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|'''do pu citka lo plise ba lo nu mi pinxe lo ladru'''
|'''do pu citka lo plise ba lo nu mi pinxe lo ladru'''
|''You ate after I drank the milk.''
|''You ate an apple after I drank the milk.''
Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.
Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

Revision as of 18:05, 8 June 2014

 The La Gleki's
Crash Course in Lojban
(La Bangu dialect)
The guide to the naturalistic logical language
Published 2015

This crash course is an intgoroduction to Lojban, a logical language. It will allow you to understand most of the Lojban you are likely to see in the online Lojban discussion groups or publications.

Why was this book born?

When I first saw the description of Lojban I was confused. A language where verbs and nouns don't differ. How is that possible? And then I saw those pronounceable smileys... but wait! It is a logical language. Where do emotions come from in the world of logic? These oddities were making me crazy.

If this language can combine those things it must be the most powerful human language in the world. And although I didn't have much free time for such hobbies I decided to look into it deeper. Why?

  • I wanted to try new ways of thinking.
  • I wanted a beautiful language.
  • And I wanted something easy to grasp.

I heard others saying that Lojban is extremely hard to learn but what I discovered later was an amazing simplicity of its structure.

I also learnt that Lojban allows to say things shorter without unnecessary distracting details. For example, one doesn't have to always think of what tense (past, present or future) to use in a verb when it's already clear from context. When you need details you add them. But unlike other languages Lojban doesn't force you to do so.

Go on reading and you'll get evidence for that.

But I decided to write my own course.

When I first opened textbooks on Lojban ... darn, they were written not for humans for sure. An awkward and boring style making it impossible to learn the language fast. A lot of distracting not necessary details, no solutions for real situations and bulky, bulky, bulky.

And I said "Enough! If you can't explain it yourself then I'll do that, in simple words, with better examples and as concise as possible."

Using this course.

Lojban is likely to be very different to the kinds of languages you are familiar with — which certainly include English. Learning it is much more than just learning its words and grammar: it is more about understanding it. It will make you think about the ways you express ideas in words. Something that you learned and used every day but never tried to understand how it works.

Learning may be easy or hard, depending on how well you understand the ideas behind it. There are not many words and rules that you need to learn to get into a basic level. You will get there rather quickly if you put a systemic effort. On the other hand, if you fail to understand some basic point, memorizing things will not help you much. In such cases don't hesitate to move on, and come back to it later. Likewise, some of the exercises are trickier than others (particularly the translation exercises at the end of each lesson). If you can't work out the answer to a particular question, feel free to skip it — but do look at the answer to the question, as there are often useful hints on Lojban usage in there. The answers to the exercises are at the end of each lesson.

Conventions used in this book.

Lojbanic text is always in bold.

Translations are in italic.

Explanations of the structure of text in Lojban is in such "square" letters.

Brackets are used to clarify the grammatical structure of Lojban in examples. [These brackets are not part of official Lojban orthography, and are included only for clarifying stuff].

Words with their translations are indented.

Examples are marked by a line on the left. This is an example of a case study sentence.

Examples of common colloquial phrases are marked by a double line on the left.
Side notes and tips are in boxes. This is an example of a note.

For more information on Lojban, please contact the Logical Language Group:

This course is created by the author La Gleki with the help of the Lojban community throughout year 2015. It is loosely based on the book Complete Lojban Grammar, tutorials Wave Lessons and Lojban For Beginners. Important note: this textbook teaches a simplified and optimized dialect of Lojban called La Bangu.

Lesson 1. The language at a glance


The basic thing you need to know about Lojban is obviously the alphabet.

Lojban uses the Latin alphabet (vowels are colored):

a b c d e f g i j k l m n o p r s t u v x y z ' .

Most letters are pronounced like in English or Latin, but there are a few differences.

There are six vowels in Lojban:

a as in palm (not as in face)
e as in get
i as in machine or (Italian) vino (not as in hit)
o as in choice or more — not as in so (this should be a ‘pure' sound).
u as in cool (not as in but)
y as in comma (not as in misty or cycle)

a, e, i, o, u are pretty much the same as vowels in Italian or Spanish.

The sixth vowel, y sounds like a in the word comma. So it's kind of er or, in American English, uh. y is the sound that comes out when the mouth is completely relaxed (this sound is also called schwa in the language trade).

As for consonants

c is pronounced as sh (like in shop).
g always g as in gum, never g as in gem
j like j in French bonjour or like s in pleasure or treasure.
x like ch in Scottish loch or as in German Bach, Spanish Jose or Arabic Khaled. Try pronouncing ksss while keeping your tongue down and you get this sound.
' like English h. So the apostrophe is regarded as a proper letter of Lojban and pronounced like an h. It can be found only between vowels. For example, u'i is pronounced as oohee (whereas ui is pronounced as ooh-eeh).
. a full stop (period) is also regarded as a letter in Lojban. It's a short pause in speech to stop words running into each other. Actually any word starting with a vowel has a full stop placed in front of it. This helps prevent undesirable merging of two sequential words into one.

Stress is always put on the last but one vowel or shown explicitly using symbol ` before the stressed vowel in order to break this rule. For example, dansu (which means to dance) can be also written as d`ansu to explicitly show the stress. If a word has only one vowel you just don't stress it.

You don't have to be very precise about Lojban pronunciation, because the sounds are distributed so that it is hard to mistake one sound for another. This means that rather than one ‘correct' pronunciation, there is a range of acceptable pronunciation — the general principle is that anything is OK so long as it doesn't sound too much like something else. For example, Lojban r can be pronounced like the r in English, Scottish or French.

Two things to be careful of, though, are pronouncing Lojban i and u like Standard British English hit and but (Northern English but is fine). This is because non-Lojban vowels, particularly these two, are used to separate consonants by people who find them hard to say. For example, if you have problems spitting out the ml in mlatu (which means cat), you can say mɪlatu — where the ɪ is very short, but other vowels: a, u have to be long.

The simplest sentence

lo mlatu
a cat
drinks, to drink
lo ladru
lo plise
an apple
… is a car
… is a rain

Now let's turn to constructing our first sentences in Lojban.

Of course one of your first thoughts might be "Where are nouns and verbs in Lojban?"

Here are three verbs:

pinxe means drinks, to drink.
mlatu means is a cat, to be a cat.
ladru means is a quantity of milk.

It might sound strange how cat and milk can be verbs but in fact this makes Lojban very simple.

Let's imagine we want to say A cat drinks milk.

To turn a verb into a noun we put a short word lo in front of it. And we put the word cu in front of the verb.

lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
A cat drinks milk.

Remember that c is pronounced as sh. So we turned mlatu and ladru into nouns. We can also say that lo creates a noun from a verb with roughly the meaning of one who does (the action of that verb) or one who or which is….

Lojbanic phrase has the following parts from the left to the right:

  • the phrase head: one or more nouns. The noun lo mlatu in this case.
  • the head separator cu
  • the tail of the phrase: the main verb with possibly nouns after them. pinxe lo ladru in this case.

Any verb can be turned into a noun. For example, lo pinxe will mean a drinker (the one who drinks).

One more example:

lo plise cu kukte
An apple is tasty.

Here, lo plise means an apple, kukte means to be tasty.

A simpler phrase in Lojban would contain only one main verb:


You could say this when you see a car coming. The context would be clear enough that there is a car somewhere around and probably it's dangerous.

karce is a verb meaning is a car, to be a car.

Or you can say

It is raining.


carvi = is a rain, to be raining

Notice that in Lojban there is no need in the word it in such sense. You just use the verb you need.

[Someone] loves.
prami = to love (someone)

Again context would probably tell who loves whom.

Lojban does not require any punctuation, separate words are used instead. Punctuation marks like . , ! ? “ ” and capital letters (A B C etc.) can be used for stylistic purposes or to make the text look more smart. They don't add or change the meaning.

Pronouns: I, you and others

mi = I
do = you
ra = he, she, it or they
mi'ai = we
ti = this one, this object near me.
ta = this one, this object near you.
tu = that one, that object over there.

Like their English name hints, pronouns work like nouns by default. And they don't require lo in front of them.

mi pinxe
I drink.
do pinxe
You drink.
ti ladru
This is milk.
tu mlatu
That is a cat.
do citka lo plise
You eat an apple.
citka = to eat (something)
mi prami do
I love you.
prami = to love (someone)

As you can see we can even omit cu after pronouns as we can clearly see the head of the phrase (mi in the last example) and the tail with the verb being separated.

Nouns and pronouns work exactly the same, and later we'll call them both nouns for brevity.

Unlike English we don't have to add the verb "is/are/to be" to the sentence. Everything is already there: mlatu means to be a cat.


Close the right part of the table. Translate from Lojban the sentences on the left.

mi'ai citka We eat.
mi pinxe lo ladru I drink milk.
mi citka lo plise I eat an apple.

Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

That is an apple over there. tu plise
The milk is tasty. lo ladru cu kukte
You love me. do prami mi
We eat an apple. mi'ai citka lo plise


lo simply turns a verb into a noun but such noun has no number associated with it. The sentence

lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
A cat drinks milk.

can also mean

lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
Cats drink milk.

A cat in English means "one cat", and cats means "two or more cats". In Lojban, lo mlatu can mean either of them. Usually context tells us how many cats are here.

But what if we want to specify the number?

Let's add a number after lo.

pa re ci vo mu xa ze bi so no
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
ro = all.


lo pa mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
A cat/one cat drinks milk.

For numbers consisting of several digits we just string those digits together.

lo re mu mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
25 cats drink milk.

ro is also used to express the meaning of all.

lo ro mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
All cats drink milk.

 Yes, it's that simple.

By placing numbers to the left of lo we specify how many objects are in question:

ci lo re mu mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
Three out of 25 cats are drinking milk.

So we use lo as a separator in phrases with out of or similar.

ro to the left of lo gives us the meaning each:

ro lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
Each, every cat drinks milk.

Notice that lo ro … means all and ro lo … means each, every.

To say just cats (plural number) as opposed to a cat (one cat) we use the number za'u.

lo za'u mlatu cu pinxe
Cats are drinking.

Compare it with:

lo pa mlatu cu pinxe
A cat is drinking.

Putting za'u before lo means more, putting me'i means less:

za'u lo mlatu cu pinxe
More cats are drinking.
me'i lo mlatu cu pinxe
Fewer cats are drinking.

Putting a number after za'u or me'i specifies more than [that number]:

lo za'u ci mlatu cu pinxe
More than three cats are drinking.
me'i ci lo mu mlatu cu pinxe
Less than three out of five cats are drinking.

.i separates sentences

The most precise way of uttering or writing sentences in Lojban would be placing a short word .i in the beginning of each of them:

.i mi viska lo mlatu .i lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
I see a cat. The cat drinks milk.
viska = to see (something)

.i separates sentences like the full stop (period) at the end of sentences in English texts.

When saying one sentence after another in English we make a pause (it may be short) between them. But pause has many different meanings in English. In Lojban we have a better way of understanding where one sentence ends and another begins.

Also note that sometimes when pronouncing words quickly you can't figure out where one sentence ends and the word of the next sentence begins. Therefore it's advised to use the word .i before starting a new sentence.


Close the right part of the table. Translate from Lojban the sentences on the left.

lo prenu = person, people
stati = to be smart, to have a talent
klama = to go (to somewhere)
lo zarci = market
lo najnimre = an orange (fruit), oranges
lo badna = a banana, bananas
lo mu prenu cu klama lo zarci Five people go to the market.
pano lo panono prenu cu stati .i do stati 10 out of 100 people are smart. You are smart.
lo prenu cu nelci lo plise i za'u lo prenu cu nelci lo najnimre .i me'i lo prenu cu nelci lo badna People like apples. More people like oranges. Fewer people like bananas.
za'u lo mu prenu cu nelci lo plise More than one perosn out of five like apples.
za'u re lo mu prenu cu stati More than two ut of five people are smart.

Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

256 cats are smart. lo re mu xa mlatu cu stati
Fewer than 12 apples are tasty. me'i lo pa re plise cu kukte
All people eat. Fewer people eat oranges. lo ro prenu cu citka i me'i lo prenu cu citka lo najnimre

Compound verbs

Compound verbs (tanru in Lojban) are several verb words one after another.

tu melbi zdani
That is a pretty home.
melbi = to be beautiful
zdani = to be a home or nest (to someone)
do melbi dansu
You prettily dance.
dansu = to dance

Here the verb melbi adds an additional meaning as it is to the left of another verb: zdani. The left part is usually translated using adjectives and adverbs.

Compound verbs are a powerful tool that can give us richer verbs. You just string two verbs together. And the left part of such compound verb adds a flavor to the right one.

We can put lo to the left of such compound verb getting a compound noun:

lo melbi zdani = a nice home.

Now you know why there was cu after nouns in our example

lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
A cat drinks milk.

Without cu it'd turn into lo mlatu pinxe … with the meaning a cat-like drinker whatever that could mean.

Remember about placing cu before the main verb in a phrase to prevent unintentional creating of compound verbs.

Compound verbs can contain more than two verbs. In this case the first verb modifies the second one, the second one modifies the third and so on:

verba = to be a child
lo melbi verba zdani = a pretty-child home, a home of a pretty child
lo verba melbi zdani = a childishly pretty home, a home pretty in a childish way


lo fetsi = a female, female beings (for example, women)
lo nakni = a male, male beings (for example, men, male humans)
sutra = to be quick
barda = to be big
cmalu = to be small

Close the right part of the table. Translate from Lojban the sentences on the left.

lo melbi fetsi beautiful female.
do sutra klama You quickly go. You go fast.
ta barda zdani That is a big home.
lo sutra bajra mlatu a quickly running cat
lo sutra mlatu a quick cat
lo bajra mlatu a running cat

Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

This is a small child. ti cmalu verba
tasty apple lo kukte plise
quick eater lo sutra citka
He is a quickly going male. ra sutra klama nakni


na'e makes a part of sentence negative in meaning. na'e means no or not.

  • na'e in Lojban modifies the construct to the right of it.
mi na'e nelci do
I don't like you.
na'e mi nelci do
Not I like you.
(may be someone else likes you) [literally]
So when put before certain part of the phrase like pronoun or a verb it modifies that verb.
  • we can put na'e before different parts of the same phrase shifting the meaning.

The word no'e makes a part of sentence middle in its meaning.

mi no'e nelci do
As for whether I love or hate you, I'm indifferent to you. I neither like nor hate you.

The word to'e makes a part of sentence opposite in its meaning. It's similar to English anti-.

mi to'e nelci do
I hate you.
I anti-like you (literally). [literally]

Yes/No questions

In English, we make a yes/no question by changing the order of the words (e.g. You are …Are you …) or putting some form of do at the beginning (e.g. Is she pretty?). In Lojban we don't need to change the order of words.

We can turn any assertion into a yes/no question by simply putting the word xu somewhere in the sentence, for example in the beginning:

xu do nelci lo gerku?
Do you like dogs?
nelci = to like (something)
lo gerku = dog, dogs
Remember that punctuation in Lojban like question marks "?" is totally optional. After all, we use the question word xu anyway.

Other examples:

xu mi klama
Am I coming?
klama = to come (to somewhere)
xu pelxu
Is it yellow?
pelxu = to be green

We can shift the meaning by placing xu after different parts of a phrase. Some possible explanations of such shift in meaning are given in brackets:

xu do nelci lo gerku
Do you like dogs?

do xu nelci lo gerku
Do YOU like dogs?
(I thought it was someone else who likes them).

do nelci xu lo gerku
Do you LIKE dogs?
(I thought you were just neutral towards them).

do nelci lo gerku xu
Do you like DOGS?
(I thought you liked cats).

As you can see what is expressed using intonation in English is expressed by moving xu after the part we want to emphasize. Note, that the first sentence with xu in the beginning asks the most generic question without stressing any particular aspect.

Here are the features of Lojban interjections like xu:

  • interjection modifies the construct to the left of it. So when put after certain part of the phrase like pronoun or a verb it modifies that verb.
  • if put in the beginning of a phrase interjection modifies the whole phrase.
  • we can put an interjection after different parts of the same phrase shifting the meaning.

Now how to reply to such 'yes/no' questions?

xu do nelci lo gerku
Do you like dogs?



je'u nai
Not true.

Another way to answer yes is to repeat the main verb, for example

- xu lo mlatu cu melbi
Are cats pretty?


Close the right part of the table. Translate from Lojban the sentences on the left.

xu lo barda zdani cu melbi Is the big home is beautiful
- lo re nakni cu stati xu
— je'unai
- Are the two men smart?
— No.
ra klama lo zarci xu Does he go to the market?
xu lo pa verba cu prami lo ci mlatu Does the child love the three cats?

Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

Is the car fast? xu lo karce cu sutra
- Is the orange tasty?
— Yes it is.
- xu lo najnimre cu kukte
— je'u
Does the female love you? xu lo fetsi cu prami do

And and or

do je mi klama lo zdani
You and I go to the house

je means and in Lojban.

lo nanla je lo nixli cu casnu lo karce
A boy and a girl discuss a car.
nanla = ...is a boy, boys
nixli = ...is a girl, girls

It is also possible to use je in compound verbs:

lo verba je melbi zdani = a childish and pretty home
lo sutra je blabi karce cu klama
A quick and white car is moving.

Without je

lo sutra blabi karce cu klama
A quickly white car is moving.

would be funny and make no sense since sutra modifies blabi and blabi modifies karce according to how compound verbs work. The same for

lo blabi sutra karce cu klama
A whitely quick car is moving.


lo sutra je blabi karce cu klama
A quick (and) white car is moving.

has the intended meaning. Both sutra and blabi modify karce directly.

Also notice that omitting lo can cause weird results:

lo nanla je nixli cu casnu lo karce
Someone who is a boy and a girl (at the same time!) discusses a car.

Don't remove lo when connecting two nouns.

lo nanla je lo nixli cu casnu lo karce
A boy and a girl discuss a car.

is the correct sentence here.

Let's mention other conjunction words.

lo nanla cu fengu ja bilma
The boy is angry or ill (or may be both angry and ill)
ja = and/or
fengu = to be angry
bilma = to be ill
lo karce cu blabi jo nai grusi
The car is either white or gray.
jo nai = either … or … but not both (although it consists of two words it has a single meaning)

Note that it's better to remember jo nai as a single word.

mi prami do .i ju do fenki
I love you. Whether or not you are crazy.
ju = whether or not…
fenki = to be crazy


lo jisra = a juice

Close the right part of the table. Translate from Lojban the sentences on the left.

mi nelci lo badna je lo plise I like bananas and apples.
do sutra ja stati You are quick or smart or both.
ra casnu lo nixli ju lo nanla They discuss girls whether or not (they discuss) boys.
mi citka lo najnimre jonai lo badna I eat either oranges or bananas.

Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

Females and males like rain. lo fetsi je lo nakni cu nelci lo carvi
Either I or you go to the market. mi jonai do klama lo zarci
I see a big and beautiful car. mi viska lo barda je melbi karce
The child drinks milk and/or juice. lo verba cu pinxe lo ladru ja lo jisra

Events and processes

Any phrase can be turned into a verb by putting nu in front of it:

lo nicte cu nu mi viska lo lunra
The night is when I see the Moon.
The night is the event when I see the Moon. [literally]
nicte = (some event) is a nighttime.
lo nicte = night, nighttime
viska = to see (something)
lo lunra = the Moon

Here lo nicte is a noun of the phrase and nu mi viska lo lunra is the main verb of the phrase as it starts with nu. But inside this main verb we can see another phrase (mi viska lo lunra) embedded!

The word nu actually transforms a phrase into a verb that denotes an event or a process.

Adding lo in front of nu creates nouns that denote processes:

pinxe = to drink
lo nu pinxe = drinking

dansu = to dance
lo nu dansu = dancing

jimpe = to understand, to comprehend
lo nu jimpe = understanding, comprehension

klama = to come
lo nu klama = coming
lo nu do klama = coming of you

So lo nu corresponds to English -ing, -tion or -sion.

Some verbs require using events instead of ordinary nouns. For example

mi gleki lo nu do klama
I'm happy because you are coming.
gleki = to be happy (of some event)
lo gleki = a happy one, a happy person
mi djica lo nu klama ti
I want to come here (to this place)
djica = to want (some event)
mi jimpe lo nu do stati = I understand that you are smart.
jimpe = to understand (some event)

ti can refer not only to things but places. Some nouns are events by themselves. WWe can combine them with events so no lo nu will be used. 

lo cabna cu nicte
Now it's night. At present it's night.
lo cabna = present time, (an event) is at present.
lo nu pinxe lo ladru cu nabmi mi
Drinking milk is a problem, problematic to me.
nabmi = (event) is a problem (to someone)


pilno = to use (something)
skami = ...is a computer

Close the right part of the table. Translate from Lojban the sentences on the left.

mi nelci lo nu dansu I like dancing.
xu do gleki lo nu pilno lo skami Are you happy of using a computer?
do djica lo nu dansu xu Do you want to DANCE?

Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

Coming here is a problem. lo nu klama ti cu nabmi
Do you understand that I like bananas. xu do jimpe lo nu mi nelci lo badna

Prepositions and tenses

Now let's talk about prepositions related to tense.

pu denotes past tense or before some event
ca denotes present tense or at the same time as some event
ba denotes future tense or after some event

 And now examples:

mi pinxe ca lo nu do klama
I drink while you are coming.

Yes, we need lo nu to insert a whole sentence after ca.

mi citka ba lo nu mi dansu
I eat after I dance.

Now let's talk about tenses.

 English forces us to use certain tenses. You have to choose between

A cat drinks milk.
A cat has been drinking milk.
A cat drank milk.
A cat will have drunk milk.

and other similar choices.

However, in Lojban you can be as vague or as precise as you want.

Our sentence

lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
A cat drinks milk.

in reality says nothing about when this happens. Context is clear enough in most cases and can help us. But if we need more precision we just add more words.

It may be a surprise to you but those prepositions can be used as tenses as well!

The only difference is that we should just drop the noun after pu, ca, ba, place them before the main verb and they will turn into tenses:

lo mlatu ca pinxe lo ladru
The cat drinks milk (at present).
lo mlatu pu pinxe lo ladru
The cat drank milk.
lo mlatu ba pinxe lo ladru
The cat will drink milk.

As you can see we replaced cu with the tense word ('pu, ca, ba) as they also clearly separate the head from the main verb.

We can also put them at the end of the phrase:

lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru ca
A cat drinks milk (at present).

Another example:

lo nicte cu pluka
The night is pleasant.

pluka = to be pleasant

Tense words before nouns turn into prepositions:

ba lo nicte cu pluka
After the night it is pleasant.

So to say will be pleasant we should place the tense word before the main verb:

lo nicte ba pluka
The night will be pleasant.

Here are three more prepositions (we'll use them only as tenses for now for simplicity).

ca'o — continuous tense
ba'o — perfect tense
ta'e — habitually

Now we can say even more precisely

lo mlatu ca ca'o pinxe lo ladru
A cat (at present) is drinking milk.

Here we get a very precise translation of an English sentence that has what is called Present Continuous tense in English.

There is also Present Simple tense that describes events that happen sometimes.

lo mlatu ca ta'e pinxe lo ladru
A cat (habitually, sometimes) drinks milk.

For Perfect we use ba'o.

lo mlatu ca ba'o pinxe lo ladru
A cat has drunk milk.

Of course we could omit ca in this sentence (I'm sure that the context would be clear enough in most such cases).

We can use the same rules for describing the past using pu instead of ca or the future using ba.

ca doesn't describe exactly this moment. ca extends slightly into the past and the future, meaning just about now. This is because human beings don't perceive time in a perfectly logical way, and the Lojban tenses reflect that.

We can combine tenses with and without phrases after them.

mi pu citka ba lo nu mi dansu
I ate after I danced.

Note, that pu (past tense) is put only in the main phrase (mi pu citka).

 We shouldn't put it with dansu (unlike English) as mi dansu is viewed relative to mi pu citka so we already know that everything was in past.

 Let's take one more useful preposition. 

mi pu sipna ze'a lo nicte
I slept all night. I slept through the night.

Let's compare it with ca.

mi pu sipna ca lo nicte
I slept at night.
ze'a = during, through (some time)
sipna = to sleep
lo nicte = a nighttime

When using ze'a we are talking about the whole interval of what we describe.  Don't forget that nicte is an event so we don't need nu here.


lo tsani = the sky
zvati = to be present at ...

Close the right part of the table. Translate from Lojban the sentences on the left.

mi ca gleki lo nu do viska lo tsani I am happy that you see the sky.
xu lo mlatu pu ca'o zvati lo zdani Were the cat staying at home?
do pu citka lo plise ba lo nu mi pinxe lo ladru You ate an apple after I drank the milk.

Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

You will see the sun. do ba viska lo solri
You understand that it will rain. do ca jimpe lo nu ra ba carvi

Other prepositions

Other prepositions work the same way. 

fa'a = towards …, in the direction of …
to'o = from …, from the direction of …
bu'u = at … (some place)
mi klama fa'a do je to'o lo mlatu
I go to you from a cat.

mi cadzu bu'u lo tcadu
I walk in the city.

The interesting thing about prepositions is that you can freely move them with with nouns after them around the sentence as you like without changing the meaning.

fa'a do mi ca klama je to'o lo mlatu
Towards you I go from a cat.
to'o lo mlatu je fa'a do mi ca klama
From a cat and towards you I go.

je is necessary here to connect different prepositions.

As you can see Lojban is very flexible.

One thing is important. nu shows that a new phrase in a sentence starts. Put vau after such phrase to show its right border. Here is an example:

to jump
lo mlatu cu plipe fa'a mi je ca lo nu do ca'o klama
A cat jumps towards me when you are coming.

is the same as

lo mlatu cu plipe ca lo (nu do ca'o klama vau) je fa'a mi
A cat jumps (when you are coming) towards me.

(brackets are used here only to show the structure)

We use vau after the phrase nu do ca'o klama to show that it ended and other parts of the sentence begin.  Compare this sentence with the following:

lo mlatu cu plipe ca lo (nu do ca'o klama fa'a mi)
A cat jumps (when you are coming towards me).

As you can see do klama fa'a mi is a phrase inside the big one. So fa'a mi is now inside it.

Now you, not the cat, come towards me.

At the end of the sentence vau is never needed as it's already the right border.

Some preposition require a noun with an event inside:

mi pinxe seja'e lo nu mi taske
I drink because I am thirsty.
mi citka seja'e lo nu mi xagji
I eat because I am hungry.
se ja'e = because … (of some event)
taske = to be thirsty
xagji = to be hungry

Names. Choosing a name

cmevla, or a name word is a special kind of verb. It is mostly used to build personal names. You can easily recognize cmevla in a flow of text as only cmevla end in a consonant.

Besides, it is common to wrap them by one dot from each side. Examples are: .paris., .robin.

Lojbanists often omit dots in front of and at the end of cmevla to write texts faster for example, when text chatting. After all, cmevla are still separated from neighboring words by spaces around them. However, in spoken language it is still necessary to put a short pause before and after cmevla.

If one's name is Bob then we can create a cmevla ourselves that would sound as close as possible to this name, for example .bob.

And then we prefix it with the word la so that it would work just like a noun — la .bob.. The word la is similar to lo but it converts a verb not to a simple noun but to a name (cmene in Lojban).

So the most simple example of using a name would be

la .bob. cu tcidu
Bob reads/is reading.
tcidu = to read
Don't forget to put la if you want to produce a name!

Well, Bob is lucky because his name goes directly into Lojban without any changes. The same for the name Lojban. Of course it's a cmevla and is written as .lojban.

la .lojban. cu bangu mi
Lojban is the language used by me. (literally)
Lojban is the language I use.
I speak Lojban.

bangu = is a language (used by someone)

However, as you might guess Lojban spelling is quite transparent and therefore there are some rules for adapting names to how they are written in Lojban. This may sound strange — after all, a name is a name — but in fact all languages do this to some extent. For example, English speakers tend to pronounce Jose something like Hozay, and Margaret in Chinese is Magelita. Some sounds just don't exist in some languages, so the first thing you need to do is rewrite the name so that it only contains Lojban sounds, and is spelt in a Lojban way.

Pay attention to how the name is pronounced natively. Thus, the English and French names Robert come out differently in Lojban: the English name is rather .robyt. in UK English, or .rabyrt. in some American dialects, but the French is .rober..

Let's take the English name Susan. The two s's are pronounced differently — the second one is actually a z — and the a is not really an a sound, it's the ‘schwa’ we mentioned in the first chapter. So Susan comes out in Lojban as .suzyn..

Here are the names that we'll use all over this book:

.alis. Alice
.bob. Bob
.ian. Yan or Ian
.jasmin. Jasmine
.kevin. Kevin
.meilis. Mei Li

And here are some examples of other Lojbanized names:

.abdul. Abdul
.Al. Ali
.an. Anne
.eduard. Edward
.lukas. Lucas
  • Two extra full stops (periods) are necessary because if you didn't put those pauses in speech, you might not know where the name started and ended, or in other words where the previous word ended and the next word began.
  • The last letter of a cmevla must be a consonant. And if a name doesn't end in a consonant we usually add use s to the end; so in Lojban, Mary becomes .meris., Joe becomes .djos. and so on. An alternative is to leave out the last vowel, so Mary would become .mer. or .meir..
  • You can also put a full stop in between a person's first and last names (though it's not compulsory), so Jim Jones becomes .djim.djonz.

Other verbs as names

You can use not only cmevla, but also other types of verbs to choose your nickname in Lojban. If you prefer, you can translate your name into Lojban (if you know what it means, of course) or adopt a completely new Lojban identity.

Here are a few examples of Lojbanic names: <tab class=wikitable head=top> Original name Meaning Word in Lojban Your name Robin a name of a bird turdidaAmerican robin la turdida Björn bear in Scandinavian cribebear la cribe Mei Li beautiful in Mandarin Chinese melbibeautiful la melbi </tab>

Three types of nouns

There are three types of nouns in Lojban:

  1. lo-noun is lo + a verb.
  2. name is la + a verb.
  3. pronouns are miI, tuthat and others

As they mostly work the same way we will usually call them just nouns unless we need to be more specific. In Lojban nouns are called sumti.

Introducing yourself. Vocatives

daylight time

Vocatives in Lojban are words that function just like interjections (xu which we discussed) but they attach the following noun after them:

coi do
Hello you.
coi = vocative: hello, greetings

You use coi + a noun to greet someone. coi corresponds to Hi, Hello, Good morning, and whatever else happens to be in vogue.

coi ro do = Hello all of you (Southern U.S. Hello y'all) is how people usually start a conversation with several people. coi re do means Hello two of you or Hello you two and can be useful when, for example, one starts a letter to their parents).

Since vocatives work like interjections we have nice types of greetings:

cerni coi
Good morning!
morning — Hello! (literally)

vanci coi
Good evening!

donri coi
Good day!
pluka nicte di'ai
Good night!
di'ai do
Good luck to you!
di'ai = vocative: well-wish
pluka = to be pleasant to … (someone)

We use di'ai here because Good night! is not a greeting but a well-wish actually. Thus we use a different vocative here. Although, you can be vague by saying pluka nicte (just meaning pleasant night without any wishes explicitly said).

The vocative mi'e + a noun is used to introduce yourself. Watch any film where people don't know each other's language. They start off saying things like "Me Tarzan".

mi'e la .robin.
I'm Robin. This is Robin speaking.
mi'e = vocative: identifies speaker

co'o is the farewell word, corresponding to Goodbye, Farewell, Yo Later Dude, and so on. Lojbanists signing off on e-mail often end with something like co'o mi'e .robin. — this is equivalent to putting your name at the end of your email in English as a signature, and translates as Goodbye; I'm Robin.

And when you address people by name, you usually do so to make it clear who out of a group you are talking to. The word doi is used to show who you're talking to.

mi cliva doi la .robert.
I'm leaving, Robert.
cliva = to leave (something or someone)

Without doi the name might become the first noun of the phrase:

mi cliva la .robert.
I'm leaving Robert.

doi is a bit like English O (as in O ye of little faith) or the Latin vocative (as in Et tu, Brute). Some languages don't distinguish between these contexts although as you can see Old English and Latin did.

Two more vocatives are are ki'e for saying thanks and je'e for accepting them:

— do pu sidju mi .i ki'e do
— je'e do

— You helped me, thank you.
— Not at all.

We can omit the noun after the vocative only if this is the ends of the sentence. For example we can just say

coi .i xu do kanro
Hello. How do you do?
Hello. Are you healthy? (literally) [literally]
kanro = to be healthy

Here, a new sentence starts immediately after the vocative coi so we omitted the name. Or we can say:

coi do mi djica lo nu dansu
Hello. I want to dance?
Hello you. I want dancing. (literally) [literally]

Thus, in case you don't know the name of the listener you just place do after it if you want to continue the same sentence after the vocative.


Close the right part of the table. Translate from Lojban the sentences on the left.

nelci = to like (someone or something
lo mamta = a mother, mothers
cerni coi la .alis. Good morning, Alice.
- mi ba sipna
pluka nicte di'ai
- I will sleep.
— Good night.
mi'e la .adam. i mi nelci lo nu mi ca'o tavla do I am Adam. I like that I am talking to you.

Close the right part of the table. Translate to Lojban the sentences on the left.

Mommy, I will eat an apple. doi lo mamta mi be citka lo plise
You leave? Goodbye. xu do cliva .i co'o do or just xu do cliva .i co'o

Lesson 2. More basic stuff

Place structure

Lojban dictionaries present all verbs with x1, x2 etc. symbols as e.g.

prami = x1 loves x2

There is nothing strange in these x1, x2. They are called places and simply represent the order in which you have to add nouns. E.g.

mi prami do
I love you.

This also means that

  • x1 denotes the one who loves and
  • x2 denotes the one who is loved by.

The advantage of such style of definitions is that compared to English there is no need in many additional words as all participants of this love are in one definition.

We can also omit nouns making the sentence more vague:

prami do (literally loves you) means Someone loves you.

All omitted places in a phrase just mean zo'e = something/someone so it means the same as

zo'e prami do
Someone loves you.



is the same as

zo'e prami zo'e
Someone loves someone.

The place structure of compound verbs is the same as the of the last verb word in it:

tu sutra bajra pendo mi
That is a quickly running friend of me
That is my quickly running friend.

pendo = to be a friend, is a friend (of someone)

So the place structure is the same as of pendo alone.

More than two places

There might be more than two places. E.g.

x1 drinks x2 from x3
mi pinxe lo ladru lo kabri
I drink milk from a cup.
lo kabri
a cup

In this case there are three places and if you want to exclude the second place in the middle you have to use zo'e:

mi pinxe zo'e lo kabri
I drink [something] from a cup.

If we omitted zo'e we'd get

mi pinxe lo kabri
I drink a cup.

which would make no sense.

Guessing place structure

Places of verbs might sometimes sound hard to remember. But let's not worry — we don't have to memorize all of them. In fact nobody does (do you remember the meaning of hundreds of thousands of words in English?) There are a few cases where it's worth learning the place structure to avoid misunderstanding, but usually you can guess place structure using context and a few rules of thumb.

  1. The first place is often the person or thing who does something or is something:
    klama = x1 goes ...
  2. The object of some action is usually just after the first place:
    punji = x1 puts x2 on x3, dunda = x1 gives x2 (gift) to x3 (recipient)
  3. And the next place will usually be filled with the recipient:
    punji = x1 puts x2 on x3, dunda = x1 gives x2 (gift) to x3 (recipient)
  4. Destination (to) places nearly always come before origins (from) places:
    klama = x1 goes to x2 from <>x3
  5. Less-used places come towards the end. These tend to be things like ‘by standard’, ‘by means’ or ‘made of’.

The general idea is that the places which are most likely to be filled come first. You don't have to use all the available places, and any unfilled places at the end are simply missed out.

Places for nouns

lo pendo
lo pa cukta
a book/the book
mi dunda lo pa cukta
I give a book.

How do we say You are my friend ?

do pendo mi
You are my friend.
You are a friend of me (literally)

And now how do we say My friend is crazy.?

lo pendo be mi cu fenki
My friend is crazy.

So when we convert a verb into a noun (pendoto be a friend into lo pendoa friend) we can still retain other places of that verb by placing be after it.

By default it attaches the second place (x2). We can attach more places by separating them with bei.

For example:

mi dunda lo pa cukta do
I give a book to you.
lo pa cukta = a book

And now

lo dunda be lo cukta bei do
The grantor of the book to me
lo dunda be lo cukta bei mi cu pendo mi
The giver of the book to me is my friend.
The one who gives the book to me is a friend of mine. [literally]

Another example:

la .lojban. cu bangu mi
Lojban is my language.
Lojban is a language of me. (literally)

bangu = x1 is a language used by x2 to express ideas x3

How to translate the following phrase?

I like my language.

The answer is

mi nelci lo bangu be mi

We can't elide be because lo bangu mi are two independent nouns (well, the second one is a pronoun but it's all the same in Lojban). We also can't use nu because lo nu bangu mi is some event about my language. So lo bangu be mi is a correct solution to the problem.

Using be for not-converted verb words has no effect: mi nelci be do is the same as mi nelci do.

What if I want to attach nouns from several places to a noun? May be The giver of the apple to you is lo dunda be lo plise be do? No.

plise = x1 is an apple of variety x2

The second be attaches to the apple, meaning lo plise be doThe apple of the strain of you, which makes no sense. So lo dunda be lo plise bei do is the correct solution.

Relative clauses

Let's look at these two sentences.

  1. The cat that is white is drinking milk.
  2. The cat, which is white, is drinking milk.

In the first sentence the word "that" is essential to identifying the cat in question, it clarifies which cat we are talking about. Out of probably many cats we choose only those who are white. May be there is only one cat around that is white like in this example.

As for "which is white" from the second sentence it just provides additional information about the cat. It doesn't help us to identify cats. For example, this might happen when all the cats are white.

In Lojban we use poi for the first sentence and noi for the second sentence.

lo mlatu poi blabi cu pinxe lo ladru
The cat that is white is drinking milk.
lo mlatu noi blabi cu pinxe lo ladru
The cat, which is white, is drinking milk.
blabi = to be white

This poi blabi is a relative clause, a mini-phrase attached to the noun lo mlatu. It ends just before the next word cu.

So we actually additionally state in the sentence that lo mlatu cu blabi the cat is white.

Let's have a more interesting example.

lo tricu = a tree
barda = to be big/large
klama = to go to something
mi klama lo tricu
I go to a tree
lo tricu cu barda
The tree is big

And now let's join those two sentences:

lo tricu noi mi klama ke'a cu barda
A tree, to which I go, is big.

Note the word ke'a. We move the second sentence about the same tree into a relative clause and replace the noun lo tricu with ke'a in the relative clause.

So literally our Lojbanic sentence sounds like

A tree, such that I go to which, is big.

ke'a can be dropped if we are to place it just after noi or poi. That's why the two following sentences mean the same:

lo mlatu poi blabi cu pinxe lo ladru
lo mlatu poi ke'a blabi cu pinxe lo ladru
The cat that is white is drinking milk.

Short relative clauses

Sometimes you might need to attach additional noun to another noun.

mi djuno zo'e pe do
I know something about you.

pe and ne are similar to poi and noi but connect nouns to nouns:

lo penbi pe mi = a pen that is mine (mine is essential to identifying the pen in question)
lo penbi ne mi = a pen, which is mine (additional information)
ne — non-restrictive relative phrase. "which is associated with... (noun follows)"
pe — restrictive relative phrase. "that is associated with... (noun follows)"

be and pe

Notice that relative clauses are attached to nouns whereas be connects to the verb that is transformed into a noun afterwards.

Actually, lo bangu pe mi is a better translation of my language, since this phrase, like the English, is vague as to how the two are associated with each other.

However, you can say lo birka be mi as my arm. Even if you saw off your arm, it'll still be yours. That's why birka has a place of the owner:

birka = x1 is an arm of x2

Notice that be attaches to the verb word. But pe, ne, poi and noi are attached to nouns. For example,

lo melbi be mi cukta pe lo pendo cu barda
The liked by me book of my friend is big.

Here, be mi is applied only to the verb melbi = to be beautiful to … (someone). But pe lo pendo is applied to the whole noun lo melbi be mi cukta = the beautiful to me book.

Another common way of saying my is transforming pronouns and personal names into verbs using the particle me.

E.g. mi is pronoun by itself. We need to turn it into a verb word.

me turns nouns (as well as pronouns and personal names) into verbs. After getting me mi we can readily use it in compound verbs.

me mi verba = my child
tu me mi verba = this is my child

lo and me have opposite functions.


Infinitives are verbs that are often prefixed with "to" in English. Examples include "I like to run" with "to run" being the infinitive.

lo mlatu cu djica lo ka pinxe
The cat wants to drink.

The particle ka works much like nu but it indicates that the noun on the left does or would do the action following ka. It makes the first noun of the outer verb (djica in this case) also the first noun of the embedded verb started by ka (pinxe in this case) so you don't have to repeat this noun the second time.

Thus we can rewrite the sentence as

lo mlatu cu djica lo nu lo mlatu cu pinxe
The cat wants that the cat drinks (literally) [literally]

The first translation sounds more natural and compact so using ka is preferred in such case.

Another example with a pronoun in the place of the first noun

mi djica lo ka pinxe
I want to drink.


mi djica lo nu mi pinxe
I want that I drink (literally) [literally]

Again the first sentence looks smarter.

As for I want you to drink it's simple mi djica lo nu do pinxe. First pronouns of djica differs from the one from pinxe so we can't use ka here.

It is also possible to use ka when we usually don't use infinitive in English

mi gleki lo ka jinga
I'm glad of winning.

which is the same as

mi gleki lo nu mi jinga
I'm glad that I won.

A common way of asking How do you do?:

- do cinmo lo ka moHow are you? How do you feel (emotionally)?

- glekiHappy.

- tatpiTired.


How do we do commands and requests in English?

For example, if I want you to run, I'd probably say:


Now the verb for to run is bajra.

How do we do this in Lojban? We can't copy English grammar and just say bajra, since it can just mean the same as zo'e bajra, someone or something runs. It would be too vague. Instead we say

do ko'oi bajra

do bajra means You run. And ko'oi is an interjection that turns You run. into a command, request, desire, hope or suggestion.

do ko'oi is so useful and frequent in speech that in spoken Lojban it is also common to use a contraction of it, the word ko. It's just a shorter synonym of do ko'oi.

We can put it in any place where we put do transforming it into commands, e.g.

nelci ko
nelci = to like (something or someone)
Note that prami corresponds to English to love while nelci corresponds to English to like.

This means Be liked by someone, and as you can see we have to restructure this phrase in English which still sounds weird, but you could use it in Lojban in the sense of Try to make a good impression. Another example is:

mi te cpacu lo cifnu ko
Act so that I give the baby to you. Take the baby
te cpacu = x1 gives x2 to x3
cpacu = x1 gets x2 from x3

As noted earlier any interjection modifies only the part of the sentence that it follows. Moving ko'oi to another part moves command/request to that part.

You can even have several ko'oi in one sentence.

do ko'oi kurji do ko'oi

which in short form would be

ko kurji ko
[Act so that] you take care of you.

As for ko'oi itself it is mostly used when applying to other pronouns (not do). E.g.

mi'ai ko'oi klama
Let's go.

Here ko'oi is applied to the pronoun mi'ai (we) although in ordinary speech it would probably be contracted to just

ko'oi klama

which is equivalent to

ko'oi zo'e klama

Polite requests

As ko'oi is rather vague sometimes we need to be more precise. E.g. often we need to ask polite questions. Foreigners in England often make the mistake of thinking that putting please in front of a command makes it into a polite request, which it doesn't (in English we usually have to make it into a question e.g. Could you open the window?) Fortunately, in Lojban, ‘please’ really is the magic word. Putting the word .e'o before a sentence turns it into a request; e.g.

.e'o do dunda lo cukta mi

is literally Please give me the book, but is actually more like Could you give me the book, please? (Of course, norms of politeness in English do not necessarily translate into other languages, so it is better in such cases to be safe than sorry).

Comments and quotes


The particle sei begins an embedded discursive verb phrase. This particle allows us to insert comments about our attitude to what is being said, or how we feel about something:

do jinga sei mi gleki
You won! (I'm happy about that!)


do jinga sei la .ian. cu gleki
You won! (And Yan is happy about that!)

The grammar of the verb phrase following sei has an unusual rule: the noun must either precede the main verb, or must be glued into the main verb with be and bei:

la .alis. cu prami sei la .bob. cu gleki la .kevin.

Let's add brackets to make it more easily readable.

la .alis. cu prami (sei la .bob. cu gleki) la .kevin.
Alice loves (Bob is happy) Kevin.
Alice loves Kevin (Bob is happy).

Or we can use be to add a second place for the phrase inside sei.

do jinga sei manci be mi
You won! (this amazed me)

Quoting text

sei is also useful for quoting text.

mi prami la .mark. sei ra cusku
I love Mark! — she said.

Phrases inside sei work at a “higher” level of abstraction than the phrase outside sei-phrase, and that outer phrase cannot refer to the sei-phrase. Specifically, such words as ri or ra or other ways of saying he/she we just covered, ignore the utterances at “higher” levels in determining their referent.

mi viska la .mark. sei la suzan pu cusku i ri jibni la .djein.
I see Mark, — Susan said. He is near Jane.

In this example ri cannot refer to la .suzan. We simply ignore the whole sei la suzan pu cusku phrase when deciding what ri should refer to.

Quotation marks

It is possible, and sometimes necessary, to refer to lower metalinguistic levels. For example, the English she said in a conversation is metalinguistic. For this purpose, quotations are considered to be at a lower metalinguistic level than the surrounding context (a quoted text cannot refer to the statements of the one who quotes it), whereas parenthetical remarks are considered to be at a higher level than the context.

Lojban works differently from English when it comes to marking she said instead of the quotation.

We make such quotations by placing the word lu before the quote and placing li'u after it.

For example,

mi cusku lu mi prami do li'u
I say "I love you."
cusku = x1 expresses/says x2 (quotation) for audience x3 via expressive medium x4

lu and li'u are like ‘quote’ and ‘unquote’ — they put something someone says into a noun.

This sentence literally claims that John said (uttered / wrote) the quoted text. If the central claim is that John made the utterance, as is likely in conversation, this style is the most sensible.

However, in written text which quotes a conversation, you don't want the he said or she said to be considered part of the conversation. If unmarked, it could confuse speakers and listeners what ri or ra refers to. In such cases it's better to use sei.

It's interesting that quotation marks in English are not spoken out. They are only written. Instead while speaking we make a short pause to show the beginning and the end of quotations. Lojban can't be that ambiguous. That's why we use those handy quotation words.

You can also nest quotations, e.g.

la .ian. pu cusku lu la .djein. pu cusku lu coi li'u mi li'u
Yan said "Jane said ‘Hello’ to me."

which is similar to

la .ian. pu cusku lu la .djein. pu rinsa mi li'u
Yan said "Jane greeted me."

Lojban is very careful to distinguish between words for things, and the things themselves. So you can't speak about the phrase "the universe") in the same way you speak about the universe itself. To give a silly example, the phrase lo munje is small, but the universe itself is not. To distinguish between the two in Lojban, you need to use quotation:

lu lo munje li'u cu cmalu
‘The universe’ is small.
lo munje na cmalu
The universe is not small.

Tip: lu … li'u is intended to quote grammatical pieces of Lojban — ideally, entire sentences, rather than individual words. For smaller chunks of Lojban, which do not necessary make sense in isolation, the proper quotation words are instead lo'u… le'u, the ‘error quotes’. For example, ro lo mi pendo cu klama makes sense in Lojban as a sentence, and can be enclosed in lu … li'u. But if you want to say what goes before pendo in the sentence, ro lo mi does not make that much sense on its own. So you would quote that sentence fragment, not as lu ro lo mi li'u, but as lo'u ro lo mi le'u.

Interjections and vocatives work like sei constructs:

.ui mi jinga sei ra cusku
Yippee, "I won", he said.

As you can see .ui is not his words. It's your attitude to the phrase. If you want to quote ".ui mi jinga" use quotation marks getting:

lu .ui mi jinga li'u se cusku ra
"Yippee, I won", he said.

See the difference between the two examples?

Now several verbs related to talking:

cusku = x1 expresses/says x2 (quotation) for audience x3 via expressive medium x4
retsku = x1 asks x2 (quotation) for audience x3 via expressive medium x4
spusku = x1 replies/says answer x2 (quotation) for audience x3 via expressive medium x4
piksku = x1 makes comment x2 (quotation) for audience x3 via expressive medium x4

As you can see all of those verbs have the same place structure so it's easy to remember them. And here are some more verbs:

spuda = x1 replies to x2 by doing x3
tavla = x1 talks/speaks to x2 about subject x3 in language x4
ciska = x1 write x2 on x3 (surface/paper...)

Note the different place structures of cusku, tavla and ciska.

  • With cusku the emphasis is on communication; what is communicated is more important than who it is communicated to. Quotes in e-mails frequently start with do cusku di'e (di'e is a particle that means ‘the following’) as the Lojban equivalent of You wrote.
  • With tavla the emphasis is rather more on the social act of talking: you can tavla about nothing in particular.
  • ciska places more emphasis on the physical act of writing.
ra pu retsku lo sedu'u mi klama makau
She asked where I was going.
mi pu spusku lo sedu'u mi klama lo zdani
I replied that I was going home.
mi pu spuda lo se retsku be ra lo ka spusku lo sedu'u mi klama lo zdani
I replied to her question by saying in reply that I was going home.

Indirect quotations (reported speech)

A phrase like Alice said "Robin said "Hello" to me". can also be expressed in a rather more subtle way:

la .alis. pu cusku zo'e pe lo nu la .robin. pu rinsa ra
Alice said something about the event of Robin greeted her.
Alice said something about Robin greeting her before.

or a bit shorter:

la .alis. pu cusku lo se du'u la .robin. pu rinsa ra
Alice said that Robin had greeted her.

What is this se du'u? This combination allows us to express indirect speech.

Simple du'u is used in Lojban in some places of verbs instead of nu, e.g.:

djuno = x1 knows x2 (du'u, fact) about x3 by reasoning x4
mi djuno lo du'u do stati
I know that you are smart.

It's not a mistake to use nu instead of du'u but it is recommended to use du'u if the dictionary says du'u should go in that place. But what is the difference between them?

Lojban has different words for that…, depending on what sort of thing is meant.

  • If that introduces something that happened, use nu. (Events can be subdivided more finely yet, but for now let's not complicate matters even more than necessary).
  • If that introduces something that you think, use du'u. This is how you can guess where to put nu and where to put du'u.
If that introduces something that you say, use se du'u. But if it's a literal quote use lu … li'u.

zo — quoting one word

zo is a quotation marker, just like lu. However, zo quotes only one word immediately after it. This means it does not have an unquote word like li'u: we already know where the quotation ends. Thus we save two syllables making our speech more concise.

zo robin cmene mi
Robin is my name.
My name is Robin.

Oh yes, this is how you present yourself in Lojban using your Lojbanized name. Of course, if you have a name consisting of more than one verb word then use lu … li'u.

lu robin djonson li'u cmene mi
Robin Johnson is my name.

Another way is to use me.

mi me la robin djonson
I'm Robin Johnson.

New nouns from places of the same verb

do dunda ti mi
You give this to me.
dunda = to give (some gift).
Note: gift here is anything given without payment or exchange — it doesn't need to have the ‘special present’ associations of the English word).

Conversion is a way to swap the places round in the verb and thus change the place structure. We can rephrase the phrase above and say

ti se dunda do mi
This is given by you to me.

do dunda ti mi means exactly the same as ti se dunda do mi! The difference is solely in style.

You may want to change things around for different emphasis (people tend to mention the more important things in a sentence first). So the following pairs mean the same thing:

mi viska do
I see you.
do se viska mi
You are seen by me.
lo nu mi tadni la .lojban. cu xamgu mi
My study of Lojban is good for me.
xamgu = to be good for (someone)
mi se xamgu lo nu mi tadni la .lojban.
For me it's good to study Lojban.

As we remember, when we add lo in front of a verb it becomes a noun. So lo dunda means something(s) which could fit in the first place of dunda.

lo dunda = a giver, a donor, a donator

As dunda actually means not just to give but to donate (something) it defines that the noun after it (the second argument) is actually something that is given.

Well, therefore it's a gift.

In Lojban we don't need a separate word for a gift. It's much easier.

If a verb word has the second argument you can prefix it with se and it will refer to the second place of that verb:

It's just

lo se dunda = something that is given, a gift

For the ease of understanding and memorizing predicate words prefixed with se are put into the dictionary as well together with their definitions although you can easily figure out their meaning yourself.

So you don't have to memorize numerous interconnected words. Lojban is much easier. We save a lot of words because of such clever design.

Indeed, we can't imagine a gift without implying that someone gave it or will give it. When phenomena are connected Lojban reflects this.

Changing other places in main verbs

se is part of a series of particles which go, in alphabetical order, se, te, ve, xe. Like a lot of these series, the first one (se) is used a lot more than the others, but sometimes the others are useful.

  • se changes round the first and second places
  • te changes round the first and third places
  • ve, the first and fourth, and
  • xe, the first and fifth.
ra zbasu lo stizu lo mudri
He made a chair out of wood.
zbasu = x1 builds, makes x2 out of x3
lo stizu = a chair, chairs
lo mudri = wood
lo mudri cu te zbasu lo stizu ra
Wood is the material the chair is made of by him.

The ra has now moved to the third place in the sentence, and can now be dropped out without being missed if we are too lazy to specify who made the chair or we just don't know who made it:

lo mudri cu te zbasu lo stizu
Wood is the material of the chair.

In fact place conversion is often used when we want to get rid of places like this.

mi tugni zo'e lo nu vitke lo rirni
mi tugni fi lo nu vitke lo rirni
I agree [with someone] about visiting parents.

lo nu vitke lo rirni cu te tugni
Visiting parents is what [I] agree about.
tugni = x1 agrees with x2 about x3

lo prenu cu klama zo'e zo'e zo'e lo trene
lo prenu cu klama fu lo trene
The person goes somewhere, from somewhere, via somewhere, by train.

lo trene cu xe klama
[Someone] goes by train.
Literally, By a train is gone.
A train is a vehicle.

klama = x1 goes to x2 from x3 through x4 via x5

The more extreme conversions like ve and xe are rarely used, partly because most verb words only have two or three places, and partly because even with four- or five-place verbs, the less-used places are less needed in ordinary speech.

Similarly to our example with lo se dunda (a gift) we can use te, ve, xe to get more words from other places of verbs.

lo prenu cu dunda lo cukta mi
A person gives a book to me.

lo prenu can also be lo dundathe giver. But what about the noun describing mi and lo cukta? Well, you probably guessed.

mi te dunda lo cukta

This means that mi can be lo te dundathe recipient. In the same way, lo cukta can be lo se dundathe gift or the thing given. So if we want to make a really obvious sentence, we can say

lo dunda cu dunda lo se dunda lo te dunda
The donor gives the gift to the recipient.
The giver gives the given-thing to the person-to-whom-it-is-given

zo'e and da

zo'e can denote different things every time:

zo'e tavla zo'e zo'e
Someone talk to someone about something or someone.

which in the correct context might actually mean:

My friend talks to his father about his girlfriend.

da also means something/someone like zo'e. Usually it is translated as There is something/someone that …

mi tavla da
A talk to someone. or more correctly There is someone I talk to.
tavla = x1 talks to x2 about x3

But there is an important rule: if you use da the second time in the same sentence it always means the same thing as the first da.

da tavla da
Someone talk to themselves.
da tavla da da
Someone talk to themselves about themselves.

This is its difference from zo'e.

To have

The English verb to have has several meanings.

birka mi
Something is an arm of me
I have an arm.
birka = x1 is an arm of x2
mi cortu lo birka be mi
I feel pain in my arm.
My arm hurts.
cortux1 feel pain in part of body x2

If you keep a dog at home:

mi ralte lo gerku
I keep a dog., I have a dog.
mi ralte lo karce
I have a car.
ralte = x1 keeps x2 in their possesion

If you possess something according to some law or documents you should use ponse:

mi ponse lo vi bakni lo vi se ciska
I own this cow according to what is written here.
ponse = x1 owns x2 according to the law/document/custom x3
vi = preposition: near …

By default without a noun after it or with zo'e means here (i.e. near this place).

We can use lo me mi birkamy arm, lo me mi gerkumy dog using compound verbs, of course. This section just describes more precise ways of expressing such things in Lojban by using where appropriate the place structure of verbs (like in the example with lo birka be mi) or using specific verbs like ralte.

For expressing family relationship we use a very simple strategy in Lojban:

da bruna mi or mi se bruna da
There is someone who is a brother of me. (literally)
Someone is my brother.
I have a brother.

So we don't need the verb "to have" to denote such relationship. The same for other family members:

da mamta mi or mi se mamta da = I have a mother.
da patfu mi or mi se patfu da = I have a father.
da mensi mi or mi se mensi da = I have a sister.
da panzi mi or mi se panzi da = I have a child.

Prepositions inside nouns

When using nu we create a verb phrase. Verb phrases can end in prepositions.

lo nu tcidu ca cu nandu
The current reading is complicated, difficult.

Notice, the difference from

lo nu tcidu cu ca nandu
The reading is now complicated.

Other examples:

mi klama lo cmana pu
I go to a mountain (in past)
I went to a mountain.

lo nu mi klama lo cmana pu cu pluka
That I went to a mountain is pleasant.

When not using nu we don't have phrases. Nouns start with lo and end in its verb (like a single or a compound verb). Thus you can insert prepositions to nouns only before that verb:

lo ba'o kunti tumla ca purdi
The one that has been empty land now is a garden.
What was once a desert is now a garden. (approximate translation)

So ba'o belongs to lo kunti tumla and ca belongs to purdi (as lo ba'o kunti tumla can't add ca in the end).

Placing prepositions after the main verbs binds them to outer verbs:

lo kunti tumla ba'o purdi means
The desert is no longer a garden.

Content questions

lo ninmu
a woman (female human)
lo nanmu
a man (male human)

English also has a number of wh- questions — who, what etc. In Lojban we use one word for all of these: ma. This is like an instruction to fill in the missing place. For example:

- do klama ma
la .london.
Where are you going?

- ma klama la .london.
la .kevin.
Who's going to London?

- mi dunda ma do
lo cukta
I give what to you? (probably meaning What was it I was supposed to be giving you?)
The book.

It is quite common to restrict ma with relative clauses:

- do xabju ma poi gugde

- lo gugde'usu

- In what country do you live?


- You inhabit what that is a country?

xabju = to inhabit (some place)

Combining prepositions or relative clauses with ma can give us other useful questions:

ca ma = When? (literally, during what)
bu'u ma = Where? (literally, at what)
ma poi prenu = Who? (literally, what that is a person)
ma poi dacti = What? (about objects) (literally, what that is an object)
se ja'e ma = Why? (literally, because of what)
pe ma = Whose? Which? (literally, pertaining to what or whom). pe ma attaches only to nouns:
lo penbi pe ma cu zvati lo jubme
Whose pen is on the table?
zvati = to be present at

mo is like ma, but questions the main verb, not a noun — it's like English What does x do? or What is x? (remember, Lojban doesn't force you to distinguish between being and doing!) We can see mo as asking someone to describe the relationship between the nouns in the question.

do mo
How do you do? What's up?
You are what, you do what? (literally)

This is the most common way of asking How do you do?, Howdy? in Lojban. The answer might be: mi glekiI'm happy.

mi kanroI'm healthy.

or other.

Another example:

do mo la .kevin.
You ??? Kevin
What are you to Kevin?

The answer depends on the context. Possible answers to this question are:

  • nelci: I like him.
  • pendo: I am his friend
  • prami: I adore/am in love with him.
  • xebni: I hate him.
  • fengu: I'm angry with him.
  • cinba: I kissed him
Note once again that the time is not important here: just as cinba can mean kiss, kissed, will kiss and so on, mo does not ask a question about any particular time.

We've said that mo can also be a What is … type of question. The simplest example is tu moWhat is this? You could also ask la .meilis. cu mo, which could mean Who is Mei Li?, What is Mei Li?, What is Mei Li doing? and so on. Again, the answer depends on the context. For example:

  • ninmu: She's a woman.
  • jungo: She's Chinese.
  • pulji: She's a policewoman.
  • sanga: She's a singer or She's singing.
  • melbi: She's beautiful. (possibly a pun, since this is what meili means in Chinese!)

There are ways to be more specific, but these normally involve a ma-question; for example la .meilis. cu gasnu ma (Mei Li does what?).

Number questions

The word xo means How many? and thus asks for a number.

lo xo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
How many cats drink milk?

The answer might be:


The full answer will be:

lo bi mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
8 cats drink milk.

So the person being asked is supposed to put an appropriate value in place of xo.

A few more examples:

lo xo botpi cu kunti
How many of the bottles are empty?
lo xo prenu cu klama ti
How many people come here?
do viska lo xo sonci
How many soldiers do you see?

Indirect questions

Consider a sentence

I know who is learning Lojban.

This is called an indirect question. There is no question mark in this sentence, the question is not stressed. In fact you yourself know the answer to the question Who is learning Lojban?

That's why the translation is:

mi djuno lo nu ma kau tadni la .lojban.

kau is an interjection that you put after a question word telling that its an indirect question.

You can tell that the word who in that statement is not a request for information, because it is not at the start of the sentence, there's no question mark (or questioning intonation), and the question word is not being emphasized.

If I ask you the question ma tadni la .lojban., you know what value to fill in the ma slot with: la .kevin. So you could just say

mi djuno lo nu la .kevin. cu tadni la .lojban.

This all means that mi djuno lo du'u ma tadni la .lojban. can never be an indirect question: it is asking for an answer (even if you're doing it rhetorically).

You can put it after other question words:

mi djuno lo nu lo xo kau prenu cu tadni la .lojban.
I know how many people study Lojban.

The waiter asks Jasmine and Alice lanme ji bakni = lamb or beef? Once they answer, he knows whether they want to eat lamb or beef; in Lojban,

ba'o lonu la .jasmin. je la .alis. cu spusku vau lo bevri cu djuno lo du'u re ra djica lo ka citka lo lanme ji kau bakni
Having Jasmine and Alice replied, the waiter knows whether they two want to eat lamb or beef.


mi djuno lo du'u da kau tadni la .lojban. means
I know that there is someone who studies Lojban.

Other examples:

ma tadni la .lojban.


Who is studying Lojban?

By the same token,

mi djica lo nu ma tadni la .lojban.
I want who to study Lojban?
Who do I want to study Lojban?


mi pu cusku lo se du'u ma tadni la .lojban. is
I said who is studying Lojban?
Who did I say is studying Lojban?

mi djuno lo du'u makau tadni la .lojban.
I know who is studying Lojban. I know the identity of the person studying Lojban.

Lesson 3. Interjections. Questions. Quoting

Free word order. Prepositions for places

We've seen that if we don't need all the places (and we rarely do), then we can miss out the unnecessary ones at the end of the phrase. We can also miss out the first place if it is obvious (just like in Spanish). However, it sometimes happens that we want places at the end, but not all the ones in the middle. There are a number of ways to get round this problem.

One way is to fill the unnecessary places with zo'e, which means something or someone. So mi klama lo tcadu lo purdi zo'e lo karce tells us that I go to a city from a garden by car, but we're not interested in the route she takes. In fact zo'e is always implied, even if we don't say it. If someone says klama, what they actually mean is

zo'e klama zo'e zo'e zo'e zo'e

but it would be pretty silly to say all that.

So klama can mean not only Go!, but also Goes! or Goer! — more idiomatically, Look! Someone's going!

Most people don't want more than one zo'e in a sentence (though there's nothing to stop you using as many as you like).

A more popular way to play around with places is to use the place tags fa, fe, fi, fo, fu — those are particles of the class (selma'o) FA. These mark a noun as being associated with a certain place of the verb, no matter where it comes in the sentence:

  1. fa introduces what would normally be the first place
  2. fe the second place
  3. fi the third place
  4. fo the fourth place
  5. fu the fifth place

For example, in

mi klama fu lo karce
I go in the car. or I go by car.

fu marks lo karce as the fifth place of klama (the means of transport). Without fu, the sentence would mean I go to the car.

After a place introduced with a place tag, any trailing places follow it in numbering. So in

mi klama fo lo tcadu lo karce
I go via the city by car.

lo tcadu is the fourth place of klama, and lo karce is understood as the place following the fourth place — i.e. the fifth place.

With place tags you can also swap places around. For example,

fe lo cukta cu dunda fi lo nanla
The book was given to a boy.

(The booklo cukta — is the second place of dunda, what is given; a boylo nanla — is the third place of dunda, the recipient).

Again, you probably don't want to overdo place tags, or you'll end up counting on your fingers (although they're very popular in Lojban poetry — place tags, that is, not fingers).

Interesting, according to the grammar we can put all the nouns of one main verb in front of the verb (preserving their relative order). Because of this freedom we can say:

mi do prami which is the same as
mi prami do
I love you.

be allows using FA tags too by placing FA after be:

lo dunda fi lo nanla cu pendo mi
The one who give something to a boy is my friend.

Using FA doesn't change the place structure unlike se and its series. FA are mostly used for stylistic purposes.

Another trick is to put several or all nouns after the first noun but before the phrase tail:

ko kurji ko is the same as ko ko kurji

mi lo plise cu dunda do is the same as mi lo plise do dunda
I the apple give to you. I the apple to you give (literally)

Verbs and particles

All Lojban words are divided into two groups: particles (cmavo) and verbs (brivla).

Particles (cmavo) are short words like lo, cu, je, pu, ca, ba, mi, do, ti. They can be divided by their meaning and function into groups that are called selma'o. E.g. pu, ca, ba belong to the group PU. This is just an illustration, there is no need in memorizing the names of selma'o. But it's convenient to memorize them by those groups.

It is quite common to write several cmavo one after another without spaces between them. This is allowed by Lojban grammar. So don't be surprised to see lonu instead of lo nu etc. This doesn't change the meaning. This possibility can be applied only to a string of cmavo, though, not to brivla.


Sometimes sei and its verb phrase might be too lengthy for expressing a simple attitude. That's why in Lojban we have short particles called interjections, or attitudinal indicators. The most basic ones consist of two vowels, sometimes with an apostrophe in the middle.

In fact .ui means the same as sei mi gleki so we could just say do jinga .ui from a recent example.

Here are some of the most useful ones with some examples.

Urging interjections
I hope .a'onai
interest (Hm …) .a'ucu'i no interest .a'unai
.au as in how
desire .aucu'i indifference .aunai
permission (like in I allow you…, you may come in etc.) .e'anai
constraint (I have to…) .e'icu'i independence .e'inai
resist to constraint
request (Please …) .e'onai
negative request
suggestion .e'ucu'i no suggestion .e'unai
.ei as in hey
obligation (I should …) .einai
Attitude interjections
.ai as in high
intent (I'm going to…) .aicu'i indecision .ainai
.ia like German Ja
belief .iacu'i skepticism. allegedly .ianai
approval .i'ecu'i non-approval .i'enai
.ie like yeah
agreement .ienai
fear (Think of Eeek!) .iicu'i nervousness .iinai
respect .ionai
.iu like you
love .iucu'i no love lost .iunai
relaxation .o'ucu'i composure .o'unai
.oi as in boy
complaint/pain .oicu'i doing OK .oinai
wonder (like in Wow!) .u'enai
amusement .u'inai
repentance (Sorry, I'm sorry!) .u'ucu'i lack of regret .u'unai
.ua as in waah!, or French quoi
discovery. Eureka! Ah, I get it! .uanai
confusion. I don't get it, Duh…
.ue as in question
surprise .uecu'i no surprise .uenai
.ui like we, or French oui
I'm happy .uinai
I'm unhappy
.uo as in quote
completion (Voila!) .uonai
.uu as in woo
pity .uunai
Yes, it's true je'unai
No, it's false, not true
Note that any word that starts with a vowel is prefixed with a dot in Lojban. So the correct spelling is .ui and so on. In writing many Lojbanists often omit dots. We will do this later in this course for brevity. However, while speaking you should always show this dot by making a short pause before saying such word to prevent merging two neighboring words together into one.

Notice that in Lojban word two vowels together are pronounced as one sound:
  • if the first of two vowels is .u it is pronounced as w
  • if the first of two vowels is .i it is pronounced as y in yes
  • if the last of two vowels is .i it is pronounced as y in hey
  • but .ui is pronounced as like we in English
This is also shown in the table above. Vowel combinations are pronounced in such a way even if this combination of vowels is a part of another word, e.g. .uiski means "whisky" and can be pronounced as "weeh-skeeh" just like in English.

While being photographed instead of "cheese" say .ui (sounds like English "we"). It means I'm happy in Lojban and produces the best smile due to its special sounding.

As you can see the emotion is turned into its opposite by adding nai, so .ui is an interjection of happiness while .uinai means I'm unhappy, and so on. This is unlike verbs and nouns where nai just means not. By adding cu'i we create an emotion in the middle. Not all interjections are meaningful with cu'i. One of the most used ones is .a'ucu'ino interest (while .aunai denotes repulsion).

You can also combine interjections. For example, .iu .uinai would mean I am unhappily in love. In this way you can even create words to express emotions which your native language doesn't have. Another example:

.ue .ui do jinga
Oh, you won! I'm so happy!

where jinga = to win.

In this case the victory was unprobable, I'm surprised and happy at the same time.

Another great thing about interjections is that you can attach them next to any noun, pronoun or verb thus expressing your attitude towards that part of the sentence.

lo mlatu .ue cu pinxe lo ladru
A cat (surprise!) is drinking milk.
A cat (wow, how unexpected!) is drinking milk.

You can as well attach interjections to the right of any main verb. Or put it in the beginning of any sentence thus changing your attitude to the whole sentence.

.o'u tu mlatu
(relaxation!) that is a cat.
Oh, that's only a cat.

In this case you probably thought that was something dangerous but it's only a cat so you are saying .o'u.

You can pile several interjections to any part of the sentence. For example,

Note about the word pity: In English, people have started to avoid the word pity, because it has come to have associations of superiority. .uu is just the raw emotion: if you wanted to express pity in this rather condescending way, you'd probably say several interjections to be more precise: .uu ga'ipity combined with a sense of superiority, or .uu vu'epity combined with a sense of virtue. Then again, you would probably just keep your mouth shut.

Interjections are extremely useful, and it is well worth making an effort to learn the most common ones. One of the biggest problems people have when trying to speak in a foreign language is that, while they've learnt how to say simple phrases like mi klama lo cmana (I'm going to a mountain), they can't express feelings, because many languages do this in a round-about way. In Lojban you can be very direct, very briefly (there are ways of ‘softening’ these emotions, which we'll get to in a later lesson). In fact, these interjections are so useful that some Lojbanists use them even when they're writing in English instead of those internet smileys — symbols like ;-) or :-( and others.

Forgot to put an interjection in the beginning?

What if you forgot to put an interjection in the beginning of a verb phrase?

mi jinga
I win.

Now you want to add .ui so that it modifies the whole phrase. In

mi jinga .ui

.ui modifies only the verb jinga.

No problem here. You just add vau in the end and then the interjection that you need.

mi jinga vau .ui
I win, yay!
vau — a particle. Show that the verb phrase just ended.

Modifying interjections

Several interjections modify the interjection to the left of them:

  • When we put nai after an interjection it turns it into its opposite.
Unlike when used after verbs and pronouns nai after interjections means not just "no" but the opposite attitude.

  • When we put cu'i after an interjection it turns it into the middle attitude.
  • When we put dai after an interjection we show listener's attitude.
    .o'adai do jingaYou must be proud since you won
  • When we put pei after an interjection it turns it into a question.
    .iepei lo ninmu cu melbido you agree the the woman is pretty?
Interjections are short but not always as powerful as "sei plus its verb phrase". E.g.
sei mi'ai gleki do jinga

can't be expressed using interjections, although in simpler cases it's possible:

sei mi gleki do jinga = .ui do jinga (.ui always describes the attitude of the one who says it).
sei do gleki ra jinga = .uidai ra jinga

A common pitfall to avoid is trying to specify whose attitude the interjections express. The reason interjections are so simple is that they express direct emotional or attitudinal responses — gut reactions, without making any fine distinctions like whose attitude is involved. The reaction is always taken to be the speaker's. So .ui do cliva means that you're happy that someone else is leaving, just like You're leaving — Yay! does. If you wanted to say that the someone else is happy, not you, then you wouldn't say Yay! at all. Instead, you'd say something like You must be happy you're leaving. The same goes in Lojban: if you're relaying someone else's responses, not your own, then that's what the verb phrase are there for.

You wouldn't likely make this mistake for .ui. But .ei (expresses obligation) is the worst offender. .ei mi cliva means I should leave. But .ei do cliva doesn't necessarily mean You ought to leave. It's more like I feel the obligation for you to leave. I can say this if I want you gone while you're making yourself comfortable — but not if you've remembered you've got to be somewhere else, while I'd want nothing more than for you to stick around.

The temptation to use interjections for others' reactions is strong enough, in fact, that there are a couple of ways of getting around it. If you add the modifier dai, you're saying that the emotion is someone else's, and that you are empathizing with them. If .a'u is That's interesting!, .a'u dai is more like That must have been interesting for you! If you add the modifier se'i, you say that you feel the emotion for yourself. If you add se'i nai, then, you say that you feel it for someone else: .uise'inai is pretty much I'm happy for you!

Questions about attitude

pei is a question interjection more general than xu.

pei = interjection: what is your attitude?

In fact xu is the same as je'upei. Thus when using pei you don't force the speaker to reply with only je'u or je'unai.

- pei lo lunra cu crino
- .ienai
The moon is green (what is your attitude?)
I disagree.

Most suitable interjections in reply are .ie (I agree) and .ienai (I disagree), pe'i (In my opinion it's true).

As pei can act as an interjection modifier you can use .iepei, pe'ipei to ask question but in this case the listener will be forced to use .ie, .iecu'i, .ienai, pe'i etc. when replying.

Note that when you put pei after an interjection it is attached to that interjection.

Intensity of attitude

You can divide up the continuum even more finely. If you want to say that you have an only weak attitude, you can add the particle ru'e to the corresponding interjection. sai is used for expressing strong degree of an attitude. Extremely strong attitude is cai. This gives you a seven-part scale:

cai > sai > (nothing) > ru'e > cu'i > nai ru'e > nai > nai sai > nai cai

So for instance, if you want to say Eh. That's cool, you'd say .a'ucu'i. If you want to say That is really gross!, you'd say .a'unaisai. And if you want to say Oh my God, that is the most interesting thing in the world since the very invention of Lojban! then you would say .a'ucai. cai is used very seldom as strong emotions happen rarely.

There are more than 50 attitudinals. Each of them corresponds to a different emotional state. So in Lojban we can be as specific as we want.

Rare vocatives

Vocatives exist to manage our conversations: to make someone pay attention to our turn, to butt in before it is our turn, to signal that a conversation is beginning or ending, and so on. They are used in conversations over two-way radio or in internet chats, because it is impossible to talk over each other, or to determine whose turn it is to speak when visual cues are absent. This means that Lojban vocatives look a little like a CB enthusiast's nightmare, because the meanings in the dictionary you see for them come from this more explicit subset of English.

Here are some more rare vocatives:

  • co'oi is the greeting/parting word much like Italian ciao: it corresponds to Hello / Bye.
  • ju'iHey!, with which you draw someone's attention, and
  • fi'iWelcome! At your service!, with which you offer hospitality or a service. (It's what you say to a visitor; you wouldn't say it over the phone, for instance, unless your addressee is calling from the airport and is on their way over).
  • ki'eThank you and the appropriate response is not fi'i (You're welcome doesn't mean you're being visited by some guests), but the simple acknowledgement je'e.
  • je'e corresponds to Roger! in radio-speak, and right or uh-uh in normal English: it confirms that you've received a message. If you haven't, you say je'enai instead (of course); in normal English, that would be Beg your pardon? or Huh?
  • In case you haven't received the message clearly, you can explicitly ask for the speaker to repeat whatever they said with ke'o.
  • Similarly, be'e signals a request to send a message (Hello? Are you there?), and re'i indicates that you are ready to receive a message. It's what you say when you pick up the phone — which in English also happens to be Hello?, but in Italian is Pronto or Ready!
  • mu'o is what you say when you explicitly make it another speaker's turn to speak: it's the Over! of radio.
  • vi'o acknowledges a request, and promises to carry it out: in radio talk this is Wilco!, and in normal English OK or All right, I will (or for that matter, Consider it done!)

Vocatives take nouns after them. However, the rule is that you can drop lo making it more vague:

coi gleki
Hello, friends!
can mean both
coi lo glekiHello, a happy one or
coi la glekiHello, Happy (a personal name) depending on context.

If you use the vocative on its own (without a noun after it) and the sentence is not finished yet then you need to separate it from the rest, because the things likeliest to follow the vocative in a sentence could easily be misconstrued as describing your addressee. Use the word do for that. For example,

coi do la .alis. la .meilis. pu cliva
Hello! Alice left Mei Li.
Hello you! Alice left Mei Li (literally)

coi la .alis. la .meilis. pu cliva
Hello, Alice! Ranjeet's just left.

And if you want to put both vocatives and interjections modifying the whole sentence please put interjections first:

.ui coi do la .alis. la .meilis. pu cliva
Yay, Hello! Alice left Mei Li.

Note that in the beginning of sentences usually interjections are put before vocatives because

coi .ui do la .alis. la .meilis. pu cliva


Hello (I'm happy about this greeting) you! Alice left Mei Li.

So an interjection immediately after a vocative modifies that vocative. Similarly, interjection modifies the vocative noun when being put after it:

coi do .ui la .alis. la .meilis. pu cliva
Hello you (I'm happy about you)! Alice left Mei Li.

Lesson 4. Practice

Dialogue: First meeting

Now we know about so many things that we can start talking.

coi la .Alis.
Hi, Alice! (coiHello, la — shows that a name follows. Capital letter in .Alis. is used for stylistic purposes.)

coi la .Mark.
Hi, Mark!

do mo?
How are you? (do = you, do moyou are what? what can you say about yourself?)

mi kanro .i mi bredi lo ka tavla
I'm healthy. And I'm ready to talk. (mi = I, kanro = to be healthy, .i — separates sentences, bredi = to be ready, tavla = to talk)

xamgu .i ma tcima ca lo bavlamdei?
Good. What will be the weather tomorrow? (xamgu = to be good, ma = what?, tcima = weather, caat (some time), lo bavlamdei = tomorrow)

mi djuno nai .i lo solri sei mi pacna
I don't know. It'll be sunny, I hope. (djuno = to know, nai = not, lo solri = the sun, sei — discursive comment, pacna = to hope)

mi jimpe
I understand. (jimpe = to understand)


The whole dialogue once again:

coi la .Alis.

coi la .Mark.

do mo?

mi kanro .i mi bredi lo ka tavla

xamgu .i ma tcima ca lo bavlamdei?

mi djuno nai .i lo solri sei mi pacna

mi jimpe


Spelling styles. Capital letters

Capital letters are optionally used in Lojban for stylistic purposes:

la .Alis. is the same as la .alis.

And a capital letter alone has a special meaning. It denotes the name of that letter:

A is the same as .abu, B is the same as by. and so on. They means the same and even are read the same as normal .abu, by. etc.

Punctuation can also be used to help visually structure the text. However, punctuation is used only as a decoration. It doesn't add any meaning to the text.

The symbol . (dot) can be used as we use dot in English (i.e. as a punctuation mark) but its main purpose in Lojban is that it is a proper letter that denotes a pause.


You should be careful with the words for senses since in Lojban they are very powerful compared to natural languages.

viska = x1 sees x2 (form, object, color)
viska lo tarmi be ... = x1 sees the form of ... (something with that form)
viska lo se skari be ... = x1 sees the color of ... (something with that color)
mi viska lo plise
I see an apple.
mi viska lo tarmi be lo plise i ri se tarmi lo cukla
I see the form of an apple. The apple is round.
plise = x1 is an apple}}
mi viska lo se skari be lo plise i ri skari lo xunre
I see the color of the apple. The apple is colored red.
tirna = x1 hears x2 (sound)
tirna lo sance be ... = x1 hears the sound of ... (something that produces that sound)
mi tirna lo palta
I hear a plate
mi tirna lo sance be lo palta poi ca'o porpi i ri se sance lo cladu
I hear the sound of a plate that is falling. It sounds loud.

Or we can use cladu and similar words directly:

mi tirna lo cladu
I hear something loud.
mi tirna lo tolycladu
I hear something quite in sound.
mi tirna lo tonga be lo paplta poi farlu = I hear the tone of the plate falling down.
sumne = x1 smells x2 (odor)
sumne lo panci be ... = x1 smells the odor of ... (something with that odor)
mi smaka lo plise
I taste the apple.
mi smaka lo tasta be lo plise i ri se tasta lo kukte
I taste the taste of the apple. The apple tastes sweet.
smaka = x1 smacks, tastes x2 (taste)
smaka lo tasta be ... = x1 smells the taste of ... (something with that taste)
sumne lo plise
I smell the apple
mi sumne lo panci be lo plise i ri se panci lo xrula
I smell the odor of the apple. The apple smells flowerish.
palpi = x1 palpates, touch-feels x2 (surface)
palpi lo sefta be ... = x1 touch-feels the surface of ... (something with that surface)
mi palpi lo plise
I palpate, touch feel the apple.
mi palpi lo sefta be lo plise i ri se sefta lo xutla
I touch feel the surface of the apple. The apple has a smooth surface.

Also instead of "to see", "to smell" you can just use the vague ganseto sense.

ganse = x1 senses x2 (object, event) by means x3
ganse lo tarmi be ... = x1 senses the form of ... (something with that form, means of sensing is unspecified)
mi ganse lo plise
I sense an apple.
mi ganse lo tarmi be lo plise i ri se tarmi lo cukla
I sense the form of an apple. The apple is round.

Note that English confuses smelling some odor and smelling something that produces that odor. We say to smell an apple, the apple smells of flowers (has the scent of flowers). This two-fold distinction is important because an apple produces aromatic particles that are distinct from the apple itself. The same for a falling plate and its sound — those are different things.

In Lojban you can easily separate between those cases like shown in the examples above.

You can ask precise questions like

- do tirna ma poi sance = What sound do you hear?
- lo zgike = a music

- do tirna lo sance be ma = You hear a sound of what?

- lo plise poi co'i farlu = An apple that has fallen down

co'i = preposition. Describes an event as a whole.

Some words can be used with different sensory verbs. For example, you can

viska lo sefta = see the surface
palpi lo sefta = palpate the surface

Other special feelings:

cortu = x1 feels pain in x2 (organ, part of x1's body)

mi cortu lo cidni
I feel pain in my knee my knee hurts.

cidni = x1 is a knee of x2
ganse lo glare = to feel the heat
ganse lo lenku = to feel the cold


la zatalyz zo'u- skari.png

gusni = x1 (energy) is a light illuminating x2 from the light source x3
carmi = x1 is intense/bright/saturated/brilliant in property (ka) x2


cortu = x1 feels pain in x2 (organ, part of x1's body)

mi cortu lo cidni
I feel pain in my knee my knee hurts.

cidni = x1 is a knee of x2
kanro = x1 is healthy
bilma = x1 is ill or sick with symptoms x2 from disease x3
mikce = x1 cures or treats x2 for disease x3 with medicine x4
la zukam = common cold (disease)
lo influenza = influenza, flu
glare = x1 is hot
lenku = x1 is cold

Human body

xadni = x1 is a body of x2


All of these words have the same place structure as xadni:

stedu = x1 is a head of x2

There is one exception:

degji = x1 is a finger/toe on part x2 of body x3
degji lo xance = x1 is a finger
degji lo jamfu = x1 is a toe


Again notice the consistency in place strucre of the following verbs:

prenu = x1 is a person (in fairy tales and fantastic stories animals and alien being from other planets can be persons)
remna = x1 is a human

Those two words are for humans only:

ninmu = x1 is a woman
nanmu = x1 is a man

Those two words can be used for describing both animals and humans:

fetsi = x1 is female
nakni = x1 is a man
lanzu = x1 is a family including x2
speni = x1 is a husband/wife of x2
mi co'a speni la .suzan.
I married Susan.
rirni = x1 is a parent of x2
mamta = x1 is a mother of x2
patfu = x1 is a father of x2
panzi = x1 is a child of x2
tixnu = x1 is a daughter of x2
bersa = x1 is a son of x2
tunba = x1 is a sibling (brother/sister) of x2
mensi = x1 is a sister (older/younger) of x2
bruna = x1 is a brother of x2


citno = x1 is young
laldo = x1 is old, aged


badri = x1 is sad about x2
gleki = x1 is happy about x2
terpa = x1 fears x2
cinmo = x1 feels emotion x2
nelci = x1 likes x2
prami = x1 loves x2
manci = x1 feels awe or wonder about x2
steba = x1 feels frustration about x2
se cfipu = x1 is confused about x2
cisma = x1 smiles
cmila = x1 laughs
fengu = x1 is angry about x2
kucli = x1 is curious of x2
xajmi = x1 thinks x2 is funny
se zdile = x1 is amused by x2 (zdile = x1 is amusing)
surla = x1 relaxes (by doing x2)

djica = x1 desires x2
pacna = x1 hopes that x2 is true
nitcu = x1 needs x2
kakne = x1 is capable of x2 (mi kakne lo ka bajra = I can run.)

Basic notions


zvati = x1 is present at x2
klama = x1 goes to x2 from x3 (gau do lo tanxe cu klama lo cnita = You move the box down.)
vofli = x1 flies to x2 from x3
cnita = x1 is below x2
gapru = x1 is above x2
zunle = x1 is to the left of x2
pritu = x1 is to the right of x2

Basic actions:

zbasu = x1 creates, makes x2 from x3 (components, raw materials)
jgari = x1 holds x2
cpacu = x1 gets x2 from x3
te cpacu = x1 gives x2 to x3
dunda = x1 gives the gift x2 to x3
lebna = x1 takes x2 from x3
benji = x1 sends x2 to x3
te benji = x1 receives x2 to x3
punji = x1 puts x2 onto x3


marce = x1 is a vehicle carrying x2
karce = x1 is a car carrying x2
bloti = x1 is a boat carrying x2
vinji = x1 is an aircraft carrying x2
trene = x1 is a train of cars x2

Body postures:

sanli = x1 stands on x2
zutse = x1 sits on x2
vreta = x1 lies on x2

Basic things:

djacu = x1 is some water
xamsi = x1 is some soil
xamsi = x1 is a sea
terdi = x1 is the Earth
tsani = x1 is the sky
vacri = x1 is some air

Animals and plants:

danlu = x1 is an animal
cinki = x1 is an insect
spati = x1 is a plant
grute = x1 is a fruit
mudri = x1 is some wood

In the shop:

vecnu = x1 sells x2 to x3
te vecnu = x1 buys x2 from x3
pleji = x1 pays x2 to x3 for x4
jdima = x1 is the price of x2
jdini = x1 is money
rupnusudu = x1 costs x2 US dollars
rupne'uru = x1 costs x2 euro

Shop, buildings

stuzi = x1 is a place
dinju = x1 is a building, house
zdani = x1 is a home of x2
se zdani = x2 lives in x2, x1 inhabits x2
tcadu = x1 is a city or town
jarbu = x1 is a suburban are of city/town x2
nurma = x1 is a rural area, x1 is in the country
kumfa = x1 is a room
vikmi kumfa = x1 is a toilet
zarci = x1 is a shop

Lesson 5. They, math and time

he and she

lo melbi
beautiful, handsome, pretty
lo se pluka
nice, pleasant

So far we've been referring to everybody by name, which can get very repetitive if you want to tell a story, or even string two sentences together. Consider the following:

la .alis. cu klama lo barja .i la .alis. ze'a pinxe lo vanju .i la .alis. cu zgana lo nanmu .i lo nanmu cu melbi .i lo nanmu cu zgana la .alis.
Alice goes to the bar. Alice drinks some wine for a while. Alice notices a man. The man is beautiful. The man notices Alice.
Note: Notice the use of melbi — in English we usually describe men as handsome rather than beautiful. Lojban by default doesn't have this distinction. To express men's beauty you could just say nanmu melbi = in men's way beautiful.

It is tedious to have to keep repeating Alice and man. English gets round this problem by using pronouns, like she or he. This works OK in this case, because we have one female and one male in the story so far, but it can get confusing when more characters enter the scene. (It's even more confusing with languages that only have one word for he, she and it, like Turkish or spoken Chinese).

In English we use words "he, she, they" very often. Lojban gives us more possibilities

  • The particle ri refers to the last noun used in the discourse.
  • The particle ra refers to one of the last nouns used in the discourse.
  • We can also use the first letters of last nouns or names, e.g. say "R" instead of "Robin" if we were talking about Robin.

la .alis. cu sipna lo kumfa pe ri
Alice sleeps-in the room of [last noun].
Alice sleeps in her room.

The ri here is equivalent to repeating the last noun or name, which is la .alis., so it is equivalent to:

la .alis. cu sipna lo kumfa pe la .alis.
Alice sleeps-in the of-Alice room.
Alice sleeps in Alice's room.

Note that ri does not repeat lo kumfa pe ri (which is also a noun), because ri is inside that noun and therefore that noun is not yet complete when ri appears. This prevents ri from getting entangled in paradoxes of self-reference. (There are plenty of other ways to do that!)

Note also that nouns within other nouns, as in quotations, abstractions, and the like, are counted in the order of their beginnings; thus a lower level noun like la .alis. in that last example is considered to be more recent than a higher level noun that contains it.

Most pronouns are ignored by ri. It is simpler just to repeat these directly:

mi prami mi
I love me.
I love myself.


  1. the particles ti, ta, tu are picked up by ri, because you might have changed what you are pointing at, so repeating tu may not be effective.
  2. likewise, ri itself (or rather it's antecedent) can be repeated by a later ri; in fact, a string of ri particles with no other intervening nouns always repeat the same noun:
la .djan. cu viska lo tricu .i ri se jadni lo jimca pe ri
John sees the tree. [last noun] is-adorned-by the branch of [last noun].
John sees the tree. It is adorned by its branches.

Here the second ri has as antecedent the first ri, which has as antecedent lo tricu. All three refer to the same thing: a tree.

Also a vaguer ra is provided. The particle ra repeats a recently used noun. The use of ra forces the listener to guess at the referent, but makes life easier for the speaker. Can ra refer to the last noun, like ri? The answer is no if ri has also been used. If ri has not been used, then ra might be the last noun. A more reasonable version of the previous example, but one that depends more on context, is:

lo smuci .i lo forca .i la rik. pilno ra
A spoon. A fork. Rick uses [some previous thing].

Here the use of ra tells us that something other than la .rik. is the antecedent; lo forca is the nearest noun, so it is probably the antecedent. Similarly, the antecedent of raxire must be something even further back in the utterance than lo forca, and lo smuci is the obvious candidate.

The meaning of ri must be determined every time it is used. Since ra is more vaguely defined, they may well retain the same meaning for a while, but the listener cannot count on this behavior.

Tip: nouns are counted from their beginnings. So in a sentence like
lo nu lo nanmu cu dotco cu se djuno ri
ri refers to lo nanmu and not lo nu lo nanmu cu dotco: the start of lo nanmu is closer to ri than the start of lo nu lo nanmu cu dotco.

Tip: ri cannot refer to a noun if it is already smack in the middle of that noun. For example, in
la .alis. cu pinxe lo ri vanju
ri obviously refers to la .alis., and not to lo vanju.

Names of letters in Lojban

Each letter has a name in Lojban.

The following table represents the basic Lojban alphabet and how to pronounce letters (below each letter):

' a b c d e
.y'y. .abu by. cy. dy. .ebu
f g i j k l
fy. gy. .ibu jy. ky. ly.
m n o p r s
my. ny. .obu py. ry. sy.
t u v x y z
ty. .ubu vy. xy. .ybu zy.

As you can see

  • to get the name for a vowel, we add "bu"
  • to get the name for a consonant, we add "y"
  • the word for ' (apostrophe) is .y'y.

We can spell word using these names. For example, CNN will be cy. ny. ny.

Letters instead of he and she

Names of letters are pronouns. And we can use them for another method of referring to nouns and names earlier used in speech.

la robin cu viska lo mlatu i lo mlatu cu viska nai la robin
'la robin cu viska lo mlatu i my. viska nai ry.'
Robin sees a cat. The cat doesn't see Robin.

As the first letter in robin is "r" and the first letter in mlatu is "m" we can use names of letters to refer to nouns that we get from them. Both Lojban sentences mean the same.

So if you see a Lojban letter being used as a noun, you take it as referring to the last noun or name whose verb word (robin and mlatu in this case) starts with that letter.

Clearly, this method is more powerful than he or she.

But notice that it can happen that we'd like to refer back to, say, lo mlatu, but then before we can do so, another noun or name that starts with "m" appeared in the meantime, so that my. can no longer refer to the cat. The quickest way out is to repeat the entire noun or name, i.e. lo mlatu.

Only you decide what's to use in speech: the method with ri and ra or the method with letter names.

Myself, themselves

mi nelci mi
I like myself.
I like me (literally)


mi lumci mi
I wash myself.
lumci = x1 washes x2 of contaminant x3 with x4

In some languages like Russian people say literally I wash self. In order to be closer to Russian style we can use lo nei which always refers to the first noun of a verb phrase:

mi nelci lo nei

which is the same as

mi nelci mi

or we can say

la ian cu lumci lo nei
Yan washes himself.

which is the same as

la ian cu lumci ri

Remember that ri can't refer back to pronouns like mi so lo nei might be preferred as it doesn't change.

And of course, when changing the first noun lo nei doesn't change which is quite handy:

mi lumci lo nei, do lumci lo nei, la ian cu lumci lo nei ...
  • lo nei links to the first noun of the current verb phrase
  • lo se nei links to the second
  • lo te nei to the third and so on.

Here are some more straightforward examples of its use:

la meilis. cu pensi lo nei
Mei Li thinks about herself.
lo gerku cu batci lo nei
The dog bites itself.

Okay, this is all well and good when your sentence only contains one verb phrase. But when it doesn't — and it often doesn't — we have a problem. In

la .jasmin. cu djuno lo nu la .alis. cu prami lo nei
Jasmine knows that Alice loves herself.

lo nei refers to la .alis.

Here is the solution:

la .jasmin. cu djuno lo nu la .alis. cu prami vo'a
Jasmine knows that Alice loves her.

So while lo nei refers to the first noun of the current phrase, vo'a refers to the first noun of the current sentence.

When there are no embedded phrases those two words mean the same:

la .alis. cu prami vo'a is the same as la .alis. cu prami lo nei
Alice loves herself.
  • vo'a refers to the first noun of the current sentence.
  • vo'e refers to the second noun of the current sentence.
  • vo'i refers to the third noun of the current sentence.
  • vo'o refers to the 4th noun of the current sentence.
  • vo'u refers to the 5th noun of the current sentence.

Some Lojbanists use ra in order to refer to such "self"-places, which is deliberately as vague as pronouns in natural languages.

go'i for the previous phrase

  • nei alone links to the current verb phrase.
  • go'i links to the previous verb phrase.

go'i presents yet another way of referring back to a noun that we need.

Whereas lo nei refers to the first noun of the current verb phrase, lo go'i refers to the first noun of the previous verb phrase.

la .alis. cu klama lo barja .i la .alis. cu viska lo nanmu

can be changed to:

la .alis. cu klama lo barja .i lo go'i cu viska lo nanmu

Using se and its series can be used with all verbs. We can construct a phrase like

lo go'i cu go'i lo se go'i lo te go'i lo ve go'i lo xe go'i

On its own, this sentence doesn't mean terribly much; it just repeats the previous sentence that has at lest 5 places. But the trick is, this version of the sentence repeats the previous sentence, with its noun appearing explicitly. This is how we can refer back to a noun in the previous sentence in general. For example,

.i la .alis. cu zgana lo nanmu .i ri melbi

can also be expressed as

.i la .alis. cu zgana lo nanmu .i lo se go'i cu melbi

That's because lo se go'i refers to the second place (x2) of the preceding phrase, which is lo nanmu.

Consider another example:

Bill saw Bob. He hit him.

English doesn't bother with precision here — he just means ‘some male person mentioned earlier.’ Did Bill hit Rick, or did Rick hit Bill? We don't know. Lojban does have other tricks up its sleeve, and as you might just have already guessed, lo se go'i will do the trick.

la bil cu viska la bob i lo se go'i cu darxi lo go'i

Although, in most cases ri, ra or using first letter of names are to choose from:

la bil cu viska la bob i ri darxi la bil or
la bil cu viska la bob i la bob cu darxi ra.

A little math. Logical 'yes/no' questions

How to say 5=2+3 ?

li mu du li re su'i li ci

Here li is similar to lo but it makes the following word a number. So li mu means Number 5 for use in formulae unlike simple mu which is used to denote 5 objects or events.

du is a verb and means to be equal to.

  • su'i means plus.
  • vu'u means minus.
  • pi'i means times and is used for multiplication
  • fe'i means divided by and is used for division.

The word pi is a decimal separator so no pi mu means 0.5, ci ze pi pa so means 37.19.

In some notations 0.35 can be written as .35 and in Lojban we can also drop zero saying pi mu.

Here are some other examples.

li pare fe'i ci du li vo = 12 : 3 = 4
li re pi'i re du li vo = two times two is four
li pano vu'u mu pi'i li re du li no = 10 — 5 ⋅ 2 = 0

Notice that you put li only once before the equation and once after it. Thus 12 : 3 is considered one number. Indeed, 4 is the same as 12 : 3. They are both numbers.

To ask question 'yes/no' questions we use xu.

xu li mu du li re su'i ci
Is 5 = 2 + 3?

For the answer we can also use go'i, which repeats the last verb phrase (without the question).

na go'i

na is a negation word quite common in "math style". It negates the whole verb phrase when put just before the main verb: before go'i in this case.

If you ask me xu do nelci la .bob. (You like Bob?), and I then say You like Bob, I am repeating your words, but not your meaning. I would need to say I like Bill instead. It is much more useful for go'i to repeat the meaning than the words of the verb phrase. So go'i after xu do nelci la .bob. means mi nelci la .bob. (and not do nelci la .bob.. In other words, in an answer to a Do you? type of yes/no question, go'i means Yes (I do), as you'd expect.

For asking for a number we use ma:

li ci su'i vo du ma
3 + 4 = ?

The answer would be:

li ze

Most, many and too much

Words like most and many are also numbers in Lojban, which is pretty logical if you think about it. The following ‘numbers’ are particularly useful:

ro each
so'a almost all
so'e most
so'i many / a lot of
so'o several
so'u few
no zero, none
su'e at most
su'o at least
za'u more than… (by default more than one).
du'e too many

Some examples:

so'i lo merko cu nelci la .nirvanas.
Many Americans like "Nirvana".

The group, not the mystical state. Although on second thought… An yes, names are ambiguous, because they're used Humpty-Dumpty style: they mean what the speaker means.

so'u lo jungo cu nelci la .nirvanas.
Few Chinese people like Nirvana.

su'e mu lo muno prenu cu cmila
No more than five out of the fifty people laugh(ed).
(For example, if a comedian told a bad joke).

su'o pa lo prenu cu prami do
At least one person loves you.

This last sentence is logically the same as lo prenu cu prami do, which means at least one person loves you. In fact, all articles in Lojban have such default numbers associated with them; lo by default means su'o pa lo roat least one out of all….

First, second, last

Ordinal numbers such as "first, second, third" are used to put things in order. In Lojban they are formed with a number plus moi immediately after it:

pamoi = x1 is first among ...
remoi = x1 is second among ...
cimoi = x1 is third among ...
romoi = x1 is last among ...

It is possible to use verbs instead of numbers:

memimoi = x1 is mine
medomoi = x1 is yours

In this case we had to convert pronouns to verbs using me.

ti pamoi lo ratcu pe mi'
This is my first rat.

ta romoi lo ratcu pe mi
That is my last rat.
lo cerni tarci cu romoi lo tarci poi cumki falo nu viska pu lo nu co'a donri
The morning star is the last star that's visible before the dawning of the day.
ta me mi moi
That's mine.
ta me mi moi lo stixu
That's my place.
.i lo vi stizu cu me mi moi lo paci stizu poi sruri lo jubme
This place is mine among 13 places around the table.

Cardinal numbers are placed before ordinal numbers in a string and separated by lo.

ci lo pa moi be lo ckafi kabri
the first three cups of coffee

Without lo we could have read this as ci pa moithirty-first.

Never, once, twice, always

An intermittent event can be specified with the prepositions like ta'e or by counting the number of times during the interval that it takes place. In this case we use a number and append a preposition roi to make a quantified tense. Quantified tenses are common in English, but not so commonly named: they are exemplified by the following constructs:

  • noroi = never
  • paroi = once
  • reroi = twice
  • ciroi = thrice
  • so'iroi = many times
  • so'uroi = a few times
  • du'eroi = too many times
  • roroi = always
mi paroi klama lo zarci
I go to the market once.
zarci = x1 is a market
mi du'eroi klama lo zarci
I go to the market too often.

With the quantified tense alone, we don't know whether the past, the present, or the future is intended, but of course the quantified tense can be enriched with tenses:

mi pu reroi klama lo zarci
I went to the market twice.

Without pu the construct reroi may mean that once i went to the market but the second time I will be there only in the future.

Making prepositions from verbs. fi'o

Sometimes the place structures are insufficient to meet the needs of actual speech. For example,

I go with you.

The verb klamato go has no place for denoting with whom you are going. Lojban allows you to solve the problem by adding a new place, extending the relationship:

mi klama fi'o kansa do
I go with you accompanying me.
I go with you.
kansa = to accompany

The verb klama has now acquired an additional place specifying who accompanies you while you are going.

Prepositions add extra places to verbs.

The combination of the particle fi'o followed by a main verb, in this case the verb word kansa, forms a new case which is prefixed to the noun filling this new place, namely do. The meaning of fi'o kansa do is that do fills the x1 place of kansa, whose place structure is

kansa = x1 accompanies x2

It is important to remember that even though do is placed following fi'o kansa, it belongs in the x1 place of kansa.

What's really interesting is that prepositions in Lojban have their corresponding verbs.

For example, fa'a = fi'o farna.

farna = x1 is a direction of x2 from viewpoint x3

So if you forgot a preposition you can use fi'o plus an appropriate verb instead of that.

As you can see in English we use a preposition. fi'o kansa is also a preposition but with a verb inside!

In fact there is a preposition for fi'o kansa as well. It's ka'ai. But if you don't remember a preposition you can safely use the construct with fi'o.

We can add verbs with se and its friends for fi'o:

mi klama fi'o se pilno lo jamfu
I walk using feet.
I walk on foot.

There is a common preposition se pi'o which is the same as fi'o se pilno. So if there is se inside fi'o phrase the corresponding preposition also has this se (Of course, the same for te, ve, xe).

The only exlusion is for pu and ba:

pu = fi'o se purci
'ba = fi'o se balvi'

So those two prepositions have se in their coresponding verbs whereas they themselves don't have.

The term for such an added place is a preposition place, as distinguished from the regular numbered places. The fi'o construction marking a prepositional place is called a prepositional phrase, and the noun which follows it a prepositional noun. Prepositional phrases may be placed anywhere within the main phrase, in any order; they have no effect whatever on the rules for assigning unmarked phrase to numbered places, and they may not be marked with places tags (fa, fe, fi, fo, fu).

do bajra du'i lo nu lo mlatu cu bajra

You run like a cat.

You run equally to the cat running

du'i — preposition. "equally to …" (comparing event to event)

As an event follows du'i in this example du'i is applied to the whole event of the verb phrase.

There can be prepositions that refer to objects. An example is fa'a. It is compared to the first noun of the phrase where it resides.

Time of day, dates and calendar

Time of day

- ma tcika ti
What is the time?

or another option

- ma ca tcika
What is the time now?
ma — the content question word (what)
tcika = x1 (hours, minutes, seconds) is the time of state/event x2 on day/date x3, at location x4, by calendar x5

So in Lojban, times do not exist in the abstract: times are always the times of something. So we ask what the time is of ti, meaning this event/thing, or, in other words now.

A typical dialogue would be:

- ma tcika ti = What's the time?
li pa pa = Eleven

If we want to be a bit more precise, we need to use pi'e. This introduces fractional parts of numbers like pi, but unlike pi it doesn't need to indicate decimal fractions in a number. In fact, the kind of fractional part it does indicate can vary within the same number. In normal counting, pi is a decimal point, in hexadecimal it's a hexadecimal point and so on, but the kind of fraction it indicates never changes its value. But pi'e doesn't have that restriction; so we can use it to separate hours from minutes (which are sixtieths of hours), or, as we will see below, days from hours (which are twenty-fourths of days). pi'e, in other words, means part, not decimal point. So an alternative answer to the question could be

li pa pa pi'e mu
11:05 (Five past eleven)
(The number eleven, and five parts)

or if you want to be particularly precise,

li pa pa pi'e mu pi'e pa bi
Five minutes and eighteen seconds past eleven.
(The number eleven, and five parts, and eighteen parts of parts)

Let's imagine, though, that the time is not five past eleven, but five to eleven. We can say li pa no pi'e mu mu (10:55), but we can also say li pa pa pi'e ni'u mu, where ni'u is the Lojban minus sign (for negative numbers, not for subtraction) — what we are saying is 11:−5.

For half past eleven you can also use pi and say li pa pa pimu 11.5. I don't particularly like this method, but it is perfectly good Lojban. If we are using numbers for times, it is normal to use the 24-hour system, so 6 PM is li pa bi (18:00).

24-hour time is used almost always in Lojban as 12-hour system can lead to confusion.

If we want to give the time of an event, rather than just tell the time, we need to fill in some more places. The second place of tcika is state/event: people don't have times — events have times. So we use nu:

li pa no cu tcika lo nu mi klama
Ten o'clock is the time that I go (or come!)

Preposition for time of day

By using se we can get a more naturally sounding sentence:

lo nu mi klama cu se tcika li pa no
I go at 10 o'clock.

But you might still find too long and clumsy.

Well, here is the full definition of klama:

klama = x1 comes/goes to destination x2 from origin x3 via route x4 using means/vehicle x5


lo klama = a goer
lo se klama = a destionation gone to
lo te klama = an origin, starting point gone from
lo ve klama = a route
lo xe klama = a vehicle

It would be nice if klama had a place for the time of going/coming, but it doesn't. (And after all, you wouldn't be happy to learn a six-place verb!) So we should use a preposition:

mi klama ti'u li pa no
I am going at 10:00.
ti'u = fi'o tcika = occurring at the time of day…

klama now expresses a relationship between six things: a goer, a destination, a source, a route, a vehicle, and a time at which this all takes place.


nanca = x1 is of duration of x2 years

So nanca specifies the duration and in order two say two years long you fill the second place with a number prefixed with li:

mi nanca li re re
I am 22 years old.

In order to say in year 2014 we use moi:

ca lo re no pa vo moi nanca mi pu zvati la .kebek.
During 2014th year I was in Quebec.
In 2014 I was in Quebec.

The basic verb for dates is

datru = x1 (event) is dated/pertaining to day/occurring on day x2 of month x3 of year x4 in calendar x5

The default calendar is the standard Western one as it is international. If you want to use, for example, the Arabic or Chinese calendars, you can put lo xrabo or lo jungo in the fourth place. (As always, context is important — in a discussion of Islamic history we would probably assume that the Arabic calendar was being used).

We can therefore say

lo nu lo remna cu klama lo lunra cu datru li repa li ze li pa so xa so
The-event a human goes (to) the moon is dated on day 21, month 7, year 1969.

Remember that when we speak of dates in Lojban, we also need to specify the place on the globe where the date was calculated. The instant Neil Armstrong made that small step for (a) man, for instance, it wasn't the 21st of July everywhere on Earth. In Tokyo, it was closer to the 22nd. So if we want to point out that it was the 21st, Houston time, we need to specify the x4 place of tcika. That means we can simply say:

lonu lo remna cu klama lo lunra cu datru li re pa li ze li pa so xa so fi'o se tcika fo la .xustyn.

Days, months and seasons

masti = x1 is x2 months long
djedi = x1 is x2 full days long

Here are the names of the days of the week:

  • lo pavdeiMonday (1st day)
  • lo reldeiTuesday (2nd day)
  • lo cibdeiWednesday (3rd day)
  • lo vondeiThursday (4th day)
  • lo mumdeiFriday (5th day)
  • lo xavdeiSaturday (6th day)
  • lo zeldeiSunday (7th day)

mi gunka ca lo pavdei
I work on Monday

mi gunka ca ro pavdei
I work on Mondays, I work every Monday

And here are the names of months:

  • pavma'i = January (1st month)
  • relma'i = February (2nd month)
  • cibma'i = March (3rd month)
  • vonma'i = April (4th month)
  • mumyma'i = May (5th month)
  • xavma'i = June (6th month)
  • zelma'i = July (7th month)
  • bivma'i = August (8th month)
  • sozma'i = September (9th month)
  • pavnonma'i = October (10th month)
  • pavypavma'i = November (11th month)
  • pavrelma'i = December (12th month)

It is easier to remember them if you notice that they the first letters remind of numbers. Thus, Monday is the first day and start with pa (1) and so on.

The words for standard 4 seasons are:

lo vensa spring
lo crisa summer
lo critu autumn
lo dunra winter

Calendars in other cultures

The names of days of the week and months match international standards. However, there can be a need to describe conventions for cultures which for example do not use a seven-day week. In ordinary speech you are free to create compound verbs for that. For example, you can call the first month of classical Chinese calendar as lo jungo pavma'i (literally Chinese January although the first month in the original Chinese calendar rather starts in February). And lo jungo pavdei could be the first day of the Chinese ten-day week. (jungo means x1 is Chinese).

The same logic can be applied if the seasons where you live don't match this pattern. For example, the rainy season or monsoon could be lo carvi citsi (from carvi = rain, and citsi = season). Here are some I made up for fun to give a better idea of the weather in Britain:

lo lenku carvi citsi the cold rain — spring
lo mligla carvi citsi the warm rain — summer
lo brife carvi citsi the windy rain — autumn
lo dunja carvi citsi the freezing rain — winter

Later in this course we'll see how to create new words in the form of lujvo and zi'evla and those words will have precise meanings and thus become terms. You'll actually need a pretty good knowledge of Lojban to make up lujvo on the spot, but we'll learn how to make some simple lujvo later on in this course.

Time and place

As we've seen all tenses in Lojban are optional, which is nice of course since you don't have to think all the time what tense to use when the context is clear anyway. Saying mi citka lo cirla can mean I eat cheese or I ate cheese or I always eat cheese or In a moment, i will have just finished eating cheese. Context resolves what is correct, and in most conversation, tenses are not needed at all. However, when it's needed it's needed, and it must be taught. Furthermore, Lojban tenses are unusual because they treat time and space fundamentally the same — saying that I worked a long time ago is not grammatically different than saying I work far away to the north. In many languages, tense system is perhaps the most difficult part of the language. Luckily, Lojbanic tense system is perfectly regular and therefore requires less time to understand.

English treats words like earlier, past tense ending -ed and space prepositions like in or near as three totally separate entities, while in Lojban they're the same.

Once again, tense particle works as a preposition when noun is placed immediately after it:

mi pinxe ba
I will drink.
mi pinxe ba lo nu mi cadzu
I drink after I walk.

They put the whole verb phrase into the corresponding time. So without a noun after them ba and other prepositions work relative to the here-and-now. In: I gave a computer away, we can assume that the action happened relative to now, and thus we can elide the noun of the preposition, because it's obvious: pu nu mi dunda lo skami or mi dunda lo skami pu or, more commonly mi pu dunda lo skami. If speaking about some events that happened some other time than the present, it is sometimes assumed that all tenses are relative to that event which is being spoken about.

The sentence

mi pu klama lo merko gugde
I went to America.
gugde = x1 is the country of people x2 with land/territory x3

does not imply that I'm not still traveling to USA, only that it was also true some time in the past, for instance five minutes ago.

Time journeys

In the first lesson we decided that we can freely move prepositional phrases (related to directions) around the sentence

  • being careful about not to placing them inside any phrase embedded into the phrase we are in, and
  • putting je before the second, third etc. prepositions so that all prepositions are equal.

However, if there are several prepositions in one phrase without je, the rule is that you read them from left to right, thinking it as a so called imaginary journey. You begin at an implied point in time and space (default: the speaker's "now and here"), and then follow the prepositions one at a time from left to right. Example:

mi pu ba klama lo cmana
At some time in the past, I will be about to go to a mountain.
mi ba pu klama lo cmana
At some point in the future, I will have gone to a mountain.

Since we do not specify the amount of time we move back or forth, the understanding could in both cases happen in the future or the past of the point of reference.

Suppose we want to specify that the a man hit a dog just a minute ago. The words zi, za and zu specifies a short, unspecified (presumably medium) and long distance in time. Notice the vowel order i, a and u. This order appears again and again in Lojban, and might be worth to memorize. Short and long in are always context dependent, relative and subjective. Two hundred years is a short time for a species to evolve, but a long time to wait for the bus.

fau = preposition. at the same time/place/situation as …
ca = preposition. at … (some time)/at the same time as …; present tense. bu'u = preposition. coincident with/at … (some place)
zi = preposition. Denotes occurring short before the point of reference vi = preposition. near …. Occurring the small distance in space from point of reference
za = preposition. Denotes occurring not specified amount of time before the point of reference va = preposition. not far from …. Occurring the unspecified distance in space from point of reference
zu = preposition. Denotes occurring long ago from the point of reference vu = preposition. far away from …. Occurring the far distance in space from the point of reference

As you can see spatial distance is marked in a similar way by vi, va and vu for short, unspecified (medium) and long distance in space.

The space equivalent of ca is bu'u. And fau is more vague than two of them, it can mean time, space or situation.

  • zi, za or zu are usually used with pu or ba in front of them. This is because most people always need to specify past or future in their native languages:
    • pu zu means a long time ago
    • pu za means a while ago
    • pu zi means just
    • ba zi means soon
    • ba za means in a while
    • ba zu means in a long time

But when you think about it Lojbanically, most of the time the time-direction is obvious, and pu or ba are superfluous!

  • The order in which direction-prepositions and distance-prepositions are said makes a difference. Remember that the meanings of several tense words placed together are pictured by an imaginary journey reading from left to right. Thus pu zu is a long time ago while zu pu is in the past of some point in time which is a long time toward the future or the past of now. In the first example, pu shows that we begin in the past, zu then that it is a long time backwards. In the second example, zu shows that we begin at some point far away in time from now, pu then, that we move backwards from that point. Thus pu zu is always in the past. zu pu could be in the future. The fact that these time tenses combine in this way is one of the differences between tense prepositions and other prepositions. The meanings of other prepositions are not altered by the presence of additional prepositions in a phrase.
  • If spatial and temporal tenses are mixed, the rule is to always put temporal before spacial. If this rule is violated, it can sometimes result in syntactical ambiguity, which Lojban does not tolerate.
  • je is used to make prepositions equal and to override the rule of reading from the left to the right.

ba za nu mi vu gunka
Some time in the future, I will work a place long away.

gunka = to work.

Prepositions spanning over time and space

All these constructs basically treat phrases without specifying their length. In actuality, most events play out over a span of time and space. In the following few paragraphs, we will learn how to specify intervals of time and space when we want to express that:

ze'i — preposition: during the short time of … (event) ve'i — preposition: spanning over the short space of … (event)
ze'a — preposition: during the unspecified or medium time of … (event) ve'a — preposition: spanning over the unspecified or medium space of … (event)
ze'u — preposition: during the long time of … (event) ve'u — preposition: spanning over the long space of … (event)

Again it's easy to remember given the similarity between vowels in two columns.

mi ze'u bajra means
I run for a long time.
la .bob. ze'u pinxe lo birje
Bob drinks beer for a long time.
mi bazize'a xabju la .djakartas.
Pretty soon I'm going to live in Jakarta for a while.
lo jenmi pe la .romas. baze'u gunta la .kart.xadact.
The army of Romans will be attacking Carthage for a long time.

This does not mean that Romans are not attacking Carthage these days. In Lojban, if we say that something is true at a particular time, it doesn't mean that it is not true at any other time. You can say ba'o ba ze'u so that we know that this activity was in future when viewed from some point in past but in past when viewed from today.

.oi .uinai lo mi zdani puzi se lindi
Oh no! My house has just been struck by lightning!

(Every language course has to have a few of these ridiculously artificial examples!) Translate: .oi dai do ve'u klama lo dotco gugde ze'u


.oi — interjection: pain
dai — shows listener's attitude

Answer: Ouch, you spend a long time traveling a long space to Germany.

Though most people are not familiar with spacial tenses, these new words can open up for some pretty sweet uses. One could, for instance, translate That's a big dog as ti ve'u gerku. Saying: This thing dogs for a long space makes you sound retarded in English, but well-spoken in Lojban!

ze'u and it's friends also combine with other tenses to form compound tenses. The rule for ze'u and the others are that any tenses preceding it marks an endpoint of the process (relative to the point of reference) and any tenses coming after it marks the other endpoint relative to the first. This should be demonstrated with a couple of examples:

.o'ocu'i do citka pu ze'u ba zu
{tolerance} you eat beginning in the past and for a long time ending at some point far into the future of when you started
Hmpf, you ate for a long time.

We can also contrast do ca ze'i pu klama with do pu ze'i ca klama. The first event of traveling has one endpoint in the present and extends a little towards the past, while the second event has one endpoint in the past and extends only to the present (that is, slighty into the past or future) of that endpoint.

x1 is alive by standard x2

What does .ui mi pu zi ze'u jmive mean?


(I'm happy) I live from a little into the past and a long way towards the future or past (obviously the future, in this case) of that event.
I am young, and have most of my life ahead of me :-).

Just to underline the similarity with spacial tenses, let's have another example, this time with spacial tenses:

.u'e za'a bu'u ve'u ca'u zdani
(Wonder) (I observe) Extending a long space from here to my front is a home.
Wow, this home extending ahead is huge!
.u'e — interjection: wonder


Space prepositions work the same way as tense ones.

vi la .paris. mi gunka
In Paris, I work.
vu lo mi zdani mi gunka
A long way from my home, I work.
va lonu la kenedis cu se catra vau mi gunka
Not very far from where Kennedy was killed, I work.

If vau in the last sentence wasn't there, mi would become the second place of catra rather than the first place of gunka, so the listener would understand the sentence as Not very far from where Kennedy was killed by me someone works.

To the left, to the right…

Additional space prepositions:

zu'a — preposition: to the left of (a noun follows)
ca'u — preposition: in front of (a noun follows)
ri'u — preposition: right of (a noun follows)

The noun which fills the preposition has an implied zo'e (something or someone), which is almost always understood as relative to the speaker's time and place (this is especially important when speaking about left and right).

What would .o'onai ri'u nu lo prenu cu darxi lo gerku pu mean?

o'o: interjection: patience. The full scale is o'o (patience), — o'ocu'i (tolerance), o'onai (anger)
darxi = x1 beats/hits x2 with instrument x3 at locus x4

Answer: (Anger!) To the right (of something, probably me) and in the past (of some event), something is an event of a person beating a dog. or A man hit a dog to my right!

Combinations of place, direction and time prepositions can be useful:

la .bob. cu sanli ri'u vi
Bob stands just to the right.
la .bob. cu sanli ri'u vi la .meiris.
Bill stands just to the right of me near Mary.
mi vipuzu gunka
I here-past-long-time-distance work
I used to work here a long time ago.

puzuvunu zasti fa lo ninmu je lo nanmu
Long ago and far away lived a woman and a man.
(a standard way to begin a fairy tale or legend)

Event contours

In the first lesson we looked at how to express simple, continuous and perfect tense.

They express event contours and unlike pu, ca and ba with event contours we view each event as having shape with certain stages: A time before it unfolds, a time when it begins, a time when it is in process, a time when it ends, and a time after it has ended. Event contours then tells us which part of the event's process was happening during the time specified by the other tenses. We know a couple of them:

pu'o — preposition. Event contour: the event has not yet happened during (a noun follows)
ca'o — preposition. Event contour: the event is in process during (a noun follows)
ba'o — preposition. Event contour: the event has ended during (a noun follows)

pu'o needs to be demonstrated by an example. What does .ui mi pu'o se zdani mean?

Answer: Yay, I'll begin to have a home.

mi ba'o tavla lo mikce
I have spoken to the doctor (or had spoken, or will have spoken).
mi ca'o tavla lo mikce
I am speaking to the doctor (or was speaking, or will be speaking).
mi pu'o tavla lo mikce
I am about to speak to the doctor (or was about to speak, or will be about to speak).
mi pu pu'o tavla lo mikce
I was about to speak to the doctor.
mi ba ba'o tavla lo mikce
I will have spoken to the doctor.
mi pu ba'o tavla lo mikce
I had spoken to the doctor.
mi pu ca'o tavla lo mikce
I was speaking to the doctor.
Note: Aspect is quite independent of tense: you can say that something will be over some time in the future (''I will have spoken to the doctor [by then]''), or that something was continuing in the past (''I was speaking to the doctor''), without giving any indication of what is happening in the here-and-now.

Why not just say .ui mi ba se zdani and even save a syllable? Because, remember, saying that you will have a home in the future says nothing about whether you have a home now. Using pu'o, though, you say that you are now in the past of the process of you having a home, which means that you don't have one now. Note, by the way, that mi ba se zdani is similar to mi pu'o se zdani, and likewise with ba'o and pu. Why do they seem reversed in sounding? Because event contours view the present as seen from the viewpoint of the process, whereas the other tenses view events seen from the present.

Often, event contours are more precise that other kind of tenses. Even more clarity is achieved by combining several tenses: .a'o mi ba zi ba'o gunka = I hope I've soon finished working.

In Lojban, we also operate with an event's natural beginning and its natural end. The term natural is highly subjective in this sense, and the natural end refers to the point in the process where it should end. You can say about a late train, for instance, that its process of reaching you is now extending beyond its natural end. An undercooked, but served meal, similarly, is being eaten before that process' natural beginning. The event contours used in these examples are as follows:

za'o — preposition. Event contour: the event is in process beyond its natural end during (a noun follows)
xa'o — preposition. Event contour: the event is immaturely in process during (a noun follows)
cidja — x1 is food, which is edible for x2

Translate: .oi do citka za'o lo nu do ba'o u'e citka zo'e noi cidja do

Answer: Oy, you keep eating when you have finished, incredibly, eating something edible!

All of these tenses have been describing stages of a process which takes some time (as shown on the graph above; those tenses above the event like). But many of the event contours describes point like stages in the process, like its beginning. As is true of ca and bu'u, they actually extend slightly into the past and future of that point, and need not to be precise.

The two most important point-like event contours are:

co'a — preposition. Event contour: the event starts during (a noun follows)
co'u — preposition. Event contour: the event stops during (a noun follows)

For this kind of aspect, English normally just uses verbs: start, finish, stop. Lojban likewise allows you to use distinct verbs to express these notions: cfari, mulno, and sisti. Using aspects just lets you express things more succinctly; and with Lojban the way it is, anything that makes things more succinct comes in handy.

Furthermore, there is a point where the process is naturally complete, but not necessarily has ended yet:

mo'u — preposition. Event contour: the event is at its natural ending during (a noun follows)

Most of the time, though, processes actually end at their natural ending; this is what makes it natural. Trains are not usually late, and people usually retrain themselves to eat only edible food.

Since a process can be interrupted and resumed, these points have earned their own event contour also:

de'a — preposition. Event contour: the event is pausing during (a noun follows)
di'a — preposition. Event contour: the event is resuming during (a noun follows)
In fact, since jundi means x1 pays attention to x2, then de'a jundi and di'a jundi are common Lojban ways of saying BRB (I'll be right back) and back. One could of course also say just de'a or di'a and hope the point gets across.

Event as a whole in Chinese and Russian

In Chinese and Russian you can easily distinguish between an event still going on (imperfective), and a verb indicating that an event is viewed as a whole (perfective).

When in English we say I have spoken to the doctor, we are also indicating that we have now finished doing so — we are after the end of the event. When we say I am speaking to the doctor, on the other hand, we are also indicating that we are in middle of the event: the event is continuing, and is not yet over.

Chinese uses the particle 了 (le) to express this perfectivity.

To explicitly express perfectivity in Lojban we use the preposition co'i, which treats an entire event, from the beginning to the end as one single point:

mi pu zi co'i penmi lo dotco prenu
I have recently met a German person.
A little while ago, I was at the point in time where i met a German person.
penmi = x1 meets x2 at location x3


The rule of imaginary journey allows us to express subtle but important differences in meaning. DA COVERED??? Compare vi nu ro da fenki versus ro da vi fenki.

ro da vi fenki
Everyone is crazy here.
Every one here crazy (literally)

vi nu ro da fenki
Here everyone is crazy.
Here: every one crazy (literally)

Did you catch that? Everyone is crazy here means that if someone is not crazy somewhere then they will become crazy in this place.

Here everyone is crazy simply describes those who are here (and they are crazy). We don't know anything about others in other places.

Another example:

vi nu mi gunka
Here, I work.
(describes what happens here)

mi vi gunka
I here work.
(describes me, where am I and what I do)

All event contours in one diagram


Violet line signifies the time for the natural beginning and natural end of an event.

Lesson 6. Connections

If … then

fau lo nu do fenki vau mi ba prami do
If you are crazy then I'll love you.

The preposition fau means with the event of…, under circumstances … It requires an event after it. In fact it is much like ca (when) or bu'u (at (some place)).

Indeed, in most cases we can replace fau with ca getting almost the same meaning (may be sometimes more precise):

mi ba prami do ca lo nu do fenki
I'll love you when you are crazy.

We can replace lo with ro after such prepositions getting a new meaning:

mi ba prami do ca ro nu do fenki
I'll love you whenever you are crazy.

Connecting sentences

Connecting sentences with prepositions

If two sentences are too long we can use .i to separate them. But we still can show that they express the same idea using prepositions:

mi klama lo cmana .i ca bo lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
I am coming to a mountain, and the same time a cat is drinking milk.

which is the same as

mi klama lo cmana ca lo nu lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
I am coming to a mountain while a cat is drinking milk.

So here we use .i, then the preposition that we need and then bo.

There's a new particle here, bo. Why? Left on its own, a preposition always applies to the noun after it. So .i ca lo mlatu would have meant something like during a cat, at the time of cat. Looks like a nonsense. At least this doesn't mean what we want. To make the prepositions apply to the entire sentence and bind the previous sentence, we follow it with the word bo.

Usually we split sentences into two and then bind them with bo when a sentence looks or sounds too bulky.

Tip: This applies to other prepositions. For example, .i ba bo means afterwards, then: the sentence after .i ba bo refers to something that took place later than what took place in the sentence before:
mi cadzu .i ba bo mi citka
I walk, and then I eat.
Remember that ba and pu differ from other prepositions. The very astute reader will have noted that ‘afterwards’ should have been .i pu bo. Such special rule for Lojban was made by analogy of natural languages. So you just have to remember this special behavior of these two words.

It's possible to do the same with fa, fe and it's friends.

mi gleki .i fe bo do jinga

is the same as

mi gleki lo nu do jinga
I am glad that you win.

Here fe refers to the second place of gleki. It is possible to use se to reverse the order:

do jinga .i se fe bo mi gleki
You win, and I am glad of that.
Note: prepositions with bo after them work much like connectives. In fact our last sentence is very similar to
lo dilnu cu klaku i je lo dargu cu cilmo

Although, of course it would have a slightly different meaning:

Skies are crying, and the road is wet.
Notice that connective don't require bo after them when they connect sentences.


We've seen conjunctions je, ja, jo nai and ju already.

They work the same way as connectives but don't require bo.

.i je joins two sentences with a logical "and", showing that two sentences are part of one thought and that both sentences are true.

do mutce melbi .i je mi prami do
You are very beautiful, and I love you.

We can put other conjunctions after .i of course.

Sometimes you might want to use several main verbs in one sentence. E.g. {{pu nu mi kelci lo fudbolo je cu klama lo zdani je cu pinxe lo ladru
I played football, went home, drank milk.}} In such case we put the required conjunction and add cu after it.

But …

Consider a sentence:

You have nice hands but ugly voice.

Actually but is the same as and although it gives us a flavor of contrast.

lo xance be do cu melbi .i je ku'i lo voksa be do cu mabla
Your hands are nice. But your voice is ugly.

It's all the matter of contrast when using but instead of and.

In Lojban we just use je and then add the interjection ku'i that will give us the necessary contrast.

xance = hand (of someone)
voksa = voice (of someone)

Negation in conjunctions

mi nelci la bob je nai la alis
I like Bob and not Alice
I like Bob but not Alice.

This is how we can say but not. Thus we negate the noun after je. We can even say je nai ku'i adding a flavor of contrast for the second noun.

It is possible to do the reverse: to negate the noun before je. In this case we use the particle na before je:

mi nelci la alis na je la Bob
I like Alice not and Bob
I don't like Alice but I do like Bob.

The second sentence means the same as the first although it may sound a bit weird for English speakers ("I like Alice not…") so you might prefer the first version — mi nelci la bob je nai la alis or even mi nelci la bob .i mi nelci nai la alis. And the last case:

mi nelci la alis na je nai la Bob
I don't like neither Alice nor Bob

na je nai = Neither, not the first and not the second one.

Choice questions

There is another type of or that we find in questions.

- xu do pinxe lo tcati jo nai lo ckafi?Will you drink tea or coffee?

That's a weird but a perfectly reasonable answer: Yes, I will drink tea or coffee.

But if you want your listener to make a choice use the question conjunction ji:

- do pinxe lo tcati ji lo ckafi?
Will you drink tea or coffee?

The answer can be:

jeBoth (the first and the second item is chosen)

je naiThe first one (tea) (the first but not the second one is chosen)
na jeThe second one (coffee) (not the first but the second one is chosen)

na je naiNeither (not the first and not the second one is chosen)

Causes. Verbs and prepositions

Most children go through a phase where every second sentence seems to start with why? For example:

  • Why is it raining?
  • Why did Sally hit me?
  • Why does Sally always get a star from the teacher?

To these, the frustrated parent may give a series of answers with because:

  • Because the clouds are crying.
  • Because you pulled her hair.
  • Because she works hard.

As we saw earlier why is se ja'e. This preposition is derived from the verb

jalge = event x1 is the result or outcome of event x2

So here are the short translations:

  • se ja'e ma carvi = Why is it raining?
  • se ja'e ma la salis pu darxi mi = Why did Sally hit me?
  • se ja'e ma la salis cu te dunda lo tartcita lo ctuca = Why does Sally always get a star from the teacher?

with the answers:

  • lo nu lo dilnu cu klaku = Because the clouds are crying.
  • lo nu do pu lacpu lo kerfa be ra = Because you pulled her hair.
  • lo nu ra carmi gunka = Because she works hard.


Therefore is the reverse word compared to because. So if se ja'e means because then ja'e means therefore.

lo dilnu cu klaku ja'e lo nu lo dargu cu cilmo
Skies are crying resulting in the road being wet.

We can connect two sentences just like we did with connective je and it's friends:

lo dilnu cu klaku i ja'e bo lo dargu cu cilmo
Skies are crying. Therefore the road is wet.

bo is necessary here because without it .i ja'e lo dargu would have meant something like because of the road. Looks like a nonsense. At least this doesn't mean what we want. To make the prepositions apply to the entire sentence and bind the previous sentence, we follow it with the word bo.

nibli — logical implication

There can be another kind of why:

Why did Fluffy have to die?
Because Fluffy is a rabbit, and rabbits don't live very long.

Here we can't use jalge. Here is not result but logical implication. The fact that Fluffy is a rabbit logically implies that he will not live long, given what we know about rabbits.

ni'i ma la flufis co'a morsi
Why did Fluffy have to die?
lo nu la flufis cu ractu .i je lo ractu cu ze'i jmive
Because Fluffy is a rabbit, and rabbits don't live very long.
ze'i = for a small period of time

So here we use the verb nibli:

nibli = x1 logically necessitates/entails/implies x2 under rules x3

or it's preposition:

ni'i = logically because …
Note: The word why can ask different questions and the because can give different kinds of answers. In some languages, in fact, we would use different words for them: Turkish has three words for why, and until recently even English had two (the other being wherefore, as in wherefore art thou Romeo?). That's why in Lojban there are two words for why, although we can use more precise verbs instead of se ja'e.

The sentence

lo nu la .flufis. cu ractu cu nibli lo nu fy. co'a morsi
the-event Fluffy is-a-rabbit implies the-event he dies

actually misses out a step that rabbits are short-lived but it will do for practical purposes. If you want a textbook logic example, you can say

la .flufis. cu ractu .i je ro ractu ze'i jmive .i se ni'i bo la .flufis. ze'i jmive
Fluffy is a rabbit and all rabbits are not long-lived.
Fluffy is therefore not long-lived.
.i je instead of simple .i is useful here, because it binds the first two sentences together, so that when the ‘conclusion’ sentence comes, it allows to bind our ‘therefore’ to both of them, not just the second. So binding goes from the left to the right.

But what is the preposition for ‘therefore’? How do we say the reverse — Rabbits don't live long; therefore Fluffy died — in a single sentence? As it turns out, we say it like this:

ro ractu ze'i jmive se ni'i lo nu la .flufis. co'a morsi
Rabbits don't live long, with the logical consequence that Fluffy died.

We have here a preposition, se ni'i, which means with the logical consequence that, i.e. therefore. And this se ni'i looks a lot like ni'i, the preposition meaning logically because.

So we have a pair:

ni'i = logically because, and
se ni'i = the logically necessitated, logically therefore.

gasnu — to make something do something

Let's take an example

lo canko cu kalri = The window is open.

Now we want to know how to say

Open the window!

Such verbs as to open (something), to move can be rephrased as to make something open, to make something move and therefore we don't need to learn extra verbs for every such meaning. Instead we use an additional verb all the time:

gasnu = agent x1 causes event x2 to happen

For example:

ko gasnu lo nu lo canko cu kalri
Open the window!

There is a preposition for gasnu which is gau so you can say more concisely:

gau ko lo canko cu kalri
Open the window!


e'o gau do lo canko cu kalri
Please open the window.

But there is the third option, to use separate words.

mi kargau lo canko
I open a window.
kargau = to open (something)

Verbs more precise than jalge

jalge = event x1 is the result or outcome of event x2
se ja'e = as the result of …

Here are other frequent verbs for causes with their corresponding prepositions:

rinka = x1 causes effect x2 under conditions x3
ri'a = because (of physical cause…)
krinu = event x1 is a justification or reason for event x2
ki'u = because (due to explanation …)
mukti = x1 is a motive for the event x2 caused by agent x3
mu'i = because (of motive …)

Notice that se ja'e is the only verb that has se. It means that the order of it's places is reversed compared to the other verbs.

Let's try to replace jalge with other verbs in our examples.

rinka — physical causation

In Why does it rain?, the child is asking for a physical explanation, and this is what he gets. If we express the rather unlikely explanation in Lojban, we get

lo nu lo dilnu cu klaku cu rinka lo nu lo dargu cu cilmo
The-event the cloud weep physically-cause the event rain.
The clouds' crying is making it rain.

rinka means to cause in a physical or mechanical sense.

To change this "to cause" to a "because", we can use ri'a:

lo dargu cu cilmo ri'a lo nu lo dilnu cu klaku

which is might be more elegant.

(We moved ri'a with it's noun to the end which changed no meaning.)

The reason I have emphasised that rinka and ri'a only deal with physical causes is that it cannot apply in many cases where an English-speaker would use because. Consider the second example. If we say

la .salis. cu darxi do ri'a lo nu do lacpu lo kerfa
Sally hits you with-physical-cause you pull the hair

this is nonsense, since it means that little Joey pulling Sally's hair physically caused her to hit him, which would only be true if Joey had pulled her hair so hard that she had fallen on top of him, perhaps.

In this case either we use a more vague se ja'e or another preposition that we'll study just now.

mukti — motivation

In the hair-pulling case, what we have is not two events which are physically connected, like clouds and rain, but three events:

  1. Joey pulls Sally's hair.
  2. Sally decides, as a result of this, to hit Joey.
  3. Sally hits Joey.

For the sake of convenience, English misses out the second event and says Sally hit Joey because he pulled her hair. However, this is not only vague but, some would say, psychologically dangerous. People do not generally react to stimuli automatically, but as a result of motivation, and confusing complex responses with simple physical causation may lead us to believe that we have no control over our emotions or even our actions. Whether or not we believe in free will at a metaphysical level, it is useful to distinguish between physical reactions and responses which have a cognitive/emotional element. Not surprisingly, then, Lojban has a separate verb for motivation:

mukti = x1 (action, event) motivates/is a motive/incentive for action/event x2, per volition of x3

We can therefore say

lo nu do lacpu lo kerfa be ra cu mukti lo nu la .salis. cu darxi do [vau la .salis]
the-event you pull the hair [related-to Sally] motivates the-event Sally hit you [through the volition of Sally]
You pulling Sally's hair motivated her to hit you.

As we can see, the third place is nearly always unnecessary, since we can assume that the agent of the second event is also the person who decides to do it. Even so, this structure is a bit clumsy, so again we would normally use a preposition — in this case, mu'i. This gives us

la salis. cu darxi do mu'i lo nu do lacpu lo kerfa
Sally hits you with-motive you pull the hair.

Using te we get te mukti which has another concise translation in English:

te mukti = x1 intends/going to do x2 with motive x3

Yes, in fact to be going to is tightly connected with motivation so we use the same verb for these concepts in Lojban.

mi te mukti lo ka klama la paris
I am going to visit Paris.

krinu — justification

The difference between motivation and justification is not always clear, but we can say that the latter involves some rule or standard while the former does not require this. Going back to the example of Sally and the teacher, it is possible to say

la .salis. cu te dunda lo tartcita lo ctuca mu'i lo nu sy. carmi gunka
Sally is-given a star-label [by] the teacher with-motivation she much-try work.

However, this says only that Sally's hard work motivated the teacher to give her a star. It does not imply that it is the custom for teachers to give stars (or ‘star-labels’, as I have rather pedantically translated it) as a reward for good work. What we need here is ki'u, the preposition from krinu:

x1 (event) is a reason/justification/explanation for/causing/permitting x2 (event)

We can therefore more accurately say

lo nu la .salis. cu carmi gunka cu krinu lo nu lo ctuca cu dunda lo tartcita sy.

or, as in the earlier example,

la .salis. cu te dunda lo tartcita lo ctuca ki'u lo nu sy. carmi gunka
Note: Don't get ki'u mixed up with ku'i which means but, however!

Let's not confuse jalge and nibli

ki'u appeals to more general considerations than mu'i, but it still deals with human standards, not logical laws. Only a very naive student would believe that if a student is given a star, it must logically imply that that student has worked hard. In the tragic case of Fluffy, however, the fact that Fluffy is a rabbit logically implies that he will not live long, given what we know about rabbits. Here we can confidently use nibli.

Of course, the questions do not have to take these forms; if young Joey is a religious type, he might say la .flufis. co'a morsi ki'u ma, asking with what justification God took his rabbit from him, whereas if he is scientifically minded, he might ask la .flufis. co'a morsi ri'a ma, inquiring as to the physical cause of Fluffy's death.

Lojban doesn't force you to use any particular philosophy, religion or political beliefs.


We can now make several types of why, by using a preposition and a ma after it. Our child's questions from the beginning of the lesson translate as follows:

  • .i lo dargu cu cilmo ri'a ma
  • .i la .salis. cu darxi mi mu'i ma
  • .i la .salis. cu te dunda lo tartcita lo ctuca ki'u ma

These three could be transalted using se ja'e ma instead, of course.

  • .i la .flufis. co'a morsi ni'i ma

To an English-speaker, this looks back-to-front (The road is wet. Why?) but there is really no reason why question-words have to come at the beginning of a sentence:

  • .i ri'a ma lo dargu cu cilmo


So … that

The expression so … that is very common in English. It is expressed in Lojban by splitting such sentence into to:

mi tai galtu plipe .i ja'e bo mi farlu
I jumped so high that I fell down.
tai — preposition. in the manner of …
mi tai zukte
I cat this way
mi tai fengu
I am so angry.
fengu = x1 is angry of x2 (event)

fau and da'i. What if …

da'i mi turni = I could be a king.
da'inai mi turni = I am a king.
  • The interjection da'i marks the verb phrase in which it is put as describing an imaginary event.
  • The opposite interjection da'inai marks the verb phrase as describing an actual, real event.

Constructs with da'i are usually translated to English with so called auxiliary verbs such as can/could, will/would, may/might, should and must. Clauses with da'i in English are said to be in subjunctive mood.

Omitting da'i or da'inai makes the sentence clear only from context which is usually quite transparent. That's why da'i or da'inai is not obligatory. We use it for clarity when needed.

Phrases with da'i often include fau:

da'i mi gleki fau lo nu mi ponse lo megdo be lo rupnu
I would/could be happy if I had one million dollars.
fau = in the event/situation/world of …
megdo = x1 is a million of x2

Here the event inside fau is equally imagined together with mi gleki. And here is the reverse example:

da'inai mi gleki fau lo nu mi ponse lo megdo be lo rupnu
Having one million dollars I am happy.

A good example of mo and da'i:

mo da'i fau lo nu mi cusku zo nai
What if I say "no"?


Suppose you come home and hear someone scratching. You can say one of the following sentences:

fau da ti mlatu.
This might be/possibly is a cat. It is possible that this is a cat.
(You keep several animals at home. So it might be your cat scratching but you are not sure.)

fau ro da ti mlatu.
this must be/certainly is the cat.
(You have a cat and such noise can be produced by only one object, that cat.)

fau so'e da ti mlatu.
This should be/probably is the cat.
(If you have a dog then it can also produce such sounds but your dog usually doesn't do that so the cat is more likely.)

fau so'u da ti mlatu.
It is not probable that this is the cat.
fau no da ti mlatu
This can't be the cat. This mustn't be the cat. It is impossible that this is the cat.

Notice that we omitted da'i for brevity. But if we want to be explicitely clear about the events being imaginary da'i in these examples is to be put inside the fau phrase:

  1. fau da'i da denotes that the event in this phrase is possible, may/can possibly happen.
  2. fau da'i ro da — the event would necessarily happen.
  3. fau da'i so'e da — the event is probable, will probably happen, is likely to happen.
  4. fau da'i so'o da — the event is remotely probable, could/might happen.
  5. fau da'i so'u da — the event is not likely, probably don't happen.
  6. fau da'i no da — the event is not possible.

The difference between these is in the number of imaginary situations we take into account. We don't describe those situations, we just mark them as da (something) letting the context (or our listeners) decide what those situations are.

Lesson 7. Full conjunction system

Although we've got acquainted with conjunctions here and there it's time for a full analysis of connectives in Lojban. There are several types of them:

  • logical connectives based on ja, je, ji, jo, ju
  • prepositional based on prepositions suffixed with bo
  • non-logical

Logical connectives

There are four basic words for logical connectives:

  • ja = and/or
  • je = and
  • jo = only if
  • ju = whether or not.

Placing na before a connective negates what is to the left of it.

Placing nai after a connectives negates what is to the right of it.

So if we take two parts: A and B then placing ja between them gives A ja B which means A or B or both of them while e.g. A jo nai B means either A or B but not both.

This system gives results that are purely logical but might not look intuitively usable. Some of them are used seldom. It is no need to try to understand why they produce such results so you can just learn them by rot.

  • ja = A and/or B (not none)
  • ja nai = A is the exclusive condition for B
  • na ja = A only if B
  • na ja nai = not both

  • je = A and B (both)
  • je nai = A but not B
  • na je = not A but B
  • na je nai = neither A nor B (none)

  • jo = A if and only if B (both or none)
  • jo nai = either A or B (not both neither none)
  • na jo = either A or B (not both neither none)
  • na jo nai = A if and only if B (both or none)

  • ju = A whether or not B (A, and perhaps B)
  • ju nai = A whether or not B (A, and perhaps B)
  • na ju = doesn't influence (not A, but perhaps B)
  • na ju nai = doesn't influence (not A, but perhaps B)
  • se ju = perhaps A, and B
  • se ju nai = perhaps A but not B

As you can see some produce synonymous results and se is used only for ju because in other cases it leads to no effect in meaning.

Now let's learn about mostly useful applications of logical connectives to different stuctures.

Logical connectives for nouns

Here are the basic operators combining two words: this and that.

  • ti ja ta = this and/or that, this or that or both of them
  • ti je ta = this and that
  • ti jo ta = this only if that
  • ti ju ta = this whether or not that

Some other operators are based on these vowels combined with negatives:

  • ti ja nai ta = this if that
  • ti je nai ta = this and not that
  • ti jo nai ta = either this or that
  • ti ju nai ta = this whether or not that (i.e. the same as with ju)
  • ti na ja ta = this only if that
  • ti na je ta = not this but that

The most common conjunction for nouns is je (and). Here's an example:

mi ralte pa lo gerku je re lo mlatu
I keep one dog and two cat.
I've got a dog and two cats.

This is actually a contracted way of saying It is true that I have a dog; it is true that I have two cats, or in Lojban,

mi ralte pa lo gerku .i je mi ralte re lo mlatu

We can also use ja (and/or) here. For example,

mi ba vitke lo mi mamta ja lo mi tamne
I future visit the me mother OR the me cousin
I'll visit my mother or my cousin.

This leaves open the possibility that I will get round to visiting both of them at some point. If I want to say that that I will visit either my mother or my cousin but not both, I need jo nai (either/or). This is actually a negative only if, which sounds confusing, but is quite simple. If and only if I do not visit my cousin, I will visit my mother implies that, if I visit my cousin, I will not visit my mother, and vice versa; so I will visit either my mother or my cousin but not both. So we have

mi ba vitke lo mi mamta jo nai lo mi tamne
I future visit the me mother exclusive-or the me cousin
I'll visit either my mother or my cousin.

As jo means only if, I will visit my mother if (and only if) I visit my cousin would be mi ba vitke lo mi mamta jo lo mi tamne. If, for some strange reason, I want to use simple if and say that I will definitely visit my mother if I visit my cousin, but I may visit her anyway, I need another negative: ja nai:

mi ba vitke lo mi mamta ja nai lo mi tamne
ja nai = if

And ju means whether or not. In this way I can say

mi ba vitke lo mi mamta ju lo be mi tamne
I future visit the me mother whether-or-not the of me cousin
I'll visit my mother whether or not I visit my cousin.

Logical connectives for compound verbs

As we've seen before, we can put two or more verbs into a main verb, getting a compound verb (tanru), and optionally convert it into a noun using lo or similar particles:

lo xunre cukta
a red book

The first element of the compound verb modifies or restricts the second element, in some unspecified way. What happens if there are three or more elements, though? Like many other features of Lojban grammar, tanru follow a left-grouping rule, which means that the element on the far left modifies the next one, then those two together modify the next, and so on. For example,

lo melbi xunre cukta means a beautifully red book

But usually we need something like beautiful red book. Thus, we have two adjectives. We need to connect them together like: beautiful and red book.

The simplest method for that is just to use a logical conjunction and say

lo barda je xunre cukta
A (big and red) book
A big red book.
la .alis. cu nelci ro lo xajmi ja melbi nanmu
Alice likes all (funny and/or beautiful) man
Alice likes men who are funny or handsome (or both).
Warning: This sentence is still true even if Alice also likes men who are not funny or handsome. In natural language, social conventions means you wouldn't normally say such a sentence in that case, because it would be misleading. Lojban is stricter about these things, so you might want to add the interjection po'oonly, or use a relative clause:
ro da poi nanmu je cu se nelci la .alis. cu xajmi ja melbi
We'll stick with the vaguer sentences here, though.

Let's say that Alice finds the qualities of humor and good looks attractive but incompatible — she likes Woody Allen and Steven Seagal, but thinks a mixture of the two would be just too much. We would then say

la .alis. cu nelci ro lo xajmi jo nai melbi nanmu
Alice likes all (either funny or beautiful) man}
Alice likes men who are either funny or handsome (but not both).

On the other hand, Jasmine is turned on by funny men, and doesn't care about their looks at all. Woody Allen would do fine, but Steven Seagal wouldn't stand a chance unless he could tell a few jokes (funnier than Schwarzenegger's, preferably.) What we need here is

la .jasmin. cu nelci ro lo xajmi ju melbi nanmu
Jasmine likes all (funny whether or not beautiful) man
Jasmine likes funny men, whether they are handsome or not.
Warning: Be careful not to confuse connecting nouns and parts of compound verbs:
mi ba vitke lo mi mamta je lo mi speni is not the same as mi ba vitke lo mi mamta je speni.
The first means that I will visit my mother and my spouse (probably on separate occasions). The second means that I will visit a person who is both my mother and my spouse.

Logical connectives for phrase tails

.i la .bob. pu klama la .kalifornias. je cu pu stali la .kalifornias. ze'a lo nanca be li ci
Bob went to California, and stayed in California for three years.

When the first nouns of two or more connected sentences are the same we don't have to repeat them. This would look awkward:

.i la .bob. pu klama la .kalifornias. .i je la .bob. pu stali la .kalifornias. ze'a lo nanca be li ci
Bob goes to California, and Bob stays in California during three years.

So yes, we can express the same in a more concise way. We're keeping the subject who does or is something constant, and changing the rest of the sentence.

The first nouns coinciding all those sentences are called "the head of the phrase", and the remaining part, the main verb with its trailing nouns, is called "the tail of phrase". As you remember those two parts are separated with cu' (we can omit cu only if the last noun of the head is a pronoun like mi).

For separating phrases in the tail we use vau plus an appropriate conjunction.

Our first sentence in this section can be made even more laconic if we move first two nouns to the head:

.i la .bob. la .kalifornias. cu klama je cu stali ze'a lo nanca be li ci
Bob went to California, and stayed there for three years.

As you can see the phrase tail conjunction version of je is je cu.

Logical connectives for sentences

To connect sentences we place conjunctions next to .i. So

.i la .alis. cu nelci ro lo xajmi nanmu .i jo nai la .alis. cu nelci ro lo melbi nanmu
Either Alice likes funny men, or Alice likes handsome men.
.i mi djuno lo du'u do vi zvati .i na ja mi dasni no da

You read the first sentence: I know that you're here. Then you get the conjunction:If that were the case, I would wear nothing. You didn't know in advance that the first sentence was going to be an if. This is unlike the case in English (and natural languages in general), where the if comes right at the start of the first sentence, and gives you plenty of warning about what's coming up.

A more complete example. (notice how we Lojbanize the name "Romeo": combination "eo" is impossible in Lojban so we used "e'o" and added a consonant in the end for his name).

  1. la .rome'os. cu prami la djuliet .i je la djuliet cu prami la rome'os
    Romeo loves Juliet and Juliet loves Romeo.
    means that both statements are true, i.e. Romeo and Juliet love each other.
  2. la .rome'os. cu prami la djuliet .i ja la djuliet cu prami la rome'os
    Romeo loves Juliet and/or Juliet loves Romeo.
    means that one of them loves the other, and perhaps both of them do.
  3. la .rome'os. cu prami la djuliet .i jo nai la djuliet cu prami la rome'os
    Either Romeo loves Juliet or Juliet loves Romeo.
    Here either Romeo loves Juliet (but Juliet doesn't love him) or Juliet loves Romeo (but he doesn't love her).
  4. la .rome'os. cu prami la djuliet .i ja nai la djuliet cu prami la rome'os
    Romeo loves Juliet if Juliet loves Romeo
    means that if Juliet loves Romeo, he definitely loves her, but he may love her anyway (the only outcome which is impossible is that Juliet loves Romeo but he doesn't love her).
  5. la .rome'os. cu prami la djuliet .i jo la djuliet cu prami la rome'os
    Romeo loves Juliet only if Juliet loves Romeo.
    means that if Juliet loves Romeo, he loves her, and if she doesn't love him, he doesn't love her.
  6. la .rome'os. cu prami la djuliet .i ju la djuliet cu prami la rome'os
    Romeo loves Juliet whether or not Juliet loves Romeo.
    ju is a special case, taking the meaning "whether or not"’ — in other words, it emphasizes that the second value does not affect the truth of the sentence.

Asking about conjunctions

  • How can you tell someone is a computer programmer?
  • You ask them Will you drink tea or coffee?, and they answer Yes.

In natural languages, that kind of answer is liable to get you a clip around the ears. That is because natural languages are run not only by logic, but also by social conventions. And one of the most important social conventions about language (Gricean informativeness, for those taking third year linguistics courses) is that, whatever you say, you should say enough to fully inform your listener about what's going on. If I ask Do you drink tea or coffee?, I need that information in order to prepare you a cup of coffee to your liking. Answering me yes doesn't give me much to go on.

As far as strict logic is concerned, though, Yes is the only proper answer, as computer programmers (and logicians, and Lojbanists) discover much to their amusement — and to the irritation of the rest of the world. That is because the question is phrased as a yes/no question; and or, in the question, does not behave any differently as a logical conjunction than and.

What you should actually be asking, if you want to be logically correct, is Identify which of the following you drink: tea, coffee.

You could say that, but it's not much like Lojban's fill-in-the-slot approach. Instead, Lojban sneakily asks you to fill in a slot you might not have expected: not the ‘tea’ slot, or the ‘coffee’ slot, but the conjunction slot:

.i do pinxe lo tcati ji lo ckafi
You drink tea ___ coffee.

By filling in the slot, you get to pick what you want. If you say je, you are saying the sentence .i do pinxe lo tcati je lo ckafi — in other words, you will drink both. If you say je nai, you are using the "and not" conjunction, which negates what follows it: so you are saying I will drink tea, and not coffee. If you want to negate what went before the conjunction instead, you use na je and you are saying I will drink not tea, and coffee (or, as is more usual in English, not tea, but coffee) — which means that you are picking only coffee. If you want neither, you can negate both sides: na je nai. You can still be unhelpful with your response: ja would leave us right where we started, for instance. But at least this way you have a logically consistent way of picking alternatives presented to you.

Tip: Be careful, though: this kind of question doesn't really generalize past two alternatives, so you may still have to fall back on the ‘pick zero or more alternatives out of the following’ approach.

You can ask questions in the same way about the other kinds of conjunctions we have looked at. The interrogative conjunction for phrase tails is fa ji, for sentences — .i ji.

'yes/no' questions with ji

There is another method of asking 'yes/no' questions. If the main verb consists of only one verb word you can use repeat that verb word two times linking it with ji:

pei do nelci lo tcati = je'u
Do you like tea?Yes.
do nelci ji nelci lo tcati = je

When using such method

  • yes is je
  • no is na je nai

Forethought conjunctions

mi nelci la Alis na je la Bob
I like Alice not and Bob
I don't like Alice but I do like Bob.

The second sentence means the same as the first although it may sound a bit weird for English speakers ("I like Alice not...")

So if you don't like such linking of sentences hard to grasp or use you can either use the first sentence or use forethought conjunctions.

Forethought conjunctions are used to identify the logical relation between two terms by being placed in front of the first term, rather than in between the two.

.i mi djuno lo du'u do vi zvati .i na ja mi dasni no da

The problem here is, the logical version of if denies what comes before it. So in effect, you're getting the first statement, quite normally, and then the surprise: Either that's not true, or this is true. Things are just as bad for other conjunctions denying what comes before them:

mi nelci lo bakni na je lo jipci
I like not the beef, but the chicken.

But look at what the Lojban is actually saying:

I like the beef — NOT! and the chicken.

There was a vogue in the '90s of putting NOT! at the end of sentences in American English (see Wayne's World.) This was a joke, and the reason it was a joke is that saying a sentence isn't true after you've already said it isn't exactly being helpful.

So if we're going to use logical conjunctions in Lojban, and are obligated to pull NOT!-tricks like this, the Lojban listener can understandably get frustrated. Once again, though, Lojban has an answer. With forethought conjunctions, you can indicate the logical relationship between two terms in front of the first term. You still need a word separating the two terms, to show what is being logically connected. But now you know in advance what that logical connection is.

If nouns are involved, the forethought conjunction is formed by placing the particle ga before the logical conjunction. The two nouns are then connected with the particle gi. So the forethought version of mi je do is

ga je mi gi do

Here, ga je means that the two nouns coming up are connected with and, while gi indicates that what follows is the second noun in the relation.

The real usefulness of these forms comes out in the NOT!-conjunctions we've just seen. If you want to give some warning when choosing the chicken instead of the beef, you can now say

mi djica ga je nai lo bakni gi lo jipci

Forethought conjunctions can be followed by nai, just like their afterthought counterparts.

If you wanted to say beef, not chicken, you would put nai after the gi:

mi djica ga je lo bakni gi nai lo jipci

If you're connecting phrases, as it turns out, you still use ga je or their friends. If you don't follow ga je + noun immediately by gi and another noun, then Lojban grammar assumes that you're connecting not nouns any more, but phrases. So here is our forethought version of the problematic sentence:

.i ga ja nai mi djuno lo du'u do vi zvati gi mi dasni no da
If I know that you are here, I will wear nothing.

You'll notice that there is no second .i here. Two phrases connected by ga ja nai belong to the same sentence. What's coming up after the gi is a separate phrase, so we don't need to separate it out with .i.

This can actually turn out handy in beating Lojban precedence:

.i la .flufis. cu ractu .i je ro lo ractu ze'i jmive .i la .flufis. se ni'i ze'i jmive
Fluffy is a rabbit, and rabbits live not long. Fluffy therefore lives not long.

We should be able from that to say

.i la .flufis. cu ractu .i je ro lo ractu ze'i jmive .i se ni'i bo la .flufis. ze'i jmive

Right? Actually, no we can't: bo has the function of connecting sentences through prepositions, because it connects sentences on its own. And when it does, it connects them tighter than .i je does. This means that .i se ni'i bo connects only to the immediately preceding sentence — not to the preceding sentence pair! So Fluffy's death is presented as a consequence of rabbits not living long — not a consequence of both rabbits not living long and Fluffy being a rabbit.

However, if we put the two verb phrases in a single sentence, then none of this is an issue: the conclusion will attach to both phrases, but will still attach to a single sentence:

.i ga je la .flufis. cu ractu gi ro lo ractu ze'i jmive .i se ni'i bo la .flufis. ze'i jmive

There is also a forethought conjunction for compound verbs: these conjunctions are formed by placing gu before the conjunction vowel (connecting the second compound part with gi.) So if we want to say that Alice fancies men that are, if funny, then also handsome, the afterthought version is

la .alis. cu nelci ro lo melbi na ja xajmi nanmu

To make this slightly (but only slightly!) more comprehensible, we can put this in forethought mode:

la .alis. cu nelci ro lo gu ja nai melbi gi xajmi nanmu

There are no forethought versions of phrase tail conjunctions. In practice, however, two phrases connected by ga je can be phrase tails just as easily as a full phrase: there is no real distinction in meaning between the two.

Old conjunction system

In old Lojban style conjunctions were a bit different. It's no mistake to still use them. They don't contradict the current system once you know the correspondencies.

To use the old system one has to change ja to .a for connecting nouns, use ja for joining only parts of compound verbs, change fa ja to gi'a for connecting phrases inside one sentence and so on. In each pair of columns you can see the current conjunctions to the left and the old conjunctions to the right:

nouns verb phrases forethought in tanru tanru forethought in other places
ja .a ja cu gi'a gu ja gu'a ja ja ga ja ga
je .e je cu gi'e gu je gu'e je je ga je ge
ji ji ji cu gi'i gu ji gu'i ji je'i ga ji ge'i
jo .o jo cu gi'o gu jo gu'o jo jo ga jo go
ju .u ju cu gi'u gu ju gu'u ju ju ga ju gu

The system has many more words to remember that's why it is out of favor.

Notice that in the old system gu has another meaning: it was what ga ju is now. And ga is what ga ja is now. However, this is okay. It is always possible to comprehend what meaning of ga and gu is used even if you mix two styles together in one sentence.

Lesson 8. Structuring text


… is spaghetti

To emphasize a word we would use stress in spoken English, and italics or capitals in written English.

In Lojban we use a separate word ba'e.

Like interjections, this word can go pretty much anywhere in a Lojban sentence, but it emphasizes the word that follows it, rather than what precedes it.

mi ba'e nelci lo spageti
I do like spaghetti.

Paragraphs and separating sentences

ni'o works exactly like .i but starts a new paragraph. Paragraphs are usually associated with new topics.

It is normal to use in speech only .i to separate sentence but you might want to use ni'o especially in a written text to structure it.

to … toi for parenthetical remarks

Comments that we place inside parentheses in English text are formed using the particle to instead of the left parenthesis and toi instead of the right parenthesis:

ti poi to vi'onai do mi djica nai lo drata toi plise cu fusra
This (no, I don't want another one!) apple is rotten.
ti = this
djica = to desire
drata = to be different from …
plise = x1 is an apple
fusra = x1 rots or decays with agent x2

Such parenthetical remarks can go anywhere interjections can — meaning pretty much anywhere in a Lojban sentence. With parentheses, just like with quotes, you need to know where the parenthesis starts, and where it ends.

Advanced interjections


A special group of interjections carry information about how a particular word or phrase fits in with everything else you're saying.

We've seen one such interjection already: ku'i, which means but, however. This means that whatever it is attached to contrasts with what you've been saying. It usually applies to a whole sentence (so normally you'll see it next to .i), but it can apply to a single word: .abu na je ku'i by. is the proper Lojban for Not A, but B. Let's study other interjections.

.i mi venfu do doi melbi je ji'a lo cmalu gerku pe do
I'll get you, my pretty — and your little dog, too!
ji'a means additionally, also. This means that whatever it is attached to adds on to what you've been saying.

mi si'a nelci do
I too like you. (although, this is not perfect English here)

- mi nelci lo mlatu
mi si'a go'i
I like cats.
Me too.

si'a means similarly, too.

In some cases, there is nothing to either contrast or add to what you've said, because what you've said is the unique relevant case. In that context, you would use only in English. Because only is somewhat clumsy to express in terms of pure logic, Lojban allows another discursive as its equivalent: po'o. So

lo mlatu po'o cu nelci lo mlatnipa
Only cats like catnip.
lo mlatnipa = a cat-intoxicating catnip

If you wanted to say that something is not the only applicable case, then of course you'd say po'o nai.

There are several more discursives, but you won't seem them all that often. Some to watch out for, though, include:

ba'u exaggeration ba'ucu'i accuracy ba'unai
sa'e precisely speaking sa'enai
loosely speaking
ju'o certainly ju'ocu'i uncertain ju'onai
certainly not
la'a probably la'acu'i la'anai
ta'o by the way ta'onai
returning to the subject
zu'u on the one hand zu'unai
on the other hand

Kidding… and sarcasm

Interjections. Kidding and sarcasm
zo'o Kidding, saying not-seriously, humorously zo'ocu'i saying dully zo'onai
Seriously, Joke apart
xo'o Sarcastically saying xo'ocu'i saying without sarcasm xo'onai
Sincerely saying
  • The interjection zo'o is used just like the smiley-face in e-mail, to indicate that you're being humorous when saying something, and it's used for much the same reason.
  • The interjection xo'o is used the same way but for expression sarcasm.
  • Correspondingly, zo'onai is used to show that the information is not a joke and xo'onai is for expressing sincerity.

In these two communication systems, it's difficult to work out whether someone is joking or not — in e-mail, because you can't hear the tone of voice that gives things away; in Lojban, because Lojban doesn't want to leave things to natural-language–based intuition when you want to explicitly express something (and also because it's used a lot on e-mail anyway). So hints like this are always welcome, and frequently taken advantage of.

Fixing errors in speech

When screwing a sentence up, knowing how to correct yourself is a good idea. You can use two words to delete your previous words:

  • si — deletion: Deletes last word only.
  • sa — deletion: Deletes back until next cmavo spoken.

The function of them is obvious: they delete words as if they have never been spoken. They do not work inside certain quotes (all quotes except lu...li'u), though, as that would leave it impossible to quote these words. Several si in a row deletes several words.

When you make a mistake while speaking (factual or grammatical) in English you don't normally bother to correct it even if you realize you made a mistake in the first place. That's because English is fairly redundant (for this very reason!). In English if we catch ourselves making an error, we stumble out a correction that will do the trick, without going into details like how many words should be cancelled: context usually helps us. So if I say

I took and read an English dictionary. Er, Lojban dictionary.

context and common sense dictate that Lojban dictionary is meant to replace English dictionary. But what if it was meant to replace took and read an English dictionary? We wouldn't normally care, in natural languages.

But Lojban allows you to be more precise about what words you are correcting.

si erases the immediately preceding word. If you want to erase two words in a row, you say si si after them. So the correction above would be in Lojban

.i mi te benji je tadni lo glico valsi si si lojbo valsi

The problem with si is, you have to count words. This can get tedious, and you shouldn't have to keep a transcript of your words when you want to correct yourself.

The other correction word Lojban offers is somewhat more helpful: sa takes the word following it, which starts the phrase to serve as the correction. It then goes back in the sentence, looking for the last time you used a phrase starting with the same word or another word of the same class (selma'o). Once it finds the last such phrase, it replaces all text from that phrase up to sa with the phrase following sa. For example:

.i mi te benji je cu tadni lo sa .i mi tadni lo lojbo valsi

The correction following sa is a sentence; you know that, because the first word after sa is the sentence marker, .i. So the sentence following sa replaces the current sentence up to and including sa. Or consider:

.i mi mrilu fi do ca lo prulamdei sa ca lo reldei

The correction is ca lo reldeion Tuesday. So what it replaces is everything from the last phrase beginning with ca: ca lo prulamdeiyesterday. The English version would be Yesterday I mailed you... actually, it was Monday.

Dealing with misunderstanding

- .i mi pu zi te vecnu lo flokati
.i lo flokati ki'a
I just bought a flokati.
Flokati, huh?

ki'a = interjection inquiry: confusion about something said. "Huh? Whaat?? (confusion), pardon?"

When you don't understand what someone has just said — whether because you don't get what they were referring to, or you don't know the word, or the grammar confused you — you can repeat the word or phrase you didn't get, and add ki'a as a plaintive request for clarification (so it's even better than Huh?, because you can point out exactly what made you say Huh?)

Here is a dialogue.

mi nelci lo kalci
ki'a ?

I like shit.

Note: Since zo quotes any word following it — any word — it turns out that zo ki'a doesn't mean zo? Huh? at all, but The word ki'a. To ask zo? Huh?, you'll have to resort to zo zo ki'a.

Lesson 9

Terminology in phrases

Let's describe the structure of Lojban phrase (bridi). The main verb, or predicate (selbri in Lojban) describes relationships of nouns. It can be represented as a single verb word (brivla) or as a compound verb (tanru).

Here are some examples of nouns and main verbs.

ti ladru
This is milk.

Here ti is a noun and ladru is the main verb consisting of one verb word.

lo mlatu cu sutra pinxe
A cat quickly drinks.

Here lo mlatu is a noun (sumti) and the compound verb sutra pinxe works as the main verb (selbri).

Also you can add prepositions (sumtcita) like ca:

ra ca citka
He/she now eats.

So in other words.

bridi = optionally one or more sumti + one selbri + one or more sumtcita

or in English

phrase = optionally one or more nouns + one main verb of the phrase + one or more prepositions.

tanru, or compound verbs consist of two or more verb words. Each left verb word is called seltau compared to the right one called tertau.

Morphology of verbs

Verbs (brivla) are divided into 4 groups by their form:

  1. gismu, or root-words are main building blocks of Lojban vocabulary. gismu are easy to recognise, because they always have five letters, in the form
    CVCCV — e.g. ladru, gismu, sumti, or
    CCVCV — e.g. mlatu, cmene, bridi, klama
    where C=consonant and V=vowel.
    Verbs in the following forms are created when there is no appropriate verb in gismu list:
  2. lujvo, or compound words. They are created from short building blocks (called rafsi) used for mnemonic purposes.
    Examples are: retsku, kargau
  3. zi'evla, or free words. They are usually created for specific concepts and things like igloo (iglu in Lojban), spaghetti (spageti in Lojban).
  4. cmevla, or name words.

Task. Close the right part of the table. Which of the following Lojban words are brivla, cmevla (remember, they always end in a consonant), neither?

Note: I've the full stops are removed in the cmevla below to make the task a bit more tricky ;).

lojban cmevla
karce brivla
robin cmevla

mi cmavo
mlatu brivla
cukta brivla
fa'a cmavo
to'o cmavo
ian cmevla
ba cmavo
spageti brivla

Masses and loi

loi prenu cu sruri lo jubme
People surrounded the table.
jubme = x1 is a table

We can't say lo prenu cu sruri lo jubme because it's impossible that each person can surround the table.

In fact the mass (crowd) of people surrounded it. Thus, we say lo gunma be lo prenu cu sruri lo jubme.

There is a shortcut for lo gunma be lo wich is loi.

lo gunma be lo prenu cu sruri lo jubme
loi prenu cu sruri lo jubme
The mass of people surrounded the building.

Carrots alone and carrots together

lo najgenja
a carrot

Consider a sentence:

Three carrots weigh 60 grams.

Does it mean that each carrots weighs 60 grams or they weigh 60 grams if taken together?

In Lojban we can easily distinguish between these two cases:

ro lo ci najgenja cu grake li 60
Each of three carrots weigh 60 grams.
loi ci najgenja cu grake li 60
Three carrots weigh 60 grams in total.
(so that every carrots weighs 20 grams on average)
najgenja = x1 is a carrot
grake = x1 weighs x2 grams
kiltygrake = x1 weighs x2 kilograms

As you can see there is an important difference between describing one object of a mass or describing the mass as a whole.

As we already know lo ci najgenja just means three carrots:

ko dunda lo ci najgenja
Give me three carrots.


ko dunda pa lo ci najgenja
Give me one carrot out of those three.

Existing things: any, the, a

Here is the difference between lo and da poi:

mi nitcu lo mikce = I need a doctor (any doctor) (implying "any doctor will do").
mi nitcu da poi mikce = There is a doctor whom I need.

We looked at lo, zo'e and da before. Here is a more complete expalanation.

  • da poi refers to objects that exist. da always refers to the same object or event when used more than once in the same sentence or in several sentences connected to each other using connectives like ja, ba bo and their friends.
    So if I say da klama lo barja .i je da fenki you can assume I'm referring to the same man in both sentences.
  • lo simply converts verbs to nouns. lo is similar to zo'e noi because it actually means someone who or something, which. As it is based on zo'e it can refer to different objects every time is used.

There are actually three words in da series: da, de, di. Use them if you need to refer to different objects in one discourse:

ci da poi gerku cu batci re de poi nanmu
Three dogs bite two men.

If you need more such words in one discourse add a suffix xi to them and then any number (which we can call an index).


  • da xi pa is the same as simple da,
  • da xi re is the same as de,
  • da xi ci is the same as di
  • da xi vo is the fourth "something" and so on...

Dropping da

pa mlatu is the same as pa da poi mlatu and thus means there is one cat. The same is true for other numbers and verbs: not using lo is equivalent of using da poi. Compare:

lo re mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru = Two cats drink milk.
re lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru = Two of cats drink milk.
re mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru = There are two cats who drink milk.

Every time you use a number+verb a new da with new index is implied so

re mlatu cu viska re prenu is the same as re da poi mlatu cu pinxe re de poi prenu (notice da and de).

Another example:

re bruna be mi cu clani means
I have two brothers and they are tall.

clani = x1 is long/tall

Topic and comment. zo'u

Sometimes it is useful to show the topic of a phrase and then say a comment about it:

lo finpe zo'u mi nelci lo salmone
As for fish I like salmon.
zo'u ends the topic and starts the comment of the verb phrase.

zo'u is more useful when a pronoun like da is defined in the topic and then used in the comment:

da zo'u mi viska da
There is a thing such that I see it.
da poi gerku zo'u mi nelci da
For each ting that is a dog: I like it.
I like all dogs.
da de zo'u da viska de
There is da and de such that da sees de.

The two pronouns da and de tell us that there are two things which stand in the relationship that one sees the other. It might be the case that the supposed two things are really just a single thing that loves itself: nothing in the sentence rules out that interpretation, which is why the colloquial translation does not say Somebody sees somebody else. The things referred to by different pronouns of da series may be different or the same.

It is perfectly all right for these pronouns to appear more than once in the main verb phrase:

da zo'u da prami da
There is da such that da loves da.
Somebody loves himself/herself.

It is not necessary for a pronoun to belong to the main main verb directly:

da zo'u lo gerku pe da cu viska mi
There is da such that the dog of them sees me.
Somebody's dog sees me.


ci da poi gerku cu batci re de poi nanmu
Three dogs bite two men.

The question raised here is, does each of the dogs bite the same two men, or is it possible that there are two different men per dog, for six men altogether? If the former interpretation is taken, the number of men involved is fixed at two; but if the latter, then the speaker has to be taken as saying that there might be any number of men between two and six inclusive. By using zo'u we can make our sentence more clear:

ci da poi gerku re de poi nanmu zo'u da batci de
For three da which are dogs, for two de which are men: da bites de.

Here we see that each of the dogs is said to bite two men, and it might be different men each time; a total of six biting events altogether.

How then are we to express the other interpretation, in which just two men are involved? We cannot just reverse the order of variables in the prenex to

re de poi nanmu ci da poi gerku zo'u da batci de
For two de which are men, for three da which are dogs, da bites de

for although we have now limited the number of men to exactly two, we end up with an indeterminate number of dogs, from three to six. The distinction is called a “scope distinction”: in the first example ci da poi gerku is said to have wider scope than re de poi nanmu, and therefore precedes it in the prenex. In the second example the reverse is true.

To make to scope equal we use a special connective ce'e connecting two nouns.

ci da poi gerku ce'e re de poi nanmu cu batci
'ci gerku re nanmu cu batci'
Three dogs [plus] two men, bite.

which picks out two groups, one of three dogs and the other of two men, and says that every one of the dogs bites each of the men. The second Lojban version uses forethought.

Four meanings of you

We've already seen two personal pronouns, mi and do, meaning I (or me) and you. However, you in English can mean four different things:

  1. The one person I'm talking to.
  2. A number of people I'm talking to.
  3. The person or people I'm talking to and some other person or people.
  4. Anyone (as in Money can't buy you love.)

Lojban gets round the confusion between (1) and (2) by using numbers. The most common way to express (2) is ro do = all of you (or Southern U.S. y'all). You can also use specific numbers: lo re do would mean you two (for example, once can start e-mails to their parents with coi lo re do). Notice that re do means two of you and re lo ci do means two of you three.

You can also use numbers with ko, e.g. ro ko klama tiAll of you, get over here.

Case (3) is expressed by the pronoun do'oyou and someone else. Case (4) is completely different: it's normally expressed by ro da = all da or ro lo prenuall persons, but often you can just miss it out altogether (or place zo'e in that place).

"any" and "some" in examples

The words "any" and "some" are translated to Lojban using da poi or lo. Here are the most important meanings of these words. There is no need in memorizing the English names of those cases (like "irrealis"). Lojban is simple as you can see in the translations:

  • Specific known:
da pu fonjorne .i ko smadi lo du'u da me ma kau
Somebody called. Guess who?
  • Specific unknown:
mi pu tirna da .i ku'i mi pu kakne nai lo ka facki lo du'u da mo kau
I heard something, but I couldn't tell what it was.
  • Irrealis:
.ei do troci bu'u lo drata
You must try somewhere else.
  • Question:
xu da do pu jungau de
Did anybody tell you anything about it?
  • Conditional antecedent:
fau da'i lo nu do viska su'o prenu vau, ko mi ba zi sai jungau
If you see anybody, tell me immediately.
  • Comparative:
la .djon. cu zmadu ro da lo ka clani
John is taller than anybody.
  • Direct negation:
la .djon. pu viska nai su'o prenu
John didn't see anybody.
  • Anti-morphic:
mi jinvi lo du'u nai da djuno lo du'u ma kau danfu
I don't think that anybody knows the answer.
  • Anti-additive:
lo banxa catni cu rivbi lo ka jdice da
The bank avoided taking any decision.
  • Free choice:
ro da zo'u: .e'a do cinba da
You may kiss anybody.
  • Universal free choice:
la .djon. pu cinba ro ma'urni'u poi lo xunre kerfa ke'a
John kissed any woman with red hair.
  • Generic:
lo gerku cu se tuple vo da
Any dog has four legs.
  • Indiscriminative:
mi za'o djica nai lo ka gletu lo slabu nai be mi
I don't want to sleep with just anybody anymore.

le is for specific things

mi nitcu le mikce = I need a specific doctor (when for example, I have my doctor Mr. Johnson in mind).
mi nitcu da poi mikce = There is a doctor whom I need (I might not have a particular doctor in mind).
mi nitcu lo mikce = I need a doctor/the doctor (I might have a doctor in mind but don't state it).

Thus the word le can go into any position lo can go. It works exactly the same. But le refers to specific objects or events, someone or something that I have in mind as with Mr. Johnson in this example. When we use le we enable our audience to pick out whom or what we are talking about and also we state something about that person or thing.

lo itself isn't as explicit. It's vague but sufficient in most cases. That's we use it more often.

We also might want to need to explicitly state that for example, I don't have a particular doctor in mind and any doctor would do:

ro da zo'u lo du'u da mikce cu nibli lo du'u mi nitcu da
For everyone : if he/she is a doctor then it implies that I need them.

Clearly, this lengthy construct might be needed really seldom.

Another example:

lo catra be la smit cu jai fenki
Smith's murderer is insane.

We can be more explicit:

le catra be la smit cu jai fenki
The killer of Smith is crazy.
This is when the speaker says this without having any particular person in mind, basing his claim solely on the particularly brutal manner in which Smith has been murdered.

ro da zo'u lo du'u da catra la smit cu nibli lo du'u da jai fenki
Whoever killed Smith, he is crazy.
Imagine Jones has killed him, has been charged with the murder and has been put on trial, where his behavior is distinctly odd. The speaker (having Jones in mind) utters the same sentence.

She is a teacher and She is the teacher

What the Lojban for is is?

Most of the time there isn't one. In most cases is makes a noun work like a verb in English. In Lojban even such concepts as cat (mlatu), person (prenu), house (dinju), home (zdani) are all verbs. Only pronouns work as nouns by default.

There is an interesting feature, though. As we remember me transforms nouns to verbs.

ra ctuca
He teaches.
ra me lo ctuca
He is a teacher.

Thus the word me actually changes the meaning a bit and better reflects English sentences where the main relation is a noun.

The verb du, to be equal to, gives us the third meaning in this series:

ra du lo skiji
He is the teacher.

He is the teacher might imply the teacher we have been searching for or talking about.

Thus me and du reflect what in English we use the verb to be/is/was for.

Other examples:

mi me la bond
I am Bond.

la .renas. cu me lo mensi be mi
Rena is my sister.

mi du la .nik.
I am Robin (or Nick.) (the one you needed)

la jasmin poi du lo pendo be la .kevin. cu vi zvati Jasmine, who is Kevin's friend, is here.

me is often useful for converting pronouns:

pei do djica lo nu do me mi'a
Do you want to be one of us?

noi du and poi du are typically used in Lojban to introduce alternate names for something. So they correspond to English namely, i.e. For instance, la .alis. cu penmi la xumske fanza noi du la .djang.Alice met ‘Chemistry Annoyance’, namely Zhang.}}


  1. na negates the whole verb phrase when put immediately before the main verb. na is used to turn verbal phrases into negative statements, of the type it is not true that.
  2. Combination na ku negates everything to the right of itself within the current verb phrase
  3. How to negate only the main verb? By moving the na ku to the rightmost end of the verb phrase.

Thus, it has a special grammar that may be useful sometimes.

na ku mi nelci la .ian.

means the same as

nai mi nelci la .ian.


mi na nelci la .ian.
It is not true that I like Yan.
I don't like Yan.

So we can put na ku or nai in the beginning of a phrase, or put na before the main verb and all three phrases will have identical meaning.

What does go'i copy?

Note that emotional interjections like .ui, .u'i, je'u, xu and those formed with sei are not parts of phrases. Thus they are not copied by go'i.

Other interjections like nai, cu'i, pei are parts of the phrase when they are used on their own (not as modifiers of emotional interjections). na and na ku are also parts of phrases.

go'i copies na and such interjections as when they are used not as modifiers:

- la bob cu prami nai la alis

- Bob doesn't love Alice.

- He doesn't [love].

The same for na:

- la bob na prami la alis

- Bob doesn't love Alice.

- He doesn't [love, yes].

In order to say "No, he does love her" we need to use the word reverse to naija'ai.

la bob prami nai la alis
go'i ja'ai

Bob doesn't love Alice.

He does.

To override na we use its opposite: ja'a.

la bob na prami la alis
ja'a go'i

Bob doesn't love Alice.

He does.

Negatives are more tricky than they look. Strictly speaking, mi na nelci la .ian. is true even if I've never heard of Yan (since it's pretty hard to like someone you know nothing about). Just as in English, if you ask someone if they like Yan, and they reply No because they haven't met him, they're being amazingly unhelpful — but not really lying.

Another unexpected effect compared to English not:

mi na nelci ro lo gerku means It is not true that I like each dog. However, to say I don't like any dogs. you say mi nelci nai ro lo gerku

So often we need our negation to be a little less powerful. In particular, it is useful to be able to say, not that the whole verb phrase is false, but only the main verb. This means that there is some relationship between the nouns — but this main verb isn't it.

Note: Like cu na can indicate that a main verb is coming up, so we can just say na instead of cu na. So you can say
lo ninmu na nelci la .ian. = A woman likes Yan
without adding cu before na nelci.

na ku in the beginning of a phrase is the same as placing simple na just before a main verb:

na ku lo mi speni cu ninmu

My spouse is not a woman.
speni = x1 is married to x2 under convention x3

It states nothing about what my wife is, or if I even have a wife. It only states that I do not have a wife who is also a woman. This has an important implication: If the negation of a verb phrase is false, that phrase must be true:

na ku lo speni be mi cu na ninmu

must mean that I have both a spouse, and that she is a she. It is possible to use phrase negation in all phrases, even the implicit phrase of descriptive nouns. lo na prenu can refer to anything non-human, whether it be a sphinx, a baseball or the property of appropriateness.

Often when using na, it's a problem that it negates the entire phrase. If I say mi na sutra tavla bau lo glibau se ja'e lo nu mi dotco, I end up negating too much, and it is not clear that I wanted to only negate that I speak fast. The sentence could suggest that I in fact speak fast because of some other reason, for instance that I speak fast in French because I'm German. To express the sentence more precisely, I need to only negate that I speak fast, and not the other things. To only negate part of a phrase, na ku can be moved around the phrase and placed anywhere a noun can go. It then negates any noun, main verb and preposition placed after it. When placed immediately before the main verb, na ku is the same as na. Moving na ku from the left end of the sentence and rightwards effects any quantifiers in a certain way, as can be seen by this example:

na ku ro lo remna cu verba
It's not true that: All humans are children.
su'o lo remna na ku cu verba
For at least one human it's not true that: it's a child.

See that the na ku is placed before cu, since a noun can go only before, not after the cu. Had I only used na, it would have to go after cu — but that would have negated the entire verb phrase, meaning "It's not true that: At least one human is a child".

When the na ku is moved rightwards, any quantifier is inverted — that is: ro is turned into su'o. This is, of course, only if the meaning of the phrase has to be preserved. This means that when the na ku is placed at the end of the phrase, only the main verb is negated but all the nouns and prepositions are preserved, as can be seen by these three identical phrases:

ckule = x1 is a school at location x2 teaching x3 to students x4 and operated by x5

na ku ro lo verba cu tadni bu'u da poi ckule
It's not true that all children are students in a school.

su'o lo verba cu tadni na ku bu'u da poi ckule
Some children study in not a single school.

su'o lo verba cu tadni bu'u ro lo ckule na ku
Some children are for all schools don't study in them.

Scalar negation

While the mechanism of na ku resembles negation in English, it can be difficult to keep track of exactly what is negated and how that affects the verb phrase. For that reason, the construct na ku is rarely seen anywhere other than the beginning of a phrase. In most cases where more specific negation is needed people resort to a different method. This method, called scalar negation, is an elegant and intuitive tool. Using it, you effect only the main verb, since the words used in scalar negation binds to the main verb much like the word se. The name “scalar negation” is derived from the fact that the words which bind to the main verb can be placed along a scale from affirmation over negation and to stating that the opposite case is true:

Word Meaning
je'a “Indeed”; affirmer
no'e “Not really”, midpoint on the negation scale
na'e “Non-“, negation on the scale
to'e “anti-”, “dis-“, “mis-” etc.; opposite place on the scale
mi na'e nelci ro gerku
I other-than-like all dogs.

on the other hand, there is something that can be said about me and all dogs; but it's not that I like them. It isn't necessarily that I hate them: I might write poems about them, or prescribe medicine for them, or imitate them in polite company. But like them, I don't.

If you do want to say you feel the opposite of ‘like’ for all dogs, you can say

mi to'e nelci ro gerku
I anti-like (= dislike) all dogs.

to'e turns a main verb into its opposite: to'e nelci is pretty much the same thing as xebnito hate. And if you're indifferent, you can say

mi no'e nelci ro gerku
I am neutral-as-to-liking all dogs.

no'e indicates that you're neutral on the scale the main verb indicates.

These words are not negators in the same sense as na. They do not state that a verb phrase is false, but makes a positive statement that a verb phrase is true – the same verb phrase, but with a different main verb. This distinction is mostly academic, though. If, for example, I state mi na'e se nelciI am non-liked, I actually state that some main verb applies to me, which is also on a relevant scale with the main verb nelci. Most of the time, we assume a scale where the positions are mutually exclusive like "like — dislike — hate", so mi na'e se nelci implies mi na se nelci. Therefore, the words no'e and to'e should only be used when the main verb is placed on some obvious scale: lo speni be mi cu to'e melbiMy spouse is ugly makes sense, since we immediately know what the opposite of beautiful is, while mi klama lo to'e zdani be miI go to my opposite thing of home, while grammatical, leaves the listener guessing what the speaker's opposite of home is and should be avoided.

Negating only the main verb

So as we've seen there are several ways to negate only the main verb:

  1. use nai after the main verb if the main verb consists of only one verb word
  2. use na'e before the main verb if the main verb consists of only one verb word. This would imply the existence of a scale.
  3. use na ku before a main verb.

tu bajra mlatu nai means That is a running non-cat. tu bajra nai mlatu means That is a non-running cat. nai is applied only to the last verb of a compound verb

tu na'e bajra mlatu means That is a other-than-running cat. tu bajra na'e mlatu means That is a running other-than-cat. (making us wonder what a non-cat might be)

My spouse is not a woman (meaning that he is a male).
lo speni be mi cu na'e ninmu or lo speni be mi cu to'e ninmu. Using scalar negation here implies that he exists, which na did not.

My spouse is not really a woman.
lo speni be mi cu no'e ninmu The scale here is presumed to be from woman to man.

I don't speak fast in English because I'm German.
mi na'e sutra tavla bau lo glibau se ja'e lo nu mi dotco

When attempting to answer: “Is the king of the USA fat?”, all of these negations fail. While it's technically correct to negate it with na, since it makes no assumptions of that is true, it's mildly misleading since it could lead the listener to believe there is a king of the USA. For these scenarios, there is a metalinguistic negator, na'i.

na'i — metalinguistic negator. Something is wrong with assigning a truth value to the verb phrase.

Because na'i has the grammar of interjections.

lo na'i pu te zukte be lo skami cu palci
The sought goal (mistake!) of the computer was evil.

palci = x1 is evil

This sentence protests that computers can seek a goal volitionally.

Quoting text in different languages

The particle zoi is a quotation mark for quoting non-Lojban text. Its syntax is zoi X. text .X, where X is a Lojban word (called the delimiting word) which is separated from the quoted text by pauses, and which is not found in the written text or spoken phoneme stream inside that quotation. It is common, but not required, to use the name of some letter, which corresponds to the Lojban name of the language being quoted:

zoi gy. John is a man .gy. cu glico jufra
“John is a man” is an English sentence.

where gy. stands for glico. Other popular choices of delimiting words are .kuot., a Lojban name which sounds like the English wordquote, and the word zoi itself. Another possibility is a Lojban word suggesting the topic of the quotation.

Lojban strictly avoids any confusion between things and the names of things:

zo .bob. cmene la bob.
The-word “Bob” is-the-name-of the-one-named Bob.

zo .bab. is the word, whereas la bab. is the thing named by the word. The particle la'e and lu'e convert back and forth between references and their referents:

zo .bab. cmene la'e zo .bab.
The-word “Bob” is-the-name-of the-referent-of the-word “Bob”.
lu'e la bab. cmene la bab.
A-symbol-for Bob is-the-name-of Bob.

Last two examples mean the same. But this is different:

la bab. cu cmene la bab.
Bob is the name of Bob.

and says that Bob is both the name and the thing named, an unlikely situation. People are not names.

The particle la'o serves to mark non-Lojban names, for example the Linnaean binomial names (such as "Homo sapiens"), which are the internationally standardized names for species of animals and plants.

Internationally known names which can more easily be recognized by spelling rather than pronunciation, such as Goethe, can also appear in Lojban text with la'o:

la'o dy. Goethe .dy. cu me la'o ly. Homo sapiens .ly.
Goethe is a Homo sapiens.

Using la'o for all names rather than Lojbanizing, however, makes for very cumbersome text. A rough equivalent of la'o might be la me zoi.

Everything expressed in text should also be expressed in speech and vice versa. Therefore, there cannot be any punctuation which is not pronounced. This means that Lojban has a wide range of words to quote other words. All Lojban convert a text into a noun.

lu ... li'u quote only text that is grammatically correct. To quote any Lojban text we use lo'u ... le'u quote instead.

xu lo'u je le'u lojbo sumtcita . i je'unai
Is "je" a preposition? No.
ma xe fanva zoi gy.What's up?.gy. la .lojban.
How to translate "What's up?" to Lojban?

zo'oi quotes next word only. Next word is identified by pauses in speech or whitespace/dot in writing:

ri pu cusku zo'oi Doh! .u'i
Ha ha, he said "Doh!"

There is also the word la'oi, which forms a one-word name but unlike la even out of non-Lojban words:

la'oi Safi glico nanmu. It's his name.
Safi is an English guy. .i lu'e ri cmene ri

The word me'oi converts next word into a verb even if it's not a Lojban word. It is used to create necessary verb words on the fly or when you forget a Lojban verb:

lo xirma ca me'oi gallop
The horse gallops

General use of zo'oi, la'oi and me'oi is problematic. You should be aware that the word following zo'oi should not include a period, a glottal stop or a pause. For example, the following sentence is not correct:

mi penmi la'oi Mei Li is not correct since la'oi attaches only one word, Mei.
"la'oi uli.uli zgike tutci" for Uli uli is a musical instrument is not correct since la'oi takes only the first word before the dot: "uli" ("`uli`uli" is a Hawaiian musical instrument). Thus use
la'o gy.uli.uli.gy. zgike tutci for Uli uli is a musical instrument.

Infinitives and ce'u

The particle ce'u is used for referring to the noun from the outside verb:

mi gleki lo ka ce'u prami means the same as
mi gleki lo nu mi prami
I am happy that I love, I am happy of loving (someone).

mi gleki lo ka prami ce'u means the same as
mi gleki lo nu prami mi
I am happy that someone loves me, I am happy of being loved (by someone)

There is also a rule that the first omitted noun in the embedded phrase is automatically assigend the value of ce'u if ka is used in the beginning of the embedded phrase. So we can make the first sentence shorter:

mi gleki lo ka prami means the same as
mi gleki lo nu mi prami
I am happy that I love, I am happy of loving (someone).

mi gleki lo ka prami ce'u means the same as
mi gleki lo nu prami mi
I am happy that someone loves me, I am happy of being loved (by someone)

Notice we can't do that for the second sentence. In order to omit ce'u there you need to somehow fill the first noun so that ce'u goes to the next unfilled noun:

mi gleki lo ka zo'e prami means the same as
mi gleki lo nu prami mi
I am happy that someone loves me, I am happy of being loved (by someone)

For most verbs ce'u in their event places refers to the first place of the verb:

In mi gleki lo ka ce'u prami the particle ce'u refers to mi.

For zmadu and mleca the particle ce'u refers equally to the first two places:

In mi zmadu do lo ka ce'u clani (I am lengthier/taller than you) ce'u refers both to mi and do.

A very special case is simxu that has in its second place two ce'u.

mi jo'u do simxu lo ka ce'u ce'u prami
You and I love each other.

The first place of simxu is one or several nouns connected with jo'u.

The second place of simxu is an abstraction. The first two unfilled places take have ce'u implied. So you can remove both ce'u in this example:

mi jo'u do simxu lo ka prami
You and I love each other.

ka and ce'u are also used to express infinitives:

mi djica lo ka pinxe or mi djica lo nu mi pinxe
I want to drink.
ra nitcu nai lo ka co'e
He does not have to do this.
co'e — elliptical/unspecified verb. Often translated with this, that, it.
ma pu co'e
Who did it?
mi curmi lo nu do co'e
I will give you permission to do it.

So co'e is a verb that is known from context. mi co'e might mean I am doing you know what, or You know who I am.

While zo'e is the ‘don't care’ noun, co'e is the ‘don't care’ verb. For example, when I say mi klama lo barja, I'm not bothering to specify my point of origin, route, or vehicle. And when I say mi co'e lo barja I don't specify what I'm doing to the bar, probably I'm visiting it. So mi co'e lo barja means something like I thingummy the bar: the bar and I are in some relationship, but I'm not bothering to say what it is. I might be going to it, coming from it, sleeping in it, refurbishing it, or hearing about my neighbor getting drunk in it once. It just doesn't matter enough for me to say what.

The verb djica requires us to specify an event that one desires.

mi djica lo nu mi citka lo plise
I want to eat an apple.

Okay, but usually we just say in English I want an apple. We can't desire the apple itself, we want to do something with it.

Here we can omit the second mi and replace the verb to eat with co'e.

mi djica lo nu co'e lo plise
I want something to do with an apple.

So I let it be up to context what abstraction about the apple I desire.

There is a compact abbreviation for lo nu co'e which is tu'a:

mi djica tu'a lo plise
I want an apple.

tu'a takes a noun and converts it to an elliptical abstraction which has something to do with that noun. One always has to guess what abstraction the speaker means by tu'a + the noun, so it should only be used when context makes it easy to guess.

Another example:

gasnu = x1 does/brings about x2 (volition not implied)
za'a do gasnu tu'a lo skami
I see that you make the computer do something.

There are situations where you cannot use tu'a, even though it would seem suitable. These situations are when I don't want the resulting noun to be an abstraction, but a concrete noun. In this case, one can use zo'e pe or its abbreviation zo'ei.

mi djuno zo'ei do or mi djuno zo'e pe do
I know about you, I know something about you

More than

lo rutpesxu cu zmadu lo ladru lo ka mi nelci
I like jam more than milk.
Jam exceeds milk in how much I like it. [literally]

We can of course say ... mi nelci ce'u in the end to show the listener that we fill the second place of it (but the first is filled anyway so ce'u is not needed here). Another method is to use the preposition semau which means more than and always refers to the first place of its phrase:

lo rutpesxu cu se nelci mi semau lo ladru
Jam is liked by me more than milk.

And now an interesting sentence:

Bob likes Betty more than Mary.

It can mean two different things in English!

  1. Bob likes Betty and he likes Mary less.
  2. Bob likes Betty but Mary likes Betty too, though not as much as Bob does!

Do we compare Betty with Mary in how Bob likes them?

Or instead we compare Bob with Mary in how they like Betty?

English is ambiguous in this regard.

However, since semau always compares the noun after it with the first place of the phrase we know what we get:

la bob cu nelci la betis semau la maris
Bob (compared to Mary) likes Betty more. Mary likes Betty less.
la betis cu se nelci la bob semau la maris
Betty is loved by Bob more than Mary. Bob likes Mary less.

we — different ways of saying that

mi'ai = I and at least one other person (corresponds to English "we")

The word we (mi'ai) is vague. Sometimes we might want to use more precise words:

mi'o = you and I
mi'a = we without you
ma'a = you and I and another/others

Unlike English some languages have separate words for that too. Not surprisingly, Lojban has such words too, although you are always free to revert back to mi'ai, which might be more comfortable sometimes.

mi = I or the speakers

Oddly enough, mi can also mean we. Lojban makes no distinction between singular and plural by default. So if several people are speaking all together, mi (which refers to the one or more speakers) is perfectly correct for we. In practice, you'll usually get mi used like that when one person is presuming to speak (or more often, to write) on behalf of others.

Some examples:

mi prami do
I love you.
mi'a penmi do ti'u li ci
We'll meet you at three o'clock.
ma'a remna
We are all human.
mi djica lo nu do cliva
We want you to go away.

mi'ai prami la .bob.
We love Bob.
(The sentence just states there are several people loving Bill including the speaker. It's not known if "we" includes the listener)

Internal prepositions

Using be you can attach not only the default places of verbs but even prepositions:

lo vi xatra be de'i li vo cu se mrilu de'i li ze
This letter, dated the 4th, was mailed on the 7th

A date tagged with de'i applies only to the xatra. In lo vi xatra de'i li vo cu se mrilu de'i li ze it would apply to the whole verb phrase, not to the letter. What we want to say is that the former date applies just to the letter, and the latter date applies to the mailing of the letter. This means that the 4th, as a date, applies only to the verb lo xatra, and not to the entire phrase.

Another example is

fi'e = preposition: authored by .... The same as fi'o finti

fi'e, like by in English, tends to apply only to specific things, and not to events: you say a book by Dickens or a sonata by Mozart, not Jim went to the zoo, by Norman Mailer. (OK, you can say "Jim Went To The Zoo", by Norman Mailer if "Jim Went To The Zoo" is the name of a book. But then by Norman Mailer is still attached to a thing, and not to an event). So fi'e is almost always used as an internal noun. This means you can say

lo cukta be fi'e la .dikens.
a book by Dickens

However, in

la .oliver.tuist. pe fi'e la .dikens. cu mutce xamgu
"Oliver Twist" by Dickens is very good.

we use pe to attach the preposition to the whole noun (the name la .oliver.tuist. in this case).

Another frequently used alternative is to use finti which fi'e is derived from:

la .oliver.tuist. poi la .dikens. cu finti ke'a cu mutce xamgu or
la .oliver.tuist. poi la .dikens. cu finti cu mutce xamgu
"Oliver Twist" by Dickens is very good.

Compound verbs in detail

The grouping of terms in Lojban grammar is particularly important when it comes to tanru (compound verbs). The way verbs group together in a tanru determines what that tanru means. For example,

bad music magazine

has in English two interpretations: a bad magazine about music, or a magazine about bad music. In Lojban, its equivalent

lo xlali zgike karni

has only the interpretation a bad-music magazine, because the first two verbs (xlali zgikebad music) group together first. So it is important to be able to modify the grouping of verbs, so that we can make sure the tanru means what we actually intend it to mean. For that reason, Lojban has a couple of mechanisms in place for making tanru group together properly.

In English we use brackets to structure the text. Likewise for tanru we use ke' for the left bracket and ke'e for the right bracket.

lo xlali ke zgike karni means a bad {music-magazine}.

As you can see we separated xlali from the rest of the tanru and made it apply to the whole tanru. There is no need in ke'e in the end of the tanru since we already know that it ends here.

.i mi pu zi te vecnu lo xlali ke zgike karni .i to'e zanru la'o gy.Eurythmics.gy.
I just bought a bad music-magazine. It dissed the Eurythmics.

That's one way of grouping together verbs in tanru. The other way is to use a particle bo in a new role. When bo appears between two verbs, it means that those verbs group together more tightly than anything else. So an alternative way of saying bad {music magazine} is

lo xlali zgike bo karni = a bad music-magazine

bo here is similar to the hyphen in English translation. This means that zgike bo karni should count as a unit, to which xlali (bad) applies.

tighter connections

So bo makes the connections tighter.

la .jasmin. je la .alis. jonaibo la .bob.
Jasmine and (either Alice or Bob)

ke can also be used with connectives (though not with sentences; they have their own kind of bracket, tu'e ... tu'u.) So we could also say

la .jasmin. je ke la .alis. jonai la .ranjit.

Remember that the right bracket ke'e can be left out in most cases without changing the meaning (like in this case).

Forethought conjunction are also used a lot since they can eliminate the need in right brackets:

gaje la .jasmin. gi gajonai la .alis. gi la .bob.
Jasmine and either Alice or Bob


gajonai gaje la .jasmin. gi la .alis. gi la .bob.
Either Jasmine and Alice, or Bob}}

We don't need bo or ke with forethought conjunctions.

co for changing the order in compound verbs

There is another way of restructuring compound verbs.

mi fanva se jibri
I'm a professional translator

jibri = x1 is a job of x2
dotybau = x1 is German used by x2 to say x3
glibau = x1 is English used by x2 to say x3

If I wanted to say that I'm a professional translator from English to German, I could mess around with be, bei:

mi fanva be lo dotybau bei lo glibau be'o se jibri
I'm a professional translator from English to German

The fact that it was a compound verb could quickly be lost in speech due to the complicated structure of the sentence. Here, we can use the word co:

co — inverts the compound verb, making the rightmost verb word modify the leftmost instead of the other way around. Any previous noun fills the modified, any following noun fills the modifier.

mi se jibri co fanva lo dotybau lo glibau

It is the same phrase as the previous Lojban one, but much more easy to understand. Notice that any noun before the compund verb fills se jibri, while any following it only fills the modifying verb: fanva.

The strength by which two verbs are bound together with co is very weak – even weaker than normal compound verb grouping without any grouping words. This makes sure that, in a co-construct, the leftmost verb word is always the verb being modified, and the rightmost always modifies, even if any of those parts are compound verbs. This makes a co-construct easy to understand: {{mupliti pelxu plise co kukte
is read as ti (pelxu plise) co kukte, which is the same as ti kukte pelxu bo plise. This also means that a ke … ke'e cannot encompass a co.

However, ja cu, ja cu etc. bind even looser than co. This is in order to totally avoid confusion about which verb word binds to which in a ja cu-construct. The answer is simple: ja cu never emcompasses any verb groups.

How can you express "I am an important American buyer of computers" using a co?

Answer: mi skami te vecnu co vajni merko

If it's of any use, this is the list of different kind of verb word groupers ranked by strength:

  1. bo and ke … ke'e
  2. Logical connectives other than ja cu series
  3. not using grouping words
  4. co
  5. ja cu series (phrase-tail afterthought connectives)

Lesson 10

More on relative clauses

How would we say You talked to my sister — the one who doesn't like Ricky Martin — about economics? Let's take it by steps:

do pu tavla lo be mi mensi lo dinske
You talked to my sister about economics.
lo be mi mensi cu nelci nai la .rikis.martin.
My sister does not like Ricky Martin.
do pu tavla lo be mi mensi poi ke'a nelci nai la .rikis.martin. vau lo dinske
You talked to my sister who doesn't like Ricky Martin about economics.

Notice that it is possible to move be mi to the left of the verb mensi. This allows to attach poi to lo be mi mensi. In lo mensi be mi poi... the word poi will attach to mi: the sister of me who (I) ....

Also notice that we need to close the relative clause with vau so that lo dinske belongs to the main verb of our phrase: tavla, not the verb nelci inside the relative clause. Otherwise, lo dinske would be a noun of nelci and not tavla — which is not really what you want.

Here's another example:

mi klama lo gusta be lo kisto
I go to the Pakistani restaurant.
lo gusta be lo kisto cu berti lo tcadu
The Pakistani restaurant is north of town.

Here we can't attach poi berti lo tcadu (that is to the north of the city) to lo gusta as lo kisto doesn't allow us to do that. We also can't move lo kisto to the left as lo kisto gusta would create a a compound verb (tanru). In this case we just repeat poi twice so that the second poi attaches to lo gusta.

Another method is to replace lo with zo'e and attach any number of relative clauses connecting them with je:

mi klama zo'e noi gusta lo kisto je poi berti lo tcadu
I go to something which is a restaurant of Pakistani cuisine and that is north of town.

You can use da/de/di if it is not used otherwise in the sentence (remember that the grammar of da and zo'e differs):

mi klama da noi gusta lo kisto je poi berti lo tcadu
I go to something which is a restaurant of Pakistani cuisine and that is north of town.


We used ke'a in

do pu tavla lo be mi mensi poi ke'a nelci nai la .rikis.martin. vau lo dinske
You talked to my sister who doesn't like Ricky Martin about economics.

This ke'a replaces lo be mi mensi in the relative clause.

So ke'a is used in order not to repeat lo be mi mensi twice. We can't even use ri here instead of ke'a since ri refers to the last finished noun and then noun lo be mi mensi is not finished yet, since the relative clause is a part of the noun to which it is attached.

ra would be okay but it isn't particularly precise.

So the pronoun ke'a is like who and which in English. It points back to the noun to which the relative clause is attached. So now, we can make a stab at all four relative clauses in our example:

lo mensi be mi je poi ke'a na nelci la .rikis.martin.
My sister, such that she doesn't like Ricky Martin.
My sister who doesn't like Ricky Martin.
lo be mi mensi poi do viska ke'a ca lo prulamcte
My sister, such that you saw her at the restaurant during the immediately-preceding-night.
My sister whom you saw at the restaurant last night.

da noi gusta be lo kisto je poi ke'a berti lo tcadu
The restaurant of Pakistani things such that it is north of the city.
The Pakistani restaurant which is north of town.
(The je is needed, because what you're describing as being north is the restaurant, not the Pakistani cuisine it serves).

da noi gusta be lo kisto je poi mi citka lo cidjrkari ne'i ke'a
The restaurant of Pakistani things, such that I eat curry in it.
The Pakistani restaurant [that] I eat curry in.

The Pakistani restaurant where I eat curry.

To make things somewhat more succinct, there exists a convention that, when a relative clause is missing its ke'a, you fill it in at the first available empty place. Which means, if the phrase after poi has nothing in its x1 place, that's where the ke'a goes. If it has an x1 place but no x2 place, then that's where ke'a goes. (This way, poi-clauses look a little more like most languages' relative clauses, as they don't use a distinct word for ke'a and poi.) So our example phrases become:

lo be mi mensi poi nelci nai la .rikis.martin.
lo be mi mensi poi do viska ca lo prulamcte
da noi gusta be lo kisto je poi berti lo tcadu
da noi gusta be lo kisto je poi mi citka lo cidjrkari ne'i ke'a

The last sentence hasn't changed: the convention does not apply to non-default places (like prepositions and spatial ‘tense’ places), since they don't follow a predictable order.

Tip: If you ever want to hang two relative clauses off the same noun, use je (and) to connect them, since both clauses are supposed to be true. For example,
lo be mi mensi poi nelci nai la .rikis.martin. je poi do viska ca lo prulamcte
My sister who doesn't like Ricky Martin and whom you saw last night.

Restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses

Restrictive relative clauses contain information that clarifies the meaning of a noun to which they are attached. They choose from the things of the same class those that correspond to certain properties described in that relative clause. Eliding such relative clause often leads to ambiguity or even changes its meaning.

In English they are not emphasized with commas:

ra pu co'a speni lo ninmu poi ra pu penmi bu'u lo zarci
He married a girl who he had met in the store
He married a girl (which one?) whom he had met ...

Removing the relative clause changes the meaning: He married a girl.
lo prenu poi damva'u nai cu clani zmadu renvi
People who don't smoke live longer
People (which ones?)...
Eliding the relative clause changes the meaning:
People live longer

Non-restrictive relative clauses contain additional information about the noun to which they are attached. That noun is sufficiently defined by itself so that eliding relative clause doesn't change its meaning. In English they are traditionally emphasized with commas.

tu du la .alis. noi mi pu tadni ka'ai ke'a
This is Alice, whom I studied with.
This is Alice (what else can I say about her?)...
Eliding the relative clause retains the meaning:
This is Alice.

In spoken English the distinction is often achieved using intonation or by guessing. Also in non-restrictive relative clauses that is not used.

Internal nouns and be

As be allows attaching to nouns other nouns as their place this means that you can nest noun inside noun inside noun, up to and including the point where you fry your brain.

This means, by the way, that you can nest noun inside noun inside noun, up to and including the point where you fry your brain. To hold off on frying your brain just a little, you need to be able to say this is where the list of nested noun stops — at least at the current level of nesting. To close the list of nouns attached with be we put the word be'o at the end:

lo xatra be la .ian. bei la .alis.
The letter to Yan from Alice
la .jasmin. cu mrilu ti la .bob.
Jasmine mails this to Bob
la .jasmin. cu mrilu lo xatra be la .ian. bei la .alis. la .bob.
Jasmine mails {Alice's letter to Yan} to Bob.
lo mrilu be lo xatra be la .ian. bei la .alis. be'o bei la .bob.
The one who mails {Alice's letter to Yan} to Bob.
lo mrilu be lo xatra be la .ian. bei la .alis. bei la .bob.
The one who mails {Alice's letter to Yan about Bob}.

More about possessions. po, po'e

We've covered pe and ne.

A construct sometimes used by Lojbanists is lo {noun} {verb}. This is equivalent to lo {verb} pe {noun}. For example, lo mi gerku is equivalent to lo gerku pe mi. However, this is okay only with pronouns. If you want to use a noun converted from a verb (for example, with lo) then it's advisable to use pe: lo gerku pe la .alis. = the Alice's dog.

You can see that the order is the other way around from English: lo gerku pe lo nanla looks more like the dog of a boy. Now, English uses both 's and of for this kind of association. The choice between the two is complicated, but basically depends on whether the ‘possessor’ is a person or not — which is why the dog of a boy sounds odd, as does English's verbs.

In Lojban you can move a pronoun to the left:

lo gerku pe mi is the same as lo pe mi gerku. This is literally The of me dog/my dog.

However, this applies only to pronouns, not to lo-nouns or la-names.

In short it's much safer to always use pe and put it after the noun to which it is attached: lo gerku pe la .alis. and lo gerku pe mi are most intuitive constructs

pe and ne are used as loose association only, like saying lo stizu pe mimy chair about a chair which you sit on. It's not really yours, but has something to do with you. There is just a relationshop between the two nouns.

stizu = x1 is a chair

If you want to say something is specific to that noun you can use po instead of pe.

lo gerku pe la alis can be applied to a street dog that Alice likes to play with.

But lo gerku po la alis can be applied only to a dog that, for example, was bought for her by her parents.

In many cases people prefer to use pe which is more vague rather than po.

Some other examples:

lo cukta po mi
My book
lo cipni po la .meilis.
Mei Li's bird
la .kokakolys. po do
Your Coca-Cola

Lastly, po'e is used for innate, intrinsic connections.

lo birka be mi or lo birka po'e mi = my arm
lo mamta be mi or lo mamta po'e mi = my mother
lo gugde po'e mi = my home country (a more precise analog is lo gugde poi mi pu jbena bu'u ke'a = country where .i was born)

As you can see, in many cases the second place of verb makes po'e unnecessary.

Because of all of that pe is used very frequent compared to po and po'e.

Resume. We have:

pe — restrictive relative phrase. "which is associated with..."
ne — non-restrictive relative phrase. "which is associated with..."
po — restrictive possessive relative phrase. "which is specific to..."
po'e — restrictive innate relative phrase. "which inherent to..."

Situation: "My garden"

ti me lo purdi pe mi .i mi cadzu bu'u py. This is my garden. I walk in the garden.
.i mi tirna lo cipni poi sanga .i lo sance be cy. cu cladu nai I hear birds singing. The sound of birds is not loud.
.i lo sance cu tolycladu .i lo rilti cu pluka .i lo tonga cu galto'a The sounds is quite. The rhythm is nice. The tone is high.
.i tcima fa lo solri .i mi catlu lo tsani The weather is sunny. I look to the sky.
.i mi viska nai lo solri .i lo dilnu cu fanta lo solri gusni I don't see the sun. Clouds covers its beams.
.i ku'i mi ca'o ganse lo glare gau lo solri But .i can still feel the heat of the sun.
.i mi viska lo plise tricu .i ri clani .i lo plise cu crino I see apple trees. The trees are tall. The apples are green.
.i mi klama lo plise tricu .i mi ganse lo lenku ni'a lo tricu I go to the apple trees. I feel cold under the trees.
.i mi jdice lo ka sumne lo plise .i mi sumne lo panci I decide to smell an apple. I smell it's flavour.
.i lo panci cu pluka .i mi denzalvi lo plise The flavour is pleasant. I chew the apple.
.i mi smaka lo plise .i ri titla I taste the apple. It's sweet.
.i mi klama lo crane .i mi viska lo flora I go forward. I see flowers.
.i mi co'a zutse tezu'e lo ka sumne lo panci be lo flora I sit down to smell their flavour.
.i lo mlatu cu klama mi .i mi palpi lo mlatu A cat comes to me. I touch the cat.
.i lo sefta be ri cu ranti je xutla .i loi kerfa cu xutla Its surface is soft. loi kerfa is soft.
i mi co'a sanli .i lo purdi pe mi melbi I stand up. My garden is beautiful.
.i mi cinmo ma .i lo ka gleki i mi cinmi lo ka badri nai What are my emotions? Happiness. I feel that I am not sad.

Task. Answer these questions (close the right part of the table):

lo sefta be lo mlatu cu mo xutla or ranti je xutlaWhat is the cat's surface? — Smooth, smooth and soft.
xu do cinmo lo ka badri je'unaiDo you feel sad? — No.