Last updated 2019-06-30 16:36:19

Introductory Note

The history of Mayan languages, from a documentary perspective, is one of consistent variation in written form and the dialect surveyed. For example, two edition of Diccionario Quiché-Español by Abraham Garcia Hernandez and Santiago Yac Sam vary in orthography between the 2008 and the 1980 edition. This is not to mention the even greater variation with Munro Edmonson's 1965 Quiche-English Dictionary. As a result, the examples listed below may vary with one's own resources or elicitations by instructors. As Sergio Romero puts it, "K'ichee' shows substantial dialectal variation and dialect stereotypes are important ethnic markers for its speakers."Romero 2016 So just lean in to the dialect and enjoy your journey with K'iche'!


There are two types of person markers in K'iche': possession markers and independent personal pronouns. In linguistics texts about the language, they are referred to as Set A and Set B, respectively, as these person markers are also used to mark the subject and object in verbs.

Possession (Set A)

  followed by C followed by V
1sg nu- w-
2sg a- aw-
3sg u- r-
1pl qa- q-
2pl i- iw-
3pl ki- k-

In formal speech, the 2sg and 2pl lose the prefix and instead are followed by the politeness markers la and alaq. For example, achi'l la:your (sg, pol) friend.

When used in a verb where the root starts with a consonant, the 1st person singular nu- becomes in-, under influence from the independent personal pronoun, ex. kinna'o:I feel it.

In casual speech, some speakers with use both possession markers, for example nuwachoch:my home and nuwanab':my sister.

Personal Pronouns (Set B)

  sg pl
1 in uj
2 at ix
3 are' e' (are')

2nd person polite forms (sg/pl): la(l) and alaq. In colloquial speech e' is used more often than e' are' for the 3rd person plural.

When used in verbs, the 3sg is unmarked (∅) and 3pl is e'.


the "profession marker". All professions have this prefix: ajtijonel:teacher, ajtijoxel:pupil.


Names are preceded by an prefix, based on the respect and the gender of the person attached to the name. In some writing, they may be written with a space before the word. However, the informal female name prefix should still be prononuced as if it were a attached.

  m. f.
inf. a al
pol. tat nan
  1. Nub'i a Jaime.
    My name is Jaime.


The verb in K'iche' contains 4 potential parts:

  1. (Optional) Progessive marker
  2. Aspect
  3. Person (subject) // Person (object)
  4. Root
  5. (Optional) Termination, Politeness, Future, or Perfective marker

These will vary based on whether or not verb is intransitive (no object) or transitive (has an object).

Progessive marker
The progressive marker is tajin. It is negated either as maj tajin or man tajin taj. For example, Tajin kwilo le wuj ub'i Pop Wuj ⧸ I'm reading the book Pop Wuj or Tajin kub'ano jab' ⧸ It's raining (right now).
Aspect is either complete or incomplete. Incomplete aspect is marked with a k or ka in front of b' or p. Completed aspect is marked with x. Imparative mood is marked with ch, ex. Chinato'o ⧸ (You) help me!
Intransitive verbs
The subject marker for intransitive verbs is always a personal pronoun (Set B).
kinb'ek:I go {
aspect subject root term
k in b'e k
incomplete B1sg go
Transitive verbs
The subject marker for transitive verbs is always a possessive pronoun (Set A), varying based on the first letter of the root, so either a preconsonantal or a prevocalic possessive pronoun. The object marker is always a personal pronoun (Set B). Note: transitive verbs never end in -ik.
kinrilo:He sees you {
aspect object subject root status
k at r il o
incomplete B1sg A3sg see
Status marker
For transitive verbs, it is either ik if the root ends with a consonant, or k, if the verb ends with a vowel. This marker only appears if the verb is the end of the sentence. For intransitive verbs, Mondlach and Can Pixabaj both list -o (such as in ilo:to see) as the same type of termination marker, but Junkan leaves it on even when the verb isn't sentence final, ex. Iwir xatwilo pa k'ayab'al ⧸ Yesterday I saw you at the market. Often Junkan will include a verb with -ik non-sentence final in casual speak. In careful speech, or when asked, he will not include it.
Future marker
It is na, ex. kwilo na ⧸ I will see.
Reflexive marker
It is {POSS}+ib', ex. kwilo wib' ⧸ I see myself.
Perfective marker
When the perfective marker is used, there is no aspect marker. For example, La ana'om ri pasta? ⧸ Have you tried pasta?. ana'om being {2sg:a}{to try/taste:na'o}{perf:m}. See also Mondlach, lesson 32.

The 3 uses of k'o

State of Being

There is no copula in K'iche', meaning there is no conjugated form of 'to be' in a sentence that describes what something is. One simply uses the personal pronoun followed by what the person is. For example, in kosnaq, I am tired.

Negative sentences use the standard man...taj pattern, but around the entire sentence. For example, Man in kosnaq taj. ⧸ I am not tired. Sometimes, you may hear maj rather than man as the first negative marker (maj being an abbreviation of man k'o taj). If the subject is not a personal pronoun, then only the adjective etc. is negated, for example, Man k'ex taj nupam ⧸ My stomach doesn't hurt.

Contrast this standard adjectives: utz kaxlanwa ⧸ good bread (a noun phrase) vs. utz le kaxlanwa ⧸ the bread is good (a full sentence). The difference here is the inclusion of le or ri, which can sort of be thought of as "the", but are much more complicated in reality.

To express where one is, the personal pronoun is used with k'o pa. For example, In k'o pa Iximulew. ⧸ I am in Guatemala.

To Have

There is no verb that specifically means "to have". Rather, it is of the form k'o {POSS}{NOUN}. For example, K'o nuwaram ⧸ I have a dream, K'o awaram ⧸ You have a dream.

If the sentence is about a subject having something possessed by something else, ex. you have something of mine, the preposition uk':with is used. Thus, "You have my money" is K'o awuk' nupwaq, literally "there is my money with you".

Questions asking if one has something can be answered with ye':yes or k'olik:there is in the affirmative, or maj:no, there is not in the negative.


Existential sentences, such as "There is...", use k'o as a standalone verb. For example, K'o keb' tz'i'. ⧸ There are two dogs.

Sequential Verbs

The second or more verb in the sequence appears to always be conjugated in the incomplete aspect.

  1. Chweq, kinsacho na kintz'ib'al k'utub'al.
    Tomorrow, I will forget to write the example.
  2. Iwir, xinsacho le kinb'e pa tyoxja.
    Yesterday, I forgot to go to church.
  3. Iwir man kinwar taj pa nik'aj chaq'ab', rumal man in kosnaq taj.
    Yesterday I wasn't asleep at midnight, because I wasn't tired.


There is only a definitive article ("the") in K'iche', which does not change for pluarlity or gender. It is le, le ikan:the uncle. If one must explicate that it is more than one of the object, then the word taq is used: le taq ikan:the uncles.


with. Prefixed with the possessive prefixes, thus wuk':with me and awuk':with you.
for. Infixed with the possessive prefixes, thus chwe:for me and chawe:for you. che is often used with directional words to indicate what thing the direction is in relation to. For example, K'o jun tijob'al naqaj che le wachoch ⧸ There is a school close to my house, where naqaj:near is followed by che.


K'iche' is a vigesimal (base 20) language. Mayan numerals are in parentheses, they are most often written vertically (such as on the Guatemalan Quetzal), with the 1s place at the bottom.

0: majb'al (𝋠)
0.5: nik'aj
1: jun (𝋡)
1.5: jun junik'aj
2: keb' (𝋢)
3: oxib' (𝋣)
4: kajib' (𝋤)
5: job' (𝋥)
6: waqib' (𝋦)
7: wuqub' (𝋧)
8: wajxaqib' (𝋨)
9: b'elejeb' (𝋩)
10: lajuj (𝋪)
11: julajuj (𝋫)
12: kalajuj (𝋬)
13: oxlajuj (𝋭)
14: kajlajuj (𝋮)
15: (j)olajuj (𝋯)
16: waqlajuj (𝋰)
17: wuqlajuj (𝋱)
18: wajxalajuj (𝋲)
19: b'elejlajuj (𝋳)
20: ju(n)winaq (𝋡𝋠)
40: kawinaq (𝋢𝋠)
60: oxk'al (𝋣𝋠)
80: jumuch' (𝋤𝋠)
100: jok'al (𝋥𝋠)
120: waqk'al (𝋦𝋠)
140: wuqk'al (𝋧𝋠)
200: julajk'al (𝋪𝋠)
400: joq'o (𝋡𝋠𝋠)
8,000: juchuy (𝋡𝋠𝋠𝋠)
160,000: juk'ala (𝋡𝋠𝋠𝋠𝋠)

Ordinal numbers are often only used up to 10 (months are often spoken in Spanish).

1st: nab'e
2nd: ukab'
3rd: urox
4th: ukaj
5th: uro'
6th: uwaq
7th: uwuq
8th: uwajxaq
9th: ub'elej
10th: ulaj(uj)

Question Words

generic question partical
what, why, how
how many
where (location), ex. where are you?
ja wi je:
where (destination), ex. where are you going?
  1. La utz awach?
    Are you well?
  2. Jas ub'ixik pa k'iche' tzij 'amigo'?
    How do you say 'amigo' in K'iche'?
  3. Junik'pa ajunab'?
    How old are you?



Negation occurs by surrounding the word to be negated with man...taj. Mondlach, gives an alternative for of na...ta(j), where taj is only used if it is sentence final.Mondlach, 53 This is also reflected in CLQK, indicating that the na...ta(j) form may be emblematic of the Nahualá dialect.

Maj can be used as an abbreviated form of man k'o taj, that is "there/he is not". Mondlach gives it as the 3sg of the positional aspect negative form of k'oji':to be.Mondlach, 184

  1. Man k'o taj tew.
    I am not cold.
    lit. There is no cold.
  2. Man utz taj nuwach.
    I am not well.