To Be or Be Differently

The two senses of the verb TO BE

Before resuming the conjugation of the verb asonk in the next post, picking up from where we left off a while ago, I would first like to double down on the difference between the two distinct Konkani versions of the verb to be, underscoring the fact that although, in matters grammatical, Konkani is very similar to Marathi, here is an instance wherein it parts ways with the latter in a loud manner and aligns itself with the two Iberian languages instead, Portuguese and Spanish.

When we use the verb to be in English, we are generally unaware of its flavours in the different contexts it is used in. For instance, take the two sentences: “I am in Goa”, and “I am a man”. The verb am in both the sentences seems to be identical: in both cases it is the present tense of the verb to be. However, if you give a second thought to the connotations of the word in the two sentences, you may realize that the word am in the first sentence has a temporal flavour, associated with becoming, whereas the same word am in the second case clearly has existential nuances that are associated with being. Perhaps it isn’t so obvious in English, but in Konkani the two usages are as different from each other as chalk and cheese, though they flow naturally and spontaneously on the tongue of a native Konkani speaker.

Let me illustrate my point by translating the above two sentences into Konkani. The Konkani version of “I am in Goa” is simply a matter-of-fact translation from the English: “Hanv Gõyam asam.” But if you use the word asam when trying to translate “I am a man”, it would sound as if you are in a human evolutionary stage! For Hanv monis asam (=I am a man) would almost suggest that you are a man for now, but tomorrow you may become …who knows what? … perhaps a cow or monkey?

How then should you say “I am a man” in Konkani? In the present tense you would do a neat job by just omitting the verb itself!! Thus: Hanv monis. That’s it. Omitting the verb altogether after the subject is tantamount to asserting that manhood is an integral part of the subject in the sentence, i.e., of me. Doesn’t it bring to mind the biblical definition of God: I AM WHO AM?

Portuguese or Spanish speakers, however, will have no problem understanding this, because they too have almost an identical pair of verbs corresponding to the two variants of the verb to be, viz., estar and ser, and the usage of these verbs is also almost the same as in Konkani, the verb estar standing for something more temporary in nature, i.e., asonk, while ser suggests a permanent state of the subject in the sentence.

Having now established the distinction between the two senses in which the verb to be is used in Konkani, particularly in the present tense, we shall continue, in the next section, with the conjugation of the verb asonk.

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Regular Conjugations — Conjugation 3

Verbs ending in eunk

A brief review

I think it is best to begin with a short review of what we have done so far with regard to the conjugations of Konkani verbs.

As mentioned earlier, the best way to learn any Konkani verb is to learn and, if possible, memorize all its five principal parts. Incidentally, that is a common practice adopted by students of Latin. The reason is that these five principal parts are the key to being able to use the verb in almost all possible tenses. Of particular importance is the fourth principal part, which tells you how the verb is to be used in some tenses, particularly the past definite.

To illustrate that, let us take two simple verbs of the first and second conjugations respectively.

Here are the principal parts of the verb poddonk (to fall)which belongs to the first conjugation (the verbs of the first conjugation are typically intransitive verbs, which means that they do not have an object):

Poddonk, poddtam, poddonam, poddlom, poddchonam

Note that its fourth principal part ends in lom. For the sake of convenience, when formulating the principal parts, it is assumed that the subject is in the first person singular, and masculine in gender, i.e., masculine I. And it is also assumed that if the verb has an object, that object is neuter in gender. In an actual situation, this need not be the case at all: “I” may be a lady or a little girl, and the object may be a male person.

Now, let us take an example of a verb belonging to the second conjugation which typically is a transitive verb:

Marunk, martam, marinam, marlem, marchonam.

Note that the fourth principal part ends in not lom, but lem, i.e., neuter, instead of masculine, indicating that the verb agrees, both in gender and number, not with the subject (who is assumed to be masculine singular), as is the case with a verb of the first conjugation, but with the object (which is assumed to be neuter singular).

Let me illustrate this point with an illustration of each, using the two verbs mentioned above: poddonk and marunk:

Mhozo bhav dhanvtanam margar poddlo. (While running, my brother fell on the road.)
Bhurgean gaddvak boddiên marlem. (The boy hit the donkey with a stick)

Note two characteristics of the second sentence above: The subject is no longer nominative (bhurgo), but takes the instrumental case (bhurgean). Secondly, the verb does not have a masculine ending (marlo) but a neuter one (marlem), because the object, gaddum (the donkey), is neuter. Had the object been feminine instead, the verb ending would be feminine as well while the subject would still take the instrumental case. Thus:

Hanvem fatrachêr boddi marli. (I hit a stick on the stone)

The third conjugation

Now, having brushed up the first two conjugations, let us move on to the third one. Verbs of the third conjugation end in eunk. Typically they are intransitive verbs, but they can span across all categories: transitive, anomalous and, of course, irregular. In any case, as always, it is best to learn all verbs along with their principal parts, so that you need not even worry about what conjugation they may be belonging to.

Here are some verbs of the third conjugation along with their principal parts:

ufeunk, ufetam, ufenam, ufelom, ufeunchonam (to float)
bhiyeunk, bhiyetam, bhiyenam, bhiyelom, bhiyeunchonam (to fear, to be afraid of)
ghameunk, ghametam, ghamenam, ghamelom, ghameunchonam (to perspire or sweat)
jhemeunk, jhemetam, jhemenam, jhemelom, jhemeunchonam (to feel sleepy, to doze off)
polleunk, polletam, pollenam, pollelem, polleunchonam (to look)
piyeunk, piyetam, piyenam, piyelom, piyeunchonam (to drink)
gheunk, ghetam, ghenam, ghetlem, gheunchonam (to take or receive)

You may have noticed from their fourth principal parts that the first four verbs above are intransitive, the fifth one is transitive and the last one is also transitive but irregular. What merits our special attention, however, is the sixth verb above, i.e., piyeunk. Notice that it has a real object, and so should have agreed with the object in number and gender and the subject in the past definite tense should have taken an instrumental case ending, like hanvem, tannem, etc. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, the verb in the past definite tense agrees all the way with the subject, which therefore retains its nominative form. Such verbs are called anomalous verbs. These are actually transitive verbs with real objects, but which behave like intransitive verbs inasmuchas the subject always stays in the nominative, even in the past definite tense.

E.g., Amcho bab dud piyelo — Our little boy drank (his) milk.

Note that piyelo is past definite, and dud (milk), which is neuter, is the object of the sentence, yet the verb sticks with the subject and takes the masculine ending, not neuter. Which is why it is classed as an anomalous verb.

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Mum & Ki na?

Interrogative Endings

In daily parlance, when we talk to people, we invariably ask and answer questions pertaining to daily life. Sometimes we add different nuances to questions by the intonation we put into them. Such is undoubtedly the case with Konkani as well.

But in Konkani, as in many other languages, we can add certain flavours to questions also by adding special endings to them. You are certainly aware of some of these terminal endings, which are similar to Marathi as well, like re, go ge, and ga, depending on whom you ask the question to. E.g. Az kitem randlam go? (“What has been cooked today?” as addressed to a young girl or a maid).

There are also other interrogative endings in Konkani which may not be quite translatable into English. These vary across communities and regions. For example, a common ending in Mangalore Konkani is gi, e.g., Tuzo bhav ghara asa gi? (“Is your brother at home?”)

However, I would like to make a special mention of two interrogative endings in Goan Konkani which I think are singularly expressive. These are “mum and “ki na .

Let me begin with the second one: ki na, which literally means “or not”. You ask someone a question which really doesn’t seek much information because you expect an affirmative answer (or a negative answer to a negatively worded question). A close English equivalent is a question ending with a comma followed by “right?”. E.g., “You are coming for the movie tonight, right?”

A ki na question often has one of the following two connotations:
a) One expresses a little concern for the respondent by expecting an affirmative answer to his question — or a negative answer if the question is worded negatively. E.g., Az sokallim tuka dud mell’lem ki na? which literally means, “Did you get milk this morning or not?” Or “Tuka thondd zaunk na ki na?” (You haven’t caught a cold, have you?)
b) Someone in authority is expecting a “yes” for an answer because one wants certain conditions to be fulfilled. For example, if you had asked your maid to wash the potatoes, you could ask her, “Tunvem bottatte dhulei ki na?” which is more or less equivalent to: “You have washed the potatoes, haven’t you?” or “You have washed the potatoes, right?”

While ki na doesn’t have much emotive content, the interrogative ending mum dabs a question with a quiet warmth and a personal touch. It is both a question and an expression of hope or wish combined. “Tum boro hai (asai) mum?” is equivalent to “Are you well?” and “I hope you are well” both bundled into one. Another example: “Tuka chitt ailea mum?” is more or less equivalent to “I hope you have received a letter. Have you?”

If you use ki na or mum when you speak Konkani in Goa, one thing that you will surely convey is that you are an assôl Gõykar.

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Misak vechem dhanvon; zhuzak vechem ravon

If you're going for Mass, go to Church post-haste; if you are going to war, you've got ample time to waste

The literal translation of Misak vechem dhanvon; zhuzak vechem ravon is: “When going for Mass, one should hurry; when going to war, one should be tardy”.

This proverb isn’t to be taken literally or for its face value. The general message of the proverb is: there is a time for everything — there is a time when you need to hurry and there is a time when you would rather be tardy.

The Mass and the war are just examples of situations that call for different types of responses. The reason for selecting the Mass as an instance that demands punctuality is the belief that if one is late for Mass, one’s attendance at the Mass isn’t valid, whereas in the case of war, since going to war is in itself an undesirable thing but is thrust upon you, you might as well take it easy and go about the business with as much delay as you possibly can.

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Regular Declensions — Declension 4

The Fourth Declension

Just as the first and second declensions follow a similar pattern, the third and the fourth too resemble each other in a parallel manner. And while the first and third declensions comprise only masculine and neuter nouns, the second and fourth declensions cover only feminine nouns.

The fourth declension comprises only feminine nouns ending in i which are
  1. either monosyllabic (single syllable) or
  2. disyllabic (having two syllables) with a single consonant sound (but not j or x) between the two syllables

The monosyllabic nouns form their plurals and flex stems by adding another syllable, with the result that the plurals and flex stems of both the monosyllabic and disyllabic nouns consist of two syllables.

Nominative Sing.Sing. Flex stemNominative Plur.Plur. Flex StemMeaning
bi biyêbiyôbiyamseed
gi giyêgiyôgiyamghee (or gear)
boddi boddyêboddyôbôddyamstick
koddi koddyêkoddyôkôddyamcurry
dori doryêdoryôdôryamrope
khandi khandyêkhandyôkhandyamsmall branch


Koddyênt az koslem nistem ghalam? (What fish has been put in the curry today?)

Mhaka Mhapxea kazucheô biyô gheunk zai (I want to purchase chashew nuts at Mapusa)

Mhôsgachê khandiêr kednanch choddchem nhoi (One must never climb on a moringa (drumstick) tree branch.

Amcho cheddo mhaka bhiyena punn boddyêk bhiyeta (Our boy does not fear me but fears the cane)

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Konkani Spellmanship

Spelling out the rules of Konkani spellings

Unlike most Indian languages, Konkani is not tied to any single script but is written in at least three Indian scripts as well as the Roman script which we have adopted in But while many languages written in the Roman script may not be phonetic languages, Konkani is and as such its spellings are governed by certain rules and conventions which I shall try to explore and explain below.

The bowels of Konkani: The Vowels

I would like to begin with a striking contrast between Konkani and most other modern Indian languages.

It may have struck you some time that Konkani, as written in any but the Roman script, includes the representation and usage of the vowel अ. In fact, most Indian languages do have the अ sound, with one outstanding exception, that is, the Bengali language which doesn’t have that sound (which is why, for instance, they pronounce Vijay as Bijoy, and banduk as bonduk).

And so it is interesting that Konkani as it is written in the Roman script (and as spoken mainly by Goan Catholics) doesn’t have the अ sound at all, the latter being replaced by either o or ô sound much like the Bengali way. For example, कर becomes kôr, and बर्फ is called and written as borof.

Roman script Konkani therefore has the following seven pure vowels:

a , e , ê , i , o , ô , u

Of the above, a, e and o are called open vowels, while the rest of them are known as closed vowels. What that implies will be explained later. But please note that although the above represent seven different vowel sounds, they are just five letters of the alphabet and not seven, and the circumflexes on o and e merely indicate that they represent the closed vowels. In many contexts they may not have a circumflex at all and yet have closed sounds, as will be explained later in this section.

In addition to the above pure vowels, Konkani also has a number of diphthongs, some of which are considered as open and others closed. But we shall first deal with the vowels.

I think it is important to state again that the open vowels are a, e and o, and that the closed ones are ê, i, ô and u. Let me give some examples.

In the word khêll(game or play), ê is a closed vowel. In gobôr(wood ash) both the o’s are closed, even though only the second one is indicated as closed by the circumflex over it. The general rule is that the o’s and e’s in all the syllables in a chain immediately preceding a syllable with a closed vowel are ipso facto closed, and hence they need not have any circumflex over them to indicate that they are closed. Thus, although the o in sotri is a closed vowel, it doesn’t have a circumflex because the syllable that follows has the closed vowel i. Other examples: kodelir (on the chair), hoklechi (of the bride).

Let me illustrate the case by two contrasting examples. Compare the phrase hoklêcho bhav (= the bride’s brother) with hoklechi bhoinn (= the bride’s sister). In hoklechi bhoinn, both the o and the e in hoklechi are closed sounds, yet neither of them has a circumflex because, since the following syllable chi has a closed vowel i, both the o and the e preceding it get automatically closed, with the result that they do not need to be indicated as closed by a circumflex; whereas in hoklêcho bhav, since the o in the syllable cho is an open vowel, while the sound of ê in the preceding syllable is closed, the latter has to be indicated by a circumflex as closed, and once this e is closed the o in the preceding syllable hok also gets automatically closed and need not have a circumflex.

To drive this point home, let me repeat the general rule about when to use and when not to use a circumflex over an e or an o:
All the o’s and e’s in a chain in syllables immediately preceding a syllable with a closed vowel (in the same word) are ipso facto closed, and hence they need not have any circumflex over them to indicate that they are closed. By contrast, if any syllable having a closed o or e is not immediately followed in the same word by a syllable with a closed vowel (as is also the case when it happens to be the last syllable in the word), it has to be indicated as closed by placing a circumflex over it.

One comes across a great number of diphthongs in Konkani. A diphthong is a combination of either two vowels or a vowel followed by y. E.g., the eu in polleunk or the ãy in pãy However, what determines whether the diphthong is an open or a closed one is the nature of its primary or first vowel. Thus eu in polleunk is a closed diphthong (because the e in the eu is closed), whereas the ãy in pãy is an open diphthong because the ã in ãy is an open vowel.

No consonance without Consonants

By and large, the Konkani consonant sounds are basically the same as in most Indian languages except that after centuries of Portuguese influence, lh and nh have slowly got embedded into the Konkani spoken by the Goans, and that too almost exclusively in the Portuguese words that have migrated into Konkani.

However, with regard to all other consonants which Konkani has in common with other Indian languages, certain conventions have evolved over the ages in order to adequately use the Roman script to express all its consonant sounds. Since most consonant letters are used in the same way as in European languages, here we shall only cover those which are employed differently.

The most important of these differences are the consonants tt, dd, nn and ll. While single letters t, d, n and l represent the dental consonants त, द, न and ल (though ल isn’t quite dental) as in most languages, their cerebral equivalents, viz., ट, ड, ण and ळ, which don’t have their proper Roman equivalents, are represented by tt, dd, nn and ll respectively.

We would like to mention here that those aspirated forms of the above dentals and their corresponding cerebrals that are included in the devnagri alphabet, viz., थ, ध, ठ and ढ are represented by placing an h after the corresponding un-aspirated consonant.

The rest of the Roman alphabet used in Konkani needs very little explanation. The letter c is used in Konkani almost always only in conjunction with the letter h, i.e., as ch, to represent the च sound while the letter Q is never used at all, and the letter x is used to denote the sh or श sound.

As mentioned earlier, the Portuguese consonants lh and nh are employed mostly in words that are of Portuguese origin. Examples: kunhad (from cunhado) meaning specifically “sister’s husband”, kulher (from colher) meaning “spoon”, falhar (from falhar) meaning “not in a proper state of mind”, and bunhad which stands for “foundation (of a house or building)”.

A special mention needs to be made though of the letter y. In English the letter y can be used as a plain vowel and as a consonant as well. In Konkani it is used only as a consonant to represent the sound य in the following cases:
a) when a syllable begins with the sound य. Examples: toyar (= ready), mallyêr (= on the loft).
b) when a syllable ends with the sound य, except if it is preceded by a closed e or a closed o, in which case the letter i is used instead. Thus it is used in words like Gõy
(Goa) and mãy , but not in molloi ( = field) or choddoi (= raise).

This contrast is illustrated and thrown into sharp relief in the following sentences:

Tum az boro sokallim utthloi or tum az borem sokallim utthlẽi = you rose rather early this morning. (The o in utthloi and the e in utthlẽi are both closed vowels)

Compare the above sentences with two other similar ones:
To girêst zaloy zalear, tachean mhaka kitem korum yeta? = Rich though he may be, what can he do to me? Or
Tem gelẽy zalear kãy nozo = It doesn’t matter even if she has gone. (Incidentally, the word tem used here is neuter, not feminine)

I will make bold here to make a pertinent general observation. As far as I know, most Indian languages written in Indian scripts are phonetic. And so are Hindi and Marathi, which are written in the Devnagri script. But did it occur to you that Konkani, as it is written in Devnagri today, isn’t entirely a phonetic language?

One main tricky area is where our open vowels e and o come in. Take a simple sentence: “He went”. We would write that in Konkani as: To gelo. But how is it written in devnagri? तो गेलो. Yet how is it actually read in Konkani? It is read as and not as . Bear in mind that such instances aren’t rare, since open es and os abound in Konkani. And I presume we have the same problem where Konkani written in the Kannada script is concerned. The question that comes to my mind is, “Since open os and es are found all over the Konkani language, can the Konkani that is currently written in any of the Indian scripts, be properly called a phonetic language?” Just think about it.

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Regular Declensions — Declension 3

The Third Declension

The third declension comprises the following nouns (but no adjectives):
  1. monosyllabic (single syllable) masculine nouns ending in i,
  2. disyllabic (having two syllables) masculine nouns ending in i, which have a single consonant sound between the two syllables, e.g., dhobi, ghaddi.
  3. monosyllabic neuter nouns ending in im, e.g., bim
  4. disyllabic neuter nouns ending in im, which have a single consonant sound between the two syllables, e.g, tantim.

The masculine nouns of this declension retain the same form in the nominative plural. For example, the plural of dhobi is dhobi while the plural of ghaddi is ghaddi.

The monosyllabic neuter nouns, however, form their plurals by adding another syllable, i.e, by changing the ending im into iyam. For example, bim changes to biyam.

The rules for the formation of the flex stems are the same for both masculine and neuter nouns. In the case of the monosyllabic nouns, to form the singular flex stem, the ending i or im changes to iya, while for the plural flex stem, the ending changes to iyam, e.g., bim changes to biya to form the singular flex stem and to biyam to form the plural flex stem.

GenderSingularSing. FlexPluralPlur. FlexMeaning
Masc. Dhobi
Masc. Ghaddi GhaddyaGhaddiGhaddyamSorcerer(s)
NeuterBim BiyaBiyamBiyamSeeding(s)
NeuterTantim TantyaTantyamTantyamEgg(s)
NeuterMotim MôtyaMôtyamMôtyam Jewel(s)


  1. Ti ghaddyanchi bud gheta = She has recourse to sorcerers (Literally: she takes advice from sorcerers.
  2. Mhozo tuvalo ani amchim sogllim chedram dhôbyak di = Give my towel and all our bedsheets to the launderer.
  3. Mhoji akoi tantyam bhazta ani tantyanchim korlam gobrant uddoita = My aunt (father’s sister) fries eggs and throws the egg shells into wood ash.
  4. Xettichea môtyak polleun amim tem gheunchem kelem = After seeing the goldsmith’s jewel, we decided to purchase it.
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Sangnnechi sangnni, ponnsak zalim vaingim

Tale of a tale, a minnow swallowed a whale

The literal translation of Sangnnechi sangnni, ponnsak zalim vaingim is: Tale of a tale, a jack fruit tree bore aubergines (or aubergines grew on a jackfruit tree). That is to say, a series of tales can end up with the fantastic report (and presumably a belief as well) that aubergines grew on a jack fruit tree!

Some of you might have taken part in, or witnessed, a group dynamic session in which a simple sentence, when individually and quietly passed down through a chain of participants, gets so mangled and mutilated that it totally loses all resemblance to the original.

That’s exactly what can happen, for example, over a series of gossip sessions in balcanvs, and this proverb illustrates just that in a colourful manner through vivid mental images from a Goan garden.

The word ponnôs1 can mean either a jack fruit or a jack fruit tree. In this proverb it stands for the tree. Vaingem2 means brinjal or aubergine, also known as eggplant. Vaingem is the vegetable, while the plant that produces a vaingem is called vainginn3. Vaingem is neuter and its plural is vaingim, while vainginn is feminine and its plural is vainginni.

While vainginn is a small plant which has a relatively short life, a jack fruit tree is huge and goes on yielding numerous jack fruits year after year almost endlessly. The sharp contrast between the two is intended to underscore the extent to which the original fact can be twisted and reshaped in the course of serial reporting.

  1. Ponnôs, ponnsa, ponnos, ponnsam
  2. Vaingem, vaingea, vaingim, vaingeam
  3. Vainginn, vainginni, vainginni, vainginnim

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Khakêk asa cheddo, sôdta sogllo vaddo

In her arm is her child for whom she scours the wild

A number of proverbs portray certain interesting and unexpected, yet not too rare, natural phenomena. Khakêk asa cheddo, sôdta sogllo vaddo is one such.

Khak (fem.) is an armpit — khakêk being its dative form — and vaddo (masc.) is a section of a village, a sub-village, a neighbourhood or, as it is often known in the west, a (geographical) community in which one lives. Khakêk marunk means to carry something under one’s arm. So Khakêk asa cheddo, Sôdta sogllo vaddo literally means “The boy is under one’s arm, (but) one looks for him in the whole neigbbourhood”. Since it is generally mothers who carry their children under their arms, we can assume that the one who carries, and searches for, the child is the child’s mother.

The English phrase, “under one’s nose”, is often used to express the sense of the above proverb. Situations like the above are a common occurrence in real life, like looking for one’s glasses which one is actually wearing.

Sometimes the word sôdta is replaced by bhonvta, although sôdta is more appropriate. Bhonvonk is to ramble around and does not include (nor does it preclude) the idea of looking for something or someone.

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Disachea disa

Day after day

Disachea disa, ratichê rati, sumanachea sumana or satolleachea satollea, mhoineachea mhoinea, and vorsachea vorsaare similarly constructed phrases respectively meaning day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month and year after year.

To examine the peculiar type of construction, let’s just take the first phrase: day after day.

The word for day is dis, which is the nominative. And just like in English, dis can stand for either 24 hours (inclusive of the night) or just the daylight hours (thus excluding the night time). The word disa is identical to the flex stem but has the ablative sense, which means “during the day” or “at day time”. The word disachea, on the other hand, is the flex stem formed from the possessive or genitive of dis. The literal translation of disachea disa would therefore be “on the day of the day”, but it actually means “everyday” or “day after day”.

This type of a construction can be extended to names of the months, like Janerachea Janeraor days of the week, like Aitarachea aitara.

1. Vorsachea vorsa ami Sant Antonichem fest kortanv 
     Every year we celebrate St. Anthony’s feast.

2. Mhoji madrin sunkrarachea sunkrara Mhapxea bazarak veta
    Every Friday my godmother goes to the Mapusa bazaar.

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