Plains Cree

Grammar Guide


A word or group of words used as the name of a class of people, places, or things, or of a particular person, place, or thing.

Nouns in Cree are categorised into two categories, animate (na) and inanimate nouns (ni). Animate nouns include people, animals, most plants/trees and other items.

Animate nouns (na) are nouns that fall under the gender of animacy.

Man = napéw
Woman = iskwéw
A saulteaux person = nakawihiniw
Duck = sísíp
Dog = atim
Moose = moswa
Blueberry bush = sípíhkominátik
Poplar tree = mitos
Labrador tea bush = maskíkopakwáhtik

Stone/rock = asiniy
Pipe = ospwakan
Sock = askikan

There are certain items that will be in the animate category while other items of the same, fall in the inanimate category. Consider the following examples:

Some berries that are inanimate while other berries are animate:

Saskatoon berry = misáskwatómin (ni)
Goose berry = sápómin (ni)
Apple = caspimin/wásaskwécós (ni)
Strawberry = otihimin (ni)
Raspberry [s] = ayoskan [ak] (na)
Grape [s] = sóminis [ak] (na)

Sock = asikan (na)
Pants/trousers = mitas (na)
Shirt = papakiwayán (ni)
Coat = miskotákay (ni)
Shoe = maskisin (ni)

Inanimate nouns (ni) are nouns that fall under the inanimate gender category.

Most household items are inanimate:

House = wáskahikan
Knife = mohkómán
Chair = téhtapiwin
Canoe = címan/osih
Bowl = oyakan
Book/paper = maskinahakan

Most body parts are inanimate:

Hand = micihciy
Heart = mitíh
Hair = místakay
Bone = oskan

A place in Cree is a noun, but an ending is needed to show location.

A name of a place like La Ronge for example is misi-nipi, at La Ronge is misi-nipihk

The locative ‘ihk’ is added at the end of a word.

An example of a locative at the end of an animate noun could be "asinihk" for "on a rock." An example of one for an inanimate noun could be "wáskahikanihk" for "in a house." The ‘ihk’ is added at the end of a noun showing location.

A mass noun like water - nipiy, is neutral.
Snow – kona falls in the same neutral category.
Ashes – pihkw/pihko these mass nouns are in singular form.
In the water = nipihk
In the snow = konihk
In the ashes = pihkotihk

Animate and inanimate nouns will take different plural suffixes; ‘ak’ for the animate noun suffix and ‘a’ for the inanimate noun plural suffix:

Dog to dogs = atim to atimwak
Rock/stone to rocks/stones = asiniy to asiniyak
Pants to more than one pair of pants = mitas to mitasak


Bone to bones = oskan to oskana
Thigh to thighs = mipwám to mipwáma
Canoe to canoes = címan to címána


Colors with nouns; Colors are divided into animate and inanimate categories.

The animate suffix for color is ‘siw’.

The inanimate suffix for color is ‘kaw’.

A white dog (na) = wápiskisiw atim
A black cat (na) = kaskitisiw minos
A red book (ni) = mihkaw masinahikan
A blue canoe (ni) = sipikaw címan

A compounding of color and a noun is a common speech form in Cree:

A white dog = wápiskatim/wápastim (na)
A black cat = kaskitéminos (na)
A white shoe = wápiskisini (ni)
A black book = kaskitémasinahikan (ni)

Pluralization of Colored Nouns
White dogs = wápiskatimwak/wápastimwak (na)
Black books = kaskitémasinahikana (ni)

There are verbs that will turn to nouns by adding a suffix ‘win’:

To eat = míciso
Food = míciwin
Speak Cree = néhiya wi
Cree language = néhiyawiwin
To play (physical active game) = métawé
A game = métawéwin

There are other forms of verb/nouns combination:

To make music = kitociké
A musical instrument = kitocikan
To measure = tipaha
A measurement = tapahikan (time/feet [meters])
To fly = pimihá
A plane = pimihákan

There are root word nouns with an addition suffix :

A child = awasis
A doll = awasisihkán
A human = iyiniw
A manikin/dummy = iyinihkán

The ‘kán’ suffix represents a likeness of an object of that root noun preceding the suffix.

There are other suffixes that are added on to the preceding suffix in describing other nouns:

Musical instrument = kitocikan
Musical instrument cord = kitocikaniyapiy
[(to tie it up= takopita) a verb]
A string/or something used to tie with = takopicikan
A cord or an extended string = takopicikaniyapiy

The suffix ‘yapiy’ is used to mean ‘lengthening’ of a preceding noun:

Gut/intestine = mitakisi
Intestines (the whole or all of the intestines) = mitakisiyapi
The plural of more than one intestine in Cree = mitakisiyapiya

The above nouns shows how suffixes change verbs to nouns and nouns to other nouns.


Diminutives are a miniature or smaller form of the root word meaning or a younger version; man – boy, cat- kitten, woman – girl, chair – a smaller chair.

The suffix ‘sis’ is a common diminutive form:

Dog = atim
Puppy = acimosis
Duck = sísíp
A duckling = sísípisis
Cat = minos
Kitten = minosis

The ‘w’ is absent when ‘sis’ is added on:

Man = napíw
Boy = napísis
Woman = iskwéw
Girl = iskwésis

With a ‘k’ ending word, add ‘os’ suffix:

Skunk = sikak
Smaller/younger skunk=sikakos

The ‘t’ turns to ‘c’ (ch) for most diminutives:

Chair = téhtapiwin
A smaller chair = céhcapiwinis
Bag = maskimwat
A smaller bag = maskimwacis
Hat = astotin
A smaller hat = ascocinis
Bowl/plate = oyakan (ni)
A smaller dish = oyakanis
Horse = mistatim (na)
Pony = miscacimosis


Possession or person indicators are marked by a prefixes and suffixes. The prefix indicates the number of persons; the suffix indicates plurality of the noun and person.

Below is an example of possession prefixes and suffixes of the inanimate noun ‘astotin’ hat/cap.

My hat = ni-tastoti-n
Your hat = ki-tastoti-n
His/her hat/bonnet = o-tatotin

My caps/hats = ni-tastoti-na
Your caps/hats = ki-tastoti-na
Her/his caps/hats = o-tastoti-na

The ‘t’ is inserted between the person indicator and the root noun; the ‘t’ is placed there between the two vowels for a proper conjunction. The voicing of two vowels together seldom occur in Cree, if at all.

Animate Noun Possession

My dog = nitím
Your dog = kitím
His/her dog = o-tím-a
His/her’s _ _ _ _ dog = o-tímiyiwa

Plural of possession animate/inanimate nouns

My socks = ni-t-asika-n-ak (na)
Your socks = ki-t-asika-n-ak (na)
My dogs = ni-tím-ak (na)
Your dogs = ki-tím-ak (na)
My shoes = ni-maskisin-a (ni)
Your shoes = ki-maskisin –a ( ni)
My eyes = ni-skísikw-a (ni)
Your eyes = ki-skísikw-a (ni)

For third person possession as seen above, an ‘o’ is added in front of the noun to show, hear, and verbalise a third person and third person obviative indicator.

The plural and singular ending for animate and inanimate nouns both end with the obviative ‘a’ ending.

His/her socks = o-tasika-n-a (na)
His/her _ _ _ _ socks = o-tasikan-iyiw-a (na)

His/her dogs = o-tím-a (na)
His/her _ _ _ _ dogs = o-tím-iyiw-a (na)
His/her shoes = o-maskisin-a (ni)
His/her _ _ _ _ shoes = o-maskisin-iyiw-a (ni)
His/her eyes = o-skísik-w-a (ni)
His/her _ _ _ _ eyes = o-skísik-wiyi-w-a (ni)


A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or a noun phrase, such as ``I,''``you,''``them,''``it,''``ours,''``who,''``which,''``myself,'' and ``anybody.

In Cree there are pronouns. These pronouns can be demonstrative, interrogative or personal pronouns.

Demonstrative, Interrogative and Personal Pronouns

-Demonstrative adjectives

1. Unrestrained in showing love and affection toward somebody
2. Serving to show proof of truth
3. Referring to a particular person or thing, for example, ``this,'' ``that,'' ``these,'' and ``those''

-A demonstrative word or phrase, for example, ``this,'' ``that,'' ``these,'' or ``those''

-Interrogative adjectives

1. Questioning or seeming to question somebody or something
2. Consisting of or used in asking a question

1. a word or particle that is used to form a question, for example, ``who,'' ``what,'' or ``where''
2. the form of a sentence that is used to ask a question

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are person indicators which are independent: I, you, them.

Singular Plural

niya = I
niyanán (excl.) = we/us (excluding you)
kiya = you
kiyánaw (incl.) = we/us (inuding you)
kiyawáw = you /your (pl.)
wiya = her/him
wiyawáw = them
wiyawa = her/his _ _ _
wiyawáwa = their _ _ _

Inclusive pronouns

This set of pronouns are inclusive to the speaker and all who are included within the given sentence, as is spoken.

Singular Plural

nista = me too/also
nístanán = us too/also
kista = you too/also
kistanaw = us too/also
Kistawáw = you (pl) too/also
wísta = him/her too also
wístawáw = them too/also

The demonstrative pronouns in Cree are pointing words in determining location, where these pronouns will indicate distance of an object and that of a noun or the speaker. Like most speech form in Cree, there is the animate and inanimate gender and also the singular and plural form in an agreement with the object, subject and verb within a sentence.

Below are some examples of demonstrative pronouns in a sentence form:

awa sísíp = this duck
awa sísíp wápiskisiw = this duck is white

okí sísípak = these duck
óki sísípak wápiskisiwak = these ducks are white
óma címan = this boat
óma címan wápiskaw = this boat is white

óhi címana = these boats
óhi címana wápiskawa = these boats are white

In Cree we can put two demonstrative pronouns side by side for a more clear location of an object.

óki níki sísípak = these duck there
óki níki sísípak ka-pimatákacik = these ducks there, the ones going by on the water

Óhi níhi címana = these canoes/boats there
Óhi níhi címana ka-pimapotíkihk = these canoes there, going by (with the current of the water) on the water

Interrogative Pronouns

These pronouns are question indicators, asking questions using pronouns such as who = awína, what = kikway, when = tánispihk, where = tániti, why = táníhki

These are in the singular and plural form.


Who = awína
What = kikway


Who = awíniki
What = kikwaya

Animate and Inanimate Form

The tán question indicators are most commonly used in asking questions for inquiring information. The tán questions are called such, because these question indictors begin with ‘tán’. The tán question indicators are equivalent to the English of why, where, when, how.

tánisi = how (is it/you)?
tánispihk = when?
tánití = where
tánihki = why?
tánikohk = how much?
tánitahto = how many?
tánitahtwáw = how many times?
tánitowah = what kind?
where is he/she/it?
which one?
where are they?
which one?
Tániwa ki-símis = where is your younger sibling? (na)
Tániwíyá ki-símisak = where are your younger siblings?
Tána ana ki-tím = which is your (pet) dog? (na)
Tániki aniki ki-tímak = which are your dogs?
Tániwí anima masinahikan = where is that book? (ni)
Tániwíha anihi masinahikana = where are those books?
Tánima anima kimaskisin = which is your shoe? (ni)
Tánihi anihi kimasikisina = which are your shoes?


Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre