o kama sona e toki pona!
Lesson 16: Numbers


nanpa number wan one; to unite
tu two; to divide weka away; to remove, to eliminate
In previous lessons, you learned ali (all or every, from lesson 8) and mute (many, from lesson 5), but you'll learn new uses of these two words in this lesson, namely:

ali 100
mute 20

Two Numbering Systems

Toki Pona has two complementary yet somewhat different approaches to expressing numbers: one simpler, more traditional approach; and a more recent, more complex approach. Toki Ponans use both, so let's study each in turn.

Traditional Numbering

For about ten years, Toki Pona basically only had three numerical words: wan for 1, tu for 2, and (less frequently used) luka for 5.

Higher numbers could be expressed by mathematically combining those three words into strings. For example, since 3 = 2 + 1, to express 3 in Toki Pona, you'd say tu wan. Likewise, 14 = 5 + 5 + 2 + 2 = luka luka tu tu.

Here are lots of examples:
ijo luka tu pi pona lukin 7 pretty things
akesi wan 1 snake
kasi tu 2 trees
nimi luka luka luka luka tu 22 names
tenpo suno luka luka luka luka luka luka luka luka 40 days
linja luka luka 10 lines
jan pona luka luka tu 12 friends
tomo tu wan 3 structures
lupa luka tu 7 doors
soweli tu tu 4 horses

As you probably noticed with the above examples, expressing larger numbers (beyond 25 or so) quickly becomes so tedious and cumbersome that you must reconsider whether it's even worthwhile. True to its design goals, Toki Pona's original numbering system forced you to be simple-minded.

If specifying a large number was unnecessary, you could simply use mute (many) instead. To express truly massive numbers, just add more mute:
jan mute li kama. Many people are coming.
jan mute mute mute li kama! Many, many, many people are coming!

You could also use mute lili to mean some, i.e. more than just two but still not very many.
jan mute lili li kama. A few people are coming.

New Numbering

Some years later, Sonja Lang, the creator of Toki Pona, changed the numbering system by assigning specific quantities to the words mute (20) and ali (100). The original concept of adding numbers together still applies. Here are a few examples:
tenpo suno mute luka tu wan 28 days
mute mute tu 42
jan utala ali ali ali 300 soldiers
ma ali mute mute mute mute luka luka luka wan 196 countries

Of course, you can still use the old numbering system, as do many Toki Ponans. luka luka luka luka still means 20.

Ordinal Numbers

For ordinal numbers, just add pi nanpa between the noun and the number.
ni li jan lili ona pi nanpa tu wan. This is her third child.
meli mi pi nanpa tu li nasa! My second girlfriend was crazy!

Note: Some Toki Ponans don't use pi and simply use nanpa by itself. Sonja Lang's official Toki Pona book also teaches the ordinal numbers without pi. I believe this structure to be incorrect, but I'm mentioning it here so that you'll recognize it when you see it.

Other Uses of wan and tu

Although not defined as such in the official dictionary, wan and tu are sometimes used as verbs.

tu can mean divide or split.
o tu e palisa ni. Break this stick into two pieces. (literally, Split this stick.)

wan can mean unite.
mi en meli mi li wan. My girlfriend and I got married. (literally, I and my girlfriend united.)
Be aware that the official dictionary teaches that unpa means to be married to. However, as you probably recall, unpa also means to have sex with, so there's a potential for embarassment and confusion. I haven't seen Toki Ponans actually use unpa to mean marriage in real conversations.


The miscellaneous word for this lesson is weka. As a verb, it just means to get rid of, to remove, etc.
o weka e len sina. Take off your clothes.
o weka e jan lili tan ni. ona li wile ala kute e ni. Remove the kid from here. He shouldn't hear this.

weka can also mean away.
mi weka. I was away.
mi wile tawa weka. I want to go away, or I want to leave.

weka tan far from
tomo mi li weka tan ni. My house is far from here.
ma Posan li weka tan ma Alensina. Bosnia is far from Argentina.

weka ala tan close to
ma Mewika li weka ala tan ma Kupa. The USA is near Cuba.


Try changing these sentences from English into Toki Pona.
I saw three birds.
Many people are coming.
The first person is here.
I own two cars.
A few people are coming.

And now try changing these sentences from Toki Pona into English:
mi weka e ijo tu ni.
o tu.
mi lukin e soweli luka.
mi weka.
to lesson 17 →