Tibetan Grammar

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WORK IN PROGRESS: the grammar articles are being edited for wiki publication. During editing, the content might be incomplete, out of sequence or even misleading.

Articles on Tibetan Grammar
1. Introduction
2. Formation of the Tibetan Syllable
3. Formation of the Tibetan Word
4. First case: ming tsam
5. agentive particle
6. Connective Particle
7. La don particles
8. La don particles—Notes
9. Originative case
10. Verbs
11. Verbs—Notes
12. Syntactic particles

Tibetan Grammar

by Stefan J. Gueffroy[1] [fka Eckel]


Some words about the content and structure

This is a collection of different points on Tibetan grammar which is used in Rigpa Shedra Tibetan language classes. The aim of this collection is to help students understand the structure of a Tibetan sentence. It is not an argument for, nor a defense of, a personal viewpoint on Tibetan grammar.

This section contains Tibetan script. Without proper Tibetan rendering support configured, you may see other symbols instead of Tibetan script.


This being a collection of points on Tibetan grammar, many ideas and categories are sourced from other works. There are some original contributions such as the category of the (irregular) "verbs of avoidance". A plan exists to give exact sources for every point of grammar and example sentence used.

The main sources are:

  • སུམ་རྟགས་འགྲེལ་པ་ནོར་བུའི་མེ་ལོང་མཁན་ཆེན་ཐུབ་བསྟན་བརྩོན་འགྲུས་
  • བོད་ཀྱི་བྲད་སྤྲོད་ནག་ཊིགཿན་ག་སངས་རྒྱས་བསྟན་དར་
  • བོད་རྒྱ་ཚིག་མཛོད་ཆེན་མོ་
  • མཁན་པོ་གཞན་དགའི་སྤྱོད་འཇུག་གི་མཆད་འགྲེལ་
  • བུདྡྷ་པཱ་ལི་ཏ་མཱུ་ལ་མ་དྷྱ་མ་ཀ་བྲྀཏྟི་
  • འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་གྱི་ཤེས་བྱ་ཀུན་ཁྱབ་མཛོད་
  • འཇུ་མི་ཕམ་འཇམ་དབྱངས་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་རྒྱ་མཚོའི་མཁས་འཇུག་
  • དྭགས་པོའི་ཐར་རྒྱན་
  • Alexander Csoma de Koros: A grammar of the Tibetan Language
  • M. Hahn: Einfuehrung in die Tibetisch Schriftsprache
  • John Rockwell Jr.: A Primer for Classical Literary Tibetan
  • Joe Willson: Translating Buddhism from Tibetan
  • Stephan Beyer: The Classical Tibetan Language
  • Peter Schwieger: Handbuch zur Grammatik der klassischen tibetischen Schriftsprache
  • Nicolas Tournadre: The Classical Tibetan cases and their transcategoriality: From sacred grammar to modern linguistics, Himalayan Linguistics, Vol. 9(2)
  • Rangjung Yeshe Dictionary,
  • Illuminator Dictionary,
  • Chandra Dass Dictionary,
  • Jeffrey Hopkins Tibetan Sanskrit English Dictionary,
  • Paul G. Hackett "A Tibetan Verb Lexicon"


This 'collection of points on Tibetan grammar' there are many categories and structures which are not covered in Tibetan grammar treatises. Where the English grammar heading or subheading has an equivalent Tibetan grammar term, or belongs to a specific case, this is stated.

Under a heading or subheading there might be extra grammar terms added. These are some of the names used in other books.


If Verb forms are given they are given in the following order: past, present, future and imperative (if existing). After the verb forms the classification into ཐ་མི་དད་པ་ and ཐ་དད་པ་ is given in accordance with the བོད་རྒྱ་ཚིག་མཛོད་ཆེན་མོ་ . If it is not given, the reason is that this verb is not considered to be a verb in Tibetan. In the case of a verb classified as ཐ་མི་དད་པ་ which has the grammar of a transitive verb this is indicated through "(trans.gram.)" after the ཐ་མི་དད་པ་

Word by word translations

Word by word translations are written under the Tibetan words. Not all the meanings of each word are given but usually only what is appropriate in the context. If two or more meanings (not just synonyms) are given these are separated by " ; ". Spaces are inserted between the Tibetan words in order to accommodate the word by word translation below. These spaces are not punctuations and don't alter the meaning of the Tibetan. Here the convenience of having the word by word translation is given priority over the layout of the Tibetan.


For convenience there are no diacritics used for Sanskrit etc. If you like to use them please kindly add them.


The phonetics and phonetic descriptions given in the first chapters are extremely rough and not intended as a definitive guide for learning pronunciation. It is widely agreed that without a Tibetan tutor it's nearly impossible to learn correct pronunciation. Even with a tutor it is difficult. Keep in mind that the rules given here might not correspond to the explanations of a tutor. Their pronunciation will depend on their dialect, village, house, family, friends, age, education, favourite movies and in some cases, what they had for breakfast. A Wylie-phonetic hybrid is partially used.

  1. recently adopted