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Papiamentu verbs are relatively easy to conjugate. They indicate their tenses by adding short words to the sentence rather than changing the form of the verb. ta indicates the present, lo indicates the future, and a indicates the past tense. The pronoun e (meaning "he" or "she") changes into el when it appears before a. Some speakers put the future tense marker lo before the subject of the verb.


mi ta kanta 

I sing

I am singing 


nos ta kanta 

we sing

we are singing 

bo ta kanta 

you sing

you are singing 


boso ta kanta 

you (plural) sing

you all are singing 

e ta kanta 

he/she sings

he/she is singing 


nan ta kanta 

they sing

they are singing 



mi a kanta I sang   nos a kanta we sang
bo a kanta you sang   boso a kanta you (plural) sang
el a kanta he/she sang   nan a kanta they sang

lo mi kanta or

mi lo kanta 

I will sing   

lo nos kanta or

nos lo kanta

we will sing 

lo bo kanta or

bo lo kanta 

you will sing   

lo boso kanta or

boso lo kanta

you (plural) will sing 

lo e kanta or

e lo kanta 

he/she will sing   

lo nan kanta or

nan lo kanta 

they will sing 


ta bai


According to Getting around the Islands in Papiamentu, a different flavor of the future can be expressed using ta bai as in Mi ta bai kanta = "I am going to sing."


Progressive Aspect


The progressive aspect indicates either of the following:

a) one action was in progress when something else happened, or

b) habitual or customary activity.


The progressive aspect of the past tense can be created using tabata followed by the plain verb or the present participle.  

Ora bo a drenta mi tabata kome. or

Ora bo a drenta mi tabata komiendo.

When you came in I was eating.





The Papiamentu word no is equivalent to English not. It usually appears immediately before the verb which it negates.


Double negatives are common in Papiamentu as in Spanish. 


Mi no tin nada.

I have nothing. (Literally I not have nothing.)


E no a dunami nada.

He did not give me anything.



Exceptional Verbs


The following verbs do not use ta to indicate the present tense. You might say that the present tense is the default condition for these verbs: tin (have), por (be able to), ke (want), sa and konose (know), mester (must). Obviously ta also does not use ta to indicate its own present tense; one never says anything like mi ta ta merikano.


The following verbs may be used with or without ta in the present tense: gusta (to like), stima (to love), bal (to be worth), kosta (to cost), debe (owe), parse (resemble). Some sources also include di (to say), dependé (depend), nifica (signify) in this category.



The Copula


Papiamentu's copula, equivalent to English be, am, is, are, was, were, is ta. (This word ta also serves as the indicator of the present tense for other verbs.)


Bo kas ta bunita.

Your house is lovely.


Nan ta hulandes.

They are Dutch.


The past tense of ta is tabata. In casual speech tabata is often reduced to tata or ta'a.


The imperative of ta is sea.

   Sea ketu! = Be quiet!

   Sea un bon mucha. = Be a good child.


There are many cases in which English would use am, is, are but the correct equivalent in Papiamentu is tin (have/exist) or sinti (feel). Some examples:


Tin hopi bientu.

It is very windy. (Literally exists much wind.)


Mi tin hamber.

I am hungry. (Literally I have hunger.)


Mi ta sinti kalor.

I feel warm.


Kuantu aña bo tin?

How old are you? (Literally how many years you have?



The Verb tin 


tin usually means "possess" or "contain."


Un aña tin diesdos luna.

A year has twelve months.


Nan tin un kas bunita.

They have an attractive house. 


The past tense form of tin is tabatin. The imperative is tene.


Sometimes (especially at the beginning of a phrase) tin indicates existence. In these cases tin is equivalent to English "there is..." or "there are..."


Tin un pushi riba e mesa.

There is a cat on the table. 


Tin algun apelnan?

Are there any apples? 


Awe no tin notisia.

Today there is not any news.


Tin does not correspond to all uses of the English word "have." Tin is not used in forming verb tenses (such as "I have gone" in English). Tin does not mean experience or undergo (as in English "I had a cold" or "I had a good time").






Blankenburg, Eleanor Basic Papiamentu Grammar for English Speakers 1986

T. Dovale, G. Dammers and B. Lockwood Getting around the Islands in Papiamentu 2007

Goilo, E.R. Papaimentu Textbook, ninth edition 1994



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