Cambodian Language/Grammar

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Personal Pronouns[edit]

One of the most difficult problems in Khmer for a foreign student is the choice of appropriate pronouns; there is a much larger number of pronouns than in English because they are context oriented, since they reflect gender, relative age, and social status of the speakers to the addressee. Thus there are no general pronouns such as "you" which are appropriate for all situation. The tables below provide the commonest Khmer personal pronoun and their explanation:

First Person[edit]

Singular/Plural
Singular (I) Address Plural (We) Address
ខ្ញុំ /kʰ*ñuṅ/ Polite, to elder ot same age person យើង /yæŋ/ Polite pronoun, to elder, younger and same age persona
ខ្ញុំបាទ /kʰ*ñuṅ bād/ Same as "ខ្ញុំ" យើងខ្ញុំ /yæŋ kʰ*ñuṅ/ Same as "យើង"
គ្នា /g*nā/ Polite, to same age person ពួកយើង /puak yæŋ/ Same as "យើង"
អញ /ʔañ/ Impolite, to unrespectable person or close friend (very sensitive!) ពួកគ្នា /puak g*nā/ Same as "យើង"
  • ខ្ញុំទៅសាលារៀន = I go to school
  • គ្នាដើរទៅផ្សារ សុខចង់ទៅផ្សារជាមួយគ្នា ? = I walk to the market, Do you want to go with me Sok?
  • យើងចង់រៀនខ្មែរ។ = We want to study Khmer.
  • យើងខ្ញុំជានិសិត្ = We are students.
  • ពួកយើងរៀនខ្មែរជាមួយលោកគ្រូសំ = We study Khmer with teacher Sam.

Second Person[edit]

Singular/Plural
Singular (You) Address Plural (You all) Address
លោក /lōk Polite masculine, to elder, younger, or superior in formal situation ("Mr.") អស់លោក /ʔas lōk/ Polite masculine, to elder, younger or superior in formal situation ("Mr. all")
លោកស្រី /lōk s*rī/ Polite feminine, to elder, younger or superior in formal situation ("Mrs.") អស់អ្នក /ʔas ʔ*nak/ to a group of approximately the same age people. ("You all")
អ្នក /ʔ*nak/ To same age person ("You")
ឯង /eŋ/ Impolite, to younger ("You")
  • លោកចង់ពិសារគុយទាវទេ ? = Do you want to eat noodle soup?
  • លោកស្រីស្នាក់នៅឯណា ? = Where do you stay?
  • អ្នកឈ្មោះអី ? = What is your name?
  • អស់លោកមកពីប្រទេសណា ? = Where are you all from?
  • អស់អ្នកស្នាក់នៅឯណា ? = Where do you all stay?

Third Person[edit]

Singular/Plural
Singular (He/She/It) Address Plural (They) Address
វា /vā/ To inferior, child, otherwise insulting, animal "It" ពួកវា puak /vā/ To a group inferior, group of children or animals
គាត់ /gāt/ Polite unisex, to older, adult "He or She" ពួកគាត់ puak /gāt/ To group of the same age or older people
គេ /ge/ To people we don't know "He, She, One, or Someone" ពួកគេ puak /ge/ To group of unknown people
នាង /nāŋ/ Polite feminine, to younger "He or She" ពួកនាង puak /nāŋ/ To group of young feminine
  • ក្មេងនេះវាមកពីណា ? = Where is this kid come from?
  • គាត់រៀនខ្មែរនៅសាលាណា ? = At what school does he or she study Khmer?
  • គេចង់ទៅណា ? = Where is he or she want to go?
  • នាងនោះធើ្វការអីនៅស្រុកខ្មែរ ? = What does she do for a living in Cambodia?
  • ថ្ងៃនេះមានក្មេងច្រើនណាស់មកលេង សួននេះ។ ពួកវាមកពីណា ? = Today, there are many children in this park. Where are they all from?
  • ពួកគាត់រៀនខ្មែរនៅសាលាណា ? = At what school do they study Khmer?
  • ពួកគេចង់ទៅណា ? = Where do they want to go?
  • ពួកនាងធើ្វការអីនៅស្រុកខ្មែរ ? = What do they do for a living in Cambodia?

Intonation and Question Particles[edit]

Statements[edit]

Statements are normally accompanied by a falling contour on the last words of the sentence, for example:

  • ញុំ សុខសប្បាយជាទេ = I am quite well.

Rising contour may also occur at the end of statements. In this case, the statement seems to be obvious, for example:

  • ខ្ញុំ សុខសប្បាយជាទេ = I am fine [of course]

Questions[edit]

Questions are formed in three ways in Cambodian, question requesting specific information, question requiring a yes or no answer and the question that occur without question particle or question words.

Questions are usually accompanied by rising contour on the last words of the sentence. The rising contour question reflects deference, politeness and formality, for example:

  • លោកអញ្ជើញទៅណា ? = Where are you going, Sir?

The Question Particle តើ /tæ/[edit]

The question particle (តើ) are always occurs at the beginning of an interrogative clause in formal questions. When the question particle (តើ) is used, it signal the fact that a question follows and the rising and falling intonation of question is not necessary. For example:

  • លោកអញ្ជើញទៅណា ? = Where are you going, Sir?
  • តើលោកអញ្ជើញទៅណា ? = Where are you going, Sir?

Questions Requesting Specific Information[edit]

Questions requesting specific information require a question words for example: Question words: Where ណា (nā), What អី (aī) / អី្វ (aīv)

  • ទៅណាហ្នឹង សុខ ? ខ្ញុំទៅណោះ មួយភ្លែត។ = Where are you going? I go there for a moment.
  • លោកអញ្ជើញទៅណា ? ខ្ញុំទៅសាលា។ = Where are you going? I go to school.
  • លោកមានការអីដែរ ។ ខ្ញុំចង់ជួបលោក សំណាង។ = What are you doing? I want to meet Samnang.
  • អ្នកឈ្មោះអី្វ ? ខ្ញុំឈោ្មះ ផល។ = What is your name? I'm Bhal.

Questions Requiring Yes or No Answer[edit]

Question requiring yes- or-no answer require a final question particle ទេ (de) . The full form of particle (de) is ឬទេ (ȳde) .

  • លោកសុខសប្បាយ ទេ ? បាទ ខ្ញុំសុខសប្បាយទេ។ = How are you? I'm fine.
  • លោកស្រីសុខសប្បាយ ឬទេ ? ចាស ខ្ញុំសុខសប្បាយទេ។ = How are you doing? I'm fine.

Response Particles: Yes បាទ /bād/, ចាស /cās/[edit]

The function of the response particles បាទ (a respond by men) and ចាស (a respond by women) is a polite acknowledgment of a previous utterance speech by other speakers, whether the previous utterance was a statement or a question. Following a question, the occurrence of a response particle as the sole constituent of the response implied affirmation.

A negative reply is indicated by a response particle followed by the negative final particle ទេ or by ទេ alone.

In exchange between equals, response particles tend to be discontinued after the initial exchanges.

The exchange between a superior and an inferior, response particles tend to be used through the exchange by the inferior, but may be discontinued or not used at all by the superior party in the exchange.

Response particles usually occur with a falling intonation contour.

  • លោកសុខសប្បាយទេ ? = Are you fine? -> ចាស (women) / បាទ (men)
  • លោកស្រីទៅរៀនទេ ? = Is she going to school? -> ចាទេ (women) / បាទទេ (men)

Word ណា (nā)[edit]

ណា (nā) is used in many forms:

Interrogative forms[edit]

Pronoun:

  • លោក មក ពី ណា ? = Where have you been ?
  • លោក ទៅ ណា ? = Where are you going ?

Adjective:

  • លោក ស្នាក់នៅ កន្លែង ណា ? = Which place do you stay ?
  • លោក ទៅ កន្លែង ណា ? = Which place are you going to ?
  • លោក មកពី ប្រទេស ណា ? = Which country are you from ?

Indefinite forms (somewhere/anywhere/wherever)[edit]

Pronoun:

  • លោកស្រី ទៅ ណា ទេ ? = Are you going somewhere or anywhere ?
  • ខ្ញុំ មិន ទៅ ណា ទេ។ = I am not going anywhere.
  • លោកស្រី ចង់ ទៅ ណា ទេ ? = Do you want to go somewhere or anywhere ?
  • ខ្ញុំ មិន ចង់ ទៅ ណា ទេ។ = I don't want to go anywhere.
  • លោក ចង់ ទៅ ណា ក៏ បានដែរ។ = You can go anywhere or wherever (you wish).
  • បើលោកស្រី ចង់ ទៅ ណា ខ្ញុំ អាច ជូន ទៅ បាន។ = If you want to go somewhere or anywhere I will take you. Or: Wherever you want to go, I will take you.

Adjective:

  • លោកស្រី ចង់ ទៅ កន្លែង ណា ? = Do you want to go some or any place ?
  • ខ្ញុំ មិន ចង់ ទៅ កន្លែង ណា ទេ។ = I don't want to go to any place.
  • លោក ចង់ ទៅ កន្លែង ណា ក៏ បាន ដែរ។ = You can go any place (anywhere) you wish.
  • បើ លោក ចង់ ទៅ ផ្សារ ណា ខ្ញុំ ជូនទៅ។ = If you want to go to any market I will take you. Or: Whatever / whichever market you want to go, I will take you.

Can also occur with the elements muey (one) and klah (some) as compound indefinite pronouns and adjectives:

  • បើ លោក ចង់ បាន អាវ ណា មួយ ប្រាប់ ខ្ញុំ មក ។ = if you want (any shirt), just tell me.
  • លោក ចង់ ទៅ កន្លែង ណា ខ្លះ។ = Wherever you would like to go, I will take you.

Word ចេះ /ce/ and ស្គាល់ /sgal/ "Know"[edit]

កិរិយាស័ព្ទ ស្គាល់ / Know a person, place or thing[edit]

The verb (ស្គាល់) here is use to express, be acquainted with person, to know and to know of.

Question: Subject + ស្គាល់ + person/place/thing + ទេ / ឬទេ ?

Answer:

Response    Female 	Male
Positive    ចាស ស្គាល់   បាទ ស្គាល់ 	
Negative    អត់ទេ      អត់ ស្គាល់ ទេ
  • សូមទោស លោក ស្គាល់ គ្រូភាសាខ្មែរ ទេ ? = Excuse me, do you know a Khmer teacher?
  • សូមទោស លោក ស្គាល់ ភ្នំពេញ ទេ ? = Excuse me, do you know where Phnom Penh is?
  • សូមទោស លោក ស្គាល់ ផ្ទះលោក សារ៉េត ទេ ? = Excuse me, do you know Saret's house?

កិរិយាស័ព្ទ ចេះ / Know how to do something[edit]

The verb (ចេះ) here is use to express the ability of knowing to do things.

Question: Subject + ចេះ + do something + ទេ / ឬទេ ?

Answer:

Response   Female 	Male
Positive   ចាស ចេះ 	បាទ ចេះ
Negative   អត់ទេ       អត់ ចេះ ទេ
  • លោក ចេះ និយាយ ភាសា ខ្មែរ ទេ ? = Do you know how to speak Khmer or Do you speak Khmer?.
  • អ្នក ចេះ ច្រៀង ទេ ? = Do you know how to sing?
  • អ្នកចេះ លេងភ្លេង ខ្មែរ ទេ ? = Do you know how to play Khmer music?

Word អី្វ /ʔaīv/ "What"[edit]

អី្វ /ʔaīv/ is used in many forms:

Interrogative forms[edit]

Pronoun:

  • លោក ទិញ អី្វ ? ខ្ញុំ ទិញ សៀវភៅ។ = What do you buy ? I buy a book.
  • អ្នក លក់ អី្វ ? ខ្ញុំ លក់ ខោអាវ។ = What do you sell ? I sell clothing.

Adjective:

  • លោក ទិញ សៀវភៅ អី្វ ? ខ្ញុំ ទិញ សៀវភៅ សរសេរ។ = Which book are you buying ? I buy a notebook.
  • អ្នក លក់ ខោអាវ អី្វ ? ខ្ញុំ លក់ ខោអាវ បុរស។ = What clothing are you selling ? I sell men clothes.

Indefinite forms (somewhat/anywhat/whatever)[edit]

Pronoun:

  • គាត់ ទៅ ទិញ អី្វ នៅ ផ្សារ។ = He goes to buy something at the market.
  • ខ្ញុំ លក់ អី្វ នៅ ផ្សារ។ = I sell something at the market.
  • ខ្ញុំ មិន ចង់ ញុំា អី្វ ទេ។ = I don't want to eat anything.
  • បើ លោក ចង់ បាន អ្វី ខ្ញុំ ទិញ អោយ។ = If you want anything I will buy it for you. or: whatever you want I will buy it for you.

Adjective:

  • អ្នក ចង់ ទិញ ខោអាវ អី្វ ទេ ? ខ្ញុំ មិន ចង់ ទិញ ខោអាវ អី្វ ទេ។ = Do you want to buy any clothes? I don't want to buy any clothes.
  • បើ លោក ចង់ បាន ខោអាវ អ្វី ខ្ញុំ ទិញ អោយ។ ? លោក ទិញ ខោអាវ អ្វី អោយ ខ្ញុំ ក៏បាន ដែរ។ = If you want any clothes I will buy it for you. You can buy any clothes for me.

Compound:

  • បើ អ្នក ចង់ ទិញ អី្វខ្លះ ប្រាប់មក ខ្ញុំ អាច ទិញ អោយ បាន។ = If you want me to buy something, just let me know, I will buy it for you.
  • បើ អ្នក ចង់ ពិសារ អី្វមួយ ប្រាប់មក ខ្ញុំ ទិញ អោយ។ = If you want to eat anything just let me know I will buy it for you.
  • បើ អ្នក ចង់ ទិញ សៀវភៅ អី្វមួយ ពី ស្រុក អាមេរិក ប្រាប់មក ខ្ញុំ អាច ទិញ អោយ បាន។ = If you want me to buy any books from America, just let me know, I will buy it for you.

Word ប៉ុន្មាន /bunmān/ "How much, How many"[edit]

Used forms[edit]

  • លោក ត្រូវការ ស្ករ ប៉ុនា្មន គីឡូ ? ខ្ញុំ ត្រូវការ ស្ករ ២ គីឡូ។ = How many kilos of sugar do you want? I want 2 kilos of sugar.
  • អ្នក ទិញ ទឹកសុទ្ធ ប៉ុនា្មន ដប ? ខ្ញុំ ទិញ ទឹកសុទ្ធ ១២ ដប។ = How many bottle of pure water do you want to buy? I buy pure water 12 bottles.
  • ម៉ោង ប៉ុនា្មន ហើយ ? ម៉ោង ៨ ហើយ។ = What time is it now? It is 8 o'clock.
  • គាត់ ត្រូវការ ប៉ុនា្មន គីឡូ ? គាត់ ត្រូវការ ៦ គីឡូ = How many kilos does he want? He wants 6 kilos
  • រូបគំនូរ នេះ ថ្លៃ ប៉ុនា្មន ? រូបគំនូរ នេះ ថ្លៃ ១៨ ដុល្លា។ = How much is this painting? It is 18 dollars.
  • លោក ត្រូវការ ប៉ុនា្មន ? ខ្ញុំ ត្រូវការ ២០ ។ = How much do you need? I need 20.
  • លោក ចង់បាន ប៉ុនា្មន ? គាត់ ចង់បាន ១៥ = How much do you want? I want 15.
  • ពួកគេ មាន ប្រាក់ ប៉ុនា្មន ? ពួកគេ មាន ប្រាក់ ៥០០ រៀល។ = How much money do they have? They have 500 riels.

Present Tense[edit]

Affirmative sentences[edit]

Unlike English, Khmer verbs do not take inflection in the present tense.

Simple Sentence with Intransitive Verb: Subject + Verb (intransitive)

  • គាត់ យំ ។ = He cries.
  • សិស្ស សើច។ = Student laughs.
  • ពួកគេ ដើរ ។ = They walk.
  • ខ្ញុំ ដេក ។ = I sleep.

Simple Sentence with Intransitive Verb and Adverb: Subject + Verb + Adverb

  • ក្មេងៗ ដើរ តាមដងផ្លូវ។ = Children walk on the street.
  • សំ រស់នៅ ក្នុងទីក្រុង ។ = Sam lives in the city.

Simple Sentence with Transitive Verb and follow by Object: Subject + Verb + Object

  • ខ្មុំ ស្នាក់នៅ សណ្ឋាគារអាស៊ី ។ = I stay in Asie Hotel.
  • ខ្មុំ ជួប គាត់ ។ = I meet him.
  • ក្មេងៗ ចូលចិត្ដ ផ្លែឈើ ។ = Children like fruit.
  • យើង ស្រឡាញ់ សន្ដិភាព ។ = We love peace.

Negative sentences[edit]

The negative sentence in Khmer is formed by inserting of a negative word ( មិន ) or ( អត់ ) between the subject and the main verb of a sentence and ( ទេ ) at the end of that sentence. Particle ( ទេ ) can be deleted from the negative sentence, but it doesn't sound natural. Subject + មិន or អត់ + ( Verb [intransitive] / Verb + Adverb / Verb + Object ) + ទេ

  • គាត់ មិន/អត់ យំ ទេ។ = He doesn't cry.
  • សិស្ស មិន/អត់ សើច ទេ។ = Student doesn't laugh.
  • ពួកគេ មិន/អត់ ដើរ ទេ។ = They don't walk.
  • ខ្ញុំ មិន/អត់ ដេក ទេ។ ។ = I don't sleep.
  • ក្មេងៗ មិន/អត់ ដើរ តាមដងផ្លូវ ទេ។ = Children don't walk on the street.
  • សំ មិន/អត់ រស់នៅ ក្នុងទីក្រុង ទេ។ = Sam deosn't live in the city
  • ខ្មុំ មិន/អត់ ស្នាក់នៅ សណ្ឋាគារអាស៊ី ទេ។ = I don't stay in Asie Hotel.
  • ខ្មុំ មិន/អត់ ជួប គាត់ ទេ។ = I don't meet him.
  • ក្មេងៗ មិន/អត់ ចូលចិត្ដ ផ្លែឈើ ទេ។ = Children don't like fruit.
  • យើង មិន/អត់ ស្រឡាញ់ សន្ដិភាព ទេ។ = We don't love peace.

Interrogative sentences[edit]

The question particle (តើ) always occours at the beginning of an interrogative clause in formal questions. When the question particle (តើ) is used, it signal the fact that a question follows and the rising and falling intonation of question is not necessary.

Question requiring yes- or-no answer require a final question particle ទេ (de)). The full form of particle (de) is ឬទេ (yde). តើ + Subject + ( Verb [intransitive] / Verb + Adverb / Verb + Object ) + ឬទេ ?

  • តើ គាត់ យំ ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Does he cry?
  • តើ សិស្ស សើច ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Does the student laugh?
  • តើ ពួកគេ ដើរ ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Do they walk?
  • តើ ខ្ញុំ ដេក ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Do I sleep?
  • តើ ក្មេងៗ ដើរ តាមដងផ្លូវ ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Do children walk on the street?
  • តើ សំ រស់នៅ ក្នុងទីក្រុង ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Do Sam live in the city?
  • តើ លោក ស្នាក់នៅ សណ្ឋាគារអាស៊ី ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Do you stay in Asie Hotel?
  • តើ លោក ជួប គាត់ ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Do you meet him?
  • តើ ក្មេងៗ ចូលចិត្ដ ផ្លែឈើ ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Do children like fruit?
  • តើ យើង ស្រឡាញ់ សន្ដិភាព ឬទេ/ទេ ? = Do we love peace?

Present Tense with Connecting Verb ជា /jā/[edit]

Note: The connecting verb (ជា ) can be dropped in from the affirmative, negative, or interogative sentence in the spoken form and the sentence still carries the same meaning.

Affirmative Sentence[edit]

The meaning of connecting verb (ជា) is (be, is) as in the sentence: Subject + Connecting verb (ជា ) + Noun

  • ខ្ញ្ញុំ ជា ជនជាតិ អាមេរិក ។ = I am an American.
  • គាត់ ជា សាស្រ្ដាចារ្យ ។ = He is a professor.
  • ខ្ញ្ញុំ ជា គ្រូបង្រៀន ។ = I am a teacher.
  • ពួកគេ ជា កសិករ ។ = They are frmers.
  • អាគារនេះ ជា បណ្ណាល័យ ។ = This building is a library.

Negative Sentence[edit]

The negative sentence of simple sentence, with connecting verb ( ជា ), is form by inserting the negative word ( មិនមែន ) or ( អត់មែន ) between the subject and the main verb of a sentence and ( ទេ ) at the end of that sentence. Particle ( ទេ ) can be deleted from the negative sentence, but it doesn't sound natural. Subject + មិនមែន or អត់មែន + Connecting verb (ជា ) + Noun + ទេ

  • ខ្ញ្ញុំ មិនមែន/អត់មែន ជា ជនជាតិ អាមេរិក ទេ។ = I am not an American
  • គាត់ មិនមែន/អត់មែន ជា សាស្រ្ដាចារ្យ ទេ។ = He is not a professor.
  • ខ្ញ្ញុំ មិនមែន/អត់មែន ជា គ្រូបង្រៀន ទេ។ = I am not a teacher.
  • ពួកគេ មិនមែន/អត់មែន ជា កសិករ ទេ។ = They are not farmers.
  • អាគារនេះ មិនមែន/អត់មែន ជា បណ្ណាល័យ ទេ។ = This building is not a library.

Interrogative Sentence[edit]

The interrogative clause, with connecting verb (ជា ), is form by adding particle (តើ) at the beginning of the clause and follows by ( មែនទេ ) at the end of the clause. តើ + Subject + Connecting verb (ជា ) + Noun + មែនទេ ?

  • តើ លោក ជា ជនជាតិ អាមេរិក មែនទេ ? = Are you an American?
  • តើ គាត់ ជា សាស្រ្ដាចារ្យ មែនទេ ? = Is he a professor?
  • តើ នាង ជា គ្រូបង្រៀន មែនទេ ? = Is she a teacher?
  • តើ ពួកគេ ជា កសិករ មែនទេ ? = Are they famers?
  • តើ អាគារនេះ ជា បណ្ណាល័យ មែនទេ ? = Is this building a library?

Future Tense and Adverb of Time[edit]

Present Tense with connecting Verb គឺ /gȳ/[edit]

The Verb មាន /mān/ Occur After a Subject[edit]

The Verb មាន /mān/ Occur without a Subject[edit]

The Verb មាន /mān/ as a Modal[edit]

Past Tense and Adverb of Time[edit]

Modal Verb អាច /ʔāc/ and Completive Verb បាន /bān/[edit]

Noun and Noun Specifier[edit]

Possessive Pronoun[edit]

Word ខ្លួន /kʰluan/ as Reflexive Pronoun[edit]

Numerical Phrase Involving Time Specifier[edit]