Filipino Language: Bababa ba?

*In an elevator in the Philippines*

Elevator operator: Bababa ba?

Filipino: Bababa.

Foreigner: What the hell is this language?

The humor of this joke relies on seemingly simple structure of the Filipino language, but what the foreigner in the joke didn’t understand is that those two sentences are more complex than he or she has perceived.

To understand this “weird” conversation, one must start with the root word baba. It means “to go down”. To turn this word into a verb with a certain tense, the Filipino language usually adds syllables at the start, middle, or the end of the word.

In the case of the first sentence, bababa ba, the first word is the root word baba with the syllable ba added at the beginning. The added ba turns the root word into a present progressive tense.

The second word ba is a syllable added to Filipino sentences to turn a declarative sentence into an inquisitive sentence.

There are also words that left out, but are implied because of the intonation of the utterance and the context of the sentence. The full sentence is supposed to go bababa ka ba? Ka means you, but since the elevator operator is already facing the one he or she is taking too, it is unnecessary to say it.

The response of the Filipino in the elevator is the present progressive version of the root word baba with an implied “Yes, I am”.

Whew, that’s my language. Cool!

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4 thoughts on “Filipino Language: Bababa ba?

  1. A Spanish prof told me that ba in Tagalog was adapted from the Spanish ‘va’ (i.e., se va = leave, depart etc..). with so many adapted Spanish, I would be least surprised.


  2. It’s just now that I realized this is funny. I laughed when I tried to say that. Hahaha. If I were a foreigner I might laugh at it. It’s so cool. I am proud of my language! Proud to be a Filipino :))

    Miss Cielo


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