o kama sona e toki pona!
Lesson 6: Prepositions I: lon, kepeken, and tawa


kama to come, to happen, to cause pana to give, to send, to release, to emit
kepeken to use; with, using poki container, bowl, glass, cup, box, etc.
kiwen stone, rock; hard like a rock toki language; to talk, to speak
kon air, atmosphere, spirit, wind tawa to go to, to move; to, for
lon to be in/at/on, to exist; in, at, on    


lon can be used as both a verb and a preposition (and so can tawa and kepeken, as you'll learn below). Study these examples:
mi lon tomo. I'm in the house.
mi moku lon tomo. I eat in the house.
In the first sentence, lon is a verb. In the second, it's a preposition. Neat, huh? More examples:
suno li lon sewi. The sun is in the sky.
mi telo e mi lon tomo telo. I bathe myself in the restroom.
Remember from lesson 5 that tomo telo means restroom, bathroom, etc.
kili li lon poki. The fruit is in the basket.

lon as an action verb

Although lon is a very common Toki Pona word, it's almost never used as an action verb. I'm including this section anyway for those who are curious, but feel free to skip over it.

... So you're still reading? Good! If used as an action verb, lon basically means to make ___ real or to make ___ aware/awake/conscious. Let's look at a few examples:
sina lon e wile sina.    This would be similar to saying, "You're following your dreams," in English.
sina wile lon e ona!    This would be similar to saying, "You have to snap her out of it," in English. You might use lon this way if someone were despondent, not paying attention, had dozed off, etc.


It's easy to use kepeken as an action verb. You use e after it like with most other verbs.
mi kepeken e ilo. I'm using tools.
sina wile kepeken e ilo. You have to use tools.
mi kepeken e poki ni. I'm using that cup.

kepeken can also be a preposition.
mi moku kepeken ilo moku. I eat using a fork.
mi lukin kepeken ilo suno. I look using a flashlight. (ilo suno = a tool of light, hence flashlight)


tawa as a verb

Hopefully you understood how to use lon because tawa is used in a similar way. As with lon, don't put an e after tawa.
mi tawa tomo mi. I'm going to my house.
ona li tawa utala. He's going to the war.
sina wile tawa telo suli. You want to go to the ocean.
ona li tawa sewi kiwen. She's going up the rock.
In the last example, sewi is a noun. A more literal translation of that sentence is, She's going to the top (of) the rock.

You can't put an e after lon and tawa because there's no direct object. For example, if you go home, you're not actually doing anything to your house. You're simply going to it. If you tried to burn your house down or do something else to it or affect it in some way, then you'd put e after the verb. Otherwise, no e.

tawa as an *action* verb

However, if you're moving an object, then use tawa e.
mi tawa e kiwen. I moved the rock.
ona li tawa e len mi. She moved my clothes.

tawa as a preposition

In addition to being a verb, tawa is also a preposition.
mi toki tawa sina. I talk to you.
ona li lawa e jan tawa ma pona. He led people to the good land.
ona li kama tawa ma mi. He's coming to my country.

This is a good time to learn how to say that you like something, since the Toki Pona phrase for to like requires you to use tawa as a preposition:
ni li pona tawa mi. That is good to me, i.e. I like that.
To say that you dislike something, change pona to ike.
ni li ike tawa mi. That is bad to me, i.e. I don't like that.
More examples:
kili li pona tawa mi. I like fruit.
toki li pona tawa mi. I like talking, or I like languages.
tomo li ike tawa mi. I don't like buildings.
telo suli li ike tawa mi. I don't like the ocean.

Remember that you can only use e after a verb. Toki Pona does not use clauses. For example, to say, "I like watching the countryside," you could not say "lukin e ma li pona tawa mi." Instead you should split the sentence in two:
mi lukin e ma. ni li pona tawa mi. I'm watching the countryside. This is good to me.
Alternatively, you could express the same idea using what you learned in lesson 5:
ma li pona lukin. The countryside is good visually i.e. the countryside is good-looking, pretty, etc.

tawa as the preposition for

tawa can also mean for, as in this sentence:
mi pona e tomo tawa jan pakala. I fixed the house for the disabled man.
Unfortunately, using tawa to mean both to and for has some drawbacks. Keep reading to see how.

tawa as an adjective

You know how some words in Toki Pona can be used as nouns, verbs, or adjectives, depending on context? Well, tawa is the same way. tawa is used as an adjective to make the phrase we use for car:
tomo tawa car (literally, moving structure)
tomo tawa telo boat or ship
tomo tawa kon airplane, helicopter, etc.

Ambiguity of tawa

Read the next sentence, then stop to think about it for few moments. Try to think of different meanings it might have.
mi pana e tomo tawa sina.
If tawa is an adjective, then this sentence translates as, I gave your car. But if tawa is a preposition, it's, I gave the house to you. So how do you tell the difference? You don't! This is one of those problems inherent in Toki Pona that there's no way to avoid. Fortunately, such problems are rare.

e ni:

Toki Pona doesn't use relative clauses. (If you don't know what a relative clause is: In the sentence, "I know that he likes me," the phrase "that he likes me" is a relative clause.)

Toki Pona instead splits such sentences in two using e ni:. Here's an example: sina toki e ni tawa mi: sina moku. You told me that you are eating.


We've already learned a little about kama, but it's a common and versatile word, so we need to study it more closely.

As you've already seen, kama can be used with tawa, like this:
ona li kama tawa tomo mi. He came to my house.

kama can also be an action verb. It means to cause or to bring about:
mi kama e pakala. I caused an accident.
sina kama e ni: mi wile moku. You caused this: I want to eat, i.e. you made me hungry.
Note that you can't say, "sina kama e mi wile moku." Toki Pona does not use clauses; you can't shove pieces of sentence together. If in doubt, it's usually wise to split a sentence into two.

kama can also be used with infinitives to make a progressive-like effect. For now we'll just learn kama jo, which means get.
mi kama jo e telo. I came to have the water, i.e. I got the water.


Try translating these sentences from English to Toki Pona.
I fixed the flashlight using a small tool.
I like Toki Pona.
We gave them food.
If you got that one wrong, think of the sentence like this: "We gave food to them." It means the same thing.
This is for my friend.
The tools are in the container.
That bottle is in the dirt.
I want to go to his house using my car.
They are arguing.
Hint: Remember what you learned about adverbs in lesson 5.

And now try changing these sentences from Toki Pona into English:
sina wile kama tawa tomo toki.
jan li toki kepeken toki pona lon tomo toki.
mi tawa tomo toki. ona li pona tawa mi.
sina kama jo e jan pona lon ni.
1. lon ni means either here or there. Can you figure out what it literally means?
to lesson 7 →