Pronouns are such an integral part of the Ilokano language that you have to learn them first before anything else. Almost every Ilocano sentence that you will encounter will use at least one of them and the kind of pronoun used can direct the focus of the sentence. These pronouns can be used in two different ways - as independent words or as suffix particles.

As independent words, Ilokano pronouns usually answer the question - who? - in a very specific way.

As suffixes, they are attached at the end of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. The focus of the sentence depends on the type of suffix used.

Ilokano relies heavily in particles and a lot of them can be attached as affixes (prefix or suffix). These affixes can also be combined together. This results in a word that could either be a dependent clause or an entire sentence. Consider the example below:

Since we want to be as practical as possible we won't be focusing on the independent form of the pronouns and, instead, focus on the suffix form.

I have to apologize in advance. As much as I'd love to say that there are fixed conjugation rules in Ilokano, I never really learned Ilokano at school so I'm not sure if there are concrete rules. As such, you'll have to learn everything by example which is a more natural way of learning another language.

Practice Vocabulary

Actor Focus vs Object Focus

When using the pronouns in suffix form, the focus of an Ilokano sentence changes depending on the type of pronoun used.

If the subject of the clause or the sentence is the one doing the action or the one being described, we use the actor focus pronoun.

If the subject of the clause or the sentence is the object being acted upon on or the object being described regardless of who is doing the action or describing the object, we use the object focus pronoun.

Singular Pronouns

Table 1: Singular Pronouns
English Pronoun Indepent Actor Focus Object Focus
I, Me siak -ak -k(o) [-ak, -ek]
You sika -ka -m(o) [-am, -em]
He, She, It isuna -suna -na

To use the verbs with independent pronouns and actor focus suffix pronouns they have to be conjugated first. For the examples, we will be using the past tense form and future tense form but I'll include the infinitive form as well.

Using the two verbs from our practice vocabulary, we get the following:




As mentioned earlier, the independent form of the pronouns answer questions in a specific way. Consider the following scenarios:

  • When you want to know which one is a specific person
  • When you want to know which one is of a gender, nationality, race, etc.
  • When you want to know which one did something or who was the recipient of an action
  • When you want to know which one a description is refering to

Below are some examples to show you how the independent form of the singular pronouns are used.

Actor Focus

When a statement is in the actor focus, the focus turns to the main subject and usually answers what someone is, who is doing the action, or who is being described. The statement is constructed by simply adding the suffix pronoun at the end of the noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.


The Noun + AF Pronoun construction only applies to certain nouns relating to identity, race, gender, etc.


Some of the examples have objects to show you how the sentence construction works. You don't need to worry about the articles used for now since they will be discussed in a separate lesson.

A construction using the YOU singular/plural pronoun and the future tense is commonly used as a command when in declarative form.



In Ilocano, adverbs can be used in two ways - as a regular adverb or as the focus of the statement. In the second example below, you will see that the focus of the sentence shifted from the activity to the time when the activity will be done.

Object Focus

When a statement focuses on the object, you need to use the object focus suffix form of the pronouns. Nouns and adjectives don't require objects and, therefore, cannot be used with this form.


Verbs transform when used in the object focus.

For the verb kaan:

You will notice in the examples below that the I and YOU pronouns changed. As a general rule, when the suffix pronoun follows a vowel, you drop the -o. The same rule applies when the suffix pronoun is preceeded by -en where the -n is dropped along with the -o of the pronoun. This makes pronunciation easier.


Same with the Actor Focus, the Object Focus pronouns can be used to shift the focus to the time when the activity ocurred or will occur.

Simple Question Construction

Most of the examples above can be turned into questions by simply changing the intonation and replacing the period with a question mark when in written form.

Notice how the meaning of the verb below changes to imply a suggestion.


  • Ilocano pronouns have two forms - independent form and suffix form
  • The focus of the sentence determines the type of suffix used - actor focus or object focus
  • Verbs change depending on the focus of the sentence
  • Adverbs can also be used to shift the topic to the time when an activity will be done or was done
  • You can turn a statement into a question by raising the intonation at the end or adding a question mark when in written form


That's it for the first part of the lesson on Ilocano pronouns. I hope you were able to get a good grasp on how the actor focus and object focus works.

See you in the next lesson!

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