Introduction to Tenses

Speaking Anishinaabemowin requires you to center your thoughts on what is happening and the relationships between events, beings and objects in the universe. Tenses give you the opportunity to clarify when something is happening. It could be that the weather, the season or a decision has changed or will change. It could be that someone is doing something and you need to indicate it happened in the past, is happening now, or will happen in the future.

There are four prefixes speakers put before the verb to indicate the future. Listen to the audio to hear how they are pronounced:

Tenses-Future

wii- – it definitely will happen
ga- – less definite but will happen
da- – it should happen in the future
waa- – unknown future (this one is used mostly when asking a question or to indicate the distant future)


There are three prefixes speakers put before the verb to indicate the past:

Tenses-Past

gii- – it definitely did happen in the past
gaa- – maybe it happened in the past
daa- – it should have happened in the past


Here is how you add these parts of speech to a verb. Try to think of it as a formula.

(pronoun prefix if needed) + (past/future marker with hyphen) + (root verb) + (pronoun suffix if needed)

Note that pronoun prefix rules apply to the tenses just like they would if you were attaching it to a verb. For example, if you were going to use “gii-” (it definitely did happen in the past) with the “niin” pronoun, it will require you to add the “nin” prefix.

Ningii-goshkozi – I did wake up

When having a conversation or writing a sentence with second endings you do not need to attach the same tense marker to every verb in the sentence.

Ningii-bakade mii wiisiniyaan – I was hungry so I ate.

Here are some more examples below.

Tenses-Examples

Ningii-bakade.
I was hungry.
Niwii-wiisin.
I will/want to eat.
Ningii-izhaa.
I did go.
Gigii-izhaamin. (w) / G’gii-izhaami. (e)*
We all did go.


Note: In the eastern dialect the “gi + gii” is pronounced as “k”
In the western dialect the “gi + gii” is pronounced with two clear “g” sounds.

Use these new Type 2 verbs to make your own sentences that indicate something happening in the past or present:

Tenses-New

goshkozi – to wake up bengwaadizo – to dry yourself
bizagwii – to get up giziibiiginaagane – to wash the dishes
gaashkabaazi – to shave nibaa – to sleep
gizii’aabidewi – to brush teeth minogwaam – rest well
binaakwe’o – comb hair madwengwaam – snore
giziibiigaazhe – to take a bath/shower biizikonaye – get dressed
bengdibewi – to dry your hair (head) giizikonaye – get undressed


Practice translating the following sentences. Listen too.

Tenses-Practice

1. Niwii-goshkoz gaye giziibiigaazheyaan.

1. I will wake up and take a shower.

2. Aaniin apii waa-giziinaaganeyan? (w) Weneshpii waa-giziinaaganeyin? (e)

2. When will you wash the dishes?

3. Ogii-biizikonaye.

3. She did get dressed.

4. Niwaa-bengdibew ina?

4. Are you going to dry your hair?

5. Ningii-gizii’aabidew jibwaa nibaayaang.

5. I brushed teeth before just us sleep.

Listen to the conversation below. Do you recognize any verbs or verb parts? Did you notice what happens when you use two different tenses in a verb? Listen to the sentences and quiz yourself.

Tenses-Practice

1. Minogizhebaawagad! Aaniin waa-ezhiwebag agawajiing noongom?

1: Good morning! What will the weather be like outside today?

2. Da-gizhaanimad noongom.

2. It should be hot and windy today.

3. Niwii-bagiz zaaga’iganing mii dash bimibatooyaan.

3. I will go swim in the lake then go running.

4. Ishkwaa gigaa-abwez wii-giziibiigaazheyan.

4. After you sweat you will take a shower.

5. Niwii-maazhimaagoz!

5. I will smell bad!