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

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ike bad, evil, complicated nasa crazy, stupid, silly, weird
jaki dirty, nasty; trash seli warm, hot
lawa main, leading; head; to lead sewi high, superior; sky
len clothing, clothe tomo house, building
lili little utala war, battle; to fight
mute many, a lot

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 "good person", but due to Toki Pona's small vocabulary, it also means friend.

Notice that the adjective (pona in the above example) comes after the noun rather than before it, hence jan pona instead of pona jan. Although putting an adjective after a noun may seem awkward if you're a native English speaker, many other languages do this. Study until you feel comfortable with this concept.

In addition to adjectives like pona, many verbs also have a dual role 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 multiple adjectives to a noun:

jan = "person"
jan utala = "soldier"
jan utala pona = "good soldier"
jan utala pona mute = "many good soldiers"
jan utala pona ni = "this good soldier"

Notice that ni and mute come at the end of the phrase. The phrases build as you go along, so the adjectives must be organized logically. Notice the difference between these two phrases:

jan utala pona = "good soldier"
jan pona utala = "fighting friend," i.e. a sidekick, etc.

Here are some handy, commonly used phrases using words that you've already learned. Try to figure out their literal meanings:

pona lukin* = "pretty," "good-looking," etc.
ike lukin* = "ugly"
jan ike = "enemy"
jan lawa = "leader"
jan lili = "child"
jan sewi = "god"
jan suli = "adult"
jan unpa = "lover"
ma telo = "mud" or "swamp"
ma tomo = "city" or "town"
mi mute = "we," "us"
ona mute = "they," "them"
telo nasa = "alcohol," "beer," "wine"
tomo telo = "restroom"

* 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 you won't learn about that until lesson 11.


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"


Toki Pona's adverbs simply follow the verbs they modify. A few examples:

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."


See how well you can read the following poem. You know all the words and concepts, so you should be able to understand it. Afterward, check your translation for each line of the poem.

mi jo e kili.

ona li pona li lili.

mi moku lili e kili lili.

Try translating these sentences from English to Toki Pona.

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.

And now try changing these sentences from Toki Pona into English:

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.
Notice how even though nasa is typically an adjective, it is used as a verb here. Neat, huh?


I have a fruit.

It is good and 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.