Maltese Grammar



The letters in Maltese are as follows with their IPA and a description:



Dipthong Meaning Example
aj igh from high, right, fight
aw ow from 'cow,' 'bow,' 'how.'
ew A combination of a short ‘e’ and ‘w’ E.g. Mewt - Death
ej ay as in 'may,' 'lay,' 'day.'
ij A combination of 'i' and a lengthened 'y' E.g. hija - iyya
għ + i Same pronunciation as ew
iw A combination of short 'i' and 'w' E.g. liwja - a bend
għ + u Same pronunciation as aw
għ + h Pronunced as 'ħħ' E.g. tagħha - taħħa

Closer look at Maltese script

Interestingly, Maltese scripting has gone through various phases and used to include these letters:

Here are all Maltese consonants with their respective Arabic counterpart:

This makes Maltese one of the easiest European languages to write using Arabic script, despite the Italian influence which forces for non standard Arabic characters to be used.


Definite article

The definite article essentially refers to the word “the”, which is used to denote the noun is a specific object or entity. To form “the” in Maltese, we will need to classify the language’s consonants into 2 categories; Xemxin (Sun consonants) and Qamrin (Moon consonants).

Xemxin (sun consonants): ċ d n r s t x ż z
Qamrin (moon consonants): b f ġ g għ h ħ j k l m p q v w

What makes some letters sunny and others not? Ask the Arabs, I haven’t the slightest clue. With Xemxin, the definite article is formed by adding the first letter of the noun onto the letter “i”. So words starting with N have the article “In-” attached to the word as a prefix, those with S have “Is-”, those with Ċ “Iċ-” and so forth.


Moon letters always use “Il-” as the definite article, attached to the word as a prefix, how simple!


Words starting with two consonants, or with a vowel have the article “L-” attached to the word as a prefix. This is also the case if the previous word finishes in a vowel, as dropping the initial “i” makes a smoother sound.



Maltese has two genders; Male and Female. Gender is important as only adjectives of the same gender of the noun can be paired together (generally).

Some nouns can change gender in some situations, for example the word for “dog” changes gender based on the actual gender of the dog in question (if there is one). As stated, the noun and adjective must match genders, and so being able to change the adjective’s gender to fit the noun is an essential skill. Here are some common rules for performing this:


There are exceptions to better suit Maltese phonetics, and vowels (in typical Semitic fashion) are often omitted, however after practice and experience these will become no trouble. It should also be noted that if the noun is the subject of a verb (the object or person doing the verb), its gender will determine whether which conjugation it will take, but more on this later on, no need to worry now!


Plurals denote several of a noun (Cars, rather than car. Men rather than man). Plural nouns also require the adjective to be in plural form as well, in addition to being in the same gender. For Italian nouns and adjectives, an “i” is added onto the end of the word, or if the final letter of the word is already a vowel, that final vowel is replaced with the “i”



They come after the verb


A comparative is a form of adjective that describes the noun it is linked with as having a higher degree of something in comparison to others. For instance, “ber” is a comparative of “b”, as “stronger” implies one entity has a higher degree of strength than another.

Some words will have their own comparative form that will need to be learned, however for words without there are still options. Using the word “more” before the adjective forms the comparative for adjective deprived of a comparative.


A superlative refers to an adjective that modifies a noun to describe that not only does it have a higher degree of something like the comparative, but that it has the HIGHEST degree of something, like “best” in comparison to just “ber”, which only describes that one entity has more strength than another, while “strongest” implies no entity can even rival with it.

To form the superlative, one adds “L-aktar” before the adjective they wish to make into the superlative.




Maltese uses Semitic roots to derive meanings for words. Roots are based on 3 consonants (called radicals), but infrequently, 4 or 5. Let’s look at some examples:

The root √K-T-B, is used for words related to writing.

Semitic are not just prevalent in Maltese, but also other Semitic languages like Hebrew or Arabic. Words in these languages, with the K-T-B root, will also give you words relating to writing.

Conjugation forms

When conjugating in Maltese, a verb can be conjugated in four ways that will be known as the

Singular Imperative (SI)

Conjugation for present tense when only ony one person or entity performs a verb (Conjugation for imperfect singular)

Plural Imperative (PI)

Conjugation for present tense when several people or entities performs a verb (Conjugation for imperfect plural)

Papa (this is a nickname I’ll denote for this conjugation)

Conjugation for past tense when the speaker or listener (1st person and 2nd person) performs a verb (Conjugation for perfect 1st and 2nd person)


Conjugation for past tense when someone other than speaker or listener (1st person and 2nd person) performs a verb (Conjugation for perfect 3rd person)

These forms will serve as base terminology for the rest of this chapter.

Imperfect (present tense)

the imperfect tense refers to verbs that are done in the present. It is formed by getting SI for when one subject acts out the verb and PI when several subjects act it out, and adding the appropriate suffixes to denote WHO did the verb. The prefixes added for the imperfect are as follows:

There are vague rules that can be used to form PI based on the SI:

Perfect (past tense)

the perfect tense refers to verbs that have already been done in the past, the past tense. Imperfect uses suffixes to denote who performed the verb, while the perfect uses suffixes instead, as well as requiring the mamma and Papa conjugations

Some verbs that end in an “a” or “e” (Italian verbs included here), as well as some shorter verbs follow a slightly different pattern, as demonstrated below:

NOTE: Often the 3rd person female changes irregularly, this will need to be learnt by heart

Imperative mood

The imperative denotes that a verb is a command, an instruction to do a verb, and can be directed to a singular or several entities. This is by far the easiest mood, as the singular form is simply the SI and the plural is the PI.


To turn a verb into it’s negative, The auxiliary verb “ma” is added before the verb. If the verb starts with a vowel, this is shortened to “m’” and is attached directly to the verb. Then the letter “x” is added onto the end of the verb.

For Example:


Subject pronouns

Subject pronouns are important in Maltese as they serve many purposes. Since Maltese (like Arabic) makes limited use of the copula (“To be”), subject pronouns often link words together in the same way as English “is”. They can also be used before verbs to add more emphasis to them, which can make your Maltese sound more authentic when properly employed.


Direct object

The direct object is best described as the “victim” of a verb. It has been said that subject pronouns are often the entity executing the verb, but the direct object represents rather what is on the receiving end of a verb.


Indirect object

Auxiliary verbs


The preposition is followed by the definite article. Prepositions are also joined to sun letters.

Possessive pronouns

To state the owner or origin of an object or entity, possessive pronouns become the main way of describing the ownership of nouns. In Maltese, to link the ownership of one noun to another, “Ta’” can simply be used in between to mean “of”. Otherwise, inflections of “Ta’” (as seen below) and possessive suffixes to add to nouns must be used to describe possession. Here are the required words:

There are irregular cases as usual, these patterns will become apparent as you learn.

Demonstrative pronouns

In English, we often use “this” and “that” to give more context to a noun that is close and distant respectively (in terms of distance or time). Maltese is capable of the same grammatic function, except it will require matching the correct counterpart to the correct gender and plurality of the noun in question. Here are the translations:

That’s a wrap!

Wow, you’ve done well!