Na vs Ng

Discussion in 'Tagalog and Filipino Languages' started by verbalphantom, Jan 4, 2010.

  1. verbalphantom New Member

    English - Canada
    I am quite new to Tagalog, and I've been building my vocab much more than my grammar skills. I understand that na is past tense, but I just get confused when I see something for example... "Isang papel na supot na walang-laman." I do know what the sentance means, but many times in a place where I would personally put "Ng" I see "Na" instead, can someone please help me out on the use of "Na" over "Ng". What does "Na" infer on the sentence that "Ng" doesn't, and visa-versa? Answers are greatly appreciated.

  2. DotterKat Moderator

    California, USA
    English (American)
    This is a broad topic as "na" and "ng" each function in a number of ways. Based on the sentence you gave, "na" functions as an adjective linker and therefore has no tense. You are confusing "na" as an adverb of time, which is totally different.
    "Ng" would have no place in the sentence at all, unless we add another phrase to your text.

    "Isang papel na supot na walang-laman."

    First, we have to correct your sentence. It should be: "Isang supot na papel na walang laman."

    [Your original text is wrong because what you mean to say is "a bag made of paper (a paper bag)" and not "a paper that is a bag" ---- the mental image may be the same, but you have to agree that the former is a better way of saying it.]

    As you know, this means "An empty (adjective) paper (adjective) bag (noun)."

    In Tagalog, a linker (na) is needed to link the actual adjective with the modified noun.

    A more literal translation of your sentence would be: "One bag (made of) paper (that is) empty.
    In the above sentence, "made of" and "that is" both function as linkers in the same way that "na" does in Tagalog.


    We can add "ng" to your sentence in this manner:
    "Binigyan niya ako ng isang supot na papel na walang laman."
    (He/She gave me an empty paper bag.)

    In the above, ng is functioning as a direct object marker. Literally, it marks whatever comes after it as the object of the action, done by the actor.

    "Binigyan (verb) niya (actor of binigyan) ako (focus) ng (direct object marker) isang (adjective) supot (direct object) na papel (adjective + na linker) na walang laman (adjective + na linker).


    Here is "na" as an adverb of time:

    "Binigyan na niya ako ng isang supot na papel na walang laman."

    He/She already gave me an empty paper bag.

    In the above, na (already) is an adverb of time, indicating a past action. Here is where you thought that na, the adjective linker, possesses a tense. As you now see, they are totally different. As the saying goes, they are as alike as chalk and cheese. Good luck and don't be discouraged!
  3. verbalphantom New Member

    English - Canada
    Thank you for your reply! I have posted this question other places(with about 10 replies), and your the first one to tell me the sentence is incorrect. The sentence comes from Rosetta Stone language learning software. People translated it "One paper bag with no contents.". Are you sure the sentence is wrong? I have come to understand why the first Na in the sentence is there instead of Ng, but I don't understand why the second Na is there. Na I've learned in this case is a different form of Ng used when the modifier ends in a consonant. For example "Dilaw na kotse" Dilaw is the modifier ending in a consonant or "Pulang kotse" Pula is the modifier in this instance ending in a vowel. That explanation though does not explain for me the second Na. You have some light to shed on that?

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2010
  4. DotterKat Moderator

    California, USA
    English (American)
    When speaking Tagalog, I want to sound fluent, precise but also natural sounding. To me, "papel na supot" is similar to saying shoes of leather (instead of leather shoes) or a box of wood (instead of wooden box). As I mentioned, the mental image is the same but I prefer the more natural way of saying it.

    Also, when speaking English, would one be more likely to say "One paper bag with no contents," or simply "An empty paper bag?" To me, the first sentence sounds almost robotic and less natural sounding than the next sentence. Obviously, both are correct but in order to move forward from simply translating things verbatim and on to actually translating meaning, I think we have to be less literal in translation while retaining meaning.

    "Isang papel na supot na walang-laman."

    Strictly speaking, the above sentence will translate as: One paper of bag that has no contents.

    See these other examples:

    Bahay na bato = stone house (not Bato na bahay = stone of house)
    Hikaw na ginto = gold earring (not Ginto na hikaw = gold of earring; but gintong hikaw is correct)
    Plato na porselana = porcelain plate (not Porselana na plato = porcelain of plate; but platong porselana is correct)

    If that does not convince you, then break down the sentence:

    Isang (One -- limiting adjective) papel (paper -- should be a descriptive adjective, but will now function as the subject noun) na (linker) supot (bag -- should be the subject noun, but is now merely a descriptive adjective) na (linker) walang laman (descriptive adjective).

    Translate that and you get: One paper (of bag or that is a bag or that is bag-shaped)
    that is (empty or has no contents).

    I don't know what else to tell you, but I am sure that the last sentence sounds pretty awkward --- the meaning will get through, but it sounds neither precise nor natural.


    The second na?

    " walang laman."

    That too is a linker for the descriptive adjective "walang laman." Think of the linkers as something that adds fluency to speech. Otherwise, the sentence would be "Isa supot papel wala laman." The essential meaning may be there but obviously it does not sound fluent at all.
  5. verbalphantom New Member

    English - Canada
    I understand what your saying, thanks a lot! How long have you been studying if you don't mind me asking, and how much time do you spend on a daily basis? I understand the whole concept of linkers, that is clear to me, but what I didn't understand is why the word Na was used the second time instead of Ng. I can't systematically understand that. I am trying to learn how to construct sentences here, and I understand the use of Ng, but I just want a clear understanding of when to trade Ng for Na while constructing sentences.
  6. niernier

    niernier Senior Member

    Manila, Philippines
    Bicol & Filipino
    The first and the second na in this sentence have the same usage - as a linker for a descriptive adjective. Dotterkat has clearly explained the difference between "supot na papel" and "papel na supot", but for me as a native speaker, they are both correct. I'll go with "papel na supot" though. The default order if you don't want to get confused is adjective first then noun. But always be aware in choosing when to put the noun first. For example, in English, when do you say "empty bag" and "bag that has no contents"?

    supot na walang-laman in the sentence is translated as "bag that has no contents". The na here literally means "that".

    But before I explain further, I would like to clear something. Are you confused of the ligature -ng or the unfocused direct object/actor marker ng? It seems you have a clear idea on the concept of linkers but how do you suggest if the sentence instead uses ng in place of the second na? Are you asking if it is possible to say "walang-lamang supot"?
  7. verbalphantom New Member

    English - Canada
    Thank you niernier. I think I'm good for now. I think it's my lack of English grammar that's giving me trouble.
  8. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    There is a case that "Na" and "Ng" have the same meaning and use. 1.) Hangin na malamig= hanging malamig 2.) Panahon na mainit= Panahong mainit 3.) Salita na Tagalog= Salitang Tagalog
  9. rempress Member

    I hope my answer will not confuse you more. The word "NG" when used as a word by itself and not as suffix shows possession. Example: "Bahay NG kaibigan ko" which means house of my friend. It is "of" in English.
  10. bdpalawan New Member

    Palawan, Philippines
    English, United States
    It is confusing to say that the letters ng (the bound linking form of na) has anything at all to do with the full WORD ng (pronounced "nang"). The linking na/-ng and the word ng are completely separate entities.

    I also agree that the Rosetta phrase sounds artificial and unnatural. It's funny, too, because in American stores, the big question about bags is "paper or plastic." But paper bags are not used in the Philippines, so it's moot. The question might be "plastic (i.e. plastic bag) or karton (box)."
  11. mapangarap Member

    Use linkers to connect words in the following situations:
    Situation Example
    Adjective + noun Mabait na bata
    Noun + adjective Batang mabait
    Pronoun + noun Iyong anak
    Pronoun + infinitive Gustó kong kumain

    Linkers make spoken Filipino sound better. People may understand you if you omit connectors, but they will understand you better if you use connectors. For a better sound, add –ng to a word ending in a vowel and –g to a word ending in n.

    If Do Example
    A word ends in a vowel Add -ng Tayo: tayong lahat
    A word ends with n Add –g Akin: aking laruan
    A word ends with a consonant Use the separate word na Mabilis: mabilis na sasakyan
  12. leah_214 New Member

    good morning...

    i've been having a hard time answering a friend with his question about linker

    why do use different linkers for the ff sentences.:

    1. Ang lumilipad "NA" ibon ay nabaril.
    2. Kami ay nag-aaral ng Tagalog.
  13. DotterKat Moderator

    California, USA
    English (American)
    As indicated in the previous responses, na and ng are linkers that function differently. In your first sentence, na links the noun ibon with the verb lumilipad (flying bird). In your second sentence, ng functions as a direct object marker (nag-aaral ng ano? Tagalog --- studying what? Tagalog).
  14. leah_214 New Member

    Thanks...your answer is a supports my conclusion hahaha.. :)
  15. latchiloya Member

    Let me make clarification on this. I don’t think na is past tense nor it denotes tense at all. What I know of is it may either be a conjunction or an adverb.

    We would love you to state the English text equivalent so we avoid confusion, since you are referring with the English context--with which you refer as the thing you know of-- yet not stated in your thread for if we are to refer to the original context, which is Filipino, it would result more or less in 7 statements in English.

    I quite understand what you are implying. The problem is we are not particular as to what word class na and ng, which we are referring to, would be categorized as.

    For what made you reply this:

    …made the conversation clear enough.

    You might want to check on these:

    White cat
    puti napusa
    -na is a separate word that function as modifier

    puting pusa
    -na becomes ng yet, take note, it becomes a part of the word puti that modifies the noun pusa yet the litteral meaning is the same. Thus na is equivalent to the the ng that that is linked to the modifier and not separate. Or else this this would mean:

    puti ng pusa
    white of cat

    As to which, the latter ng is a conjunction which is equivalent to of or relating to.

    I doubt ng is to be used instead of na.

    Na – a modifier
    Ng – a conjunction; of or relating to

    If you mean:


    That “papel na supot” as one word, then I would say it as:

    Isang papel na supot na walang-laman
    A paper bag which/that [is] empty

    In a Filipino Grammar, na can cause the nearby words to function as adjective to each other. And another thing is no marker for an adverb exists that at anytime an adjective can take a function of an adverb once two adjectives exists.(I can't cite any reference for this is an original study:eek:)

    Actually the two na’s do not differ that much from each other. Both are linker of a modifier. Since there are two na's there would be at least two adjectives to which one modifies the other, that we can infer the latter is but an adverb not an adjective.


    This is so true. Exception is in green for I have never been there.

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