Grammar of verbs

Verbs play an important role in sentence structure in Nûrlâm as they carry grammatical information not only about action itself but also about subject and sometimes object. Verbs are inflected in person, tense, aspect, mood and voice.

Forming and dictionary form

In Black Speech dictionaries verbs are given not in infinitive form but as root with hyphen indicating that verbs are rarely occurred without suffixes. Infinitives are formed by adding suffix -ut. However bare verb's stem corresponds to Imperative mood which is believed to be heard most often in life of Sauron's servants. There is no special derivational suffix for making verbs from other lexical categories, so verbs are made by adding markers of infinitive or tense, person and other grammatical categories.

Certain verbs require their objects to be in specific case or may even change their meaning depending on object's case. This information will be provided in Nûrlâm dictionary, which is a long-term, far future project however.

Valency and transitivity

Valency is the number or arguments (subject and objects) controlled by predicate (usually verb). Transitivity counts only number of verb's objects.

Valency Subject Number of objects Transitivity
0 (avalent, impersonal) no 0 intransitive
1 (monovalent) yes 0
2 (divalent) 1 transitive
3 (trivalent) 2 ditransitive
4 (quadrivalent) 3 tritransitive

Unlike Zhâburi, in Nûrlâm transitivity does not affect the morphology of verbs (no additional suffixes). However suffixes and (see below) in some subdialects may mark only transitive verbs with nominal subject.

Some verbs have different forms for transitive and intransitive, for example “fauth-” means “hide self, lurk” while “shkal-” means “hide something or somebody else”.

But majority of verbs can change valency depending on situation. Compare “I eat” (1) with “I eat flesh” (2) and “I eat flesh with bare hands” (3). It may be hard to count valency for English-speakers as pronouns can be attached to the verb like in examples before (“Dathrak”, “Dathrak âps”, “Dathrak âps nâkhsha”). But these translations into Black Speech can be translated into other languages (like Russian) with exact the same number of words (“ем” etc.) as valid sentences. Therefore in Nûrlâm verb “eat” in these examples have the valency one less than in English.

Editor note: it's not clear how to count valency when subject consists of many words like “me and my boys”, “Shagrat and Gorbag”, “orcs, humans and elves”. Looks like they treated as one, but this is not for sure.

Person and number

The way of verb's inflection in person was changed through (internal) history of language, so better consult separate page on this topic. Below is the description of “standard” version of Nûrlâm language preferable by it's author.

If subject is a personal pronoun then it's usually spelled with verb together in one word, so they may be treated as prefixes of person. Nouns and other types of pronouns belong to 3rd person, and their verb is marked with suffixes (singular) or (plural). So it can be said, that subject's grammatical number is marked in the verb's ending. Example:

Tark matâ Human dies
Tark matû Humans die

Suffix is often skipped when word “ash” (one) is the subject. In some subdialects these suffixes may be used only with transitive verbs.


Tense references the time of described action relatively to the moment of speaking. There are three simple tenses in Black Speech: past, present and future. Any additional tenses of English are treated as different aspects of verb. All verbs are conjugated regularly except the “kul” (to be) and pseudo-verb “gâkh”.

Tense Suffix
Past -uz
Present -∅ (zero-ending)
Future -ub

English Present Perfect is usually rendered as Past tense in Black Speech. Future Continuous is translated with special form (“to be” in future tense + infinitive).

Suffix -ulg of Subjunctive mood may be treated as special Future-in-the-Past tense.


Additional tenses found in some languages, like English continuous and specially various perfect forms found in many languages, are considered different aspects of the same tense. Aspect is marked by short clitic adverb in Black Speech. The table below shows most common of such clitics.

Suffix Literal meaning Usage
-âzh slightly, partially Incomplete action, can be translated as English continuous tenses but do not require any details on time or duration of action
-ok always, usually Repeated, regular, iterative action
-ûk completely, fully Complete action, usually translated as Perfect tenses (except Present)


Voice denotes relationship between action, subject and object. There are two voices in standard Nûrlâm: active and passive. When subject is the agent (doer) of the action the voice is called active. When subject is the target, patient or undergoer of the action then the verb is passive. Standard Nûrlâm uses mostly active voice. Passive voice may be expressed by adding suffix -âk before markers of tense or using participles and sometimes with impersonal constructions.

When direct object is the reflexive pronoun -îm (“self”) added to the verb as a clitic, it may be analyzed as reflexive voice. But because this term is uncommon this wiki will rarely use it. Example:

Nûrlâm tadoguzîm
Analysis 3SG=dog-TNS.PST=REFL
Translation he killed himself

Markers of grammatical voice do not have fixed position in Nûrlâm.


Mood shows speaker/writer's attitude to the sentence they describe. It has strong connection to the syntax of language as the mood is usually expressed both with special grammatical forms, syntactical constructions and/or word order. Special grammatical forms include: indicative (tense and person markers), imperative (dictionary form, no markers), subjunctive (-ulg with no following markers), interrogative (-mar-). Grammatical mood is closely connected to modal verbs, however Nûrlâm doesn't truly have them.

Nonfinite forms

Tolkien stated that ending -at considered by early researchers as infinitive is in fact closer to a participle, so it may be not a true infinitive, but some special nonfinite form of verb with functions of gerund, infinitive of purpose and present/future participle.

Nonfinite forms of Nûrlâm's verbs include Infinitive, Participles and Gerundive which can take various roles in the sentence. Nûrlâm has no such distinct forms as Supin or Gerund (usually replaced by infinitives or nouns with abstract suffix -urm or -aut, but gerundives may be translated back to English as gerund with preposition “for”).

Gerundive, infinitive, participle and regular verb may compose one predicate: “The ring was created to make people obey” ⇒ “Nazgum kuzâ krampaga ikhat hai bûrtut”. Where “was created” (= “kuzâ krampaga”) is verb + participle, “to make” was translated with gerundive “ikhat” as it denotes purpose, and “obey” was translated with infinitive “bûrtut”.

Suffix chain

Verb's affix chain can be rather long.

Position Meaning
Standard Modern/colloquial speech
-4 person (subject/agent pronoun)
(da-, fi-, ta-)
-3 negation
-2 interrogative mood
-1 derivational prefix
(kru-, ri-, thu-)
0 root
1 passive voice marker
2 tense
(-ub, -uz)
subjunctive mood
suffixes of nonfinite forms
(infinitive or participles: -at, -ut, -ag, -uga, etc.)
3 number/3rd person clitic1)
(-â, -û)
number of participle
(-û, -z)
3a auxiliary suffix -t-
(used only between positions 2 and 3, 2 and 4, 2 and 5;
absent if position 2 is final)
4 object pronoun2) object pronoun3)
reflexive pronoun
cooperative marker
5 derivational suffix
(usually some clitic adverb or adposition)
6 aspect
(clitic adverb: -ûk, -ok, -âzh)

Derivational suffixes in position 4 may be similar to suffixes of aspect or even be counted so, but verbs may have two aspect-like clitic adverbs, then more common ones go later in position 5. Negation, mood and derivational affixes are standalone words in Colloquial Nûrlâm.

only when subject is not a personal pronoun, e.g. noun, relative or indefinite pronoun
only in accusative/objective or absolutive case
only with 3rd person accusative
grammar_verb.txt · Last modified: 2022/11/07 00:59 (external edit)