To Be

There is more than "one" way to express in Klingon the English verb "to be".

Adjectives: to be big

If the sentence is describing someone or something with an adjective, this is often said with a state verb serving as both the verb to be and the adjective.
bIval. You are clever. The verb val (to be clever) embodies both the verb are and the adjective clever. The pronoun you is in the verb prefix bI-.
HoS SuvwI'. The warrior is strong. The verb HoS (to be strong) embodies both the verb is and the adjective strong.
A state verb can take all the verb prefixes and suffixes as any other verb.

Locatives: to be somewhere

If the sentence is describing where someone or something is located, this is often said with a pronoun serving as the verb to be. It seems like there must be an aspect suffix added to the pronoun, but that is not confirmed and only derived from the existing examples:
  • meHDaq ghaHtaH. He is on the bridge. The pronoun ghaH embodies both He and is.
  • meHDaq ghaHtaH HoD'e'. The captain is on the bridge. Here ghaH only means is because a subject is present.

In clipped Klingon, the pronoun is dropped: nuqDaq puchpa'? (1)


When saying that you are not at a place, the negation suffix follows the aspect suffix.
  • pa' jIHpu'be'. I wasn't there. (2)

Unclear Canon

The following two examples are confusing, as they do not have an aspect suffix. This may be because they are questions (?), or because these are things which do not change their location, so adding a suffix might not be necessary?
  • nuqDaq 'oH puchpa''e'? Where is the bathroom? (3)
  • nuqDaq 'oH Qe' QaQ'e'? Where is a good restaurant? (4)

This phrase from Power Klingon is an insult, used in curse warfare. It seems to be lacking the aspect suffix, but the first part may also be interpreted as a noun-noun-construction (i.e. ghe''orDaq luSpet = "black hole in the netherworld"). In that case though, it violates the rule that only the second noun in the NN-constuction may take a type 5 suffix:
  • ghe''orDaq luSpet 'oH DaqlIj'e'. You belong in a black hole in the netherworld"

Descriptive: to be something

If the sentence is identifying someone or something, the pronoun is also used as the verb to be.
tlhIngan jIH. I am a Klingon. The pronoun jIH embodies both I and am.
verenganpu' chaH qama'pu''e'. The prisoners are Ferengi.

If a subject noun is present, as above, it must carry the -'e' suffix. The pronoun used must agree with the subject in number and type. If the subject is capable of speech, then either ghaH or chaH must be used. 'oH or bIH are used with things or beings incapable of speech. A pronoun functioning as the verb to be can take verb suffixes: tlhIngan SoH'a'? Are you a Klingon? nuch ghaHba'. He is obviously a coward. DISDaq 'oHtaHbogh targh'e' the targ which is in the cave

When subject and object are in a different number, the pronoun aggrees with the subject, not the object. In the following example from paq'batlh, wa' Dol is singular and qa''e' porgh'e' je are plural. Actually this is not surprising, since pronouns can be translated as the verb "to be", so it is the subject that rules over the verb. Literally "they are (pl.) something (sg.)." Since klingon syntax is backwards, the verb (pronoun in this case) logically follows the subject.

from paq'batlh: (5)

DaH mararchuq
wa' Dol bIH qa''e' porgh'e' je
We are now connected,
Spirit and body are one,
Until our time comes.

Questions: To be what?

Question words such as nuq (what?) and 'Iv (who?) function the same way pronouns do in questions with to be in the English translations. Thus, the question yIH nuq (What is a tribble?) is exactly parallel to the statement yIH 'oH (It is a tribble). The answer to the question yIH nuq (What is a tribble?) would presumably be a definition or description of a tribble.

Commands: Be something!

Expressing imperative "to be" is problematic in Klingon. Below are some suggestions for saying "Be a Klingon". The deeper significance of this concept is left as an exercise for the reader. The following paraphrases are listed in ascending order of abstractness and descending order of practicality.

tlhIngan yIDa. Act like a Klingon.

tlhIngan yIrur. Resemble a Klingon.

tlhIngan yIgheS. Take on the responsibilities of a Klingon.

tlhIngan yImoj. Become a Klingon.

tlhIngan Dotlh yIghaj. Have a Klingon's status.

tlhIngan SoH 'e' yIqaSmoH. Cause yourself to be a Klingon, Make it come to pass that you are a Klingon.

tlhIngan SoHmeH yIchen. Take shape in order that you are a Klingon, Come into being as a Klingon.

See also


1 : Power Klingon

2 : The Klingon dictionary, p. 172

3 , 4 : The Klingon dictionary, p. 170, "List of useful Klingon expressions"

5 : paq'batlh

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