The grammar lessons on this link are generally correct, but some clarification will be provided in this section.


Sentence Structure


Basic Word Order

            Kiribati sentence structure loosely follows the rule of Subject-Verb-Object. This is the same rough sentence structure as English. Kiribati sentence structure, however, adds another, sometimes optional, subject at the end of the sentence. Therefore making the sentence structure Subject-Verb-Object-Subject. For example, if one were to state “Maria drinks water” in English, the Kiribati sentence structure would look like “She drinks water Maria”. In cases in which the subject is known due to context, the second mention of the subject is not necessary. It should be noted that a pronoun must always be present in the basic Kiribati sentence structure. As with the case of Maria, one could say “She drinks water” but could not say “Maria drinks water” because of the excluded pronoun in the latter sentence. In some cases, the specific subject name can come before the pronoun, which would look like “Maria she drinks water”.


            When attaching an adjective to a noun, plural or singular, the noun must be followed by a pronoun that indicates that the adjective is describing the noun. This pronoun could be translated into English loosely as “which is/are”. For example, the phrase “The big house” in English would be said as “the house which is big” in the Kiribati sentence structure. The phrase “which is” would be replaced by the determinant pronoun in the previous example. When making a descriptive statement about a noun, a different method is used. In this case, the adjective immediately succeeds the pronoun. For example the statement “the house is big” in English would look like “It big the house” or “the house it big” in Kiribati. 

Descriptive Nouns

            When a noun is used to describe another, the same pronoun used to describe adjectives is not required. When describing a proper noun with a descriptive noun, the proper noun is followed by the descriptive noun. This follows a similar pattern as English. “John the Revelator” is a phrase that follows both English and Kiribati structure rules. One does have the option to add the adjective-describing pronoun, which would make the phrase look like “John which is the Revelator”. Both forms are correct, but the former example is more commonly used. It should be noted that when a proper noun is not used, an emphatic pronoun should be used to replace it in these instances. If the descriptive noun is possessed, it may come before the proper noun or emphatic pronoun. 


            Questions are phrased the same way as statements; context and voice intonation are the indicators of a question. For example “are you happy?” in English would be phrased “you are happy?” in Kiribati.




Basic Rules

            In the Kiribati language, verbs are not conjugated differently on tense. This means there is not preterite tense, subjunctive, or otherwise. Tense is assumed based on context. There is no verb “to be”, so adjectives will come immediately after pronouns. 


            Any descriptive noun can be turned into a verb. For example, if one were to speak English with a Kiribati verbed noun it would look like “he doctors”. Doctor, in this case, would be the verb.


            Possessing Verbs

Rules of Possessing Verbs

  1. 1. Possessing a verb turns it into a noun.
  2. 2. Possessing a verb with a suffixal possessive pronoun turns the verb into a noun phrase, with the suffixal possessive pronoun being the subject of the phrase.
  3. 3. Possessing a verb with a regular possessive pronoun denotes that the speaker is in possession of the noun.


The transitive verb tangira means to love or like. If one were to possess tangira with a second person suffixal possessive, it would change into tangiram. This would change the verb “to love” into the noun phrase “the loving of you”, indicating that the suffixal possessive is the subject of the verb. 

Conversely, if tangira was possessed by a regular second person possessive pronoun, it would look like am tangira. This changes the verb “to love” into the noun “love” possessed in the second person, meaning “your love”.