Updated jan Pije's lessons/Lesson 8 Negation, Yes - No Questions

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ala - not, none; nothing

ale or ali - everything, all

ken - can, to be able to; possibility

lape - to sleep; sleep

musi - to have fun, to amuse; game, fun

pali - to do, to make, to work; activity, work

sona - to know, to know how to; wisdom

wawa - strong, intense; energy, power


In English, you make a verb negative by adding doesn't or don't in front of the verb, as in the sentence "We don't talk". However, Toki Pona puts its negative word, ala, after the verb.

mi lape ala. -- I'm not sleeping. (literally: "I sleep not.")
mi musi ala. -- I'm not having fun.
mi wawa ala. -- I'm not strong.
mi wile ala tawa musi. -- I don't want to dance.

tawa musi literally means "move entertainingly" or something like that. It's used to mean "dance". Keep in mind that these ala sentences can often be translated in a variety of ways. For example, the sentence "mi musi ala" can also be translated as "I'm bored"; "mi wawa ala" could be translated as "I'm weak". You just have to be flexible.

Note that ala can also be used as an adjective.

jan ala li toki. -- Nobody is talking. (literally: "person none (li) talks.")

There's nothing wrong with putting ala after the verb (which is toki in this sentence), and in fact that's the more common way of doing it. However, you do have the option of using ala after nouns, and so I just wanted to point that out. However, if you do that, try to remember not use ala with ijo:

Incorrect: ijo ala li jaki. -- No thing is dirty. (literally: "thing none (li) dirty."
Correct: ala li jaki. -- Nothing is dirty.

If not behind a verb, ala already essentially means nothing by default, and so using ijo just doesn't fit in.

ale and ali

It might seem odd that I have put the words for everything in with the lesson that's about negation! However, despite the differences in meaning, ala and ale / ali as adjectives are used the same way.

Before we learn how to use this word, I suppose you're wondering why there are two words that mean the exact same thing. Well, the explanation involves phonetics. The word ali has been created fairly recently. Before it, there was only ale. However, as you might have already noticed, the words ale and ala are very close in pronunciation. It's easy to confuse these two words in your head, and it's also easy to hear the word wrong when it is spoken aloud. People became more concerned that ala and ale could be confused too easily, and so Sonja, the creator of Toki Pona, suggested the word ali. It means the exact same thing as ale; however, it's separated from ala more and is easier to differentiate. Both ale and ali will exist until it seems that one has become more popular than the other. You can use whichever word you like more; however, I personally prefer ali and so I'll use it in these lessons.

So, anyhow, now let's talk about how to use this word. Just a moment ago, we learned how ala can be used as an adjective. Fortunately, ali is used the exact same way:

jan ali li wile tawa. -- Everybody wants to travel.
ma ali li pona. -- All nations are good.

Also like ala, it's best not to use ijo and ali together:

ijo ali li pona -- Everything is okay.

By the way, ali li pona is one of the Toki Pona proverbs, if you didn't know that.

Yes/No Questions

To ask a question that can be answered by saying "yes" or "no", you follow a simple pattern. Look at how this sentence has been made into a question:

sina pona ala pona? -- Are you okay? (literally: "you okay not okay?")

To make questions like these, you say the verb, then ala, then repeat the verb. Now that's not so difficult, is it? It'll just take a while to get accustomed to. Here are more examples:

suno li suli ala suli? -- Is the sun big?
len sina li telo ala telo? -- Are your clothes wet?
tomo tawa sina li pakala ala pakala? -- Is your car messed up?
sina ken ala ken lape? -- Can you sleep?
ona li lon ala lon tomo? -- Is he in the house?
ona li tawa ala tawa ma ike? -- Did he go to the evil land?
sina pana ala pana e moku tawa jan lili? -- Did you give food to the child?
pipi li moku ala moku e kili? -- Are the bugs eating the fruit?


Answering these yes/no questions is quite simple. If someone asked you sina wile ala wile moku? ("Do you want to eat?"), you could answer either yes or no. Here's how to do that:

wile -- Yes
wile ala -- No

If you want to say yes, you simply repeat the verb of the sentence. If you want to say no, you repeat the verb and add ala after it. Here are some more questions and their answers:

sina lukin ala lukin e kiwen? -- Do you see the rock?
lukin -- Yes
lukin ala -- No
sina sona ala sona e toki mi? -- Do you understand my talking? Do you understand what I'm saying?
sona -- Yes
sona ala -- No

tan (again)

You learned tan in the last lesson as a preposition, but now we need to cover its uses as a noun.

When used as a noun, tan means cause or reason. Of course, that can be helpful when you want to translate a sentence such as "I don't know why". However, you have to rephrase that sentence a little:

mi sona ala e tan. -- I don't know the reason.

That's all.


Try translating these sentences from English to Toki Pona.

Is that funny? Yes.

You have to tell me why.

Is a bug beside me?

Do you like me?

I can’t sleep.

I don’t want to talk to you.

He didn’t go to the lake.

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

sina wile ala wile pali? wile ala.

jan utala li seli ala seli e tomo?

jan lili li ken ala moku e telo nasa.

sina kepeken ala kepeken e ni?

sina ken ala ken kama?


ni li musi ala musi? musi.

sina wile toki e tan tawa mi.

pipi li lon ala lon poka mi?

mi pona ala pona tawa sina?

mi ken ala lape.

mi wile ala toki tawa sina.

ona li tawa ala telo.

Do you want to work? No.

Is the warrior burning the house?

Children can’t drink beer.

Are you using that?

Can you come?