o kama sona e toki pona!
Lesson 8: Negation, Yes/No Questions

Vocabulary

ala not, none; nothing musi to have fun, to amuse; game, fun
ale or ali everything, all pali to do, to make, to work; activity, work
ken can, to be able to; possibility sona to know, to know how to; wisdom
lape to sleep; sleep wawa strong, intense; energy, power

Negation

In English you make a verb negative by adding doesn't or don't in front of the it, like in the sentence, We don't talk. However, Toki Pona's negative word, ala, goes 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 means dance.

Oftentimes ala sentences can be translated in various ways. For example, the sentence "mi musi ala" could also be translated as I'm bored. mi wawa ala could be translated as I'm weak. Be flexible.

ala can also be an adjective.
jan ala li toki. Nobody is talking. (literally, person none (li) talks.)
However, you shouldn't use ala with ijo.
Wrong: ijo ala li jaki. No thing is dirty. (literally, "thing none li dirty.")
Right: ala li jaki. Nothing is dirty.
By itself, ala already means nothing by default, so ijo ali is needlessly complex.

ale and ali

It may seem odd that I'm teaching ali (everything) in the lesson about negation, but despite the different meanings, ala and ali are used in similar ways.

First, though, let's discuss why there are two words (ale and ali) that mean the same thing. Originally, Toki Pona only had the word ale. However, because ale sounds very similar to ala, Toki Ponans were worried that listeners would hear the word wrong. Therefore, Sonja added ali as an alternative pronunciation. You can choose whichever form you prefer, but I prefer ali, and that's what I'll use throughout the rest of this course.

Above you learned that 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.

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 ask yes/no questions, say the verb, then ala, then repeat the verb. 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 Yes/No Questions

To answer a yes/no question, just repeat the verb if you mean "yes." To say "no," just repeat the verb and add ala after it. For example, if someone asked you, "sina wile ala wile moku?" (Do you want to eat?),
wile Yes
wile ala No

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)

In lesson 7 you learned that tan is a preposition, but now you need to learn how to use it as a noun.

As a noun, tan means cause or reason. You can use tan to translated a sentence like, "I don't know why," but you'll have to rephrase that sentence a little first:
mi sona ala e tan. I don't know the reason, i.e. I don't know why.

Practice

Try translating these sentences from English to Toki Pona.
Is that funny? Yes.
You have to tell me why.
Think: You have to tell the reason to me.
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?
to lesson 9 →