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Mongolian Grammar: Understanding the basics

Mongolian Grammar

We would like to give some understandings of Mongolian grammar.

Here you can find basic sentence structure and the most common tenses that appear in the Mongolian language, as well as many common Mongolian grammar forms which appear frequently.

1. Mongolian Sentence Structure

Mongolian sentence structure is different from English & some other languages, in that Mongolian language structure follows the form: Subject – Time – Object- Predicate (verb). Which can be memorized as STOP.

So, in an English sentence, we have SVO (subject, verb, object. For example, I drink coffee. ‘I’ is the subject, drink is the verb and coffee is the object. However, in Mongolian this is reversed:  the verb and object are switched, so in Mongolian, the order is SOV (Subject – Object – Verb).

For example: 

Би кофе уудаг. I coffee drink.

In that example, we have S O V. Let’s see more examples:

Би монгол хэл сурдаг (I Mongolian study) – I study Mongolian.

Би хоол хийдэг (I food make) –  I make food. 

Би ном уншдаг (I book read) – I read a book. 

One thing that makes it challenging for english speakers is that you have to wait until the very end of the sentence to understand the meaning since the verb, which is often the most important word, is always at the end. 

That’s right!  No matter how long a sentence is in Mongolian, the verb will always be at the end.  Sometimes you may be waiting and waiting to see what the subject in the sentence is doing, so it could be quite frustrating.  For example:

Би англи хэл, испани хэл, франц хэл, япон хэл мэдэхгүй.

In this example, someone was listing many languages and you might assume they would end by saying that they know all of these.  But as it turns out, the last word was medexgui (don’t know), so actually the speaker knows none of these languages, but we didn’t know until the very last word!

So that is the basic sentence structure: SOV. But now let’s add the time, for example:

I drink coffee in the morning.  In this English sentence, the time is at the end (the morning)

But in Mongolian, it would be: Би өглөө кофе уудаг (I  morning coffee drink) – I drink coffee in the morning. 

Other examples: 

Би орой хоол хийдэг (I evening food make) – I cook in the evening. 

Би өдөр бүр ном уншдаг (I everyday book read) – I read books every day.

Again, as you can see, the time is often after the subject and we have an acronym which will easily help you remember this order.  It is: STOP, Which is: S(subject)+T(time)+O(object)+P(predicate which is verb). So remember to STOP!!

Let’s look at more examples:

Би өчигдөр монгол хэл сурсан (I yesterday study Mongolian.) – I studied Mongolian yesterday. 

Би маргааш хоол хийнэ (I tomorrow make food ) – I will cook tomorrow. 

Би өдөр бүр монгол хэл сурдаг (I everyday Mongolian study) – I study Mongolian every day.

Although the Subject-Object-Verb order is always the same, the TIME may sometimes change, depending on what you emphasize.  Sometimes you can say the time first. For example; 

Өчигдөр би монгол хэл сурсан (Yesterday I Mongolian Studied.) – I studied Mongolian yesterday. 

Маргааш би ном уншина (Tomorrow I book will read ) – I will read a book tomorrow. 

Hopefully, you are still following me, so now we have STOP, but let’s add one last thing to get a bit more advanced:

Let’s add location/place here: 

Би өчигдөр ресторанд оройн хоол идсэн (I yesterday at restaurant dinner ate) – I ate dinner at a restaurant yesterday. 

Би маргааш гэрт оройн хоол иднэ (I tomorrow at home dinner will eat) – I will eat dinner at home tomorrow. 

As you can see the location is added before the object

This is the usual order, but if you really want to emphasize the object, you can sometimes say it before the location. For example; 

Би өчигдөр оройн хоол ресторанд идсэн. I ate dinner at a restaurant yesterday.

Би маргааш оройн хоол гэрт иднэ. I will eat dinner at home tomorrow. 

So in both of these examples, the location is added after the time and the only difference is whether it is before or after the object.

2. Present Simple Tense (V + даг/даггүй4 )

The present tense is used to talk about habitual, repeated, or long-term activity.

For example, Би дандаа алхдаг – I always walk.

даг (-дэг, –дог, –дөг) is added to a verb stem according to the vowel harmony.

даггүй (-дэггүй, –доггүй, –дөггүй) is used for negative.

More examples:

Бид нар ер нь Зайсан явдаг – We usually go to Zaisan.

Бид нар хэзээ ч зах явдаггүй – We never go to the market.

3. Past Simple Tense ( V +  сан4 аа4 гүй)

Past tense suffix –сан (-сэн, –сон, –сөн) is used to describe an action happened at some time in the past.

For example:

Би өчигдөр ажилласан – I worked yesterday.

The negative form is expressed with the suffix –аагүй (-ээгүй, –оогүй, –өөгүй) according to vowel harmony.

Би өчигдөр ажиллаагүй – I didn`t work yesterday.

More examples:

Би өчигдөр сургууль явсан – Yesterday I went to school.

Би өчигдөр дэлгүүр яваагүй – Yesterday I didn’t go to the store.

4. Expressing action in the future (V +  на/хгүй)

-на (-нэ, -но, -нө) is the suffix that expresses an action that will take place in sometime in the future. For example:

Би маргааш ажиллана.                     I will work tomorrow.

Note:   In spoken language the vowels with -на (-нэ, -но, -нө) will be dropped according to the rule where single vowels are always dropped.

хгүй is used for negative form which added to the verb stem.

Би маргааш ажиллахгүй.

х will be added to make Interrogative form.

Та маргааш ажиллах уу? – Will you work tomorrow?

Other examples:

Тэр маргааш зах явна – Tomorrow he/she will go to the market.

Тэр маргааш кафе явахгүй – Tomorrow he/she will not go to the cafe.

More Mongolian grammar formulas with examples

 

Сэдэв/ Topics

Бүтэц/formula

Жишээ/examples

5

Present continuous tense

V +  ж байна

-аа4 гүй байна

-хгүй байна

Тэр одоо ажлаа хийж байна.

He/She is working now.

Жонн ажлаа хийгээгүй байна.

John is not working now.

Тэд нар ажлаа хийхгүй байна.

They are not working now.

6

like/dislike

N + д / т / нд дуртай

V +  х дуртай

х дургүй

Би сүүтэй кофенд дуртай.  Харин хар кофенд дургүй.

I like coffee with milk.  But I don’t like black coffee.

Тэр кино үзэх дуртай.

He/She likes to watch movies.

Харин тэр хоол хийх дургүй.

However, he/she doesn’t like to make food.

7

need

don’t need

Sub + д / т

V + х хэрэгтэй

х хэрэггүй

Надад ном хэрэгтэй. 

I need a book.  

Батад ном хэрэггүй.

Bat doesn’t need a book.

Би эрт босох хэрэгтэй.

I need to wake up early.

Чи эрт босох хэрэггүй.

You don’t need to wake up early.

8

Must/must not

    V + х ёстойх ёсгүй

Би явах ёстой.  Чи явах ёсгүй.

I must go. You must not go.

9

used to

   V + даг4 байсандаггүй байсан

 

Бид нар дандаа зах явдаг байсан.

We always used to go to the market.

Бид нар хэзээ ч зах явдаггүй байсан. 

We never used to go to the market.

10

Past Continuous tense

   V + ж байсанаа4гүй байсан

-хгүй байсан

(an action was meant to happen, but did not)

Тэр унтаж байсан

He/she was sleeping.  

Тэр унтаагүй байсан.

He/She wasn’t sleeping.

Хүүхэд унтахгүй байсан

The child wasn’t sleeping.  (He was supposed to be sleeping) 

 11

Causative voice

Verb+ уул, лгааа4,  га4

Багш надаар ном уншуулсан.

The teacher had me read the book.

Тэр  надаар цонх нээлгэсэн.

He/she had me open the window.

 12

and then

Verb+ аад4

Би өглөө босоод цай уудаг.

I wake up and then drink tea.

 13

If…. then

Verb+ бал4, вал4хгүй бол

Багшийг ирвэл би явна.  Багшийг ирэхгүй бол явахгүй.

If the teacher comes, i’ll go.  If the teacher doesn’t come, I won’t go.

 14

until

Verb+ тал4

Багшийг иртэл би ангид байсан.

I was in the class until the teacher came.

 15

let me, let us

Verb+ я, е, ё

Би маргааш ирье

Let me come tomorrow.  

Хоёулаа кофе ууя.

Let’s go drink coffee the two of us.

 16

Polite command

Verb+ аарай4

Баруун гар тийшээ эргээрэй.

Turn right please.

Дахиад хэлээрэй.

Say it again please.

 17

Wish request

Verb+ аад4 өгөөч

Надад энийг бичээд өгөөч.

Write this for me.

 18

Wish

Verb+ аасай4

Багш хурдан ирээсэй.

I hope the teacher comes quick.

 19

wish in first person

Verb + х юмсан

Би амрах юмсан.

I wish I could get some rest.

 20

can ability

Verb+ чадах

Би морь унаж чадна.

I can ride a horse.

 21

can possibility

Verb+ болох

Та явж болно.

You can go.

 22

want

Verb+ маар4 байнамааргүй байна.

Би эндээс явмаар байна.

I want to go from here.

Би энд баймааргүй байна.

I don’t want to be here.

 23

want

Verb+ х гэсэн юм

Би нэг юм асуух гэсэн юм.

I wanted to ask something.

 24

Do you know, wondering

Verb+ бол? бол уу?

Маргааш гадаа ямар байх бол?

Do you know how it’s gonna be outside tomorrow?

Маргааш бороо орох бол уу?

I wonder, will it rain tomorrow?

 25

probably

Verb+ байх

Маргааш бороо орох байх.

It will probably rain tomorrow.

 26

When

Verb+ хад4, хдаа4

Би ажилдаа явахдаа алхаж явдаг.

When I go to work, I walk.

багшийг ирэхэд тэр байгаагүй.

When the teacher came, he/she wasn’t there.

 27

to, in order to

Verb+ х гэж, -хын тулд

Би жимс авах гэж дэлгүүр явсан.

I went to the store to get some fruit.

 28

as soon as

Verb+ нгуут, нгүүт

Таныг явангуут тэр ирсэн.

As soon as you went, he/she came.

 29

that’s why, cause/reason

тийм учраас

учир = reason

Би завгүй. Тийм учраас явахгүй.

I’m busy.  That’s why I won’t go.

Би завгүй учраас явахгүй.

I am busy, thus (because of this reason) I won’t go.

 30

because

яагаад гэвэл

Би явахгүй яагаад гэвэл завгүй.

I won’t go because I am busy.

 31

before

Verb+ хаас өмнө,

хын өмнө

Би ирэхээс өмнө түүнтэй уулзсан.

Before I came, I met with him/her.

Би ирэхийн өмнө түүнтэй уулзсан.

Before I came, I met with him/her.

 32

-going to, about to

Verb+ х гэж байгаа-х гэж байсан

Би маргааш хөдөө явах гэж байгаа.

Tomorrow I’m gonna go to the countryside.

Би өчигдөр чамтай уулзах гэж байсан.

Yesterday I was about to meet you.

 33

since, after

Verb+ аас хойшсны дараа

Би энд ирснээс хойш түүнийг хараагүй.

I haven’t seen him/her since coming here.

 34

depends on, due to a negative circumstance

Verb+ аас4 болж, болоод

Бороо орсноос болж зам муу болсон.

Because of the rain, the road is bad.

 35

It seems like

юм шиг байна

Гадаа хүйтэн байгаа юм шиг байна.

It seems like it’s cold outside.

 36

even though, even

… ч гэсэн

Би завгүй ч гэсэн очно.

Even though I am busy, I will still come.

Би ч гэсэн завгүй.

Even I am busy

 37

and then, but you know (when telling a story or an event)

тэгсэн чинь

Би чамруу залгасан. Тэгсэн чинь чиний утас холбогдохгүй байсан.

I called you, but then, you know, your phone didn’t connect..

 38

besides, apart from

Түүнээс гадна

Би өнөөдөр хичээлтэй. Тэрнээс гадна хуралтай.

I have a lesson today.  Apart from that I have a meeting.

 39

said that

Verb+ гэж хэлсэн

гэсэн

Тэр маргааш ирнэ гэж хэлсэн.

He/she said they would come.

Тэр маргааш ирнэ гэсэн.

He/she said they would come.

 40

Present Perfect tense

Verb+ чих

Тэр аль хэдийнэ явчихсан.

He/she has already gone.

41 

Objective clause

Тусагдахуун гишүүн өгүүлбэр

Багшийг ирснийг би мэдээгүй.

I didn’t know that the teacher had come.

 42

Adjective clause

Тодотгол гишүүн өгүүлбэр

Багшийн заасан хичээлийг би ойлгосон.

I didn’t understand the lesson that the teacher taught.

 43

Subjective clause

Өгүүлэгдэхүүн гишүүн өгүүлбэр

Түүний сайн сурсан нь сайн ойлгосных.

Because of his studying, he understood well.

 44

Passive voice

Verb+ гд

Би цонх хаасан (active).  Цонх хаагдсан (passive).

I closed the window. The window has been closed.

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