The Imperfective mode

The Imperfective Mode usually describes an action or event that has begun but is incomplete. In this sense it is generally equivalent to an English present (progressive) BE + -ing. The imperfective is sometimes used in a future context. The second person forms are used as immediate imperatives (or commands). The imperfective mode is conjugated in 4 distinctive paradigms for active verbs (YM 2000 p. 65) [link].



Kwe’é k’ad łe’esh’aah.
here now earth-1-put.into.I.SRO
Now, I am putting it (SRO) into the ground here.


Na’nííshee’ dóó k’ad éí dah ’iishtł’ó.
3-1-warp.P and now TOP up 3-1-tie.DI
I prepared the warp and now I’m putting it up.

These examples use k’ad to help signal the imperfective mode. Below are examples that don’t have k’ad:


Sikétsíín diniihgo bik’í’dísdis.
1-ankle pain-GO 3-wrap.I
My ankle aches so I’m wrapping it.


Asdzání ní’jookąąhgo kintahdi nijighá.
woman Rep-4-beg.I-GO town-at about-3a-walk.I
A lady is walking around in the city asking for help.


Níléidi t’áá bahat’aadí shábitł’óól ’anoolzhee’.
There-at just clear-NOM sun.3.rays 3-rays.I
Clearly, the sun rays are over there.

Usually, imperfective verbs have sh-, ni-, and Ø- (which is not pronounced) for their first, second, and third person markers.

1st person yishcha (yi-sh-cha) I’m crying.
2nd person yinícha (yi-ni-cha) You’re crying.
3rd person yicha (yi-cha) S/he is crying.

The entries in the Young and Morgan (1987) [link] dictionary are ordered by first-person imperfective forms. The reason for this is that sh- (or s-) can usually be seen inside the verb.

Example of entries:

Young and Morgan English
’asdiz I’m spinning (string)
’ashtł’in I’m stacking
’ashtł’ó I’m weaving