Go to Intro & Index, Lesson 13

Content created: 2001-01-06
File last modified:

Lesson 14: Postpositions

English prepositions often correspond to postpostional suffixes in Nahuatl. The absolutive prefix is lost before the posposition:

petlatl = mat
-pan = on, in, for
petla.pan = on the mat
mo.petla.pan = on your mat
nantli = mother
-ïxpan = in the presence of
to.nan.ïxpan = in the presence of our mother

If the noun is possessed, usually the postposition will be attached to a possessive prefix agreeing with the noun, and the noun itself will follow afterward:

n.ïxpan = in my presence
ï.ïxpan* to.nan = in the presence of [her] our mother
ï.pan mo.petla = on [it] your mat
*-The possessive prefix ï- (a long vowel) before the long i of -ïxpan theoretically would produce a quadruple-length i, but in fact no i in Nahuatl is longer than a regular long ï.

Word order is quite flexible, so long as the possessive always precedes the noun to which it refers.

he died on my mat no.petla.pan ö.mic on-my-mat he-died
ï.pan no.petla ö.mic on-it my-mat he-died
ï.pan ö.mic no.petla on-it he-died my-mat
but not:  no.petla ï.pan ö.mic my-mat on-it he-died
and not:  no.petla ö.mic ï.pan my-mat he-died on-it


-co/c = in, on, at, among

nocalco yöl

yöli Vi2 = to live
calli = house
milli = field
xochitl = flower


at the hill of grasshoppers (place name)
on the face of the hill (place name)
place of quetzal feathers (place name)

tepëtl = hill, mountain
chapolin = grasshopper
tepëtl = hill, mountain
ïxtli = face
huexotl = willow
quetzalli = quetzal feather


-pan = in, on, for

ä.pan = ï.pan ätl
te.pan = ï.pan tetl = ï.pan in tetl
ïpan ö calac

chilli = chile
ätl = water
tetl = stone
calli = house
calaqui Vt2 = enter (a house)

ïpan nitlahtoa nopiltzin = nopilpan nitlahtoa
ïpan tinëchitta mochpochtzin
tinëchitta ïpan mochpochtzin
atle ï.pan ti.nëch.itta

teotl = god
zolli = something old, decrepit
-co = place of
tlahtoa Vt3 = to speak up for, defend
pilli = child
-tzin- = reverential & diminutive suffix
itta Vt1 = see, regard as
Ichpochtli = daughter
atle = nothing


-ïxpan = in the presence of

ïxpan tonantzin
nïxpan ahmo xiquï
ïxpan nonantzin quïc

-tzin = reverential & diminutive suffix
nantli = mother
ï Vt1 = to drink
ahmo = not


-huän = in the company of, with

tohuän yöliz
nonantzin ïhuän notahtzin
tihu:an nichöcac

yöli Vi2 = to live, dwell
nantli = mother
tahtli = father
chöca Vi1 = cry


-pampa = because of, through, on account of

mopampa chocac
amopampa nicchiuh
Totahtzin quimacac in tocal in ïchpoch
ïpampa quipaahuac in tamalli.

choca Vi1 = cry
tahtli = father
calli = house
chihua Vt2 = make
tamalli = tamale


-tech = upon, as far as, beside

ïtech pohui in milli
totech pohui in milli
motechtzinco pohui in milli
ïntech pohui in milli in nopïpilhuän
notech monequi in ätl
ïtech monequi in ätl in totahtzin

pohui = to belong to
milli = field
pilli = child
nequi Vt = desire
nequi Vr = be necessary
ätl = water
tahtli = father


-ca/-tica = through, by, for, with, by means of

The form -tica is never used with a possessive prefix. A common reverential-diminutive has the form -(ti)catzinco. (Observation: I think use of this form to attach a benefactive object allows the object prefix in the main verb to remain with the direct object rather than shifting forward to the indirect or benefactive object.)

ïcatzinco önicchiuh
ïca ticchiuh
moca önicchiuh
noca ö ticchiuh
nocihuatica ö nicchiuh
ïca nicchiuh nocihua
ïca tetl quimictih nopitzo

chihua Vt2 = make
cihuatl = woman, wife
tetl = stone
mictia Vt3 = kill
pitzotl = pig


-nähuac = close to, next to
-tzintlan = at the foot of
-Icpac = on top of, above
-tlan/-titlan = between, next to, under
-itic = inside
-ïcampa = behind

niyölih änähuac
ïnahuac niyölih ätl
ïcpac tepëtl
ïcal nocaltitlan
ïcal ïtitlan nocal
nocalitic yölli
ïtic ö mic ïcal
ïmil ïcampa nocal

nemi Vi2 = to live, dwell
ätl = water
tepëtl = hill, mountain
yöli Vi2= live, dwell
calli = house
mani Vi = to stretch out, be located


Return to top.

Challenge: If you have come this far, it is time to look at some real Nahuatl. For that purpose a few bilingual readings have been prepared that you can gradually work through with the aid of the Inadequate Nahual Reference Grammar. You will find them listed as the Inadequate Chrestomathy of Practice Readings. Have fun!

Return to top.