Introduction to Basque: Lesson 5

We have so far learned about the izan and the ukan gates which can send verbs to the past if they are bare or send them to the future with the protection ko or to the present with the protection ten. We have also learned how we can improve our ten protection by using ari and then the verbs get sent more precisely to the present moment (the continuous present - I am doing right now) but the tradeoff for that is that then the verb must go through the izan gate no matter what. We have also learned words like to arrive iritsi, to do egin, to take hartu, to write idatzi, to see ikusi and some more.

Let’s now learn three more words that are special in a way that they work in different ways than the usual words because they have izan:

Basque for to be able is ahal izan.

In a way this makes sense because just like in English you say be able in Basque you say ahal izan where izan is our word for be although it functions in a bit different way in Basque. Of course, I am able to do something means I can do something thus this word is also the word for can.

Just like you normally do, you use one of the gates depending on whether the question what? can be raised or not. For example, you do not raise the question what? for the phrase I was able to go (i.e. I could go) so this phrase must go through the izan gate but you can raise the same question for the phrase I was able to see (i.e. I could see) - what were you able to see? thus we go through the ukan gate.

Try both of these phrases. Let’s just first learn the word for go, though:

Basque for to go is joan.

The word order is going to be I go able be am. Say:

1 translation: I was able to go.

And the second phrase (skipping it):

2 translation: I was able to see it.

Also ask whether somebody was able to speak Basque:

3 translation: Could you speak Basque?

We could also go to the future with ahal izan by adding ko (which turns into go because the word ends in n).

Basque for to go out is irten.

4 translation: Will you be able to go out?

Cool, we have pretty much gotten this out of the way. Let’s learn another important word:

Basque for to have to (i.e. must) is behar izan.

Think I must be haar tomorrow for the job interview to remember that behar izan means must (or rather to have to).

How would you say:

5 translation: I had to go.

You could also say:

6 translation: I had to speak Basque.

And finally (this is a bit tricky since you can imagine saying for example what did he work? i.e. what was he working on? or you could not be able to say it... both versions are possible in some situations but you encounter ukan more often so let’s go with it):

7 translation: He had to work.

Let’s learn the last word from the series:

Basque for to want is nahi izan.

The verb nahi izan is a bit special as well:

It does not fit in the izan gate so whatever the case it must always go through the ukan gate!

How would you say (skipping it like we always do):

8 translation: I wanted to see it.

You will be sending it through the ukan gate in the second anyway because it just doesn’t go through the izan gate even when it ought to:

9 translation: She wanted to go.

Nice, apart from ahal izan for can, now we have behar izan for must (think must behar) and nahi izan for want.

They all act very special when they go through the gate to the present:

All of them do not take protection ten to go to the present... Instead, they simply lose izan.

They simply lose izan and that’s it for them... you’re in the present (congratulations!). No ten, no nothing.

How would you say:

10 translation: I must go.

Now the next one is a bit tricky. Remember that the expression lan egin nahi - work do want is firmly stuck so these words do not change places. Otherwise, the next sentence is negative so you make it more English-like. Try this:

11 translation: I do not want work.

If you remember to go out was irten. How would you say:

12 translation: I want to go out.

Awesome. We have learned these three words ahal izan, behar izan and nahi izan (nahi izan being the one that only goes through the ukan gate no matter what) and we have learned that they act normal in the past, and for the present they simply drop their izan. Well, here is the last thing to know about these words:

Two of them - behar izan and nahi izan - drop their izan not only in the present but also in the future!

If we drop izan we cannot add ko to it because it is not there anymore so we must add ko to the words themselves: and we get beharko or nahiko.

Remember that to go was joan and say:

13 translation: I will have to go.

What about:

14 translation: I will want to go out.

(Did you remember that nahi always only goes through the ukan gate, in the last sentence?)

Say finally:

15 translation: She will not want to see it.

Fine, we’re done. Let’s also learn two greetings:

Basque for until is arte.

We had the work ikusi for to see. If we say see until we have the word for see you later (i.e. until the time we see each other again). How would you say that:

16 translation: see you later!

Let’s also learn one of words in Basque taken from Spanish:

Basque for hello is kaixo.

This comes from the Spanish expression ¿qué hay? - what’s up?.

Let’s finish this by learning a word that is absolutely Basque then:

Basque for and is eta.

How would you say:

17 translation: hello and bye!

That’s it. We have learned how to use the present, the past and the future in Basque, some important Basque words and expressions and hopefully you have also find out how unique and interesting Basque is as a language.

Let’s simulate a short dialogue now to show off some of what we have learned in this course. Imagine that you are asking a native Basque speaker how to get to Bilbao, he points the direction with his finger and asks you somethings. Let’s go

18 translation: Hello! Where is Bilbao?

He points it to you. Then asks:

19 translation: Where are you from?

20 translation: I am from America.

21 translation: Do you speak Basque?

22 translation: Yes, I speak Basque and English.

23 translation: Do you work?

24 translation: No, I do not work. I have worked and I want work.

Then the stranger remembers that he has to do something. He apologizes and says:

25 translation: I do not have the time. I must go.

Then he adds:

26 translation: I am Aitor! See you!

27 translation: I am Anna. See you!

Answers to Lesson 5

1 answer: Ni joan ahal izan naiz.
2 answer: Nik ikusi ahal izan dut.
3 answer: Zuk euskaraz hitz egin ahal izan duzu?
4 answer: Zu irten ahal izango zara?
5 answer: Ni joan behar izan naiz.
6 answer: Nik euskaraz hitz egin behar izan dut.
7 answer: Hark lan egin behar izan du.
8 answer: Nik ikusi nahi izan dut.
9 answer: Hark joan nahi izan du.
10 answer: Ni joan behar naiz.
11 answer: Nik ez dut lan egin nahi.
12 answer: Ni irten nahi naiz.
13 answer: Ni joan beharko naiz.
14 answer: Nik irten nahiko dut.
15 answer: Hark ez du ikusi nahiko.
16 answer: ikusi arte!
17 answer: kaixo eta ikusi arte!
18 answer: Kaixo! Non da Bilbo?
19 answer: Nongoa zara zu?
20 answer: Ni Amerikakoa naiz.
21 answer: Zuk euskaraz hitz egiten duzu?
22 answer: Bai, euskaraz eta ingilesez hitz egiten dut.
23 answer: Zuk lan egiten duzu?
24 answer: Ez, nik ez dut lan egiten. Nik lan egin dut eta nik lan egin nahi dut.
25 answer: Nik ez daukat astirik. Ni joan behar naiz.
26 answer: Ni Aitor naiz. Ikusi arte!
27 answer: Ni Anna naiz. Ikusi arte!