Category: Beginning Chamorro Grammar

Chamorro Word Stress

Where you put the stress on a word in Chamorro will help you to be understood by native speakers. It’s important in many languages as it can change the meaning of the word. Take for instance the word desert. At first glance, your thoughts immediately go to a dry, barren expanse of land with lots of sand. That’s because you read the word as DEH-zehrt, with the stress on the first syllable. Now try reading it again with the stress on the second syllable and now your thoughts turn towards abandoning someone or something. With the stress on the first syllable, the word desert is the noun, but put the stress on the second syllable and you get desert as a verb. 

There aren’t a lot of words like this; that is words that change meaning depending on the stress. In fact, you need only to remember a few rules when it comes to understanding which syllable of a word to emphasize.

Which syllable has the stress?

For the most part, the stress is placed on the penultimate (a fancy term meaning “second to the last”) syllable of a word. For a two-syllable word that stress will be on the first syllable.

hågu – HUH-goo

tåya’ – TUH-dzah

go’te – GOH-tee

lepblo – LEHP-bloo

With three-syllable words:

kareta – kah-REH-tah

ga’lågu – gah-LUH-goo

kastigu – kahs-TEE-goo

This rule of placing the stress on the penultimate syllable is still followed when adding a possessive determiner (i.e. -hu, -ku, -mu, etc.). The possessive determiner is considered part of the word.

lepblo – LEHP-bloo → lepblo-ku – lep-BLOH-koo

kareta – kah-REH-tah → karetå-hu – kah-reh-TUH-hoo

Please note that the possessive determiners -måmi, -miyu and -ñiha have two syllables, so the stress will lie on the first syllable

karetan-måmi – kah-reh-tahn-MUH-mee

lugåt-miyu – loo-gaht-MEE-dzoo

gima’-ñiha – gee-mah-NYEE-hah

Chamorro Word Stress in Words Derived from Prefixes

There are words in Chamorro derived by using a prefix. When this happens, the stress is usually on the prefix.

Prefix a – reciprocal prefix (i.e. to do an action to “each other” )

atungo’ – AH-too-ngoo 

asodda’ – AH-sohd-dah 

Prefix e – Prefix meaning “to hunt for”

epånglao – EH-pahng-lah-oh

esalåpe’ – EH-sah-lah-pee 

Prefix acha – Prefix denoting equality

achamaolek – a-CHA-mah-oh-lick    (maolek = good)

achametgot – a-CHA-met-goot    (metgot = strong)

Prefix hat – Prefix denoting movement towards or away from a subject

hatmagi – HAHT-mah-gee

hatguatu – HAHT-gwah-too

Prefix na’ – Causative prefix meaning to cause something to be. Words created from prefix na’ actually have two ways they can be understood. If we place the stress on the penultimate syllable (second to the last), the word is understood as a verb, BUT if the stress is on the prefix na’, it will be understood as an adjective. For example, the word na’puti pronounced nah-POO-tee will be understood as to cause someone pain. But if it’s pronounced NAH-poo-tee, it will be taken as an adjective and understood as “pain-causing” or “hurtful”.

When attaching a possessive determiner in the case of the a-derived nouns, it reverts back to stress on the penultimate syllable.

atungo’-hu – ah-too-NGOH-hoo

asodda’-hu – ah-sohd-DAH-hoo

Chamorro Word Stress in Words Borrowed from Spanish

Of course, there had to be exceptions, but fortunately, there are not too many of these. Most of these words have come from Spanish and have retained their original pronunciations.

interes (n. interest) – een-teh-REHS

mamadot (n. baby’s bottle)  – mah-mah-DOHT

kulot (n. color) – koo-LOHT

tason (n. bowl) – tah-SOHN

prinsipi (n. prince) – PRIN-see-pee

åtbot (n. type of tree) – UHT-boot


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Telling Time in Chamorro

How to tell time in Chamorro

The word “time” can be translated three different ways in Chamorro:

oraTime as in telling time. “I ora” means “the hour”.
tiempoGeneral period of time, which can be used when talking about seasons.
biaheAn instance of time, as in a number of times.

In this article, we’ll be talking about i ora, or “the hour”. It’s easy to tell time in Chamorro. You just have to remember your numbers.

How to Tell Time in Chamorro

What time is it? Ki ora?

Ala una1 o’clock
Alas dos2 o’clock
Alas tres3 o’clock
Alas kuåtro4 o’clock
Alas singko5 o’clock
Alas sais6 o’clock
Alas siette7 o’clock
Alas ochu8 o’clock
Alas nuebi9 o’clock
Alas dies10 o’clock
Alas onse11 o’clock
Alas dosse12 o’clock

Note that 1 o’clock is different from the rest as it is just “ala” and not “alas” and the word for one is the Spanish feminine form “una”.

Beyond the Hour

If we wish to say that it is half past the hour we would use the expression i media , which is a direct borrowing of the Spanish phrase meaning “and a half”

Pot ihemplo: 7:30  ~ Alas siette i media.

You can also specify the exact minute, if you wish to be specific. For example, to say it is 10:20 in the morning, you would say:

Alas dies bente

Or you could also say:

Bente pasåo alas dies, which literally means “20 past 10”.

NOTE: When giving the time, Chamorros like to give a general idea of what the time is. They’ll just say it is para (to) or pasao (past) a specific time.

Para alas 5It’s 5 o’clock.
10 para alas 5It’s 10 (minutes) ’til 5 o’clock.
Pasao alas 5It’s past 5 o’clock.
10 pasao alas 5It’s 10 past 5 o’clock.

Adding Time of Day

If you want to be more specific as to the time of day, add the following expressions after the time:

…gi ega’anin the morning
…gi chatanmakin the wee hours of the morning; before dawn
…gi talo’aniin the afternoon
…gi pupuengiin the evening
…gi tatalo’ puengi at midnight

To say, seven in the morning, you would say:

Alas siette gi ega’an.

The words oga’an and chatanmak are both used for the morning. Chatanmak refers to the period right before daybreak. As soon as there’s light, it is considered oga’an. So depending on where you are in the world when you use oga’an may be different.

The word talo’åni literally means “middle of the day”, and refers to the time of day when the sun is at its highest. We note this only because you may hear “afternoon” used differently among speakers. In English, afternoon is any time that is after noon, that is 12 pm, through the evening. In Chamorro, you may hear someone say “Alas 11 gi ega’an”, following how time is spoken in English. Or you might also hear “Alas 11 gi talo’åni”, taking into account that at 11 a.m. the sun is already reaching its highest point.

How to Ask for the Time

We already learned how to give the time, so let’s take a look at the ways you can ask for the time.

The main phrase you need to know is:

Ki ora? What time is it?

If you want to ask when a specific event is happening, like a party or movie, you would simply ask what time something is (that is, what time it’s happening).

Ki ora i movie? What time is the movie?

Ki ora i gipot? What time is the party?

If you want to ask a more complex question, such as what time someone did something or going to do something you would need to ask ki ora na… (what time is it that…)

To ask what time someone did something,

Ki ora na makmåta hao? What time did you wake up?

To ask what time someone is going to do something we use ki ora na with a future statement.

Ki ora na para un fatto?
What time will you arrive?

Ki ora na para u falak i tenda si David?
What time is David going to the store?

To ask what time something usually happens, we must employ the ongoing, or progressive, form of the verb.

Ki ora na makmamata hao?
What time do you wake up?

Ki ora na mamaigo’ hao?
What time do you sleep?

Ki ora na madadandan i kampana.
What time does the bell ring?

Ki ora na mabababa i Target?
What time does Target open?

Ki ora na humåhånao hao para i che’cho’-mu?
What time do you leave for work?

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Negation and Negative Words in Chamorro

In this article, we’ll learn Chamorro negation and negative words.

To make statements negative in Chamorro, in most cases, you simply have to put the negative marker ti at the beginning of the statement.

Look at the following examples.

Ti båba este.
This is not bad.
Ti ya-hu tumåtes.
I don’t like tomatoes.
Ti manhanao ham para i lancho, sa’ u’uchan.
We didn’t go to the ranch, because it’s raining.

There are a couple of exceptions to this. The words guaha and gaige both have negative counterparts. They are tåya’ and taigue, respectively. So, instead of using ti we say these opposite words. Look at the following examples.

Guaha chåda’ gi kahon ais.
There are eggs in the refrigerator.
Tåya’ chåda’ gi kahon ais.
There are no eggs in the refrigerator.
Guaha karetå-hu.
I have a car.
Tåya’ karetå-hu.
I don’t have a car.
Gaige i yabi-hu gi betså-hu.
My keys are in my pocket.
Taigue i yabi-hu gi betså-hu.
My keys are not in my pocket.
Gaige si George gi kuåtto-ña.
George is in his room.
Taigue si George gi kuåtto-ña.
George is not in his room.

Negative Words

Using the negative marker ti is the most basic type of Chamorro negation, but you can also use the following negative words and phrases.

cha’-(poss. pron.)don’t (even, try to)
ni ngai’an (ni ngai’a’an)never / never ever
ni håyi (ni håyiyi)no one / no matter who
ni håfa (ni håfafa)none / no matter what
ni månu (ni månunu)nowhere / no matter where
tampokuneither, not either
trabihanot yet

Here are some examples using the negative words from the table above.

Munga kumuentos.
Don’t talk.
Ni si Antonia humånao.
Neither Antonia went.
Ni unu ni otro!
Not one nor the other!
Ni ngai’an bai hu maleffa.
I will never forget.
Ti angokkuyon na taotao! Ni håyiyi un faisen.
He’s not a trustworthy person! No matter who you ask.
Ti bai hu magof guini, ya ni hågu tampoku.
I won’t be happy here, and neither will you.
Ti hu apåpåsi i dibi-hu trabiha.
I haven’t paid my bills yet.
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The Linking Particle na

The particle na is truly one of the most versatile particles in the Chamorro language. The following description below lists all the different ways in which na is used.

“Na” as a Noun Modifier

One of the most basic ways to use na is to connect an adjective with the noun it modifies.

Maolek na estudiante
A good student

Dånkolo na guma’
A big house

Agaga’ na kareta
A red car

“Na” as a General Modifier

Tres na sitbesa.
Three beers

Guiya na taotao ti ya-ña masangåni.
He’s a person who doesn’t like to be told.

Guaha na taotao ti yan-ñiha tumåtes.
Some people do not like tomatoes.

“Na” as a Conjunction

The particle na is used in the same way as the subordinating conjunction “that” in English. In conversational English, the conjunction “that” is often omitted, but in Chamorro, it must always be used.

Kao un tungo’ na magraduha si Jennifer?
Did you know that Jennifer graduated?

Maolek na matto hao.
It’s good that you came.

Hagas ha’ hu tungo’ na guiya.
I always knew that it was him.

The particle na can also be used in sentences where we would use “rather” or “but” in English. For example, one might say “It’s not blue, but red in color.” That is, the second clause corrects the initial negative.

Ti matuhok yu’ na yayas ha’ yu’.
I’m not sleepy, but just tired.

Ti ha fa’tinas, na ha fåhan gi tenda.
He didn’t make, but rather he bought it at the store.

Ti asut na betde.
It’s not blue, but green.

“Na” to ask a Negative Rhetorical Question

These are questions where we anticipate an affirmative answer.

Na ti hågu fumåhan i pan?
But weren’t you the one who bought the bread?

Na ti si Peter hao sumangåni?
But wasn’t Peter the one who told you?

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Asking Questions in Chamorro

Asking Questions is a good way to learn new things in Chamorro, and is essential in daily life.

Kåo siña hao fumino’ Chamoru?
Can you speak Chamorro?

Månu na sumasaga hao?
Where do you live?

Håfa kumeke’ilek-mu?
What do you mean?

Yes/No Questions

In Chamorro, to ask a question that can be answered with hunggan or åhe’ is easy. You simply have to start off the question with the marker kåo.

Chumochu i patgon.
The child ate.
Kåo chumochu i patgon?
Did the child eat?
Asut i kareta.
The car is blue.
Kåo asut i kareta?
Is the car blue?
Lunes på’go.
Today is Monday.
Kåo Lunes på’go.
Is today Monday?
Ya-mu na’italianu.
You like Italian food.
Kåo ya-mu na’italianu?
Do you like Italian food?

Question Words

When asking questions that require a response beyond hunggan or åhe’, you’ll need to start off your question with a question word or phrase. Here is a list of some common Chamorro question words.

sa’ håfawhy
kuånto, akuåntohow much, how many
ginen manufrom where
para månuto where
para håfafor what
pot håfaabout what

Here are some examples of Chamorro interrogative sentences.

Taimanu un fa’tinas i titiyas-mu?
How did you make your titiyas?

Ginen manu hao?
Where were you? Where did you come from?

Para månu hao?
Where are you going? Where are you off to?

Ngai’an i fiestan San Jose?
When is the San Jose fiesta?

Månu na sumåsåga hao på’go?
Where do you live now?

Håyi i na’ån-ña?
What’s her name?

Kuånto un fåhan na gimen?
How many drinks did you buy?

Para håfa este?
What is this for?

Pot håfa i lepblo?
What is the book about?

Tag Questions

A tag question is a mini question after a statement that asks for confirmation. Look at the bolded words in the following questions. These are the tag questions.

He’s tall, isn’t he?

You’re hungry, aren’t you?

The ocean is salty, isn’t it?

You don’t like me, do you?

In English, when creating tag questions, we ask the opposite of the statement. If our statement is negative, we ask the positive, and the same goes for a positive statement. In Chamorro, to ask a tag question, we simply say “no” at the end.

Guiya i ma’gas, no?
She’s the boss, isn’t she?

Månnge’ este, no?
This is good, isn’t it?

Ti matuhok hao, no?
You aren’t sleepy, are you?

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