To G or not to G, that is the question

<< Previous lesson: Introductions and possession

In English we use the same verb for each of these sentences:

am Moroccan.

am in Morocco.

But in Tachelhit there are two different types of the verb ‘to be’.

g = existential: to be something, to be in a state, to become

illi = physical: to exist, to be in a place

The question mamnk a tgit? (g [to be] t-t [you] = ‘you are’) asks ‘what is your state of being’?

You should use g to describe who or what something is:

iga aghyul lbhimt – he is + donkey + animal = the donkey is an animal

tga Samira tafmrlit – she is + Samira + nurse = Samira is a nurse

nkki gigh amirikani – me + I am + American = I am American

is tgit turist? – question + you are + tourist? = Are you a tourist?

Let’s look at the other ‘to be’ verb, illi, ‘to be in a place’. You’ll use this to describe where something is, or whether it exists at all.

Read each sentence carefully to understand the structure and new words.

is tllit gh tigmmink? –  Are you at your (masc.) house?

nkki lligh gh l-mGrib – I am in Morocco

aghyul illa gh igr – the donkey is in the field

Samira tlla gh s-sbitar – Samira is in the hospital

illa unZar – it is raining (there is rain)

aman llan gh tqr3it – the water is in the bottle


Note: In that last sentence, water (aman) is treated as a plural, so we use llan (they are) instead of illa (it is): ‘the waters are in the bottle’. The preposition gh means ‘in’ or ‘at’.

ili is the existential verb. If you’re reciting Hamlet’s soliloquy in Tachelhit, that’s the one you’ll use.

You’ll only get comfortable with these two verbs with practice, so let’s look at how to ask personal questions. First commit these terms to memory:

mani = where

-gh = preposition (at)

illa = it is

mani-gh illa…? = where is…?


Q: mani-gh illa Brahim? – Where is Brahim?

A: illa Brahim gh Tiznit – Brahim is in Tiznit

Q: mani-gh tlla Zinb? – where is Zinb?

A: tlla Zinb gh s-sbitar – Zinb is in the hospital.

Q: mani-gh illa Hmad? – where is Hmad?

A: illa Hmad gh tagant – Hmad is in the forest.

Q: mani-gh tlla Fatim? – where is Fatim?

A: tlla Fatim gh tigmmins – Fatim is at her house

Remember that the letter t turns any word into the feminine form. Therefore illa, he is, becomes tlla, she is.

Likewise, we must make sure that the verb agrees with the genders of inanimate nouns:

Q: mani-gh illa ugharas? – where is the road? (masc.)

A: illa ugharas afasi – the road is on the right

Q: mani-gh tlla tgmmink? – where is the house? (fem.)

A: tlla tgmminu gh-Tiznit – my house is in Tiznit.


By now you should understand the different usage of the two verbs.

Q: tlla Samira gh s-sbitar?  – is Samira in the hospital (s-sbitar)?

A: yyih, Samira tga tafmrlit. – yes, Samira is a nurse (tafmrlit).

Q: illa aghyul gh tgmmi?  – is the donkey (aghyul) in the house?

A: uhuy, iga aghyul l-bhimt! – no, the donkey is an animal (l-bhimt)!

Now fill in the blanks, using either g or illi — and conjugate the verb properly!

_____ Hmad tigmmins (Hmad [masculine] is at his house)

is _____ tisnt? (Is there salt? [feminine])

yyih, _____ tisnt.(yes, there is salt [f])

_____ amghribi. (you are Moroccan)

_____ aman gh taqr3it. (there is water [plural m] in the bottle)

nkki _____ amirikani. (I [m] am American)

nkki _____ tamirikanit. (I [f] am American)

It is important to get comfortable with these verbs and to learn how to conjugate them.

Click here for my Quizlet flashcards for (state of being)

Click here for my Quizlet flashcards for ili (to exist physically, to be in a place)

Next lesson: Noun states and asking directions >>


3 thoughts on “To G or not to G, that is the question

  1. Azul! I just stumbled across your blog and was delighted to find the Tachelhit lessons because most of my Moroccan friends speak Tachelhit natively and I’d love to learn a bit more about their language. Are you planning on continuing the lessons? I really like them and they’re very well done; you’re really good at explaining grammar concepts that might seem complicated to English speakers 🙂 tanmmirt from someone who totally understands why you’d call yourself a Morocco addict 🙂
    – Helen


    • It’s nice to know someone is reading these posts! I just quit my day job, so I should be able to devote more time to this blog.
      I hope you’ve had a peek at Abdallah el Mountassir’s book; it really is fantastic. My objective here is only to make the subject more accessible, and in English.
      Also, stay tuned for audio files.
      Thank you for the nice feedback!


      • Ah! Thank you so much for your reply and especially for the new Tamazight-post! Made my day to see that, tanmmirt 🙂
        I downloaded the book and it seems great so far, thank you! Nevertheless I love your blog because you somehow manage to explain the grammar in a really simple way that makes me enjoy learning it a lot! Audio files sound great, can’t wait! Thank you so much for all the effort you’re putting into this!


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