Beginner's Lesson – Introducing verb prefix vI-

« I study Klingon »

Beginners, welcome!

Today let's talk about what everyone here is doing: studying Klingon.

tlhIngan Hol vIHaD jIH = I study Klingon

Let's take the time to break it down one thing at a time:

tlhIngan = Klingon
Hol = language

To talk about languages in Klingon, the following structure is always used:

people/place of origin + Hol => people/place of origin language

For example, vulqan means Vulcan (the planet) in Klingon, so vulqan Hol means the Vulcan language.

To refer to the English language, since Klingons associate the language directly with the Federation, they actually call it Federation language, or DIvI' Hol (DIvI' = Federation).

If you remember lesson 1, you will have recognised the verb HaD (to study) in vIHaD, and you may be wondering why the prefix vI- is added at the beginning of the verb in today's lesson.

Here's why:

  1. Klingon verbs always take a prefix when they are used in a sentence
  2. A verb's prefix must always agree with both the object and subject of the verb in terms of person and number
  3. Because of the above, for each possible combination of object-subject in terms of person and number, there is a matching verb suffix that must be used

In the sentence “I study Klingon”, the subject is in the first person singular (“I”), and the object is in the 3rd person singular (meaning either a “he”, “she” or “it” – in our case, “Klingon” is an “it”). The correct verb prefix in this case is vI- : I—it. So: vIHaD (=I study it) is the correct form here.

We can even replace tlhIngan Hol with anything else that I am studying, following the structure:

[X] vIHaD jIH = I study [X]

For instance: DIvI' Hol vIHaD jIH">DIvI' Hol vIHaD jIH = I study English (DIvI' Hol = English)

But now you may be wondering, why was there apparently no verb prefix in the Lesson 1 sentence, chal HaD tej (the scientist studies the sky)?

And I will answer that the correct prefix was actually there.

When both the subject and object of a verb are in the 3rd person singular, we use the “null prefix” – or, as I like to call it, “the invisible prefix”.

So, in the sentence chal HaD tej (the scientist studies the sky), there is a null prefix with HaD.

There are many other verb prefixes, because there are many possible combinations of subject and object. We will be looking at them gradually in future lessons.

jIH = I

jIH is the Klingon word meaning I.

In the sentence tlhIngan Hol vIHaD jIH (I study Klingon), since we already use the prefix vI-, which indicates that I is the subject of the action, jIH is actually a bit redundant and can be left out.

Thus, both constructions below are perfectly correct and acceptable in Klingon, and they will both be understood as “I study Klingon”:

tlhIngan Hol vIHaD jIH

tlhIngan Hol vIHaD

Now it is time to practice using today's new structure:

[X] vI-(verb) = I (verb) [X]

As usual, try building new sentences based on what you've just learned, and post them on the Learn Klingon group, along with their English translation.

Here are today's new words for inspiration – though you are of course always welcome to pick other words in the Klingon Dictionary ☺

tlhIngan Hol = Klingon language jatlh = speak jIH = I
DIvI' Hol = English language ghoj = learn  
DIvI' = the Federation yaj = understand  


Prepared by Aurélie Demonchaux (ghItlhjaj)