That, This, and Question Words

That, This, and Question Words

In Thamil, asking questions or pointing out objects up close ("this"/ "these") or objects far away ("that"/ "those") is very simple. In general, the prefix "அ-" points out objects far away, the prefix "இ-" points out objects up close, and the prefix "எ-" asks "which?" or "what?" about the object.

There are a few groups of words in Thamil that differ only by their prefixes and are related in this way. In addition, the similarity between words in one group is that they refer to the same thing. The chart below categorizes these words.

that this what/which relationship
அந்த that இந்த this எந்த which? (adjectives)
அது that thing இது this thing எது which thing? thing
அங்கு there இங்கு here எங்கு where? place
அப்பொழுது then இப்பொழுது now எப்பொழுது when? time
அப்படி in that manner இப்படி in this manner எப்படி how? manner / method
அன்று that day இன்று today என்று which day? day
அவ்வளவு that much இவ்வளவு this much எவ்வளவு hwo much? amount
அத்தனை that many இத்தனை this many எத்தனை how many? number
அவன் that boy இவன் this boy எவன் which boy? boy
அவள் that girl இவள் this girl எவள் which girl? girl
அவர் that elder இவர் this elder எவர் which elder? elder
அவை those things இவை these things எவை which things? things

More Question Words

There are a few more words that ask a question, but these words have no "அ-/இ-" equivalents.

question words
யார் who?
என்ன what?
ஏன் why?
எத்தனையாவது which rank?

When using the question word யார், the respect/plural verb suffix (-ஆர்கள்) must be used with the verb. Ex:

Sentence Order

The words in the big chart above, whose relationship is either "time", "manner", or "day" are called adverbs. It is important to distiguinsh adverbs because the placement of words in a Thamil sentence is different from English.

thamil sentence word order
  1. subject
  2. "other words"
  3. adverbs
  4. verb

To learn about using the verb இரு with adverbs for making sentences like "It is red" or "He is here", go to the next lesson, Adjectives / Adverbs.