Updated jan Pije's lessons/Lesson 3 Basic Sentences
|jan||somebody, anybody, person, etc.||moku||eat, drink|
|mi||I, me||pona||good, simple; to fix, to repair|
|suli||big, tall, long, important||li||separates some subjects (especially third-person) from the verb; see notes below|
Sentences with mi or sina as the subject
One of the first principles you'll need to learn about Toki Pona is that it has no form of the verb "to be." For example:
- mi pona. = "I am good."
- sina suli. = "You are big/important."
Simply state mi or sina, then complete the sentence with an adjective or verb. Although the lack of "to be" may seem odd and discomforting, it's actually simpler if you think about it, and there are other languages that don't use to be. Just practice until you get accustomed to the idea.
Toki Pona Is Often Ambiguous
While reading the vocabulary section at the top of the page, you probably noticed that several words have multiple meanings. suli, for example, can mean either long or tall... or big... or important. You may be wondering how one word mean so many different things, but truthfully, many Toki Pona words have multiple meanings. With such a tiny vocabulary, ambiguity is inevitable but not necessarily bad: The vagueness forces you to focus on very basic, core features instead of lots of tiny, often frivolous details.
Toki Pona's vocabulary is also ambiguous because it doesn't let you specify whether a word is singular or plural. For example, jan can mean either person or people. (Side note: Japanese is the same way.) You'll eventually learn a way to distinguish singular versus plural, but not in this lesson.
Look over these examples:
- mi moku. = "I eat." or "I am food."
- sina pona. = "You are good." or "You fix."
These sentences illustrate Toki Pona's ambiguity yet again. Because Toki Pona lacks "to be", the exact meaning is lost. In this sentence, moku could be either a verb or a noun. Likewise, pona could be either an adjective or a verb. In these situations, the listener/reader must rely on context. After all, how often do you hear someone say "I am food?" I hope not very often! You can be fairly certain that mi moku means "I'm eating". For sentences like sina pona, there is a way to help you clarify the intended meaning, but you'll learn about that in the next lesson.
No Verb Tenses
Toki Pona's "verbs" have no tense.
- mi pona. = "I am good." or "I was good." or "I will be good."
This is yet another example of the vagueness inherent in Toki Pona. If absolutely necessary, there's a way to specify when something happened, but you won't learn about that until lesson 17.
Sentences without mi or sina as the subject
We've already looked at mi and sina sentences, which are the simplest sentences possible in Toki Pona. For sentences that don't use mi or sina as the subject, there is one small difference you'll need to learn. Look at how li is used:
- telo li pona. = "Water is good."
- suno li suli. = "The sun is big."
- moku li pona. = "Eating/food is good."
li is a grammatical word that separates the subject from its "verb." Remember: Always use li if the subject isn't mi or sina, and never use it if the subject is mi or sina. Although li might seem cumbersome and worthless now, as you continue to learn Toki Pona you'll see that some sentences could be very confusing if li weren't there, so practice using it until it becomes normal to you.
Try translating these sentences from English to Toki Pona. (Answers below)
- People are good.
- I’m eating.
- You’re tall.
- Water is simple.
- The lake is big.
And now try changing these sentences from Toki Pona into English:
- suno li suli.
- mi suli.
- jan li moku.
- jan li pona.
- mi moku.
- sina suli.
- telo li pona.
- telo li suli.
- The sun is big.
- I’m important. / I’m fat.
- Somebody is eating.