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Updated jan Pije's lessons/Lesson 5 Adjectives and Adverbs

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Adjectives, Compound Nouns, Adverbs


ike - bad, evil, complicated

jaki - dirty, nasty; trash

lawa - main, leading; head; to lead

len - clothing, clothe

lili - little

mute - many, a lot

nasa - crazy, stupid, silly, weird

seli - warm, hot

sewi - high, superior; sky

tomo - house, building

utala - war, battle; to fight

Adjectives and compound nouns

As you should already know, Toki Pona has a very minimal vocabulary. The small amount of words, of course, makes the vocabulary much easier to learn. However, as a result, many words do not exist in the language. For example, there is no word that means friend. There are also no words for soldier, car, or shoe. Therefore, we often have to combine various words together to equal what might take only one word in English. For example, here's how to say friend in Toki Pona:

jan (person) + pona (good) = jan pona

jan pona in English literally means person good (or, as we would say in normal English, good person). Due to Toki Pona's small vocabulary, though, it also means friend.

As you can see, the adjective (which was pona in the above example) goes after the noun rather than before it. That's why I said jan pona and not pona jan. This will undoubtedly seem incredibly awkward to you if you only speak English. However, many, many languages do this (including Spanish, Italian, and French, which put most of their adjectives after). It won't be easy to break the bonds that English have had on you your entire life, but, speaking from personal experience, the reward is well worth it because you will greatly expand your mind and will be able to think about things in a new, refreshing way.

In addition to adjectives such as pona, many of the verbs are often used as adjectives.

1. jan - person
pakala - to hurt
jan pakala - an injured person, victim, etc.
2. ilo - tool
moku - to eat
ilo moku - an eating utensil, such as a fork or spoon

You can add more than just one adjective onto a noun to reach the meaning that you want:

jan - person
jan utala - soldier
jan utala pona - good soldier
jan utala pona mute - many good soldiers
jan utala pona ni - this good soldier

As you might have noticed, ni and mute come at the end of the phrase. This occurs almost always. The reason for this is that the phrases build as you go along, so the adjectives must be put into an organized, logical order. For example, notice the differences in these two phrases:

jan utala pona - good soldier
jan pona utala - fighting friend, sidekick, etc.

Here are some handy adjective combinations using words that you've already learned and that are fairly common. Try figuring out what their literal meanings are:

ike lukin* - ugly
jan ike - enemy
jan lawa - leader
jan lili - child
jan sewi - god
jan suli - adult
jan unpa - lover, prostitute
ma telo - mud, swamp
ma tomo - city, town
mi mute - we, us
ona mute - they, them (Note: While this structure is undoubtedly gramatically correct, most current speakers simply use ona. You can decide what's most comfortable for you.)
pona lukin - pretty, attractive (Note that you can only use pona lukin and ike lukin by themselves after li. For example: jan ni li pona lukin - That person is pretty. There is a way to attach these phrases directly onto the noun using the word pi, but we have more important things to learn before we get to that point.)
telo nasa - alcohol, beer, wine
tomo telo - restroom


To say my and your, you use the pronouns and treat them like any other adjective:

tomo mi - my house
ma sina - your country
telo ona - his/her/its water

Other words are treated the same way:

len jan - somebody's clothes
seli suno - the sun's heat


I know that we've covered a lot of difficult topics in this lesson. Fortunately, the adverbs in Toki Pona should be quite simple for you, so just keep pushing for a few more minutes and we'll be done.

For adverbs in Toki Pona, the adverb simply follows the verb that it modifies. For example:

mi lawa pona e jan. -- I lead people well.
mi utala ike. -- I fight badly.
sina lukin sewi e suno. -- You look up at the sun.
ona li wile mute e ni. -- He wants that a lot.
mi mute li lukin lili e ona. -- We barely saw it.


Firstly, see how well you can read the following poem. You know all the words and concepts, so you should be able to understand it. Then, check your translation for each line of the poem. And now here's the poem:

mi jo e kili.
ona li pona li lili.
mi moku lili e kili lili.


mi jo e kili.

ona li pona li lili.

mi moku lili e kili lili.

The leader drank dirty water.

I need a fork.

An enemy is attacking them.

That bad person has strange clothes.

We drank a lot of vodka.

Children watch adults.

mi lukin sewi e tomo suli.

seli suno li seli e tomo mi.

jan lili li wile e telo kili.

ona mute li nasa e jan suli.


I have a fruit.

It is good and is small.

I nibble (eat a little) the small fruit.

jan lawa li moku e telo jaki.

mi wile e ilo moku.

jan ike li utala e ona mute.

jan ike ni li jo e len nasa.

mi mute li moku e telo nasa mute.

jan lili li lukin e jan suli.

I am looking up at the big building.

The sun’s warmth heats my home.

Children want fruit juice.

They drove the adults crazy.