Poswa verbs

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Poswa verbs have 8 conjugation classes corresponding to the final letter of the stem of the verb. The commonest final vowel is /a/, so -a is considered the first conjugation class. Each verb also conjugates for three persons (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and three tenses: past, present, and imperative. The "plain" future tense is derived from the imperative. Verbal moods are handled by inflecting the conjugated verb (which always ends in a vowel) with consonants that resemble noun inflections. It could thus be said that verbs in Poswa are merely a subset of nouns. Lastly, each verb can be inflected for transitivity, so from each verb stem can be formed 54 forms. [1]


The verb stem

The bare stem of a verb is rarely used in Poswa. Many verbs are highly irregular, but if one thinks of an alternate, "oblique" stem that replaces the primary stem, they become largely or entirely regular. Nevertheless, unlike in Pabappa, Poswa speakers cannot simply ignore the existence of the primary stem because it still does appear in certain constructions, such as indefinite serial verbs. Thus the verb stem can be thought of as an "indefinite" stem.

Another place where the bare stem comes into play is when infixes are placed into verb stems. Here, the verb stems that end in consonants are often changed into ones that end in vowels, or into ones that end in different consonants.

Nevertheless, many formerly irregular verbs have split into two regular verbs, one for each stem. Generally, these verbs retain the same meaning, and can be considered synonyms. The prime example of this is mi "to see", which has been mostly replaced by its formerly irregular oblique stem, va. Today both verbs have become regular, but mi is used mostly in compounds and va in isolation.


All Poswa verbs are either transitive or intransitive. Transitive verbs generally have disyllabic suffixes while intransitive verbs have monosyllabic suffixes.

Transitive verbs are those that have an explicit object, while intransitive verbs have no specified object, but may still carry syntactical transitive meaning.

Agent Patient Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person vwampafwi vwampafwo vwampafwub
2nd person vwampafwe vwampafwae vwampafwi
3rd person vwampafwel vwampafwa vwampafwob
Transitive 1st person 2nd person vwampafwebi vwampafwabo vwampafwubub
3rd person
2nd person 1st person vwampafwebe vwampafwabae vwampafwubi
3rd person
3rd person 1st person vwampafwebel vwampafwaba vwampafwubob
2nd person

Intransitive verbs

Like most languages, Poswa allows sentences such as

He's sleeping.

Where there is a verb, but no explicit direct object, and therefore the verb is intransitive. However, like English, Poswa allows verbs that describe actions on an object to be intransitive if that object is not explicitly mentioned:

I'm reading.
I'm writing.
I'm hunting.

Each of these verbs describes an action that, by definition, involves an object to receive that action, but like English it is possible to create a sentence that describes the action without naming the object. These verbs are therefore intransitive.

However, Poswa goes further, and also allows intransitive verbs that have an incorporated indefinite object. English has a few such verbs, such as "babysit" and "birdwatch", which can be used without a named definite object and therefore be grammatically intransitive. In Poswa, such verbs are commonplace:

I'm eating bananas.[2]

I'm studying ants.

Use of stem suffixes with intransitive verbs


The reflexive stem suffix -p signifies an action performed on oneself, and is paired with intransitive verb endings. For example, the transitive verb tary "to boil" becomes tarop "to boil oneself". However, many intransitive verbs that one might expect to use this suffix are instead used without the affix, such as "to sleep" above.


The reciprocal stem suffix -s is used on a few intransitive verbs, despite the fact that it signifies a syntactically transitive meaning. A verb with the -s affix and a monosyllabic intransitive verb ending can be considered effectively equivalent to a verb without the affix but with a disyllabic transitive verb ending. Furthermore, because this -s can only follow a vowel, the resulting stem often syncopates when the inflectional suffix is attached, making the resulting verb two syllables shorter.

However, despite the superior efficiency of the -s affix, almost all Poswa verbs use the disyllabic verb endings to mark transitivity. Verbs that take the -s usually have a slight difference in meaning between the form with the -s and the form with the disyllabic verb endings.

Transitive verbs

Nearly every intransitive verb can be repurposed as a transitive. For example, swi means "I slept", and one can say

I put you to sleep.[3]

Marking patients of 3rd person agents

Sentences in which a 3rd person is the syntactical agent and a 1st or 2nd person is the syntactical patient are expressed using 1st and 2nd person verbal passive voice endings. Thus, an English sentence such as "the snake bit me" can only be translated into Poswa using a construction whose bitwise translation would be something such as "I was bitten by the snake". As a corollary, since the verb inflections of a Poswa passive verb indicate the person of the patient rather than of the agent, all passive verbs in Poswa imply 3rd person agents, and the passive voice could be said to not exist in Poswa. Therefore, a sentence in English such as "the snake was captured by me" can only be translated into Poswa using an active voice verb with a 1st person agent.

Note, however, that 1st and 2nd person possession markers automatically promote nouns to animate status and thus remove the restriction. Thus, a sentence like "your snake bit me" can in fact be expressed using an ordinary active-voice verb rather than a passive.

Forming verbs from nouns

As detailed in Poswa nouns, an indefinite verb can be formed from any noun, and most nouns can have quite a few indefinite verbs. These can have highly specific meanings. For example, one can say

I wrestled a pig in a mud puddle.

However, most Poswobs do not use words like this in everyday speech. This type of word-building is only used for actions that are likely to occur repeatedly.

Distinctions of meaning

Verbs that are transparently derived from nouns tend to have a narrow range of semantic meaning. For example, four Poswa words in common use all correspond to the past tense form of the English verb to bite in the sample sentences below:

Papapat pummatšop pappwebel.
The snake bit my leg.
Loppaputa pitšop bravebel.
The falcon bit my hand.
Bibwebbum wutapiop bavwarebel.
The spiders bit my feet.
Papwopwa tažžop pirasebel.
The dog bit my thigh.

The reason for the different verbs is the difference in oral anatomy between the various animals described. Still other terms exist; for example, the usual term for humans is

Wibanopi wiwippebi.
I bit the orange.

This word is derived from wiwipapop "front teeth", as the front teeth are normally involved in all biting activity.


As above, the stem of a verb is considered a noun, although some verb stems are not used as nouns. When a noun is turned into a verb, the nominative case of that noun becomes the verb stem, and a list of rules governing vowel and consonant mutations is applied to derive the new verb forms, since for many noun shapes there is no regular form at all. (A few verbs are formed from other cases; these are described below.)

The most straightforward derivations are for nouns ending in -m or (in most cases) the vowels -e or -i, as the stems remain intact and the verbal suffixes are simply added onto the end. The meaning of the verb is often similar to the meaning of the instrumental case of the noun, despite being formed from the nominative:

Plinob₁ twembi.₂
I boated₂ home.₁

Where twem means "boat" and -bi is the 1st person past tense marker. (Verbs are not marked for number, so there is no separate 1st person plural marker.)

With most verb stems, however, the suffixation process is not so simple, and Poswa speakers need to learn a separate "oblique" stem that makes the process seem more intuitive. For example, poppup means "knife", but

Tašepi₁ poppipebi.₂
I cut₂ the apple.₁

shows a vowel change from -u- to -i-.[4]


The bare accusative form is rarely used to form new verbs in Poswa. When it is, it is generally an intransitive ad-hoc formation rather than an intention to form a semantically independent root. For example, a hunter being asked what he was hunting might say

I'm doing deer.

However, this is not common usage because there already exists a similar construction with one less morpheme, involving attaching the verb marker directly to the accusative form of the noun without the use of the "mutating" infix. Thus one would more commonly hear

I'm doing deer.

Accusative as reflexive

A second usage of the accusative form of the noun is to form reflexive verbs. Bwupa means "shield", and the verb root bwupap means "to shield oneself". This is similar to the -s affix, but whereas -s generally applies to plurals and carries the meaning "they [verb]ed each other", -p implies people acting only on their individual selves.


See Poswa_nouns#Causative. Not to be confused with #Causative verbs, which effect causation on the subject of the verb rather than the entity described by the verb stem.

The causative is not considered a true noun case in Poswa, but rather a subset of the accusative formed by taking the instrumental form of a noun and then inflecting that stem with the accusative. It is often identical with the ordinary accusative form of the noun and has bled some of its meaning towards the accusative. Nevertheless, it still retains many independent uses, such as producing verbs. These verbs are usually intransitive structurally, even if they have syntactic transitive meaning, such as

Fompwafo wave pabwepypup.
I'm making a mess for you to clean up.

Which is derived by declining fompa "mess" into its causative form, fompwap, and then adding the 1st person present verbal suffix -́o. (The accent above the dash indicates that it triggers mutation.)

However, the verb can be transitive if it describes action on another entity.

Fompwapabo pubupefep.
I'm making a mess of your bedroom.
Causatives with little or no change in meaning

Sometimes, a verb will alternate with its causative form with little difference in meaning; the intent is up to the speaker. For example, one can say

Pawab bullaedža babi rambasfaba.
The banana costs five pullabas.

Or, using the causative form,

Pawab bullaedža babi rambastwapaba.
The banana costs five pullabas.

The choice of which form to use is up to the speaker; the longer form does not indicate any additional emotion of the speaker.

Locative and dative

A few verbs are formed from the locative case of nouns. Both the literal sense of being in or at a place and the metaphorical sense of being affected with something are in common usage. Verbs of the former type are generally not listed in dictionaries because their precise meaning can be understood by simply knowing the meaning of the nouns from which they are derived. In most cases the same is true also of the metaphorical verbs, but there are some verbs whose exact meaning has diverged or is confined to a narrower range of meaning than those of the nouns they come from. For example, rumu and twu both mean "water", but one says

I'm in the water.


I'm wet.


The "becausative" construction refers to a verb resulting from a previous action or an entity taking some action. For example, pwembwa means "to aim", and pwembiam means "to shoot". The becausative is derived by adding the locative case to the essive case of a noun root, and for some nouns, it will be identical with the plain locative.

I shot you.

While there do exist examples of grammatically active, but syntactically passive verbs formed by using an -m-stem in this manner, it is more common to hear speakers instead use a true passive verb, which would use the nominative case stem to form the verb rather than the locative.

Verbal constructions replacing the dative case

Since pronouns are generally not used in Poswa, verbs have come to fill their role in certain constructions in which a dative construction, generally one using the #Becausative compound case, would be expected. This generally applies to people, since only people[5] can be in the 1st or 2nd person. The commonest verb chosen is wava:

Tufo wavo blubutaenop bivambebel.
My husband cooked a meal for me. (It was quite a surprise!)

In some situations, a similar but longer verb, wampa, is used for the same purpose. Generally wampa refers to a situation in which the receiver of the action (the noun one would expect to be in the dative case) asked for the action rather than being a passive partner:

Tufo wampo blubutaenop bivambebel.
My husband cooked a meal for me. (I haven't been feeling well so I asked him to.)

A third verb, bae, is used for more mundane situations, generally impersonal ones, in which some other languages would use the genitive. For example, in a conference or classroom one might say:

Pwaepam apwa baebo.
The red chair is for me.

Possessive and reciprocal

The possessive case, marked by -s, is used to form verbs that show membership in a class defined by the noun stem, and thus have a meaning one might expect to belong to the essive. The verbs are always intransitive, and the person marker is placed directly after the -s rather than taking the intervening -a- that causes it to mutate to -š-.

Many such verbs make use of membership contractions, meaning that in some cases the extended verb is the same as the original noun root, most commonly in the third person. However, these verbs are often used in the 1st and 2nd person as well. Sittuta means "doctor", and one can say

I'm a doctor!

Likewise, this can be used with inanimate objects:

It's a trap!

With inanimates the 3rd person marker is redundant to the meaning, so the word can also be used without the verb inflection on, producing words like vulales in place of vulaleša. This construction is most often used when the sentence would translate best into English without an antecedent. For example, one can say

There is a trap here.
It's raining.
It's sunny.[6][7]

Reciprocal verb stems

Any verb can be made into a reciprocal verb, and it is considered part of Poswa's derivational morphonology rather than its inflectional morphology. That is to say, the stem of the verb changes to mark reciprocity, rather than an inflectional suffix added after the stem.

Here, reciprocal refers to verbs in which the (normally plural) subjects of the verb act on each other (not individually on themselves). However, some speakers may think of the two affixes as being the same, and saying that reciprocal verbs are "possessive verbs".


Food and drink

Names of whole foods and drinks are verbalized by adding suffixes to the instrumental case rather than the nominative. This is considered a type of subject incorporation even though the food is semantically the patient of the verb rather than the agent, and even though the verbs produced are not actually compounds because the instrumental case is a stem-changing infix rather than a separate morpheme. These verbs are indefinite, and are intransitive if the object is not specifically named. For example:

I'm eating a banana.
I'm eating strawberries.
I'm drinking wine.

Note that up above, the choice of how to translate the verbs into English was dependent on the meaning of the verb. Although context is nearly always sufficient for the listener to understand the meaning, additional information can be provided with an additional verb, typically an intransitive, producing sentences such as

Piebo bežobafo.
I'm drinking wine.

This sentence has the same meaning as the single-word formation, since the meaning of the verb is understood from context without even needing to mention it in the sentence. This could be translated into English as something like "I'm drinking, and I'm drinking wine." However, the order of emphasis is the opposite of the English.

Furthermore, the Poswa sentences are unmarked for number. Whereas most humans will eat only one banana at a time, strawberries are generally eaten in bunches. This is because these verbs are indefinite, seen as "general use" verbs, and therefore not marked for number. Thus, one would not use the plural suffix -bum in the middle of a verb and produce a word such as

I'm eating (a bunch of) strawberries.

Here the plural infix is correctly changed from -bum to -bie- because of the inflection, but the word is still considered grammatically incorrect because this type of verb is generally indifferent to number.

All of the verbs above were intransitive because there was no explicit object named. If the object is explicitly named, the verb will be transitive:

Levobampobiepo levibo.
I'm eating the strawberries.

However, since the above sentence translates literally as something like "I strawberry-ate the strawberries", Poswob speakers would more often simply use one of its many verbs for eating that does not involve incorporation, such as

Levobampobiepi bamapebi.
Levobampobiepi amnebebi.
I ate the strawberries.
Levobampobiepi biumbebi.
I ate the strawberries by actively pressing them against my teeth with my tongue.
Levobampobiepi pyparebi.
I ate the strawberries whole, using only my tongue and my lips.
Levobampobiepi vwambebi.
I ate the strawberries rapidly.
Levobampobiepi vabžebi.
Levobampobiepi možambebi.
I gobbled the strawberries with my mouth, without using my hands.
Levobampobiepi pirpafebi.
I ate the strawberries by nibbling them in small pieces.

(Here the verbs have been changed to past tense in order to give the speaker more time to digest the eight bowls of strawberries.)

NOTE, this might be better off intransitive.

Use of the instrumental with articles of clothing

The instrumental base also describes the action of wearing clothes:

I'm wearing a hat.


The essive case is rarely used to form verbs. When it is, it retains its basic meaning of indicating that one thing is made from another, such as:

Nobellam blwiba.
Icecream is made of milk.

However, since such verbs are almost always long-term general truths, Poswa prefers not to use verbs at all for such statements. The sentence above might subtly imply that icecream may not be made of milk next week. One would more often hear:

Nobellam blwi.
Ice cream is made of milk.

This sentence has no verb, so it is not distinguished from "ice cream (that is) made of milk", but this is how Poswa and most of its neighboring languages (but not Pabappa) express general truths.

Use of the essive case to form verbs of measurement

The essive case is also used to describe measurements. Note that abstract concepts such as measurements are generally derived from words for concrete objects that strongly exemplify that measurement. For example, prappubo "rock, boulder" is used to measure weight, and wabbubo "tower" is used for height. (These words were once compounds, and are distantly related, but most speakers do not realize this. The original unifying concept was blo, a heavy rock that can be used as a lock either to keep things in place or to keep people out of a building.)

Sabas prappubiba.
The man is heavy.
Paefam wabbubiba.
The woman is tall.

As in English, the words used with no numerical measurement carry the significance of the object being described having a large amount of the quality being described, relative to anything being compared with. That is, a tall person can easily fit under a short tree.

To give precise measurements, a number is added after the intransitive verb. This is the same construction used to describe a verbal action being repeated a given number of times.

Verbs formed from sentences

Subject-object-verb compounds

Some Poswa nouns are actually complete sentences with just the verb endings removed. This could be classified as a type of polysynthesis. Unlike the subject-verb compounds above, SOV compounds generally show transitive action, and are commonly used as verbs. However, because all verbs have a stem which behaves grammatically as a noun, they are nonetheless grouped with the other compounds as nouns. These can thus be called tripartite nouns.

Polysynthetic compounds are generally used metaphorically, with a different subject than might be expected from a literal reading of the morphemes in the compound.

Despite the description of the words as SOV compounds, all three elements are grammatically considered nouns and thus can take ordinary noun inflections. Thus, for example, the final element in the word for flea means "jumper", not merely "jump".

Many of these words are very old, and make use of short, sometimes even subsyllabic, morphemes that no longer have any independent use in Poswa as standalone words. For example, the early Poswa verb bi "to kill" has disappeared from the language as a standalone verb because it coalesced around 3000 years ago with a verb meaning "to lick". Poswob military generals soon had a difficult time winning battles, and many released their soldiers to devote time to more pleasurable pursuits. However, bi used with the meaning "to kill" is still found as the third element in some SOV compounds.

Structure of SOV compounds

Inanimate agents

The structure of SOV compounds is fixed to the SOV word order; they are not like the language as a whole where morphemes can trade places in order to emphasize one over another. Moreover, each of the three elements of the compound is a separate part of speech. However, when an inanimate entity is placed in the subject slot, its meaning is often syntactically passive; and when not, it implies an unmentioned animate agent. For example, wiwi "spear" appears in the subject slot of the verb wiršebbi "to fish (with spears)", but this construction implies an unmentioned human agent who is holding the spear he uses to fish.

Nevertheless, even these constructions follow the same basic pattern as the others, since a human catching fish with a spear can be said to "catch fish like a spear".

Active and passive nouns

SOV word formation is fairly complicated because each noun has separate forms for use as an active element and as a passive element. Generally these involve sound changes occuring in unstressed syllables (where the passive element usually is) but not in stressed syllables (where the active element always is, at least partly). Thus, the passive noun is generally shorter than the active noun, and is sometimes compressed into a subsyllabic element.

For example, the general purpose word for soap is mabem, and that is what it would be as an active element in a polysynthetic compound. However, as a passive element, it is vem because of a sound change that caused all mab[V] --> v[V] in unstressed syllables. Vowel shifts also occur; a common morpheme for "hand" is py when active but pi when passive. However, some words defy these rules because they were formed from rarely used words after those sound shifts had already taken place, and the speakers did not automatically apply the sound rules that "should have" taken place.

For example, one series of compounds is formed from pib "man" + yma "woman" plus a verb. This implies that the man is an active partner and the woman a passive partner in whichever activity is being referred to. The two morphemes cannot simply be switched to produce a word beginning with a stem such as *ymapib because pib means "man" only in the active position and yma means "woman" only in the passive position. Instead, the stem used to denote a woman acting upon a man is umaf-, formed from uma "woman" (active) and f(y) "man" (passive).

Active and passive sound shifts

Passive nouns undergo sound changes that do not affect active nouns. This is because they can only occur in unstressed position.

the /u --> y --> i --> e/ chain shift

A chain shift of /u/ --> /y/ --> /i/ --> /e/ affects passive nouns. The changes happened in the opposite order of the arrows, making it a pull chain rather than a push chain. Thus, for example, the noun pila "cohort, partner" appears as -pela- in some words where it is used as a passive noun. Examples of the other two changes are rarer because the vowel /y/ was rare to begin with and because when /u/ changed into /y/ that /y/ usually soon disappeared.

contraction of [V]b[V] sequences

[V]b[V] contracts by causing consonant mutation (for words where the first vowel is one of /a e i/) or labialization (for words where the first vowel is one of /o u y/) in passive nouns. This is, as above, because they are always unstressed.

Extraordinary shifts

Occasionally, an active noun will undergo some of the sound changes above assigned to passive nouns. This is because even SOV compounds can themselves be used as the second or higher-order element of a larger compound, and then later these contracted forms reinterpreted as standalone nouns. This has occurred sporadically with ordinary words, as well.

Accusative marking of passive elements

Note that the accusative ending -p on the object is often not present; this is because, if the passive partner is inanimate, the OV portion of the word can be parsed as an SV compound in which the inanimate subject is grammatically active but syntactically passive. However, if the passive partner in the compound is animate, it will take the -p.

Examples of tripartite SOV compounds

Below is a table of some tripartite compounds found in Poswa. Parentheses indicate parts of morphemes that are alternately present or absent depending on the phonetic shape of the preceding element (even if a separate word).

meaning Passive
meaning Verbal
meaning New word meaning
pepup knife po fruit papsa cut pepuppopapa to prepare a meal
pappi child, teenager bop a kind of baby toy mušop to play paffompop a very childish person
wiwi spear; trident šul fish bi to kill wiršebbi to go fishing
bwap penis pep vagina bana to create pleasure bwappepwana to have (penile-vaginal) sexual intercourse
py hand bwap penis bana to create pleasure bwabbana a man masturbating
py hand pep vagina bana to create pleasure pypepwana a woman masturbating
šul fish še ice te to break open šišti to behave as a fish breaking through ice; launch a surprise attack
lara legs bana to create pleasure labana to have sexual intercourse
py hand lara legs bana to create pleasure pwabana to masturbate
py hand vem soap i bubbles; lather bvwemi to bathe; to lather up with soap
uma woman uma woman bana to create pleasure umbvana lesbian[8]
uma woman yma woman bana to create pleasure uvvana lesbian
mom mother be baby, young child byba to talk down to someone; to disagree mombebbwa to talk as a mother does to her children; to scold; to teach a child by correcting their mistakes
pib man fy man bana to create pleasure pipfwana gay man[9]
su sun šap snow in to make disappear sušpen to melt
tipa flea pusta leg masa to jump, leap tippostampa flea?????
tipa flea lara leg bužae to jump, leap tiplabwae flea
ta adult be baby pleb to seize; abduct tabeppeb to kidnap
po soldiers bop peaceful (people) vas to break, wreck pobbas war; to kill helpless people
bwap penis twup to hurt someone; to create pain bwaptwup to rape
bwap penis ma womb su to penetrate bwammas to impregnate someone; become a father
ma womb be baby bi to kill mabbi to have a miscarriage; spontaneous abortion
ma womb be baby papsa miscarriage, abortion mappapa to have a miscarriage or abortion
pib man yma woman bana to create pleasure pimbvana heterosexual male
uma woman fy man bana to create pleasure umpfwana heterosexual female
fos bear narop deer mia hunt fongomia a bear that hunts deer
buse ring fop both hands džoba to trap, tie together busfobioba handcuffs
babi hand (as a whole) bivi body, skin be to hit, strike babbe to punch someone
py palm of the hand pape cheek pe to hit, strike pypappe to slap someone in the face
py palm of the hand p(t)ap buttocks (dual) pe to hit, strike pupappe to spank someone; to punish or humiliate
pam DNA (special use of "formula, mixture") top cell (special use of "animal scale")[10] fu to change state consciously, to break out pampopu virus
pam DNA (special use of "formula, mixture") žatu room, chamber fu to change state consciously, to break out pambatwu virus
pa mouth, lips m(um) breast, nipple p(a)ti to suck, sip up repeatedly pampi to suckle, drink milk (said of babies)
poty candy biba to lick potia to lick candy
tae children mušos to play with one another taempos children playing with each other
pi worm aba palm of the hand su to penetrate; bite plabas hookworm, nematode
babi hand(s) i tail (used metaphorically for long hair) mu to pull on babem to pull someone's hair
my sword šep fish su to penetrate; bite pwep triactinomyxon
pam formula containing alcohol plabas hookworm, nematode pep to crush, smother, smear pampaspep (hand) sanitizer

Use of SOV compounds as verbs

Despite being described here as SOV compounds, these words are grammatically nouns so long as they are left uninflected. To use them as verbs, the typical verb inflections used in ordinary verbs must be applied.

Like all verbs, despite being syntactically transitive, the verbs are grammatically intransitive when used in a general sense with no explicit object. Thus one says

I'm fishing.


Džampapo wiršebbibabo.
I'm fishing for lampreys.
I'm pulling your hair.

Note that the many words ending in -bana syncopate this to -bv- when forming their verbs, but the words ending in -wava change it only to -wav-.

Use of SOV compounds as nouns

These words are also used to form nouns. For example, the stem sušpen "to melt", plus the word šy "season", forms sušpenyš "spring".

Nested SOV compounds

Nested compounds are rare because most SOV compounds that are short enough to be convenient to use in a larger compound were created at a time when they were much longer. Thus, they would not have been able to use the words available at that time that have become very short in modern Poswa.

Nevertheless, some short morphemes are in common use in modern Poswa after all. Many of these are recent coinages that other languages would replace with abbreviations; for example plabas "hookworm" appears as pas in the words for hookworm treatments, and the sound changes that lead from plabas to pas are regular, and are part of Poswa's grammar, so they are familiar to all fluent speakers.

Nested SOV compounds nearly always place the inner compound in the object slot, thus creating an S(SOV)V compound. The inner word does not change its S component to use O morphemes even though by being infixed it becomes unstressed; the word is treated as an indivisible whole.

Sometimes, SOV compounds can appear the second element of a noun-noun compound. This is not considered to be a nested compound because it doesn't involve putting one word inside another. These compounds obey the same sound rules expected from other compounds, and depending on the age of the compound, may involve sandhi and syncope.

Modern SOV compounds

Modern compounding

Polysynthetic compounds consist largely of morphemes that have gone extinct in all other contexts because they have so many homophones. For example, the word bvwemi "to lather up" above was formed from morphemes that have become py + vem + i today. None of these words is used as a standalone form with the meanings they have in this compound. However, Poswobs know the meanings of these morphemes and do not generally need to look up the meanings of compounds like this in a dictionary unless they have become so compressed by sound changes that even the already sound-changed morphemes they are made of are no longer recognizable.

If the word above were remade with modern standalone morphemes whose meanings match those of the shorter morphemes above, it would produce a word such as pep + mabem + pwar ---> pemmabempwar. Thus, the use of otherwise obsolete morphemes continues in the modern language.

Choice of morphemes

The choice of morphemes in some of the words above may seem out of place even in a characteristically bluntly worded language like Poswa. For example, bwaptwup "rape" is made up of bwap "penis" and twup "to hurt someone" rather than being a euphemism. But this is partly explained by the fact that the morphemes used in words such as these are not used independently as standalone words of their own; the shortest unambiguous word for penis in modern Poswa is noppupu. Bwap is not in use as a standalone noun with any meaning except as the accusative case of bwa, a word for "store, shop, place of commerce" that is itself not normally used except as the final element of a compound describing which type of store is being spoken of.

Likewise, if it were re-created with modern standalone morphemes, the word bwammas "to impregnate, become a father" would be something like


Verbless SOV compounds

Some SOV compounds are missing the verb. They are often called verb-absent compounds to point out that they are specifically missing a verb rather than simply being ordinary compounds of two nouns. These were mostly formed around 3000 years ago. Before this time, the sound changes necessary to make the word distinct from an ordinary compound of two nouns had not yet taken place; after this time, a change in the grammar made the use of verbs mandatory. Because the ability to create this type of word relied on a change in the grammar that happened after the split from Babakiam but before the modern stage, it is unique to Poswa; neither shared genetic heritage nor cultural osmosis allowed this feature to appear in neighboring languages.

Verb-absent compounds are able to express verblike compounds without a verb because the subject and object they use are such that only one verb is commonly used with such a pair, and can be implied without being stated. Thus, these compounds consist of two nouns. They are not confused for ordinary noun-noun compounds because the passive partner in the noun pair undergoes the same sound changes that it would in an SOV compound. Nevertheless, these compounds are rare and many speakers do not realize that they are even compounds.

E.g. "to man-woman "

OSV compounds

Poswa does not have true OSV compounds, but many SOV compounds have an inanimate noun as the first element, and an animate noun in the object slot. Since animates dominate inanimates no matter the word order, these compounds are treated as if they were ordinary SOV compounds.

However, they are more versatile in their OSV-like form than they would be in their ordinary SOV form. Thus for example one sees pupambam "rock for sitting on", not *papumbam, which is grammatical but unusual in that an inanimate noun is tied to the verb "sit" rather than the (inalienably) animate noun pa "buttocks, hips".

Often, OSV compounds are formed by adding a new element to the beginning of an existing SV or SOV compound. For example, taempom means "playground, play area for kids" and bempom means "den, nursery, play area for babies". But by adding the otherwise obsolete element rute to the beginning of each word, one can form new words: ruttaempom "children's toys", and rufempom "babies' toys". Rufempom is in fact the most common word for toys in general in modern Poswa, as rute fell out of use due to many of its inflected forms colliding with other words.

Note: how to express "sun hidden by moon"? Both are animate.

Note: tartempom , which has SOV word order, is more likely.

Morphemes fusing indefinite subjects and objects

A small number of morphemes in which indefinite subjects and indefinite objects have fused exist. These generally result from sound changes that occurred long ago, in some cases more than 6000 years ago, and thus were already thousands of years old when Poswa split off from Pabappa. They are relics of the even older species system found in the Gold language, which was preserved in its fully functional form only in the Andanese branch, which went extinct around 4500 years ago. However, before the species system died out from the Gold branch, it had begun to diverge somewhat from its original purpose and not all SO compounds are compounds of two species. Nevertheless, the commonest SO morpheme by far is


Meaning that the word that follows the fap prefix is an action with a human agent and a human patient. This is a compound of ta, the nominative case of the original language's word for human, with tap, the accusative of that same word.

Person markers

Poswa marks the person of the agent (and, indirectly, the patient) on the verb, but does not mark number, gender, or animacy. The number is often left entirely unspecified:

Bwabbu pofšap biumbebel.

The sheep ate the grass.

But sometimes may be inferred from context. When direct specification of number is desired, suffixes are placed on the nouns to specifically indicate their number:

Pwopwa pisiam taesfa.

The child is sitting on the rock.

Pwopwabum pisiam taesfa.

The children are sitting on the rock.

Pwopwabum pisambiem taesfa.

The children are sitting on the rocks.

The gender of both the subject and the object is likewise inferred from context, and animacy is a property of each individual noun that speakers memorize as they learn the language (and it faithfully follows real-world semantics).

Poswa has lost the epicene gender of its parent language, which was always plural and therefore served as a means of expressing plural agents on verbs when the subject was either omitted or was unmarked for number. Instead, Poswa marks verbal plural agents by a very complicated sequence of four morphemes.

Actually, there are two sequences, depending on whether the agents of the verb are acting individually or collectively.

Verbs of possession

See also Poswa nouns#Possession.

Single-word sentences can indicate possession, because Poswa's formula for expressing possession is to put possession markers on its nouns, and those markers are etymologically related to the verbal markers. Thus, a noun marked for possession serves as both a noun and a verb, and there is no distinction between a word for "my cucumber" and a single-word sentence meaning "I have a cucumber".

Thus, Poswa does not have a verb corresponding to English "I have" or other equivalents such as Spanish tener. Whether physical possession or mere association is meant, the same simple construction is used: the noun being possessed is simply given a possessive marker whose person corresponds to the person of the owner.

I have a bottle.
I have a seal (animal).
I have a problem.
I have an arm.

A very small pool of irregular nouns exists, consisting mostly of kinship terms, in which the words do not end with the expected vowels, but rather change their entire stem to indicate their possessor:

I have a mother.

Use of numbers after possessive verbs

Numbers are placed after the noun, rather than being part of it, although the agglutinative fusional markers are placed before the person marker:

Bomptšata pupupufa bibi.
The mayor has four hats.

Verbs indicating physical possession

Because of the convenience of the possessive constructions, verbs describing physical possession have narrow definitions and therefore do not always accurately translate English "to have".


One verb is bul, literally meaning "child, toddler", but dating from a time in the language when it referred to babies. Thus, to bul someone is not merely to have them but to carry them in the arms as one would carry a baby. Like other verbs, this can be applied to inanimate objects:

Bižebi twu blembiep.
I carried my water bottles.

Note that the stem change from bul as a noun to biž- as a verb is regular.


Another verb describing physical contact is pawa, which is cognate to the word for banana, pawab.[11] This implies a firm grip on an object, usually with the hands, more specific than mere possession. However it may be used metaphorically provided that the sense of an object being securely in one's possession is intended.

Babambwopo pawiabo.
I'm holding onto my stick.
Pawiabo palambol fubuwiop.
I'm keeping my voting rights.

For nonspecific monetary possession, the most common verb is fatšam, derived from the #becausative form of fap "to bend over". That is, someone who has bent over and picked an object up off the ground is likely to still own it. But it can be applied to larger possessions as well:

Fatšambabo wambžop.
I own my house.

Interaction with animacy

All Poswa nouns are either animate or inanimate. Poswa verbs can be conjugated as either transitive or intransitive. Inanimate nouns can only take the intransitive verbs; if an inanimate subject gets a transitive verb, it implies an understood subject, corresponding to the person marking on the verb.

For example, the sentence

Blaba žuftatiep rufaba

means not "Paper covers the floor" but "His paper covers the floor", which to many Poswobs would actually imply something like "He covers the floor with his paper".

Verbal tense

Past tense

Verbs are by tradition given with the past tense first, even though the present tense is more common. Its endings contain only the vowels /e/ and /i/. Intransitive endings have one syllable, and transitive endings have two syllables.

Rupwusebi žiašap.
I punched the screen.
I slept.
Mapobum pembebiap pypembebel.
The girls held up their dolls.

Present tense

The present tense is the most commonly used tense in Poswa and Pabappa. Its endings are dominated by the vowel /a/. It often corresponds to the English present progressive.

Pappam maetabo.
I'm working in the field.
Pypub pawupabias pilinofa.
The boy is studying astronomy.

To indicate a recurring action, which often corresponds to the English simple present, a serial verb setup may be used. This is often called the habitual aspect; see #Habitual aspect below. The commonest verb to indicate the habitual is wasom:

Polfata pappam wasomba maetaba.
The farmer works in the field.

Note that there is no italicized word in the English translation above because in this sentence, the Poswa word wasomba corresponds to an English null morpheme. However, this verb can also be used in the past tense:

Sabas pawupabias wasombel pilinofel.
The man used to study astronomy.

Imperative tense

The third tense is not the future, but the imperative, used for issuing commands. Thus, there is no separate imperative mood in Poswa. Teachers sometimes refer to the imperative tense as "the future tense" for the sake of convenience, but there is a distinct formation that handles non-imperative future meanings. All six vowels can appear in various conjugated forms of the imperative tense.

Bubopi bummapwi ramarpum batie.
Kick the coconut down the street.

Future tense

A non-imperative future tense can be formed by prefixing various words to a sentence that is otherwise in the imperative tense. It can be called the future conditional mood whenever the imperative is referred to simply as the "future". The Poswa name for this mood is mipam "assert(ive)", and that is the most common verb used to express it.

Mipambo pwupplufub pippatos.
I will shave in the morning.

Although mipam is the most common leading verb, other verbs can be used to show differing degrees of certainty and dependence.

The verb nubba is similar to mipam but signifies a time close to the present. Additionally, the dependent verb is conjugated in the present tense rather than the future, making this technically a subset of the present tense:

Nubbabo labiompallwo.
I'm about to go to bed.
I'm going to bed.

Poswa shares with Pabappa the use of a verb historically meaning "to stand behind" in a figurative sense of planning on a future event, whether the agent of that action is the speaker or someone else:

However, the use of this setup is rare in Poswa, whereas in Pabappa, it is the standard means of expressing the assertive mood.

1st person plural imperative (cohortative) constructions

Since number is not marked on the verb, and there are no pronouns, the 1st person plural imperative (often called cohortative) is marked instead by a combination of four inflections: the causative, the reciprocal, the first person marker, and the imperative. It could thus be translated piecewise something like "Let us help each other do it!" Despite the complexity of its design, the combined morpheme usually appears as a disyllabic ending attached to the oblique stem of the verb, and beginning with the same first consonant as that verb's stem. However, the derivation of this suffix is very difficult to predict from the stem of the verb. For example, from the verb pwabap "to hide oneself", one can say

Let's hide!


Note that this is simply the result of adding the 1st person imperative ending to the plural form of the verb; that is, plurality and person are marked by separate morphemes.

Habitual tense

The habitual tense is rarely used in Poswa, as it has mostly merged with the present. Even in contexts where a distinction of meaning can be made, the proper grammar is to use the present tense in nearly all contexts. For example, this example sentence can have either of two meanings in English:

Luptempiop bworabo.
I drink orange juice. (Every morning!)
I'm drinking orange juice. (But only right now, because we're all out of soda.)

Expressing tense and duration

Poswa uses the possessive -s rather than the locative -m to indicate that an action happened at a specific time. The word pybies means "while; during"; it is the possessive form of pybum "(period of) time".[13]

Swi pybies, swaffi.
While I slept, I dreamt.

However, pybies is commonly seen in its contracted form, -pies, as a suffix on another noun, or occasionally a verb.

Swipies, swaffi.
While I slept, I dreamt.

With this suffix on, imperative verb forms take on the meanings of ordinary future verbs.

Bleppi wapwafipies.
Whistle while you work.

Additionally, imperatives ending in -b change it to an -r:

Bleppub wapwafurpies.
Let me whistle while I work.

Time words using -pies that contain fossil morphemes

This suffix also appears the word triplet

Pelpies, pappies, porpies.
In the past, in the present, (and) in the future.

Use of bare -s to indicate time

As above, the word pybies and its contracted form -pies are inflected forms of the word pybum "time". This inflection is a simple -s, and historically was used here as an extension of its primary function as a possessive affix. The bare -s can still be used with this meaning, but this construction is generally found when two verbs appear right next to each other, with no pause in speech. It could be compared to replacing English "while" with English "as":

Swis swaffi.
As I slept I dreamt.
Rapefa peppafas.
It grows as it goes.
Bleppi wapwafis.
Whistle while you work.

Use of bare -s to form parallel verbs

The -s suffix can also be used to indicate that the subject of the sentence is performing more than one action, even if they are not taking place at the exact same time. By analogy with computer technology, these could be called parallel verbs because they are not serial. Another term is conjunctive verbs, by analogy with superjunctive verbs ending in -m. Another term is concomitant verbs because they describe actions taking place together. The tenses will always match:

Paparis bivupefi.
Don't drink and drive.

In such a setup, all of the verbs in the sentence will take the suffix except for the last one mentioned. Thus, instead of all of the verbs rhyming perfectly, all will rhyme except the last one. This affix is optional, however, and invites comparisons to the English optional use of "and" in similar situations:

Pilabi, blovi, supši!
I came, I saw, I conquered!
Pilabis, blovis, supši.
I came and I saw and I conquered.

Use of parallel verbs to describe methods of performing an action

Adverbs are used in English to perform many of the functions that parallel verbs perform in Poswa.

Possapupom pipipwis šupši.
I climbed up the vine.

Here, the verb pipipwis is the parallel form of the 1st person past tense inchoative of the verb pipi "up; to go up". That is, rather than an adverb, Poswa uses another verb to describe the action of rising upward. A literal translation of the sentence might look something like "I went up while I climbed the vine."

Adjectives and adjectival tense marking

Most verbs that function as English adjectives would are in the habitual tense.

Habitual tense in early Poswa

Early Poswa (Babakiam) had a fourth verb tense known as the habitual, which combined aspects of aspect and tense. The habitual did not have separate forms for past, present, and future, because it was considered a tense of its own rather than an aspect which could be conjugated for each of the three tenses. This is because of where on the verb it is marked. Thus, aspect markers could be used in the habitual tense.

The habitual was used for actions that were independent of time, often being eternal truths or statements of identity or equivalence. Many verbs in the habitual tense would be translated into languages such as English by adjectives rather than by verbs.

Habitual tense in modern Poswa

The habitual tense is no longer widely used for verbs in modern Poswa, as its forms have largely merged with the present tense. However, since no new habitual construction has been set up, this means that the present tense does double duty as both its original meaning and as a new habitual. Thus a sentence such as

Mapobum nobelliap subžviraba.
The girls are selling ice cream.

Can also mean

The girls sell ice cream (as a career).

This does not present a great problem for Poswobs because the predicate in the second sentence can be replaced with a noun, yielding a sentence such as

Mapobum nobellam pwamptae.
The girls are icecream sellers.

Habituals as adjectives

As above, the habitual tense is not included in the conjugation tables below. It can be formed by taking the present tense and replacing the vowels -o -ae -a by -y -e -a. Since nearly all adjectives in everyday speech are used to describe third person entities, there is no difference in most sentences between the habitual and the present tense. Nevertheless, the forms have not been analogized, and one can still say

You're smart!

To remind the listener that they will still be smart tomorrow.

Likewise, one could say

Fampembe, pimmiše, pavwatafwe! Biom poppibebi?
You're big, you're ugly, and you're stupid! Why did I marry you?

History of the tense system

In very early Bābākiam, infixes came to be placed within the habitual tense forms of the verb to derive the other tenses. These were redundant, since tense was already marked by a suffix, but the redundancy became frozen into the grammar and later sound changes made it less redundant.

Adjectives as intransitive habitual verbs

Poswa does not have a distinct part of speech corresponding to adjectives. Concepts expressed with adjectives in many other languages are expressed in Poswa partly by verbs and partly by nouns. Poswa has no copula verb, so a sentence can consist of just a noun and a verb playing the role of an adjective. These verbs are often in the habitual tense, which appears identical to the present tense. They always end with -a because the third person present tense of all verbs, even irregular ones, always ends in -a. The adjectival verb is almost always placed after the noun it modifies, since Poswa verbs almost always come after their subjects. For example:

Ipi pabbubufa.
The pine tree is tall.
Poppup labbaša.
The knife is sharp.
Tarwa mimptoba.
The drum is loud.

Verbal adjectives do not change for number, because verbs in general do not have separate forms for singular and plural subjects. Thus one would say:

Ipibum pabbubufa.
The pine trees are tall.
Poppubum labbaša.
The knives are sharp.

And so on.

Sentences like the above can stand by themselves. (Note that inanimate objects can only take intransitive verbs.) However, verbal adjectives like the above can also stand before another verb:

Potwum puvwaša žaefom pappwafa.
The blonde soldiers are marching on the bridge.

Person marking on adjectives which modify inanimate nouns

Note that adjectives agree with the person of their possessor, just as ordinary verbs would. Thus, not all adjectives use the third person, as one might expect.

Pešie prappubibe.
Your book is heavy.
Pupupio lappapo.
My fingernails are sharp.

It is sometimes necessary to distinguish between performing an action and having the potential to do so. For example, the word translated as "sharp" here is a verb meaning "to cut"; if further clarification were needed, one could say

Pupupio lappapatšio.
My fingernails can cut.

Comparative adjectives

Comparatives can be formed by verbal adjectives or by suffixes on the object being compared.

The dominant order is an unusual formation influenced by Moonshine, applying MS word order to Poswa structures: X Y-comp adj; for example, Men women-COMP tall. That is, there is no word meaning "taller" etc, just a word meaning "more than woman are". In Poswa, the comparative is one of the functions of the essive case.[14]

Sabas paefiel pabbubufa.
The man is taller than the woman.[15]
Nobellam bufeba blwi bapstašeža.
This icecream is cheaper than the milk.

In the above example, the word blwi "than the milk" refers to an definite object, but the same construction can be used with an indefinite object, to show that the icecream in question is cheaper than milk all the time, not just cheaper than a certain kind of milk both people are familiar with. However, when an indefinite meaning is intended, the two words are often combined to make a single long word:

Nobellam bufeba blwibapstašeža.
This icecream is cheaper than milk.[16]

In some contexts, the first word will also be interpreted as referring to a general truth rather than a single example when in a sentence like this, even if it is otherwise unmarked:

Sabas paefielpabbubufa.
Men are taller than women.

The word order can also be changed in order to post-emphasize the noun being compared:

Nobellam bufeba, bapstašeža blwi.
This icecream is cheaper than milk.

Note that this can be translated, word for word, into English as "This icecream is cheap as milk." Thus, it is a very similar construction to that of English, but its meaning is different. The words are never combined when they occur in this order.


There is no separate form for the superlative; instead the comparative is used again with a word such as bomby "all, whole, entire".

Adjectives used in the role of nouns

One relic of the historical emergence of a new class of nouns from modifying verbs is that most verbs that are used with a lexically adjectival meaning can also function as nouns, be they transitive or intransitive. For example,

Bampfaba puvlwas wapwaba.[17]
The one who hunts is running from a cougar.

This contrasts with a traditional noun setup, such as

Bampata puvlwas wapwaba.
The hunter is running from a cougar.

Transitive adjectives

Many Poswa verbs that correspond to English adjectives can also be transitive. In Poswa these are seen simply as verbs, and not considered a special class of verb, since they behave identically to most verbs. Note, however, that comparative adjectives govern the genitive case and thus are intransitive.

I am small.
I am smaller than you.

Adjectives using the past tense

Some adjectives use the past tense of the verb rather than the habitual or the homophonous present. For example, one can say

Taše pippitwel pliopamba.
The rotten apple is in the trash.

Where the verb pippit "to be rotten" is given the 3rd person intransitive past tense marker -el. This could be translated into English narrowly as "The apple, having gone rotten, is in the trash. "

Like other adjectives, past tense adjectives also conjugate for different person markers:

Šasfo bwavvibi.
My hair was short.

Becausative verbs

Poswa also uses becausative verbs. E.g. vwambebom "because I ate". This is essentially a conjugated verb with a noun case suffix on the end of it, as though it were an ordinary noun. The suffix used here is the simple locative suffix rather than the becausative, which is a compound of the essive case and the locative case. (Although for most verbs, there would be no difference anyway.)

The forms of the becausative are more regular and predictable than those of the ordinary conjugation, as the additional inflection smooths out some of the asymmetrical features present in the ordinary conjugation. Essentially, the final vowel of the verb regresses to that of the nominal possession markers, which preserve a more archaic and more regular system. This is thus called a regressive conjugation.

However, as a side effect of this, the distinction between past and present is lost in the intransitive forms, and for some verbs, the imperative tense merges with these as well. Below is the conjugation of wape "to help" in the becausative formation:

Agent Patient Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person wapebom wapebom wapebwom
2nd person wapebem wapebem wapebwem
3rd person wapebam wapebam wapebwam
Transitive 1st person 2nd person wapebebom wapebabom wapebbwom
3rd person
2nd person 1st person wapebebem wapebabem wapebbem
3rd person
3rd person 1st person wapebebam wapebabam wapebbam
2nd person

The intransitive present and imperative tenses are rarely used. When the present tense is used, it generally needs an additional modifier word to clarify that it is not the past.

Swaffom, wupwawio.
Because I dreamt, I'm writing.

When responding to questions, the becausative verb often stands alone as a sentence by itself:

Because I bottled it.

When the imperative is used, it takes on the meaning of a conditional future tense:

Wiwembabo, wupumap kupebbwom!
I need something sharp to open the package!
Swom, plivom pelio.
I'm going home so I can sleep.

Only context can make clear the meaning of the above sentence, because taken in isolation, swom can also mean "because I slept" or "because I'm sleeping".

Becausative compounds

A small number of words make use of a similar construction, but used without person markers and appearing as a single word. Structurally, they resemble locative verbs; see Verbs with metaphorical locative meanings. However, unlike locative verbs, in a becausative compound the second element is part of an open class, rather than belonging to a short list of verbs describing location or motion. Thus they behave like any other compound, and can have a variety of meanings:

I looked up at the sun in order to sneeze.

This is a compound of two verbs: mammamabom "in order to sneeze", and pipiafi "I looked up at the sun".

Mammamabom, like other becausatives, is unmarked for tense, but because it is used in a compound, its tense is understood to be inherited from the second component of the compound. It is derived from the verb mammamar "to sneeze".

Pipiafi is the 1st person past tense form of pipiapa "to look up at the sun", a compound of pipi "sun, top, high point" and džapa "to look upwards", with regular sound changes for a compound verb.

If this word were expressed as two separate verbs, both verbs would generally take person/tense markers:

Mammamariom, pipiafi.
I looked up at the sun so that I could sneeze.

Causative verbs

Poswa has an instrumental case which often describes the action of using an object to accomplish a goal. In a few words, there exists a "hard causative" formation which is not a true noun case, but is built from a historical compounding of the accusative ending on top of a word inflected with the instrumental case. These words, like accusatives, end in -p.

However, this setup only produces nouns, not verbs. Although these nouns can be used as verbs, they have specific, narrowly defined meanings rather than the dynamic meanings that verbs need to have. For example, poppup, a type of knife, is historically the causative form of a now-obsolete verb meaning "to cut", but one would not normally say

Tašepi poppipebi.
I cut the apple.

If they cut it using an apple corer. Rather, poppup has long been an independent word with a specific meaning referring to only that one type of knife. Instead, Poswa uses several different auxiliary verbs ("helper verbs") in serial constructions to indicate causation, as well as a few optional verb suffixes derived from previously existing infixes.

Serial causative constructions

Expressing "in order to" with causatives

Poswa can use serial verbs to express situations where one action leads to another. This can be done in several ways.

In the most common setup, the second verb is inflected with the regressive causative formation. This often corresponds to English adverbs or adjectives. Thus one can say

Lyppepa pušep bravabel pupsambabwap.[18]
The toucan bit open the can.

Note that this carries the same meaning as the becausative form above, but that the order of the verbs is switched. Both constructions are correct, but the choice of the word order usually corresponds to the choice of whether a causative or becausative formation is used.

Verbs expressing forced or assisted action

For verbs in which one actor compels or assists another to perform an action (usually with a third noun as a patient), see #Voice.

Verbs with implied causative agents

Verbal agent markers can be stacked to indicate that one agent has provoked another to act; the outer marker is always intransitive:

You make me angry.
Wumpwambi šwofi.
The movie made me cry.


Verbal aspect is expressed in Poswa in a variety of manners. Some use serial verb constructions, some use suffixes on the stem of the verb, and some use infixes that change the stem of the verb itself.

Iterative aspect

The iterative aspect is expressed by adding the infix -at- into the root of the verb. Verbs that end in a vowel will remain in the same conjugation with the use of this aspect marker, while verbs that end in a consonant will switch to an oblique stem that ends in a vowel, usually the same as the vowel that occurs before the final consonant. The iterative aspect marker can be used to show a difference in number, as below:

Apapi weliebi.
I picked a cherry.
Apapi welwafebi.
I picked a cherry many times.
I picked some cherries.

Inchoative aspect

The inchoative aspect is used to express that someone is starting an activity, whether for the first time or as a resumption of previous activity. (See #Resumptive_aspect below.)

As an affix, the morpheme is -pwu- "to find". This is identical to the habilitative mood marker, meaning that the same word could be translated in two very different ways. For example,

I can screw you.

Can also be translated as

I'm beginning to screw you now.

However, this does not normally lead to confusion because the inchoative aspect is used primarily in the past tense, while the habilitative mood inflections are rarely paired with a past tense verb.

Thus one can say:

Papwopiopi pibipwebi.
I started to pet my dog.
Vupiopi pessampwebi.
I started to cuddle my boyfriend.
Puppasem pwapwi.
I started to walk on the pathway. (Note that this is an intransitive verb.)

The inchoative endings are used for other aspects, with context serving to disambiguate the various meanings. However, speakers will often double up the marking of the inchoative aspect by using both this affix and a serial verb construction. The commonest verb chosen for this function is sublam, and it is also given the inchoative ending. Thus, sentences such as

Puppasem sublampwi pwapwi.

which literally can be translated as

I started to begin to start walking on the pathway.

Are in common use and are not generally seen as redundant.

Words for clothes

The inchoative aspect can be combined with the instrumental forms of words for clothes to indicate the act of putting the clothes on. Most instrumentals end in -b; in this case, the -b changes to an -f-:[19]

I put on my jacket.

Resumptive aspect

The resumptive aspect is used to show that someone is resuming an activity. It is usually expressed with the serial verb plym, which is used intransitively and agrees for tense with the verb it modifies:

Plympwi popopwi.
I began to speak again.

In casual speech, the bare inchoative construction is often used when a resumptive meaning is intended. This is seen as grammatically correct despite being ambiguous:

I began to speak again.

Continuative aspect

The continuative aspect of a verb is expressed by prefixing the verb wawe "to survive, remain, be extended" to the main verb.

Wawebo tšapombo.
I'm still dripping.

The same plym that marks the resumptive aspect can also be used for the continuative, but the verbs in this case take their normal tense markers, not the inchoative ones:

Plymwo popabo.
I'm still speaking.

Perfective aspect

The perfective aspect, marked by -buppa-, indicates that an action has been performed and is completed by the time frame of the verb. It is used similarly to the analogical construction in English. That is, whereas one can say, using the verb milibi "to read" with the normal past tense ending but no aspect marker

Pešafopi milibibebi.
I read the book.

One can also use a present tense marker and the perfective aspect infix to produce a sentence like

Pešafopo milibuppabo.
I have read the book.

Most sentences spoken in isolation will use the past tense and no aspect marker; however, in sentences where more than one verb is present, or when a conversation carries across multiple sentences, the perfective aspect marker is more likely to appear in order to keep the tenses of all of the verbs the same.

The perfective aspect can also be combined with a past tense marker to produce sentences such as

Pešafopi milibuppebi.
I had read the book.

Cessative aspect

The cessative aspect is used to express that someone is stopping an activity. It can be expressed in several different ways. Like the others above, both serial verb constructions and a verbal affix are in common use.

The cessative is very similar in meaning to the #Perfective aspect but implies that the action being described be stopped exactly at the time of the main event in the sentence. A cessative verb with a present tense affix can often be translated into English with the auxiliary "just stopped" before the main verb, whereas a cessative verb with a past tense affix would usually be translated with "had stopped" or simply "stopped".

Cessative aspect as a serial verb setup

As a serial verb the word is bum. Like other serial verb constructions, it is generally intransitive and bum matches the verb being modified in tense and person. Thus one would say

Bumbi bumpfapi bummafi.[20]
I stopped kicking the chicken.

Note that the bumbi up above is at the beginning of the sentence, before even the object. This is more common with the cessative aspect serial verbs than with other serial verbs because the cessative aspect more strongly modifies the meaning of the verb than most other aspect markers do.

Cessative aspect as an affix

As an affix, the morpheme used for the cessative aspect is also bum, but this time it triggers stem changes in the words it modifies because Poswa has many historical sound changes involving morphemes beginning with -b and this morpheme has been used in this role for thousands of years. These sound changes are not the same as those that appear when one marks nouns with the plural suffix -bum because that particular -bum (which is unrelated) was a separate word, and therefore did not undergo sound changes, at the time that most of the involved sound changes occurred. Thus memorizing the rules for forming plurals is of little use in forming cessatives. There is therefore an entire table for each class of verbs.

Vowel stems

However, fortunately, the changes caused by -bum do line up with many consonant mutations that are triggered by forming verbs in general, differing only for verbs ending in -e, -i, and certain consonants. Furthermore, since -bum ends in an -m, it automatically makes all verbs to which it attaches into regular -m verbs. For example, from the verb stem taera "to run", one forms

I'm running.

This features a consonant mutation changing the -r- into -b- before adding the inflection vowel. The cessative version of this verb is

I just stopped running.

Which is intuitive and easily remembered. This example seemed more simple than most because it so happens that the mutated form of -r- is -b-, and -b- is the first consonant of -bum. Put another way, it could be said that the above word does not have -bum- as an infix but rather -umb-. However, this kind of misconception makes it more difficult for learners to use the appropriate forms because the -umb- analogy breaks down on many of the consonant-stem verbs. If one thinks instead of -bum- as a morpheme that triggers consonant mutation when attaching to a vowel-stem verb and then adds -(b)um, the rule never breaks down.

Likewise, from the verb stem pustila "to shake" one would form

I'm shaking you.

And the corresponding cessative form is

I've just stopped shaking you.
Consonant stems

For verbs whose stems end in consonants, there are several other changes, all of which are found elsewhere in the language and not unique to -bum.

For verbs whose roots end in -s, the -s is deleted and, if an unstressed y remains as the final vowel in the word, a sound rule changing -yb- to -w- applies and thus the new verb stem ends in -wum. This is the same sound change found in noun plurals. This sound change also applies to the commonly used verb pys "to find", which lost its -s early on even in the standard present progressive aspect even though it was usually stressed. Thus one can say

I found it.


I stopped looking for them.

The cessative can be combined with the inchoative tense markers to indicate a stopping process that has not yet completed:

I'm spying on you.
I'm stopping spying on you.

Use with words for clothes

The cessative aspect can be combined with the instrumental form of a noun for an article of clothing to create a verb describing the action of taking off the clothing. This is very simple: most instrumentals end in consonants, and those that don't are treated as if they did by analogy. Thus, simply adding -bum- to the instrumental forms the proper word. Those instrumentals that end in -b (most of them) change it to -r- before adding the affix:

I took off my jacket.

Use of the cessative imperative

The cessative is commonly used in the imperative, producing sentences such as "stop hitting me!" and the like. For the most part these differ from the indicatives in only a few phonemes. For example, from the above verb, one could form

Stop shaking me!

Although a common tendency is for this command to take a passive verb form, producing words such as

Stop shaking me!

This form is nominally one syllable shorter because a sound rule always triggers that changes the expected suffix *-byžub into -bwub. (However, strictly speaking this change is actually byžuby ---> bwuby, with the final -y's unwritten.)

Verbs with suppletive cessatives

Some verbs have suppletive cessatives. Often, these are used in the imperative or passive imperative. One common example is that popo "to speak, talk" changes to tšum in the cessative, respecting an otherwise unused verb stem tša. Thus one can hear

Stop talking to me!
Shut up!

The tša stem by itself means "mouth", which means that tšum can also mean "to stop eating", corresponding to no single plain verb. Context makes the distinction clear, as one does not generally talk to a person while eating them.


Passive voice

Poswa makes frequent use of the passive voice. However, Poswa's passive voice is very different from that of English. Instead of being marked by changing the word order and adding auxiliary verbs, the passive voice is marked by simply using a different set of verb inflections and keeping the word order, in most cases, the same.

One other way in which Poswa's passive voice differs greatly from that of English is that in Poswa, the use of a passive verb implies a 3rd person agent. Poswa evolved from a language with a very strict animacy hierarchy, and still retains many traits of its ancestor. In Poswa, the animacy hierarchy is not involved as much in the grammar, but it still exists. There are three tiers: the top tier consists of the listener and the speaker, and the relationship is always symmetrical; neither is higher than the other. The middle tier consists of all syntactically animate beings other than the listener and the speaker; thus, this tier is always a third person entity. The bottom tier consists of all syntactically inanimate beings and thus is also always third person.

One rule still adhered to is that no entity can be the subject of a verb whose object is an entity higher on the animacy hierarchy. Thus, inanimate objects cannot act on animate objects, and animate third-preson entities cannot act on the listener or the speaker. This means that

All Poswa verbs whose agent is a third person entity, and whose patient is the 1st or 2nd person, are passive.

There are exceptions to this rule, but all of the exceptions involve animacy promotion which bring the agent up to the same higher level as the patient.

Expressing passivity using the verbal synthetic passive voice

The passive voice is found on transitive verbs, and is marked by changing the medial consonant of the verbal inflection.

The passive voice is not used often, because Poswa can place the object in front of the subject, and therefore still use an active voice verb:

Sapsapel papapat pappwebel.
The snake bit the man.

But sometimes an agent of one verb can be the patient of another, and a passive sentence is preferred. This is an example where the agent of a passive verb is actually in the accusative case:

Sabas papapatop pessambebel, wa pappwežel.
The man squeezed the snake, and was bitten by it.

All passive verbs imply that the agent of the verb is a 3rd person entity; that is, neither the speaker nor the listener can be the agent of a passive verb in Poswa. This trait is shared with many related languages, and is largely explainable as a consequence of the lack of pronouns: any passive sentence with a 1st or 2nd person agent would be exactly the same, structurally, as an active voice version of the same sentence with an ordinary active-voice verb marker at the end of the verb.

Expressing third-person agency using animacy promotion

It is often preferable to avoid the synthetic passive voice and use other methods of expressing third-person agents.

Third person agents can be promoted to top-level animacy by adding possession markers on the end, which both denote possession and change the person of the noun. This setup can be illustrated by first showing an example of an intransitive verb, and then comparing it to a transitive. For example, in a simple intransitive sentence, one could say

Wampa šwa.
The babysitter is sleeping.

Here, the verb takes a third person marker because the noun wampa "babysitter" does not have a possession marker and therefore must be a third person noun. However, one could also say

Wampo šwo.
My babysitter is sleeping.

Here, the verb has become a 1st person verb because the noun wampo "my babysitter" incorporates a 1st person possession marker, and therefore, from the standpoint of Poswa's grammar, has become a 1st person noun.

Expressing passivity using different verb stems

Poswa can also express passivity by replacing the verb stem with a new one that carries syntactically passive meaning. This is the least common of the three methods, but it is nevertheless widely used. This is often accomplished by adding an -m to the stem of the verb. Here, for example, one can take the verb pappo "bite" and form pappom "to be bitten", and then say

Sabas papapatos pappombebel.[21]
The man was bitten by the snake.

Poswa has alternative methods of expressing passive constructions indirectly. The first method is to move the subject and object around in the sentence. A second method is to keep the word order the same and use a grammatical passive voice. The third method is to change the verb stem itself to one with a lexically passive meaning.

Reciprocal voice

Verbal voice is marked primarily by changing the inflections. However, there are some lexical affixes that attach to the stem instead, and thus produce entirely new verbal roots. For example

I danced.

contrasts with

Pop₁ plabblaši.₂
We₁ danced with each other.₂

where the reciprocal suffix -s attaches to the stem of the verb in order to convey the meaning "each other". This suffix generally pairs with intransitive verbs because its subject is also its object. This holds true even when the partners are separately named:

Pypub₁ wa₂ mapo₃ plabblašel.₄
The boy₁ and₂ the girl₃ danced together.₄

The verb can be made transitive in order to imply that while the two partners acted together, one was active and the other passive. This does not necessarily imply involuntary or forced action, but merely passive action. In this case, the passive partner must be placed into the accusative case:

Pypub₁ mapop₂ plabblašebel.₃
The boy₁ and the girl₂ danced together.₃ (He asked her to dance with him.)

Note that the -š- does not change to an echo consonant reduplicating the initial consonant of the root because it is derived from a palatalized -s rather than being original to the word.

Some verbs are used so often with the reciprocal voice that their original roots have nearly disappeared from use. For example, mušos "to play with each other" is common, but mušo "to play" by itself appears only in compounds, usually with sound changes, such as bempom "play room, den for babies".

Reflexive voice

The reflexive voice is marked by adding a -p to the stem of the verb. Using the example above, one could say

Pwopwaby₁ mušofel.₂
Each of the children₁ played by themselves.₂

Even though, as above, the bare verb mušo is not generally used, Poswobs are familiar enough with the -s/-p alternation to apply it to coin new words such as mušop "play by oneself".

Verbal mood

Poswa uses auxiliary verbs to mark many of its verbal moods. However, some are formed by fusionally inflecting the verb.

In many Gold languages, verbal mood is indicated by a word at the beginning of the clause which looks like a verb but has no person or tense marker. These are treated as 1st person present verbs, and cannot be conjugated for other persons or tenses. In early Poswa, it became impossible to distinguish between verbs of this type and nouns, and so Poswa mood markers came to be marked by inflected nouns.

Indicative mood

The indicative mood is the default for all sentences and takes no marker, although, like most languages, emphasis can be added by using words such as "truly" and "clearly", generally at the beginning of the clause.

Sabas sampamap wappevebel.
The man killed the octopus.

Interrogative mood

See #Forming questions.

The interrogative mood is marked with question particles such as tus and pa, but is otherwise identical to the indicative, even in word order. It could thus be said that there is no interrogative mood, and that questions are simply another use of the indicative mood. See #Forming questions.

Imperative mood

The imperative mood is considered a tense in Poswa. See #Future tense.

Cohortative mood

The cohortative mood is a subset of the imperative mood; see above under #Future tense.

Subjunctive mood

The subjunctive mood is formed, in every case, by adding -p to the inflected form of the verb. For those forms that end in consonants, the same regular sound changes that apply to nouns also apply here. Effectively the verbs are considered as nouns and the subjunctive mood marker is the same as the accusative case marker -p.

Since the vowels are the same on all of the tables above, it is only necessary to produce one table showing the subjunctive mood, as the endings here can be applied equally to all of the verbs in the tables above. The verb pwembwi "to shoot, to throw an object forcefully at a target" is used because there was no example of a verb ending in -i in the -e/-i table above.

pwembwi Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pwembwibi pwembwibo pwembwibub
2nd person pwembwibe pwembwibae pwembwibi
3rd person pwembwibel pwembwiba pwembwibob
Transitive 1st person pwembwibebi pwembwibabo pwembwibbub
2nd person pwembwibebe pwembwibabae pwembwibbi
3rd person pwembwibebel pwembwibaba pwembwibbob
pwembwi Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pwembwibop
2nd person pwembwibep
3rd person pwembwibap
Transitive 1st person pwembwibebop pwembwibabop pwembwibybop
2nd person pwembwibebep pwembwibabep pwembwibybep
3rd person pwembwibebap pwembwibabap pwembwibybap

Desiderative mood

The desiderative mood is used to express wants and desires. Poswa handles this in several different ways, none of which are limited to expressing the feelings of the speaker. (This is why Poswob teachers do not consider this to be a true mood; rather, it is a means of expressing something that in some other languages would be a distinct mood.)

The easiest and most common method is to use a serial verb setup, usually with sase "to want, desire" at the beginning of the sentence and the predicate verb after it:

Puviopo papepwabo.
I'm burning my clothes.
Sasebo puviopo papepwabo.
I want to burn my clothes.

Note that the second verb is still in the indicative mood, not the subjunctive.

Usage of inflected nouns to express wants and desires


Poswa can also use sabas, the possessive form of saba, an old word for "key". It can be used as a concise way to say "can I have a..." at a bar or restaurant. Since it is usually unstressed, it has undergone the sound change of sab ---> š before a vowel, which occurred only in unstressed syllables. Remarkably, it takes different forms for different persons:

Šos nobellam?
Can I have some ice cream?
Šes nobellam?
Can you have some icecream?
Šas nobellam?
Can they have some ice-cream?

However, it could be said that sabas is not a true mood marker because it does not generally occur with a verb. Note that these words are marked first with the "possessed" markers -o -e -a, which look like infixes because they are then capped with the final possessive marker -s.

Note, also, that saba and sabas are no longer used in a general sense to mean "key", as that word has been replaced with the longer word šalios, which has undergone the same sound change described up above by analogy with the unstressed auxiliary words.

The infix -ib-

Another method is to take a noun and add the infix -ib- to the last syllable of[22] the noun. This infix mutates the last consonant in the word and has no other effect. Then, a possessive ending is added to the mutated noun. This is the same construction used to indicate "I have...". [23]

The desiderative infix -ib- combined with the becausative compound noun case is always identical with the becausative formation itself, and therefore some becausatives have an implied additional sense of willful desire. For example, kas is an obsolete word for "to know", but it survives in the becausative form kašam "to ask (for knowledge)", because someone who wants to know something (the desiderative component) will, because of this desire, soon ask about it (the becausative component).

This formula, however, produces unpredictable results, since the same word could be expected to mean "because of (his) knowledge", and therefore is mostly found in older words that were coined before the desiderative becausative merged with the plain becausative. Most Poswobs are not aware of the etymology of many of these words, since the plain stems they derive from often have disappeared from the language.

Habilitative moods

This is used to present that the subject of that sentence is able to do the verb. It corresponds largely to the English auxiliary verbs "can" and "may".

Semantic range of habilitative constructions

Many sentences which in English use auxiliary verbs such as "can" and "may" for sentences that in Poswa would use simple verbs. Poswa will never use a habilitative construction if the person is already involved in the activity being described. For example,

I see you!
I can see you!

Would never appear as *Vapwepabo.

Simple habilitative mood

The most common method is to use an irregular verb, tos, either in a serial verb setup or as a compound. Tos also forms nouns, and is irregular there as well, thus giving it the distinction of being one of the few morphemes that appears on both the irregular verbs list and the irregular nouns list.

Conjugation of verbs in the simple habilitative mood

Below is the conjugation of the regular verb vwam "to eat (rapidly)" in the simple habilitative mood:

Agent Patient Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person vwampwi vwampwo vwampwub
2nd person vwampwe vwampwae vwampwi
3rd person vwampwel vwampwa vwampwob
Transitive 1st person 2nd person vwampwebi vwampwabo vwampwubub
3rd person
2nd person 1st person vwampwebe vwampwabae vwampwubi
3rd person
3rd person 1st person vwampwebel vwampwaba vwampwubob
2nd person
Wibapo vwampwabo.
I can eat oranges.

The passive is formed normally, by simply changing the -b- to -ž-:

Sibi vwampwaža.
The fish is ready for me to eat.'

Augmented habilitative mood

Because the habilitative mood often conflicts with certain other verbal suffixes, it is often replaced by the augmented habilitative mood. This is derived by infixing the emphatic affirmative morpheme -ep- within the mood marker. While normally, mood markers cannot take infixes in Poswa, this construction is possible because at the time it began to be used, the morpheme that is now the habilitative mood marker was still considered an independent verb, and therefore was not considered an inflection.

Conjugation of verbs in the augmented habilitative mood

Below is the conjugation of the regular verb vwam "to eat (rapidly)" in the augmented habilitative mood:

Agent Patient Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person vwampwepi vwampwepo vwampwepub
2nd person vwampwepe vwampwepae vwampwepi
3rd person vwampwepel vwampwepa vwampwepob
Transitive 1st person 2nd person vwampwepebi vwampwepabo vwampwebbub
3rd person
2nd person 1st person vwampwepebe vwampwepabae vwampwebbi
3rd person
3rd person 1st person vwampwepebel vwampwepaba vwampwebbob
2nd person

Inabilitive mood

The inabilitative mood is formed by infixing the morpheme -af- within the simple habilitative mood marker. This corresponds to an earlier affix -ib-, but was distorted radically by sound changes. Thus, this -af- is simply a doublet of the ordinary negative verb infix unique to this particular formation. (If -ib- were added today to the habilitative marker as it stands, the result would be that the -w- of each habilitative verb suffix would change to -i-.)

Conjugation of verbs in the inabilitative mood

Below is the conjugation of the regular verb vwam "to eat (rapidly)" in the inabilitative mood:

Agent Patient Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person vwampafwi vwampafwo vwampafwub
2nd person vwampafwe vwampafwae vwampafwi
3rd person vwampafwel vwampafwa vwampafwob
Transitive 1st person 2nd person vwampafwebi vwampafwabo vwampafwubub
3rd person
2nd person 1st person vwampafwebe vwampafwabae vwampafwubi
3rd person
3rd person 1st person vwampafwebel vwampafwaba vwampafwubob
2nd person

Disabilitative mood

The disabilitative mood is a variety of the inabilitative mood.

Expressing "to try, attempt"

The act of attempting to do something, without reference to its success or failure, can be expressed by a serial verb setup involving the primary verb fipaema followed by the verb being attempted. Usually, the two verbs are placed directly together rather than being separated by the object of the verb. Thus one can say

Fipaevi babribi lupponwap.
I tried to hide the body.

An alternative method is to use the verbal affix -misi- between the verb stem and the inflection. This turns any verb it modifies into a regular verb:

Babrimisibi lupponwap.
I tried to hide the body.

A small number of verbs have developed fusional forms of this affix, generally involving deletion of the first -i-, which triggers other further sound changes. For example, the very common verb pys "to find" combines with misi to form the verb pimpi "to search for; to try to find something". This is a regular -i-stem verb, producing sentences such as

Pimpibabo paffamios.[24]
I'm searching for my medicine.

Some such verbs are derived from stems that are otherwise obsolete. For example, the obsolete verb stem *wiš- "to learn, be taught" is the base for the modern verb wišympi- "to study", but does not generally occur without the affix even in other compounds.

Note that the deletion of the first -i- in -misi- can only occur when it follows a verb root ending in a vowel. Although there are some examples deep in the history of the language whereby an initial -m- in an affix drops out, which could then trigger the -i- to drop as well, the use of the affix -misi- only came into play long after this sound change had stopped operating. The reason pys was able to undergo the change is that there was a separate sound rule deleting -s before a voiced consonant, thus producing the shorter stem py-. This rule itself, however, is no longer operative.


Lexical derivations involving fusional suffixed -misi-

Below is a table of verbs padded by various permutations of the affix -misi-. Words where the affix simply remains misi are not listed here, since their meaning never diverges greatly from what would be expected from the meaning of the verb stem itself. Verb roots marked with an asterisk are those that are no longer commonly seen in isolation:

Original verb meaning Padded verb meaning
pys to find pimpi to search for
*wiš to learn wišympi[25] to study
sys to sleep simpi to try to sleep
*pes to cut in two, to divide pempe to pull on an object at both ends in order to break it;
to stretch
bavba to injure, harm bavbampe to attack
wappa to win, defeat wapampe to compete, try to win
*mwu to measure mwumpe to estimate
mi to see mimpi to try to see, look carefully
*wa to eat wampe to try to eat, avoid vomiting
šiši to smile; to laugh[26] šišimpi to try to smile; to pretend not to feel pain
pupa to avoid; to shy away pupampe to try to avoid something; to deny reality
pwas to squeeze; to give birth pwampe to feel labor contractions

Some examples of these verbs in use are below:

I'm competing against you.
Papwopwapi bavbampebebi.
I attacked the dog.
Pubvwo. Wampebo.
I'm sick. I'm trying to keep from throwing up.
Pfwupfwepapub nabbub. Simpibo!
Turn off the light. I'm trying to sleep!

Some words show little change in meaning when the affix is added, except to indicate the speaker's uncertainty of the fruitfulness of the action being taken. But some verbs of this type have nevertheless taken on a fusional form of the affix rather than simply using -misi:

I'm trying to hunt.
I'm hunting.

Verbs indicating successful actions

The infix -ep- can be inserted into the final syllable of the root of any verb to emphasize that it describes a successful action. This is an infix, not an affix, so it resembles the aspect markers such as -at- more than it resembles most other mood markers. This infix is rare, since most actions spoken of are generally assumed to have been completed successfully, but it can be used in order to give emphasis when the listener is in doubt.

A few verbs have irregular or suppletive forms for this particular inflection, generally verbs whose stems end in consonants and therefore have a separate oblique form that appears when infixes are placed within them. Thus, it is not anything unique to the infix -ep- that triggers the alternative forms, but rather, these verbs share a single oblique form for all such infixes. For example, using the irregular verb pys "to find", one can say:

Ipae, puntatšopi pipepwebi.
Yes, I've really found my marbles.

Also, the -ep- infix can be used to show that an action was done on purpose rather than being involuntary.

Ipae, pumblepwebi.
Yes, I laughed at you on purpose.

Verbal padding using the emphatic infix -ep-

Sometimes, the -ep- infix has been added to a verb in order to pad its phonetic shape and therefore keep it distinct from other verbs of identical or similar sound. Often, these verbs were originally emphatic forms, but came to have a reduced or degenerate meaning over time.

In some words, the infixation happened early enough that the form of the infix is -ip- or some other sequence rather than -ep-. Syncope is common, such that the infix may appear to be a simple -p- (which is often possible, since it always occurs before the last vowel in the root), or the word may not resemble its original form at all. However, in more recent coinages, the syncope does not take place because this syncope was a single event rather than a process that automatically applied to new coinages after the sound change took place.

Another example of a padded verb using -ep- is the emphatic habilitative mood marker. Ordinarily, a mood marker cannot take an infix such as this because mood markers are part of the inflectional morphology of Poswa and this type of infix is part of the derivational morphology, and the rules of the grammar state that derivational morphemes must precede inflectional morphemes rather than being inserted into them. This exception exists because at the time, the habilitative mood marker was considered a separate verb. However, strictly speaking, the infixation is etymologically incorrect since it assumes the habilitative suffix is and has always been -(p|t)wa, when it was in fact originally a standalone verb tos.

Examples of padded verbs using -ep- and its cognates

Below is a table of verbs padded with the emphatic infix -ep-. Generally, verbs ending in -pa are regular and therefore change into -fa for their conjugations; however, verbs ending in -ppa change into -pfa rather than -ffa. Verbs padded by -ep- whose Romanization ends in -p always actually end in the voiceless labialized bilabial stop /pʷ/. Verbs whose bare form is no longer in use are marked with an asterisk:

Original verb meaning Padded verb meaning Notes
mibas to destroy, injure irreparably mimmipa to destroy, do away with
pypa to eat up, to kill an animal by biting off body parts pyppa to eat an animal alive Syncope
bubub to anchor, dock bubwep to hold tightly; secure in place Final -p is labialized since the final -b was; thus, not a causative verb
*wapa to push down, step on maliciously wappa to win, defeat in a nonviolent competition Syncope
vas to destroy vafpa to destroy, get rid of vas is a doublet of mibas used in compounds, but vafpa can be used anywhere. Syncope. Conjugated stem is vaff- for most forms
*pes to cut in half pippi to grab part of something, tearing it off Syncope. Sense conflated with unrelated pippi describing a military siege. Exists side by side with unsyncopated pipepi; both are often used with the essive-partitive case instead of the accusative. Note that this is not homophonous with pippi "juice" which has a labialized /pʷ/ in the syllable coda.
pesty to rot, rust, decay pippit to rot, develop holes A combination of pippi above with a preexisting suffix. Thus, the infix is on the first morpheme rather than the last, as in most other words. Since pes is extinct as a standalone verb, most speakers do not realize that pesty and pippit are related. Both verbs are in common use today, and both are mostly used reflexively, although a transitive meaning exists for both.
pupapi to walk or run unsteadily pupapipi To run away, dodging enemies and obstacles; to flee a battle Syncope was not possible because at the time it was coined, the verb root ended with -pli rather than -pi.
molo ready to fight, to hurt someone možep angry, threatening violence

Some examples of these verbs in use are below:

Pomom! Wapfabo!
Yay! I just beat you!
Vaffebi pispipypiep.
I destroyed the termites.
Wiwio pumbži pippibebi.
My teeth bit off parts of my fingernails. (literal reading)
I bit off my fingernails. (syntactical reading)
Papapapopi pupapipibebi.
I ran away from my snakes.

Verbs indicating unsuccessful actions

Abortive mood

The most common way to indicate an unsuccessful action is to take the subjunctive form of the verb and add a second verb, ta, to it. The verb ta is not used by itself, but carries the meaning "to fail, to try unsuccessfully".


Because all subjunctives of all verbs end in -p, and because there exists a sound rule automatically changing any unaccented -pt- to -p-, and lastly because all verbs ending in -a lose the -a in their conjugations, the "unsuccessful" suffix appears to consist of a simple verbal ending attached to the subjunctive form of the verb being described.[27] This construction came into use only in slow steps, because in its original form, it was four morphemes long (two for the inner verb marker, one for ta, and one for the outer verb marker). Below is the conjugation of pitsi "to obey" conjugated with the suffixed verb ta "to fail":

Agent Patient Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pitsibopi pitsibopo pitsibopub
2nd person pitsibepul pitsibepae pitsibepi
3rd person pitsibapel pitsibapa pitsibapob
Transitive 1st person 2nd person pitsibebopi pitsibabopo pitsibybopub
3rd person
2nd person 1st person pitsibebepul pitsibabepae pitsibybepi
3rd person
3rd person 1st person pitsibebapel pitsibabapa pitsibybapob
2nd person

This creates sentences such as

Pubbabumbapi pitsibebopi .
I tried to obey the duck (but I failed).

Since the subjunctive forms of all verbs and the accusative forms of all nouns both end in -p, in sentences like this where the object is placed first and the verb second, the two words will rhyme. Note also that the vowels that mark person are repeated since this construction originated from the compounding of two fully inflected verbs.


A less common method of expressing unsuccessful actions is to use the accusative form of the noun root that inhabits the verb stem followed by the same suffix ta. This was the original method, and more closely resembles the setups that Poswa uses for other similar functions. However, due to the same sound change described above, for many verb stems, this particular inflection coalesces with other forms of the same verb, or with other forms of other verbs. In general, verbs that end in vowels can "safely" use this form of the verb since the result will be a suffix such as -po, as the -p that marks the accusative is protected from being changed to -f- by the fact that it was followed by a -t- at the time the sound change of p ---> f occurred. Verbs that end in a consonant will change to their oblique form and then add that same suffix, with the -p again protected by the disappearing -t-. Nevertheless, this method of expressing unsuccessful action is found mostly in certain commonly used verbs and not as an ad-hoc formation such as the duck hunting example above. One common example of use of this verb is

I couldn't find (it).

This is formed from pip, the oblique form of the verb pys "to find", changed into its accusative form (pip carries an underlying suffix -o), plus the verb stem ta "to fail", which disappears entirely from the resulting final word form, plus the 1st person past tense suffix -i.

Essentially the difference between the two formations is that the subjunctive method leads to repeated verbal endings, since the verbal endings are expressed both on the main verb and on the suffix that carries with it the meaning "to fail". This makes this method the only possible method to use when one wants to express person-changing verbs such as "I failed to make you learn."

Sometimes, the two infixes are used together, to form a symmetry. The affirmative formation is often used in response to a negative question, such as

Pipope, pa?
You couldn't find anything, right?
Pupae, pipepebi!
No, I found them!
Serial verbs

However, often speakers will use a serial verb setup such as žaepsa before the verb.

Obligative mood

The obligative mood expresses the subject's (or speaker's) need to do something. It can be expressed with a serial verb setup using the irregular verb bu "need" or with an affix that is related to it.

When used as a serial verb, bu is intransitive and takes a verb as its argument:

Bubo bavafo.
I need to eat something.

This verb is considered irregular because its -u remains a full vowel instead of contracting to /w/ and merely labializing the preceding consonant.


Other methods of expressing this concept involve adding the suffix -ana or -apa to the verbal root, and applying any resulting sound changes. The difference between the two is that -ana better translates "I need to" whereas -apa better translates "I have to, I must".

Bambabum blworava.
The babies need to drink their milk.
Pwopwabum waebubumpafa.
The children have to do their classwork.

Other moods

Nouns can form mood markers of unusual types that are difficult to describe.

Polite hortative mood

For example, the word "please" is generally translated as pwaewam, and used as a prefix to the rest of the sentence. Pwaewam is the locative case of pwaewa "charity, favor, good deed". This is in contrast to languages such as Khulls where "please" was actually a fusional inflection on the verb.

Optimistic mood

The optimistic mood corresponds to English "hopefully". It is formed by prefixing the word ramas to the clause. This is a very old word, and is found in related languages with the same meaning: Pabappa ramas, Khulls lamī, and Thaoa lamat; the Andanese cognate of this word is alamu but it is not used in this manner.

Negative verbs

Verbal negation is accomplished in several ways, and in most cases, a Poswa sentences with a negative verb will use more than one type of negation on that verb. That is to say, it has redundancy, the same way Poswa verbs often have two or even three tense markers on.

The affix pep

Most verbs can be negated by adding the affix pep, which also functions as a standalone verb meaning "false; to be false":

I whistled at you.
I didn't whistle at you.

If the verb to which -pep is added is irregular, it becomes a regular verb that follows the expected conjugation patterns for verbs ending in -p:

I bit you.
I didn't bite you.

Note that the irregular verb pappo "bite", whose transitive oblique stem is pappw-, becomes regular again when the affix -pep is added. (This verb borrowed most of its conjugation from a previously existing verb pappop "to chew", but the negative form is pappopepebi and not *pappoppepebi because of a sound rule simplifying the second of two consecutive geminates. The merger happened before this sound change, but had it not, the negatives of the two verbs would have collided anyway.)

Also note that because -pep is an affix rather than an infix, it is not generally confused with the emphatic positive infix -ep even in verbs where the first -p- of -pep is deleted due to a sound rule. Nevertheless, the negative meaning of -pep is often strengthened by adding an auxiliary verb whose meaning is also negative.

The negation affix -pep is not related to the subjunctive -p, but its coincidental resemblance adds to the association of the subjunctive with negative words.

Auxiliary negative verbs

In many cases a Poswa speaker will want to emphasize at the very beginning of the sentence that the verb is negative. After all, Poswa sentences often place the verb at the end of the sentence, and some sentences can be quite long. There are several auxiliary negative markers to choose from, and although they can be placed throughout a sentence or clause, they are generally placed at the beginning. The different auxiliaries have different shades of meaning:

Pubi pappopepebi.
No, I didn't bite you.
Pwupofi pappopepebi.
I didn't bite you yet. (So watch out.)
Pupebi pappopepebi.
I didn't bite you. (Someone else must've done it!)
Pupi pappopepebi.
I avoided biting you. (You don't look very tasty.)

Also, since they are grammatically considered intransitive verbs, the auxiliaries change to accomodate different person and tense markers. Essentially, they agree with the main verb in person and tense, but not always transitivity:

Pupi papapapopi pappopepebi.
I avoided biting my snake.
Pupel papapapo pappopepebel.
My snake avoided biting me.

Suppletive negative forms

Some verbs, however, do not take the infix -pep to become negative, but have instead suppletive forms which behave as independent verbs. This class includes all verbs that end in -o apart from the -o class's own irregulars, such as pappo above. Thus, using the verb popo "to speak, talk, converse", one can say

I'm talking to you.

The change of -o- to -ar- here is regular, and one would expect it to change back to -o- again for the negative form. However, one cannot say

*Pubo popopepabo.
No, I'm not talking to you.

Because popo belongs to the class of verbs that have suppletive negative forms. Originally, a large percentage of Poswa verbs had suppletive negative forms, and they were easily remembered because there were not many irregular verbs to complicate the picture. However, as the number of irregulars grew, suppletives became less predictable, and they hung on only in certain commonly used verbs and in the regular -o conjugation class. Thus, instead, one hears sentences like

Pubo pofwabo.
No, I'm not talking to you.

Where the last consonant before the -o is replaced with a mutated form and the -o itself is replaced with labialization, thus placing the verb into the -y class. Largely, this irregularity remained in the language because it made the verbs it applied to two syllables shorter, and because all regular -o verbs otherwise conjugated the same way. Thus, most -o verbs are in the unusual situation of having their negative forms be one syllable shorter than their positive forms. (However, they are still often padded with an auxiliary such as pubo).

The operation that produced this alternate negative verb stem did not shorten other classes of verbs as much, and in many cases the negative stem simply merged with the affirmative early on, thus forcing the Poswobs to adopt fronted auxiliaries and the infix -pep.

Other suppletive negatives

Most verbs with suppletive negative forms are in the -o class, as above. However, many commonly used verbs are not, and have retained suppletive negatives simply for ease of use. It can be helpful to simply think of these words as standalone verbs with an independent existence rather than as an inflected form of a different verb.

Often, suppletive negatives are found as complaints or as quick replies to polar questions, and are often used by themselves without the fronted auxiliaries common in longer sentences:

I don't know.
I don't understand.[28]
I don't remember.
I can't help.
I can't see.

It is not improper to use the fronted auxiliaries here, although it is less common. Despite being suppletives, these verbs are still perceived by Poswa speakers as having an inherently negative meaning, and could be compared to English sentences such as "No, I missed it":

Pupebo wafebo.
I can't help. (Hopefully someone else can.)

Pep as a standalone verb

The infix -pep used above can still function as a standalone verb, and is considered to be part of the suppletive class because it is assigned to the verb bu "to do", but replaces the stem of that verb instead of attaching to it:

I didn't do it!

A small number of Poswa verbs early on acquired -bu as a suffix (generally to repair a defective verb that had coalesced with a different verb or become highly irregular), and these verbs replace what is left of the -bu with -pep when they turn negative.

Other standalone negative verbs

Some of the other verbs up above can also be used in standalone form as an elliptical way to deny a previous thought or statement. They are always intransitive, regardless of the transitivity of the action being referenced. The most commonly used is

I didn't!
I didn't do it!
I didn't do anything!

And so on. This verb in other contexts has the specific meaning of deliberately avoiding something, but is used in a more neutral sense when it functions as a standalone verb because the verb

I didn't (do it)!

can also mean

I drew.

Despite the fact that this pubi is usually transitive, the confusion of meanings leads to speakers avoiding pubi in favor of pupi. The others behave essentially the same way:

I haven't done it yet!
*I* didn't do it!


There is no true infinitive, but, in transitive verbs, what functions as one can be formed by changing "bo" to "va" in those forms that end in -bo. The passive form of this changes the va to la. This is called an impersonal verb rather than an infinitive.

Thus, for example, from the noun posapa "fire" comes the verb posapava "to burn (up)", and its passive form posapala. This is best understood as a verb that is inflected for voice and tense but not for person, so posapava really means "someone is burning something" and needs additional words in order to take on the functions of an infinitive. Note that this pattern exists only for transitive verbs. For intransitive verbs, the suffix -(b)a (originally a particle) is used. This suffix forms verbs that in English would often be adjectives. It is not etymologically related to the 3rd person intransitive present tense verb ending -ba, but has come to be treated as if it were the same ending, thus heightening the impression that most "adjectives" are merely intransitive verbs.

Serial person marking

Functions that in many languages are given to infinitives are done in Poswa and Pabappa by verbs inflected for person. This leads to internal rhymes, because all verbs, even irregular ones, reliably use the same vowels for the same person markings. Thus for example

Banambo¹ papibabo.²
I enjoy¹ spitting on you².

However, with passive verbs, an impersonal form is sometimes called for, to show that the action being described is not being performed by the speaker:

Tiša banambae papibala?
Do you enjoy being spit on?

has no person marking on its verb, and thus does not rhyme. It contrasts with

Tiša banambae papibažae?
Do you enjoy being spit on by me?

which has a 2nd person marker on the verb, and is passive, and thereby implies 1st person agent. This could be replaced with

Tiša banambae papibabo?
Do you enjoy me spitting on you?

which has an active verb and a 1st person marker, but the passive form is more common because Poswobs prefer to use the rhyming verbs to show agreement even though the agent of the first verb is the patient of the second.

Subject incorporation

Poswa verbs can incorporate indefinite subjects. For example, taempos means "children playing with each other". This is a compound of tae "children" + mušos "playing with each other". It is conjugated the same as any other verb, so the one-word sentence "Taempoša" means "Some children are playing with each other."

Toddlers on the treadmill

The incorporated subject is tae, which means "young children", but is not the most common word for children as it has been mostly replaced by pwopwa. Verbs with incorporated subjects often preserve fossilized meanings of nouns. For example, tae meant toddler originally, and is the same word as Khulls which generally refers to children who can walk ("toddle") but still need diapers (). As above, tae is rarely used as a subject in modern Poswa, but survives in various other uses, such as a child equivalent to the agent suffix -ta, which has come to be restricted to adults. For example, pwampta means a cashier or shopkeeper, but a pwamptae can mean a young child helping out in her mother's carpet store or a preschooler running a lemonade stand. Like many words, it can be used metaphorically, and has even come to be used for adults as a form of familiar address. Meanwhile, an old word for baby, bul, has moved up and pushed out tae in many of its original uses for children. For example, the commonest word for "to guess" is besse, originally meaning "baby's answer, baby's solution" because a baby can only guess at anything it wants to know. But it came to be seen as "child's answer" before its meaning became fixed. Then a word originally meaning fetus or embryo, bamba, came to be the commonest word for a human baby, and the new coinages pammo and wabvi took over for fetus.

Nevertheless, one would not simply say *Tae taempoša to indicate that a specific group of children are playing with each other. It would be grammatically correct, but tae is rarely used as a subject. Any word could do, but the most common word for children in modern Poswa is pwopwa, from a word originally meaning an apprentice. This word, like other words, is unmarked for number, but takes the plural suffixes -bum and -by to indicate that that being plural is significant to the meaning of the sentence. Thus, the sentence Pwopwabum taempoša has the same meaning as just Taempoša alone, but has a definite subject (i.e. "the children" rather than "some children") and is more emphatic. It could be used to mean "the children are playing with each other like children often do." (If the noun were singular, but the verb retained the -s ending, the meaning would be taken as "the child is playing with himself".)

The purpose of subject incorporation is to make new verbs that can be used with other subjects. While taempos does mean "children playing with each other", it can be used for adults in a metaphorical sense to indicate that they are behaving like children (in this case, it is nearly always a compliment, not an insult). These compound verbs are no different than simple noun+verb compounds except for the fact that sound changes which do not normally apply across word boundaries are allowed to take place, and some coinages which were made far back in history retain sound changes that have accumulated over time. This is why the part of the word that means "play with each other" is simply -mpos, which would not be pronouncible in isolation.

Incorporation of inanimate nouns

As above, tae "children" is animate, and functions as an agent in words such as taempos "children playing with each other" and talsafi "children counting on their hands", both of which can be used metaphorically or literally.

Pipsis "to sleep in a tree" is another subject-incorporating verb, but pipi "tree" is inanimate, so the meaning is passive with respect to the tree, and the sentence needs an animate subject to make sense. The word pipi for tree is rarely used in modern Poswa, as it is homophonous with several other words, but it still is used in the narrower sense of a fruit tree (a meaning shared with the longer pispum). Thus, although pipsis is widely understood, the first part of the compound is sometimes replaced with a different morpheme, resulting in words such as pispumpis, fampis, ipisis, povvasis, publofsis, pobbasis, popesis, and so on. Note that the verb for "sleep" is normally sys, but the sound-mutated version from pipsis has carried over to the other words and is effectively now a second verb for sleeping.

Incorporation of inalienable nouns

Body parts and other inalienable nouns can also be placed before a verb. In this case, they really are considered subjects, but only because they derive their animacy from an unspoken possessor. Often, especially with body parts, these words serve mostly as intensifiers, as the verb is generally already specific enough to get the meaning across clearly.

For example:

means "I slapped you.", and
means "I slapped you with (my) hand". The meaning is essentially the same in both words, but peppapwapwebi implies a more forceful slap. (The change of -pp- to -pw- is due to a sound rule.)

Forming questions

Yes-no questions

There is no "interrogative" mood for verbs in Poswa. In many contexts, a sentence can be made into a question simply by placing the verb into the subjunctive mood and leaving everything else, including the word order, intact. However, in most situations Poswobs will mark the sentence as a question in other ways, such as using question particles. Tus, placed at the beginning of a sentence, makes that sentence into a yes-no question. At the end of a sentence, the particle pa, which means "or" in certain contexts, can also be used. This is generally separated from the preceding sentence by a pause intended to draw the listener's attetnion, even when the context is already clear. Double-marking a sentence by beginning with pis and ending with pa while also placing the verb into the subjunctive mood is optional but not frowned upon.


Lappita pešafop posapebel.
The teacher burned the book.

contrasts with sentences such as

Pis lappita pešafop posapebep, pa?
Did the teacher burn the book, (or ...)?

Emphasizing words in questions

Word order can be altered from the usual SOV pattern in order to emphasize a particular word in the sentence. The most prominent word is placed at the beginning of the sentence. However, because the subject is ordinarily at the beginning of the sentence anyway, it cannot be emphasized in this manner. (And note also that in verbs with 1st and 2nd person agents, because there are no pronouns in Poswa, there would be no subject in such a sentence.)

Qualitative questions

Qualitative questions here are defined as all questions that seek information outside of a yes-no answer; they could be called "open ended questions" instead. Qualitatives are formed using the opposite method found in English and most other IE languages: whereas in English, question words such as who, what, when, where, and why are all formed by attaching suffixes to an invariable stem, in Poswa they are formed by attaching either of two invariable suffixes to a variable stem. These two suffixes are pis and bubum.

Forming questions using the interrogative suffix -pis

The interrogative suffix -pis is the more common of the two. It cannot be used in bare form.


Simple demonstratives

Poswa did not inherit its parent language's demonstrative noun suffixes, which were based on ancient vowel alternations and resembled the personal possession markers. Instead, demonstratives in Poswa are expressed by verbs. These words were adapted from organic roots which originally were cognate to words such as "friend" and "relative".

The most common demonstrative verb is be. This word originally meant "friend", and appears in some other constructions in modern Poswa with the meaning "child; young person" or "baby". However, the oblique stem of this verb is not *be- but buž-. [29] The simplest forms to learn are those that describe proximity to a person. Thus one can say

Wupe bužo apwa.
The book by me is red.

Note that bužo is a 1st person verb, which can be thought of as meaning "(the book) I have by me". However, it is not a possessive, and therefore the second verb in the sentence, which means "is red", is in the 3rd person because it agrees with wupe "book" rather than the demonstrative verb bužo.

Because this is a verb, it conjugates for other persons like any other verb would. The 3rd person form is the one most closely corresponding to a demonstrative in English:

Wupe bužae ubužža.
The book by you is blue.
Wupe buža lapwa.
The book by her is purple.
That book is purple.

Compound demonstratives

The proximal demonstrative root is bufe, a distant cognate of the word bop "relative, associate, kin". This can be used either as a modifier following a noun or as a standalone noun on its own. The demonstrative affix be (buž-) goes after this root and combines with it following the rules of regular sound change.

Sufu bufuža rafiampolwa.
This box has a rabbit inside.

The distal demonstrative is pamma. It is nearly always used in the second person. It combines with be like bufe does, but obeys the rules for unstressed words even when prosodically stressed, so the expected pambvuž- oblique is replaced by pambuž-:

Swa labiom pambužae.
He's sleeping in that bed.

Note that the locative suffix -m here is placed on the word for "bed" only. This may make more intuitive sense if the English translation is parsed as something like "The bed he's sleeping on is that one."[30]

Non-accusative verbs and patient case flexibility

All verbs in Poswa have an unspoken and unwritten prefix showing which case the object of the verb is placed into. Most verbs govern the accusative case, and the prefix that shows this is wi. This is considered part of the verb, but is never pronounced or written down even in a dictionary. It is considered a separate word. Thus, for example, the verb for "to promise" in Poswa is technically wi pambap, but even in a dictionary, one will only find an entry for pambap.

Poswa verbs are divided between those that are case-flexible, meaning they can function both as transitive verbs governing the accusative case and as grammatically intransitive verbs governing the genitive or locative case; and those that are case-bound, meaning they belong to a single noun case and use of the verb with any other noun case is considered ungrammatical.

Case-bound verbs are collectively called round verbs (bumbalaššum paraes) and have different prefixes.[31] These prefixes are still not pronounced or written in any context, but will appear in a dictionary in order to remind the student of the proper use of the verb in question.

Case-flexible verbs

All case-flexible verbs are categorized as accusative verbs, and take the unwritten prefix wi. Also, all verbs classified with wi are case-flexible; there are no verbs that can only govern the accusative case. This is because any verb that can govern the accusative case can also take other arguments in the same clause.

Distinctions of meaning among case-flexible verbs

Different shades of meaning are obtained by changing the case of the patient of a case-flexible verb. For most such verbs, the accusative case is by far the most common and is implied when the object of the sentence is omitted, as when repeating already-heard information. The genitive and locative cases are used in exceptional circumstances, or when the patient of the verb is an immutable object such as the sun.

Case flexibility used to show the extent of an action

The genitive and locative cases can replace the accusative in a syntactically transitive sentence to specify that the action being described was unsuccessful or had an undesirable result. The general rule in Poswa is

  1. Verbs govern the accusative case when the action affects the patient more than it affects the agent.
  2. Verbs govern the locative case when the action affects the agent more than it affects the patient.
  3. Verbs govern the genitive case when neither the patient nor the agent of the verb is affected.

Note that these verbs can, and usually do, remain syntactically transitive. The situation is similar to adding a preposition "of", "at", or "on" before the object of a transitive verb in English.

Case flexibility used to describe the effect of an action

For example, mumplu means "to laugh"; with its patient in the accusative case, it means "to laugh at"; if it is in the genitive case, it means "to laugh about".

By tradition, immutable objects such as the sun are given genitive verbs for most ordinary interactions. This is a change from the earlier stages of the language when it was mandatory to do so, and from even further back in history, when verbs describing interaction with objects like the sun were a closed set.[32]

Case flexibility is also used when a verb describes an action that is unexpected or accidental, and may have an undesirable result. For example, using the verb babbe "to punch", one can say

Wawampaeliopi babbebebi.
I punched the balloon.

Because a balloon is, in most cases, more affected by a person punching it than is the person doing the punching. However, one will also hear

Biswas babbebi.
I punched the mattress.
Manwam babbebi.
I punched the tree.

Where the latter two sentences describe an action that, although voluntary, does not affect the patient of the action, as neither a mattress nor a tree is likely to be affected by a forceful punch from a human agent, and in the case of the tree, it is the agent who is likely to come away with a bloody hand.

Note that the genitive and locative verbs in the sentences above are shorter than the accusative verb, and that, furthermore, the patient of the verb is not padded with the verbal agreement suffix -i. This gives Poswa the unusual trait of having many syntactically passive verbs two syllables shorter than their equivalent active forms. However, this quirk applies only to this particular construction; true passive verbs are those in which the roles of agent and patient are reversed, and still use ordinary disyllabic transitive verb suffixes.

Most verbs that are commonly used in all three cases above describe physical actions, because it is mostly physical actions that have the (usually unintended) consequence of injuring the agent more than the patient. However, it is common to see verbs used with the genitive case when the patient is inanimate or otherwise immutable, and with the accusative case when the patient is a living being expected to have a response to the action. Thus one says

Taempopi vebi.
I saw the children playing.


Taempios vi.
I saw the playground.

When the same verb applies to more than one object, and the objects need to be in different case forms for one of the reasons above, the transitive form of the verb is chosen if any of the patients is in the accusative case:

Taempopi wa taempios vebi.
I saw the chidren playing and the playground.

Case-flexible verbs with animate patients

By tradition, case-flexible verbs can only govern cases other than the accusative when the patient of the action is an inanimate object. It is still grammatical to use constructions like this with animate patients, but because there are no pronouns in Poswa, they always involve repeating the word for the object in its full form, and cannot involve 1st or 2nd person patients at all. This is why animate nouns in Poswa are referred to as "sensitive nouns"; living beings are assumed to always have a reaction to any action performed on them. However, it is still possible to say, for example:

Fufwes pwembiofi.
I shot at the bear.

To show that the attempt was not successful. However, this method is usually found in longer, more complex sentences; the more common means of indicating an unsuccessful attempt to act on an animate patient is to use a suffix on the verb. See #Verbs indicating unsuccessful actions.

Locative case-bound verbs

See Poswa locative verbs and Extended locatives.

Verbs bound to the locative case generally refer to actions that affect the subject rather than the object, but are grammatically intransitive rather than appearing with the passive voice forms of the transitive endings. Thus, the verb endings are typically shorter than those of transitive accusative verbs. Most locative verbs have stems beginning with p-, because they are restricted to occurring after words ending in -m, and in this position, initial /f s š p t k/ (and usually /w/) all merged into p-. Unlike case-flexible verbs, case-bound verbs do not have free word order; the verb must occur immediately after its object.

Locative verbs often carry meanings similar to ordinary case-flexible verbs used with a passive voice marker. However, locative verbs differ in that the entity most affected by the action is grammatically the agent, not the patient. This usually implies guided action on the part of the agent, and the patient is often inanimate. For example, using a particular locative verb one can say

Pipem pefi.
I tanned in the sun.
I sunbathed.

The verb in this sentence is pep, the reflexive of a word meaning "to peel, open, expose", and pipem is the locative form of pipi "sun". The implication here is that exposing oneself to the sun does not affect the sun in any way but usually does affect the sunbather. The existence of this verb calls to mind the fact that a verb in Poswa can be both reflexive and transitive; in other words, reflexive is not a voice, but rather part of the derivation system, and therefore can pair with any voice and can be either transitive or intransitive.

Naturally, many locative verbs also describe the agent being in a particular physical place. A person visiting a field or mountain or other such place generally does not affect the landforms simply by being there, but the location will affect the visitor.

It could be said that a third category of locative-bound verbs describes accidental actions, particularly those that cause injury to the agent of the verb. However, most such actions are described by case-flexible verbs.

Genitive verbs

Genitive verbs usually refer to actions in which neither the agent nor the patient is affected by the action. For example, ši wufa "to watch, stare at". These are considered intransitive, and in situations where the verb is used without its referent, the reciprocal suffix -s is added to the verb stem instead.

See also Poswa particles and minor parts of speech.

The full list of prefixes corresponding to the six core noun cases is below:

Case Prefix Sample
Nominative a A hypothetical category set up by those who consider nouns to be simply a type of verb.
Accusative wi pappo "to bite" Nearly all verbs are wi verbs.
Locative dži pos "to hide inside" Always follows directly after a word in the locative case.
Possessive ši fwu "to fear" Generally contains verbs describing actions in which neither the subject nor the object are affected.
Essive e
Instrumental y

Verbs governing the possessive case generally refer to actions that do not affect the object. Many of these are words for emotions; in Poswa, as in most neighboring languages, the category of emotions describes many intransitive verbs whose expression is visible to others, but are not be considered emotions in English. For example, ši puve "to listen (for)" is one of the emotion words.

Verbs describing emotional reactions and personal preferences

ši fwu

An example of a verb governing the possessive case is ši fwu, "to be afraid". It is intransitive:

Paefambum piššopos fwa.
The women are afraid of the mouse.

This usage of the genitive aligns perfectly with the English "of", and tends to appear in verbs in which the patient of the verb is not affected by the agent, and the verb can be considered effectively intransitive.

ši fwae

Another possessive verb is ši fwae "to prefer, to root for, to support (in one's mind)":

Sabas lapsas fwažo.
I prefer the man wearing purple.

Expressing love and hate

By tradition, words describing love and hate are seen as more forceful than other emotions, and govern the accusative case rather than the genitive when directed at people or animals.

Muvop žambabo!
I love my wife!
Džambop bamblambabo!
I hate my mother-in-law!

Because of this, the words žiam "loved one" and bambliam "hated one; enemy" take the same -m that other transitive verbs do. Note that this means that the words also collide with their reciprocals, because the stem also ends in -m. That is, the passive participle of "love" and "to be loved" is the same žiam, making the verb reciprocal by nature.

Obsolete and little-used morphology

Dark verbs

Dark verbs are a little-used way to express the person of both the agent and the patient of a verb using a separate word rather than the normal verbal affix. Properly, they are actually nouns with a verbal concord ending attached. They use membership contractions, and each phoneme is a separate morpheme.

The first letter of a dark verb is always p. This is the membership contraction form of ta "human". The next phoneme indicates the person of the patient of the verb. The next letter after that is again always p, but this time it is the accusative case marker, showing that the preceding person marker is the patient of the verb. The final phoneme is a rhyming verbal affix, echoing the personal affix of the verb.

Unlike verbal endings, dark verbs usually appear at the beginning of a sentence.

Since dark verbs are more efficient than Poswa's inherited verbal affix inventory at indicating the roles of the nouns in a sentence, and are entirely regular in morphology, one might expect the dark verbs to completely replace Poswa's inherited disyllabic verbal endings, but this has not happened. Instead, dark verbs are mostly used by speakers whose native language is Pabappa or another language which commonly starts each sentence with a word that marks the person of the agent and patient of the verb. However, native Poswobs do sometimes use them to provide emphasis, and that is why they have remained in the language.

These verbs are called dark verbs because in onomatopoeia, the /p/ sound is sometimes used in apposition to /b/ to indicate coldness or darkness. (However, there are many exceptions, such as pipi "sun", which is neither cold nor dark.)


Interjections can be considered to be either a subset of the nouns or a subset of the verbs. However, going far enough back in the history of the language, the "verb" analysis is shown to be the only correct one, as the nouns that resemble interjections were themselves originally verbs.

Saying yes and no


The commonest word for "yes" in Poswa is a verb derived from a stem meaning "correct, right". Thus Poswobs saying


Are really saying "You're right!" And therefore, the verb can be conjugated like any other verb, producing

Yes! (I'm right!)
Yes! (They're right!)
Lappita ipa!
Yes! The teacher is right!

And so on. This word is very old, and cognates with the same meaning are found in languages that separated from Poswa more than 7000 years ago. Because vowel-initial words are rare in Poswa and most of its relatives, this verb has been resistant to collision with other words despite thousands of years of sound changes.

In a few situations where English speakers say yes, Poswobs will use a different verb, bop, with a wide range of meanings including "to approve, accept; to do something deliberately; to retain, keep, hold". As an interjection this verb is confined to the use of the first-person form

I accept!

As use of the other persons would imply that the speaker is acting on behalf of some other person.


Saying "no" is a bit more complicated. The simplest and most straightforward way to contradict someone else is to use pupa, the verb for "to avoid", which early on acquired a secondary sense of "to be wrong" in some contexts. (It originally had the narrow meaning of "to look away; to shut the eyes; to avoid looking at something" and thus to be wrong was seen as similar to being afraid to look at the truth in front of one's eyes.)

Second person usage

Generally, this verb is encountered in the second person, as a sentence by itself. (This is why the two meanings of the verb are not often mistaken for each other.) It is hyper-regular, so the -p- does not change to -f- as one might expect. Thus one will often hear:

No! (You're wrong!)
First person usage

However, pupa is as much a verb as any other, and therefore can take any person or tense marker. In the first person, it can be used to indicate mistakes:

Pupo! Pwosebi wave pappamemiop![33]
Whoops! I gave you a placebo!

In the third person, it can still correspond to English "no", but generally implies a meaning such as "he's wrong":

Pupa! Pupi pafiopi pimbolebi!
He's wrong! I didn't steal the banana!

Saying please and thank you

Poswa is a remarkably straightforward language, and its speakers are famous for their bluntness, but the Poswobs do still prefer polite interactions in some contexts. When asking other people for favors, it is preferred to use "softening" words corresponding to English please and thank you, which can be translated in different ways depending on context.

It is considered polite to pronounce these words completely and distinctly, even if the sentence in general is rushed.

Words for please

Historically, in many languages of the area, the concept of "please" was expressed by a verbal inflection and nothing else. For example, Khulls and its descendant Moonshine have a firm imperative and a polite imperative. In Poswa, the polite imperative is usually expressed by prefixing the word pwaewob to the sentence or clause. This is considered a mood marker, and a subset of the imperative mood, which means that the verb being referred to will be conjugated in the imperative form.

Historically, pwaewob is the instrumental form of pwaewa "charity, favor, sweetness, love" and could thus be translated "with charity" or "with love":

Pwaewob, wawampaelioppub.
Please, get me a balloon.

It is considered less polite to place pwaewob after the verb, as if the speaker had only chosen to soften the command as an afterthought.

Words for thank you

Historically, the verb form for giving thanks has been derived from bana "to create pleasure":

Thank you!

But this is also the verb used for describing sexual pleasure. Sobbvabo is heard most often among close relations, where sexual relations would either be commonplace (as with a husband or wife) or unthinkable (as with a parent or child). For people who fall into neither of these categories, verbs that place the listener at a greater distance can be used.

One often hears a construction based on the verb fompa, which oddly means "to oscillate". Thus, the construction below could be analyzed as "I'm oscillating you" but is almost exclusively used with the meaning of appreciation of a recently done favor. The -pa of fompa is a "wet syllable", so the verb is hyper-regular:

Thank you!

This can be expanded by compounding it with the ver pom "help", which due to a sound rule also changes the f- of fompa into another -p-:

Thank you so much!

Some people will say "I'm happy", which can take a variety of forms, corresponding to the verbs sipa, breppsa, lulsom, pimba, pomom, šiši, and sofos. These can be combined with the causative chain verb nita to produce words meaning "(you) made me happy". Since this is a regular verb, it becomes wet when it undergoes syncope, producing sentences such as

You've just made me happy!

Saying hello and goodbye

Words for hello

There are two common words for "hello".

To greet a person entering a room, returning home, or otherwise moving towards the speaker, one would say

Welcome back!
Nice to see you again!

Like so many words, this is simply an ordinary Poswa verb, tužu "to welcome (home)", and can be used in a sentence like any other verb. This verb has been in use for more than 8000 years and has cognates such as Khulls ġʷiṭŏḳo ("Welcome!") with the same meaning and range of usage.

For all other situations, a similar and equally ancient verb is used:

I see you!
Hi there!
I'm back!

This is another ordinary regular Poswa verb, nearly as old as tužu, whose literal meaning is "to see, spot, locate someone or something new". The Khulls cognate of this greeting is ʕʷusàḳo.

Poswobs are aware of the etymology of this expression because the verb is still used in ordinary situations with its original meaning. For example, one can say

Bwafwapi žuftam bušebi.
I spotted a worm on the ground.

Thus, some speakers instead use a shorter word with a similar meaning, such as

I see you!

In order to make the greeting slightly shorter.

Words for goodbye

The commonest expression for "goodbye" is very similar in meaning to the English word "hello":

Be healthy!
Good luck!

Expressing emotions

Nevertheless, interjections have carved out a niche for themselves in Poswa, and the speakers do not often think about what grammatical part of speech they should be grouped with. Poswa's interjections are often seen as childish and rude by surrounding cultures, as the Poswobs have a tradition for verbal bluntness that is rare even among their close relatives.

Many interjections are used to express pain and unpleasant emotions. For example, a Poswob speaker who was too slow at getting through a revolving door might say Pup!, which is the accusative case of an obsolete word for hand. Thus, it can be analyzed as roughly equivalent to the English "Ouch! My hand (got hurt)!" even though the word for hand from which pup is derived is no longer in use in modern Poswa.

Many of the interjections are one syllable long, but some have two or three syllables. Poswob children learn early to say

I have to go to the bathroom!

This is historically descended from a longer verb that got worn down over several thousand years of sound changes. It is cognate to the modern words bwibiem "bathroom" and twuvat "to spray".

However, it is more common to hear

I need a bathroom!

Which is a "living" verb rather than a fossil, using the morpheme dži bo "need, lack".

Interjections and incomplete sentences

In Poswa, many sentences that might seem incomplete are actually grammatically correct. For example, in English one might say "Of course!" and be told that it's merely a sentence fragment rather than a sentence. But in Poswa it is difficult to think of a sentence that is ungrammatical, since both verbs and nouns can stand alone. However, only a verb can stand alone without an implied dependence on another sentence. Thus interjections like

Of course!

are grouped with verbs rather than nouns.

Conjugation tables

Historical stem changes

Some verbs which historically ended in -e or -i have shifted to -a. This is not a true sound change, but rather a consequence of a historical leveling process in which verbal inflection patterns came to be associated with specific stem-final vowels. Previously, many verbs ending in all three of these vowels had shared a particular conjugation paradigm, but when this paradigm came to be restricted to the -a-stems only, those -e and -i-stems that were not reassigned to a new conjugation paradigm came to be reinterpreted as -a-stems. This was helped by the fact that the bare form of a verb rarely appears in Poswa. Words in the -a-stem conjugation are a syllable shorter than those in the -e and -i-stem conjugations, so commonly used verbs were the most likely to make the switch.

An example of this is the verb wappena- "to kill", originally a compound of waba "death" and peni "crime", which would have produced the five-syllable word *wappenibebi "I killed you" if it had remained regular, but instead found a new home in the -a-stem conjugation and produces words like wappevebi.

The reverse process never occurred because the conjugations that were specific to -e and -i stems were transparent, always preserving the stem vowel.


The verb luba "to change color, repaint" is used here as an example of an -a verb.

luba Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person lubi lubo lubub
2nd person lube lubae lubi
3rd person lubel luba lubob
Transitive 1st person lubebi lubabo lubbub
2nd person lubebe lubabae lubbi
3rd person lubebel lubaba lubbob

Thus one can say

Blebblobopi lippipa lubebi.
I painted the wall green.


Lusafampi lubi žužum.
I turned pink from embarrassment.

After discovering you've painted over the windows as well.

Consonant mutation

The -a- conjugation class undergoes consonant mutation for the consonant before the final vowel. The verb above had a -b- before the final vowel, and the mutated form of -b- is still -b-, thus masking the effect. Thus, when a verb whose stem ends in -ba preceded by a vowel or an -m-, the verb will behave as if the -ba were not there at all. This has led to collisions among previously distinct verbs, generally causing one of them to disappear from the language. Occasionally, though, the "losing" verb grabs onto the surviving one as a little-used alternate meaning, often with metaphorical usage.

For example, the verb biba "to lick" merged with the verb bi "to kill"; bibabo could have meant either "I'm licking you" or "I'm killing you". The meaning "lick" won out, but acquired just a bit of the flavor of the other verb, in that it can be used in a sense rather like "to lick away".

/b/ is not the only consonant that is its own mutation; for all verbs whose stems end in one of these consonants plus an -a, the consonant will remain the same in all verbal conjugations and the -a will drop out. However, only -b- has the additional property of appearing after verbs whose stems end in a vowel or -m, and therefore only the final syllable -ba behaves entirely as if it were not there.

For consonants that do mutate, the following tables of mutating conjugations are followed.


Below is the conjugation for pialipa "to cartwheel, roll around on one's hands and feet":
pialipa Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pialifi pialifo pialifub
2nd person pialife pialifae pialifi
3rd person pialifel pialifa pialifob
Transitive 1st person pialifebi pialifabo pialifpub
2nd person pialifebe pialifabae pialifpi
3rd person pialifebel pialifaba pialifpob
Note the change of the expected -b- to -p- in the transitive imperative.
This verb is often used transitively in a metaphorical sense, so one can say
Pobbliop,₁ pialifebi.₂
Sorry,₁ I bumped into you.₂
With the implication of "Sorry, i just disrupted your plans or messed up something you built."


Below is the conjugation for brama "to bite (off), as with a beak; to cut with a uniformly sharp instrument":
brama Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person bravi bravo bravub
2nd person brave bravae bravi
3rd person bravel brava bravob
Transitive 1st person bravebi bravabo bravbub
2nd person bravebe bravabae bravbi
3rd person bravebel bravaba bravbob
Thus one can say
Bite me!
Twup!₁ Loppasufo₂ bravaba;₃ sas₄ pop₅ pubbvub₆ pelpies?₇
Ouch!₁ My pet falcon₂ is biting me,₃ can₄ we₅ talk₆ later?₇
Bovepiopi₁ bulžirebi,₂ wa₃ po₄ bravebi.₅
I grabbed₂ my teething ring,₁ and₃ bit it₅ hard.₄
The similarity between a baby's mouth and a bird's is that neither of them have (many) teeth, and therefore they both bite with a smooth flat surface rather than a many-pointed one. Other verbs are used for biting animals that have teeth. It can also be used for inanimate objects:
Leppiapiub,₁ rulpos₂ lompapi₃ bravebi.₄
With my scissors,₁ I cut off₄ the corner₃ of the napkin.₂


Below is the conjugation for masa "to jump, leap, try to escape":
masa Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person maši mašo mašub
2nd person maše mašae maši
3rd person mašel maša mašob
Transitive 1st person mašebi mašabo mašpub
2nd person mašebe mašabae mašpi
3rd person mašebel mašaba mašpob
Sasebo mašo!
I want to get out!


Below is the conjugation for pana "to be thirsty":
pana Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pavi pavo pavub
2nd person pave pavae pavi
3rd person pavel pava pavob
Transitive 1st person pavebi pavabo pavbub
2nd person pavebe pavabae pavbi
3rd person pavebel pavaba pavbob
This verb is mostly used intransitively:
I'm thirsty!


Below is the conjugation for pustila "to shake, to cause something to vibrate":
pana Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pustiži pustižo pustižub
2nd person pustiže pustižae pustiži
3rd person pustižel pustiža pustižob
Transitive 1st person pustižebi pustižabo pustižbub
2nd person pustižebe pustižabae pustižbi
3rd person pustižebel pustižaba pustižbob


Below is the conjugation for taera "to run":
taera Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person taebi taebo taebub
2nd person taebe taebae taebi
3rd person taebel taeba taebob
Transitive 1st person taebebi taebabo taebbub
2nd person taebebe taebabae taebbi
3rd person taebebel taebaba taebbob
Taebo požva fufažiub.
I'm running towards my martial arts class.


Below is the conjugation for wupwawa "to write":
wupwawa Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person wupwawie wupwawio wupwawiub
2nd person wupwawie wupwawiae wupwawie
3rd person wupwawiel wupwawia wupwawiob
Transitive 1st person wupwawiebi wupwawiabo wupwawiabub
2nd person wupwawiebe wupwawiabae wupwawiabi
3rd person wupwawiebel wupwawiaba wupwawiabob
Pwopwabum, pwawam raffep blabem wupwawiabi.
Children, please write your names on your papers.

Note that the 1st and 2nd person intransitive past forms are the same because Poswa does not allow two identical vowels to appear next to each other, and therefore changes the otherwise expected -ii into -ie. Additionally, the 2nd person intransitive present tense form wupwawiae is pronounced as if spelled wupwawie in standard Poswa, and therefore merges as well.

Non-mutating consonants

For non-mutating consonants followed by -a, the verb conjugation works like that of -ba. Below is the conjugation of puffa "to rely on":

Agent Patient Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person puffi puffo puffub
2nd person puffe puffae puffi
3rd person puffel puffa puffob
Transitive 1st person 2nd person puffebi puffabo puffypub
3rd person
2nd person 1st person puffebe puffabae puffypi
3rd person
3rd person 1st person puffebel puffaba puffypob
2nd person


As Poswa inherited the "a e i o u" vowel order from Pabappa, and places its vowels before its consonants, the second conjugation is the one representing verb stems ending in -e or -i. The verb wape "to help, provide for" is used here as an example of an -e verb. The endings would be the same if the verb ended in -i instead. Unlike the -a conjugation, the -e/-i conjugation always adds a syllable to the intransitive form and two syllables to the transitive form. This is because the final vowel of the verb stem does not collapse the way it does in the -a words. This, in turn, is due to analogy with a small number of verbs that had previously ended in a consonant but lost that consonant.

wape Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person wapebi wapebo wapebub
2nd person wapebe wapebae wapebi
3rd person wapebel wapeba wapebob
Transitive 1st person wapebebi wapebabo wapebbub
2nd person wapebebe wapebabae wapebbi
3rd person wapebebel wapebaba wapebbob
Pimpubbum mapobiep wapebaba faspavas.
The boys are helping the girls with their chores.

Past tense intransitive verbs whose stems end in -e often resemble transitive verbs whose stems end in -a or a consonant, since -e- is the vowel that marks the past tense. For example, the sentence


can mean either

I tied you (up).

In which case it is a derivative of the verb pama "to tie, make a knot", or

I used crutches.

In which case it is a derivative of the word pave "crutch". This rarely causes confusion for Poswa speakers because few sentences use verbs in which it is ambiguous whether that verb is transitive or intransitive, even when (as in the example above) the object of a transitive verb is omitted. Moreover, these coalescences can only happen with intransitive -e verbs that have one of the consonants that mutates to itself before the -e.


A more complicated setup is the third conjugation, that which reflects words ending in the rounded vowels /o/, /u/, and /y/ (a rounded schwa-like sound).

The verb subu "to conquer, take over" is used here as an example of an -u verb. The endings would be the same if the verb ended in -o or -y instead, but note that most verb stems ending in -o do not belong to this conjugation.

subu Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person subwi subwo subwub
2nd person subwe subwae subwi
3rd person subwel subwa subwob
Transitive 1st person subwebi subwabo subwubub
2nd person subwebe subwabae subwubi
3rd person subwebel subwaba subwubob

The first person imperative is used in the sense of "let me X!", so the one-word sentence Subwubub! would mean "Let me take you over!" (If no object is given, it is understood to be a 2nd person object.) Whereas the third person imperative is also used with a similar sense: Pupipup subwubob! translates as "Let him take over the world!"

Most verbs in this conjugation class end in -u or -y. One of the few that ends in -o is pappo "to bite".


The first consonant-stem conjugation is the -p conjugation, because /p/ is the first consonant in the Poswa alphabet. Since all reflexive verbs end in /p/, this conjugation is more common than the other consonant conujgations. However, many verb stems that end in /p/ are normal verbs, not reflexives. The verb blop "to see, focus" is used below as an example of a non-reflexive /p/ verb. Note that, unlike the vowel conjugations above, the transitive form is not merely derived by inserting the infix "-ab-" into the intransitive form.

blop Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person blofi blofo blofub
2nd person blofe blofae blofi
3rd person blofel blofa blofob
Transitive 1st person blopebi blopabo bloppub
2nd person blopebe blopabae bloppi
3rd person blopebel blopaba bloppob

Thus one can say

Muššiepi bi bloppi!
Look at that horse!


The -m conjugation is very simple. It does not matter what the vowel preceding the final -m is, because there are neither vowel changes nor consonant changes in the stem.

Verbs whose stems end in -m often describe reciprocal relationships; this is due to a historical coincidence where the participles of most of these verbs fell together with their reciprocals: historical žaŋa abo "(my) one who loves me" and žaŋaŋa abo "(my) one whom I love" have both, after thousands of years of sound changes, become the same žio today.

This change is unique to Poswa. Even the closely related Pabappa distinguishes word pairs of this type. Therefore, there exist many verbs whose stems end in -m but do not describe reciprocal relationships, and most of these words are native words that did not experience the same semantic drift that common verbs like the words for love and hate did. Many of the verbs that did not shift are transparent derivations containing the passivizing suffix -m.

The verb pessam "to cuddle, hug, squeeze someone (reciprocally)" is used here as an example of an -m verb.

pessam Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pessambi pessambo pessambub
2nd person pessambe pessambae pessambi
3rd person pessambel pessamba pessambob
Transitive 1st person pessambebi pessambabo pessambybub
2nd person pessambebe pessambabae pessambybi
3rd person pessambebel pessambaba pessambybob

Thus, all -m verbs conjugate the same way that they would if they instead ended in -mba. Indeed, another verb for hugging is mamba, and it conjugates the same as it would if it were mam. Thus one can say:

Pessambabo! Mambabo!
I'm cuddling you! I'm hugging you!


The -s conjugation has a few slipups. The verb pipsis "to sleep in a tree, camp out" is used here as an example of an -s verb.

pipsis Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pipsiši pipsišo pipsišub
2nd person pipsiše pipsišae pipsiši
3rd person pipsišel pipsiša pipsišob
Transitive 1st person pipsisebi pipsisabo pipsispub
2nd person pipsisebe pipsisabae pipsispi
3rd person pipsisebel pipsisaba pipsispob

Note that the transitive sense of verbs like pipsis is not "to sleep in a tree" (with the tree as the object of the verb) but "to sleep (someone) in a tree; to put someone to sleep in a tree" and thus one would not normally find a word for tree in the accusative in this sentence. If the tree is mentioned, it would be in the locative case. Thus, with both pronouns understood, Pipsispi fadžam can mean "I put you to sleep in a palm tree". (It can also mean "(You) put me to sleep in a palm tree!" (imperative), but this would be distinguished by tone of voice and context.

Some verbs ending in -s have a reflexive meaning, even though the reflexive ending in Poswa is -p. This refers to an old sense related to the genitive, in which verbs for things like "to comb one's hair" (pampapes) were used with the genitive instead of the accusative. These verbs are generally used only intransitively, because the transitive meaning of, for example, pampapes is not "to comb someone else's hair" but "to make someone comb their hair".

Distance verbs

/-s/ can also indicate "distance verbs". e.g. tura = "bomb"; turaša (the 3rd person present form of turas) = "there are bombs here". wap = "to be happy"; wakas = "for you to be happy". Hence Wakašo "I make you happy" etc



Most verb stems that end in -l belong to the -el or -ul subcategories. Less common are -il and -ol; there are a few verbs whose stems end in -yl which behave the same as the -ol verbs. No verb stems end in -al; roots Romanized with a final -al actually end in a phonemic /alʷ/.


The verb pelpel "to pounce" is used here as an example of an -l verb.

pelpel Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pelpeži pelpežo pelpežub
2nd person pelpeže pelpežae pelpeži
3rd person pelpežel pelpeža pelpežob
Transitive 1st person pelpelebi pelpelabo pelpelbub
2nd person pelpelebe pelpelabae pelpelbi
3rd person pelpelebel pelpelaba pelpelbob

Thus one can say:

Sanža puvlwap pelpelebel.
The boy pounced on the cougar.


The -o conjugation is considered a consonantal one, because it reflects a lost final /r/ that changed to /b/ in some words but coalesced with the preceding vowel in others. This is why most verb stems with final -o are not in the -o/-u/-y conjugation above, but rather in this one. This conjugation can be called B5 because it is traditionally the fifth of the consonantal conjugation classes. The verb poto "to chase down, run and catch, as in war" is used here as an example of an -o verb.

poto Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person potabi potabo potabub
2nd person potabe potabae potabi
3rd person potabel potaba potabob
Transitive 1st person potarebi potarabo potarybub
2nd person potarebe potarabae potarybi
3rd person potarebel potaraba potarybob
Potarabo saffapop.
I'm catching butterflies.


A subtype of the B5 conjugation exists for verbs whose stems end in -ob or -u and historically ended in an -r. Below is the conjugation of the verb povbob "to become pregnant":

povbob Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person povbwi povbwo povbwub
2nd person povbwe povbwae povbwi
3rd person povbwel povbwa povbwob
Transitive 1st person povbwebi povbwabo povbwubub
2nd person povbwebe povbwabae povbwubi
3rd person povbwebel povbwaba povbwubob

The implied object of this verb is not the child being conceived but the father of the child. Thus

Povbwebi blebbelmeptap.

means "I got pregnant through the bricklayer", not "I got pregnant with the bricklayer".

This is essentially identical to the -u conjugation above, despite arising from a stem-final consonant rather than a stem-final vowel.


A subtype of the B5 conjugation exists for verbs whose stems end in -ub or -u and historically ended in an -r. Below is the conjugation of the verb bivub "to advise, sponsor":

bivub Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person bivibi bivibo bivibub
2nd person bivibe bivibae bivibi
3rd person bivibel biviba bivibob
Transitive 1st person bivirebi bivirabo bivirybub
2nd person bivirebe bivirabae bivirybi
3rd person bivirebel biviraba bivirybob

Note that the final vowel in the stem changes to i even though the bare form of the word has an u. Neither vowel is the original; the original vowel in most words in this class was y, which changed to u in most closed syllables and i in most open ones.

Hyper-regular verbs

Most Poswa verbs that end in -a or a consonant involve some form of consonant mutation. However, in a few verbs, the mutated consonant has merged with the original consonant due to succeeding sound changes. Thus, the verb can be said to be hyper-regular since it avoids even the normal changes that other Poswa verbs undergo. Most of these verbs end in -ba, since the mutated form of b is simply b. However, since this pattern is regular and entirely exceptionless (that is, there are no verbs ending in -ba that mutate it to something else), these -ba verbs are not considered to be hyper-regular. The same analysis applies to verbs whose stems end in -a preceded by one of the consonants f v š ž tš dž, as these consonants are the same as their respective mutated forms. Thus, all verbs ending in any of -ba -fa -va -ša -ža -tša -dža will not mutate during their conjugations.

However, some non-mutating verbs end in -pa or in a sequence that becomes -pa after mutation. Since the normal behavior for -pa is to change to -f-, these verbs are singled out as hyper-regular verbs. Below is the conjugation of pypumpa "to pull":


The verb pypumpa "to pull" is a hyper-regular verb:

Agent Patient Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person pypumpi pypumpo pypumpub
2nd person pypumpe pypumpae pypumpi
3rd person pypumpel pypumpa pypumpob
Transitive 1st person 2nd person pypumpebi pypumpabo pypumpybub
3rd person
2nd person 1st person pypumpebe pypumpabae pypumpybi
3rd person
3rd person 1st person pypumpebel pypumpaba pypumpybob
2nd person

Thus one can say:

Pimpup puvapwop wubbuwavbem pypumpebel.
The boy pulled on the door of the jail.

Pypumpa belongs to a small class of verbs where the mutated form of the consonant is the same as the original. In an older stage of the language, the word was pypumpsa. The mutated form of this verb was pypumpša, but a sound change of -mp[flrsšt]- > -mp- merged the two. This particular sound change only triggered when an -m- was present before the -p-.

Irregular verbs

Poswa has many irregular verbs, although many of these can be treated as regular if the speaker imagines an "oblique" stem that replaces the nominal stem from which the verb was originally derived. These oblique stems often end in consonants or clusters which are not permitted at the end of Poswa words and therefore are not usually thought of as independent words.

Examples of irregular verbs

See Poswa irregular verbs for a partial listing.


The verb mi "to see" is an irregular verb with a stem change to the oblique variant v-:

mi Past Present Imperative
Intransitive 1st person vi vo vub
2nd person ve vae vi
3rd person vel va vob
Transitive 1st person vebi vabo vwub
2nd person vebe vabae vwi
3rd person vebel vaba vwob


  1. This seems low? I think there is a second conjugation which substitutes an -al- for all of the -ab- infixes, changing the meaning to passive (and can only be used with transitive verbs). Also, I just remembered that the -ab- changes to -eb- to mark yet another shade of meaning, and that there is probably an -el- too, so the transitive tables should actually be quadrupled.
  2. Elsewhere, i said that this would be -ubo.
  3. NOTE: This is the reason why third person agents can take both transitive and intransitive endings, where otherwise one might expect to see the two merged into one. But would it make more sense to just use reflexives?
  4. Earlier added " and a consonant change from -p to -f-."
  5. Talking animals would be considered people for the purpose of the grammar.
  6. Note that the words for "sun" (the object) and "sunshine" are not related.
  7. The third-person present tense would merge with the archaic "impersonal" form here, since Babakiam -s-ā merges with -s a bā.
  8. The grammatically proper form would be umbvanas since there is no accusative ending on the second uma. However, this -s was removed by analogy with the many other words ending in what was at the time -bana.
  9. See the note above for "lesbian".
  10. One might expect a word whose meaning is closer to "room, chamber, enclosed area", as animal scales are made of many cells, but the basic concept intended here is "anatomical feature".
  11. Earlier had pafob and wrote: This looks more like a derivation from pawa "claw", which would mean that the verb pafob should also be changed.
  12. #pwabap
    1. pwabakwap
    2. pwabakwakas a bub
    3. pwapuwas a bub
    4. pwapwašub
    bamue bamu-bi-u bamu-bi-bub-u bamu-bi-bub-up bamu-bi-bub-ukus bamu-bi-bub-ukus a beu bamʷiw kʷšub
  13. Should this change to bybum, bybies, etc? (-pies would remain unchanged even if so.)
  14. Finnish uses this, but it's rare.
  15. Use transitive verb endings?
  16. Note, the Moonshine word's morpheme order was actually the opposite of this: theirs was cheap.milk.COMP, with the inflection at the end, rather than milk.COMP.cheap, with the inflection in the middle of the word. Thus, it could be said that comparatives in Moonshine are an open class: instead of "cheap, cheaper, cheapest", Moonshines have "cheaper-than-milk", "cheaper-than-water", etc.
  17. Why not wapia?
  18. check this later. Also, possibly repeat the verbal ending even though it means double marking the second verb.
  19. Possibly wrong. Source material is not available now.
  20. Consider using the negative along with this, as if it were really "start not doing X".
  21. Im not sure about using the genitive here.
  22. previously wrote "the accusative form of"
  23. This -s could "save" the formation from colliding with the plain becausative, but I'm not sure it would carry over.
  24. Possibly change to pympe.
  25. wižbybi?
  26. This is actually two words that fell together.
  27. Note, though, that during the stage of Poswa where medial vowels often dropped out, even though the /t/ was still present at this stage, the cluster /ppt/ was allowed, and therefore it could have lead to forms like -beppi instead of -bebupi and so on.
  28. Short for pustobampo.
  29. not biž-?
  30. Used to allow Plambvo! "That's me!"
  31. This may be a mistake in the dictionary, in that I was merely listing the entry for "round (object)" and noting that it, like all adjectives, appears as a verb but does not take accusative case because it is intransitive. Why I would pick out this word among all others, though, I can't imagine.
  32. Tie this in w/ Moonshine maybe?
  33. Assuming I was wrong earlier and that pwo "to give" does indeed put the object being given into the accusative.