selbri are Lojban words that describe the relationships between the various parts of a sentence. The majority of words used as selbri are gismu, which can be easily recognized as they always follow the pattern CVCCV or CCVCV (where C is a consonant and V is a vowel).
The word order of the sentence gives selbri their meaning. The positions of the other words in the sentence, with respect to the position of the selbri, determine what the meaning of the sentence is. For example:
la djon. pritu la matius. la maikyl.
pritu is the selbri. It means "x is to the right of y, where y is facing z." The variables (called sumti) are replaced with other things. In this case, x is John (djon.), y is Matthew (matius.), and z is Michael (maikyl.) Thus the whole sentence (a sentence like this is called a bridi) means "John is to the right of Matthew, where Matthew is facing Michael."
selbri follow some rules for determining the structure of their possible sumti:
- The subject of the sentence, the person or thing that is or does, usually comes first.
- The object of the sentence, the person or thing that is affected by the action, comes second.
- The destination (to [place]) comes before the origin (from [place])
- Any other places come near the end; "by standard," "by means of," "made of," etc.