This is a list of common misconceptions that learners tend to have about Toki Pona words.
The biggest confusion around e comes from not knowing what the direct object is. For example, in the sentence below, the direct object is sina, meaning that the subject is talking about someone, instead of to someone. The correct sentence would be mi toki tawa sina.
mi toki e sina
mi toki e sina.
I talk to you.
I talk about you, I mention you.
Remembering what is what isn't as hard as it seems; in English, the direct object never has a preposition. So if in the sentence you're translating, the "object" has a preposition before it (such as to, for, from, etc), it's not the direct object.
li[edit | edit source]
li is not "is"[edit | edit source]
Beginners often have the misconception that li translates to "is", "are", or "to be". Notably, the series 12 Days of sona pi toki pona by jan Misali makes this claim, which was later corrected in his newer series toki pona lessons. The word "is" is a verb, whereas li is not. It is a particle that introduces a verb, regardless of whether the sentence would be translated with "is". For example:
I (›) am good.
ona li pona
ona li pona.
They › are good.
ona li pona e ijo
ona li pona e ijo.
They › improve » something.
It is more consistent to say that "to be good" and "improve" are both translations of pona. This pattern is true of all content words.
pi[edit | edit source]
pi is not "of"[edit | edit source]
Some dictionaries, most notably the one featured in pu, define the word pi as meaning "of". This is misleading, as most senses of "of" don't translate into pi. This was acknoledged in the section "Notes on lipu pu" of the Toki Pona Dictionary.
the language good
It may be more helpful to think of every modifier as having an implied "of" before it:
kala utala suli
kala utala suli
fish fighting bigness
Possession[edit | edit source]
pi is not a possessive particle. It does not necessarily indicate ownership or translate the English suffix -'s, also known as the Saxon genitive. Any adjective can be interpreted as indicating possession regardless of the presence or absence of pi. pi serves the same purpose in a possessive context as it does in any other: to separate a group of modifiers from those preceding them.
In this case, the word ona could name the owner of the house, and there is no pi.
tomo pi(jan [ale luka uta])
tomo pi jan Alu
jan Alu's house
Here, jan Alu owns the house; pi is used to separate the phrase jan Alu from the word tomo, preventing confusion. This is only because jan Alu is a multi-word modifier, and ona is a single-word modifier.
tomo ona ale
tomo ona ale
all their houses; all houses belonging to them
tomo pi(ona ale)
tomo pi ona ale
all-of-them house; house belonging to all of them
Possession is one of many possible interpretations of pi: what comes after pi simply modifies, describes, qualifies, or alters what comes before it.
References[edit | edit source]
- jan Misali. (14 December 2015). "12 Days of sona pi toki pona Day Two: Sentence Structure". jan Misali [@HBMmaster]. YouTube.
- jan Juli. (23 September 2022). "nasin toki pona". GitHub. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
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