From Lojban
Jump to: navigation, search
Instruction on how to use this course: 1. read it 2. collect your feedback and suggestions and 3. send them to gleki.is.my.name@gmail.com.
For checking the grammar of your sentences use this unofficial parser.
 The La Gleki's
Crash Course in Lojban
The guide to the speakable logical language
Published 2017

This simplified course covers the most important aspects of Lojban, a logical language.

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.

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

I also learnt that Lojban allows saying 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.

But why did I decide 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 simpler 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 sections). 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.

Conventions used in this book.
  • Lojbanic text is in bold.
  • Translations are in italic.
  • Explanations of the structure of text in Lojban are in such "fixed width" letters.
  • Brackets are used to clarify the grammatical structure of Lojban in examples. [These brackets are used only for clarifying stuff].
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.
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 years 2013-2015. This book teaches a simplified and optimized style in Lojban and explains latest trends in Lojban language.


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 ' .

Letters are pronounced exactly as they are written.

There are six vowels in Lojban:

as in bath (not as in face)
as in get
as in machine (not as in hit)
as in choice, not or ough in thought (not as in so, o should be a "pure" sound).
as in cool (not as in but)
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).

The following combinations au, ai, ei, oi are considered additional vowels and pronounced in a special way:

as in now
as in eye, sky, nice
as in eight, they, day
as in voice, joy

As for consonants they are pronounced like in English or Latin, but there are a few differences:

c is pronounced as c in ocean, as sh in shop.
g always g as in gum (never g as in gem).
j like s in pleasure or treasure, like j in French bonjour.
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 a h. It can be found only between vowels. For example, u'i is pronounced as oo-hee (whereas ui is pronounced as wee).
. a full stop (period, word break) 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.
i before vowels: ia, ie... is considered a consonant and pronounced shorter, for example:
  • ia is pronounced as ya in yard
  • ie is pronounced as ye in yes
u before vowels: ua, ue... is considered a consonant and pronounced shorter, for example:
  • ua is pronounced as wo in wow
  • ue is pronounced as whe in when

Stress is 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.

r can be pronounced like the r in English, Scottish, French, Russian, thus there is a range of acceptable pronunciation for it.

Non-Lojban vowels like short i and u in Standard British English hit and but are used by some people to separate consonants. So if you have problems spitting out two consonant one after another, e.g. the ml in mlatu (which means cat), then 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 / cats
drinks, to drink
lo ladru
lo plise
an apple / apples
… is a car
… is rain

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

lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
Cats drink milk.

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, are cats, to be a cat.
ladru means is some milk.

To turn a verb into a noun we put a short word lo in front of it: lo mlatu, lo ladru.

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

verb noun
pinxe - to drink lo pinxe - drinkers
mlatu - are cats, is a cat lo mlatu - cats
ladru - is some milk lo ladru - milk

We can also say that lo creates a noun from a verb with roughly the meaning of those who do… (drink - drinkers), those who are… (are cats - cats) or one which is… (is some milk - milk).

The most basic sentence in Lojban consists of one phrase otherwise called clause. Clause has the following parts from the left to the right:

  • the head of the clause: one or more nouns. The noun lo mlatu in this case.
  • the head separator cu (remember that c is pronounced as sh)
  • the tail of the clause: the main verb (pinxe) with possibly one or more nouns after it: the noun lo ladru in this case.

One more example:

lo plise cu kukte
Apples are tasty.

Here, lo plise means apples, kukte means to be tasty.

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


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

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

Similarly, you can say

It is raining.


carvi = is rain, to be raining


It's pleasant


pluka = to be pleasant

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

Someone loves.

where prami - to love (someone)

Someone runs.

where bajra - to run.

Again context would probably tell who loves whom and who runs.

Lojban does not require any punctuation, separate words are used instead. Punctuation marks like ! ? “ ” can be used for stylistic purposes or to make the text look smarter. They don't add or change the meaning. Note that 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.

Pronouns: I - mi, you - do

mi = I
do = you
ti = this one (near me, the speaker)
ta = that one(near you, the listener)
tu = that one (not near you or me)

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 some milk.
tu mlatu
That is a cat.
do citka lo plise
You eat apples.
citka = to eat (something)
mi prami do
I love you.

After pronouns cu is often omitted, thus mi cu prami is rarely said, a concise mi prami is said instead.

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


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

do citka You eat.
mi pinxe lo ladru I drink milk.
mi citka lo plise I eat apples.

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

That is an apple. tu plise
Milk is tasty. lo ladru cu kukte
You love me. do prami mi
That one eats apples. tu citka lo plise

.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 cats. Cats drink 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.

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

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
Cats drink milk.

is a general statement. Now let's specify how many of them are relevant to our discussion.

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 = each, all.


pa mlatu cu citka lo plise
One cat eats apples. There is one cat that eats apples.

We replace lo with a number and hence specify individual cats.

Note that we retain lo for apples since we talk not about specific apples but about eating any apples.

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

re mu mlatu cu citka lo plise
There are 25 cats who eat apples.

Yes, it's that simple.

If we want to count we can separate numbers with .i:

mu .i vo .i ci .i re .i pa .i no
5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... 0

ro is used to express the meaning of each, every, all:

ro mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
Every cat drinks milk.

The number za'u means more than ... (> in math), the number me'i means less than (< in math):

za'u mlatu cu pinxe
More of the cats drink.
me'i mlatu cu pinxe
Fewer of the cats drink.
za'u ci mlatu cu pinxe
More than three cats are drinking.
me'i ci mlatu cu pinxe
Fewer than three cats are drinking.

To say just cats (plural number) as opposed to one cat we use za'u pa, more than one.

za'u pa mlatu cu pinxe
There are cats that drink.
pa mlatu cu pinxe
One cat drinks. There is one cat that is drinking.

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

To put it in short:

lo prenu = people (in general)
pa prenu = there is one person
za'u prenu = more of the people
za'u pa prenu = people (two or more in number)

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 some place)
nelci = to like (something)
lo zarci = market
lo najnimre = an orange (fruit), oranges
lo badna = a banana, bananas
mu prenu cu klama lo zarci Five people go to markets. There are five people who go to markets.
pa no prenu cu stati .i do stati 10 people are smart. You are smart.
lo prenu cu nelci lo plise People like apples.
za'u prenu cu nelci lo najnimre .i me'i prenu cu nelci lo badna More people like oranges. Fewer people like bananas.
za'u re prenu cu stati More than two people are smart.

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

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

the, he and she

pa mlatu cu pinxe i le mlatu cu taske
There is a cat that is drinking. The cat is thirsty.
taske = to be thirsty

When we start a noun with le (instead of lo or numbers) we refer to nouns that have just been mentioned. They are translated to English as he, she or by using the article the.

lo fetsi = females
lo nakni = males
lo prenu = people
le fetsi = she, the female
le nakni = he, the male
le prenu = he or she, the person (gender is not known or not important)

If several nouns can match then the last one is used:

pa prenu cu viska pa fetsi i le fetsi cu melbi
One person sees a female. She (the female) is beautiful.
melbi = to be beautiful

In this case le fetsi is applied to the female as it is the last female object mentioned. The person who sees her might be female too but it's a noun used earlier.

In spoken language le can be applied to nouns not found in text but obvious from context. Consider the outer reality a part of the text.

Compound verbs

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

tu melbi zdani
That one is a nice home.
melbi = to be beautiful, nice
zdani = to be a home or nest (to someone)
do melbi dansu
You nicely 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 or a number to the left of such compound verb getting a compound noun:

pa melbi zdani = a beautiful home.

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

pa mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
A cat drinks milk.

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

Remember about placing cu before the main verb in a clause 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:

pa melbi cmalu verba = a pretty-small child, a child small in a pretty way
verba = to be a child
pa mutce melbi zdani = a very beautiful home
mutce = to be very, to be much
sutra = to be quick
barda = to be big
cmalu = to be small
bajra = to run

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

lo melbi fetsi beautiful females
do sutra klama You quickly go. You go fast.
tu barda zdani That is a big home.
pa sutra bajra mlatu a quickly running cat
pa sutra mlatu a quick cat
pa 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 apples lo kukte plise
quick eaters lo sutra citka
You are a quickly going male. do sutra klama nakni

"Yes/No" questions

In English, we make a yes/no question by changing the order of the words (for example, "You are …" — "Are you …?") or putting some form of the verb to do at the beginning (for example, Do you know?) In Lojban we can retain the order of words.

We 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?
lo gerku = dog, dogs
Remember that in Lojban punctuation like "?" (question mark) is totally optional and used mostly for stylistic purposes. After all, we use the question word xu that shows the question anyway.

Other examples:

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

We can shift the meaning by placing xu after different parts of a clause. 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).

So 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.

xu is an interjection word. Here are the features of Lojban interjections:

  • interjection modifies the construct before it. So when put after certain part of the clause like pronoun or a verb it modifies that verb: do xu nelci lo gerku - Do YOU like dogs?
  • being put in the beginning of a clause, interjection modifies the whole clause: xu do nelci lo gerku - Do you like dogs?
  • we can put an interjection after different parts of the same clause shifting the meaning.

Interjections don't break compound verbs, they can be used within them:

— do nelci lo barda xu gerku
— Do you like BIG dogs?

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

— xu do nelci lo gerku
— Do you like dogs?
— je'u
— Yes.
— True [literally]


je'u nai
Not true [literally]

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

xu lo mlatu cu melbi

Are cats pretty?

je'u and je'u nai are also interjections. We can use them not only in questions:

je'u do lazni
Truly you are lazy.
lazni = to be lazy
je'u nai mi nelci lo gerku
It is false that I like dogs.

The particle nai is a modifier of interjections, it creates the opposite meaning when put after them.


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

xu le barda zdani cu melbi Is the big home beautiful?
— le nakni cu stati xu
— je'u nai
— Are the men smart?
— No.
do klama lo zarci xu Do you go to the market? (not having any specific market in mind)
xu le verba cu prami 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 le karce cu sutra
— Is the orange tasty?
— Yes, it is.
— xu le najnimre cu kukte
— je'u
Does the female love you? xu le fetsi cu prami do

Polite requests

The interjection .e'o in the beginning of a sentence turns it into a request:

.e'o do lebna le cukta
Could you take the book, please?
Please take the book. [literally]
.e'o = interjection: please (pronounced as eh-haw with a short pause or break before the word)
lebna = to take (something)
le cukta = the book

In English to be polite one has to use could you + please + a question). In Lojban .e'o is enough to make a polite request.

lo tcati = tea
lo ckafi = coffee
catlu = to watch
le skina = the film, the movie

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

.e'o do sutra bajra Run quickly!
.e'o do pinxe lo tcati Please, drink tea!
.e'o catlu le skina Please, watch the film!

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

Please, be smart! .e'o stati
Please, go home! .e'o do klama le zdani
Please, drink coffee! .e'o do pinxe lo ckafi
Please, take care of the child. .e'o do kurji le verba

"And" and "or"

pa melbi je cmalu zdani cu zvati ti
A pretty and small home is here.
zvati = to be present at ...
ti = this thing, this place near me

je is a conjunction particle in Lojban, it means and in compound verbs.

Without je the sentence changes the meaning:

pa melbi cmalu zdani cu zvati
A prettily small home is here.

Here melbi modifies cmalu and melbi cmalu modifies zdani according to how compound verbs work.

In pa melbi je cmalu zdani (a pretty and small house) both melbi and cmalu modify zdani directly.

For connecting nouns and pronouns we use a similar conjunction .e:

mi .e do nelci lo jisra
I like juice, and you like juice.
lo jisra = juice

Using conjunctions it's possible to connect sentences as well:

mi nelci lo plise .i je do nelci lo jisra
I like apples. And you like juice.

Other common conjunction particles:

le verba cu fengu ja bilma
The child is angry or ill (or maybe both angry and ill)
do .a mi ba vitke le laldo
You or I (or both of us) will visit the old one.
ja = and/or
.a = and/or when connecting nouns and pronouns.
fengu = to be angry
bilma = to be ill
vitke = to visit
laldo = to be old
le karce cu blabi jo nai grusi
The car is either white or gray.
do .o nai mi vitke le laldo
Either you or I visit the old one.
jo nai = either … or … but not both (it consists of two words but it has one single meaning)
.o nai = either … or … but not both when connecting nouns and pronouns

Note that it's better to remember jo nai as a single construct. The same for .o nai.

mi prami do .i ju do fenki
I love you. Whether or not you are crazy.
le verba cu nelci lo plise .u lo badna
The child likes apples whether or not (he likes) bananas.
ju = whether or not…
.u = whether or not… when connecting nouns and pronouns.
fenki = to be crazy

jo'u is and for joint actions

When we need to show that nouns are considered together, instead of .e we use the particle jo'u:

pa nanla jo'u pa nixli cu klama pa panka
A boy with a girl go to a park.
pa nanla = a boy
pa nixli = a girl
pa panka = a park

Another example:

pa nanla jo'u pa nixli cu casnu pa karce
A boy and a girl discuss a car with each other.
casnu = to discuss

The verb casnu requires using jo'u to specify a group of those who discuss between each other. Compare:

pa nanla .e pa nixli cu klama pa panka
A boy goes to a park, and a girl goes to a park.

This means that they don't necessarily go together.

Again notice that omitting lo or numbers starting nouns can cause weird results:

pa nanla jo'u nixli cu casnu pa karce
Someone who is a boy and a girl (at the same time considered together!) discusses a car.

The correct sentence uses lo or a number before each noun:

lo nanla jo'u lo nixli cu casnu pa karce
Boys and girls discuss a car.
pa nanla jo'u pa nixli cu casnu pa karce
A boy and a girl discuss a car.
The pronoun mi'o (you and I together) can actually be expressed as mi jo'u do, which means exactly the same (it's just longer). In Lojban people mostly use not a single word for we but more precise constructs like mi jo'u lo pendo (literally I and friends).


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

mi nelci lo badna .e lo plise I like bananas, and I like apples.
do sutra ja stati You are quick or smart or both.
za'u pa prenu cu casnu lo karce .u lo gerku There are people who discuss cars whether or not (they discuss) dogs.
mi citka lo najnimre .o nai lo badna I eat either oranges or bananas.

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

Females like rain, and males like rain. lo fetsi .e lo nakni cu nelci lo carvi
Either I or you go to the market. mi .o nai do klama le zarci
I see a big and beautiful car. mi viska pa barda je melbi karce
The child drinks milk and/or juice. le verba cu pinxe lo ladru .a lo jisra
A child and someone small discuss a car. pa verba jo'u pa cmalu cu casnu pa karce (note the use of jo'u. someone small is just pa cmalu).

But …

lo najnimre cu barda i ku'i je lo badna cu cmalu
Oranges are big. But bananas are small.
ku'i = interjection: but, however

Actually but is the same as and + it adds a flavor of contrast.

In Lojban we just use the interjection ku'i and then add je (and). That will give us the necessary contrast.

Events: dancing and being together - lo nu dansu .e lo nu kansa

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

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

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

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

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

pinxe = to drink
lo nu pinxe = drinking
dansu = to dance
lo nu dansu = dancing
kansa = to be together with
lo nu kansa = being together
klama = to come
lo nu klama = coming
lo nu do klama = coming of you, you coming

lo nu often corresponds to English -ing, -tion, -sion.

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

mi djica lo nu do klama ti
I want you to come here (to this place)
djica = to want (some event)

Some nouns describe events by themselves so no lo nu is used: 

lo cabna cu nicte
Now it's night. At present it's night.
lo cabna = present time, (an event) is at present.

Nouns made with lo nu can be used for verbs that describe events by themselves:

lo nu pinxe lo ladru cu nabmi mi
Drinking milk is a problem to me.
nabmi = (event) is a problem (to someone), (event) is problematic (to someone)

For known events we use le nu instead:

mi gleki le 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
All Lojban words are divided into two groups:
  • particles (called lo cmavo in Lojban). Examples: lo, nu, mi
  • verbs (called lo selbrivla in Lojban). Examples: gleki, verba.
    It is quite common to write several particles 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, je'unai instead of je'u nai, jonai instead of jo nai and so on. This doesn't change the meaning. However, this is not applied to verbs: they are to be separated with spaces.

pilno = to use (something)
lo skami = computer

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

mi nelci lo nu do dansu I like you dancing.
xu do gleki lo nu do pilno lo skami Are you happy of using computers?
do djica lo nu mi citka lo plise xu Do you want me to eat an apple?

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
I want you to be happy. mi djica lo nu do gleki

Prepositions and tenses: was, is, will be - pu, ca, ba

Prepositions in Lojban are grouped into series by their meaning to make them easier to remember and use.

Here is the series of "prepositions of tense" that tell when something happens:

mi pinxe lo ladru ca lo nu do klama
I drink milk while you are coming.
mi citka ba lo nu mi dansu
I eat after I dance.
  • pu means before (some event) or denotes past tense.
  • ca means at the same time as (some event) or denotes present tense.
  • ba means after some event or denotes future tense.

Yes, we need lo nu to insert a whole clause after such prepositions.

Let's put a bare preposition just before the main verb:

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

Here pu denotes past tense, ca denotes present tense, ba denotes future tense.

As you can see we replaced cu with a preposition since prepositions also clearly separate the head from the main verb.

Tenses add information about time when something happens. English forces us to use certain tenses. One has to choose between

Cats drink milk.
Cats drank milk.
Cats will drink milk.

and other similar choices.

But in Lojban prepositions of tense like all prepositions are optional, we can be as vague or as precise as we want.

The sentence

lo mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
Cats drink milk.

actually 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.

Similarly, ba means after (some event) so when we say mi ba citka we mean that we eat after the moment of speaking, that's why it means I will eat.

We can combine tense words with and without clauses after them:

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

Note, that pu (past tense) is put only in the main clause (mi pu citka). In Lojban it is assumed that the event "I danced" happens relatively to the event of eating.

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

More examples of prepositions of tense:

le nicte cu pluka
The night is pleasant.
pluka = to be pleasant

Tense words before nouns and pronouns turn into prepositions:

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

Here, the head of the clause is ba le nicte, a preposition with its noun. Then after the separator cu the main verb of the clause pluka is followed (pluka alone means It is pleasant). Therefore, to say will be pleasant we should place the tense word before the main verb:

le nicte ba pluka
The night will be pleasant.
Note that ca can extend slightly into the past and the future, meaning just about now. Thus, ca reflects a widely used around the world the notion of "present time".

Prepositions of aspect: co'a, ca'o, co'i

Another series of prepositions, prepositions of aspect:

co'a = preposition: the event is at its beginning
ca'o = preposition: the event is in progress
co'i = preposition: the event is viewed as a whole (has started and then finished)

Most verbs describe events without specifying the stage of those events. Prepositions of aspect allow us to be more precise:

mi pu co'a cikna
I woke up.
cikna = ... is awake
co'a cikna = ... wakes up, becomes awake

To precisely express English Progressive tense we use ca'o:

mi pu ca'o pinxe
I was drinking.
mi ca ca'o pinxe
I am drinking.
mi ba ca'o pinxe
I will be drinking.

co'i usually corresponds to English Perfect tense:

lo mlatu ca co'i pinxe lo ladru
Cats have drunk milk.

We could omit ca in these sentence since the context would be clear enough in most such cases.

Present Simple tense in English describes events that happen sometimes:

lo mlatu ca ta'e pinxe lo ladru
Cats (habitually, sometimes) drink milk.
ta'e = simple tense: the event happens habitually

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

lo mlatu pu co'i pinxe lo ladru
Cats had drunk milk.
lo mlatu ba co'i pinxe lo ladru
Cats will have drunk milk.

The relative order of tenses is important. In ca co'i we first say something happens in present (ca), then we state that in this present time the described event has been completed (co'i). Only when using this order we get Present Perfect tense.

Prepositions of interval: during - ze'a

Another series of prepositions emphasizes that events happened during an interval:

ze'i = for a short time
ze'a = through some time, for a while, during ...
ze'u = for a long time

mi pu ze'a sipna
I slept for a while.

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

mi pu sipna ze'i pa nicte
I slept through the short night.

Compare ze'a with ca:

mi pu sipna ca pa nicte
I slept at night.
sipna = to sleep
pa nicte = a nighttime

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

Other useful prepositions: because - ri'a, towards - fa'a, at (place) - bu'u

Preposition for because:

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

Prepositions denoting place work the same way: 

mi klama fa'a do to'o pa mlatu
I go to you from a cat.

mi cadzu bu'u le tcadu
I walk in the city.
fa'a = towards …, in the direction of …
to'o = from …, from the direction of …
bu'u = at … (some place)

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

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


pa mlatu cu plipe ca lo (nu do ca'o klama vau) 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 clause nu do ca'o klama to show that it ended and other parts of the sentence begin like cu, a preposition, a noun or a pronoun.  Compare this sentence with the following:

pa 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 clause 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.

One more example with a tense particle:

mi pu citka lo plise ba le nu mi dansu
I ate apples after I danced.
mi pu citka ba le nu mi dansu vau lo plise
I ate (after I danced) apples.

Thus we can move ba le nu mi dansu around the sentence provided that it's still put after pu.

le tsani = the sky
zvati = to be present at (some place or event), to stay ... (at some place)
lo canko = window
lo fagri = a fire
mi'o = You and I

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

mi ca gleki lo nu do viska le tsani I am happy that you see the sky.
xu le mlatu pu ca'o zvati lo zdani Were the cats staying at home?
do pu citka pa plise ba lo nu mi pinxe lo ladru You ate an apple after I drank milk.
ko catlu fa'a le canko Look towards the window.
xu do gleki ca lo nu do ca'o cadzu bu'u le purdi Are you happy when you are walking in the garden?
ca lo nu mi klama lo zdani vau do pinxe lo tcati ri'a lo nu do taske When I go home you drink tea because you are thirsty.

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

You will see the sun. do ba viska le solri (lo solri is also fine since usually there is only one sun possible)
You understand that it will rain. do ca jimpe lo nu ba carvi
Quickly run away from the fire! ko sutra bajra to'o le fagri
You and I were staying together at home when it was raining. mi'o pu ca'o zvati lo zdani ca lo nu carvi


The preposition na makes everything to its right within the clause negative in meaning:

mi na nelci do
I don't like you.
na = preposition: it is not true that ...

Its opposite, the preposition ja'a affirms the meaning:

mi ja'a nelci do
I do like you.
ja'a = preposition: it is true that ...

Names. Choosing a name

lo cmevla, or name word is a special kind of verb used to build personal names. It's easy to recognize lo cmevla in a flow of text as only lo cmevla end in a consonant.

Besides, they are wrapped by one dot from each side.

Examples of lo cmevla are: .paris., .robin.

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.

The most simple example of using a name would be

la .bob. cu tcidu
Bob reads/is reading.
tcidu = to read

la is similar to lo but it converts a verb not to a simple noun but to a name.

In English we start a word with a capital letter to show that it's a name. In Lojban we use the prefix word la.

Always use la when producing names!

A name can consist of several cmevla one after another:

la .bob.djonson. cu tcidu
Bob Johnson reads/is reading.

Here, we separated the two cmevla with just one dot, which is also a common style.

It's common to omit dots in front of and at the end of lo cmevla to write texts faster, for example, when text chatting. After all, lo cmevla are still separated from neighboring words by spaces around them:
la bob djonson cu tcidu
However, in spoken language it is still necessary to put a short pause before and after lo cmevla.

Bob's first name goes into Lojban without much changes. The same for the name Lojban. It's a cmevla and is written as .lojban.:

la .lojban. cu bangu mi
I speak Lojban.
Lojban is a language of me.
Lojban is a language I use. [literally]
bangu = is a language (used by someone)

However, Lojban letters directly correspond to sounds. 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 you need to rewrite the name so that it only contains Lojban sounds, and is spelt according to letter-sound correspondence.


la .djonson. = Johnson
la .suzyn. = Susan

In the English name Susan the two letters s are pronounced differently. The second one is actually a z, and the a is not really an a sound, it's the "schwa" explained in the beginning of this chapter. So Susan is written .suzyn. in Lojban.

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.

Here are some names that we'll use throughout this book:

la .alis. Alice la .meilis. Mei Li
la .bob. Bob la .abdul. Abdul
la .ian. Yan or Ian la .al. Ali
la .doris. Doris la .micel. Michelle
la .kevin. Kevin la .edvard. Edward
la .adam. Adam la .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.

Rules for making lo cmevla

Here is a compact representation of Lojban sounds:

  • vowels:
    • a e i o u y au ai ei oi
  • consonants
    • b d g v z j (voiced)
    • p t k f s c x (unvoiced)
    • l m n r
    • i u. They are considered consonants when put between two vowels or in the beginning of a word. .iaua - i and u are consonants here. .iai - here is the consonant i with an vowel ai after it.
    • ' (apostrophe). It is put only between two vowels: .e'e, .u'i
    • . (dot, word break)

We first write a name with Lojban letters and then change them according to these rules:

  1. they start and end in consonants except ' . Additionally they are wrapped by a dot from each side: .lojban. It's quite common to omit word breaks in informal texts.
  2. vowels can be put only between two consonants: .sam., .no'am.
  3. double consonants are merged into one: dd becomes d, nn becomes n etc. Or a y is out between them: .nyn.
  4. if a voiced and a unvoiced consonants are next to each other then y is inserted inside: kv becomes kyv. Or you can remove one of the letters instead: pb can be turned into a single p or a single b.
  5. if one of c, j, s, z are next to each other then y is inserted inside: jz becomes jyz. Or you can remove one of the letters instead: cs can be turned into a single c or a single s.
  6. if x is next to c or next to k then y is inserted inside: cx becomes cyx, xk becomes xyk. Or you can remove one of the letters instead: kx can be turned into a single x.
  7. the substrings mz, nts, ntc, ndz, ndj are fixed by adding y inside or deleting one of the letters: nytc or nc, .djeimyz.
  8. double ii between vowels is merged into a single i: .eian. (but not .eiian.)
  9. double uu between vowels is merged into a single u: .auan. (but not .auuan.)

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:

Original name Meaning Word in Lojban Your name
Blake black lo xekriblack la xekri
Ethan solid, during lo sligusolid la sligu
Mei Li beautiful in Mandarin Chinese lo melbibeautiful la melbi

le and names

Lojban has a single term lo sumti = "noun or pronoun or name" Indeed, nouns, pronouns and names work grammatically exactly the same in Lojban. For brevity we'll be calling them all nouns.

le can be used to refer to names mentioned earlier:

la alis cu klama pa zarci i le fetsi cu xagji
Alice is going to a shop. She is hungry.
xagji = to be hungry
la alis cu viska la doris i le fetsi cu melbi
Alice can see Doris. She (Doris) is beautiful.

Here, le fetsi is applied to Doris, the last noun describing a female person.

In this example we assume that both Alice and Doris are females.

Introducing yourself. Vocatives

... is morning
... is evening
... is daylight time
... is night

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

coi do
Hello, you!
coi = vocative: Hello! Hi!

We use coi + a noun or pronoun to greet someone.

co'o do
Goodbye to you.
co'o = vocative: goodbye!
coi ro do = Hello each of you is how people usually start a conversation with several people. coi re do means 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!
It's morning — Hello! [literally]

vanci coi
Good evening!

donri coi
Good day!

nicte coi
Nightly greetings!

Note that in English "Goodnight!" means "Goodbye!" or denotes wishing someone spending good night. By its meaning "Goodnight!" doesn't belong to the series of greetings above. Thus, we use a different wording in Lojban:

nicte co'o
a'o pluka nicte
Pleasant night!
a'o = interjection: I hope
pluka = to be pleasant to … (someone)

Of course, we can be vague by just saying pluka nicte (just meaning pleasant night without any wishes explicitly said).

The vocative mi'e + a noun/pronoun is used to introduce yourself:

mi'e la .doris.
I'm Doris. This is Doris speaking.
mi'e = vocative: identifies speaker

The vocative doi is used to show who we'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 clause:

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

doi is a like Old 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:

— ki'e do do pu sidju mi
— je'e do

— Thank you, you helped me.
— Not at all.
sidju = to help (someone)

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]
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 do sidju mi
Hello. I want you to help me.
Hello you. I want that you help me. [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.

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 .doris. pu cliva
Hello! Alice left Doris.
Hello you! Alice left Doris [literally]
coi la .alis. la .doris. pu cliva
Hello, Alice! Doris 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 .doris. pu cliva
Yay, Hello! Alice left Doris.

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

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


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

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 .doris. pu cliva
Hello you (I'm happy about you)! Alice left Doris.

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
— a'o pluka nicte
— 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 ba citka pa plise
You leave? Goodbye. xu do cliva .i co'o do
or just
xu do cliva .i co'o

Lesson 2. More basic stuff

Order of arguments

Earlier we provided such definitions of verbs as:

mlatu = is a cat, to be a cat
citka = to eat
prami = to love
klama = to come

The dictionary in the end of this textbook presents all verbs with x1, x2 etc. symbols:

mlatu = x1 is a cat ...
citka = x1 eats x2 ...
prami = x1 loves x2
klama = x1 comes to x2 ...

These x1, x2 are quite simple. They are called places of arguments and more precisely represent the order in which we add nouns or pronouns. For example:

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 all participants of a relation are in one definition.

We can also omit nouns making the sentence more vague:

It is raining.
is rain, is raining [literally]
(although tense here is determined by context, it can also mean It often rains, It was raining etc.)
prami do
Someone loves you.
loves you [literally]

All omitted places in a clause 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.
Prepositions add new places to verbs but they don't remove existing places. In
mi klama fa'a do
I come towards you.

the second place of klama is still omitted. For example:

mi klama fa'a pa cmana do
I come (towards a mountain) to you.

And here the second place of klama is do. And the sentence means that the mountain is just a direction whereas the final point is you.

Similarly, in

mi citka ba lo nu mi cadzu
I eat after I walk.
the second place of citka is still omitted. A new preposition ba with its phrase lo nu mi cadzu adds meaning to the sentence.

The order of arguments of compound verbs is the same as the of the last verb word in it:

tu sutra bajra pendo mi
That is my quickly running friend.
That is a quickly running friend of me. [literally]
pendo = to be a friend, is a friend (of someone)

So the order of arguments is the same as of pendo alone.

More than two places

There might be more than two places. For example:

mi pinxe lo ladru pa kabri
I drink milk from a cup.
pinxe = x1 drinks x2 from x3
pa 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 pa kabri
I drink [something] from a cup.

If we omit zo'e we get something meaningless:

mi pinxe pa kabri
I drink a cup.

Another example:

mi dunda pa cukta do
I give a book to you.
dunda = x1 gives, donates x2 to x3
pa cukta = a book

General rules in the order of arguments

The order of places in verbs might be sometimes hard to remember. But let's not worry — like in English you don't need to remember all places of all verbs (do you remember the meaning of hundreds of thousands of words in English?)

You may study places when you find them useful or when people use them in a dialogue with you.

Most of verbs have one or two places. Usually you can guess the order 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 first come the places which are most likely to be used.

No need to fill all places all the time. Unfilled places just have values irrelevant or obvious to the speaker (they take the value of zo'e = something).

Prepositions and places

Prepositions don't replace places:

mi klama fa'a le cmana le zdani be mi
I go in the direction of the mountain to my home.
le zdani be mi = home of me, my home

Here, the preposition fa'a (in the direction of) doesn't replace the second place of the verb klama (which is filled with le zdani be mi - my home). The sentence means that my home is simply located in the direction of the mountain but it doesn't mean I want to reach that mountain.

Places for nouns

lo pendo
friend / friends
pa cukta
a book
mi dunda 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.?

pa pendo be mi cu fenki
My friend is crazy.

So when we convert a verb into a noun (pendoto be a friend into pa 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:

mi dunda le cukta do
I give the book to you.
le dunda be le cukta bei mi
The grantor of a book to me
le dunda be le 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:

mi klama pa pendo be do
I come to a friend of yours.

We can't omit be because pa pendo do are two independent places:

mi klama pa pendo do
I come to a friend from you.
klama = x1 comes to x2 from x3 ...

Here, do took the third place of klama since it's not bound to pendo using be.

Neither could we use nu because pa nu pendo do is one event about a friend of yours. So pa pendo be do is the correct solution.

Another example:

la .lojban. cu bangu mi
Lojban is my language.
Lojban is a language of me. [literally]


mi nelci lo bangu be mi
I like my language.

Using be for verbs not converted to nouns has no effect: mi nelci be do is the same as mi nelci do.

Relative clauses

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

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. Maybe 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.

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

pa mlatu (poi blabi) cu pinxe lo ladru
A cat (that is white) is drinking milk.

So in addition to pa mlatu cu pinxe lo ladrua cat drinks milk we state that the cat is white.

In Lojban we use poi for relative clauses that identify entities (objects, people or events) and noi for incidental information.

le nakni ba co'a speni pa ninmu poi pu xabju lo nurma
He will marry a girl who lived in the country.
xabju = to live, to inhabit
lo nurma = rural area

This sentence doesn't exclude him marrying someone else as well! Removing the relative clause with poi changes the meaning:

le nakni ba co'a speni pa ninmu
He will marry a girl.

Another example:

lo prenu poi gleki cu ze'u renvi
People (which ones?) who are happy live long.
ze'u = preposition: for a long time
renvi = to survive

Removing the relative clause with poi changes the meaning:

lo prenu ze'u renvi
People live long.

On the other hand, relative clauses with noi contain just additional information about the noun to which they are attached. That noun is sufficiently defined by itself so that removing a relative clause with noi doesn't change its meaning:

mi nelci la .doris. noi mi ta'e zgana bu'u pa panka
I like Doris, whom I habitually see in a park.
I like Doris. What else can I say about her? I habitually see her in a park.
zgana = to observe (using any senses)

Removing the relative clause with noi retains the meaning: I like Doris.

In spoken English the distinction is often achieved using intonation or by guessing. Also relative clauses with noi are traditionally separated with commas in English, they use which or who and the word that is not used in them.

Let's have another example.

mi klama pa tricu
I come to a tree.
pa tricu cu barda
A tree is big.
pa tricu = a tree
barda = x1 is big/large

And now let's join those two sentences:

pa 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 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 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:

pa mlatu poi blabi cu pinxe lo ladru
pa mlatu poi ke'a blabi cu pinxe lo ladru

A cat that is white is drinking milk.

ke'a goes to the first unfilled place:

le nakni ba co'a speni pa ninmu poi le nakni pu penmi bu'u pa zarci or
le nakni ba co'a speni pa ninmu poi le nakni pu penmi ke'a bu'u pa zarci
He will marry a girl whom he had met in a store.

Here, le nakni fills the first place of penmi, thus, ke'a is assumed for the next, second place.

Relative clauses like usual clauses can contain constructs with prepositions:

pa tricu noi mi pu klama ke'a ca lo cabdei cu barda
A tree, to which I went today, is big.
lo cabdei = the day of today

Note that ca lo cabdei belongs to the relative clause. Compare:

pa tricu noi mi pu klama ke'a cu barda ca lo cabdei
A tree, to which I went, is big today.

The meaning has changed a lot.

Finally, voi is used to refer to clauses that have just been mentioned:

mi zgana pa prenu poi ca'o kelci i mi zgana pa prenu poi ca'o citka i pa prenu voi kelci cu verba
I observe a person who is playing. I observe a person who is eating. One person (mentioned as playing) is a child.
lo cabna cu pluka vanci i lo simsa ditcu voi vanci na cafne
Now it's a pleasant evening. Such times that is pleasant evenings does not happen often.
lo cabna = event that is now, in present
simsa = to be similar
ditcu = x1 (clause) is a period, some time
cafne = to happen often

voi parallels le: le refers to nouns in context, voi refers to clauses in context. Despite its utility voi hasn't been used a lot by Lojban speakers.

Short relative clauses. "About".

Sometimes you might need to attach to a noun an additional noun or pronoun:

mi djuno lo vajni pe do
I know something important about you.
lo vajni = something important

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

pa penbi pe mi cu xunre
A pen that is mine is red. (mine is essential to identifying the pen in question)
pa penbi ne mi cu xunre
A pen, which is mine, is red. (additional information)
ne = which is about, has relation to ... (a noun/pronoun follows)
pe = that is about, has relation to ... (a noun/pronoun 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 like in English, the two nouns are related to each other in a vague way.

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 attach to nouns. For example,

pa melbi be mi cukta pe pa pendo be mi cu barda
A beautiful to me book of a friend of mine is big.

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

It can also happen that we need to attach be to a noun and then attach pe to the same noun:

pa pendo be do be'o pe la paris cu stati
A friend of yours who is related to Paris is smart.
lo pu dunda be pa cukta bei do be'o pe la paris cu stati
Who gave a book to you (and who is related to Paris) is smart.

be'o shows that the nouns attached with be and with bei (if they are used) end, and thus pe la paris is attached to the whole bigger noun pa pendo be do be'o and lo pu dunda be pa cukta bei do be'o.

Compare it to:

pa pendo be do pe la paris cu stati
A friend of you (who is related to Paris) is smart.
lo pu dunda be pa cukta bei do pe la paris cu stati
Who gave a book to you (who is related to Paris) is smart.

The difference in the meaning is huge. In the first two examples your friend has some relation to Paris (maybe, he/she is from Paris). In the second two examples, you have this relation.

"She is a teacher" and "She is the teacher"

In English the verb is, are, to be makes a noun work like a verb in English. In Lojban even such concepts as cat (mlatu), person (prenu), house (dinju), home (zdani) work like verbs by default. Only pronouns work as nouns.

However, here are three cases:

le nakni cu ctuca
He teaches.
le nakni cu me lo ctuca
He is one of those who teach.
me = to be among ..., to be one of ..., to be a member of ... (noun follows)
le nakni ta'e ctuca
He habitually teaches.
ta'e = preposition: the event happens habitually
le nakni cu du le ctuca
He is the teacher.
du = to be identical to ...

The particle me takes a noun after it and shows that there are probably other teachers, and he is one of them.

However, when using the verb du we mean that he is, for example, the teacher that we have been searching for or talking about.

Thus me and du can sometimes reflect what in English we use the verb to be/is/was for.

In Lojban we first rely on the meaning of what we need to say, not necessarily on how it is literally said in English or other languages.

Other examples:

mi me la bond
I am Bond.
mi du la .kevin.
I am Kevin (the one you needed).
ti du la .alis. noi mi ta'e zgana bu'u pa panka
This is Alice, whom I often see in a park.

noi du and poi du are used in Lojban to introduce alternate names for something. So they correspond to English namely, i.e.:

la .alis. cu penmi pa prenu noi du la .abdul.
Alice met a person, namely Abdul.

Prepositions inside nouns

We can place a tense not only before the main verb of a clause but at the end of it giving the same result:

mi ca tcidu
mi tcidu ca

I (now read).
tcidu = to read (some text)

When using nu we create a clause. Notice, the difference between these two examples:

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

Other examples:

mi klama pa cmana pu
I went to a mountain.
I go to a mountain (in past). [literally]
lo nu mi klama pa cmana pu cu pluka
That I went to a mountain is pleasant.

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

lo pu kunti tumla ca purdi
What was a desert is now a garden.

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

This doesn't contradict with using be after the verb since with be you change the verb: bangu be mi is considered one verb.

Placing prepositions after nouns binds them to outer verbs:

lo kunti tumla pu purdi
The desert was a garden.

New nouns from places of the same verb

do dunda ti mi
You grant this to me.
ti se dunda do mi
This is granted by you to me.
dunda = x1 grants, gives x2 to x3

We can swap the first two places round in the verb using se and thus change the place structure.

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, for example, to mention the more important things in a sentence first. So the following pairs mean the same thing:

mi prami do
I love you.
do se prami mi
You are loved 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.

The same can be dont with nouns:

lo dunda = those who give, givers, donors, donators
lo se dunda = something that is given, gifts

As we know, 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 se dunda means something(s) which could fit in the second place of dunda

Thus, in Lojban we don't need a separate word for gift. We reuse the same verb and save a lot of effort 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 interconnected Lojban reflects this.

For the ease of understanding and memorizing predicate words prefixed with se are put into the dictionary in entries for many verbs together with their definitions although you can figure out their meaning yourself.

Changing other places in main verbs

se is the first particle in the series se, te, ve, xe (they go in alphabetical order):

  • 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.
le nakni cu zbasu pa stizu lo mudri
He made a chair out of wood.
zbasu = x1 builds, makes x2 out of x3
pa stizu = a chair
lo mudri = wood
lo mudri cu te zbasu le stizu le nakni
Wood is the material the chair is made of by him.

The le nakni 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 le stizu
Wood is the material of the chair.

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

klama = x1 goes to x2 from x3 via x4 by means x5

Thus, we can derive that

lo klama = a goer/goers
lo se klama = destination place
lo te klama = place of origin of the movement
lo ve klama = route
lo xe klama = vehicle

lo xe klama and the fifth place of klama can denote any means of movement like a car or your feet.

se is used a lot more than the other particles for swapping places.

Free word order. Prepositions for places

Usually we don't need all the places of a verb, so we can omit the unnecessary ones by replacing them with zo'e. However, we can use place tags - special prepositions to explicitly refer to a needed place.

mi prami do is the same as
fa mi prami fe do
I love you.
  • fa marks the first place of a verb (x1)
  • fe - marks the second place (x2)
  • fi - marks the third place (x3)
  • fo - marks the fourth place (x4)
  • fu - marks the fifth place (x5)

More examples:

mi klama fi le tcadu
I go from the city.

fi marks le tcadu as the third place of klama (the origin of movement). Without fi, the sentence would turn into mi klama le tcadu meaning I go to the city.

mi pinxe fi pa kabri is the same as
mi pinxe zo'e pa kabri
I drink (something) from a cup.
pinxe = x1 drinks x2 from x3
mi tugni zo'e lo nu vitke lo rirni
mi tugni fi lo nu vitke lo rirni
I agree (with someone) about visiting parents.
tugni = x1 agrees with someone x2 about x3 (clause)

With place tags we can move places around:

fe pa cukta pu dunda fi pa nanla
Someone gave a book to a boy.
dunda = x1 gives the gift x2 to x3


  • pa cukta = a book, we put it into the second place of dunda, what is given
  • pa nanla = boy, we put it into the third place of dunda, the recipient.

As we can see in the last example we can't even reflect the order of words in its English translation.

Extensive use of place tags can make our speech harder to perceive but they allow for more freedom.

Unlike se series using place tags like fa doesn't change the place structure.

We can use place tags inside nouns by placing them after be:

lo dunda be fi lo nanla cu pendo mi
Who gives something to a boy is my friend.

Another option in placing nouns is that 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.

ko kurji ko is the same as
ko ko kurji
Take care of yourself.

The following clauses are also equal in meaning:

mi dunda pa plise do
I give an apple to you.
mi pa plise cu dunda do
I an apple give to you.
mi pa plise do dunda
I an apple to you give.


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

pa mlatu cu djica lo ka pinxe
A 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 omitted 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

pa mlatu cu djica lo nu le mlatu cu pinxe
A cat wants that the cat drinks [literally]

The previous translation with ka 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]

Again the sentence with ka looks nicer.


mi djica lo nu do pinxe
I want you to drink.
I want that you drink [literally]

Here, the first pronoun of djica differs from the one from pinxe so we can't use ka.

It is also possible to use ka when we usually use the ending -ing 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.

Some verbs require only infinitives in some of their places. Definitions of such words mark such places with the term "property". For example,

cinmo = x1 feels x2 (property of x1)

This means that the infinitive in the second place (x2) is applied to the first place (x1). Cases where infinitive is applied to other place are rare and are explained for corresponding verbs.

Note that only the first unfilled place of the embedded clause takes the meaning of the outer place:

mi djica lo ka do nelci
I want that you like me.
nelci = x1 likes x2

Here, the first unfilled place is the second place of nelci thus it takes the value mi (I).

It is also possible to explicitly mark a plce to refer to by using the pronoun ce'u:

mi djica lo ka do nelci ce'u
I want that you like me.

Another example:

mi cinmo lo ka xebni ce'u
mi cinmo lo ka se xebni

I feel like someone hates me.
I feel being hated.

Nouns of existence

Nouns starting with lo don't imply any particular objects:

xu do tavla lo na slabu be do
Do you talk to not familiar to you? (no particular person in mind is described).
e'u mi jo'u do casnu bu'u lo drata
Let's discuss in another place (no particular place in mind)

Objects in general are finely described using nouns with lo.

As opposed to them nouns starting with numbers like pa mlatu and ci prenu refer to new entities every time they are used:

ci mlatu cu citka re finpe
There are three cats, there are two fishes for each cat, and each cat eats two fishes.

Note that we apply nouns from left to the right: first we talk about the three cats and then we specify for each of the cats that it eats two fishes. So in fact there are 6 fishes.

da - there is something ...

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

The pronoun da is translated as there is something/someone ... But unlike nouns of existence like pa mlatu we've just looked at if we use da the second time in the same clause it always refers to the same thing as the first da:

More examples:

mi tavla
I talk.
mi tavla da
There is someone I talk to.
tavla = x1 talks to x2 about x3
mi nitcu lo mikce = I need a doctor (implying "any doctor will do")
mi nitcu da poi mikce = There is a doctor whom I need

Note the difference:

  • da means there is something/someone, da always refers to the same entity when used more than once in the same clause.
  • noun like lo mlatu (starting with lo) can refer to new entities every time it is used.
  • noun like pa mlatu (with a bare number and without lo) is similar to using pa da poi mlatu but it can refer to new entities every time it is used.

"To have"

The English verb to have has several meanings.

pa da birka mi
I have an arm.
There is something that is an arm of me [literally]
birka = x1 is an arm of x2

We use the same strategy for expressing family relationship:

pa da bruna mi
mi se bruna pa da

Someone is my brother.
I have one brother.

There is someone who is a brother of me [literally]
re bruna be mi cu clani
I have two brothers and they are tall.
clani = x1 is long, tall

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 (or children).
panzi = x1 is a child, offspring of x2

Note that using a number in front of da isn't necessary if context is enough.

Another meaning of to have is to keep:

mi ralte pa gerku
I have a dog.
I keep a dog [literally]
mi ralte pa karce
I have a car.
ralte = x1 keeps x2 in their possesion

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

mi ponse le karce
I own the car.
ponse = x1 owns x2

Lesson 3. Quoting. Questions. Interjections

sei: comments to the text

The particle sei allows to insert into a clause a comment about our attitude about what is said in that clause:

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!)
Like with nouns formed with lo the clause formed with sei must end in a verb.

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).

We can add more nouns to the verb with be and bei like we do for nouns:

do jinga sei mi zausku be fo la fircku
You won! (I'll post congrats on Facebook)
zausku = to praise

Quotation marks

For quoting text we place quotation particle lu before the quote and place li'u after it. The result is a noun representing a quoted text:

mi cusku lu mi prami do li'u
I say "I love you."
cusku = x1 expresses/says x2 (quote) to audience x3
A nice feature of Lojban is that lu - «quote» and li'u - «unquote» marks are pronounceable. It is quite handy since in spoken Lojban you don't have to change intonation to show where a quoted text starts and ends.

However, in written text that quotes a conversation, the author often pays reader's attention to the content of quotations. In such cases sei is preferred.

We can also nest quotations, for example:

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."

Note that in Lojban we distinguish things and their names:

lu le munje li'u cu cmalu
"The universe" is small.
le munje na cmalu
The universe is not small.
le munje = the universe, world

Here, the text "the universe" is small whereas the universe is not.

Interjections and vocatives work like sei constructs:

je'u mi jinga sei le nakni cu cusku
Truly, "I won", he said.

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

lu je'u mi jinga li'u se cusku le nakni
"Truly, I won", he said.

See the difference between the two examples?

Several common verbs related to talking:

le fetsi pu retsku lu do klama ma li'u
She asked "Where do you go?"
mi pu spusku lu mi klama lo zdani li'u
I replied "I am going home."
mi pu spuda lo se retsku be le fetsi lo ka spusku lu mi klama lo zdani li'u
I replied to her question by saying in reply "I am going home."
spuda = x1 replies to x2 by doing x3 (property of x1)

The remaining three verbs have identical place structure:

cusku = x1 expresses/says x2 (quote) to audience x3
retsku = x1 asks x2 (quote) to audience x3
spusku = x1 replies/says answer x2 (quote) to audience x3

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.
cmene = x1 (quote) is a name of x2 ...

This is how you present yourself in Lojban using your Lojbanized name.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.
Note that the first place of cmene is a quote, a text. Thus, we use not la (prefix for names) but lu ... li'u or zo to make a quote and fill the first place of cmene with it. Thus, mi me la robin but
zo robin cmene mi
"Robin" (quotation) is a name of me [literally]

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?
— London.

— ma klama la .london.
— la .kevin.

— Who's going to London?
— Kevin.
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 use ma with relative clauses:

— do xabju ma noi gugde — lo gugde'usu
— In what country do you live?
— [[User:— You inhabit what, which is a country?
— USA]]
xabju = to inhabit (some place)

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. Some possible answers:

mi gleki
I'm happy.

mi kanro
I'm healthy.

Another way of asking How do you do?:

do cinmo lo ka mo
How do you feel (emotionally)?


cinmo = x1 feels x2 (property of x1)

Other examples:

ti mo
What is this?

la .meilis. cu mo
Who is Mei Li? / What is Mei Li? / What is Mei Li doing?

Possible answers depending on context:

  • ninmu: She's a woman.
  • jungo: She's Chinese.
  • pulji: She's a police officer.
  • sanga: She's a singer or She's singing.
do mo la .kevin.
What are you to Kevin?
You are what (you do what) to Kevin. [literally]

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.

To differentiate between to do and to be someone or something we use additional verbs with ma:

la meilis cu zukte ma
Mei Li does what? [literally]
la meilis cu zukte lo ka lumci
Mei Li is does cleaning.
zukte = x1 does x2 (property of x1)
lumci = to clean (something)
do du ma
You are who? [literally]
mi du lo ctuca
I am the teacher.

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

word meaning [literally]
ca ma When? during what
bu'u ma Where? at what
ma noi prenu Who? what that is a person
ma noi dacti What? (about objects) what that is an object
ri'a ma Why? because of what
pe ma Whose? Which? About what? pertaining to what or whom
lo mlatu poi mo Which cat? Which kind of cat?

pe ma is attached only to nouns:

lo penbi pe ma cu zvati lo jubme
Whose pen is on the table?

Number questions

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

The word xo means How many? and thus asks for a number. The full answer will be:

lo mu mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
5 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 ralte lo xo gerku
How many dogs do you keep?

Verbs of facts

Consider the example:

mi djuno lo du'u do stati
I know that you are smart.
djuno = x1 knows x2 (proposition) about x3
mi jimpe lo du'u do pu citka
I understand that you were eating.
jimpe = x1 understands x2 (proposition) about x3

In places that describe facts the particle du'u is used (instead of nu).

djuno (to know) and jimpe (to understand) describe facts. It'd be stupid to say I understand that you were eating but in fact you weren't. However, for verbs describing events usual nu is used:

mi sruma lo nu do pu citka
I assume that you were eating.

And here, I assume one thing but it doesn't imply a true fact:

mi sruma lo nu do pu citka i ku'i do pu na citka
I assume that you were eating. But you weren't eating.

Note that the clause started with du'u doesn't have to be true:

lo du'u do mlatu cu jitfa
That you are a cat is false.
jitfa = x1 (proposition) is false
Where to use du'u and whereto use nu? You may look into the dictionary:
  • The term (proposition) marks places where du'u is recommended.
  • The term  (clause) marks places where nu is recommended.

If by mistake you use nu instead of du'u you will still be understood. But usually people speaking fluent Lojban distinguish these particles.

Indirect questions

mi djuno lo du'u ma kau tadni la .lojban.
I know who is studying Lojban.

This is called an indirect question. The word who here is not a request for information, there's no question mark. The answer is presumed. In fact you yourself know the answer to the question Who is learning Lojban?

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

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

ma tadni la .lojban.
Who is studying Lojban?
mi djuno lo du'u ma kau tadni la .lojban.
I know who is studying Lojban. I know the identity of the person studying Lojban.
mi djica lo nu ma tadni la .lojban.
Who do I want to study Lojban?
I want who to study Lojban? [literally]

This 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 du'u lo xo kau prenu cu tadni la .lojban.
I know how many people study Lojban.

Indirect quotations (reported speech)

A clause like Alice said "Michelle said “Hello” to me" can also be expressed in a rather more subtle way:

la .alis. pu cusku zo'e pe lo nu la .micel. pu rinsa le fetsi
Alice said something about Michelle greeting her before.
Alice said something about the event of Michelle greeted her. [literally]

or a bit shorter:

la .alis. pu cusku lo se du'u la .micel. pu rinsa le fetsi
Alice said that Michelle had greeted her.

The combination se du'u allows expressing indirect speech.

Here are the examples of verbs related to talking when using reported speech:

le fetsi pu retsku lo se du'u mi klama makau
She asked where I was going.
mi pu spusku lo se du'u mi klama lo zdani
I replied that I was going home.
mi pu spuda lo se retsku be le fetsi lo ka spusku lo se du'u mi klama lo zdani
I replied to her question by saying in reply that I was going home.

Questions in reported speech:

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

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

  • If that describes what can be seen, heard, what happens, use nu.
  • If that describes what you think, some fact or information, use du'u.
  • If that describes what you say, use se du'u.
    • But if you need a literal quote use lu … li'u.

Emotional interjections

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

We know such interjection as a'o (I hope). There are interjections expressing other emotional states. They are similar to smileys like ;-) or :-( but in Lojban we can be more specific about our emotions still remaining concise in our speech.

Here are examples of widely used emotional interjections:

do jinga ui
You won! (I'm happy about that!)
ui (pronounced as English "we") expresses happiness
Interjections work like sei with their clauses. ui means the same as sei mi gleki so we could as well say do jinga sei mi gleki meaning the same (although it's a bit more lengthy).
ie tu mlatu
Yes, that is a cat.
ie nai i tu na mlatu
No, I don't agree. That is not a cat.
ie as in like yes = Yeah! Aye! (agreement)
ie nai = disagreement
.ai mi vitke do
I'm going to visit you.
.ai as in high = I'm going to… (intent)
.au do kanro
I wish you were healthy.
.au (pronounced as in how) = desire
.a'o do clira klama
I hope you come early.
.a'o = I hope.
.ei mi ciska lo xatra
I should write a letter.
.ei as in hey = I should … (obligation)
i'e do pu gunka lo vajni
Very good! You did an important work.
i'e = Fine! (approval)
.o'u tu mlatu
Oh, that's only a cat.
.o'u = Phew! (relaxation)
In this case you probably thought that was something dangerous but it's only a cat so you are saying .o'u.
.u'i ti zmiku
Ha-ha, this is a robot.
.u'i = Ha-ha! (amusement)
You can add or remove interjections to/from a sentence without the risk of breaking it.

Any word that starts with a vowel is prefixed with a dot in Lojban. So the correct spelling is .a'o and so on. It's common to 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.

Like with xu or sei-clauses we can add interjections after any noun, pronoun or verb thus expressing our attitude towards that part of the sentence.

Urging interjections

A special group of interjections (in English called "imperative/hortative" interjections) make instigations, commands, requests. among which we already know .e'o:

.e'a do klama lo nenri
You may come in.
.e'a = I allow, you may … (permission)
lo nenri = an interior, what is inside
.e'e do zukte
C'mon, do it!
.e'e = Come on! (encourgament, instigation, provokation)
.e'o mi ciksi da poi mi cusku djica
Please, let me explain what I want to say.
.e'o = Please … (request)
.e'i do zutse doi lo verba
Sit down, child!
.e'i = Do that! (command)
.e'u do pinxe lo jisra
I suggest that you drink the juice. You'd better drink the juice.
.e'u = Let's (suggestion)

ko for quicker urges

do bajra
You run.
Someone runs.

In English the verb itself is a command:


In Lojban bajra as a sentence means Someone runs (or is running / was running and so on depending on context). bajra can also mean a command Do run! but sometimes context isn't enough to make you decide whether it's an urge to run or simply a statement of the fact that someone runs or is running.

The pronoun ko is used instead of do to make requests, suggestions, commands.

ko bajra
Run! Do run! Do it so that you run!

ko is simply a more vague alternative to do .e'o, do .e'u, do .e'i.

It's perfectly fine to say a more precise

do .e'o bajra
You, please run!

putting the emphasis in our politeness onto do (you).

Moving ko in a clause moves command/request to that part, for example:

nelci ko
Make it so you are liked by someone!
nelci = to like (something or someone)

As you can see we have to restructure this clause in English which still sounds weird, but you could use it in Lojban in the sense of Try to make a good impression.

Note that prami corresponds to English to love while nelci corresponds to English to like.

We can even have several ko in one sentence:

ko kurji ko
Take care of yourself.
kurji = to take care (of someone)

Discursive interjections

.i mi venfu do .e ji'a lo cmalu gerku pe do
I'll get you and your little dog, too!
ji'a = additionally, also

ji'a means that there exist others who also are the same (you in this case) or who do the same.

mi si'a nelci do
I too like you [literally]
— mi nelci lo mlatu
— mi si'a nelci lo mlatu

— I like cats.
— I like cats too (Me too).
si'a = similarly, too

si'a denotes that something is similar while being different in other unmentioned aspects.

Structure of interjections: nai, sai, pei, dai

Interjection can consist of

  1. the root like ui (Yay!)
  2. then suffixes like pei, dai, zo'o:
    • ui zo'o = Yay! (kidding, I'm not actually happy)
  3. both the root and each of the suffixes can be modified with scalar particles like nai:
    • ui nai = Alas!
    • ui nai zo'o = Alas! (kidding, I'm not serious in this feeling)
    • ui nai zo'o nai = Alas, I'm not kidding, I feel unhappy

Some examples of how scalar particles work.

  1. ju'o = interjection: I'm sure (certaintty)
  2. ju'o cu'i = interjection: maybe, perhaps (uncertainty)
  3. ju'o nai = interjection: I have no idea!
  • interjection with bare root:
    • ju'o le bruna co'i klama = I'm sure, the brother has come.
  • scalar particle cu'i turns bare interjection into the middle attitude:
    • ju'o cu'i le bruna co'i klama = Maybe the brother has come, I'm not sure.
  • scalar particle nai turns interjection into the opposite attitude:
    • ju'o nai le bruna co'i klama = Maybe the brother has come, maybe not, I have no idea
    • Similarly, ui is Whee! Yay! while ui nai means Alas!
Precise meanings of interjections that are meaningful with their scalar particles cu'i and nai are given in the dictionary.
  • scalar particle sai denotes strong intensity of interjection:
.u'i sai = Ha-ha-ha!

Vocatives can also be modified with scalar particles:

ki'e sai do = Thank you a lot!

Suffixes are added after the root of interjection (together with its scalar particles if we used them):

  • interjection suffix pei turns interjection into a question.
    • — .au pei do e mi klama lo zarci
      — .au cu'i

      — Do you want that you and I go to the store?
      — Meh, I don't have any preferences.
    • — ie pei lo ninmu cu melbi
      — ie

      — The woman is pretty, isn't she?
      — Yeah.
  • interjection suffix dai shows another's feelings, not feelings of the speaker:
    • ui nai dai do na co'i jinga
      You must be sad, you haven't won.
    • .a'u
      That's interesting!
    • .a'u dai
      That must have been interesting for you!
    • Bare interjections express the attitude of the speaker. ei do cliva means not You ought to leave, but I feel the obligation for you to leave. dai shows that the speaker is empathizing someone else's feelings.
      • .ei dai do cliva
        You feel the obligation for yourself to leave.
Note that interjections don't necessarily show attitude towards the speakers themselves. Instead, they express speakers' attitude towards other things.

  • interjection suffix zo'o marks the attitude as expressed not seriously:
    • e'u zo'o do pinxe ti
      I suggest that you drink it (kidding).
    • 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. Although, simleys can be ambiguous, and zo'o has only one meaning, which is handy.

Suffixes can also be modified with scalar particles:

  • ie zo'o nai
    I agree (not kidding).
zo'o nai is used to show that the information is not a joke:

Suffixes can be used on its own:

  • pei when used alone asks for any interjection that the listener would feel appropriate:
    • — pei lo lunra cu crino
      — .ie nai

      — The moon is green (what is your feeling about it?)
      — I disagree.
  • For other suffixes they mean that the root interjection ju'a (I state) was omitted:
    • zo'o do kusru
      ju'a zo'o do kusru

      You are cruel (kidding).
ju'a = interjection: I state (don't confuse it with ju'o (I'm sure))

Just for reference: interjections in a table

Here is a bigger picture: emotional, urging and some other interjections in series.

au ai ei oi
Wish ... I'm gonna It should be Ouch!
au cu'i ai cu'i ei cu'i oi cu'i
meh (indifference) indecision    
au nai ai nai ei nai oi nai
(disinclination, reluctance)
how things might need not be

a e i o u
u Emotion ua
"wah" as in "won", "once"
Aha! Eureka!
"weh" as in "wet"
What a surprise
"weeh" as "we"
"woh" as in "wombat", "what"
"wooh" as "woo"
oh poor thing
ua cu'i
ue cu'i
I'm not really surprised
ui cu'i
uo cu'i
uu cu'i
ua nai
Duh! I don't get it! (confusion)
ue nai
expectation, lack of surprise
ui nai
Alas! (unhappiness)
uo nai
uu nai
Mwa ha ha! (cruelty)
i Emotion ia
"yah" as in "yard"
I believe
"yeh" as in "yes"
aye! agreed!
"yeeh" as in "hear ye"
"yoh" as in "yogurt"
"yooh" as in "cute, dew"
I love it
ia cu'i
ie cu'i
ii cu'i
io cu'i
iu cu'i
ia nai
Pshaw! (disbelief)
ie nai
ii nai
I feel safe
io nai
iu nai
.u' Emotion u'a
"oohah" as in "two halves"
"ooheh" as in "two heads"
what a wonder!
"ooheeh" as in "two heels"
"oohoh" as in "two hawks"
"oohooh" as in "two hoods"
u'a cu'i
u'e cu'i
u'i cu'i
u'o cu'i
u'u cu'i
u'a nai
u'e nai
Pff! (commonplace)
u'i nai
Blah (weariness)
u'o nai
u'u nai
.i' Attitude i'a
"eehah" as in "teahouse"
ok, I accept it
"eeheh" as in "teahead"
I approve!
"eeheeh" as in "we heat"
I'm with you in that
"eehoh" as in "we haw"
thanks to it
"eehooh" as in "we hook"
i'a cu'i
i'e cu'i
i'i cu'i
i'o cu'i
i'u cu'i
i'a nai
i'e nai
Boo! (disapproval)
i'i nai
i'o nai
i'u nai
unfamiliarity, mystery
.a' Attachment to situation a'a
"ahah" as "aha"
I'm listening
"aheeh" as in "Swahili"
oomph! (effort)

I hope

hm, I wonder...
a'a cu'i
a'e cu'i
a'i cu'i
no special effot
a'o cu'i
a'u cu'i
Ho-hum (disinterest)
a'a nai
a'e nai
I'm tired
a'i nai
a'o nai
Gah! (despair)
a'u nai
Eww! Yuck! (repulsion)
.e' Urging e'a
you may
come on, do it!
do it!
please, do it
I suggest
e'a cu'i
e'e cu'i
e'i cu'i
e'o cu'i
e'u cu'i
e'a nai
e'e nai
discouragement, demoralization
e'i nai
e'o nai
offer, grant
e'u nai
warning, disadvise
.o' Emotion o'a
I feel it at hand
"ohoh" as in "sawhorse"
o'a cu'i
modesty, humility
o'e cu'i
o'i cu'i
o'o cu'i
mere tolerance
o'u cu'i
composure, balance
o'a nai
How embarrassing. It makes me ashamed.
o'e nai
o'i nai
rashness, recklessness
o'o nai
impatience, intolerance
o'u nai
stress, anxiety

Note how an emotion changes to its opposite with nai and to the middle emotion using cu'i.

Why are some cells of interjections with cu'i and nai empty? Because English lacks concise ways of expressing such emotions.

What is more, most of such interjections are used quite seldom.

These tables might help you understand their design.

Combining interjections

iu ui nai
I am unhappily in love.
ue ui do jinga
Oh, you won! I'm so happy!
jinga = to win.
In this case the victory was unprobable, I'm surprised and happy at the same time.

Interjections (unlike scalar particles and interjection suffixes) don't modify each other:

ue ui do jinga
ui ue do jinga

Oh, you won! I'm so happy!

Here two interjections modify the same construct (the whole sentence) but they don't modify each other so their order is not important.

pei .u'i lo mlatu cu sutra plipe
(What do you feel?) Heh, the cat is quickly jumping.
Here pei is used alone and doesn't modify .u'i which is put after it.

Forgot to put an interjection at the beginning?

do pu sidju mi .ui
You help me (yay!)

.ui modifies only the pronoun mi putting the attitude only to me.

ui do pu sidju mi
Yay, you helped me.

What if we forgot to add .ui at the beginning of this clause?

We can start a new sentence with i bo and then put the interjection:

do pu sidju mi i bo ui
You helped me, yay!

Lesson 4. Practice

Now we know most crucial parts of the grammar and can start accumulating new words through situations.

Colloquial expressions

Here are some common structures used by fluent speakers of Lojban + examples illustrating their usage.

They may help you get used to colloquial Lojban faster.

i ku'i = But...
mi djuno i ku'i mi na djica
I know. But I don't want.
mi djica lo nu = I want that ...
mi djica lo nu mi sipna
I want to sleep.
I want that I sleep. [literally]
mi djuno lo du'u ma kau = I know what/who ...
mi djuno lo du'u ma kau smuni zo coi
I know what is the meaning of coi.

mi na djuno
I don't know.
jinvi lo du'u = have an opinion that ...
mi jinvi lo du'u la .lojban. cu zabna
I think that Lojban is cool.

coi ro do
Hello, everyone!

co'o ro do
Bye, everyone!
ai mi = I'm going to ...
ai mi cliva i co'o
I'm going to leave. Bye!
ei mi = I should ...
ei mi citka i co'o
I should eat. Bye!
ca lo nu = when ...
mi pu bebna ca lo nu mi citno
I was stupid whne I was young.
va'o lo nu = provided that ...
va'o lo nu do djica vau mi ka'e ciksi
If you want I can explain.
simlu lo ka = seem to be
simlu lo ka zabna
It seems to be cool.
ca lo cabdei = today
ca lo cabdei mi surla
Today I rest.
mi nelci = I like
mi nelci lo mlatu
I like cats.
lo nu pilno = using ...
lo nu pilno lo vlaste na nandu
Using dictionaries isn't hard.
kakne lo ka = capable of ...
xu do kakne lo ka sutra tavla
Are you able to talk quickly?
tavla fi = talk about ...
.e'e tavla fi lo skami
Let's talk about computers!
mutce lo ka = very ...
mi mutce lo ka se cinri
I am very interested.
troci lo ka = try to ...
mi troci lo ka tavla bau la .lojban.
I am trying to talk in Lojban.
rinka lo nu = (event) leads to ...
lo nu mi tadni la lojban cu rinka lo nu mi jimpe fi do
That I study Lojban makes me understand you.
gasnu lo nu = (agent) causes ...
mi pu gasnu lo nu lo skami pe mi co'a spofu
I made it so that my computer got broken.
xusra lo du'u = assert that ...
xu do xusra lo du'u mi na drani
Do you state that I am not right?

mi na birti
I am not sure.

A simple dialogue

coi la .alis. Hi, Alice!
coi la .doris. Hi, Doris!
do mo? How are you? The question mark is used here for stylistic purposes.
mi kanro
.i mi ca tadni la .lojban.
.i mi troci lo ka tavla do
I'm healthy.
I now study Lojban.
I'm trying to talk to you.
kanro = to be healthy
tadni = to study ... (something)
troci = to try ... (to do something)
tavla = to talk [to someone]
.i ma tcima ca lo bavlamdei?
What will be the weather tomorrow?
zabna = to be nice, cool
tcima = is the weather
ca = at (some time)
lo bavlamdei = tomorrow day
mi na djuno
.i lo solri sei mi pacna
I don't know.
It'll be sunny, I hope.
djuno = to know (fact)
lo solri = the sun
Note that lo solri cu tcima (literally the sun is the weather) is the usual way of how tcima is used in Lojban.
sei = comment starts
pacna = to hope (for some event)
mi jimpe I understand.
co'o Goodbye.

Human senses

Verbs related perception will be explained after the dialogue.

ju'i la .alis. Hey, Alice!
ju'i = vocative that draws attention: "Hey! Psst! Ahem! Attention!"
re'i Listening.
re'i = vocative: "I'm ready to receive information"
xu do viska lo se skari be ta Do you see the color of that thing near you? In English we say Сan you see, in Lojban we say just xu do viska - You see?
je'u i plise
i le plise cu xunre i skari lo xunre
Yes. It is an apple. The apple is red.
It's colored red.
plise = ... is apple
xu do viska lo tarmi be le plise Can you see the form of the apple?
je'u i le plise cu barda Yes. The apple is big.
xu do jinvi lo du'u le plise ca makcu Do you think that the apple is ripe?
makcu = ... is ripe
au mi palpi lo sefta be le plise
i ua xutla
i mi pacna lo nu makcu ie
I'd like to palpate it.
Oh, it is smooth.
I hope that it is ripe, yeah.
panci pei
i e'o do sumne le plise
What about the smell?
Please, smell it.
lo flora cu panci
i au mi smaka le plise
i oi nai lo kukte cu tasta
i oi
It smells of flowers.
I'd like to taste the apple.
Yum, it tastes sweet.
lo flora = flower(s)
ma pu fasnu What happened?
mi pu farlu fi lo ve'i cmana I fell down from the hill.
xu do cortu Do you feel pain?
je'u i mi cortu lo cidni
i na ckape
i ca ti mi gasne lo nu da vi zvati
Yes, I feel pain in the knee.
It's not dangerous.
And now I can sense a presence of someone here.
doi la alis do cliva e'o sai Alice, please, return immediately!
ko denpa i mi ca tirna lo sance Wait, I can hear some sound.
lo sance be ma A sound of what?
mi pu tirna lo nu lo prenu cu tavla
i ca ti mi ganse lo lenku
I heard a person talking.
Now I feel cold.
ju'i la alis Hey, Alice!..

In this dialogue most important verbs for human senses have been used. Here are their place structures together with more verbs and more examples.


viska = x1 sees x2 (object, form, color)
skari = x1 is an object with the color x2
tarmi = x1 is the form of x2
mi viska lo plise
I see an apple.
mi viska lo tarmi be lo plise
i le plise cu se tarmi lo cukla

I see the form of an apple.
The apple is round.
mi viska lo se skari be lo plise
i le plise cu skari lo xunre

I see the color of the apple.
The apple is colored red.

Notice that we can both say see the form of an apple and see an apple.


tirna = x1 hears x2 (object or sound)
mi tirna pa palta
I hear a plate
mi tirna lo sance be pa palta poi ca'o porpi
i le palta cu se sance lo cladu

I hear the sound of a plate that is falling.
It sounds loud.
pa palta = a plate
cladu = x1 is loud
tolycladu = x1 is quite in sound
tonga = x1 is a tone of x2

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 pa palta poi farlu = I hear the tone of the plate falling down.

Similarly to vision, we can say hear a sound and hear something producing the sound:

— do tirna ma noi sance
— lo zgike

— What sound do you hear?
— A music.
— do tirna lo sance be ma
— lo plise poi farlu

— You hear a sound of what?
— An apple that has fallen down.

Sense of smell

sumne = x1 smells x2 (odor)
panci = x1 is an odor of x2 (object)
mi sumne le flora
I smell the flower.
mi sumne lo panci be lo za'u pa flora
I smell the odor of flowers.
mi sumne lo panci be pa plise
i le plise cu se panci lo za'u flora

I smell the odor of the apple.
The apple smells of flowers.

Note that English confuses smelling an odor and smelling an object 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 — we may not want to mix them.

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

Sense of taste

smaka = x1 smacks, tastes x2 (taste)
tasta = x1 is a taste of x2
mi smaka lo plise
I taste the apple.
mi smaka lo tasta be lo plise
i le plise cu se tasta lo kukte

I taste the taste of the apple.
The apple tastes sweet.

Sense of touch

palpi = x1 palpates, touch-feels x2 (surface)
sefta = x1 is a surface of x2
mi palpi lo plise
I palpate, touch-feel the apple.
mi palpi lo sefta be lo plise
i le plise cu se sefta lo xutla

I touch feel the surface of the apple.
The apple has a smooth surface.


mi cortu lo birka be mi
I feel pain in my arm.
My arm hurts.
mi cortu lo cidni
I feel pain in my knee, my knee hurts.
cortu = x1 feels pain in x2 (organ, part of x1's body)
cidni = x1 is a knee of x2

Perception in general

We can also use the vague ganse - to sense.

ganse = x1 senses x2 (object, event) by means x3
ganse lo glare = to feel the heat
ganse lo lenku = to feel the cold
mi ganse lo plise
I sense an apple.
mi ganse lo tarmi be lo plise
i le plise cu se tarmi lo cukla

I sense the form of an apple.
The apple is round.

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

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


Different language use different sets of words to denote colors. Some languages just use compare the color of objects with colors of other "prototype" objects. In Lojban we use all the options:

ti xunre
This is red.
xunre = x1 is red
ti skari lo xunre
This is red. This has the color or red things.
ti skari lo ciblu
This has the color of blood.
lo ciblu = blood

Below are some examples with colors that follow those of English language. Other verbs for colors can be used, they would reflect how people speaking other languages are used to classify things.

lo tsani cu xunre ca lo cerni The sky is red in the morning. lo tsani = the sky
i lo solri cu simlu lo ka narju The sun seems to be orange. lo solri = the Sun

simlu = x1 looks like x2 (clause)

i lo pelxu flora cu se farna lo solri Yellow flowers are oriented towards the Sun. se farna = x1 is oriented towards x2

farna = x1 is the direction of x2

i lo pezli be lo tricu cu crino Leaves of trees are green. pezli = x1 is a leaf of x2

lo tricu = tree

i mi zvati lo korbi be lo blanu xamsi I am at the border of a blue sea. zvati = to be present at ...

korbi = x1 is the border of x2

lo xamsi = sea

i mi catlu lo ninmu noi dasni lo zirpu taxfu I look at a woman who wears a violet dress. dasni = to wear ... (something)
xunre = x1 is red
narju = x1 is orange
pelxu = x1 is yellow
crino = x1 is green
blanu = x1 is blue
zirpu = x1 is violet

Other useful verbs:

lo gusni be lo manku pagbu pu na carmi
The light illuminating dark areas was not intense.
lo gusni be fi lo solri pu carmi
The light from the Sun was intense.
gusni = x1 is a light illuminating x2 from the light source x3
carmi = x1 is intense, bright
manku = x1 is dark

Emotions: cmila - to laugh. cisma - to smile

i ma nuzba
i do simlu lo ka badri
What are the news?
You seem to be sad.
badri = x1 is sad about x2
mi steba lo nu lo bruna be mi co'a speni lo nixli I am frustrated that my brother gets married a girl. steba = x1 feels frustration about x2
mi se cfipu
i xu do na gleki lo nu le bruna co'a speni
I am confused.
You are not happy that the gets married?
se cfipu = x1 is confused about x2

gleki = x1 is happy about x2

i le nixli cu pindi
i le nixli cu nitcu lo jdini
i mi na kakne lo ka ciksi
The girl is poor.
She needs money.
I am not able to explain.
nitcu = x1 needs x2

kakne = x1 is capable of x2

i la'a do kanpe lo nu le nixli na prami le bruna
Probably, you expect that she doesn't like the brother.
la'a = interjection: probably, it's likely

kanpe = x1 expects some event x2 ...

mi terpa lo nu le nixli ba tarti lo xlali
i ku'i le bruna cu cisma ca ro ka tavla le nixli
i ri ta'e cmila
I am afraid that she will behave bad.
But the brother smiles every time he talks to her.
And she usually laughs.
terpa = x1 fears x2

cisma = x1 smiles

cmila = x1 laughs

mi kucli lo nu le nixli cu prami le bruna I wonder whether the girl likes the brother. kucli = x1 is curious of x2
mi na birti I am not sure. birti = x1 is sure that x2 (clause) happens
ko surla Relax! surla = x1 relaxes (by doing x2)
cinmo = x1 feels emotion x2 (property of x1)
nelci = x1 likes x2
manci = x1 feels awe or wonder about x2
fengu = x1 is angry about x2
xajmi = x1 thinks x2 is funny
se zdile = x1 is amused by x2
zdile = x1 is amusing
djica = x1 desires x2
pacna = x1 hopes that x2 is true


ca glare It's hot now.
i ku'i mi ganse lo nu lenku But I feel cold. ku'i = interjection: but, however
xu do bilma Are you ill?
je'u Yes.
xu do bilma fi lo influ'enza
i e'u do klama lo mikce
Do you have a flu? I suggest you go to a doctor. lo influ'enza = influenza, flu

lo mikce = doctor

mi bilma lo ka cortu lo galxe

i mi sruma lo nu mi bilma fi la zukam

My symptoms is that my throat aches.
I assume that I have a cold.
cortu = x1 has pain in x2 (organ, part of x1's body)

la zukam = common cold (disease)

ko kanro Get well! kanro = x1 is healthy
ki'e Thanks.
bilma = x1 is ill or sick with symptoms x2 from disease x3

Note that the second place of bilma describes symptoms like lo ka cortu lo galxe = to have pain in the throat

The third place is the name of the disease leading to those symptoms: Obviously, you may fill any place of bilma.

Human body

le nanmu cu se xadni lo clani
The man has a long body. The man is tall.
se xadni = x1 has the body x2
xadni = x1 is the body of x2
mi pu darxi lo stedu e lo zunle xance
i ca ti lo degji be le xance cu cortu
i ku'i lo pritu xance na cortu

I hit the head and the left hand. Now a finger of the hand hurts. But the right hand doesn't hurt.

Most of words for parts of body have the same place structure as xadni:

stedu = x1 is a head of x2

However, some describe smaller parts:

degji = x1 is a finger/toe on part x2 (hand, foot)
lo degji be lo xance be le ninmu cu clani
The woman's fingers are long.
Digits of hand of the woman are long [literally]
mi viska le jamfu i ku'i mi na viska lo degji be le jamfu
I can see the feet. But I don't see its toes.
janco = x1 is a joint attaching limbs x2
ctebi = x1 is a lip of mouth, orifice x2
cidni = x1 is a knee or elbow of limb x2



coi do mi se cmene zo adam
i ti du la Alis
i ri speni mi
Hello to you. I am called "Adam".
This is Alice.
She is my wife.
pluka fa lo ka penmi do
i e'o do klama no nenri be le dinju
Pleasure to meet you.
Please, come into the house.
ki'e Thanks.
i au gau mi re do co'a slabu lo lanzu be mi
i le re verba cu panzi mi
i le tixnu cu se cmene zo flor
i la karl cu du le bersa
I'd like you to get to know my family.
The two children are my offspring.
The daughter is callse "Flor".
Karl is the son.
la karl cu mutce citno Karl is very young.
ie Yeah.
i ji'a mi se tunba re da noi ca na zvati le dinju
i sa'e mi se tunba pa bruna e pa mensi
Also I have two siblings who are now not in the house.
To be precise, I have a brother and a sister.
i lo lanzu be do cu barda
Your family is large.
je'u pei Really?

The verbs for names of family members have a similar place structure:

speni = x1 is a husband/wife of x2

co'a speni means to get married:

mi co'a speni la .suzan.
I married Susan.
lanzu = x1 is a family including 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
bruna = x1 is a brother of x2
mensi = x1 is a sister of x2

Note that panzi can be applied to grown-up children of someone

verba = x1 is a child, immature person of age x2 (clause)
panzi = x1 is a child, offspring of x2

verba doesn't necessarily talk of it as of a family member:

pa bersa be pa pendo be mi cu verba lo nanca be li ci
The son of my friend is a child of three years old.
citno = x1 is young
laldo = x1 is old, aged

Pairs of traditional words (for humans only):

lo ninmu = women, lo nanmu = men
lo nixli = girls, lo nanla = boys
lo remna = humans

Note that lo prenu means people, persons. In fairy tales and fantastic stories not only humans (lo remna) but animals or alien beings from other planets can be persons.

These words can be used for describing both animals and humans:

lo fetsi = female, lo nakni = male
mamta = x1 is a mother of x2
patfu = x1 is a father of x2
rirni = x1 is a parent of x2

In the shop

do pu te vecnu lo laldo karce
You bought an old car.
i ku'i mi na pu pleji lo so'i jdini
But I didn't pay much money.
ma pu jdima le karce What was the price of the car?
mi pu pleji lo rupnusudu be lo kilto lo kagni le karce I paid a thousand dollars to the company for the car.
mi pu vecnu lo laldo karce pe mi lo pendo be mi
i le pendo pu pleji lo rupne'uru be li re ki'o mi le karce
I sold an old car of mine to my friend.
The friend paid 2 000 euro for the car.
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

ma stuzi lo zdani be do What is the location of your home?
lo korbi be lo boske
i mi se zdani lo nurma
i lo zdani be mi cu barda dinju gi'e se kumfa ci da e lo vikmi kumfa e lo lumci kumfa
The edge of a forest.
I live in the country.
My home is a big house and has three rooms plus a toilet plus a bathroom.
i ku'i mi pu jbena lo tcadu i je ca ti mi se zdani lo jarbu be la paris
i mi xabju ne'a lo zarci
I see.
But I was born in a city, and now I live in the suburbs of Paris.
I live near a shop.
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. Prepositions, da, their relative position

How prepositions refer to the clause?

  • Some prepositions like those that describe tense connect the current clause with the one in the noun after them:
mi cadzu ca lo nu lo cipni cu vofli
I walk when birds fly.
cadzu = ... walks
lo cipni = bird/birds
vofli = ... flies
mi pu cadzu fa'a lo rirxe
I walked towards a river.
mi pu cadzu se ka'a lo rirxe
I walked to a river.
se ka'a = going to ...
fa'a = directly towards ...
Prepositions don't remove ordered places (fa, fe, fi, fo, fu) from the verb:
mi klama se ka'a lo rirxe lo dinju
mi klama fe lo rirxe .e lo dinju

I go to a river, to a house.

Here, the first example uses se ka'a to connect lo rirxe and then the second place of klama follows being filled with lo dinju. It's the same as just filling the second place of klama two times, that is connecting them with .e - and.

However, se ka'a is nice when applied to other verbs like cadzu in a previous example.

  • Some prepositions describe relations of the first place of the clause with the noun after the preposition:
mi jinga se rai lo ka clani
I win being the tallest one.
se rai = preposition from se traji: being most in ...
Here x1 of the clause corresponds to the most one in comparison specified after se rai.
  • Finally, some prepositions describe relations of the first place of the clause and the clause itself with the noun after the preposition:
lo fragari cu se nelci mi te rai lo jbari
Out of berries, I like strawberries most.
te rai = preposition from te traji: preferring out of ...
lo fragari = strawberries
lo jbari = berries
x1 of the clause describes the most one in this comparison, the clause itself describes the comparison.
The dictionary explains such tricky cases where the relation defined by the preposition might pose difficulty. In practice, the relation is often clear from the examples provided.

Using ne + preposition. se mau - more than ...

mi ne se mau do cu melbi
I am prettier than you.
se mau = preposition from se zmadu: more than; the clause itself describes the comparison

This example is similar to

mi zmadu do lo ka melbi
I exceed you in prettiness.

In other words, the main verb melbi is similar to the third place of zmadu, which specifies the comparison criteria. Two more examples:

mi prami do ne se mau la doris
I love you more than Doris.
mi ne se mau la doris cu prami do
I love you more than Doris does.
I love you more than Doris loves you.

I (more than Doris) love you. [literally]

More examples:

mi nelci lo pesxu ne se mau lo ladru
I like jam more than milk.
lo pesxu = jam
lo pesxu cu zmadu lo ladru lo ka mi nelci
I like jam more than milk.
Jam exceeds milk in how much I like it. [literally]

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, se mau always compares the noun after it with the first place of the clause we know what we get:

la bob ne se mau la maris cu nelci la betis
la bob cu nelci la betis se mau la maris

Bob (compared to Mary) likes Betty more. Mary likes Betty less.
la betis cu se nelci la bob se mau la maris
Betty is loved by Bob more than Mary. Bob likes Mary less.

Comparisons: "equal", "the same"

mi dunli lo mensi be mi lo ka clani i ku'i mi na du le mensi
I am as long as my sister. But I'm not her.
I equal the sister of me in length. But i am not identical to the sister. [literally]
dunli = x1 (any type) is equal to x2 (any type) in x3 (property of x1 and x2 with {kau})
du = x1 (any type) is identical to x2 (any type)

dunli compares two places for a single property, while du compares for identity. My sister and I are the same height, but we are not the same person. Clark Kent and Superman have different admirers, but they are the same person.

The same goes for another two verbs:

mi frica do lo ka nelci ma kau
We differ from each other in what we like.
I differ from you in liking what. [literally]
lo drata be mi cu kakne lo ka sidju
Someone other than me is able to help.
frica = x1 (any type) differs from x2 (any type) in x3 (property of x1 and x2 with {kau})
drata = x1 (any type) is not the same as x2 (any type)

Preposition tai - like ...

The preposition tai leads to different meanings whether it's applied to a clause or to a noun with ne:

le nanmu ne tai do cadzu
The man walks like you.
le nanmu pu cadzu tai lo ka bevri lo tilju
The man walked as if he was carrying something heavy.
bevri = x1 carries x2

The infinitive starting with lo ka always refers to the first place of the clause, le nanmu in this case.

The concept of only

mi se steci lo ka nelci lo badna
I'm the only one who likes bananas.

A more precise one:

mi se steci lo ka nelci lo badna vau lo pendo be mi
I'm the only one who likes bananas among my friends.
se steci = x1 is the only one in x2 (property of x1) among x3

Note that this example implies that you are a friend of yourself :) Otherwise, please, use an even more precise statement:

mi se steci lo ka nelci lo badna vau mi jo'u lo pendo be mi
I'm the only one who likes bananas among the group of me and my friends.
na ku mi se steci lo ka nelci lo badna
It's not just me who likes bananas.

It's also possible to rephrase this using .e no drata be (and nothing different from ...):

mi e no drata be mi cu nelci lo badna
I and no one else likes bananas.

One more interesting example:

lo troci cu se steci lo ka snada
Only the one who tries succeeds.
Who tries is the only one who succeeds. [literally]
lo zukte be lo ka troci e no drata be ri cu fliba
The only who only tries fails.
The one who does attempts and nothing but it fails. [literally]
troci = x1 tries to do x2 (property of x1)
snada = x1 succeeds in doing x2 (property of x1)
fliba = x1 fails in doing x2 (property of x1)

And one more solution:

ro snada pu troci
Everyone who succeeds tried.

As you can see, Lojban offers different methods of saying the same, some of which can significantly differ from English forms.

"Most", "many" and "too much"

Words like most and many are also numbers in Lojban:

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…
du'e too many

Some examples:

su'e re no prenu ba klama
No more than 20 people will come.
su'o pa prenu cu prami do
At least one person loves you.

never - no roi, always - ro roi

Prepositions specifying the number of times:

  • no roi = never
  • pa roi = once
  • re roi = twice
  • ci roi = thrice
  • so'i roi = many times
  • so'u roi = a few times
  • du'e roi = too many times
  • ro roi = always
mi du'e roi klama lo zarci
I go to the market too often.
zarci = x1 is a market
mi pu re roi klama lo zarci
I went to the market twice.

Without pu the construct re roi may mean that once I went to the market but the second time I will be there only in the future. These particles can be used with a noun after them:

mi klama ti pa roi ro jeftu
I come here one every week.

for the first time - pa re'u, for the last time - ro re'u

  • pa re'u = for the first time
  • re re'u = for the second time
  • za'u re'u = again
  • ro re'u = for the last time

The particle re'u works like roi but tells for which time this event happens.


mi pa roi vitke lo muzga
I visited the museum once.
mi pa re'u vitke lo muzga
I visited the museum for the first time.
mi za'u roi vitke lo muzga
I visited the museum more times.
mi za'u re'u vitke lo muzga
I visited the museum again.
mi za'u pa roi vitke lo muzga
I visited the museum more than once.
mi za'u pa re'u vitke lo muzga
I visited the museum not for the first time (maybe for the second/third etc.))
vitke = to visit (somebody or something)

Note the difference between:

za'u re'u = again, more than the known from context number of times (e.g. more than expected or more that other already know)
za'u pa re'u = not for the first time (the number of times is compared to number 1, hence no context is needed)
re re'u = two times (same here, no context is needed, and even the exact number of times is given)

Prepositions: their location within a clause

lo nu tcidu ca nandu
Reading is now difficult.
ca ku lo nu tcidu cu nandu
Now reading is difficult.

Bare prepositions without arguments after them can be moved around the sentence by adding ku after them.

ku prevents the following nouns from attaching to such prepositions. ca lo nu tcidu would mean when reading.

Here are several places where preposition can go.

  • preposition modifies the clause to the right of it:
    • ca ku mi citka - Now I eat. Adverb, i.e. preposition with a particle ku
    • ca lo cabdei mi citka - Today I eat. Preposition with a noun after it.
    • mi ca citka - I now eat. Tense, i.e. preposition before the main verb and without a noun.
  • Preposition is applied to the whole clause:
    • mi citka ca - I eat now. Tense, preposition at the end of the clause.

Several prepositions in a clause (scope)

mi speni
I am married, I have a wife or a husband.
mi co'a speni
I get married.
mi mo'u speni
I am widowed.
mo'u = preposition: the event is finished


mi mo'u co'a speni
I am newlywed.
I finished becoming a married person. [literally]
mi co'a mo'u speni
I get widowed.
I become finishing being married. [literally]

If there are several prepositions in one clause, the rule is that we read them from left to right, thinking it as a so called imaginary journey. We begin at an implied point in time and space (the speaker's "now and here" if no noun follows), and then follow the prepositions one after another from left to right.

Let's take mi mo'u co'a speni.

mo'u means that an event is complete. Which event? The event co'a speni - to become married. Hence, mi mo'u co'a speni means I finish the process of the becoming married, i.e. I am newlywed.
We say in such case that co'a speni is within the "scope" of mo'u.

In mi co'a mo'u speni the order or event is different.

First, it is said that an event started (co'a), then it is stated that it is an event of finishing being married. Hence, mi co'a mo'u speni means I get widowed.
We can say that here mo'u speni is within the "scope" of co'a.

Another example with the preposition so'i roi:

mi co'a so'i roi citka
I started eating many times.
mi so'i roi co'a citka
Many times I started to eat.

Examples with tenses:

mi pu ba klama lo cmana
It happened before I went to the mountain.
I in past: in future: go to the mountain. [literally]
mi ba pu klama lo cmana
It will happen after I went to the mountain.
I in future: in past: go to the mountain. [literally]

The rule of reading prepositions from the left to the right can be overriden by connecting prepositions with the conjunction ce'e:

mi ba ce'e pu klama lo cmana
I went and will go to the mountain.
I in future and in past: go to the mountain. [literally]
mi cadzu ba lo nu mi citka ce'e pu lo nu mi sipna
I walk after I eat and before I sleep.

Using prepositions together with da and nouns that start with numbers

Like with prepositions the position of da matters:

mi ponse da
There is something I own.
mi co'u ponse da
I lost all my property.
ponse = x1 owns x2
co'u = preposition: the event stops

This might look like a mind-breaking example. Here, a person was able to say "I own something." But then for every thing the person owned this situation ended.

Another example:

ro da vi fenki
Everyone is crazy here.
Every one here crazy [literally]
vi ku ro da fenki
Here everyone is crazy.
Here: every one crazy [literally]

Did you catch that?

  1. Everyone is crazy here means that if someone is not crazy somewhere then they will become crazy in this place.
  2. 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 with a noun started with a number:

pa prenu ro roi jundi
There is one person who is always attentive.
- it is the same person who is always attentive.
ro roi ku pa prenu cu jundi
Always there is one person who is always attentive.
- it is always that one person is attentive. People may change but there is one always attentive.

Connecting sentences with prepositions

mi klama pa cmana ca lo nu pa mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
I am coming to a mountain while a cat is drinking milk.
mi klama pa cmana .i ca bo pa mlatu cu pinxe lo ladru
I am coming to a mountain, and at the same time a cat is drinking milk.

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. The second example differs from the first one in that it puts the assertion on both sentences.

So here we use .i, then the preposition that we need and then bo.

Usually we split sentences into two and then bind them with bo when a sentence looks or sounds too bulky.

But another use of this is to move prepositions out of scope of other prepositions:

mi na te vecnu ki'u lo nu kargu
It's not true that I buy because it's expensive.

So one might suppose that I only buy things if they are expensive. But no, I don't act thay way.

Here, na negates that I buy things because they are expensive. na is applied to the whole clause, thus it "covers" ki'u.

mi na te vecnu i ki'u bo kargu
I don't buy. It's because it's expensive.

Here, I don't buy things. Why? Because they are expensive. Maybe I prefer only cheap things.

Here, ki'u is placed to another sentence. Thus, na doesn't cover it.

Both sentences could be translated as I don't buy because it's expensive. However, they mean different things.

A special rule is for using i ba bo and i pu bo. Compare:

mi cadzu pu lo nu mi citka
I walk before I eat.
mi cadzu .i ba bo mi citka
I walk, and then I eat.

.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.

pu is changed into ba, and vice versa. This special rule for Lojban was made by analogy of natural languages. So you just have to remember this special behavior of these two words.

Existing things, "there are ...

There are actually three words in da series: da, de, di. We use them if you need to refer to different objects in one discourse:

ci mlatu cu citka re finpe
ci da poi mlatu cu citka re de poi finpe

There are three cats, there are two fishes for each cat, and each cat eats two fishes.

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). Thus,

  • 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...

Topic and comment. zo'u

Sometimes it is useful to show the topic of a clause and then say a comment about it:

lo finpe zo'u mi nelci lo salmone
As for fish I like salmon.
salmone = ... is a salmon
zo'u = ends the topic and starts the comment of the clause

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.
ro da poi gerku zo'u mi nelci da
For each thing 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 okay for these pronouns to appear more than once in the main clause:

da zo'u da prami da
There is da such that da loves da.
There is someone who loves himself/herself.

It is not necessary for a pronoun to be the direct noun of the the main verb:

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.

Scope in da

ci da poi mlatu cu citka re de poi finpe
There are three cats who eat two fishes each.

By using zo'u we can make our sentence more clear:

ci da poi mlatu vau re de poi finpe zo'u da citka de
For three da which are cats, for two de which are fishes: da eats de.

Here we see that each of the cats is said to eat two fishes, and it might be different fishes each time; six fishes in total.

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.

"any" and "some" in examples

The words "any" and "some" and their derivatives have many meanings in English. We should be careful to translate that intended meaning:

  • Simple specific some is translated as da:
da pu klama .i je ko smadi lo du'u da me ma kau
Somebody came. Guess who it was.
mi pu tirna da .i je mi fliba lo ka jimpe lo du'u da mo kau
I heard something, but I fail to understand what it was.
  • some in questions turns into "anything", "anybody":
xu da pu klama
Did anybody come?
  • any can be used in inner clauses:
mi rivbi lo ka jdice da
I avoided taking any decision.
like in clauses of prepositions:
ba lo nu do zgana da vau ko klama
After you notice anything, come!
  • Scope: any is used in English when negating while Lojban uses na but then still da:
mi na viska su'o da poi prenu
mi na viska su'o prenu

I don't see anybody.
  • Scope: note that negation has to take appropriate clause like here:
mi jinvi lo du'u na ku da jimpe
I don't think that anybody understands.
This can be rephrased as:
mi jinvi lo du'u no da jimpe
I think that nobody understands.
  • every is turned into any in comparisons and translated as ro da:
do zmadu ro da lo ka clani
You are taller than anybody.
You exceed everybody in tallness. [literally]
  • any is used when providing choice and translated as ro da:
ro da poi do nelci zo'u mi e'ande do lo ka citka da
You may eat anything you like.
For everything that you like I allow you to eat it. [literally]
permite = x1 allows x2 to do x3 (property of x2

some is translated using lo when using commands, request, suggestions:

e'u mi'o pilno lo drata
Let's try other things.
e'u mi'o troci bu'u lo drata
Let's try somewhere else.

Compare it to:

pa drata zo'u e'u mi'o pilno ri
There is something else, let's use it.
pa drata zo'u e'u mi'o troci bu'u ri
There is another place, let's try there.

any is translated using lo

  • in generic statements:
lo gerku cu se tuple vo da
Any dog has four legs. Dogs have four legs.
  • and when making no distinction among members we talk about:
mi na djica lo ka tavla lo na slabu be mi
I don't want to talk to just anybody.

"anyone, any two ...

e'u mi'o troci bu'u lo drata
Let's try somewhere else.

Here, lo drata actually means any other thing or things, place or places. The number of such places is not specified although any such place might fit.

What if we want to say "any place but only one place"? In this case we put a number after lo:

e'u mi'o troci bu'u lo pa drata
Let's try at another place.


e'u mi'o troci bu'u lo pa drata
Let's try at any two other places.

and so on.

Note that when a noun starts with lo it still has the notion of any. The difference can be important:

lo pa bangu no roi banzu
One language (any language) is never enough.
pa bangu no roi banzu
There is one language that is never enough.

Finally, nouns of existence imply each. There are two rings on the logo of Lojban. So

lo re djine cu sinxa la lojban
Two rings is a symbol of Lojban.
na ku re djine cu sinxa la lojban
It's not true that for two rings each of the rings is a symbol of Lojban.
djine = x1 is a ring

Resume: which constructs does scope affect?

Scope matters only for prepositions, da, de, di and nouns starting with numbers (like pa prenu - one of the persons). Thus the relative order of such constructs changes the meaning:

pa prenu ca ku zvati
There is one person who is now present.
ca ku pa prenu ca zvati
Now there is one person.

Scope isn't relevant for verbs and nouns starting with lo (like lo prenu or lo re prenu). Both these sentences mean the same:

lo prenu ca ku zvati
ca ku lo prenu cu zvati

People are now present.

These two sentences also mean the same:

lo pa bangu no roi banzu
no roi ku lo pa bangu cu banzu

One language (any language) is never enough.

Scope ends in the end of the sentence. Here, ki'u is under the scope of na:

na ku mi te vecnu ki'u lo nu kargu
It's not true that: I buy because it's expensive.

Here, ki'u is not under the scope of na. ki'u is applied to the whole previous sentence including na:

mi na te vecnu i ki'u bo kargu
I don't buy. It's because it's expensive.

Lesson 6. Prepositions: time and space

mi citka lo cirla

Possible translations:

I eat cheese.
I ate cheese.
I always eat cheese.
In a moment, I will have just finished eating cheese.

Tenses in Lojban are optional, we don't have to think all the time what tense to use.

Context often resolves what is correct. We add tenses when we feel we need them.

Lojban tenses treat time and space the same. Saying that I worked a long time ago is not grammatically different than saying I work far away to the north. English treats words like earlier, past tense ending -ed and space prepositions like in or near in three different schemes, while in Lojban they follow the same principle.

Points in time and place

Preposition without a noun after it describes the event as relative to here and now:

mi pinxe ba
I will drink.
mi pinxe bu'u
I drink at this place.

Preposition with a noun after it describes the event as relative to the event in that noun:

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

Tenses: clauses inside clauses

In English we use the so called "sequence of tenses":

la alis pu cusku lo se du'u vo'a pu penmi la doris za lo djedi be li ci
Alice told that she had seen Doris three days before.

Here, the event "had seen Doris" happens before the event "Alice said". However, in

la alis pu cusku lo se du'u vo'a ca kansa la doris
Alice told that she was with Doris.

the two events (told and was with Doris) happen at the same time.

Thus in English

  • the tense of the main clause is understood relative to whoever utters those sentences.
  • the tense of the clause inside the main clause is also understood relative to whoever utters those sentences.

And in Lojban

  • only the tense of the main clause is relative to who utters those sentences.
  • and other tenses are relative to each other. This is why, in the first example the second pu is relative to the first pu. In the second example, we use ca (at the same time) which is relative to the outer clause (pu cusku - said).

However, we can use the construct ca ti (at this time or place), which will give the same effect as how English works:

Here is an example in English style:

la alis pu cusku lo se du'u vo'a ca ti pu kansa la .doris.
Alis said that she was with Doris.

Distance in time and space

fau = preposition. at the same time, place or situation as …
ca = at … (some time), at the same time as …; present tense. bu'u = at … (some place); here (at this place).
zi = just (short time afo) or soon (in a short time) vi = near …
za = a while ago or in a while, in an unspecified time va = not far from …
zu = long time ago or in a long time vu = far away from …; far away

This is how we can use particles specifying how far we ago into the past or future:

  • 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

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.

zi, za and zu modify the previous preposition like pu and ba:
  • pu zu is a long time ago. pu shows that we begin in the past, zu then that it is a long time backwards.
  • zu pu is far away in time there is a point after some event. 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.

Spatial distance is marked in a similar way by vi, va and vu for short, unspecified (medium) and long distance in space.

We can use them as prepositions as well:

ba za lo djedi be li ci mi zvati ti
In three days I will be here.

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

ba za vu ku mi gunka
Some time in the future, I will work a place long away.
gunka = to work
mi bu'u pu zu gunka
I used to work here a long time ago.
I here-past-long-time-distance work [literally]
pu zu vu ku zasti fa lo ninmu .e lo nanmu
Long ago and far away lived a woman and a man.

The last sentence is how fairy tales often begin.

Duration in time and space

ze'i — for a short time ve'i — over a small space
ze'a — for some time ve'a — over some space
ze'u — for a long time ve'u — over the long space

Again it's easy to remember given the pattern i, a, u.

mi ze'u bajra
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. ba ze'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 pu 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.

lo ve'u xamsi
lo xamsi
lo ve'u cmana
lo cmana
do ve'u klama lo dotco gugde ze'u
You spend a long time traveling a long space to Germany.
ti ve'u gerku
That's a big dog. This is a dog covering a large space.

Event contours

Here are several sets of prepositions that can help us add finer meanings when necessary.

With the event contours and unlike pu, ca and ba we view each event as having shape with certain stages:

pu'o - to be about, ba'o - no longer
mi ba tavla lo mikce
I will speak to the doctor (and I might be speaking now too).
mi pu pu'o tavla lo mikce
I was about to speak to the doctor (I was not speaking at that time, the event hadn't started by that time).
pu'o = preposition: to be about to do something (the event has not yet happened)
ba'o = preposition: to be no longer doing something, to have done something (the event has ended)

Other examples:

lo sanmi ca pu'o bredi
The meal is not ready yet.
mi pu ba'o tavla lo mikce
I had spoken to the doctor.
mi ba ba'o tavla lo mikce
I will have spoken to the doctor.
.a'o mi ba zi ba'o gunka
I hope soon I will have done the work.
za'o - still, xa'o - already
ri'a ma do za'o zvati vi
Why are you still here?
la .kevin. xa'o zvati vi
Kevin is already here.
za'o = still. The event is in process beyond its natural end
xa'o = already, too early. The event already started and it is too early
Stages of event
mi co'a tavla
I started talking.
le fetsi ca'o ciska
She keeps writing.
le nakni pu co'u vasxu
He stopped breathing (sudden unpredictable change).
vasxu = x1 breathes x2
mi pu mo'u citka le plise
I've eaten the apple up.
la .maks. pu mo'u zbasu lo vi dinju
Max has built this house.
le fetsi pu de'a vasxu
She ceased to breath (but may breath again later).
mi pu di'a citka lo plise
I resumed eating apples.
co'a = preposition: the event starts (the border of the event)
ca'o = preposition: to be doing something (the event is in progress)
co'u = preposition: the event stops
mo'u = preposition: the event ends (the border of the event)
de'a = the event pauses (the event can be expected to continue)
di'a = the event resumes
de'a ze'i jundi = BRB (I'll be right back)
mi di'a jundi = I am back (being attentive)
jundi = x1 pays attention to x2

These two expressions are common in text chats for saying that you stop paying attention or away, and then back online:

One could of course also say just de'a or di'a and hope the point gets across.
Continuous and Progressive
ru'i = preposition: the event is continuous
.i mi pu ru'i citka lo mango
I was eating apples one and on without stop.
Note the difference:
  • ru'i says that the event is continuous and never pauses.
  • ca'o says that the event progresses. It may sometimes pause and then resume its progress.

Place contours

Event contours can be used to refer to space if we prefix them with fe'e:

lo rokci cu kuspe fe'e co'u lo canko
The rock reached and stopped by the window.
kuspe = x1 extends, reaches across scope, range x2

Space: "to the left", "to the right"

lo prenu cu sanli lo dertu bu'u lo pritu be mi
The person stands on the ground to the right of me.
lo gerku cu vreta lo ckana bu'u lo zunle be lo verba
A dog is lying on the bed to the left of a child.
ko jgari le panbi poi zunle
Take the pen on the left.
pa mlatu cu plipe bu'u lo crane be do
A cat jumps in front of you.
ko catlu lo dinju poi crane
Look at the house in the front.
lo verba cu zutse lo stizu bu'u lo trixe be mi
The child sits on the chair behind me.
zunle = x1 is to the left of x2
pritu = x1 is to the right of x2
crane = x1 is in front of x2 (x1 is between x2 and whoever watches)
trixe = x1 is behind x2
sanli = x1 stands on x2
zutse = x1 sits on x2
vreta = x1 lies on x2
lo dertu = ground, dirt
lo ckana = bed
lo stizu = chair

To specify the reference point we additionally use the preposition ki. This is important when speaking about left and right:

lo prenu cu sanli ki mi bu'u lo pritu be lo tricu
The person stands to the right of a tree from my viewpoint.
lo dinju cu zunle lo rokci ki ti
The house is to the left of the rock if viewed from here.



ma nabmi What's the problem?
ma'a nitcu lo cukta pe la alis We need Alice's book.
i la alis ca zvati ma Where is Alice?
a bu ca na zvati lo bu'u tcadu
i mi pu mrilu zo'e ne le cukta fi abu
i abu ca ca'o vofli la paris
i ku'i mi pu zi te benji lo se mrilu be a bu
i a bu pu e'ande ma'a lo ka lebna le cukta
i e'o do bevri le cukta mi
Alice is now not in the city.
I mailed about the book to her.
Alice is now flying to Paris.
But I just received a mail from her.
She permitted us to take the book.
Please, bring it to me.
i bu'u ma mi ka'e cpacu le cukta Where can I get the book?
lo purdi i e'o do klama lo bartu In the garden. Please, go outside.
mi ca zvati ne'a le vorme i ei mi ca klama ma I am near the door. Now where should I go?
ko muvdu lo zunle be lo tricu i ba ku do viska pa jubme Move to the left of the tree. Then you will see a table.
mi viska lo cipni noi vofli i ku'i mi ganse no jubme I can see birds flying. But I sense no tables.
ko carna gi'e muvdu lo pritu i le jubme cu crane lo cmalu dinju i le cukta cu cpana le jubme i ji'a ko jgari lo penbi e lo pelji i le za'u dacti cu cpana si'a le jubme i ba ku ko bevri le ci dacti le zdani gi'e punji fi lo kumfa pe mi Turn and move to the right. The table is in front of a small building. The book is on top of the table. Also, take a pencil and a paper. They are similarly on top of the table. Then bring the three things home and put them to my room.
vi'o Will do.


mi jo'u lo pendo be mi pu litru lo barda rirxe bu'u lo bloti I and my friends were traveling on a big river in a boat.
i ba bo mi'a klama lo vinji tcana Then we went to an airport.
i xu do jai zu'e se marce lo karce Did you take a car?
i je'u nai
i mi'a pu pilno lo trene
i ze'a lo cacra mi'a pu zvati bu'u lo carce
We used a train.
For one hour we were in a wagon.
marce = x1 is a vehicle carrying x2
se marce = x1 is a passenger of x2
jai zu'e se marce = x1 takes a vehicle x2 as a passenger
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

Lesson 7. Letters and referring to clauses

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.

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. So CNN can also be written as CNN in Lojban and it will be still pronounced and mean the same as 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 lukas cu viska lo mlatu i lo mlatu cu na viska la lukas
la lukas cu viska lo mlatu i my. na viska ly.

Lucas sees a cat. The cat doesn't see Lucas.

As the first letter in lukas is l 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 (lukas and mlatu in this case) starts with that letter.

Clearly, this method is more powerful than he or she. It also allows us to make the speech more concise in not forcing us to repeat possible long names or nouns over and over again.

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. say le mlatu:

lo mlatu cu viska la .micel. i my. na viska le mlatu
A cat sees Michelle. Michelle doesn't see the cat.

If a name consists of several cmevla you can use the first letters of them to refer to that name. The same is for compound verbs:

la .djon.smit. cu citka lo finpe stasu i dy.sy. nelci fy.sy.
John Smith is eating fish soup. He likes it.

If you need to put several pronouns one after another separate them with the particle boi:

mi klama la paris la moskov
I go to Paris from Moscow.
mi klama py. boi my.
I go to P from M.

The phrase mi klama py. my. would mean I go to PM which wouldn't mean what is needed here.

la .tom.silver. pu zvati i je'u ty. sy. boi .ui pu sidju mi
Tom Silver was present. And actually TS (yay!) helped me.

If you put an interjection after such letters separate them with boi. Without boi interjections will refer to the last letter.

ri instead of "he" and "she"

mi catlu pa nanmu i ri melbi
I look at a man. He is handsome.
lo melbi
beautiful, handsome, pretty
lo se pluka
nice, pleasant

The particle ri refers to the last completed noun used in text or someone's speech.

melbi means both handsome and beautiful no matter the person of what gender you describe.

Another example:

la .alis. cu sipna bu'u lo kumfa pe la .alis.
Alice sleeps in Alice's room.
Alice sleeps-in the of-Alice room. [literally]

is turned into:

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

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

Note that ri refers to completed nouns. 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 making it recursively refer to itself.

Nouns are counted from their beginnings. So in an example like

lo du'u lo nanmu cu melbi cu se djuno ri

ri refers to lo nanmu and not lo du'u lo nanmu cu melbi although bot nouns are complete: lo nanmu starts last, after the start of lo du'u lo nanmu cu melbi.

Clause inside sei forms a parallel text. ri ignores nouns inside sei-clauses:

mi viska la .lukas. sei la .doris. pu cusku i ri jibni la .micel.
I see Lucas, — Doris said. He is near Michelle.

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

Also note that most pronouns are ignored by ri. We just repeat them directly:

mi lumci mi
I wash me.
I wash myself.
lumci = x1 washes x2 of contaminant x3
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:
.i la .alis. cu catlu pa nanmu .i ri melbi .i ri co'a zgana a bu
Alice notices a man. He is beautiful. He notices Alice.
zgana = to observe
co'a zgana = to start observing, to notice

Here the second ri has as antecedent the first ri, which has as antecedent lo nanmu. All three refer to the same thing: the man.

Only you decide what, where and when to use in speech: the method with le+verb words, the method with letter names or with ri.

"Myself, themselves"

In Slavic languages people say literally I wash self. In order to be closer to a Slavic style we can use lo nei.

mi nelci mi
I like myself.
I like me. [literally]
It is the same in meaning as:
mi nelci lo nei
I like myself.
mi lumci mi
mi lumci lo nei

I wash myself.
la ian ca lumci lo nei
la ian ca lumci ri

Yan washes himself.

lo nei links to the first noun of the current clause.

Remember that ri can't refer back to pronouns like mi so lo nei might be preferred in the last example. When changing the first noun lo nei doesn't change which is quite handy:

mi lumci lo nei i do lumci lo nei i la ian cu lumci lo nei
I wash myself. You wash yourself. Yan washes himself.
la .doris. cu pensi lo nei
Doris thinks about herself.
pa gerku cu batci lo nei
A dog bites itself.

nei works well when a sentence only contains one clause. But when it has several embedded clauses we might need something different. In

la .doris. cu djuno lo du'u la .alis. cu prami lo nei
Doris knows that Alice loves herself.

lo nei refers to la .alis.

What if we want to refer to Doris? Here is a solution:

la .doris. cu djuno lo du'u la .alis. cu prami vo'a
Doris knows that Alice loves her.

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

When there are no embedded clauses 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.

lo nei can give funny results when applied to mutual actions:

la alis e la kevin cu cinba lo nei
Alice kisses herself, and Kevin kisses himself.

Here is the solution:

la alis jo'u la kevin cu cinba zu'ai
Alice and Kevin kiss each other

It means the same as:

la alis cu cinba la kevin i je la kevin cu cinba la alis
Alice kisses Kevin, and Kevin kisses Alice.

zu'ai is put into the second place of the verb. It shows the mutual action between the first place and the second place. Members of this mutual action are put to the first and connected with the conjunction jo'u.

go'i for the previous clause

la .alis. cu klama lo barja .i la .alis. cu viska lo nanmu
is the same in meaning as:
la .alis. cu klama lo barja .i lo go'i cu viska lo nanmu
Alice comes to a bar. She sees a man.

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

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

  • lo se go'i refers to the second noun of the previous clause
  • lo te go'i to the third etc.:
.i la .alis. cu zgana lo nanmu .i ri melbi
Alice watches a man. He is handsome.
is the same as
.i la .alis. cu zgana lo nanmu .i lo se go'i cu melbi
Alice watches a man. He is handsome.

That's because lo se go'i refers to the second place (x2) of the preceding clause, 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 Bob, or did Bob hit Bill? We don't know. In Lojban we can use say like this:

la bil pu viska la bob i lo se go'i cu darxi lo go'i
Bill saw Bob. Bob hit Bill.

Although, in most cases ri is used:

la bil cu viska la bob i ri darxi la bil
Bill saw Bob. Bob hit Bill.

go'i itself is a verb, and it thus has a place structure:

mi tatpi i do ji'a go'i
I'm tired. And you too.

When we say do go'i, we repeat the previous clause but replace its first place with do. In other words, do ji'a go'i here is the same as saying do ji'a tatpi.

What does go'i copy?

Interjections like pei (when used alone), xu, .ui, .u'i, je'u those formed with sei and the question interjection are not parts of clauses. Thus they are not copied by go'i.

But prepositions like na, pu, left negators like na'e, no'e, to'e are parts of clauses.

Thus, go'i copies the previous clause with those particles:

la bob na prami la alis

It is not true that Bob loves Alice.

He doesn't (love).
la bob na'e prami la alis

Bob doesn't love Alice.

He doesn't (love).

In order to say "No, he does love her" we use the needed verb directly:

la bob na prami la alis
la bob ja'a prami la alis

Bob doesn't love Alice.

Bob does love Alice.

Time of day, dates and calendar

Time of day

ma tcika ti = What's the time?
li cy pa pa = Eleven hours
tcika = x1 (hours, minutes, seconds) is the time of event x2

In Lojban 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.

  • cy is a prefix signalling that the number of hours follows. 24-hour time is used almost always in Lojban.
  • my is a prefix signalling that the number of minutes follows.
  • sy is a prefix signalling that the number of seconds follows.
li cy pa pa my pa no
11:10 (Ten minutes past eleven)
li cy pa pa my pa no sy pa ci
11 hours, 10 minutes and 13 seconds.
li cy pa no my mu no
10:50, ten to eleven

If we want to give the time of an event, rather than just tell the time, the second place is filled:

li cy pa no tcika lo nu mi klama
Ten o'clock is the time that I come.

By using the preposition de'i we can get a more naturally sounding sentence:

mi klama de'i li cy pa no
I am going at 10 o'clock.
de'i = at ... (time), on ... (date)

And one useful example:

ca tcika lo nu ei sipna
It's time to sleep.


ma detri ti = What's the date today?
li ly ze dy pa = It's July, 1
detri = x1 (year, month, day) is the date/time of event x2

Another option:

ma ca detri
What is the date now?
  • ny is a prefix signalling that the year follows.
  • ly is a prefix signalling that the month follows.
  • jy dy is a prefix signalling that the day of week follows.
  • dy is a prefix signalling that the day follows.

Prefixes with numbers after them can be used in any order (let's use digits to show numbers):

li dy 2 ca detri
It's the second day of the month now.
li ly 4 dy 1 ca detri
It's April, the first now.
li dy 5 ly 7 ny 2005 detri lo nu mi jbena
The fifth of July (seventh month), year 2005 is when I was born.

We can also use de'i:

mi ba klama de'i li ly pano
I will come in October.

Remember that particles in Lojban can be written without spaces in between like in this pano, which is the same as pa no.

For days of week Monday is the first day:

mi gunka de'i li jy dy pa
I work on Monday.
mi gunka de'i ro li jy dy mu
I work every Tuesday.
xu do pu zvati la paris de'i li jy dy ci
Were you in Paris on Wednesday?

Specifying time intervals

mi nanca li re re
I am 22 years old.
nanca = x1 is of duration of x2 (number) years

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

lo verba cu masti li re
The child is two months old.
masti = x1 is x2 months long
lo nu carvi cu djedi li ci
It's raining for three days.
djedi = x1 is x2 full days long

New verbs from one scale

mi na'e nelci do
I other than like you.

"Left scalar" particles (to which na'e belongs) are put to the left of constructs they affect and form a scale:

  • je'a = indeed (the affirmative position on the scale). The word je'a confirms the meaning of a part of sentence. Usually it's just omitted.
    • mi je'a nelci do
      I indeed like you.
  • na'e = non- (other than the affirmative position on the scale)
    • mi na'e nelci do
      I other than like you.
  • no'e = not really (midpoint on the scale). 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.
  • to'e = anti-, dis-, mis- etc. (opposite on the scale). 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]

na'e is more vague than no'e and to'e, it can mean any of them when you don't care about the exact meaning.

Lesson 8. Math and more prepositions

Possibly can, have been and haven't yet been

lo cipni ka'e vofli
Birds can fly.
lo pendo be mi ca'a xendo prenu
My friend shows himself as a friendly person.
lo pendo be mi ka'e litru bu'u ro da
A friend of mine can travel in any place.
mi ca'a zvati la madrid
I am in Madrid.
mi pu'i zvati la madrid
I have been to Madrid.
mi nu'o zvati la madrid
I have never been to Madrid.
ka'e = preposition of potential: possibly can
ca'a = preposition of potential: actually is
pu'i = preposition of potential: has already happened
nu'o = preposition of potential: hasn't ever happened

This series of so called prepositions of potential describes possible situations.

Note that ka'e means that an event can happen whereas, for example,

lo cipni cu kakne lo ka vofli
Birds are capable of flying.

describes abilities dependent on actions of participants.

Plus and minus

li mu du li re su'i ci
Five equals two plus three.

Here li is similar to lo but it starts a mathematical expression (or just a number). So li mu means Number 5 for use in formulae unlike simple mu which is used to denote 5 objects or events.

Note that re su'i ci (2+3) is one single expression considered as one noun.

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 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.

For asking for a number we use ma:

li ci su'i vo du ma
3 + 4 = ?
li ze

"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:

pa moi = x1 is first among ...
re moi = x1 is second among ...
ci moi = x1 is third among ...
ro moi = x1 is last among ...

It is also possible to use verbs instead of numbers:

me mi moi = x1 is mine
me do moi = x1 is yours

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

le nakni cu pa moi lo se prami be mi
He is my first love.
tu ro moi lo ratcu pe mi
That is my last rat.
lo cerni tarci cu ro moi lo tarci poi cumki fa lo nu viska ke'a pu lo nu co'a donri
The morning star is the last star that's visible before the dawning of the day.
tu me mi moi
That's mine.
tu me mi moi lo stizu
That's my place.
.i lo vi stizu cu me mi moi lo pa ci 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 boi:

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

Without boi it would turn into ci pa moithirty-first.

gau - make them do it

The preposition gau marks the agent of event:

le canko cu kalri
The window is open.
le canko gau do kalri
You open the window.
The window driven-by you is open [literally]
gau = preposition: caused by ... (agent), driven by ... (someone, some object)
kalri = x1 is open

Thus, 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 add the preposition gau all the time.

There is also another method that retains the same order of words as in English:

le canko gau ko kalri
ko jai gau kalri fai le canko

Open the window!

Here we transform the verb kalri - to be open into a verb

jai gau kalri = to open something

The first place of kalri can be shown by using a place tag fai.

Some more variations:

le pa karce cu muvdu
The car moves.
ko jai gau muvdu fai le karce
le karce gau ko muvdu

Move the car! Make the car move!
fa le karce cu muvdu fe ti
The car moves here.
ko jai gau muvdu fai le karce fe ti
Move the car here!

muvdu - is moving is transformed into a new verb jai gau muvdu - to move.

muvdu = x1 moves to x2 from x3 via x4
jai gau muvdu fai le karce = x1 moves the car to x2 from x3 via x4

la alis cu klama
Alice comes.
la alis gau ko klama
Make Alice come!

Why? - ri'a and ni'i

- ri'a ma carvi
- lo nu lo dilnu cu klaku

- Why is it raining?
- Because the clouds are crying.
ri'a = because of ... (some event)
ri'a ma = why?

Unlike gau the preposition ri'a expects not an agent, but an event like the clouds are crying:

lo dilnu cu klaku ri'a lo nu lo dargu cu cilmo
Skies are crying resulting in the road being wet.

Therefore is the reverse word compared to because:

lo dilnu cu klaku i se ri'a bo lo dargu cu cilmo
Skies are crying. Therefore the road is wet.
  • ri'a = because
  • se ri'a = therefore

Another type of why is ni'i:

- ni'i ma nicte
- lo nu lo solri na te gusni

- Why is it night?
- Because the sun is not shining.
lo solri na te gusni i se ni'i bo nicte
The sun is not shining. Therefore, it's night.
ni'i = logically because of ...
seni'i = with the logical consequence that ..., logically therefore

Here we can't use ri'a as we are talking not about a result but about logical implication. The fact that it is night just logically follows from the sun not shining.

Prepositions more precise than ri'a

mi darxi la .kevin. mu'i lo nu ky. lacpu lo kerfa be mi
I hit Kevin because he pulled my hair.
mu'i = because (of motive …)

In this example, what we have is not two events which are physically connected, like clouds and rain, but three events:

  1. Kevin pulls my hair.
  2. I decide, as a result of this, to hit Kevin.
  3. I hit Kevin.

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. Thus, it is often useful to say not just general reactions (ri'a) but emphasize responses which have a cognitive/emotional element (mu'i).

la .salis. cu te dunda lo tartcita lo ctuca ki'u lo nu sy. carmi gunka
ki'u = because (due to explanation …)

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. [literally]

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.

Note: Don't get ki'u mixed up with ku'i which means but, however.

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 case ni'i ma nicte, however, the fact that the Sun isn't shining it is night logically entails that the Sun isn't shining. Here we can confidently use nibli or ni'i.

"So … that"

The expression so ... that is expressed in Lojban by splitting the sentence into two:

mi tai galtu plipe .i se ri'a bo mi farlu
I jumped so high that I fell down.
tai = preposition: in the manner of ...

Other examples:

mi tai zukte
I act this way
mi tai fengu
I am so angry.
fengu = x1 is angry of x2 (clause)

"If … then"

fau lo nu do fenki vau mi ba prami do
If you are crazy then I'll love you.
fau = preposition: with the event of ..., under circumstances ... (clause follows)

fau is much like ca (when) or bu'u (at (some place)).

In many cases we can replace fau with ca getting almost the same meaning (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.

fau and da'i. What if ...

da'i mi turni
I could be a king.
da'i nai mi turni
I am a king.
  • The interjection da'i marks the clause in which it is put as describing an imaginary event.
  • The opposite interjection da'inai marks the clause 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.

Clauses 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 explicitly clear about the events being imaginary da'i in these examples is to be put inside the fau clause:

  1. fau da'i da denotes that the event in this clause 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.

Words with possibility implied in their places

Some verbs have da'i implied in some of their places when you don't use da'i explicitly:

mi pacna lo nu do ba pluka sipna
I hope you will have a pleasant sleep.
pacna = x1 hopes for x2 (possible event) with likelihood x3 (number, by default li so'a i.e. close to 1)

mi kanpe lo nu do tsuku
I expect you to arrive.
mi kanpe lo nu do ba jinga vau li so'e
You'll probably win.
I expect with a high probability that you will win. [literally]
mi kanpe lo nu mi cortu fau ro nu lo rokci cu farlu lo tuple be mi
I know for a fact that if a rock lands on my foot, it will hurt.
kanpe = x1 expects x2 (possible event) with expected likelihood x3 (a number from 0 till 1, the default value is li so'a, i.e. near 1)

Unlike pacna the verb kanpe doesn't necessarily implies hope or wish. It can describe impartial expectation, subjective evaluation of the probability of a situation.

cumki fa lo nu do jinga
It is possible that you win.
- xu ba carvi
- cumki

- Will it rain?
- Maybe.
cumki = x1 (possible event) is possible, x1 may, might occur, x1 is a maybe.

- xu ba carvi
- lakne

- Will it rain?
- Probably.
lakne = x1 (possible event) is probable, likely

mi djica lo nu do jinga
I want you to win.
mi djica lo ka vitke fi la .paris.
I would rather visit Paris. I want to visit Paris.
djica = x1 wants x2 (possible event)

mi te mukti lo ka vitke fi la .paris.
I will visit Paris. I intend to/I'm gonna visit Paris.
mi te mukti vitke fi la .paris.
I'm visiting Paris intentionally.
te mukti = x1 is motivated to bring about goal x2 (possible event) by motive x3 (event)
mi kakne lo ka limna
I am able to swim.
mi pu kakne lo ka gunka
I could work. I was able to work.
kakne = x1 can, is able to do x2 (property of x1)

x2 describes a possible event.

mi te javni lo ka gunka
I should work.
te javni = x1 should/ought to do x2 (property of x1) under rule x3 (proposition)

x2 describes a possible event.

do na te javni lo ka tcidu
You don't have to read.
na te javni = x1 doesn't have to, needn't to do x2 (property of x1) under rule x3 (proposition)
x2 describes a possible event.
mi nitcu lo ka sipna
I need to sleep.
nitcu = x1 needs x2 (possible event)

mi bilga lo ka gunka
I must work. I am obliged to work.
bilga = x1 must, is obliged to do x2 (property of x1)
mi curmi lo nu do citka ti
I allow you to eat this.
curmi = x1 allows/permits x2 (possible event)
mi tolcru lo nu do nerkla
I forbid you to enter.
tolcru = x1 forbids/prohibits x2 (possible event)
xu do stidi lo nu mi sipna
Do you suggest that I sleep?
stidi = x1 makes a suggestion x2 (possible event
mi na birti lo nu ra klama
I'm not sure if he comes.
birti = x1 is sure that x2 (possible event) happens
mi senpi lo nu ra kakne lo ka limna
I doubt that he can swim.
senpi = x1 doubts that x2 (possible event) is true
senpi is the same as na'e birti
mi se xanri lo nu mi pavyseljirna
I imagine myself being a unicorn. I could be a unicorn.
se xanri
x1 imagines x2 (possible event)
x1 (possible event) is imagined by x2

Lesson 9. Logical conjunctions

Basic logical conjunctions in Lojban are based on 4 primitive ones: .a, .e, .o, .u. Here we'll cover them in detail.

Logical conjunctions for nouns

Here are the conjunctions combining two words: this and that.

  • ti .a ta = this and/or that
    • mi ba vitke lo mamta .a lo tamne
      I'll visit the mother or the cousin.
    • Note that .a can also be translated as at least one of the two values and thus leaves open the possibility that I will get round to visiting both of them at some point.
  • ti .e ta = this and that
    • mi ralte pa gerku .e re mlatu
      I've got a dog and two cats.
      I keep one dog and two cat. [literally]
  • ti .o ta = either this and that, or none
    • mi ba vitke lo mamta .o lo tamne
      I will visit either both the mother and the cousin, or none of them
  • ti .u ta = this, and perhaps that, this whether or not that
    • mi ba vitke lo mamta .u lo tamne
      I'll visit the mother whether or not I'll visit the cousin.
    • .u just emphasizes that the second value does not affect the truth of the sentence.

Placing na before a conjunction negates what is to the left of it. Placing nai after a conjunction negates what is to the right of it:

  • ti .e nai ta = this and not that
    • mi nelci la bob .e nai la alis
      I like Bob but not Alice.
      I like Bob and not Alice [literally]
    • We can also say ti .e nai ku'i ta (this but not that) adding a flavor of contrast for the second noun.
  • ti na .e ta = not this but that
    • mi nelci la alis na .e la Bob
      I don't like Alice but I do like Bob.
      I like Alice not and Bob [literally]
    • This may sound a bit weird for English speakers ("I like Alice not…") so you might prefer to swap the nouns and use .e nai instead: mi nelci la bob .e nai la alis or even mi nelci la bob .i mi na nelci la alis will mean the same.
  • ti na .e nai ta = neither this nor that (none)
    • mi nelci la alis na .e nai la Bob
      I don't like neither Alice nor Bob

Negating with other primitive conjunctions might not look intuitively usable, you can just learn them from examples:

  • ti .a nai ta = this if that, for this the exclusive condition to happen is that
    • mi ba vitke lo mamta .a nai lo tamne
      I will visit the mother but for that to happen I need to visit the cousin.
    • Thus ti .a nai ta means that ta is necessary (but may not be the only condition) for ti to be applied.
  • ti .o nai ta = either this or that
    • mi ba vitke lo mamta .o nai lo tamne
      I'll visit either the mother or the cousin.
    • If I want to say that that I will visit either the mother or the cousin but not both, I need .o nai (either/or). It's unlike .a (and/or) where I can visit both of them.
  • ti na .u ta = doesn't influence (not this, but perhaps that)
  • ti na .u nai ta = doesn't influence (not this, but perhaps that)
  • ti se .u ta = perhaps this, and that
  • ti se .u nai ta = perhaps this but not that

se is used only for .u because in other cases it leads to no effect in meaning.

These are used for connecting nouns. For connecting parts of compound verbs we use similar conjunctions: ja, je, jo, ju. So instead of the dot (pause) we use j here.

It's common to use ja, je, jo, ju for connecting nouns too.

Logical conjunctions for sentences

mi ralte pa gerku .e re mlatu
I've got a dog and two cats.
I keep one dog and two cat. [literally]

This is actually a contracted way of saying:

mi ralte pa gerku .i je mi ralte re mlatu
It is true that I have a dog. It is true that I have two cats.

.i je joins two sentences with a logical and, showing that two sentences are part of one thought and that both sentences are true.

Here are examples for other conjunctions for sentences:

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.

The same is applicable to other conjunctions:

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.
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).
la rome'os cu prami la djuliet .i ja nai la djuliet cu prami la rome'os
For Romeo to love Juliet it's necessary that 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).
la rome'os cu prami la djuliet .i jo la djuliet cu prami la rome'os
Either Romeo loves Juliet and Juliet loves Romeo, or none of the two events happens.
means that if Juliet loves Romeo, he loves her, and if she doesn't love him, he doesn't love her.
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.

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.

Note that da refers to the same entity when several sentences are connected to each other using conjunctions or with prepositions with bo (like ba bo). So if I say da klama lo barja .i je da fenki you can assume I'm referring to the same person in both sentences.

Logical conjunctions for compound verbs

lo melbi xunre cukta
beautifully red books
lo melbi je xunre cukta
beautiful and red books

Other conjunctions also make sense:

mi nelci ro lo xajmi ja melbi prenu
I likes all of funny or handsome (or both) persons.
mi nelci ro lo xajmi jo nai melbi prenu
I likes all of either funny or beautiful persons.
this might be explained if, for example, I find the qualities of humor and good looks incompatible, i.e. a mixture of the two would be just too much.
mi nelci ro lo xajmi ju melbi nanmu
I likes all of funny (whether or not beautiful) persons.

And once again we shouldn't forget the difference between connecting nouns and connecting parts of compound verbs:

mi ba vitke pa pendo e pa speni
mi ba vitke pa pendo je pa speni

I will visit a friend and a spouse.
The second Lojban sentence uses the common trend of using je for connecting nouns.
mi ba vitke pa pendo je speni
I will visit a friend-and-spouse

The last Lojban sentence means that the friend is also a spouse.

Logical conjunctions for clause tails

pu ku mi kelci la fudbol gi'e klama lo zdani gi'e pinxe lo ladru
I played football, went home, drank milk.

gi'e connects several clauses into one with some nouns shared. Look at this: It expands into pu ku mi kelci la fudbol i je pu ku mi klama lo zdani ... which would be lengthier.

With gi'e we keep the head of the clause constant, and specify nouns after each of the verb (kelci la fudbol, klama lo zdani ...)

Thus when using gi'e we have several main verbs in the tail, which means that it's actually several clauses (with a common head) joined together.

gi'e has the same final vowel as in je and thus means and.

Other conjunctions for joining clause tails:

  • gi'a for and/or
  • gi'o nai for either ... or
  • gi'u for whether or not etc.

So they have the same ending as conjunctions of .a series.

Prepositions in sentences with several tails

Note that prepositions in adverb form and in tense form make a difference when applied to sentences with several clauses:

  • preposition in adverb form is applied to the clause to the right of it with all its tails:
    • mi na ku citka lo finpe gi'e pinxe - I neither eat fish nor drink. Here, na is applied to citka lo finpe gi'e pinxe.
  • preposition in tense form is applied to one clause tail only:
    • mi na citka lo finpe gi'e pinxe - I don't eat fish but drink. Here, na is applied to citka lo finpe only.

Choice questions

Another type of English or can be found in questions:

— xu do pinxe lo tcati .o nai lo ckafi?
— je'u

— Will you drink tea or coffee?
— Yes.

That's a weird but a perfectly reasonable answer: Yes, I will drink tea or coffee.

Why this happens is because or has several meanings in English:

  1. A or B can mean either A, or B but not both. We use jonai here.
  2. A or B can mean A or B or both. We use ja here.
  3. A or B? can be a question meaning select from A and B, which of them do you choose? We use ji here.

Thus in the last case we use a separate question conjunction ji:

— do pinxe lo tcati ji lo ckafi?
— Will you drink tea or coffee?

Possible answers:

lo tcati .e lo ckafi
Tea and coffee.

lo tcati

lo ckafi

It is also possible to use conjunctions when replying:

.eBoth (the first and the second item is chosen)

.e naiThe first one (tea) (the first but not the second one is chosen)
na .eThe second one (coffee) (not the first but the second one is chosen)

na .e naiNeither (not the first and not the second one is chosen)

You can ask questions in the same way about the other kinds of conjunctions we have looked at. The interrogative conjunction for clause tails is gi'i, for compound verbs - je'i, for sentences — .i je'i.

It's common to use ji for compound verbs too and .i ji for sentences.

Indirect questions are achieved by using ji kau:

Consider the waiter asks a visitor

- lo lanme ji lo bakni
- lamb or beef?

Once the visitor answers, the waiter knows whether the visitor wants to eat lamb or beef:

ba lo nu le vitke cu spusku vau lo bevri cu djuno lo du'u le vitke cu djica lo ka citka lo lanme ji kau lo bakni
After the visitor replies, the waiter knows whether the visitor wants to eat lamb or beef.

Forethought conjunctions

ge do gi mi
both you and I
ge nai do gi mi
Not you but I
ge do gi nai mi
You but not I
go nai do gi mi
Either you or I

Forethought conjunction ge means and but it's placed before the first noun. gi separates the two nouns. The series is parallel to other conjunctions. It is ga, ge, go, gu and also ge nai, go nai etc. The separator gi is the same for all of them.

Using such conjunctions is a matter of convenience:

mi citka ge nai lo bakni gi lo jipci
I eat not beef but chicken.

Here, like in English not is stated before the first noun.

ge and words in this series can still be used for connecting clauses too:

ge mi dansu gi mi zgipli lo pipno
I both dance and play the piano.
zgipli = x1 plays musical instrument x2
lo pipno = piano
.i ga nai pu zi carvi gi ca cilmo
If it has been raining recently, it's wet now.

Lesson 10. Structuring text

ju'a and assertions

le nakni cu fenki i ji'a je la alis cu jinvi lo du'u go'i
The man is crazy. And Alice thinks that too.
la alis cu jinvi lo du'u le nakni cu fenki
Alice has an opinion that the man is crazy.

By default the main clause of sentence asserts some information. Clauses inside places or relative clauses may not be asserted. In the last example that the man is crazy is not asserted by the speaker. It's only Alice's opinion.

The interjection ju'a makes the clause as asserted by the speaker. The first sentence can be thus rephrased as:

la alis cu jinvi lo du'u ju'a le nakni cu fenki
Alice has an opinion that the man is crazy, and it is so.

English often fails to translate this powerful ju'a concisely, thus the English translation doesn't follow the word order of the Lojban original.

One more example:

mi nelci lo nu do dansu
I like when you dance.
mi nelci lo nu ju'a do dansu
I like that you dance.

In the second case the speaker asserts "You dance".

pe'a for metaphors, za'e for nonce words, ba'e for emphasis

le ninmu cu tarci pe'a i va'i ri misno
The woman is a "star". I other words, she is famous.
pe'a = interjection: marks a construct as metaphorically used.
tarci = x1 is a star

tarci denotes real stars, objects in the sky. The interjection pe'a

i ba ku mi pu viska lo cizra stuzi poi lo fagri cu nenri i mi pu klama za'e le fagrystu
And then I saw a strange place with a fire inside. I came to that (how to say) "fire-place".
za'e = left interjection: marks the following construct as used not in its usual meaning

Left interjections like their name suggests are put before a construct modified (whereas other interjections are put after it).

The left interjection za'e shows that the following construct, le fagrystu in this case, is made up or used not in its standard meaning, i.e. there wouldn't be need to look up in the dictionary or ask the speaker specifically about the meaning of this word since the word is used to further describe the story.

ba'e la alis e nai la kevin pu darxi mi
Alice, not Kevin hit me!
mi djuno lo du'u ma kau pu darxi ba'e mi i ku'i mi na djuno lo du'u ma kau pu darxi do
I know who hit me. But I don't know who hit you.
ba'e = left interjection: puts an emphasis on the following construct

To emphasize a word we would use stress in spoken English, and underlining, italics or capital letters in written English.

In Lojban we use the left interjection ba'e.

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.

i pa nintadni pu vitke lo ctuca bu'u lo galtu bu'u lo darno cmana
- i doi lo ctuca noi certu tavla fo la lojban vau, do skicu e'o fi mi fe lo nu fi ma kau fa la Lojban cu frica fe lo drata bangu
i le ctuca pu dunda fi le nintadni fe lo kabri be lo jinto djacu gi'e ba bo cusku di'e
- i ca ti ko catlu le djacu gi'e skicu ri
- i ku'i mi mo'u pinxe ri i mi na kakne lo ka catlu
- i ki'u ma do na kakne
- i le djacu ca pagbu lo mi xadni


i lo mudri co'a pagbu lo zdani be da
i lo bangu poi se tadni co'a pagbu lo menli be de
i lo dirgo be lo djacu co'a pagbu lo zmadu be fi lo ka banli

A newbie visited a Master far high in the mountains.
- Master, you speak fluent Lojban. Please, tell me what is the difference between Lojban and other languages.
The Master offered him a cup of spring water and then said:
- Now look at the water and describe it.
- But I drank it up. I can't look at it.
- Why can't you?
- Now it's a part of my body.

A piece of wood becomes a part of someone's house.
A language learnt becomes a part of someone's mind.
A drop of water becomes a part of something greater.

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 na djica lo drata toi plise cu fusra
This (no, I don't want another one!) apple is rotten.
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.

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
valsi = x1 is a word with the meaning x2 in language x3

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 clause to serve as the correction. It then goes back in the sentence, looking for the last time you used a clause starting with the same word or another word of the same class (selma'o). Once it finds the last such clause, it replaces all text from that clause up to sa with the clause following sa. For example:

.i mi te benji gi'e 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 clause beginning with ca: ca lo prulamdeiyesterday. The English version would be Yesterday I mailed you... actually, it was Tuesday.

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 clause 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.

Reverse mi and do using ra'o

- mi prami do
- go'i ra'o

- I love you.
- I love you too.
ra'o = interjection: updates meaning from the viewpoint of the current speaker

If someone says mi prami do and you reply go'i ra'o, that reverses the pronouns mi and do so that they apply from your point of view. So every pronoun gets re-evaluated.


- mi prami do
- go'i

- I love you.
- You do.

A simple go'i still makes mi refer to who used it and do refer to the listener of who said it.

Lesson 11. More about pronouns

Four meanings of "you" in English

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, for example, 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).

"we" — different ways of saying that

We've seen that the notion of we isn't popular in Lojban and mi jo'u lo pendo be mi or lo pendo be mi be'o jo'u mi are used instead.

However, there are several pronouns close in meaning to we.

mi'o = you and I
mi'a = we without you
ma'a = you and I and another/others

Some languages have such separate words for we. Lojban provides us with both the English we and a richer set of more precise words.

And finally:

mi = I or the speakers

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 de'i li cy. 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.

Finally, there is mi'ai, an equivalent of English we:

mi'ai = I and at least one other person (corresponds to English "we")
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)

You are always free to revert back to mi'ai, which might be more comfortable sometimes.

lo pa do = you one

We know that lo re mlatu means two any cats. It's also possible to put numbers after lo and before pronouns.

The recommended method is turning pronouns into verbs first:

lo re me do ko klama ti
You two, come here.

It's possible to omit me in this position and say lo re do ko klama ti but this can lead to confusion in beginners.

More about short relative clauses

Two constructs used in some styles:

1. Short relative clauses with a pronoun after them can be put just after lo:

lo pe mi gerku
lo gerku pe mi

My dog

2. pe in such cases can even be omitted:

lo mi gerku
lo gerku pe mi

My dog
Thus, "lo noun verb" is equivalent to "lo verb pe noun".

A few rules:

  • if you want to use a noun converted from a verb (for example, with lo) or a name then it's advisable to use pe and put it after the noun: lo gerku pe la .alis. (the Alice's dog).
  • it's okay to omit pe only if you use pronouns without numbers in front of them: lo do gerku (my dog) but not lo pa do gerku (you one is a dog).
It's much safer to use pe explicitly 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.

Lesson 12. Quotations

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. [literally]

zo .bob. is the word, whereas la bob. is the thing named by the word. The particle la'e and lu'e convert back and forth between references and their referents:

zo .bob. cmene la'e zo .bob.
The-word “Bob” is-the-name-of the-referent-of the-word “Bob”.
lu'e la bob. cmene la bob.
A-symbol-for Bob is-the-name-of Bob.

Last two examples mean the same. But this is different:

la bob. cu cmene la bob.
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 adapting them to Lojban, however, can make for a cumbersome text.

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?

Lesson 13. Enriching vocabulary

New words using prepositions

Many English words correspond to word combinations in Lojban:

lo ve'i cmana = hill (literally "mountain/hill covering little space")
lo ve'u xamsi = ocean (literally "sea/ocean covering large space")
lo ba'o tricu = stump of a tree (literally "no longer tree")

loi and masses

loi makes a noun showing a mass:

lo prenu = person, people
loi prenu = crowd, a mass of people
loi prenu pu smaji
The crowd was silent.
loi prenu cu sruri lo jubme
People surrounded the table.
jubme = x1 is a table

It's not an error to use lo here but by using loi we explicitly show that it's a mass of people that surrounded the table. loi is a shortcut. The full form is:

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

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.

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 clause, 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 clause.

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 doris e la alis onaibo la bob
Doris 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 doris e ke la alis onai la bob

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:

ge la doris gi go nai la alis gi la bob
Doris and either Alice or Bob


go nai ge la doris gi la alis gi la bob
Either Doris 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 clause as the previous Lojban one, but much more easy to understand. Notice that any noun before the compound 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:

ti 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, gi'e, gi'a etc. bind even looser than co. This is in order to totally avoid confusion about which verb word binds to which in a gi'e. The answer is simple: gi'e 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 gi'e series
  3. not using grouping words
  4. co
  5. gi'e series (clause-tail afterthought connectives)

Non-standard connective system

Some people for connecting nouns instead of

  • a, e, o, u


  • ja, je, jo, ju

That is instead of

mi e do nelci lo plise
I like apples, and you like apples.

they say

mi je do nelci lo plise
I like apples, and you like apples.

This is a non-standard approach. People use this style because in it there are fewer conjunctions to remember.

But you should be careful not to forget lo or numbers to form nouns: mi nelci lo plise je jisra would mean I like something that is an apple (or apples) and is juice (?!)

The correct sentence uses lo to form every noun:

mi nelci lo plise je lo jisra
I like apples and juice.

In standard approach the speaker uses a separate conjunction e when connecting nouns, and it's easier to see the difference and the correct meaning:

mi nelci lo plise .e lo jisra
I like apples and juice.

Lojban community

lojban.org website contains the main up-to-date information on Lojban and Lojbanists around the world.

See also

A dictionary made to accompany the textbook

Retrieved from "https://mw.lojban.org/index.php?title=L17-01&oldid=121392"