Updated jan Pije's lessons/Lesson 9 Gender, Unofficial Words, Commands

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Gender, Unofficial Words, Addressing People, Interjections, Commands

You've already learned toki and pona, but you're being reintroduced to them because they're going to be used differently in this lesson.


a - ahh, ha!, umm, hmm, ooh, etc.

awen - to wait, to pause, to stay; remaining

mama - parent

mije - man, husband, boyfriend, male

meli - woman, wife, girlfriend, female

mu - woof, meow, moo, any animal sound

nimi - name, word

o - used for vocative and imperative

pona - yay!, cool, good

toki - language; hey!


Toki Pona doesn't have any grammatical gender like in most Western languages. (Yay!) However, some words in Toki Pona (such as mama) don't tell you which gender a person is, and so we use mije and meli to distinguish. For example:

mama -- a parent in general; doesn't tell whether it's mother or father
mama meli -- mother
mama mije -- father

It's as simple as that. Keep in mind, though, that in Toki Pona it's usually best not to specify whether the person you're talking about is male or female unless there's a special reason for doing so. Specifying male or female is often unnecessary, so why bother?

Unofficial words

Okay, this might seem a little odd at first, but it's really quite a neat feature in Toki Pona. Take a moment to look over the Toki Pona Dictionary. You'll see lots of words you already know, such as pona, jaki, suno, and utala. However, as you might have noticed, there are no words for the names of nations; there are also aren't any words for religions or even other languages. The reason that these words aren't in the dictionary is because they are "unofficial." Anything not in the dictionary is unofficial.

Before using an unofficial word, we often adapt the word to fit into Toki Pona's phonetic rules. So, for example, America becomes Mewika, Canada becomes Kanata, and so on. You can find some more unofficial words on the official site.

Now the thing about these unofficial words is that they can never be used by themselves. They are always treated like adjectives, and so they have to be used with a noun. For example, suppose you wanted to say "Canada is good". Because Kanata is an unofficial word, it has to be used as an adjective. And because we're talking about the nation of Canada, we'll use the word ma (the Toki Pona word for nation or country) with Kanata:

ma Kanata li pona.

See? The unofficial words are treated just like all other adjectives that you've been using in Toki Pona so far. A more literal translation of ma Kanata is Canadian nation. Here are some more sentences using the names of countries:

ma Isale li lili. -- Israel is small.
ma Italija li pona lukin. -- Italy is beautiful. (Remember from lesson five that pona lukin means pretty, attractive, etc. It literally means "good visually".)
mi wile tawa ma Tosi. -- I want to go to Germany.

Do you remember from lesson five that ma tomo means city? When talking about the names of cities, we say ma tomo rather than just ma, and then add on the name of the city like we did for the countries above:

ma tomo Lantan li suli. -- London is big.

Once again, the unofficial word (Lantan) is used as an adjective. Here are a few more examples of names of cities:

ma tomo Pelin -- Berlin
ma tomo Alenta -- Atlanta
ma tomo Loma -- Rome

So if we're talking about a country we use ma, and if it's a city we use ma tomo. If you want to talk about a language, you simply use toki and then attach the unofficial word onto it. The unofficial word does not change:

toki Inli li pona. -- The English language is good.
ma Inli li pona. -- England is good.

Inli didn't change, even though in English the word does change. Neat, huh? Here are some more languages:

toki Kanse -- French language
toki Epelanto -- Esperanto

If you want to talk about a person who is from a certain place, you just say jan and then attach the unofficial word at the end, like this:

jan Kanata -- Canadian person
jan Mesiko -- Mexican person

Of course, you can use other nouns to describe certain people, too. For example, you can use the mije and meli that you learned a few minutes ago. Unless you have a specific reason for saying whether the person is male or female, though, it's best just to use jan. At any rate, here are some examples:

meli Italija -- Italian woman
mije Epanja -- Spanish man

Now suppose you want to talk about someone using their name. For example, what if you want to say "Lisa is cool"? Well, it's quite simple. To say a person's name in Toki Pona, you just say jan and then the person's name:

jan Lisa li pona.

That's not so bad, now is it? jan + name. Simple! Like for the names of countries, we often adapt a person's name to fit into Toki Pona's phonetic rules. Here are some sentences using names that have been tokiponized:

jan Pentan li pana e sona tawa mi. -- Brandon teaches to me. (pana e sona literally means to give knowledge. It's used to mean to teach.)
jan Mewi li toki tawa mi. -- Mary's talking to me.
jan Nesan li musi. -- Nathan is funny.
jan Eta li jan unpa. -- Heather is a sexy person.

If you're interested in having your own Toki Pona name and need help in figuring out how to tokiponize it, come by the Toki Pona chat room or email me at bknight009@yahoo.com . Anyway, there are two ways to tell people who you are:

mi jan Pepe. -- I am Pepe.
nimi mi li Pepe. -- My name is Pepe.

Keep in mind that no one is going to pressure you to adopt a tokiponized name; it's just for fun. We won't tar and feather you if you like your name the way it is. :)

Addressing People, Commands, Interjections

Addressing People

Sometimes you need to get a person's attention before you can talk to him, like when you say something such as "Ken, a bug is on your shirt." Here's how you'd say that sentence:

jan Ken o, pipi li lon len sina.

When you want to address someone like that before saying the rest of the sentence, you just follow this same pattern: jan (name) o (rest of sentence). Here are some more examples:

jan Keli o, sina pona lukin. -- Kelly, you are pretty.
jan Mawen o, sina wile ala wile moku? -- Marvin, are you hungry?
jan Tepani o, sina ike tawa mi. -- Steffany, I don't like you.

Although it's not essential, you should try to remember to put the comma after the o. You'll see why in a minute when you learn about making commands. Toki Pona also has a neat little word a which can be used whenever you're addressing people. Observe:

jan Epi o a! -- Oh Abbie!

However, this a is used sparingly. It's only used when the person makes you feel really emotional. For example, you might use the a when you haven't seen the person for a very long time or when having sex. -- Also, did you see how I didn't actually write a sentence after saying "jan Epi o a!"? That's quite common, especially when you address the person with a. You don't have to say a sentence after addressing someone; it's optional.


Commands are quite simple in Toki Pona. You simply say o and then whatever you want the person to do, like this:

o pali! -- Work!
o awen. -- Wait.
o lukin e ni. -- Watch this.
o tawa ma tomo lon poka jan pona sina. -- Go to the city with your friend.

That's not so bad. We've learned how to address people and how to make commands; now let's put these two concepts together. Suppose you want to address someone and tell them to do something. Here's how:

John, go to your house. ---->
jan San o (John,) + o tawa tomo sina (Go to your house.) ---->
jan San o tawa tomo sina.

Notice how one of the o's got dropped, as did the comma. Here are some more examples:

jan Ta o toki ala tawa mi. -- Todd, don't talk to me.
jan Sesi o moku e kili ni. -- Jessie, eat this fruit.

This structure can also be used to make sentences like "Let's go":

mi mute o tawa. -- Let's go. (Don't forget from lesson 5 that mi mute is used to mean "we".)
mi mute o musi. -- Let's have fun.


I'm going to split the interjections into two groups so that they're easier to explain. The first group is very straight-forward:

toki is used to mean hello.
toki! -- Hello!, Hi!, etc.
jan Lisa o, toki. -- Hello, Lisa.
pona is what you say when something good happens.
pona! -- Yay! Good! Hoorah!
ike is what you say when something bad happens.
ike! -- Oh no!, Uh oh!, Alas!, etc.
pakala essentially covers all the curse words.
pakala! -- f-ck! d-mn!
mu is for sounds made by animals.
mu. -- Meow. Woof. Grrr. Moo.
a is a word that expresses emotion or laughter.
a. -- Ooh, ahh, unh, oh, etc.
a a a! -- Hahaha! (laughter)

The second group of interjections are kinda like salutations, I guess you could say. Anyway, here they are:

suno pona! -- Good sun! Good day!
lape pona! -- Sleep well! Have a good night!
moku pona! -- Good food! Enjoy your meal!
mi tawa -- I'm going. Bye!
tawa pona! -- (in reply) Go well! Good bye!
kama pona! -- Come well! Welcome!
musi pona! -- Good fun! Have fun!


Try translating these sentences from English to Toki Pona.

Susan is crazy.
Mama, wait.
I come from Europe.
Hahaha! That’s funny.
My name is Ken.
Hello, Lisa.
I want to go to Australia.

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

mi wile kama sona e toki Inli.
jan Ana o pana e moku tawa mi.
o tawa musi lon poka mi!
jan Mose o lawa e mi mute tawa ma pona.
tawa pona.


jan Susan li nasa.
o tawa!
mama meli o awen.
mi kama tan ma Elopa.
a a a! ni li musi.
nimi mi li Ken.
jan Lisa o, toki.
mi wile tawa ma Oselija.
mi tawa!

meow, woof, moo, etc.
I want to learn English.
Ana, give me food.
Dance with me!
Moses, lead us to the good land.
Good bye (spoken by the person who’s staying)