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How do you know if a Tamil verb is strong, medium or weak?

General Rules[edit | edit source]

In general, we do not always know how to conjugate a verb while looking at it. However, there are rules that cover the majority of cases. I have listed all the rules I can think of, but it's quite complicated so there is a summary at the end.

  • If a verb ends with உ and has more than 2 letters (e.g. நம்பு) or has 2 letters but one of them has a long vowel (e.g. ஓடு), then it is usually weak and is conjugated with - இன்- in the tense past (for example நம்பினான் and ஓடினான்). These verbs are quite common.

Otherwise, if a verb ends in று or டு (eg விடு), it is sometimes weak too, but conjugated in the past tense by doubling the hard consonant in the last letter (eg விட்டான்). Verbs that end in are also conjugated this way although they are longer (for example, சாப்பிடு becomes சாப்பிட்டான் in the past tense).

  • If a verb ends in ல் or ள் and contains only 2 letters with the short vowel (for example கொள்), then it is usually a weak verb which is conjugated in the past tense by adding the paired hard consonant, becoming ன்ற்- and ண்ட் - respectively (for example கொண்டான்).
  • If a verb ends in ல் or ள் otherwise (for example கேள்), it is often a "middle" verb, which means that it is conjugated with ற்ற்- or ட்ட்- in the past tense, ற்கி (ன்) ற்- or ட்கி (ன்) ற்- in the present tense, ற்ப்- or ட்ப்- in the future, and ற்க and for the infinitive respectively. These verbs are quite rare.
  • If a verb ends in ன் or (for example தின்), then it is usually an "average" verb, which means that it is mainly conjugated as a weak verb, except that the future tense uses a single -ப்- in instead of -வ்- (for example). These verbs take the hard consonant paired with the past tense, becoming respectively ன்ற்- and ண்ட்- (eg தின்றான்). These verbs are also quite rare.
  • If a verb ends with ய் (eg செய்), then it is usually a weak verb and conjugates with -த்- in the past tense (eg செய்தான்).
  • If a verb ends with அ (eg நட), then it is always a strong verb and conjugates with -ந்த்- in the past tense (eg நடந்தான்).
  • For other verbs that do not match either of these patterns, there are two conjugation options, and for a single verb, both conjugations may be valid. The difference between these conjugations is based on transitivity. A verb is transitive if its action affects something other than the subject (such as "I broke the glass"), and a verb is intransitive if the action happens to the subject (such as "the glass has broken"). If a verb is transitive, it is often strong and is conjugated using -த்த்- in the past tense (eg உடைத்தான்). If a verb is intransitive, it is often weak and is conjugated using -ந்த்- in the past tense (eg உடைந்தது). Many verbs will have these two conjugations and will follow this rule to distinguish them. Some verbs will only have one of the two conjugations, and in this case, it might not correspond to transitivity. All of these verbs are quite common.
  • A similar distinction also exists for verbs that take -இன்- ​​in the past tense. Transitive verbs usually end with a hard doubled consonant (-ப்பு, -த்து, etc.) while intransitive verbs end with something else. So if you see an intransitive verb like திரும்பு, you can guess the transitive verb திருப்பு.

Summary[edit | edit source]

In summary (where a short verb is made up of two letters with only short vowels), here are the verb classes and past tense conjugations:

  • Long -உ: weak (-இன்-)
  • Short -று, -டு: weak (ற்ற்-, ட்ட்-)
  • Long -ல், -ள்: middle (ற்ற்-, ட்ட்-)
  • Short -ல், -ள்: weak (ன்ற்-, ண்ட்-)
  • -ன், -ண்: middle (ன்ற்-, ண்ட்-)
  • -ய்: weak (-த்-)
  • -அ: strong (-ந்த்-)
  • Other: weak (-ந்த்-) or strong (-த்த்-)

There are a few common verbs that fall into a different class than the one listed above:

  • போடு: weak (ட்ட்-)
  • அழு: weak (-த்-)
  • இரு: strong (-ந்த்-)

There are also irregular verbs that break these rules. The most common are:, வில், போ, ஆகு, வா,, சா, காண்.

There may be other exceptions, especially in more literary words which are less commonly used. Also, I am not a native speaker so there may be some errors.

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