Grammar » while you were...


In Inuktitut, as in English, we often put two separate actions together in a sentence:

 I  walked.  I ate.   I  ate as I walked (or while I was walking).
 He was reading.  He fell asleep.  While he was reading, he fell asleep.

In English, we put two actions together by using a conjunction (as, while, when, etc.) before one of the actions.

In Inuktitut, instead of using a conjunction, we use a different verb ending. These verb endings can be used...

... to indicate an action that is happening at the same time as another:

 Pisuqqaujunga nirillunga   I  walked as I ate (earlier in the day).

...or they can be used to describe an action that was underway, when another action suddenly happened:

 Uqalimaaqtuni sinililauqtuq
 While he was reading, he fell asleep.
Here is a complete list of these “conjunctive” verb endings that can be added to roots ending in vowels:
 nirillunga  as I was eating 
 nirillutit  as you were eating
 nirilluni    as he was eating   
 as the two of us were eating
 as we (3+) were eating  
 as the two of you were eating
 as you (3+) were eating
 as the two of them were eating
 as they (3+) were eating

Note that the same affix –llutik is used for a variety of circumstances.  In conversation, it will be clear who is being spoken about.

The above endings are added to stems ending in a vowel.  For stems ending in a consonant, you use the same affixes but begin them with a t rather than ll:
 uqaq-  to speak
 uqaqtunga  while I was speaking
 while he was speaking
 while you (3+) were speaking
 uqaqtutik  While the two of them were speaking

Note that several of these endings are the same as those used for simple statements:
 You read.
 while you were reading...

Again in conversation, it will be clear which meaning is appropriate.


The endings above are used in sentences where both actions are performed by the same person:
 Pisuktuni tikittuq   He arrived walking (or He arrived on foot.)
 Isiqtutik ijukkalauqtut
 As they were coming in, they fell.

If the two actions in a sentence are being performed by different people, we add ti- before the conjunctive ending:
 Anniaqtillunga iqqanaijalaunngittuq.
 When I was sick, she didn’t work.
 Uqaqtillutit sinilauqtut.
 While you were speaking they fell asleep.
 Aullaqsimatilluta sulauqqit?
 When we were away, what did you do?

The -ti ending can be directly added to a root ending in a verb or a consonant without affecting the spelling.

There is one form of this verb ending that is irregular:
-luni        becomes    -tillugu
 tuttuliaqtillugu miqsulauqtuq
While he was caribou hunting, she sewed.

The –tillugu ending is especially useful for describing what the weather was doing when something else happened:
 Silaluttillugu aullalauqtunga.
 It was raining when I departed.
 Piqsiqtillugu tikittugut.
 We arrived in a blizzard (or, while it was blizzarding)