Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Pashto grammar

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Pashto grammar

Pashto is a S-O-V language with split ergativity. Adjectives come before nouns. Nouns and adjectives are inflected for gender (masc./fem.), number (sing./plur.), and case (direct, oblique I, oblique II and vocative). The verb system is very intricate with the following tenses: present; subjunctive; simple past; past progressive; present perfect; and past perfect. In any of the past tenses (simple past, past progressive, present perfect, past perfect), Pashto is an ergative language; i.e., transitive verbs in any of the past tenses agree with the object of the sentence. The dialects show some non-standard grammatical features, some of which are archaisms or descendants of old forms that are discarded by the literary language.


Pashto has a rich number of dialects due to which the language has been spelled several ways in English: Pashto, Pakhto, Pukhto.

Demonstrative pronouns

دغه dağa (this)

هغه hağa (that)

Possessive pronouns

Independent forms

Enclitic forms


Pashto inflects nouns into four grammatical cases: direct, oblique I, oblique II and vocative. The oblique I case is used as prepositional case as well as in the past tense as the subject of transitive verbs, and the oblique II case is used as ablative case.

The following table shows the declension of the masculine noun غر (ğar, meaning "mountain"):

The following table shows the declension of سړی (saṛai, meaning "man"), a masculine noun with ending "ai":

The following table shows the declension of ښځه (ṣ̌ədza, meaning "woman"), a feminine noun with ending "a":

The following table shows the declension of the feminine noun ورځ (wradz, meaning "day"):


There are two genders: masculine and feminine.


There are two numbers: singular and plural.


There is no definite article. But when necessary, definiteness may be indicated by other means such as demonstratives. Likewise, it may be contraindicated by use of the word for "one", يو; as in "يو روغتون" - "a hospital".


An adjective is called stāynūm in Pashto [ستاينوم]. The adjectives or stāynūmūna agree with the nouns they modify in gender, number, and case.


  • In the plural, both obliques and the vocative merge into a single form.
  • Singular Oblique I and plural Direct always merge into a single form.
  • The above two conditions mean that there can be at most five distinct forms for masculine adjectives (but in fact, no class distinguishes more than four).
  • For feminine adjectives, singular Oblique I and Vocative merge, while singular Direct and Oblique II merge; combined with mergers noted previously, there can be at most three distinct forms for feminine adjectives.
  • Classes 2 and 3 have stem and stress alternations among different cases. Class 3 has a basic distinction between the masculine singular Direct, Oblique II and Vocative, with stem stress, and all other forms, with a (sometimes) different stem and with ending stress (e.g. masc. trīx, fem. traxá "bitter"; masc. sūr, fem. srá "red"; masc. sōṛ, fem. saṛá "cold"; fem. raṇā "light" with only one stem). Class 2 has the same stress alternation, but has three distinct stems, with stressed stem vowel 'o' or 'u' in masculine singular Direct, Oblique II and Vocative, unstressed stem vowel 'ā' in masculine singular Oblique I and plural Direct, and unstressed stem vowel 'a' in all other forms (e.g. masc. sing. pōx, masc. plur. pāxǝ́, fem. paxá "ripe, cooked").
  • Affixes

    In Pashto, an affix is called تاړی [tâṛay]. An affix is an addition to the base form or stem of a word in order to modify its meaning or create a new word.


    These are attached at the beginning of words. Here is a list of the most common ones:

    A list of Examples:


    These are attached at the end of a word. Here is a list of the most common ones:

    A list of Examples:


  • Pashto has three tenses: Past, Present and the Future tense. The future tense is the same as present tense with the exception of markers.
  • Aspect: Pashto in every tense has perfective aspect [بشپړاړخ] and imperfective aspect [نابشپړاړخ]. The Perfective Aspect indicates completion of an action while the Imperfective Aspect indicates continuous or habitual action.
  • Pashto Verbs can be classed as Simple Verbs, Irregular Verbs and Doubly Irregular Verbs.
  • Verbs [کړۀ] agree in person and in number with either the objects or subjects of sentences, depending on tense and construction. Agreement is indicated with affixes following the verb stem which indicate person and number.
  • Verbal Suffixes

    Pashto utilises verbal suffixes [د کړ تاړې]. It is easy to demonstrate these in Regular Verbs in the Imperfective.

    Present Tense

    Gəḍēẓ̌ is the present imperfective stem of the verb Gaḍedəl [to dance].

    Past Tense

    Gəḍēd is the past stem of the verb Gaḍēdəl [to dance].

    The Verb ""to be""

    The Verb to be is irregular in Pashto and does not have an infinitive form.

    Present Imperfective

    Present Imperfective tense of "to be":

    The word شته [shta] is also used; this is the third person singular and plural of the present tense of the verb to be.

    Present Perfective form

    Present Perfective tense of "to be

    Past Imperfective form

    Past Imperfective tense of "to be":

    Past Perfective form

    Past Perfective tense of "to be":

    Future Tense

    In Pashto the Future Tense [ راتلونکی مهال] is the same as the Present Tense [اوسنی مهال] with the exception that in the future tense the marker به [bə] is added; به has a similar meaning to will/shall in English. In the Third Person Future Tense, also, irrespective of number or gender وي is used.

    Simple Irregular

    These are verbs whose Past Stems differ from their Present Stems like english think vs thought,

    a) where ل is replaced by ن in the Present Tense:

    b) where و is added in the middle in the Present Tense:

    c) The verb ختل [to climb]:

    d) where دل is dropped in the Present Tense:

    Doubly Irregular

    These are verbs whose imperfective and perfective stems differ as well as their present and past stems. The difference between perfective and imperfective is carried by stress; in perfective the stress is on the first part of the verb whilst in imperfective the stress is on the last syllables.
    Here is list of these verbs with their verbal stems [note without verbal suffix]:
    a) ښودل, as a part of the verb.

    b) The verb "to go":

    c) The verb "to take" [to a place]:

    Idiosyncratic Third Person Form

    Some doubly irregular verbs have idiosyncratic 3rd Person forms in the past forms, parallel to the idiosyncratic forms of the simple irregular verbs.

    The list :


    This is called Kaṛnūmay [کړنومی] in Pashto that is “the name of a verb”. It shows an infinite action or occurrence. In Pashto the verb acquires the gender and number of a masculine plural noun. They are formed from the verbal root and end with the verbal suffix: ل. Example:

    The verb وکړل [past tense of verb کړل - perfective state of "to do"] shows agreement with masculine plural object that is the infinitive وهل.

    Type of Infinitives

    There are various types of infinitives.

    Simple Infinitives

    They are in there morpheme state. Examples: تلل [to go], وتل [to go out], ګرځېدل [to walk], ګرځول [to make someone/thing walk] etc.

    Prefixed Infinitives

    These are formed by attaching a prefix to the simple infinitive. These prefixes are usually directional/locative in nature. Examples:
    1. را + تلل = راتلل
    Râ [locative towards speaker] + Tləl [to go] = Râtləl [to come]
    2. ور+ کول = ورکول
    War [locative towards third party] + Kawəl [to do] = Warkawəl [to give]

    Compound Infinitives

    There are two categories of compound infinitives. There are also some exceptions to these.

    First Category

    These are formed by adding ول [from کول] and ېدل [from کېدل] verbal-suffixes to nouns, adjectives or adverbs. The attaching noun, adjective and adverb should not end in a vowel. Example:
    ښخ [buried, adjective] - ښخول [to bury, verb]

    Second Category

    These are formed adding auxiliary verbs کول and کېدل to the noun and adjectives. The attaching noun and adjective end in a vowel.Examples:
    1. پوښتنه [question, noun] - پوښتنه کول [to question, verb]
    2. لېشه [seductive, adjective] - لېشه کېدل [to become seduced, verb]


    There are also exception to the attachment of auxiliary verbs on the basis of vowel endings. Example: سوچ کول etc.

    Phrasal Infinitives

    This is done by adding words with infinitives to make a metaphoric meaning.

    Double Infinitives

    These are formed by combining two infinitives.
    Either by combining a Simple Infinitive with a Prefixed Infinitive.

    Or either by combining two Simple Infinitives.

    Prepositions and Postpositions

    Pashto has pre-positions, post-positions and pre-post-positions. Adpositions generally govern either oblique or ablative case assignment to their objects.


    There are two Preposition in Pashto:
    1. د [də] meaning "of"
    2. په [pə] meaning "with" and "at"


    In Pashto there is the dative post-position: ته.


    Pashto uses a significant amount of ambipositions (circumpositions). These usually have two elements, with the noun object positioned between the two elements.

    The first element is likely to be ones of these four elements:

    The second element is likely to be one of these words:

    Here is a list of the most common formations:

    Sometimes in colloquial Pashto, the word له is dropped from نه and سره.

    The first element must be dropped when the object of the pre-position is a weak pronoun. Examples:


    A number of common phrases translate into English prepositional phrases, which in Pashto consist of combinations of prepositional phrases and additional words.

    Some Examples:

    In phrases that start with the possessive phrase د [də] plus noun, the possessive phrase [də/د] can be substituted for with a weak possessive pronouns. Examples:


    Pashto utilises conjunctions. These are used as adverbs. Example:


    Pashto has subject-object-verb (SOV) word order as opposed to English subject-verb-object (SVO) word order. In intransitive sentences where there is no object Pashto and English both have subject-verb (SV) word order.

    In Pashto, however, all modifiers precede the verb where as in English most of the verbal modifiers follow the verb.

    Phrasal Syntax

    Pashto exhibits strong head-final order in noun phrases and verb phrases.

    Noun Phrases

    Pashto noun phrases generally exhibit the internal order Determiner - Quantifier - Adjective - Noun.

    Adpositional phrases

    The salient exception to the head-final principle can be found in adpositional phrases, given the existence of prepositions, postpositions, and circumpositions.

    Verb phrases

    Generally, head-final order is found also in the verb phrase, with the verb, if any, as the final element. Relative clauses and sentence-level modifiers may appear in postclausal position.

    Light Verb Constructions

    Pashto has a robust system of light verb constructions (LVC), two-word expressions that are semantically interpretable as a single predicate. Only one of the two canonical types—those of the form Noun/Adjective + Verb (N-V).

    As verbs are a closed class in Pashto, the LVC is the only means of creating new verbal forms in the language; it is also used as a way of importing loanwords, with the borrowed word filling the complement slot.

    The inventory of light verbs in Pashto should not surprise anyone familiar with LVCs. In addition to the verbs کېدل /kedəl/ ‘to become’ and کو ل /kawəl/ ‘to make; to do’, which we refer to as the intransitive and transitive verbalisers when they act as light verbs, Pashto uses the verbs اخیستل /axistəl/ ‘to take’, وهل /wahəl/ ‘to beat’, نيول /niwəl/ ‘to seize; to grasp’, and ایستا /istəl/ ‘to throw out’ as light verbs, as in the following examples:

  • سا اخیستل - ‘to breathe’ < سا /sā/ ‘(f.) breathing, respiration’
  • ڼېل وهل - ‘to push, shove (one another)’ < ڼېل /ṭel/ ‘(m.) push, shove’
  • Adjective complements of N-V LVCs always show agreement with the undergoer of the action of the verb, which is in turn marked in accordance with Pashto’s system of split ergativity. Nominal complements are usually treated as the direct object of the verb, and are therefore also case-marked according to split-ergative alignment. The undergoer of the action, on the other hand, cannot be a direct object, as the verb can have at most two arguments; it is instead indicated by an adposition and accordingly case-marked oblique.

    Elements in the verbal group
    The verbal group in General Pashto

    Certain particles can be inserted between:

  • The aorist prefix و /wə/́and its verb.
  • A prefix or pseudo-prefix and its verb. (This includes both the a-initial complex verbs and second conjugation, or prefixed, verbs.)
  • The complement of a denominal verb and its verbalizer.
  • The particles that interact with verbs in this way are:

  • The modal clitics به /bə/ and د ې /de/
  • The weak personal pronouns, or pronominal clitics م ې /me/ , دې /de/ , یې /ye/ , and مو /mo/
  • The adverbial clitics خو /xo/ and نو /no/
  • The negatives نه /ná/ and مه /má/
  • Modals, weak personal pronouns, and adverbials are all second-position clitics. They also obey strict rules of ordering relative to each other. Tegey (1977) reports the following ordering of enclitics between verbal components: خو /xo/> به /bə/> { مو /mo/| مې /me/| دې /de/| یې /ye/} > نو /no/. If the first syllable of the verb does not carry stress (that is, if it is a non-aorist form), the negative precedes the verb, and the clitics follow the negative. Also, if an aorist form is negated, the negative marker—not the initial syllable of the verb—takes the stress.

    Negative placement in the aorist verb phrase

    The negative particle نه /ná/ nearly always precedes the verb and is placed as close to the verb stem as possible. In aorist constructions, it therefore follows the aorist marker و /wə/ for simplex verbs, and either initial /a/, the prefix, or the light verb complement for complex verbs. Because it carries an inherent stress, it takes the main stress in an aorist verb phrase.

    Pashto and Borrowings

    Contemporary Pashto contains a lot of Persian and Persianised-Arabic words, although Pashto equivalents for these words often do exist.

    Borrowed Phonology

    The sounds /q/, /f/ are non-native Pashto sounds borrowed from Arabic and Persian. The phonemes /q/, /f/ tend to be replaced by [k], [p]. So for instance, the Arabic word فرق would be pronounced as /par(ə)k/.


    Cardinal Numbers (direct case, masc.)

    Ordinal Numbers (direct case, masc., sing.)

  • 1st لومړی lumṛai
  • 2nd دويم dwaim
  • 3rd دريم drəyam
  • 4th څلورم t͡saloram
  • 5th پنځم pind͡zam
  • 6th شپږم špaẓ̌am
  • 7th اووم ūwam
  • 8th اتم atam
  • 9th نهم nəham
  • 10th لسم lasam
  • References

    Pashto grammar Wikipedia

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