The main purpose of the word class of verbs is to express any kind of action performed by any kind living or non-living being. Those actions can happen at the time of expression but also in the past or in the future.

In Tamil, you have to follow a few rules of conjugation in order to master all tenses.

General information

Tamil verb forms can be split into finite and non-finite forms as well as nominalized verb forms. Finite verb forms are the ones that are used as predicates meaning that they are the main action of a sentence. Non-finite verb forms are used either in subclauses or in compound verbs.

Finite verb forms can take the tense, number, person and gender suffixes. The non-finite verb forms only take the tense suffix and even that is only needed in certain cases.

Verb stem

The verb stem is the form of a verb to which you add suffixes to. If you look up a verb in the lexicon, it is this form that you are going to find.

While you can just add suffixes to most of the verbs, there are also some others that have some helper letter in between the stem and the suffixes. Those helpers க்k or க்க்kk are called stops.

Based on the usage of the helpers, verb stems are grouped as weak, middle, and strong verb stems.

Strong verb stems

Verb stems that use the க்க்kk stop are considered strong verb stems. When the suffix that is going to be added to the stem is a vowel, you will automatically add the stop in between. However, if the suffix does not start with a vowel, the stop will not be added


நடnaṭa + க்க்kk + a = நடக்கnaṭakka

In this example, a is the suffix to mark the infinitive (see next chapter) and since this is a vowel, you add the க்க்kk stop in between

நடnaṭa + ந்n = நடந்naṭan

In this example, ந்n is the suffix to mark the past tense (see one of the following chapters) and since this is not a vowel, the க்க்kk stop will be omitted.

Middle verb stems

A verb stem which is using the stop க்k when a suffix is added is called a middle stem. As for the strong verb stem, the stop is only added when the suffix starts with a vowel.


கேள்kēḷ + க்k + a = கேட்கkēṭka

கேள்kēḷ + ட் + ஏன்ēṉ = கேட்டேன்kēṭṭēṉ

Note that in this example the ள் is transformed into ட் because of the suffix and the stop.

Weak verb stems

All other verb stems are called weak. Those have no stops but always use the regular verb stem, no matter what suffix is added.


தூங்குtūṅku + a = தூங்கtūṅka

தூங்குtūṅku + i = தூங்கிtūṅki

The infinitive

The base of every verb is its infinitive form. You can easily identify them by their -அ-a suffix which is added to the verb stem.

Note that the rules of letter transformation still apply as well as that the -உ-u at the end is removed from the verb stems.


கல்kal + a = கற்கkaṟka - to learn

படுpaṭu + a = டுக்கṭukka - to sleep

வரைvarai + a = வரையvaraiya - to draw


The Tamil language basically has three base tenses: Present, Past and Future. As you will learn in the following chapters, you can also construct progressive forms of those three tenses but grammatically there are only three these three tenses.

All these tenses are marked by their corresponding suffixes. However, unfortunately, there are more than one suffix for each tense:

Present Tense
  1. -கின்று-kiṉṟu
  2. -கிறு-kiṟu
Past Tense
  1. -த்-t
  2. -ந்-n
  3. -ன்-ṉ
  4. -ட்-ṭ
  5. -த்த்-tt
Future Tense
  1. -வ்-v
  2. -ப்-p
  3. -ப்ப்-pp

The seven verb classes

Based on how and when those suffixes are used, verbs can be classified into seven classes:

1-கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu-த்-t-வ்-v
2-கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu-ந்-n-வ்-v
3-கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu-ன்-ṉ-வ்-v
4-கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟudoubling-வ்-v
5-கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu-ட்-ṭ-ப்-p
6-கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu-த்த்-tt-ப்ப்-pp
7-கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu-ந்-n-ப்ப்-pp

Some initial hint to figure out which class a verb belongs to is by checking the verb stem and where it belongs to. Weak verb stems belong to the classes 1-4, middle verb stems fall into class 5 and strong verb stems are either class 6 or 7.

Person-Gender-Number suffix

Once you know the class of the verb and thus figured out which suffix to use for the tense you want to build, the next part is building the person-gender-number suffix.

In the chapter about nouns, you learnt about the 10 different personal pronouns used in Tamil. Each of those pronouns also have a suffix that marks the person, gender and then number of the verb form (thus called person-gender-number suffix).

அவன்avaṉ (இவன்ivaṉ, உவன்uvaṉ)-ஆன்-āṉ
அவள்avaḷ (இவள்ivaḷ, உவள்uvaḷ)-ஆள்-āḷ
அதுatu (இதுitu, உதுutu)-து-tu, -அது-atu, -உம்-um
அவர்avar (இவர்ivar, உவர்uvar)-ஆர்-ār
நாங்கள்nāṅkaḷ, நாம்nām-ஓம்-ōm

With the knowledge of these suffixes, we can now build the verb form in the tense, gender, person and number we need.

Let's go through each class so that you get a good idea, how they are built.


As you might have noticed, a single verb form in Tamil is enough to build an entire sentence: படித்தோம்paṭittōm

If you want to analyze this, split the verb into its suffixes starting from the ending until you only have the verb stem left:

  • ஓம்ōm ⇒ 3rd person plural
  • த்த்tt ⇒ past tense, verb class 6
  • படிpaṭi ⇒ verb stem of "to learn"

So the translation for படித்தோம் is: We learned

The 7 verb classes

For each verb class, you will see a table with examples and notes about each class.

Class 1: -கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu, -த்-t, -வ்-v

Using the word அழுaḻu to cry as an example:

1. Sgஅழுகின்றேன்aḻukiṉṟēṉஅழுதேன்aḻutēṉஅழுவேன்aḻuvēṉ
2. Sgஅழுகின்றாய்aḻukiṉṟāyஅழுதாய்aḻutāyஅழுவாய்aḻuvāy
3. Sg (m)அழுகின்றான்aḻukiṉṟāṉஅழுதான்aḻutāṉஅழுவான்aḻuvāṉ
3. Sg (f)அழுகின்றாள்aḻukiṉṟāḷஅழுதாள்aḻutāḷஅழுவாள்aḻuvāḷ
3. Sg (n)அழுகின்றதுaḻukiṉṟatuஅழுததுaḻutatuஅழும்aḻum
3. Sg (hon)அழுகின்றார்aḻukiṉṟārஅழுதார்aḻutārஅழுவார்aḻuvār
1. Plஅழுகின்றோம்aḻukiṉṟōmஅழுதோம்aḻutōmஅழுவோம்aḻuvōm
2. Plஅழுகின்றீர்கள்aḻukiṉṟīrkaḷஅழுதீர்கள்aḻutīrkaḷஅழுவீர்கள்aḻuvīrkaḷ
3. Plஅழுகின்றார்கள்aḻukiṉṟārkaḷஅழுதார்கள்aḻutārkaḷஅழுவார்கள்aḻuvārkaḷ
3. Pl (n)அழுகின்றனaḻukiṉṟaṉaஅழுதனaḻutaṉaஅழும்aḻum

The 3rd person-singular-neuter does not include the -வ்-v for the future tense. That is because combining the -உ-u from the அழுaḻu and the -உ-u from -உம்-um swallow the -வ்-v.

Also, the 3rd person-plural-neuter looks the same for the future tense as the singular version. You will notice that it's the case in all classes


You will also notice that the present suffixes can both be used interchangeably. It doesn't matter in any class whether you use -கின்று-kiṉṟu or -கிறு-kiṟu. It's mostly decided from dialect to dialect what suffix people prefer for which verb class.

So அழுகின்றேன்aḻukiṉṟēṉ and அழுகிறேன்aḻukiṟēṉ are both correct and well used in Tamil.

Class 2: -கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu, -ந்-n, -வ்-v

Using the word விழுviḻu to fall as an example:

1. Sgவிழுகின்றேன்viḻukiṉṟēṉவிழுந்தேன்viḻuntēṉவிழுவேன்viḻuvēṉ
2. Sgவிழுகின்றாய்viḻukiṉṟāyவிழுந்தாய்viḻuntāyவிழுவாய்viḻuvāy
3. Sg (m)விழுகின்றான்viḻukiṉṟāṉவிழுந்தான்viḻuntāṉவிழுவான்viḻuvāṉ
3. Sg (f)விழுகின்றாள்viḻukiṉṟāḷவிழுந்தாள்viḻuntāḷவிழுவாள்viḻuvāḷ
3. Sg (n)விழுகின்றதுviḻukiṉṟatuவிழுந்ததுviḻuntatuவிழும்viḻum
3. Sg (hon)விழுகின்றார்viḻukiṉṟārவிழுந்தார்viḻuntārவிழுவார்viḻuvār
1. Plவிழுகின்றோம்viḻukiṉṟōmவிழுந்தோம்viḻuntōmவிழுவோம்viḻuvōm
2. Plவிழுகின்றீர்கள்viḻukiṉṟīrkaḷவிழுந்தீர்கள்viḻuntīrkaḷவிழுவீர்கள்viḻuvīrkaḷ
3. Plவிழுகின்றார்கள்viḻukiṉṟārkaḷவிழுந்தார்கள்viḻuntārkaḷவிழுவார்கள்viḻuvārkaḷ
3. Pl (n)விழுகின்றனviḻukiṉṟaṉaவிழுந்தனviḻuntaṉaவிழும்viḻum

Class 3: -கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu, -ன்-ṉ, -வ்-v

Using the word தூங்குtūṅku to sleep as an example:

1. Sgதூங்குகின்றேன்tūṅkukiṉṟēṉதூங்கினேன்tūṅkiṉēṉதூங்குவேன்tūṅkuvēṉ
2. Sgதூங்குகின்றாய்tūṅkukiṉṟāyதூங்கினாய்tūṅkiṉāyதூங்குவாய்tūṅkuvāy
3. Sg (m)தூங்குகின்றான்tūṅkukiṉṟāṉதூங்கினான்tūṅkiṉāṉதூங்குவான்tūṅkuvāṉ
3. Sg (f)தூங்குகின்றாள்tūṅkukiṉṟāḷதூங்கினாள்tūṅkiṉāḷதூங்குவாள்tūṅkuvāḷ
3. Sg (n)தூங்குகின்றதுtūṅkukiṉṟatuதூங்கியதுtūṅkiyatuதூங்கும்tūṅkum
3. Sg (hon)தூங்குகின்றார்tūṅkukiṉṟārதூங்கினார்tūṅkiṉārதூங்குவார்tūṅkuvār
1. Plதூங்குகின்றோம்tūṅkukiṉṟōmதூங்கினோம்tūṅkiṉōmதூங்குவோம்tūṅkuvōm
2. Plதூங்குகின்றீர்கள்tūṅkukiṉṟīrkaḷதூங்கினீர்கள்tūṅkiṉīrkaḷதூங்குவீர்கள்tūṅkuvīrkaḷ
3. Plதூங்குகின்றார்கள்tūṅkukiṉṟārkaḷதூங்கினார்கள்tūṅkiṉārkaḷதூங்குவார்கள்tūṅkuvārkaḷ
3. Pl (n)தூங்குகின்றனtūṅkukiṉṟaṉaதூங்கினtūṅkiṉaதூங்கும்tūṅkum

When the third person singular neuter suffix -அது-atu is added to the tense marker for the past tense -இன்-iṉ, the marker is simplified to -இ-i. And as per letter transformation rules, -இ-i + -அ-a needs a -ய்-y in between. That's how தூங்குtūṅku + இன்iṉ (இ)(i) + அதுatu becomes தூங்கியதுtūṅkiyatu.


As you might have noticed in Class 1 and 2 for the 3rd person plural neuter present tense and past tense, you always add a -அன்-aṉ in between tense suffix and the person-gender-number suffix. This is the case for every case, except for Class 3.

Or in other words, you could see the person-gender-number suffix of the 3rd-person-neuter-plural as -அன-aṉa and the exception is that it is -அ-a for the 3rd verb class.

Class 4: -கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu, doubling, -வ்-v

Using the word போடுpōṭu to put as an example:

1. Sgபோடுகின்றேன்pōṭukiṉṟēṉபோட்டேன்pōṭṭēṉபோடுவேன்pōṭuvēṉ
2. Sgபோடுகின்றாய்pōṭukiṉṟāyபோட்டாய்pōṭṭāyபோடுவாய்pōṭuvāy
3. Sg (m)போடுகின்றான்pōṭukiṉṟāṉபோட்டான்pōṭṭāṉபோடுவான்pōṭuvāṉ
3. Sg (f)போடுகின்றாள்pōṭukiṉṟāḷபோட்டாள்pōṭṭāḷபோடுவாள்pōṭuvāḷ
3. Sg (n)போடுகின்றதுpōṭukiṉṟatuபோட்டதுpōṭṭatuபோடும்pōṭum
3. Sg (hon)போடுகின்றார்pōṭukiṉṟārபோட்டார்pōṭṭārபோடுவார்pōṭuvār
1. Plபோடுகின்றோம்pōṭukiṉṟōmபோட்டோம்pōṭṭōmபோடுவோம்pōṭuvōm
2. Plபோடுகின்றீர்கள்pōṭukiṉṟīrkaḷபோட்டிர்கள்pōṭṭirkaḷபோடுவீர்கள்pōṭuvīrkaḷ
3. Plபோடுகின்றார்கள்pōṭukiṉṟārkaḷபோட்டார்கள்pōṭṭārkaḷபோடுவார்கள்pōṭuvārkaḷ
3. Pl (n)போடுகின்றனpōṭukiṉṟaṉaபோட்டனpōṭṭaṉaபோடும்pōṭum

This speciality of this class is the fact that the past tense does not have a fixed suffix. Instead, you would double the consonant of the last syllable. Almost all verbs of this class end on either -டு-ṭu or -று-ṟu. Important: Not all verbs ending on those letters belong to this class.


Belong to this class

Do not belong to this class

Class 5: -கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu, -த்-t, -ப்-p

Using the word கேள்kēḷ to ask as an example:

1. Sgகேட்கின்றேன்kēṭkiṉṟēṉகேட்டேன்kēṭṭēṉகேட்பேன்kēṭpēṉ
2. Sgகேட்கின்றாய்kēṭkiṉṟāyகேட்டாய்kēṭṭāyகேட்பாய்kēṭpāy
3. Sg (m)கேட்கின்றான்kēṭkiṉṟāṉகேட்டான்kēṭṭāṉகேட்பான்kēṭpāṉ
3. Sg (f)கேட்கின்றாள்kēṭkiṉṟāḷகேட்டாள்kēṭṭāḷகேட்பாள்kēṭpāḷ
3. Sg (n)கேட்கின்றதுkēṭkiṉṟatuகேட்டதுkēṭṭatuகேட்கும்kēṭkum
3. Sg (hon)கேட்கின்றார்kēṭkiṉṟārகேட்டார்kēṭṭārகேட்பார்kēṭpār
1. Plகேட்கின்றோம்kēṭkiṉṟōmகேட்டோம்kēṭṭōmகேட்போம்kēṭpōm
2. Plகேட்கின்றீர்கள்kēṭkiṉṟīrkaḷகேட்டிர்கள்kēṭṭirkaḷகேட்பீர்கள்kēṭpīrkaḷ
3. Plகேட்கின்றார்கள்kēṭkiṉṟārkaḷகேட்டார்கள்kēṭṭārkaḷகேட்பார்கள்kēṭpārkaḷ
3. Pl (n)கேட்கின்றனkēṭkiṉṟaṉaகேட்டனkēṭṭaṉaகேட்கும்kēṭkum

This 5th class is a class of irregular verbs. Luckily, however, there aren't that many verbs that belong to this class. The most important ones are:

  1. காண்kāṇ - to see
  2. தின்னுtiṉṉu - to eat
  3. கேளுkēḷu - to hear
  4. வில்லுvillu - to sell
  5. நில்லுnillu - to stay/stand

By rule, the past tense suffix for this class is -த்-t but transformation rules lead to have totally different suffixes that can be categorized in 4 different sub classes.

Verbs of this class that end on -ண்-ṇ: The suffix becomes -ட்-ṭ


காண்kāṇ —> கண்டேன்kaṇṭēṉ

(Note: காண்kāṇ becoming கண்kaṇ is a irregularity of this particular verb)

Verbs of this class that end on -ன்-ṉ: The suffix becomes -ற்-ṟ


தின்tiṉ —> தின்றேன்tiṉṟēṉ

Verbs of this that end on -ள்-ḷ: The suffix becomes -ட்-ṭ (as in 1.) and additionally the -ள்-ḷ itself becomes a -ட்-ṭ, too. (This is the sub class from the example table)


கேள்kēḷ —> கேட்டேன்kēṭṭēṉ

Verbs of this class that end on -ல்-l: The suffix becomes -ற்-ṟ (as in 2.) and additionally the -ல்-l itself becomes a -ற்-ṟ, too.


வில்vil 「vil」 —> விற்றேன்viṟṟēṉ
நில்nil —> நின்றேன்niṉṟēṉ

(Note: The -ல்-l turning into -ன்-ṉ is an irregularity of this particular verb)

Class 6: -கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu, -த்த்-tt, -ப்ப்-pp

Using the word படிpaṭi to learn as an example:

1. Sgபடிக்கின்றேன்paṭikkiṉṟēṉபடித்தேன்paṭittēṉபடிப்பேன்paṭippēṉ
2. Sgபடிக்கின்றாய்paṭikkiṉṟāyபடித்தாய்paṭittāyபடிப்பாய்paṭippāy
3. Sg (m)படிக்கின்றான்paṭikkiṉṟāṉபடித்தான்paṭittāṉபடிப்பான்paṭippāṉ
3. Sg (f)படிக்கின்றாள்paṭikkiṉṟāḷபடித்தாள்paṭittāḷபடிப்பாள்paṭippāḷ
3. Sg (n)படிக்கின்றதுpaṭikkiṉṟatuபடித்ததுpaṭittatuபடிக்கும்paṭikkum
3. Sg (hon)படிக்கின்றார்paṭikkiṉṟārபடித்தார்paṭittārபடிப்பார்paṭippār
1. Plபடிக்கின்றோம்paṭikkiṉṟōmபடித்தோம்paṭittōmபடிப்போம்paṭippōm
2. Plபடிக்கின்றீர்கள்paṭikkiṉṟīrkaḷபடித்தீர்கள்paṭittīrkaḷபடிப்பீர்கள்paṭippīrkaḷ
3. Plபடிக்கின்றார்கள்paṭikkiṉṟārkaḷபடித்தார்கள்paṭittārkaḷபடிப்பார்கள்paṭippārkaḷ
3. Pl (n)படிக்கின்றனpaṭikkiṉṟaṉaபடித்தனpaṭittaṉaபடிக்கும்paṭikkum

This class basically the same as the first verb class with the different that the suffix is doubled because of the strong verb that fall into this class. As you might have noticed, the present tense also doubles the -க்-k of -கின்று-kiṉṟu/-கிறு-kiṟu

Class 7: -கின்று-kiṉṟu / -கிறு-kiṟu, -ந்த்-nt, -ப்ப்-pp

Using the word நடnaṭa to walk as an example:

1. Sgநடக்கின்றேன்naṭakkiṉṟēṉநடந்தேன்naṭantēṉநடப்பேன்naṭappēṉ
2. Sgநடக்கின்றாய்naṭakkiṉṟāyநடந்தாய்naṭantāyநடப்பாய்naṭappāy
3. Sg (m)நடக்கின்றான்naṭakkiṉṟāṉநடந்தான்naṭantāṉநடப்பான்naṭappāṉ
3. Sg (f)நடக்கின்றாள்naṭakkiṉṟāḷநடந்தாள்naṭantāḷநடப்பாள்naṭappāḷ
3. Sg (n)நடக்கின்றதுnaṭakkiṉṟatuநடந்ததுnaṭantatuநடக்கும்naṭakkum
3. Sg (hon)நடக்கின்றார்naṭakkiṉṟārநடந்தார்naṭantārநடப்பார்naṭappār
1. Plநடக்கின்றோம்naṭakkiṉṟōmநடந்தோம்naṭantōmநடப்போம்naṭappōm
2. Plநடக்கின்றீர்கள்naṭakkiṉṟīrkaḷநடந்தீர்கள்naṭantīrkaḷநடப்பீர்கள்naṭappīrkaḷ
3. Plநடக்கின்றார்கள்naṭakkiṉṟārkaḷநடந்தார்கள்naṭantārkaḷநடப்பார்கள்naṭappārkaḷ
3. Pl (n)நடக்கின்றனnaṭakkiṉṟaṉaநடந்தனnaṭantaṉaநடக்கும்naṭakkum

Looking at the tables above might make you think that tenses are a difficult topic. Indeed, the past tense is probably the most difficult part of Tamil Grammar. Especially the amount of suffixes you have to remember looks and feels really complicated.

However, in reality, you will learn what class a verb belongs to when you learn the verb itself and in the long term, you will have used each verb class often enough that you can correctly guess the verb class of a verb without having to explicitly learn it.

Children that learn Tamil from the very young age never learn explicitly that there are seven verb classes and that they all have different suffixes. It's all practice and using the verbs regularly. When you have a look at all the tense suffixes and example and read them out loud, you will notice that the past tense always sounds similar, regardless of which class. And after a few weeks of practice, you will be able to hear the tense when someone uses a verb without exactly knowing the verb class or suffix.

Irregular verbs

Apart from the seven verb classes, including the fifth which already comes with some irregularities, there is a small number of verbs that don't fit into any of these classes:

  1. There are a few verbs that have a custom past tense


The suffix here is -ன்-ṉ as you have seen in the 5th verb class already

  1. Some verbs change the verb stem for the past tense


In this example, the verb stem ending changes from being a long -a to a short -e

You will come across this small number of verbs during your language learning journey and you will be able to pick them up along the way. Don't worry about them now.

Progressive tenses

While Tamil Grammar books usually teach that the three tenses are to be interpreted depending on the context, there is also a way that can be used to explicitly express progressive tenses.

A progressive tense describes something ongoing happening at a specific time in the present, past or future.


I'm playing → It's present and I play (and keep playing) I was playing → It was the past and I played then (and kept playing) I will be playing → It will be the future and I will play then (and keep playing)

In Tamil, these forms can be explicitly expressed, too, without relying on the context. Therefore, you will need the help of the past tense suffix of a verb, the word கொண்டுkoṇṭu and the verb இருiru


verb stem + past tense suffix + u / i கொண்டுkoṇṭu இருiru + tense suffix + person-gender-number suffix

For example

படிpaṭi + த்த்tt + u கொண்டுkoṇṭu இருiru + கின்றுkiṉṟu + ஏன்ēṉ
படித்துpaṭittu கொண்டுkoṇṭu இருக்கின்றேன்irukkiṉṟēṉ

I am learning

You add the past-tense suffix together with u (or for the third verb class it's i) to the verb stem and then the word கொண்டுkoṇṭu and finally the form of the word இருiru in the tense and person that you are talking about.

இருiru means to sit or to stay and கொண்டுkoṇṭu is used for something like with. So to describe the progressive tense in Tamil, you can say that you are/were staying/sitting with doing something else then.


Using the past tense with -உ-u (or -இ-i) suffixes is called verb participle and is something that we will cover in the last part of the book when dealing with more complex sentences.