From sona pona, the Toki Pona wiki

A preposition is a part of speech in Toki Pona. They are words that can function as content words or serve a grammatical function. They can relate content phrases to the rest of the sentence by marking temporal or spatial relationships, indirect objects, or other relationships. The phrase formed by a preposition and its prepositional object is called a prepositional phrase.

There are five prepositions in Toki Pona: kepeken, lon, sama, tan, and tawa.


Prepositional phrases can come after the direct object, stand directly after the verb if there is no direct object, or be a predicate all on their own.[1]

mi sitelen e ni kepeken toki lili

mi sitelen e ni kepeken toki lili.[2]

I wrote this by means of few words.

kala li weka tan poka ma li lon noka telo

kala li weka tan poka ma li lon noka telo.[3]

The fish went away from the shore and is in the bottom of the water.

Like preverbs, prepositions can be negated with ala while being used in their grammatical function.

jan nasin li wile pona e lawa ona lon ala poka jan

jan nasin li wile pona e lawa ona lon ala poka jan.[4]

A sage wanted to repair their head away from (literally: not next to) people.

mu sina li ike li sama ala mu pi mi ale

mu sina li ike li sama ala mu pi mi ale.[5]

Your moo is bad and unlike our moo.

The prepositions can also function as content words. This can lead to ambiguities, where a sentence means two different things depending on whether the word is interpreted as a preposition or a content word.

mi pana e tomo tawa sina

mi pana e tomo tawa sina.[6]

I give you a house. (tawa sina is interpreted as a prepositional phrase, describing mi pana e tomo.)
I brought your vehicle. (tawa and sina are interpreted as content words, describing tomo.)

Using multiple prepositions

More than one preposition can be appended to the sentence. Both prepositional phrases describe the predicate before them.

mi pali e tomo ni lon nena kepeken ilo

mi pali e tomo ni lon nena kepeken ilo.

I built this house on a hill using tools. (The building happened both on a hill and by the use of tools.)

ona li pana e kala tawa jan ike tan poki

ona li pana e kala tawa jan ike tan poki.

They throw fish towards the bad people from the barrel. (The throwing is towards the bad people and originates from the barrel.)

Since prepositions describe predicates, if the first prepositional phrase is a predicate, additional prepositional phrases will describe the first.

sitelen ni li sama mi sama sina

sitelen ni li sama mi sama sina.

Like you, the drawing is like me.

For both prepositions to describe the subject, they must both be predicates, so they must both be marked with li.

sitelen ni li sama mi li sama sina

sitelen ni li sama mi li sama sina.

This drawing is like me and you.

Prepositions vs. transitive verbs

When functioning grammatically, the particle e is not used with prepositions. In the sentence ona li tawa telo, which translates to "They go towards the water," the prepositional phrase is describing the state of the subject. The subject is not directly acting upon something or experiencing a stimulus.

If e is placed after the preposition, tawa becomes a content word, no longer functioning grammatically, and telo is now being directly acted upon by the subject. ona li tawa e telo translates to "They move the water," or "They apply motion to the water."

For another example:

kasi li lon ma ale

kasi li lon ma ale.

Plants exist at all of the land.
Plants are everywhere.

kasi li lon e ma ale

kasi li lon e ma ale.

Plants cause all the land to exist.
Plants created the Earth.

tan ma tomo [palisa anpa pakala esun] la jan sewi [jo ale wile e] li tawa e jan tawa ma mute.

tan ma tomo Pape la jan sewi Jawe li tawa e jan tawa ma mute.

from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.[7]

Placement of prepositions

Toki Pona's prepositions are often described as being sentence level. They can give more information about a sentence (including its subject, predicate, and direct object if any), or describe the subject if they are themselves a predicate. This is different from English, where prepositions can be used to relate nouns to other nouns. To relate words to other words, rather than full sentences, modification should be used. Unwanted translations can happen if a preposition is used where modification would be preferred.

mi lukin e waso lon telo

mi lukin e waso lon telo.

I look at the birds while in the water.

mi lukin e waso telo

mi lukin e waso telo.

I look at the birds in the water.

If what is intended to be a prepositional phrase is not placed at the end of a sentence, they will act as content words, most likely modifying what comes before them.

jan [pini awen poki open] li pana tawa mi e sona

jan Papo li pana tawa mi e sona.

jan Papo gives knowledge in a way that is moving and me-like.

poki lon supa li jelo

poki lon supa li jelo.

The boxes that are existing and horizontal-surface-related are yellow.

Table of prepositions

Word Sense
prep ijo
Intransitive preposition
li prep ijo
Transitive verb
li prep e ijo
Transitive preposition
li prep A e B
kepeken using to use (controversial) see kepeken e to make B use A
lon at/in/on to exist at/in/on to create to make B be at/in/on A
sama like to be like to make alike to liken B to A
tan from to be/come from (rare) to blame to make B be/come from A
tawa toward to go to to move to move B to A


  1. jan Kekan San. "Prepositions and Context".
  2. jan pali pi lipu kule. (24 January 2021). "tan suli lipu li seme?". lipu kule.
  3. Joshua Edward. (4 April 2021). "waso suli". lipu sitelen mi.
  4. Joshua Edward. "pilin utala". lipu sitelen mi pi toki pona.
  5. ijo tan anpa nanpa. (22 April 2023). "mu namako". utala pona.
  6. Nikita Ayzikovsky. (28 May 2002). "every day words". Toki Pona Forums.
  7. [1]Religious Texts translated by Sonja Lang