Word order

The Klingon word order is a little unusual for speakers of european languages, since basic sentences look like spoken backwards. The good thing is that most of the time, you are stuck with that order and you cannot change it.

Slot: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Element: question timestamp locative adverb object verb subject adjective only intensification
Example phrase qatlh DaHjaj DujDaq nom qagh Sop tlhIngan yoH neH jay'.
Translation: Why today on the ship quickly Gagh eats the Klingon brave only !!
Structure:         [--- basic sentence


1. Question words

TKD states that the question words ghorgh (when), qatlh (why), and chay' (how) come “at the beginning of the sentence.” (1) This has been interpreted to mean that they always come before everything else (like all question words in English). However, the word “sentence” in TKD could just mean the object-verb-subject construction, in which case these words might actually come after some other elements (see “Adverbs” below).

2. Time Stamps

Time stamps like today, monday, last night come at the beginning of a sentence, before any used adverbial. (2)
  • DaHjaj nom Soppu'. "Today they ate quickly." (TKD, p. 179)
  • wa'leS chaq maHegh. "Tomorrow we may die." (TKW, p. 153)

This apparently also applies to the adverbial reH always which is used as a time word here:
  • reH HIvje'lIjDaq 'Iwghargh Datu'jaj. "May you always find a blood worm in your glass." (Power Klingon)
  • reH latlh qabDaq qul tuj law' Hoch tuj puS. "The fire is always hotter on someone else's face." (replacement proverb)

3. Locatives

Words that indicate the location of an event (see locatives) can be words on their own, or nouns combined with the type 5 suffix -Daq. Basically, TKD only says that these "come first" (3), but it does not talk about combining with other adverbs. The best guess is following your instincts, which makes it put in front of the adverb, but this is not confirmed. [citation needed]

It is classified as an adverb, but used as a time stamp, so the word reH ("always") precedes the locative: reH HIvje'lIjDaq 'Iwghargh Datu'jaj. "May you always find a blood worm in your glass." (Power Klingon)

4. Adverbs

Adverbs come at the beginning of a sentence, with very few exceptions. (4) In this case, "sentence" refers to the object-verb-subject construction. (5)

5-6-7. Basic sentence

Basic sentences follow the pattern object-verb-subject(6).

8. Adjectives

When a verb is used as an adjective, then it follows the noun it modifies. The new phrase can fill the slot of the object and/or the subject. (7)
  • leng tlhIngan yoH The brave Klingon travels.
  • tlhIngan yoH legh HoD The captain sees the brave Klingon.

When such a verb is used as an action, then it precedes the noun it modifies.
  • yoH tlhIngan The Klingon is brave.

➞ See main article adjective

9. Only / merely

The word neH ("only") is the only adverbial that follows a noun, where it means only, alone. It can also follow a verb, trivializing the action meaning only, meerely, just: (8) jISop neH I'm just eating (but not doing anything else).

10. Intensification

The adverbial jay' is unique in that it is placed at the end of a sentence and effectively turns the entire sentence into an invective (9).

relative ordering of Adverbials

There are no written rules about the ordering of adverbials, but there seems to be a scheme based on canon examples.
  • Each adverbial apparently applies to all that follows.
  • Degree of certainty seems to precede the scope of the expected delay before the action, and that precedes the quality of the action.
  • Since vaj tends to connect what follows it to a clause or sentence that preceded it, that should come before all else.

It seems almost as if there were types of adverbs similar to the way Klingon has types of verb suffixes, based on the following canon examples:

chaq batlh bIvangqa'laH
You might have a chance to make amends.
(paq'batlh p. 100-101)

chaq tugh batlh Heghmo' 'ej chaq tugh charghmo'
For they may soon die with honor! For they may soon be victorious!
(paq'batlh p. 120-121)

reH batlh SuvtaHjaj chaH
Let endless battle and honor await them!
(paq'batlh p. 150-151)

vaj pe'vIl joqqu' cha' tlhIngan tIqDu'
Both Klingon hearts beat, at their strongest, in lust for blood.
(paq'batlh p. 166-167)

Possible interpretation:
Type 1 vaj
Type 2 chaq
Type 3 tugh
Type 4 batlh

You probably can't have two of the same type, and you can have zero or one of each type in any verb clause.


1 : The Klingon Dictionary, p. 69: "Three other question words likewise occur at the beginning of the sentence."

2 : The Klingon Dictionary, Addendum 6.7, p. 179: "It is possible for an element of another type to precede the adverb. Most commonly, this is a time element"

3 : The Klingon Dictionary 6.1: "Any noun in the sentence indicating something other than subject or object comes first, before the object noun. Such nouns usually end in a Type 5 noun suffix."

4 : The Klingon Dictionary, p. 55: "These words usually come at the beginning of a sentence"

5 : The Klingon Dictionary, Addendum 6.7, p. 179: "the adverbial precedes the object-verb-noun construction."

6 : The Klingon Dictionary, p. 59

7 : The Klingon Dictionary, p. 49

8 : The Klingon Dictionary 5.4, p. 56

9 : The Klingon Dictionary, Addendum 5.4, p. 177

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