Get your ‘ng’ and ‘nang’ right

Can’t believe we’re still taking this lesson in 2020

I love sharing all kinds of dumb, Filipino humor memes on Facebook. If I find something off and below the belt, I report it—racist, homophobic, bigot memes that amplify nonexistent edge cred, and sentences with the wrong usage of “ng” and “nang.”

The last one need not be a debate as opposed to the burgeoning need for scholarly Tagalog words in educational discussions, or even nepotism in the music industry, but interchanging “ng” and “nang” in casual settings has been normalized for years their correct usage don’t hold much weight in online contexts. So much so that college students are able to get away with their wrong usage in their academic essays.

Both long and short form trace back to the Spanish era, and the writers of their time were just as confused as we were. There was only the word “nang,” as evidenced in Doctrina Christiana (1953), the first book ever printed in the Philippines. Later, Dr. Jose Rizal proposed to abbreviate the word and incorporate a tilde to represent its sound, thus the birth of “ñg.” It was only in 1940 that Lope K. Santos standardized the rules of using “nang” and “ng” without a tilde to signify a multitude of meanings.

Its telling history, however, doesn’t excuse this generation’s bad habit. We use these words with great frequency, and they’re confusing because we don’t care about spellings in conversations, nor are we decent enough to dot our i’s and cross our t’s in chat box exchanges.

But if we’re looking at the bigger picture, maybe this carelessness also testifies to our detachment  from the mother tongue: How English proficiency correlates with the social classes in the Philippines, how we glorify conyo speak, the urge to call out OP (note: original poster; that’s what they call it online) on “stuffs” and grammar errors, and yet we can’t get our “ng” and “nang” right.

According to Virgilio Almario, we should start with the rules of nang, an adverb, because there are only five situations where you can use it.

1. When you mean to say “noong (when).”

Nang ma-inlove ako sayo‘kala ko pag-ibig mo ay tunay (When I fell in love with you, I thought your love was true).—Salbakuta

2. When answering the question “bakit (why),” or you mean to say “upang (to)” and “para (so that).

“Huwag ka lumabas nang matauhan ka (I forbid you to go out so that you can learn from your mistakes).”—your mom

3. When you mean a contraction of “na” +“ng.”

“Sobra nang hirap ang dinadanas natin ngayong pandemic (We’ve been suffering too much during the pandemic).all of us

4. When answering the question “paano (how).”

Haluin mo ito nang mabuti (Mix it well).”—your friend who sells ube pandesal

5. When you mean to join repeated words.

Haluin mo nang haluin para lumapot (Whisk it repeatedly until it thickens).”—your friend who’s making Dalgona coffee

You can use “ng” for the rest of your problems.

1. If it answers the question “ano” (what), and conjuncts the verb to its actor or object.

“Gusto ko kumain ng sisig (I want to eat sisig). —me

“Pabili nga po ng kapeng matapang, ‘yung kaya akong ipaglaban (Can I buy strong coffee, which can also fight for me)?—you, probably

2. If it means “of” in English.

Ito ang simula ng katapusan. (This is the beginning of the end.)”

African-Americans have adapted vernacular language in their school systems that double negatives and slangs are deemed acceptable in their everyday conversations, press, literature, music, film, and television. In the Philippines, there’s no subculture that can justify a technical error other than pure neglect on the part of students and even teachers, although there are still other factors to consider like an interference of a language on the process of learning another language. We can also say that homophones, in general, befuddle us.

Remember that in applied linguistics, you can’t make an “error” out of something you know or you have studied. Say, if you’re a Filipino still perplexed by the correct usage of “ng” and “nang” upon reading this, then it’s just you committing the same “mistakes” all over again.