Turning a verb into a noun in Hmong

road in hmong village

What is a Verb? What is a Noun?

A verb is an action word, or a word that describes something that you do as opposed to a ‘thing.’ So a verb could be to run, to eat, to think, to talk, to hear, to like, etc. A noun on the other hand is a person, place, or thing. So a noun can be a cat, an idea, London, etc.

In English we have words that function as both nouns or verbs depending on how you use them. The word ‘run,’ for example, can be a noun in that it is an activity. An example of this is in the sentence, “I am going for a run.” The word ‘going’ is the action but the word ‘a run’ is the activity. On the other hand you can say, “I ran all day.” ‘Ran’ is the action, hence the verb.

Turning a verb into a noun with ‘kev.’

Most, if not all verbs can be turned into a noun by adding the word, ‘kev’ before it. The word, ‘kev’ means, ‘way,’ or, ‘the way of.’ Let’s look at some examples.

Kuv tsis hlub nws.

I don’t love him.

Kuv tsis xav txog kev hlub.

I don’t think about love. Lit: I don’t think about way love.

In the first case above, love is an action. But in the second example, we turn the same word in Hmong into a concept by adding, ‘kev,’ before it. Let’s look at another example:

Kuv txhawj ntau ntau.

I worry a lot. Lit: I worry much much.

Nws nrog kuv tham txog kuv tej kev txhawj xeeb.

He talked with me about my worries. Lit: He with me talk about my various way worry heart.

Why you should avoid turning a noun into a verb with ‘kev.’

While turning a verb into a noun with ‘kev’ is not a sin, it is good to try to avoid it. Why? Hmong is a verb heavy language. Natural language leans toward using a verb instead of a noun. Take a look at the following two examples:

Kuv muaj kev tshaib.

Lit: I have way hunger.

Kuv tshaib. Kuv tshaib plab.

I’m hungry. I’m hungry (belly).

The first example is technically understandable, but it is very unnatural. The second example is the natural example because it uses a stative verb, ‘tshaib’, ‘to be hungry.’

Again, it is not wrong to use the word, ‘kev,’ in speech and it is used often. However, it is a good habit to take a moment to think, “Is there a way I can avoid using, “kev,” and just use the verb instead? This will contribute to more natural speech.

Questions? Leave them in the comments below.

Leave a Reply