Check out the video lesson too!
Table of Contents
Words to Know
|(mark exclamation, excitement, emphasis)||Letter “a” beneath a vertical line like an exclamation point|
|moo, meow, ribbit, bark, animal sound||Circle animal face with two circle ears and dotted nose below center|
|sound, noise||A mouth shape with emitters|
Not many words this time! Instead, we’ll be looking at a bunch of words from before in new ways.
In Toki Pona, there are many things to say that are not complete sentences: interjections! toki says “hello”, and a subject plus o gets that subject’s attention. But there’s more!
Anything that can be a subject, predicate, object, or preposition with prep phrase can be an interjection! Some of these can even be used together.
But some words and phrases do better than others. To make this point, I’ve broken down interjections into a few common uses.
Before we start, let’s talk about a!
a, the interjection that ever
a is a special word. It has no meaning like particles, but it also doesn’t do anything to a sentence. It’s just a, and you use it to express your feelings! As a modifier, it makes the thing it modifies more intense like the word “very” in English. As an interjection, it works like a lot of wordless responses, such as “um,” “oh,” and “ah.”
Since a can be used so many ways, we’ll look at a few examples to get a feel for it:
mi kama jo e lipu a
1: I got a cool book!
2: Ooooh! [excitement]
soweli mi li weka a
1: My dog ran away…
2: Oh… [empathy]
mi sona ala a e toki sina
1: I really don’t understand what you’re saying
2: Hmmm… [thinking]
For all of these, the tone is important! Not everyone’s tone will be the same when speaking, either. But this is far from everything that a can do. Try lots of things!
Sometimes you’ll hear “nnn” instead of “aaa”. This comes from the word n, which works like “hmm” or “uh” in English! It’s less common than a, so it is not in this lesson, but you may see and hear it around.
o-alikes / well-wishes
o-alikes are similar to instructions given with o, but without o. You could call them “well-wishes”, because the most common of these end in or have pona! Some examples:
Be happy as you leave!
Be happy as you play!
These two are similar: Do something in a good way! You could see these used in response to goodbyes, for example, but there are many more with different uses.
pona tawa sina
Goodness, go to you!
Peace be upon you!
This one is also a well-wish, but includes the preposition tawa.
Have a good death!
This one is a bit joking- I use this myself when I beat somebody in a videogame!
You can choose to include o where it makes sense, making these complete sentences while keeping the well-wishing meaning:
o tawa pona
o musi pona
pona o tawa sina
These versions could be instructions or well wishes- but they have similar meanings with or without o. It’s all about context!
Try lots of different things! Experimenting is key to speaking Toki Pona.
Here’s an example exchange to fit the idea in a conversation:
1: mi tawa
2: tawa pona
1: a! awen pona
1: I’m going!
2: Go well!
1: Yeah! Stay well!
The above is a literal translation, so here is a comparable conversation but written in more natural English:
1: I’m headed out!
2: See you later!
1: Yeah! See you!
Feelings, Opinions, and Remarks
Most other interjections are specific words! Their meaning as an interjection comes from what the word normally means. We already saw that a can be used for any feeling, but words like sona, wawa, musi, and others can do specific feelings: Excitement, interest, happiness, fear, anger, sadness, and everything between!
These can also be used to express how you feel about a situation, similar to saying “ni li [word]”, or “pilin mi li [word]”. They’re great for using in a conversation!
Here’s a bunch of common use examples. This is not a complete list, and it doesn’t cover every way you could use these words. But it does cover a lot of common uses. Try lots of things!
pona interjection is to express that something is good! It works like “great”, “cool” or “nice” in English.
o pali e ni
a! mi pali
1: Can you make this?
2: Yeah, I’ll make it
1: Great, thanks!
ike interjection is like saying “oh no” or “oof” in English, expressing your dislike for something.
mi ken ala kute e jan poka tan kalama suli… ike!
I can’t hear the person beside me because of all the loud noise. Oh no!
pakala interjection expresses your feelings about a mistake or accident, like saying “crud” or “oops” in English.
mi weka e lipu sona mi… pakala!
I lost my textbook. Crap!
musi interjection is used to express excitement or humor! It can express the same feeling as laughter, but laughter itself is usually written with a a a
jan tomo li toki e ni: mi pana ala tawa jan pi tawa tenpo… jan pi tawa tenpo li tawa tomo pi telo nasa.
musi! a a a
1: “The bartender says this: I don’t serve time travellers! A time traveller walks into a bar.”
2: Hilarious! Hahahhaha
suwi interjection is used to say that something is cute, soft, or sweet.
kala ni li suwi a! o lukin!
a a a suwi
1: This fish is cute! Look!
2: Hahaha, it is cute!
wawa interjection is used to express amazement and surprise, especially at the skill or strength of something.
mi suli e kulupu kasi mi lon tenpo lili taso
1: I made my garden grow big in only a little time!
sona interjection is used to express understanding of a previous statement, or to express that something is wise or smart!
sina ken kepeken ilo ni tawa pali tomo
1: You can use this tool for building homes.
2: Got it!
sama interjection is to say that you do or feel similarly to something that was previously stated.
pilin mi li musi a tan telo ni…
1: I’m feeling funny [in a humor way] because of this liquid!
lon interjection is to indicate the truth of something. It’s like saying “true” or “agreed” in English.
sina toki lon tenpo suli. sina ken lili e tenpo toki
1: You spoke for a long time. You can reduce the time you spend talking!
Many interjections overlap in use! pona and lon can both positively acknowledge a statement. Here, speaker two could even say nasin sona instead. But these are all different- they express different things about how the speaker feels!
mu is Toki Pona’s word for any animal sound- as an interjection, it tells you the speaker is having fun!
Remember: this is not a complete list, but many examples. There are plenty words not on this list that work too! Here’s even more rapid fire examples:
- suli - Huuuuge!
- lili - Tiny!
- mute - So many!
- seli - Hot!
- lete - Cold!
- jaki - Gross!
- nasa - Weird!
- ken - Maybe!
With the right context, any word can be used as an interjection in Toki Pona, so try lots of things!
Interjections are often part of conversations, so the exercises are different for this lesson. The sentences will be shown above, and the translation will be in a spoiler below.
Toki Pona to English
A group of friends is out at the zoo, enjoying the sights and sounds of critters racing through their space and making all manner of noise. You walk through the reptile enclosure, and most of the snakes and frogs are quiet! But one croaks loudly, and one of the group says:
akesi li mu! o mu tawa ona!
mu mu mu!
1: The frog went “ribbit!” Say “ribbit” back!
2: Ribbit ribbit ribbit!
You’re walking through the neighborhood’s most rundown house on a dare! Your friend stayed at the door to keep watch. Every corner has a cobweb, the rafters are sagging from age, and each step you take makes the floor creak and bend from the stress of your feet. Suddenly, you hear a loud crash from across the house, and you yell to your friend:
mi kute e kalama! taso mi sona ala e tan ona!
1: I heard a sound! But I don’t know where it came from!
At work, your friend has been working hard to get forklift certified! They’ve taken test after test, practiced for forever, and finally made it! But what they didn’t know is, you’ve been working on your certification too! And somehow, you both reveal at the same time:
mi kama sona kepeken ilo suli tawa, lon tomo pali mi
1: I learned how to use a forklift at my work!
1: Oh wow!
You and a friend have had a bet going on: you bet that your sister could learn to do a cartwheel in just a week! Rude that your friend would bet against her, huh? After a week though, your sister is still struggling to get her feet off the ground. But you finally catch it on video: she does a full cartwheel! You rush to your friend to deliver the news:
ona li ken tawa sike pona!
1: They can do a cartwheel!
2: Wow, awesome!
You’re playing Minecraft with some friends! You just started a new world, got yourself a hut put together, and now you’re looking for lots of resources to get your building ideas started. One friend puts together a plan for who does what, and tells you what to do:
mi tu li alasa e kulupu pi kasi suli. sina o tawa ma anpa.
1: We’re going to look for a jungle. You’ll head to the cave.
You’re playing VRChat with a group of friends you’ve come to know and love over the past few months! At the end of this most recent meetup, everyone piles together in front of a beautiful landscape in game, and the meetup host says to the crowd as they prepare to take a picture:
jan ale o lukin! mi pali e sitelen kulupu, o mu!
1: Everyone look! I’m taking a picture of the group, say moo!
This one is a not so literal- it’s a mimicry of the equivalent exchange in English, “Say cheese!” when smiling for a photo!
After a few hours of gaming with some friends, you realize it’s late in the night and you need to go to sleep soon. You find a comfortable spot to take a break in the game, and then let your friends know:
mi ken ala awen musi, mi o tawa pali lon open pi tenpo suno kama.
a mi sona! pali pona!
pali pona a!
1: I can’t keep playing, I have to go work at the start of the next day.
2: Ahh, I understand. Have a good day at work!
3: Have fun at work!
You come into work early one Monday, but your friend didn’t make it in and you don’t know why! You message them, and they explain: I was playing games for so long that I got sick… You feel a little bad, but you can’t help but laugh at the same time! You explain to your other co-workers over lunch:
jan poka mi li pilin ike lili tan ni: ona li musi lon tenpo suli a!
aa ona o kama pona!
mi sama! ona o pona!
1: My friend is feeling a little bad because they were playing games for too long!
2: Oh, I hope they feel better!
3: I feel the same way! I hope they get better!
You’ve been looking for your driver’s license for hours! You know you had it earlier today, but after your appointment you lost track of it. You ask a few friends for help tracking it down, and after a few hours, a friend calls you up and tells you:
mi kama jo e lipu sina tan alasa. mi pana e ona tawa poki sina!
pona tawa sina! sina pona wawa e mi!
1: I found your book from searching. I put it in your bag!
2: Thank you! You helped me so much!
2 (alt): Goodness go to you! You’re so helpful!
Your friend invited you over to show off something exciting: they taught their pet fish a new trick! Now, you’ve been a little doubtful the previous times, and this time is no exception. You get inside, and your friend points to their fish and says:
kala mi li ken toki a!
1: Look! My fish can speak!
2: Can it now…
English to Toki Pona
Watch me lift this huuuuge rock!
1: o lukin! mi tawa sewi e kiwen suli ni!
1: o lukin e ni! mi sewi e kiwen suli ni!
I teach people a better way to teach.
1: mi pana e sona ni: jan li ken pana pona e sona
2: nasin sona a
1: mi pana e sona ni: jan li ken pana pona e sona
2: sona / sona pona
nasin sona and nasin with other modifiers can be used to refer to specific methods and processes that are clever, effective, or otherwise good! This captures any sort of nasin, such as teaching methods or speaking practices!
My friends said we can go with them to the zoo!
1: jan poka mi li toki e ni: mi tu li ken tawa ma soweli lon poka ona
2: pona a!
Bring your brother with you to the restaurant!
Gotcha, I will!
1: sina en jan poka sina o tawa tomo moku
2: sona, mi ni!
The first sentence isn’t exactly the same as the original English! Next lesson, we’ll look at a piece of grammar that can translate the original idea even better.
I think we should create a storage room for all the cobble!
I’m thinking the same!
1: pilin mi li ni: mi mute o pali e tomo awen tawa kiwen ale!
2: sama! / pilin mi li sama!
They can’t go to the park today because of the rain. But they can play a game inside!
Ooo exciting! Fantastic!
1: ona li ken ala tawa ma musi lon tenpo suno ni tan telo sewi. taso, ona li ken musi lon tomo!
2: a pona wawa!
The idea of a park being ma musi, or the rain being telo sewi, are not the only ways to do it! If you came up with something else, such as ma kasi for park or telo mute for rain, that’s good too!
They broke my bike! I can’t get home! Oh no!
ona li pakala e ilo tawa mi! mi ken ala tawa tomi mi! ike! pakala!
They’re a beekeeper. They’ve been beekeeping for a long time!
1: ona li jan pali pi kulupu pipi! ona li ni lon tenpo suli!
2: suwi! pona mute a!
“Sweet” in English could be like “cool” and “awesome”, or like “cute” and “adorable”. It depends on if you’re thinking of the excitement of beekeeping, or the adorable faces of bees. The Toki Pona translation does both, first cute then awesome!
There are a variety of ways to speak Toki Pona that aren’t complete sentences, and they’re enormously useful! a can be used to express anything you can feel, and most every word in Toki Pona can be used as an interjection. There are many ways to express your appreciation and thanks, apologies, or love to others as well. Toki Pona rewards experimentation!
By the way, check out this side lesson about phatic phrases!