Check out the video lesson too!
Table of Contents
Words to Know
|(mark an object; begin an object phrase)||Two right-facing arrows|
|want, need, to want||Curvy letter “w”|
|paper, card, document, website, leaf, small flat thing||Tall rectangle like a piece of paper|
|knowledge, understanding, to know||Piece of paper with emitters!|
|eyes, to look, to try||An eye with a pupil in the center|
|create, work, creation||A hand shape with a circle above it|
|ear, hear, listen, pay attention to||Ear shape curving out to the right, tiny line in the middle|
|have, possess, carry, own||“G” shape with circle at top end, like sitting person|
|give, emit, provide, gift||A hand shape with emitters|
|destroy, break, shatter, explode, ruin, mistake||Paper with jagged middle line, like a crack or tear|
|change, alter, other, different||Two arrows pointing at each other from the top and bottom|
|feeling, emotion, touch, contact||A heart|
Objects and e
This new sentence is capable of changing things in the world. The subject can now act on other things, applying the predicate to something else, with the use of e!
[mi/sina] [predicate] e [object]
[subject] li [predicate] e [object]
This new phrase introduces a thing the subject acts on in a way that the predicate specifies.
A note about “predicate”
I am using “predicate” to refer to just the position of the action/description of a phrase, excluding the object.
In common grammatical terms, “predicate” refers to the entirety of the action/description and the object(s) it acts on. However, it can also refer to just the action/description clause, which is very convenient for these lessons!
Here are a few guided examples of how the subject acts on the object, applying the predicate to it:
mi pona e jan
- I help somebody.
- I improve people.
- I heal people.
- I tend to people.
- I make people feel better.
The jan becomes pona in some way, as in the translations given.
lape li wawa e sina
- Sleep makes you stronger
- Rest makes you confident
- Napping makes you energetic
- Relaxing energizes you
- Vacation empowers you
Here, sina becomes wawa in some way.
Not changing things
Not everything changes the object! Here are some examples, using two new words:
jan li pilin e kiwen
- The person feels a rock.
- Somebody touched metal.
- Everyone touched this stone.
- People have been feeling this rock.
Here, the kiwen is felt or touched, but it never is or becomes pilin. Instead, the subject is the only one that does any pilin.
mi wile e telo
- I want water
- I need water
- I need (liquid) fuel
- I am thirsty
Again, the telo is wanted or needed, but it does not become wile or do the action wile or become describable by wile. The subject wants, needs, wile the telo.
As you study, you’ll get an intuitive sense for this difference. Some words will be actions the subject takes on an object, but which do not change that object. pana works this way! Other words will change the object, applying a new property to the object.
A note on “not” changing things
As you become more advanced in Toki Pona, you’ll learn that the above is complicated! It is possible to describe an object as a wanted object, and to apply want to that object. For the time being, this simplification will work.
That said, the following is possible:
mi wile e telo
“I want water.”
telo wile li pona e mi
“The water I want will make me feel better.”
This uses a modifier (next lesson!) to demonstrate the point, now referencing a “wanted liquid.”
Like li, e can be used more than once to apply a predicate to more than one object at a time! The predicate before applies to every object that follows. Like li, this is like “and” in English, but now for the object!
kasi li pilin e suno e telo
The plant is feeling the sun and the water!
Here, the subject kasi (plant) is pilin (feeling) both suno and telo, (light and water).
Here’s another example:
mi moku e suwi e lete
I eat sweets and ice cubes!
I eat sugar and ice.
Here, the subject mi (I) is eating suwi (something sweet) and lete, something cold.
Multiple li and multiple e
When using multiple li and multiple e, objects connect to the predicate right before. We saw this with using two e, but it also applies if you use li twice then e- the first li has no object, only the second one does.
kasi li suwi li pana e ko
The plant is sweet, and gives off dust!
The plant is cute, and is spitting sap!
Here, the kasi is suwi, and at the same time, it pana (gives) some ko (dust, slime)
kasi li pana e ko li suwi
The plant gives off dust, and is sweet!
This sentence means the same thing, but has the connected predicate and object, pana and ko swapped with the single predicate pana. The meaning is still the same!
Objects always connect to the predicate before. For multiple e with multiple li, the rules are the same as with just multiple e!
jan li jaki e lipu li telo e lipu
The person made a mess on the book and cleaned the book.
Here, jan (a person) does two actions, acting on to two objects with each: First, they jaki (make gross) a lipu (document, book), then they telo (water, clean) a lipu. Often, the same word referenced twice is referring to the same object- so lipu could be the same both times! But it can be a different object too. Watch for context!
The last part of this section is a bit more advanced- it requires you to be thoughtful and intentional about how you speak. If you wanna get right to practice, check out the exercises!
There is some room for experimentation! The sentence from before can be made shorter but understood the same with relaxed grammar:
jan li jaki li telo e lipu
If jaki and telo both apply to the lipu:
Somebody made a mess on this book, and cleaned it.
If they are separate statements in the same sentence:
Somebody is gross, and cleaned this book.
Normally, the first predicate jaki would not connect to the object lipu. But some speakers will apply two or more predicates to the same object, like this sentence- it’s relaxed!
Here, jan (a person) does two actions, acting on to one object with each: First, they jaki (make gross) a lipu (document, book), then they telo (water, clean) a lipu. Often, the same word in the same position a second time means the same object- so the lipu could be the same both times! But it can be a different object too. Watch for context!
If you haven’t checked under the spoiler already, check now. There are multiple meanings possible if you use this relaxed grammar!
When somebody doesn’t understand you, try restating yourself. Using more words to be more specific is always helpful!
Toki Pona to English
A parent is doing his best to make his kid eat his dinner, resulting in an argument at the table. The kid offers the very reasonable point that vegetables are gross! But after some arguing back and forth, mom chimes in with convincing wisdom:
moku li pona e sina
The food will make you feel better!
- Food makes you nicer
- Eating makes you friendlier
- Food heals you
- Food improves you
You’ve been struggling in class, trying your hardest to follow along with the lessons and lab. You hire a tutor to help, and they provide well-practiced teaching and piles of useful examples. Late one night, you are pouring over the textbook and you realize you actually understand every word. You exclaim:
mi sona e lipu
I understood the textbook!
- I know the book!
- I know the document!
Halloween night! A group of sheet-clad friends, dressed like classic ghosts, walk from home to home shouting “Trick or treat!” and get piles of sweets in hand at each door! At the end of the night, everyone compares their hauls. One friend pulls a weighty, dirty chunk from his bag and says…
mi jo e kiwen
I have a rock…
- I have metal.
- I own a pebble.
- I have a gem!
- I have gravel!
- I have a durable chunk.
- I got a brick.
You and your brother are up to no good, trying to play a prank the neighbor. You just finished setting up the sprinkler system to go off when your neighbor walks out, when your brother yells a warning out at you:
mama li lukin e sina
Mom sees you!
- Mom is looking at you
- Dad is looking at you
- The babysitter sees you!
- The parents are looking at you
- The nanny is staring at you
You’re standing out on the beach in a late summer evening, watching the waves roll in. As time passes, and only the moon is left illuminating the surface of the water, you begin to notice a soft white foam piling at the water’s edge. You remark to yourself:
telo li pali e ko
The water is making foam.
- Water creates mud.
- Waterfalls erode rock into sand (create sand).
You and your friends are playing hide-and-seek. The one friend who is “it” is standing at the base of the tree, but only pretending to close their eyes while counting. As soon as the game starts, they rush to tag everyone they saw hide, and then when the game ends, everyone complains at once:
sina pakala e musi
You ruined the game!
- You tore up the boardgame!
- You broke the toy!
- You shattered the doll!
- You messed up the joke!
You’re a project manager, working with one of your developers on a new project. Your developer comes to you with a problem, and as you work through it, you identify the issue: one of the supporting tools has a change you don’t recognize. You check who wrote it, and inform the confused developer:
sina ante e lipu
You changed the code…
- You edited the book
- Y’all appended to the textbook
- You altered the contract
- You amended the report
- You folded the paper
You’re late to a choir performance! You race from the parking lot to the auditorium doors, pushing them open with a thump and then pause- and listen. You hear the opening piece, and whisper under your breath:
mi kute e kulupu
I hear the choir.
- I listen to the community
- I hear the group
- I overhear the family
- We listen to the neighborhood
A young child is confused- for years, she’s stayed home and spent all her time playing. Suddenly she now has to go to “school,” and spend so much time there! Her mom drops her off, crying and wailing, for her first day. Then mom shushes her and explains how school works, her child’s eyes widening as she listens:
jan li pana e sona
People will teach you!
- People will give you knowledge.
- Somebody provides information.
- The person gives understanding.
On a walkthrough of a science museum, you find yourself in a hands-on exhibit full of boxes! You can’t see what’s inside, but the organizer directs you to reach in and feel. You reach into a box and feel something gooshy and rubbery. You squish it- but you have no idea what it is! The organizer tells you:
sina pilin e ko e
You’re feeling the gum!
- You’re touching the goop.
- You’re feeling the moss.
- You’re touching the slime
- You’re in contact with the paste.
- Y’all are feeling sand.
- You felt the mud
- You touched the dust
You walk through the forest toward your personal getaway, a cozy cabin far from home. When you get there, you find the cabin in disrepair! Vines now creep up the sides, and weeds overgrow the garden; the home is clearly starved of care! You resolve to restore the garden and cabin, and remark to yourself:
kasi li wile e pona! mi pona e kasi
The garden needs help! I will help the plants.
- The tree wants to feel better. I will help the tree.
- The grass needs to heal. I will help it.
Working on this!
kasi li nasa li jaki!
mama li pona e mi e sina
Dad helps you and me.
mi wile e moku e lape
I want food and sleep!
Multiple li and Multiple e
Working on this!
tawa li pona e jan li suli
Walking helps you, and is important!
English to Toki Pona
Food will make you tall.
moku li suli e sina
Help strengthens the community.
pona li wawa e kulupu
The person is touching the leaf.
jan li pilin e kasi
jan li pilin e lipu
Understanding changes people.
sona li ante e jan
Giving makes people feel better.
pana li pona e jan
You spilled something on the book!
sina jaki e lipu
I see a garbagefire.
mi lukin e jaki
mi lukin e pakala
I’m making a fire
mi pali e seli
The person is listening to something different.
jan li kute e ante
You have eyes.
sina jo e lukin
You tore up the plant!
sina pakala e kasi
sina ike e kasi
You muddied the water.
sina ko e telo! telo li ko
The following use “and.” Remember how multiple e works, and multiple li too!
I added sugar to the batter, and the drinks!
mi suwi e moku e telo
mi ko e moku e telo
Don’t worry that the detail of “batter” and “drinks” are lost. If you got close to this translation, you’re fine!
I need a book and a drink!
mi wile e lipu e telo
People understand feelings and changes.
jan li sona e pilin e ante.
Listening changed the people and the plants
kute li ante e jan e kasi
Somebody ruined the flower and the statue!
jan li pakala e kasi e kiwen!
The grime is ruining the boardgames and books!
jaki li pakala e musi e lipu
The person sees a collection, and gifted a book!
jan lukin e kulupu, li pana e lipu
Wanting will help you and hurt you.
wile mute li pona e sina li ike e sina
wile mute li pona li ike e sina
Toki Pona sentences now look like this:
[subject] (li) [predicate] (e [object])
Parentheses indicate something which is optional or conditional, and brackets are stand-ins for words as before.
Breaking it down, we can talk about what the speaker and listener do, or what describes the speaker/listener:
We can talk about what other things do or are like:
[subject] li [predicate]
We can now talk about what the speaker and listener do to other things.
[mi/sina] [predicate] e [object]
And the same goes for what third person things do to other third person things, including themselves!
[subject] li [predicate] e [object]
Content Words and Particles
The list of particles we know has grown to include e! Every other new word is a content word.
Try remembering the words with this game by James Moulang! Getting ahead of the lessons on words will help!