To Be

The idea of “to be” as expressed by stand-alone verbs has two main categories in Otoe-Missouria.  First is the idea of being in possession of a certain quality.  For example, a phrase like “I am wise” would fall under this category, however most of the time such a phrase would simply be expressed via verb conjugation rather than the use of the stand-alone verb “to be”.  For example:


I am wise. – Thabeda nyi ke. (using stand-alone verb “to be”)

I am wise. – Hįnthabeda ke. (using verb conjugation…this is the most common usage)


The second category of stand-alone “to be” verbs refer to position.  This refers to someone or something being somewhere.  Sentences such as these include “He is in the house”, “She is outside,” or “There was a village.”  In Otoe-Missouria, what is also included along with the idea of “to be” is the position that the subject is in.  These positions are lying, sitting, standing, and moving around.  If the position information is unknown to the speaker or if an extended amount of time is being expressed, the positional “moving around” verb is used.

For our purposes, these two categories will be referred to as “to be” and “positional ‘to be'”.



Here are the conjugations of this category of verbs to express I am, you are, etc.


I am – nyi

you are – sdį

you-all are – sdįwi

he/she/it is – are

we (2) are – hįnyi

we (3+) are – nyiwi or hįnyiwi

they (definite) are – arewi

they (indefinite) are – arenye


As mentioned above, these verbs express the possession of a certain quality or characteristic.  These are often omitted in favor of conjugating a verb.  These can also be used to express “to be” with non-verbs.  For example:


Jiwere-Nut’achi nyi ke/ki. – I am an Otoe-Missouria.

Clark Kent Superman are ke/ki. – Clark Kent is Superman.

Sunge are ke/ki. – It is a horse.



These terms refer to the subject being somewhere and in a certain position.  So instead of identifying something or giving it a quality or characteristic, the positional “to be” verbs express where someone or something is and what position.  There are four positions that can be expressed.  These are lying, sitting, standing, and moving around.  These terms are:


he/she is (while in a lying position) – hąnge

he/she is (while in a sitting position) – nąnge

he/she is (while in a standing position) – dąhe

he/she is (while moving around) – nąhe


If the position is unknown or if the expression covers a length of time (such as “He was in Ponca City for two weeks.”), the term nąhe is used.

Each of the above terms are the third-person singular form which means they can be conjugated to express “I am”, “they are”, etc.  These conjugations are:



I am (while in a lying position) – mąnge

you are (while in a lying position) – swąnge

you-all are (while in a lying position) – aswąnge or aswąngewi

he/she/it is (while in a lying position) – hąnge

we (2) are (while in a lying position) – hįhąnge

we (3+) are (while in a lying position) – hahąnge

they (definite) are (while in a lying position) – hąngewi or hąngawi

they (indefinite) are (while in a lying position) – ahąnge



I am (while in a sitting position) – nąnge

you are (while in a sitting position) – sdąnge

you-all are (while in a sitting position) – asdąnge or asdąngewi

he/she/it is (while in a sitting position) – nąnge

we (2) are (while in a sitting position) – hįnąnge

we (3+) are (while in a sitting position) – hanąnge

they (definite) are (while in a sitting position) – nąngewi or nąngawi

they (indefinite) are (while in a sitting position) – anąnge



I am (while in a standing position) – hadąhe

you are (while in a standing position) – radąse

you-all are (while in a standing position) – radąsewi

he/she/it is (while in a standing position) – dąhe

we (2) are (while in a standing position) – hįndąhe

we (3+) are (while in a standing position) – hadąhe

they (definite) are (while in a standing position) – adąhe

they (indefinite) are (while in a standing position) – hidąhe or adąhanye



I am (while moving around) – mįnąhe or nąhe*

you are (while moving around) – sdąse

you-all are (while moving around) – asdąse or asdąsewi

he/she/it is (while moving around) – nąhe

we (2) are (while moving around) – hįnąhe

we (3+) are (while moving around) – hanąhe

they (definite) are (while moving around) – anąhe

they (indefinite) are (while moving around) – hinąhe or anąhanye


* If nąhe is used to express “I am”, then the stress changes.  NAHⁿ-hay = I am, whereas nahⁿ-HAY = he/she is


Here are some examples of these terms being used:


He is in the house. – Chi rodada nąhe ke/ki.


The term nąhe is used here because we do not know what he is doing in the house.  He might be moving around.


Our Father, who art in Heaven… – Hįnka mąngrida sdąnge nąha…


The idea here is God is in Heaven.  But more than that, this beginning to the Lord’s Prayer is talking to God so the expression is you are.  The term nąnge (as well as hąnge) can also carry the idea of “there” so the conjugated form sdąnge carries the idea of “you are there”.  Even after all of this we know that the idea is that God is referred to as being in a sitting position.


She is outside. – Tąngrida dąhe ke/ki.


In Otoe-Missouria, Tąngrida dąhe ke/ki not only tells you that she is outside, but that she is also in a standing position.  Thus, this phrase could also be translated into English as, “She is standing outside.”

This brings up another point.  These terms often get confused with the actual verbs for lie (), sit (miną), and stand (nayį).  English does not combine position with “to be” so new learners often are confused as to when to use a “positional to be” verb or the actual active verb itself.


My car is outside. – Namanyi mįtawe tąngrida nąnge ke/ki.


The idea of where are car “is” is usually expressed with the sitting position.  Thus, this sentence could also be translated into English as “My car is sitting outside.”


The book is on the table. – Wawagaxe waruje ahadada hąnge ke/ki.


Something like a book is usually expressed as being in a lying position.  Thus, this sentence could also be translated into English as “The book is lying on the table.”


So how do you know when to use a “positional to be” or the actual verb?  The answer is what priority you are giving to the idea of lie, sit, or stand.  If your intent is to express more of where someone is, then a “positional to be” is what you want.  If you are wanting to focus on the act of lying, sitting, or standing, then you would use those verbs instead.