Tips and tricks to memorizing prefixes

Verb prefixes are an important part of the Klingon grammar. They also don't closely resemble anything in English, but they might be compared to pronouns, and are therefore sometimes referred to as "pronominal prefixes". (1)

This page contains some tips and tricks, how to memorize the prefixes more easily. There is no one trick, but there are a few tips:

1. There are not so many prefixes

Prefixes mark both the person of the subject and the object. There are six persons (I, you, he, etc...), plus forms for "no object". The imperative prefixes only have second person subjects (that is, you (singular) or you (plural)). This makes a total of 7 potential object forms and 8 potential subject forms. Combining all of these would give a total of 56 different situations requiring a prefix. This sounds like a lot! However, there are not that many prefixes in practice.

  • If the subject and the object are the same person, then unless it is third person there is no distinct prefix. These situations are expressed either by reflexives, which use the suffix -'egh and the "no object" prefixes, or they have to be expressed some other way. That eliminates a total of twelve prefixes.
  • All situations involving third person (he, she, it, they) subject + third person object, bar one, use a zero prefix. This eliminates five prefixes.
  • Many prefixes are reused multiple times - e.g. most of the time singular and plural object forms are the same. Repeating prefixes mean that eleven prefixes you have to remember are eliminated.

Because of this, through this filtering of the different cases, there are really only 28 prefixes you need to remember, including 5 imperative prefixes.

2. Some prefixes are more important than others.

Some prefixes are much more frequent than others, e.g. you seldom use "we see you (plural)" or "you see us". You can learn the frequent ones first and worry about the less common prefixes later.

IMPORTANT jI- bI- ma- Su- qa- Da- Du- wI- vI- HI- yI- 11
VERY OFTEN Sa- pe- DI- ju- bo- cho- 6
UNCOMMON tu- mu- lu- nu- tI- che- 6
RARE gho- nI- re- pI- lI- 5

3. Don't just memorize the the prefixes, memorize sentences.

"Curse with power" - pe'vIl mu'qaDmey tIbach (The Klingon Way)
remember: Imperative for multiple objects = tI-

Scene from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: "They tricked us!" - nutojbej
remember: they-us = nu-

"What are your orders (literally, how do you order us?)" - chay' jura'?
remember: you-us = ju-

4. Construct weird words out of the prefixes:

All prefixes for "no object" are "jibimashu", so jI-, bI-, ma-, Su-.
(see more on (de))

5. Other tricks:

  • jI- fits to jIH (and is similar to the french "je" = I)
  • ma- fits to maH = "we"
  • bI- is the second person, B is the second letter in the alphabet.

In conclusion, the best practice is repetition. If you regularly try to describe situations in Klingon, you will soon memorize the most important prefixes.

See also

1 : The Klingon Dictionary, chapter 4.1.1

Category: Grammar    Latest edit: 19 Feb 2019, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 15 Mar 2017 by DirkSchlSser
History: r4 < r3 < r2 < r1 - View wiki text
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