o kama sona e toki pona!
Lesson 5: Adjectives, Adverbs


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, e.g. 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, use mi and sina like 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:
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?

¡Ay caramba! These last two lessons, and especially this one, may have seemed really hard. You'll have to start trying to think for yourself rather than relying on English first. If you haven't quite got it yet, it's okay; these things have to be learned by practice and association, so you'll get it in time. If you still feel disheartened, think about this: If you've been learning and practicing the vocabulary of these past three sections like you should, you've already learned over a quarter of all the words in Toki Pona! Keep up the good work!
to lesson 6 →