From sona pona, the Toki Pona wiki
anu in sitelen pona
anu in sitelen sitelen
Pronunciation /ˈ
Usage 2023: Core (99% ↗︎ )2022: Core (98%)
Book and era nimi pu
Part of speech Particle
Codepoint 󱤇 U+F1907

anu is a particle used to indicate alternatives, corresponding with the English conjunctions or (exclusive disjunction) and and/or (inclusive disjunction).

Function[edit | edit source]

Tag questions[edit | edit source]

The particle anu is most commonly used in the phrase anu seme to form tag questions.[citation needed…] This literally means or what and it is one of two ways to form yes-or-no questions in Toki Pona.

ona li jan-pona anu seme

ona li jan pona anu seme?

They are a good person, aren't they?
Are they a good person?

Disjunction[edit | edit source]

anu is used to indicate an alternative among multiple things, either as a question or a statement. It replaces other particles (en, li, e) or any preposition, as when repeating them to introduce another subject, predicate, or object, for example:

Introducing another subject:

sina anu jan sina li jo e jaki [mi en sina o tawa esun lili insa jaki o moli a] la sina ken kama jo e mani mute

sina anu jan sina li jo e jaki Mesotelijoma la sina ken kama jo e mani mute.[1]

If you or someone you're related to has mesothelioma, you can receive a lot of money.
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Introducing another predicate:

toki-pona li nasin toki suli anu toki lili suwi taso

toki pona li nasin toki suli anu toki lili suwi taso?[2]

Is Toki Pona a serious way of speaking or just a cute little language?

Introducing another direct object:

ona li kama e pilin-ike anu pilin-pona la ni li suli ala

ona li kama e pilin ike anu pilin pona la ni li suli ala.[3]

Whether it brings pain or pleasure, this is unimportant.
It doesn't matter whether it brings pain or pleasure.

Introducing another prepositional phrase:

jan li ken musi e ona kepeken toki [ijo ni li ike] anu toki-pona kin a

jan li ken musi e ona kepeken toki Inli [...] anu toki pona kin a![4]

Folks can play it in English [...] or even in Toki Pona!

Introducing another modifier:

jan li wile sona e ni2 taso   ijo ala anu wan anu tu anu mute li lon

jan li wile sona e ni taso: ijo ala anu wan anu tu anu mute li lon?[5]

People only want to know this: nothing, or one, or two, or many things are present?

The phrase anu seme is sometimes added on to the end of a series of alternatives to leave the question open or to indicate uncertainty on a topic. For example:

ona li ilo anu moku anu seme

ona li ilo anu moku anu seme?[6]

Is it a tool or food or what?

mi sona ala e ni2   tenpo li suno anu pimeja

mi sona ala e ni: tenpo li suno anu pimeja.[7]

I don't know whether it's day time or night time.

Definitions[edit | edit source]

pu[edit | edit source]

In the "Official Toki Pona Dictionary" section, the book Toki Pona: The Language of Good defines anu as:


ku[edit | edit source]

For Toki Pona Dictionary, respondents in ma pona pi toki pona translated these English words as anu:[8]

or5, whether3, choice3, selection2, decide2, either2, select2

sitelen pona[edit | edit source]

The sitelen pona glyph for anu (󱤇) is a Y-shaped logograph, representing a branch between two options, such as a fork in a road leading up to two paths.[9]

sitelen sitelen[edit | edit source]

The sitelen sitelen word glyph for anu (anu) is a simple shape containing two backwards S-shaped elements, which are also found in the word glyph for seme (seme) and the glyph marking a question.

These backwards S-shaped elements are based on a similar element found in Mi'kmaw hieroglyphic writing, where they appear in several passages expressing questions or indeterminacy.[10]

History[edit | edit source]

Caution: The subject of this section is historical information that is presented for completeness, and might not reflect current usage.
Under construction This section needs work:

Clarify relationship to the rest of the page.

If you know about this topic, you can help us by editing it. (See all)

Pre-pu usage[edit | edit source]

The usage of anu to form questions without seme was widespread before the publication of pu.

The course o kama sona e toki pona! by jan Pije, the most influential resource for learning Toki Pona in the pre-pu era, taught anu explicitly and exclusively as a word for marking questions. This included questions without seme, as well as tag questions ending in anu seme.[11]

This word can be used to make questions when there's a choice between two different options. For example, if you came home to find that someone had eaten all of the cookies, and you know that the person who ate them has to be either Susan or Lisa, you might ask:

jan Susan anu jan Lisa li moku e suwi?

Semi-literally, this sentence reads, Susan or Lisa ate the cookies? In colloquial English, it reads, "Did Susan eat the cookies, or was it Lisa?" As you see, you can't necessarily translate directly from English, especially with anu. [...]

anu was also used to make statements. In the learning course Toki Pona in 76 illustrated lessons, the usage of anu was taught in statements and questions side by side, distinguished only by the presence of a question mark or a period.[12]

anu means "or"

mi wile jo e mani anu moku. — I want to have money or food.
sina ken moku e kili anu suwi. taso wan taso. — you can eat a trout or a cookie, but only one.
sina olin e mi anu ona? — do you love me or him?
sina toki tawa mi anu tawa ona? — do you speak to me or to him?
ni li waso anu tomo tawa kon? ala. ni li jan Superman! — Is that a bird or an airplane? No. This is Superman.

pu usage[edit | edit source]

In the book Toki Pona: The Language of Good, the word anu is defined, but not explained outside of its role in anu seme tag questions. The book only provides two sentences containing anu without using anu seme.

mi kute e mije anu meli

mi kute e mije anu meli.

I hear a man or a woman. (answer to Lesson 7)

wile sona nanpa wan li ni2   ale li pona anu ike

wile sona nanpa wan li ni: ale li pona anu ike?

The most fundamental question we can ever ask ourselves is whether or not the universe we live in is friendly or hostile. (Quote misattributed to Albert Einstein)[13]

In the first sentence, anu is presented as a statement. It might still act as a kind of chioce and could in some way work as a question. While in the second sentence, anu is presented as a question. It is not clear whether anu is responsible for forming this question, or if the phrase wile sona is. That sentence is also not question in the English translation. Although this arises out of the reformulation of format. A literal translation may include a question: "the foremost question is this: is the universe good or bad?"

Experimental usages[edit | edit source]

Under construction This section needs work:

Sentence-initial use mentioned on talk page

If you know about this topic, you can help us by editing it. (See all)
Caution: The subject of this section is an experimental or hypothetical style that is not understood by most speakers, or is used only in specific small communities. Learners should avoid using it.

There is an experimental proposal of the word anu as a semiparticle. For example, it may be part of a la phrase, as a whole meaning "otherwise". This phrase is similar to ante la.

mi monsuta e sina la o weka   anu la ni li tenpo alasa

mi monsuta e sina la o weka. anu la ni li tenpo alasa.[14][15]

If I scared you, then run away. Otherwise it's hunting time.

In smaller communities,[which?] an experimental usage of anu was proposed[by whom?] similar to taso and kin, as modifiers of a phrase. This usage notably reduces the level of ambiguity created by anu in situations where it would otherwise be unclear to replace particles or prepositions.

sina ken tawa tomo sitelen tawa tomo moku anu

sina ken tawa tomo sitelen tawa tomo moku anu.

You can go to the art gallery or to the restaurant.

Content word[edit | edit source]

The semiparticle anu is sometimes used as a content word meaning "to choose, to decide". This meaning is controversial due to the lack of content word meanings given to other particles in the language.

anu suli pi ma[taso ona sona ijo]

anu suli pi ma Tosi[16]

German national election (lit. 'the land of Germany's big choice')

References[edit | edit source]

  1. jan Salo. (8 April 2023). "jaki Mesotelijoma" [Mesothelioma] (in Toki Pona). Syro33 [@syro33]. YouTube. Retrieved 7 February 2024.
  2. jan Telakoman. (15 July 2021). "lipu tenpo o kama pona!". lipu tenpo.
  3. Herman Hesse, tr. jan Kala. (15 July 2022). "jan Sitata".
  4. jan Ke Tami. (6 October 2021). "musi pi alasa sona" (in Toki Pona). lipu tenpo. No. toki. ISSN 2752-4639.
  5. jan Kita. (21 September 2021). "nasin nanpa mute li lon". lipu kule.
  6. jan Pensa. (15 July 2023). "mi en waso Kaka en monsuta pi ma kasi". utala musi pi ma pona. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  7. jan Kepe. (15 July 2023). "Nasi". utala musi pi ma pona. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  8. Lang, Sonja. (18 July 2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362. p. 203.
  9. ilo Eko. (14 November 2020). "sitelen pona etymology rough draft i guess". Google Docs. Archived from the original on 5 November 2023.
  10. Jonathan Gabel. "sitelen sitelen acknowledgements and etymology". The website of Jonathan Gabel. Retrieved 9 April 2024.
  11. jan Pije. Lesson 12: Conjunctions, kin, Temperature. Archived from the original on 27 April 2020. lipu pi jan Pije.
  12. Cárdenas, Eliazar Parra (2009). toki pona in 76 illustrated lessons. Internet Archive.
  13. jan Ke Tami (1 November 2023). "toki ni li tan ala tan jan Ape Antan?". In lipu tenpo nanpa sin (in Toki Pona). lipu tenpo. p. 10.
  14. jan Usawi. (26 June 2021). "monsuta". jan Usawi [@janusawi8794]. YouTube. Retrieved 17 December 2023.
  15. soweli Kina [@spiders]. (11 November 2023). "my favorite toki pona song, explained in english (or, why "monsuta" by jan Usawi goes so fucking hard)". Cohost. Retrieved 17 December 2023.
  16. Aronora (jan Alonola) (6 October 2021). "anu suli pi ma Tosi". In lipu tenpo nanpa toki (in Toki Pona). lipu tenpo. p. 8.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Resources for historical usage[edit | edit source]

  • jan Pije: Lesson 12 (maintained from 2003 to mid 2010s)
  • 76 Illustrated Lessons: Lesson 63 (original published in 2004, English translation in 2009)

Dictionaries[edit | edit source]