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Lesson 7: Object Prefixes

Even as Nahuatl verbs always take subject prefixes, transitive verbs always also take object prefixes. The object prefix follows the subject prefix.

Object Prefixes for Verbs
nëch- = me tëch- = us
mitz- = you (s) amëch- = you (p)
c-, qui- = him/her/it quim-/quin- = them

The third-person singular prefix is c (spelt qu before e or i) when there is a vowel already adjacent to it (before, after, or both); otherwise it is qui.



Itta Vt* = to see
* Vt = transitive verb, Vi = intransitive verb



caqui Vt = to hear
ocelotl = ocelot; jaguar

ticcaquih in ocelotl
tiquittah in ocelotl


ana Vt = to take

nicana in metlatl
nehhuatl nicana in pilli
yehhuatl nicana in pilli
yehhuän niquinana in pïpiltin


Some verbs take more than one object. The clearest example is "give":

I givethe tamal to Juan for his mother.
 direct object indirect object benefactive object

In Nahuatl the object prefix always agrees with the benefactive object if there is one; if not then it agrees with the indirect object. If there is not one of those either, then it agrees with the direct object. (If there is any language outside the Americas that does this, I have yet to hear of it.) Consider the following examples, using maca = to give:

ni.c.maca in tamal.li = I give tamales
ni.mitz.maca in tamal.li = I give you tamales
ni.quim.maca in tamal.li to.pïpil.huän = I give (you) tamales for your children


ichtequi Vt = to steal

-.qu.ichtequi.h in tamalli
ti.qu.ichtequi in tamalli in cihuatl


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Challenge: In the example, ni.quim.maca in tamal.li to.pïpil.huän was translated as "I give you tamales for your children." Is there any reason why it can't be translated as "I give tamales to your children?" (Answer: No.)

So would one of the following sentences be any clearer? Why (not)?

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