Grammar » 41 » Telling Time

To tell time in Inuktut, we use affixes that describe the motion of the hands around a clock. We use affixes that describe motion in relation to the hour that it is approcahing or the hour that has passed.

In the South Qikiqtaaluk dialect, to describe the hours of the clock, one uses roots that have been adopted from the English words for numbers:

uan one
tuu two
talii three
pua four
pai five
satsit six
saipan seven
iit eight
nain nine
tajan ten
iliapan eleven
tuajat twelve


-muuq- is an affix used to talk about getting to someplace.  When telling time, we use the affix -muuq- to indicate that the little hand of the clock (naittua) has reached a certain hour:

uamuuqtuq It's one o'clock.
tuumuuqtuq It's two o'clock.

* We have spelled out the numbers so you have a sense of pronunciation.  In written Inuktitut, you would normally use a numeral:

1-muuqtuq 2-muuqtuq

-miinngaaq- is an affix to describe coming from the place described by the root. By combining it with the affix -liq- we emphasize that short hand is actively moving away from the hour:

uamiinngaaliqtuq (1-miinngaaliqtuq) It is after 1.
tuumiinngaaliqtuq (2-miinngaaliqtuq) It is after 2.
paimiinngaaliqtuq (5-miinngaaliqtuq) It is after 5.

Anytime between the beginning of the hour until half past the hour, use -miinngaaliq- with the hour that has just been past. 

When we get to half past the hour, the naittua (short hand) is now on its way towards the next hour.  So we use the hour that is coming up with the affixes -muuq- + -liq-.  When they are put together, they indicate a motion that is underway but the ultimate destination has not been reached:

tuumuuliqtuq It is going on 2 o’clock.
iliapamuuliqtuq It is going on 11 o’clock.

This construction can be used for anytime after the half hour.



Next, let's look at the ending -qat, which roughly means ‘when’ to talk about future events

Qatsimuuqqa? What time is it?
1-muuqtuq. It is 1:00.
Qatsimuuqqat At what time (will something be happening)?
1-muuqqat. At 1:00 (litterally, when it gets to 1).
1-miinngaaliqqat. After 1:00 (future).
1-muuliqqat. Before 1:00 (future)

As you can see in the examples above, -qat can be used both to ask a question and to make a statement.



As for events in the past, we can use the ending -ngat:, which roughly means ‘when’ to talk about past events:

Qatsimuurngat? At what time (did it happen)?
2-muurngat. At 2:00. (litterally, when it got to 2).
2-miinngaalirngat. After 2:00 (past).
2-muulirngat. Before 2:00 (past).

You can see that -ngat changes the final q of roots to r.