Type 5 verb suffixes

Type 5 verb suffixes, indicating an indefinite subject or ability(1), can only be attached to verbs. They have nothing in common, except for being of the same suffix type. This means that they can never be used on the same verb.


Suffix meaning
-lu' indefinite subject
-laH can, able

Indefinite subject

Using the suffix -lu' on a verb indicates that the subject is not known, or not defined. In English, this is sometimes translated as "one does..." or using the passive voice. When using this suffix, the prefix turns around subject and object: Dalegh You see it becomes Daleghlu' Someone sees you or You are being seen.

Compare these following phrases:

chab Sop targh The targ eats the pie.
➞ It's clear who ate it.

chab Soplu' Some unknown subject eats the pie or the pie is eaten.
➞ This can be used to describe half a pie standing on the table during a party: You say that it is being eaten, but you did not observe who ate it. It's kind of a general expression: "This is a pie that has been eaten by someone".

chab Sop vay' Somebody eats (or has eaten) the pie
➞ Talking about the same pie on the party table. This could be used to describe an observed action: You see "somebody" eating the pie. Even in past tense, you may say "someone ate the pie", but still "someone" is a definite subject, so it's different from -lu'.

Adding a negation turns chab Soplu' into chab Soplu'be', negating the entire phrase Soplu'. You say this when you discover that the pie on the table is left untouched = Nobody tried it.

The difference between -lu'be' and -be'lu'

There are at least 9 examples where we have the suffixes -lu' and -be' combined. Most of them are combined with the verb tu' discover and in those cases, it's usually tu'lu'be' one does not observe. There is only one example where we have the reversed order: QuvlIjDaq yIH tu'be'lu'jaj May your coordinates be free of tribbles. This has lead to the question whether there is a difference between those version, and what each of them would mean.

In 2004 this topic generated an extended debate on the KLI mailing list (2). A consensus does not seem to have emerged. Some have argued that be'lu' is the correct form except in the special case of tu'lu'. An alternative view was that be'lu' negates the specific verb, while lu'be' negates the entire verbal phrase. The meanings are similar but give different emphasis.

What seems clear is that the negation suffix -be' does not revert the meaning of -lu'. It reverts the meaning of the entire phrase. Canon proves it: SuvwI'pu' qan tu'lu'be' There are no old warriors. (TKW, p. 29)

bubble   This is an OPINION PAGE. It may contain different points of view about different parts of Klingon. You may add useful thoughts, but please remember this is not a forum.

written by Lieven L. Litaer
There is subtle but existing difference expressed in the word order. It is hard to convey to English, but in Klingon, it is quite clear. This is certaily dependant on the verb, for instance look at legh see. When negating legh one gets a verb that can be something like "being blind". One can understand leghbe'lu' as "one is doing some not-seeing" as opposed to leghlu'be' "the act of seeing does not happen".

This also works with Sop eat, when you think of Sopbe' as a verb of refusing to eat (like in a hunger strike) or if somebody wants to lose weight. On a weight watchers meeting, you can say naDev Sopbe'lu' i.e. "one does [not-eat]". An untouched cake standing there has been Soplu'be'. THAT's the difference.

This also applies to the phrase tu'lu', although tu'lu'be' is seen more often, since tu'lu' is regarded as a standalone expression.


The suffix -laH is easily translated as "can": DaleghlaH You can see it

It's common in English to phrase requests using can when you are not actually asking about someone's ability to perform the task you want (e.g. Can you help me?). Don't do this in Klingon, be direct. If you want someone to help you, say HIQaH! Help me!

Using both

It may occur sometimes that both suffixes are needed. Although not permitted, it is possible to say this as a slang expression, combining -lu' + -laH into -la' or -luH. (3)

See also

Type Sort Suffixes
1 Oneself/one another -chuq, -'egh
2 Volition/predisposition -nIS, -qang, -rup, -beH, -vIp
3 Change -choH, -qa'
4 Cause -moH
5 Indefinite subject/ability -lu', -laH
6 Qualification -chu', -bej, -ba', -law'
7 Aspect -pu', -ta', -taH, -lI'
8 Honorific -neS
9 Syntactic markers -DI', -chugh, -pa', -vIS, -mo', -bogh, -meH, -'a', -jaj, -wI', -ghach
R Rovers -Ha', -Qo', -be', -qu'


1 : The Klingon Dictionary p. 38

2 : message of october 2004 on the KLI mailing list

3 : Klingon for the Galactic Traveler

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