jan Kekan San

jan Kekan San

Transitive Prepositional Phrases

This nasin is non-standard in adding to Toki Pona’s grammar. Speakers may be able to understand you, but if they don’t, use a more common nasin!

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Transitive prepositional phrases are simple to demonstrate. If you understand prepositions and transitive verbs, you already understand most of what you need! Many transitive prepositional phrases can be understood without recognizing the verb as a prepositional phrase, though not all of them.

Spoilers have a restatement of their sentence that does not use a transitive prepositional phrase. These restatements are still imperfect; some subtleties may be lost, and I note these.

Also, I shorten transitive prepositional phrase to tprep. It’s too long!


Tpreps are prepositional phrases in the verb position (directly after li or a subject that is exclusively mi or sina), with e and some object following. They can be interpreted similarly to prepositions, and can be restated without a tprep, but they can save many words in a statement and are highly expressive.

A statement may contain multiple words without the use of pi. This applies even in the verb position, meaning mi tawa mama sina e ijo is valid- tawa takes mama sina here, as with normal prepositions. Importantly, this means that a tprep can break from the meaning of a pu interpretation of your sentence, since the closest similar pu sentence would have to use pi to understand that the words after your prep phrase are an object.


tawa as a tprep is primarily used to mean to move to [something]. tawa has other meanings as a prepositions, such as to/for/in the opinion of. However, these meanings are difficult to express with tawa tprep, since they would have to apply to some specific object; when tawa applies transitively normally, it means to move something, and never to change the opinion of an object, or the directionality of some interpersonal action.

Because of this, the transitive verb meaning of tawa is a more common interpretation of tawa as a tprep: mi tawa e ijo is I move a thing, so mi tawa sina e ijo is I move a thing to you.

mi tawa sina e ijo mi pana e ijo tawa sina

mi tawa e ijo tawa poka sina

jan li tawa mama sina e poki jan li pana e poki tawa mama sina

jan li tawa e poki tawa poka pi mama sina

The restatements become much longer than the tprep-using original, as the preposition tawa is still needed to provide the same info.


lon as a tprep means to make something exist [in some location or context]. This is also derived from its meaning as a verb, where mi lon e ijo means something like I make a thing exist. Here, lon takes some specific context for where the thing is made to exist!

mi lon poki e soweli mi pana e soweli tawa poki.

mi poki e soweli.

Now compare to mi tawa poki e soweli. In the case of tawa, the interpretation could be to the side of or near to, even without poka. The tawa tprep can include moving to inside the container, but lon conveys that meaning much more clearly- and this applies both here in tpreps and in normal prep phrases.

Also consider mi tawa poki and mi lon poki!

Also, some transitive prepositions work similarly without the preposition such as in mi tawa lape e jan lili being similar to mi lape e jan lili. No harm either way, this is a normal restatement that comes from Toki Pona!

mi lon ma e kasi mi pana e kasi tawa ma
jan li lon tomo e kulupu mama ona jan li tawa e kulupu mama pona tawa tomo

Here, contrasting mi tawa tomo and mi lon tomo is a bit more interesting: mi tawa tomo feels more like I travel to a building [and go inside it] than mi tawa poki does to mean I travel to a container [and go inside it]. Both meanings are possible, with different degrees of reasonability depending on context. After all, context is critical!


sama as a tprep is very similar to its verb and prepositional uses, still applying some same-ness or referring to some sameness that is relevant to the conversation. Generally, it means to make [object] similar to [something].

mi sama mama mi e pali mi mi ante e pali mi tawa ni: mi pali sama mama mi

For this, you cannot simply say mi ante e pali mi sama mama mi and get the same meaning! In this sentence, sama could apply to either or both of ante and pali, where the original sentence is clear that the sama applies to pali specifically.


Using tan in a tprep is odd. There are a few ways to interpret it, but all of them are either hard to follow or come up infrequently. It means either to make [object] caused by [something], or attribute [object] to [something], and there is no consensus on which is best or more clear. I personally say tan tpreps change attribution, because the alternative doesn’t make sense; the cause would suggest breaking cause and effect by altering the cause of something- which generally is not possible. However, making a claim about the cause of some occurrence is perfectly reasonable. That said, it is up to you which of these meanings you accept and interpret.

Since these two meanings are so distinct, I provide both restatements in the spoilers.

mi tan sina e pakala

mi toki e ni: sina tan e pakala

mi ante e tan pakala tawa sina


Using kepeken as a tprep is the least useful kind of tprep, but it does have interesting consequences to consider. Normally, kepeken e constructions are discouraged, and considered to be meaningless; tpreps change this! Consider mi tawa e ijo: this would mean I apply moving to ijo. From this, we can say mi kepeken e ijo means I apply using to ijo. Then, if kepeken takes an object, it takes on a more helpful meaning: we apply the use of some object to another object. In other words, kepeken tprep is to make [object] use [something]!

Check out kepeken vs kepeken e for more info.

mi kepeken ilo e sina mi ni e sina: sina kepeken ilo

Here’s an alternative to consider: what if we said sina kepeken ilo tan mi as the restatement? Here, some info is lost versus kepeken tprep. If you use a tool because of me, it isn’t necessarily the same as me making you use the tool. You can use the tool because of me, without me having made you do so, such as if I were to make a mistake that you correct.