_____wag definite RULE. When a VAI (verb, animate, intransitive) ends with a short vowel [i,o], they will be dropped for 1st and 2nd person only; not 3rd person. examples: wiisini 3rd person s/he eats giwiisin 2nd person you're eating niwiisin 1st person I'm eating gawishimo 3rd person s/he rests/goes to bed gigawishim 2nd person you're going to rest ningawishim 1st person I'm going to rest RULE. When a VAI begins with a short vowel [o], you must lengthen it with another o =[oo] for 1st and 2nd person ojaanimizi (stem) 3rd. (they are busy) nindoojaanimiz 2nd. (I am busy right now) gidoojaanimiz 1st. (you are busy) RULE. gii = past tense; wii = future tense; (tenses are always hyphenated) g > k, d > t, z > s, b > p, j > ch, zh > sh example. ningii-paap I laughed (baapi) nimbaap I laugh ninga-paap I will (def) laugh

1st person We - (plural)
2nd person you all
3rd person they

gigii-___ in


nind ____ min

gi _____ min

  gid ____m

if ends in am, 
lengthen vowel to  aam
if ends in n use o as sound connector om

(no marker)
** _____wag

if ends in m or n
use  oog

niwii-____ min
(not definite)

ninga-____ min

 *min always                    includes you



m  when everyone but you



  wag = they

1st person I, me
2nd person you
3rd person he/she
Simple Past



starts with:
ni: w, n, m,z
nin: d, g, j
nim: b
nind: any vowel

starts with:
gi:  any consonant

gid: any vowel

*all words already in 3rd person

Future indefinite definite






A form - independent
B form - dependent
 Vowel ending


I, me
ni, nin, nind___ 

___ yaan, waan


you (singular)
gi, gid___

  ___yan, wan


he, she


we (exclusive)
ni, nin,nind___- 

(ends in m):



we (inclusive) (ends in m)
gi, gid____min




you all (plural)
gi, gid____m

   ___yeg, weg


they, them




  aaniin         by itself is a form of greeting (caring/loving)
                 otherwise used to mean:  what, how?

  aandi          where?

    ina          forms a question (suffix)

Questions & Answers

Q. aaniin ezhinikaazowin		what are you called?
A. nigig nindizhinikaaz		I am called otter.

Q. aaniin ezhinikaazod		what is s/he called?
A. <name> izhinikaazo			s/he is called <name>.

Q. aaniin ezhinikaazowaad		what are they called (plural)
A. ___ gaye ___ gaye ___ 		must name each one
        izhinikaazowag		gaye = and

Q. aandi wenjibaayan			where are you from? stem = (onjibaa)
        aang				locative / place name
A. Illinois nindoonjibaa		I am from Illinois
A. nagaajiwanaang nindoonjibaa	I am from the Fond du Lac Rez
    aang = from;    
    nagaajiwan = where the strong river current stops

Q. aandi wenjibaad			where is s/he from?
A. nagaajiwanaang onjibaa		she is from the FDL rez
Q. aandi wenjibaawaad			where are they from?
A. waawaashkeshi onjibaawag	they are from Deer River

Q. aaniin ezhi-ayaayan		how are you physically? (doing)
A. nimino-ayaa sa go			I am fine/well/healthy
A. nimaazhi'ayaa				I am not so well

Q. aaniin ezhi-ayaawaad		how are they doing?
A. mino-ayaawag				they're doing well

Q. aaniin enamanjiw'in		how are you in your heart? (feeling)
A. nimino-manjiw' (sa go)		I'm feeling just super/good/well
A. nimaanimanjiw' sa go		feeling badly, not good

Q. aaniin enamanjiw'wadd		how are they feeling (spiritually)
A. aakoziwag				they're sick, not well
A. bakadewag			they're hungry (since hunger is feeling, 							not something they do)

Q. gigikendaan ina			Do you know it? (something abstract)                                                    
A. gaawiin ningikendanziin		No, I don't know it
A. enya ningikendaan			Yes, I know it

Q. gigikenima na				Do you know (animate)

Q. ginisidotaan ina			Do you understand it/this? 
A. enya' ninisidotaan			Yes
A. gaawiin ninisidotanziin		No

Q. ginisidotam ina			do you understand what she's saying
A. enya' ninisidotam			Yes ...
A. gaawiin ninisidotanziin		No ...

Q. giminjimendaan ina			do you remember it? (inanimate)
A. enya' niminjimendaan		yes, I remember
A. gaawiin niminjimendanziin	no, I don't remember (it)

Q. giminjimenimaa na			do you remember her/him (animate)
A. enya' niminjimenimaa		yes, I remember ...
A. gaawiin niminjimenimaasii	no, I don't remember her/him

minjimendan!				tell to remember
gagwejim <____>				ask if remember
niminjimendaan  (-)			I remember (it) - inanimate (-)
nimijimenimaa   (+)			I remember him/her - animate (+)

Q. aandi ezhaayan			Where are you going?
A. <place> nindizhaa			... is where I am going.

Q. aaniin enakamigak			what's happening?
    <ikwe - female>			man-made events (powwow/school/
    <inini - man>			work/workshops, etc)
A. niini'idim				powwow; celebration
A. gikinoo'amaadim sago		school (sago = emphatic response)
A. gaawiin gegoo				nothing

Q. aaniin ezhiwebak		what's happening - natural events
gisinaa				it is very cold
daki'ayaa				cool
gimiwan				rain

zoogipon				snow
dakaanimad				chilly wind
aabwaamagad			warm

niiskaadad				be bad weather
awanibiisaa			misty rain  (biisaa = small pieces)
awan					fog

ishpaagonagaa			deep snow
gizhite				very hot
gizhaate				hot (sun, light)  there is some kind of light
						making this hot (not fire or heater)
zaagaate				bright (sun)
zaagaasige-giizis		the sun is shining very brightly
gizhaasige-giizis		hot light of the sun (giizis = sun)

giwiisin ina			are you eating?
giminikwe na			drinking?
gimino-ayaa na			well?

gidaakoz ina			sick?
gibaap ina				laughing?
gimaw ina				crying?

gibakade na			hungry?
gidoojaanimiz ina		busy?
gidaa na				dwelling (here)?

gigiigid ina			speaking?
ginoondam ina			hearing?
gigii-noondam ina		did you hear? (gii = past tense)

gidanyaa na			being
ginamadab ina			sitting
giniibaw ina			standing

gibimos ina			walking
gidanokii na			working
gidanweshin ina			resting

gibiindig ina			coming in
gizaaga'am ina			going out
gimaajaa na			leaving

gibi-izhaa na			coming
gidizhaa na			going (somewhere)
gidagoshin ina			arriving

gigawishim ina			going to bed
gidonishkaa na			getting up

gaawiin = no
gaawiin niwiisinisii      I'm not eating (ni=1st person; wiisini = verb,
                                  sii = negation, not)
gaawiin niminikwesii            I'm not drinking
gaawiin nimino-ayaasii          I'm not well
gaawiin nindaakozisii           I'm not sick

Q. aaniin ezhichigeyan         	what are you (singular) doing?
                        noongam 		today/present
nindoozhibii'ige                	I am writing
gaawiin gegoo                   	I am doing nothing
nimiwikwe                       	I am drinking
niwiisin                        	I am eating, present tense
giwiisin                        	you are eating, 2nd person, present 									tense
wiisini					she is eating, 3rd person, present 									tense

Q. aaniin ezhichigeyeg     	what are you all doing?
A. niwiisinimin (answer in exclusive)
Q. aaniin waa-izhichigeyan     	what are you going to do?(future tense)
Q. aaniin waa-izhichigeyan waabang	What are you going to do tomorrow?
	waa = future tense used with question
A. niwii-___VAI__
   niwii-wiisin waabang miinawaa		I am going to eat again tomorrow
   niwii-minikwe miinawaa        	I'm intending to drink repeatedly
   ninga-minikwe waabang             	I will definitely drink tomorrow

Q. aaniin gaa-izhichigeyan            What did you do?
                bijaanaago            	yesterday
A. ningii-___VAI __                 	I did ___ (past tense)
Q. aaniin ezhichigewaad         		what are they doing?
A. answers:
   anokiiwag                    	they're working
   bi-izhaawag, biizhaawag      	they're coming this way
   wiisiniwag                   	they're eating

Q. aaniin ezhigiizhigak noongam    	what is today? (present tense)
A. ishkwaa-anami'e giizhigad        	Monday

Q. aaniin ge-izhi-giizhigak waabang  	What day will it be tomorrow?
   	ge is future tense marker
A. da-niizho-giizhigad          		It will be Tuesday
   da = future tense
Q. aaniin ge-izhi-giizhigak awas-waabang
                               	What will the day after tomorrow be?
A. da-aabitoose                	Wednesday
Q. aaniin ge-izhi-giizhigak gichi-awas-wabang
						Three days from now?
A. da-niiyo-giizhigad gichi-awas-waabang
						It will be Thursday 3 days from now
Q. aaniin gaa-izhi-giizhigak bijiinaago	yesterday?
A. gii-anami'e-giizhigad bijiinaago     	yesterday was Sunday
	gii = past tense
Q. aaniin gaa-izhi-giizhigak awasonaago 	day before yesterday?
A. gii-kiziibiigisaginige giizhigad awasonaago  Saturday
Q. aaniin gaa-izhi-giizhigak gichi-awasonaago   3 days ago?
A. gii-naano-giizhigad gichi-awasonaago         Friday

Q. daawag ina			Are they living?
          iwidi			over there (inanimate place)
A. enya' daawag <iwidi or iiwidi>

Q. ayaawag ina iwidi		Are they over there?
	note:  ayaawag is a full sentence (A form)
A. enya' ayaawag iwidi	they are over there

mino-ayaan			be well (singular)
mino-ayang			be well (plural)
mino-ayaawin		be healthy, blessed, or good


Boozhoo				hello
miigwech				thank you
wiinzowin				name
giga-waabamin			I will see you
giga-waabamin naagaj		I will see you later
giga-waabamininim		I will see all of you
izhinikaazo			s/he is called
nimino		all that is good/spiritual; exists w/o us being here
gabe					more
giken					stem for know
minjimen				stem for remember

izhaa					s/he goes.
naagaj				later  (naagach)

mino-ayaan				be well, singular
mino-ayang				be well, plural
mino-ayaawin			be healthy, blessed or good
mino-wiisine			he eats well
nimino-ayaa			I am well / healthy
gimino-ayaa			you have a good life


1st person
  starts with:     
ni   :  w, n, m, z
nin :  d, g, j
nim:  b
nind: any vowel
niin: emphatic me!

2nd person

starts with:
gi:  any consonant
gid: any vowel
giin: emphatic you!

niwiisin			I am eating, present tense
giwiisin			you are eating, 2nd person, present tense
  wiisini			she is eating, 3rd person, present tense

niminikwe			I am drinking - 1st person
giminikwe			you are drinking - 2nd
  minikwe			he/she is drinking - 3rd

ojaanimizi (busy)
nindoojaanimiz		I am busy
gidoojaanimiz		you are busy
    ojaanimizi		he/she is busy

gii- simple past tense		(questions:  gaa-)
ningii-wiisin				I ate
gigii-wiisin				you ate
  gii-wiisin				he/she ate

ningii-aakoz				I was sick
gigii-aakoz				you were sick
  da-aakozi				s/he was sick

wii - future tense, intentional questions:  waa-____
niwii-minikwe                   I intend to drink
	waabang			(tomorrow)
giwii-minikwe				you intend to drink
wii-minikwe				he/she intends to drink

niwii-aakoz				I will be sick
giwii-aakoz				you will be sick
wii-aakozi					s/he will be sick

ga - future tense, definite	**(ga only for 1st & 2nd perons)
da -    "   ", def.(3rd person)	ge- (future tense of question)
ninga-minikwe		I will drink
gigaminikwe		you will drink
wiiminikwe			he/she will drink

ninga-aakoz		I am (definitely) going to be sick
giga-aakoz			you will (definitely) be sick
da-aakozi			s/he will (definitely) be sick

And ...
ningii-aakoz		I was sick
ninga-aakoz		I am definitely going to be sick
niwii-aakoz		I intend to be sick

gigii-aakoz		you were sick
giga-aakoz			you will definitely be sick
giwii-aakoz		you intend to be sick

gii-aakozi			s/he was sick
da-aakozi			s/he will definitely be sick
wii-aakozi			s/he intends to be sick

tense practice:
aaniin ezhichigewaad			what are they doing?
aaniin ezhichigeyeg			what are you all doing?
aaniin ezhichigeyan			what are you (singular) doing?
aaniin ezhi-ayaawaad			how are they doing?
aaniin ezhi-ayaayeg			how are you all doing?
nimino-ayaamin (exclusive)		we are just fine

ginimo-ayaamin (inclusive - wrong answer)
aaniin enamanjiw'waad			how are they feeling?
aaniin enamanjiw'eg			how are you all feeling?
aaniin enamanjiw'in			how are you doing (2nd person singular)
			'in is irregular
gidaakozim				you all are sick  (stand alone sentence)

noongom				now, present, today, this reality

waabang				tomorrow
awas-waabang			day after tomorrow
gichi-awas-waabang		in 3 days

bijiinaago				yesterday
awasonaago				day before yesterday
gichi-awasonaago			3 days ago

gichi-waabamin gichi-awas-waabang  I will see you the day after tomorrow

Days of the Week
anami'e-giizhigad			Sunday  prayer day
ishkwaa-anami'e-giizhigad		Monday  after prayer day
niizho-giizhigad				Tuesday second day
aabitoose					Wednesday       
niiyo-giizhigad				Thursday	4th day (niiwin = 4th)
naano-giizhigad				Friday	5th day (naanan = 5th)
giziibiigisaginige-giizhigad	Saturday	wash floor day?

Click HERE for Joanna Russ's useful phrase book.
Click HERE for a friendly and familiar philology
Click HERE for general reference tools
Click HERE for aspects of aspects
Click HERE for the language of love in loss