Updated jan Pije's lessons/Lesson 11 pi


pi - essentially means "of"; see notes below

kalama - sound, noise; to make noise, to play an instrument

kulupu - group, community, society

nasin - road, way, doctrine, method


You probably aren't going to like pi. It's probably the most misused word in the language, and, personally, I can barely tolerate it. I wish that there were some way to remove pi from Toki Pona, but it's a necessary evil because of the way Toki Pona is constructed. At any rate, if you get frustrated while trying to learn about this word, just relax, try your best, and know that you have my sympathy.

As I said, this word is terribly misused. I've seen all sorts of weird mistakes occur when people try to learn this word. In just a moment we're going to look at a funny mistake that occurred when someone didn't use the word pi but should have.

Now, you might remember from lesson five that tomo telo ("water room") is used to mean restroom. You should also recall that nasa means crazy, silly, stupid, and so on. Now, let's look at this sentence:

mi tawa tomo telo nasa. -- I went to the crazy restroom. (lit: "I to room water crazy.")

Okay, I think you'll agree with me when I say that that is just plain weird. It makes me think about some creepy restroom with neon lights lining the floor and a strobe light in every toilet stall. Now, the person who said this sentence had actually been trying to say that he had gone to a bar. As you probably recall, telo nasa is used to mean alcohol. So, a tomo with telo nasa would be a bar. The only problem is that you can't fit tomo and telo nasa together, because it will mean "crazy restroom," as you just studied. The only way to fix this problem is to use pi:

tomo pi telo nasa -- building of alcohol; a bar, pub, etc.

The problem is fixed. Yay! So, you see, pi is used to separate a noun from another noun that has an adjective. If you like to think about things in a formulaic, patterned way, here's another way of thinking about it:

(noun 1) pi (noun 2) (an adjective that modifies noun 2, but NOT noun 1)

Note that there must be an adjective to describe noun 2. If not, pi is not used at all, and you get this:

(noun 1) (noun 2)

Also, if you're familiar with scheme notation (if you're not, just skip ahead to the next paragraph), here is a layout of the tomo (pi) telo nasa example that I gave above:

crazy restroom = ((tomo telo) nasa)
bar = (tomo pi (telo nasa))

There. I hope I explained pi easily enough so that it's fairly simple to understand. We're going to go over a bunch of examples using pi; but, you need to be familiar with some of the compound noun combinations that we've learned. Most of the ones that we've learned were in lesson five, if you want to review them. You can also find a lot of them on the official site, but some of the words you haven't learned yet. At any rate, let's get on with the examples.

jan pi ma tomo -- person of the city, a city-dweller
kulupu pi toki pona -- group of Toki Pona, the Toki Pona community
nasin pi toki pona -- ways of Toki Pona, the ideology behind Toki Pona
jan lawa pi jan utala -- leader of soldiers, a commander or general
jan lawa pi tomo tawa kon -- leader of airplanes, a pilot
jan pi nasin sewi Kolisu - person of Christian religion, a Christian
nasin sewi = religion
jan pi pona lukin -- person of visual goodness, an attractive person
jan pi ike lukin -- person of visual badness, an ugly person

If you don't understand how I got these examples (especially the first five there), you might want to go back and study a little more, come by the Toki Pona chat room for help, or find someone else who can help you.

Okay, now let's talk about making possessives. If you wanted to say "my house" you say tomo mi. Similarly, "your house" is tomo sina. However, if you want to name a specific person who owns the house, you have to use pi:

tomo pi jan Lisa -- house of Lisa, Lisa's house

Note that you can not say tomo Lisa. That changes the whole meaning of the phrase. Here are more examples:

kili mi -- my fruit
kili pi jan Susan -- Susan's fruit
ma ona -- her country
ma pi jan Keli -- Keli's country
len jan -- somebody's clothes
len pi jan Lisa -- Lisa's clothes

Also, if you want to use the plural pronouns mi mute ("we") or ona mute ("they"), you have to use pi:

nimi pi mi mute -- our names
tomo pi ona mute -- their house

If you left out pi here, the order of the adjectives would be illogical and the phrase would not make sense.

We also use pi to express the opposite of some words:

jan wawa -- strong person
jan pi wawa ala -- "person of no strength"; a weak person

You could not have said jan wawa ala because that would mean "no strong people".

Common mistakes

One common mistake I see is when people try to use pi to mean "about" (as in "We talked about something."). While pi can be used in this way, most people use it too much. Here is a common, but incorrect, way of using pi to mean "about" in a sentence, and then the correct way of saying it:

Incorrect: mi toki pi jan. -- I talked about people.
Correct: mi toki jan. -- I talked about people

The "about" is simply implied by the sentence. Now here's another sentence which is correct and in which pi is used to mean "about":

mi toki pi jan ike. -- I talked about bad people.

The reason that pi can be used here is because jan ike is its own singular, individual concept, and the combined phrase (jan ike) acts on toki as one thing; pi is simply used to distinguish the jan ike phrase. If you left out pi, both jan and ike would become adverbs, and the sentence would mean something really strange like "Humanely, I talked evilly."

Another common mistake is that people simply get very happy with their pi and start using it for everything. For example, we already know that jan lawa means "leader". However, after learning a little about pi, some people say things like jan pi lawa. Or, to say "countryman" (which should be said jan ma), they'll say jan pi ma. I really don't know why this mistake occurs; I can't figure it out. But at any rate, these phrases are wrong because the second noun does not have an adjective to modify it. Do you remember the little formula?:

(noun 1) pi (noun 2) (an adjective that modifies noun 2, but NOT noun 1)

The word immediately after the pi must have another word that describes it.

Another mistake is that people use pi when they should use tan:

Correct: mi kama tan ma Mewika. -- I come from America.
Incorrect: mi kama pi ma Mewika.

Another use

pi has one other use. I have decided to describe this use in a separate section because it somewhat breaks the rules that you learned above. Consider the following sentences:

kili ni li pi mi. -- This fruit is mine.
tomo ni li pi jan Tami. -- That house is Tommy's.

Although it may look a little odd, a pi phrase can be used after li to tell who owns something. Here are some more examples if you need to look at them:

ilo ni li pi sina. -- This tool is yours.
ma ni li pi jan Tosi. -- This land is the Germans'.
toki ni li pi mi mute. -- This language is ours.


Since learning pi is already hard enough by itself, we're going to take it easy and learn just one word for today's lesson: kalama.

Okay, kalama is used to mean "sound" or "noise":

kalama ni li seme? -- What was that noise?

kalama is usually combined with the word musi to mean "music" or "song":

kalama musi li pona tawa mi. -- I like music.

Just as jan precedes people's names, kalama musi precedes the names of specific songs:

kalama musi "Jingle Bells" li pona tawa mi. -- I like the song "Jingle Bells."

And we can use that handy word pi to talk about music by a certain group or artist:

kalama musi pi jan Elton-John li nasa. -- The music of Elton John is odd.

Finally, kalama can be used as a verb:

mi kalama kepeken ilo. -- I make noise using an instrument.
o kalama ala! -- Don't make noise!

Using nasin to make "how" Since we've covered nasin in this lesson, I need to point out one quick thing about it. Look at this sentence:

sina pali e ni kepeken nasin seme? -- You made this using what method? How did you make this?

I think that this is pretty easy, so I won't drag it out more. But have you noticed how seme is used for all the question words? In the last lesson, we saw jan seme (who) and tan seme (why), and now we have kepeken nasin seme as "how".


Try translating these sentences from English to Toki Pona.

Keli’s child is funny.
I am a Toki Ponan.
He is a good musician.
The captain of the ship is eating.
Enya’s music is good.
Which people of this group are important?
Our house is messed up.
How did she make that?

Now try translating these sentences from Toki Pona to English.

kili pi jan Linta li ike.
len pi jan Susan li jaki.
mi sona ala e nimi pi ona mute.
mi wile ala toki pi kalama musi.
mi wile toki meli.
sina pakala e ilo kepeken nasin seme?
jan Wasintan [Washington] li jan lawa pona pi ma Mewika.
wile pi jan ike li pakala e ijo.


jan lili pi jan Keli li musi.
mi jan pi toki pona.
ona li jan pona pi kalama musi.
jan lawa pi tomo tawa telo li moku.
kalama musi pi jan Enja li pona.
jan seme pi kulupu ni li suli?
tomo pi mi mute li pakala.
ona li pali e ni kepeken nasin seme?

Linda’s fruit is bad.
Susan’s clothes are dirty.
I don’t know their names.
I don’t want to talk about music.
I want to talk about girls.
How did you break the tool?
Washington was a good leader of America.
The desires of evil people mess things up.