Prepositions

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Prepositions.

A preposition is a type of content word used to express spatial or temporal relations or to mark various semantic roles.[1] The phrase formed by a preposition together and the complement that follows it is called a prepositional phrase.

Function[edit | edit source]

A prepositional phrase gives context to the predicate or subject of the sentence. They describe the location, cause, purpose, quality, or means of the action, actor, or acted-upon. Toki Pona's prepositions are kepeken, lon, sama, tan, and tawa. A prepositional phrase need not follow another verb: it can be a predicate on its own.

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 are most often modified by a limited group of semiparticles.

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.

All of Toki Pona's prepositions are also 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 is a preposition.)
I brought your car. (tawa is a content word.)

Prepositions vs. transitive verbs[edit | edit source]

Under construction This page needs work:
Potentially move to kepeken e?
If you know about this topic, you can help us by editing it. (See all)
Difference between the phrases mi tawa tomo and mi tawa e tomo.

In the sentence A li B e C, the subject A causes the direct object C to become C B.

So, in the sentence ona li tawa e telo, the subject ona causes the telo ("water") to become telo tawa ("going water"); the sentence translates as "They move the water".

In ona li tawa telo, the word tawa instead acts as a preposition. Given that tawa telo is a prepositional phrase meaning "toward water", this sentence translates as "They go 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]

Expanded syntax[edit | edit source]

Caution: The subject of this article is nonstandard and will not be understood by most speakers.
It is recommended to familiarize yourself with the standard style, and to be informed and selective about which nonstandard styles you adopt.

Generally, prepositional phrases can come after the direct object, stand directly after the verb if there is no direct object, or be a predicate all their own.[8] Occasionally they appear before a direct object,

jan [P U T A] li pana tawa mi e mi · ona li pana tawa mi e jan [S I T A T A]

jan Puta li pana tawa mi e mi. ona li pana tawa mi e jan Sitata.[10]

He has given me Siddhartha, myself.[9]


as a modifier,

waso lon telo li pilin musi

waso lon telo li pilin musi.

The ducklings in the pond are having fun.


or in a pi phrase.

mi toki tawa ilo pi(lon poka mi)

mi toki tawa ilo pi lon poka mi.[11]

I spoke to the tool that was next to me.

Transitive prepositional phrases[edit | edit source]

Caution: The subject of this article is nonstandard and will not be understood by most speakers.
It is recommended to familiarize yourself with the standard style, and to be informed and selective about which nonstandard styles you adopt.

Some speakers allow an entire prepositional phrase to be used as a transitively on a direct object introduced by e. The prepositional phrase is then predicated of the direct object. See kepeken e for more information.

mi tawa tomo pali nanpa luka tu tu pi kulupu [N O K A S I] e sina.

mi tawa tomo pali nanpa luka tu tu pi kulupu Nokasi e sina.[12]

I will take you to Nokasi Corp. office number nine.

kasi li lon ma ale e kon pona

kasi li lon ma ale e kon pona.

Plants cause good air to exist at all of the land.

Table of prepositions[edit | edit source]

Word Sense
Preposition
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

References[edit | edit source]

  1. jan Juli. (23 September 2022). "nasin toki pona: how to use prepositions". GitHub. Retrieved 16 November 2023.
  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. (18 February 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
  8. jan Kekan San. "Prepositions and Context". mun.la.
  9. Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha (1922) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2499
  10. Hermann Hesse (tr. jan Kala), jan Sitata (2022), https://wikisource.org/wiki/Jan_Sitata/lipu_nanpa_wan/jan_Kotama
  11. jan Kepe. (18 February 2023). "Nasi". utala pona.
  12. jan Kepe, Nasi (utala pona: 2023) http://utala.pona.la/toki-en-lipu/lipu-suli/nasi.html.