Lojban Tutorial

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A Lojban Beginners' Course

This set of lessons aims to give a basic grounding in the constructed language Lojban. If you don't know what Lojban is, or would like to know more about the language before learning it, you can read my Lojban Introductory Essay or visit the main Lojban site.

This course is not an official publication of the Logical Language Group, and any shortcomings are my own. However, I would like to thank the members of the Lojban community, particularly Nora LeChevalier, for corrections and suggestions. Lessons are added to this site as they are written and proofread; you can also find drafts of other lessons by typing in URLs like ~pp~www.bilkent.edu.tr/~robin/lesson*.html~/pp~, where * is the number of the lesson. However, you read the drafts entirely at your own risk; they may contain typos, bad explanations and even bad Lojban - nobody's perfect! There will be about 12 lessons when the course is complete.

OK, that's enough boring stuff, let's learn some Lojban ....

Robin Turner, 1999. All material on these pages may be freely copied, distributed or translated providing that this agreement is included.

Very loose translation

Susan felt a bit embarrassed. She

looked down at her glass. Just then, she found it very interesting.

Ranjeet and Jyoti kissed each other. "I think you two have just met,"

she said. The wine was somehow incredibly interesting, and she drank it

quickly. "Errr, no, we've never met," said Ranjeet. A little later,

Susan laughed. "Come on, you're both being silly," she said, "Let's go

to the disco."

LESSON 1: Sounds, names and a few attitudes

The first thing you need to do when you learn a foreign language is to

become familiar with the sounds of the language and how they are

written, and the same goes for Lojban. Fortunately, Lojban sounds

(phonemes) are fairly straightforward.


There are six vowels in Lojban.

  • a~--~as in "father" (not as in "hat")
  • e~--~as in "get"
  • i~--~as in Italian "vino" (not as in "hit")
  • o~--~as in "so"
  • u~--~as in "cool" (not as in "but")

These are pretty much the same as vowels in Italian or Spanish. The

sixth vowel, y, is called a "schwa" in the

language trade, and is pronounced like the first and last "A"s in

"America" (that's English "America", not Spanish). It's the sound that

comes out when the mouth is completely relaxed.

Two vowels together are pronounced as one sound (diphthong). Some

examples are:

  • ai~--~as in "high"
  • au~--~as in "how"
  • ei~--~as in "hey"
  • oi~--~as in "boy"
  • ia~--~like German "Ja"
  • ie~--~like "yeah"
  • iu~--~like "you"
  • ua~--~as in "quark"
  • ue~--~as in "question"
  • uo~--~as in "quote"
  • ui~--~like "we", or French "oui"

Double vowels are rare. Two examples are ii, which is pronounced like English "ye" (as in "Oh

come all ye faithful") or Chinese "yi", and uu,

pronounced "wu".


Most Lojban consonants are the same as English, but there are some


  • c~--~"sh", as in "ship"
  • j~--~as in "measure" or French "bonjour"
  • x~--~as in German "Bach", Spanish "Jose" or Arabic "Khaled"

The English sounds "ch" and "j" are written as tc and dj.

doesn't use the letters H, Q or W.

Special Characters

Lojban has no punctuation, but some of the characters normally used

in punctuation affect the way Lojban is pronounced. A full stop

(period) is a short pause to stop words running into each other. An

apostrophe separates two vowels, and is pronounced like an H. For

example, ui is normally pronounced "we", but u'i is "oohee".

Commas are rare in Lojban, but can be used to stop two vowels blurring together when you don't want to

use an apostrophe (which would put a "h" between them). No Lojban words

have commas, but they're sometimes used in writing non-Lojban names, for

example pi,ER. (Pierre).

Capital letters are not normally used in Lojban. We use them in non-Lojban words (like

Pierre) when the stress of a word is different from the Lojban norm.

This is to put the stress on the last-but-one syllable, so, for example,

kurmikce (nurse) is kurmikce, not kurmikce. The name "Juliette" would be written DJUli,et. if pronounced in an English way, but julIET. if pronounced as in French.

"Correct" pronunciation

You don't have to be very precise about Lojban pronunciation,

because the phonemes are designed so that it is hard to mistake one

sound for another. This means that rather than one "correct"

pronunciation, there is a range of acceptable pronunciation~--~the

general principle is that anything is OK so long as it doesn't sound too

much like something else. For example, Lojban r can be pronounced like the R in English, Scottish or French.

Two things to be careful of, though, are pronouncing Lojban i and u like Standard

British English "hit" and "but" (Northern English "but" is fine!). This

is because non-Lojban vowels, particularly these two, are used to

separate consonants by people who find them hard to say. For example,

if you have problems spitting out the zd in zdani (house), you can say "zIdani"~--~the first

I is very short, but the second has to be long.

Lojban with attitude!

If you tried pronouncing the vowel combinations above, you've

already said some Lojban words. Lojban has a class of words called

"attitudinal indicators", which express how the speaker feels about

something. The most basic ones consist of two vowels, sometimes with an

apostrophe in the middle. Here are some of the most useful ones.

fear (think of "Eeek!")
discovery, "Ah, I get it!"
wonder, "Wow!"
pity, sympathy*
repentance, "I'm sorry!"

In English, people have started to avoid the word "pity", because it

has come to have associations of superiority. .uu is just the raw emotion~--~if you wanted to

express pity in this rather condescending way, you'd probably say .uuga'i~--~"pity combined with a sense of

superiority," or .uuvu'e~--~"pity combined

with a sense of virtue." There again, you would probably just keep your

mouth shut.

You can make any of these into its opposite by adding nai, so .uinai means "I'm

unhappy", .aunai is reluctance, .uanai is confusion ("I don't get it") and so on.

You can also combine them. For example, .iu.uinai would mean "I am unhappily in love." In

this way you can even create words to express emotions which your native

language doesn't have.

Attitudinal indicators are extremely useful and it is well worth

making an effort to learn the most common ones. One of the biggest

problems people have when trying to speak in a foreign language is that,

while they've learned how to buy a kilo of olives or ask the way to the

post office, they can't express feelings, because many languages do this

in a round-about way (outside group therapy, very few British people

would say outright that they were sad, for example!). In Lojban you can

be very direct, very briefly (there are ways of "softening" these

emotions, which we'll get to in a later lesson). In fact, these

attitudinals are so useful that some Lojbanists use them even when

they're writing in English, rather like emoticons (those e-mail symbols

like ;-)  :-( etc.).

Exercise 1

Using the attitudinal indicators above (including

negatives), what might you say in the following situations?

  1. You've just realised where you left your keys.
  1. Someone treads on your toes.
  1. You're watching a boring film.
  1. Someone's just told you a funny story.
  1. You disagree with someone.
  1. Someone's just taken the last cookie in the jar.
  1. You really don't like someone.
  1. You are served a cold, greasy meal.
  1. Your friend has just failed a test.
  1. There is a large green beetle crawling towards you.

Lojban Names (cmene)

Watch any film where people don't know each other's language. They

start off saying things like "Me Tarzan," which is as good a place to

start learning Lojban as any. So here we go.

mi'e robin.
I-am-named Robin; I'm Robin

mi'e is related to mi, which is "I", "me" and so on. It's a good

example of the apostrophe separating two vowels, and sounds a bit like

"me hey".

I am lucky because my name goes directly into Lojban without any

changes. However, there are some rules for Lojban names which mean that

some names have to be "Lojbanised". 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 "Hozey", and "Margaret" in Chinese is magelita. Some sounds just don't exist in some

languages, so the first thing you need to do is rewrite the name so that

it only contains Lojban sounds, and is spelled in a Lojban way.

Let's take the English name "Susan". The two S's are pronounced

differently~--~the second one is actually a Z~--~and the A is not

really an "a" sound, it's the "schwa" we just mentioned. So "Susan"

comes out in Lojban as suzyn..

You may have noticed the extra full stop (period) there. This is

necessary because if you didn't pause, you might not know where the name

ended and the next word began. In addition, if a name

begins with a vowel, you need a full stop there as

well. For example:

.IBraxim. or .IBra'im.

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. .

An important rule for Lojbanising names is that the last letter of a cmene (Lojban name) must be a consonant. Again,

this is to prevent confusion as to where a name ends, and what is and is

not a name (all other Lojban words end in a vowel). We usually use S

for this, 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..

A few combinations of letters are illegal in Lojbanised names,

because they can be confused with Lojban words: la, lai and doi. So "Alabamas" can't be .alabamas. but needs to be .alybamas. , for example.

The final point is stress. As we've seen, Lojban words are stressed

on the penultimate syllable, and if a name has different stress, we use

capital letters. This means that the English and French names "Robert"

come out differently in Lojban: the English name is robyt. in UK English, or rabyrt. in some American dialects, but the French is


To give an idea of how all this works, here are some names of famous

people in their own language and in Lojban.


  • Margaret Thatcher - magryt.tatcys. (no "th" in Lojban because most people around the world can't say it!)
  • Mick Jagger - mik.djagys.


  • Napoleon - napolion.
  • Juliette Binoche - julIET.binOC.


  • Laozi - laudzys.
  • Mao Zedong - maus.dzeDYNG.


  • Mustafa Kemal - MUStafas.kemal.
  • Erkin Koray - .erkin.korais.


  • Ludwig Wittgenstein - ludvig.VITgynctain.
  • Clara Schumann - klaras.cuman.


  • Isabel Allende - .izaBEL.aiendes.
  • Che Guevara - tcegevaras.

Exercise 2

Where are these places?

  1. niu,IORK.
  1. romas.
  1. kitos.
  1. kardif.
  1. .beidjin.
  1. .ankaras.
  1. prictinas.
  1. keiptaun.
  1. taibeis.
  1. bon.
  1. delis.
  1. nis.
  1. .atinas.
  1. lidz.
  1. xelsinkis.

Exercise 3

Lojbanise the following names:

  1. John
  1. Melissa
  1. Amanda
  1. Matthew
  1. Michael
  1. David Bowie
  1. Jane Austen
  1. William Shakespeare
  1. Sigourney Weaver
  1. Richard Nixon
  1. Quito
  1. Istanbul
  1. Madrid
  1. Tokyo
  1. San Salvador

Lojban words as names

By now you should be able to Lojbanise your own name. However, 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. Native

Americans generally translate their name when speaking English, partly

because they have meaningful names, and partly because they don't expect

the wasichu to be able to pronounce words in

Lakota, Navaho or whatever!

All Lojban words end in a vowel, and although you

can use them as names as they stand, it's common to

leave out the final vowel to make it absolutely clear that this is a

name and not something else (Lojban goes for overkill when it comes to

possible misunderstanding). So if your name or nickname is Cat (Lojban

mlatu), you can either add s like a normal cmene to

make mlatus., or just chop the end off and call

yourself mlat..

Here are a few examples:

  • Fish - finpe - finp.
  • Bear - cribe - crib.
  • Green - crino - crin.
  • Mei Li (Chinese = beautiful) - melbi - melb.
  • Ayhan (Turkish = Moon Lord) - lunra nobli (= lurnobli) -


Answers to Exercises

Exercise 1

  1. .ua
  1. .oi
  1. .u'inai
  1. .u'i
  1. .ienai
  1. .oi, .i'enai, or even .oi.i'enai
  1. .iunai Probably .a'unai.oi, unless you like cold greasy food, of course.
  1. .uu
  1. Depends on your feelings about beetles. .ii if you have a phobia, .a'unai if you are merely repelled by it, .a'u if you're an entomologist, and so on.

Exercise 2

  1. New York
  1. Rome
  1. Quito
  1. Cardiff
  1. Beijing (note the dj - the BBC always get this wrong!)
  1. Ankara
  1. Prishtina
  1. Cape Town
  1. Tai Pei (note b, not p)
  1. Bonn
  1. Delhi
  1. Nice
  1. Athens
  1. Leeds
  1. Helsinki

Exercise 3

There are usually alternative spellings for names, either because

people pronounce the originals differently, or because the exact sound

doesn't exist in Lojban, so you need to choose between two Lojban

letters. This doesn't matter, so long as everyone knows who or where

you're talking about.

  1. djon. (or djan. with some accents)
  1. melisys.
  1. .amandys. (again, depending on your accent, the final y's may be a
  1. matius.
  1. maikyl. or maik,l, depending on how you say it.
  1. deivd.bau,i. or bo,i (but not bu,i - that's the knife)
  1. djein.ostin.
  1. .uiliam.cekspir.
  1. sigornis.uivyr.
  1. ritcyrd.niksyn.
  1. kitos.
  1. .istanBUL. with English stress, .IStanbul with American, .istanbul. with Turkish. Lojanists generally prefer to base cmene on local pronunciation, but this is not an absolute rule.
  1. maDRID.
  1. tokios.
  1. san.salvaDOR. (with Spanish stress)

LESSON 2: Relationships and places

Names and relationships

In Lesson 1 we looked at cmene, Lojban names.

cmene always label one particular thing. Just as in English, if I say "Mary",

I mean one particular person called Mary, no matter how many people

there are in the world called Mary, so in Lojban, meiris. can

only refer to one person. This means that cmene can never

stand for classes of things (like "person", "dog" or "computer") or for

relationships between things (like "loves", "gives" or "is inside").

Relationships are the key to Lojban, and words describing a relationship

are called selbri. A selbri is not a type of word (like a "verb" in English), it is

something that some types of word can do. Various types of word can act as selbri, but cmene, as we've seen, can't.

The main type of word used as a selbri is a gismu, or root-word. These are the building blocks of Lojban vocabulary. gismu are easy to recognise, because they always have five letters, in the form

(C=consonant; V=vowel).

Exercise 1

Which of the following Lojban words are:

  • (a) gismu
  • (b) cmene
  • (c) neither? Note: I've left out the full stops in the cmene~--~that would make it too easy!
  1. lojban
  1. dunda
  1. ankaras
  1. mi
  1. cukta
  1. prenu
  1. blanu
  1. ka'e
  1. dublin
  1. selbri

Now we can recognise a gismu, let's see what we can make it do. dunda means "give", and as a selbri describes a relationship between a giver, something they give, and someone who receives it. Let's say we have

three people, Maria, Claudia and Julia. If we say

la mari,as. dunda la .iulias. la klaudias.

we mean that Maria gives Julia to Claudia~--~let's say Julia is a baby, as since the abolition of slavery, we don't normally give people as presents. In English you can "give" someone in marriage, but that's

a culture-specific metaphor, and Lojban discourages that kind of thing~--~it's an example of malglico ("bloody

English"), transferring features of English into Lojban which don't

work. If, on the other hand, we say

la .iulias. dunda la mari,as. la klaudias.

we mean that Maria is the baby, and Julia gives her to Claudia. How do

we know this? English uses the word "to" to indicate the receiver, and

in some other languages (like Latin or Turkish) the form of the words

themselves change. In Lojban, as in logic, we have what is called

place-structure. Place-structure means that

dunda doesn't just mean "give", it means
x{SUB()}1{SUB} gives x{SUB()}2{SUB} to x{SUB()}3{SUB}

where "x" means someone or something. Even if we just say dunda on its own, we still mean that someone gives

something to someone; we just aren't interested in (or we already know who or what.

We can say, then, that dunda has three "places". We can think of places as slots which we can, if we want, fill with people, objects, events or whatever. These places are called sumti in Lojban (easy to remember, as it sounds a bit like someone saying "something" and chewing off the end of the word). Again, a sumti is not a type of word, it is something a word does. The simplest Lojban sentence is a bridi, i.e. a selbri and a bunch of sumti. In other words,

bridi = selbri + sumti

Note for logicians and computer programmers: for selbri read "function"; for sumti read "argument."

How many sumti can a selbri describe? The number depends on the place structure of the word we use for the selbri (there are ways of tagging on extra sumti, which we'll cover in later lessons). A gismu has a set number of places; as we've just seen, dunda has three. The number of places varies from one to a staggering (and rare) five. Here are some examples.

One place

x{SUB()}1{SUB} is a woman (any female humanoid person, not necessarily adult)
x{SUB()}1{SUB} is white / very light-coloured
x{SUB()}1{SUB} laughs [[not necessarily at someone or something~--~to include the object of the laughter you would use the lujvo (compound word) mi'afra~--~x{SUB()}1{SUB} laughs at x{SUB()}2{SUB}, a slightly different concept]]

Two places

x{SUB()}1{SUB} is a bird/avian/fowl of species x{SUB()}2{SUB}
x{SUB()}1{SUB} flies in air/atmosphere using lifting/propulsion means x{SUB()}2{SUB}
x{SUB()}1{SUB} reflects Chinese Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, etc. culture/nationality/language in aspect x{SUB()}2{SUB}
x{SUB()}1{SUB} (person) is serious/earnest/has gravity about x{SUB()}2{SUB} (event/state/activity)

Three places

x{SUB()}1{SUB} is good/beneficial/acceptable for x{SUB()}2{SUB} by standard x{SUB()}3{SUB} [[This is very Lojbanic~--~the English word "good" on its own is so vague as to be almost meaningless. It is also slightly malglico to put a person in the x{SUB()}1{SUB} place, which is normally filled by an object, state or event~--~or moral good you would usually use vrude~--~"virtuous"]]
x{SUB()}1{SUB} is to the right of x{SUB()}2{SUB} facing x{SUB()}3{SUB} remember all those times you have to ask "Is that my right or your right?" in English
x{SUB()}1{SUB} leaves x{SUB()}2{SUB} for x{SUB()}3{SUB} by means x{SUB()}4{SUB}
x{SUB()}1{SUB} is a cup/glass/tumbler/mug/vessel/bowl containing contents x{SUB()}2{SUB}, and of material x{SUB()}3{SUB}

Four places

x{SUB()}1{SUB} seller sells/vends x{SUB()}2{SUB} goods/service/commodity to buyer x{SUB()}3{SUB} for amount/cost/expense x{SUB()}4{SUB}
tivni tiv
television x{SUB()}1{SUB} broadcaster televises programming x{SUB()}2{SUB} via media/channel x{SUB()}3{SUB} to television receiver x{SUB()}4{SUB}

Five places

x{SUB()}1{SUB} goes/comes to x{SUB()}2{SUB} from x{SUB()}3{SUB} via x{SUB()}4{SUB} by means x{SUB()}5{SUB}
x{SUB()}1{SUB} is a book about subject/theme/story x{SUB()}2{SUB} by author x{SUB()}3{SUB} for audience x{SUB()}4{SUB} preserved in medium x{SUB()}5{SUB}
x{SUB()}1{SUB} translates x{SUB()}2{SUB} to language x{SUB()}3{SUB} from language x{SUB()}4{SUB} with translation-result x{SUB()}5{SUB}

Determining place structure

If all these places sound a bit daunting, don't worry~--~you don't have to memorise all of them (in fact nobody does). There are a few cases where it's worth learning the place structure to avoid misunderstanding, but usually you can guess place structures using context and a few rules of thumb.

  1. The first place is often the person or thing who does something or is something (in Lojban there is no difference between "doing" and "being").
  1. If there is someone or something that has something done to them he/she/it is usually in the second place.
  1. "to" places nearly always come before "from" places.
  1. Less-used places come towards the end. These tend to be things like "by standard", "by means" or "made of". The general idea is that the places which are most likely to be filled come first. You don't have to use all the available places, and any unfilled places at the end are simply missed out.

Exercise 2

Try to guess the place structure of the following gismu. You probably won't get them all, but you should be able to guess the most important ones. Think of what needs to be in the sentence for it to make sense, then

add anything you think would be useful. For example, with klama, you need to know who's coming and going, and

although you could in theory say "Julie goes," it would be pretty meaningless if you didn't add where she goes to. Where she starts her journey, the route she takes and what transport she uses are progressively less important, so they occupy the third, fourth and fifth places.

  1. karce - car
  1. nelci - like
  1. cmene - name
  1. sutra - fast
  1. crino - green
  1. sisti - stop, cease
  1. cmima - member
  1. barda - big
  1. cusku - say, express
  1. tavla - talk, chat

gismu as sumti

So far we've seen how a gismu can express a relationship between two or more cmene, so we

can say things like

la bil. nelci la meilis.
Bill likes Mei Li

But if we don't know her name, how can we say "Bill likes the woman"? If we say la bil. nelci la ninmu, we mean that Bill likes someone whose name is "Woman". What we say, in fact, is

la bil. nelci le ninmu

What does le mean here? We translated it into English as "the", but that isn't quite it. The best way to think of it

is "the thing(s) I call". la + cmene is like a permanent label (Bill is always Bill). le +

gismu is more like a temporary label~--~I have something in mind, and choose to call it "woman". Probably she really is a woman, but with le this doesn't have to be so~--~we could be talking about a transvestite or a stone that looks a bit like a woman. There are other articles which can show that it's a real woman, or a typical woman or whatever, but we'll leave those alone for the time being.

One more word is sometimes necessary when using gismu as sumti: cu. This doesn't carry any meaning, but separates the selbri from whatever comes before it. It's not necessary with cmene, because they can't run

over into anything else, but le ninmu klama doesn't mean "The woman goes"; ninmu and klama get run together, with the result that it means "The woman-type-of goer" (maybe a female traveler). What we say

instead is

le ninmu cu klama

IMPORTANT! cu does NOT mean "is" (as in "The woman is going"). In fact it doesn't mean anything~--~it's just there to indicate that there's a selbri coming. You can also use cu after a cmene, but it isn't usually necessary. Similarly, you don't need cu after mi (I / me), do (you, the person I'm talking to) or any words like this ("pro-sumti", in Lojban jargon).

Exercise 3

Add cu to the following Lojban sentences where necessary, then work out what they mean.

  1. la klaudias. dunda le cukta la bil.
  1. le karci sutra
  1. la kamIL. cukta
  1. mi fanva la kaMIL. la lojban
  1. le prenu sisti
  1. le ninmu cliva
  1. la .istanbul. barda
  1. mi tavla la mari,as.
  1. la meiris. pritu la meilis. mi
  1. le cipni vofli
  1. crino
  1. ninmu

Changing Places

We've seen that if we don't need all the places (and we rarely do), then we can miss out the unnecessary ones at the end of the bridi. We can also miss out the first place if it is obvious (just as in Spanish). However, it sometimes

happens that we want places at the end, but not all the ones in the middle. There are a number of ways to get round this problem.

One way is to fill the unnecessary places with zo'e, which means "something not important". So la suzyn.

klama la paris. la berlin. zo'e le karci tells us that Susan goes to Paris from Berlin by car, but we're not interested in the route she takes. In fact zo'e is always implied, even if we don't say it. If someone says klama, what

they actually mean is zo'e klama zo'e zo'e zo'e zo'e but it would be pretty silly to say all that.

Most people don't want more than one zo'e in a sentence (though there's nothing to stop you using as many as you like). A more popular way to play around with places is to use the place tags fa, fe, fi, fo and

fu. These mark a sumti with a certain place, no matter where it comes in the sentence. For


la suzyn. klama fu le karce
Susan goes in the car / Susan goes by car

fu marks le karce as the fifth place (the means of transport). Without fu, the sentence would mean "Susan goes to the car."

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

fe le cukta cu dunda fi la klaudias.
The book was given to Claudia.

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

A final way to change places is conversion, which actually swaps them round, but we'll leave that for another lesson. There are no rules for which method you use, and you can use them in any way you want, so long as the person you're talking to understands.


In this lesson we've covered the following points:

  • The basic bridi structure.
  • The difference between cmene and gismu, and the article le.
  • The place structure of gismu.
  • cu to separate selbri from sumti.
  • zo'e to fill missing sumti places.
  • Changing places with place-tags.

Although there is a lot more to Lojban sentences than this, you now have the basics of Lojban grammar~--~the rest is just a matter of adding things on to it~--~different articles, tags, times, numbers and so on.

Answers to exercises

Exercise 1

  1. lojban - cmene
  1. dunda - gismu (give)
  1. .ankaras. - cmene (the capital of Turkey)
  1. mi - neither, it's a type of cmavo (structure word) called a "pro-sumti", a word that stands in for a sumti, like an English pronoun stands in for a noun
  1. cukta - gismu (book)
  1. prenu - gismu (person)
  1. blanu - gismu (blue)
  1. ka'e - neither, it's a cmavo or structure word, meaning "can"
  1. dublin. - cmene (the capital of Ireland)
  1. selbri - neither, it's a lujvo or compound word

Exercise 2

  1. karce
    x{SUB()}1{SUB} is a car/automobile/truck/van a wheeled motor vehicle for carrying x{SUB()}2{SUB}, propelled by x{SUB()}3{SUB}
  1. nelci
    x{SUB()}1{SUB} is fond of/likes/has a taste for x{SUB()}2{SUB} (object/state)
  1. cmene
    x{SUB()}1{SUB} (quoted word(s] is a/the name/title/tag of x{SUB()}2{SUB} to/used-by namer/name-user x{SUB()}3{SUB} (person)
  1. sutra x{SUB()}1{SUB} is fast/swift/quick/hastes/rapid at doing/being/bringing about x{SUB()}2{SUB} (event/state)
  1. crino
    x{SUB()}1{SUB} is green
  1. sisti
    x{SUB()}1{SUB} ceases/stops/halts activity/process/state x{SUB()}2{SUB} not necessarily completing it
  1. cmima
    x{SUB()}1{SUB} is a member/element of set x{SUB()}2{SUB}; x{SUB()}1{SUB} belongs to group x{SUB()}2{SUB}; x{SUB()}1{SUB} is amid/among/amongst group x{SUB()}2{SUB}
  1. barda
    x{SUB()}1{SUB} is big/large in property/dimension(s) x{SUB()}2{SUB} as compared with standard/norm x{SUB()}3{SUB}
  1. cusku
    x{SUB()}1{SUB} expresses/says x{SUB()}2{SUB} for audience x{SUB()}3{SUB} via expressive medium x{SUB()}4{SUB}
  1. tavla x{SUB()}1{SUB}
    talks/speaks to x{SUB()}2{SUB} about subject x{SUB()}3{SUB} in language x{SUB()}4{SUB}

Note the different place structures of cusku and tavla. With cusku the emphasis is on communication; what is communicated is more important than who it is communicated to. Quotes in e-mails frequently start with "do cusku di'e" (di'e means "the following") as the Lojban equivalent of "You wrote" (ciska - "write" - places more emphasis on the physical act of writing). With tavla the emphasis is rather more on the social act of talking~--~you can tavla about nothing in particular.

Exercise 3

  1. la klaudias. dunda le cukta la bil.
    Claudia gives the book(s) to Bill.
  1. le karce cu sutra
    The car(s) is/are fast.
  1. la kamIL. cukta
    "Camille" is a book.
  1. mi fanva la kaMIL. la lojban
    I translate "Camille" into Lojban.
  1. le prenu cu sisti
    The person(s) stop(s) whatever it was they were doing
  1. le ninmu cu cliva
    The woman/women leave(s)
  1. la .istanbul. barda
    Istanbul is big. (an understatement~--~it has a population of over ten million)
  1. mi tavla la mari,a.
    I talk to Maria.
  1. la meiris. pritu la meilis. mi
    Mary is on the right of Mei Li, if you're facing me.
  1. le cipni cu vofli
    The bird(s) flies/fly
  1. crino
    It's / they're green.
  1. ninmu
    She's a woman / They're women /There's a woman / There are some women In sentences 1, 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9, cu is possible but not necessary. In the last two sentences, cu is impossible, since it has to separate the selbri from the sumti that comes before it, and there are no sumti here.

Note that I have translated these sentences in the present tense (since in English you have to choose a tense) but they could be in any tense, so le cipni cu vofli could also mean "The bird flew", for example. We'll look at how Lojban expresses tense in later lessons; just remember that you don't actually need it~--~normally it's obvious whether an action takes place in the past, present or future.

Lesson 3

Commands, Requests and Questions

So far we've looked at simple propositions, sentences that say that

something is true. You can, in theory, say anything you want with

propositions, but it's pretty inconvenient. For example, if I want you

to run, I could say just that:

"I want you to run"

but I'd probably just say:


How do we do this in Lojban? We can't copy English grammar and just say

bajra, since, as we've seen, this means "Someone/something

runs". Instead we say

ko bajra

ko means you, the person I'm talking to, but only in commands

(in normal sentences it's do). Normally it comes in the first

place of the bridi, since normally you're asking people to do

something or be something, not to have something done to them. However,

you can put it elsewhere, e.g.

nelci ko

This means something like "Act so that someone unspecified likes you",

and sounds pretty odd in English, but you could use it in the sense of

"Try to make a good impression." Another example is:

mi dunda le cifnu ko

or "Act so that I give the baby to you," with the possible meaning "Get

up and put your cigarette out~--~I'm going to pass you the baby."

You can even have ko in two places in a bridi, for example,

ko kurji ko
Act so that you take care of you

or in other words, "Take care of yourself." In fact, since we can put

the selbri anywhere other than the beginning of the sentence

(since this would imply "someone/something" for the first place), we can

(and do) say

ko ko kurji

Exercise 1

Imagine that someone says these things to you. What is it that they want you to do?

  1. ko klama mi
  1. ko dunda le cukta mi
  1. la .izaBEL. nelci ko
  1. ko sutra
  1. ko ko nelci

So far we've looked at simple commands. However, outside the army, we

don't normally use these very much~--~normally we ask people politely.

Foreigners in England often make the mistake of thinking that putting

"Please" in front of a command makes it into a polite request, which it

doesn't (in English we usually have to make it into a question e.g.

"Could you open the window?"). Fortunately, in Lojban, "please" really

is the magic word. Putting the attitudinal .e'o before a

sentence with ko changes it into a request e.g.

.e'o ko dunda le cukta mi

is literally "Please give me the book," but is actually more like "Could

you give me the book, please?"


In English, we make a yes/no question by changing the

order of the words (e.g. "You are ..." -> "Are you ...") or putting some

form of "do" at the beginning (e.g. "Does she smoke?"). This seems

perfectly natural to someone whose native language is English (or

German, or whatever) but is actually unnecessarily complicated (as any

speaker of Chinese or Turkish will tell you). In Lojban we can turn any

proposition into a yes/no question by simply putting xu at the

beginning. Some examples:

xu do nelci la bil.
Do you like Bill?
xu mi klama
Am I coming?
xu crino
Is it green?

There are two ways to answer these questions. Lojban, like some other

languages, does not have words that mean "yes" or "no". One way to

answer "yes" is to repeat the selbri e.g.

  • xu do nelci la bil.
  • nelci

We can also use go'i, which repeats the last bridi. In this case,

though, it doesn't mean do nelci la bil. but mi nelci la bil.~--~it is

the meaning, rather than the words of the bridi which are repeated. In

other words, in an answer to a yes/no question, it means "yes".

What about negative answers? Any bridi can be made negative by

using na. This negates the whole of the bridi, so you can put

it anywhere you want~--~most people either put it right at the beginning,

or before the selbri (I prefer the beginning, since then it is

clearer that I'm negating the whole thing). So na mi nelci la bil. means "It is not true that I like Bill," or in other words, "I don't like Bill."

As an answer to a question, we do the same thing, so we just say na nelci or na go'i.

Logical note: Negatives are a lot more complicated than they look, in

both English and Lojban. Strictly speaking, na mi nelci la bil. is

true even if I've never heard of Bill (since it's pretty hard to like

someone you know nothing about). We'll look at some other negatives

later, but for the time being na will do fine. Just as in

English, if you ask someone if they like Bill, and they reply "No"

because they haven't met him, they're being amazingly unhelpful.

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 klaudias.
"Who's going to London?" "Claudia."
mi dunda ma do le cukta
"I give what to you?" (probably meaning "What was it I was supposed to be giving you?") "The book."

Finally we have mo. This is like ma, but questions a

selbri, not a sumti~--~it's like English "What does X

do?" or "What is X?" (remember being and doing are the same!). More

logically, we can see mo as asking someone to describe the

relationship between the sumti in the question. For example:

do mo la klaudias.
"You ??? Claudia"

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


"I like her."
"I am her friend"
"I adore/am in love with her."
"I hate her."
"I'm angry with her."
"I kissed her."

Note 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. There are ways to specify

time in Lojban, but it's not necessary to use them (just to satisfy your

curiosity though, "I kissed Claudia" is mi pu cinba la klaudias.).

We've said that mo can also be a "What is

..." type of question. The simplest example is ti mo~--~"What

is this?". You could also ask la meilis. mo, which could mean

"Who is Mei Li?", "What is Mei Li?", "What is Mei Li doing?" and so on.

Again, the answer depends on the context. For example:

"She's a woman."
"She's Chinese."
"She's a policewoman."
"She's a singer" or "She's singing."
"She's beautiful." (possibly a pun, since this is what "meili" means in Chinese!)

There are ways to be more specific, but these normally involve a

ma question; for example la meilis. gasnu ma ("Mei Li

does what?").

There are more question words in Lojban, but

xu, ma and mo are enough for most of what you

might want to ask. Three other important questions, xo ("How

many?") ca ma ("When?) and pei ("How do you feel about

it?") will come in the lessons on numbers, time and attitudes.

Exercise 2: Lojban general knowledge quiz

Answer the following questions (in Lojban, of course). Most of the

answers are very easy; the trick is to understand the question!

  1. la brutus. mo la .iulius.
  1. ma prami la djuliet.
  1. xu la paris. nenri la .iunaityd.steits.
  1. ma ciska la .anas.kaREninas.
  1. xu la porc. sutra
  1. la .ozuald. catra ma
  1. xu la djorj.eliot. ninmu
  1. la sakiamunis. mo
  1. la cekspir. ciska ma
  1. la dolorez.kleiborn. mo
  1. xu la xardis. fengu la lorel.

Answers to Exercises

Exercise 1

  1. Come to me.
  1. Give me the book.
  1. Act so that Isabel likes you (or "Butter up Isabel" perhaps)
  1. Be fast ("Hurry up!")
  1. Like yourself. (note that changing the word order doesn't change the meaning here)

Exercise 2

  1. catra (assuming it's Julius Caesar we're talkin about)
  1. la romios. (assuming it's that Juliet)
  1. na nenri or na go'i, unless we're talking about Paris, Texas.
  1. la tolstois.
  1. Trick question. la can name a specific Porsche, not Porsches in general, so it might go fast or not (e.g. it could have just broken down and not go at all).
  1. la KEnydis.
  1. ninmu or go'i (Despite the pen-name, George Eliot was a woman)
  1. Not much we can say with the vocabulary we have at the moment other than prenu (maybe emphasising that Sakyamuni~--~the Buddha~--~was a person, not a God or somesuch). Other possible answers would be xindo~--~Indian, or pavbudjo~--~first Buddhist.
  1. Anything Shakespeare wrote, e.g. la xamlyt., la .otelos. ...
  1. cukta (it's a novel by Stephen King)
  1. fengu or go'i~--~we're talking about Laurel and Hardy here.

Lesson 4: Numbers, and a few more articles

One of the first things you learn in a new language is how to count, and

this course is no exception. However, in Lojban, numbers include much

more than just counting; for example, in Lojban, "some", "many" and

"most" are numbers.

Basic numbers

The numbers from one to nine are as follows:

  1. pa
  1. re
  1. ci
  1. vo
  1. mu
  1. xa
  1. ze
  1. bi
  1. so

This leaves zero, which is no (think "yes, we have no bananas").

You may have noticed that the numbers repeat the vowels AEIOU. Since you

can't get by without memorising numbers, try to think of mnemonics for the

unfamiliar ones. For example, although the sound is different, xa

has the X of "six", and I remembered so by thinking of the proverb

"A stitch in time saves nine," which is about sewing (.oi).

Numbers from 10 onwards are made by putting the digits together, just like

you'd say a telephone number. For example:


4,592 has a comma in it (or a full stop in some languages, just to make

things confusing). We can't use a comma in Lojban, because that means

"separate these two syllables" (as we saw in Lesson 1 with Lojbanised names

like zo,is. for "Zoe"). What we say instead is ki'o. We

don't have to use ki'o, but it can make things clearer. It also

has the advantage that if the following digits are all zeroes, we don't

need to say them, so 3,000 is ci ki'o. You can remember

ki'o easily if you think of "kilo"~--~a thousand.

Just as we have a word for a comma, we also have one for a decimal point:

pi (don't get this mixed up with the number "pi" - 3.1415... !). So

5.3 is mupici. In fact, pi is not always decimal~--~it's

the point for whatever system you're using.

Question: What is the difference between the following numbers?


li pa li re li ci

The first one, as we've seen, has to be "one hundred and twenty-three," so

the second is "one, two, three." li is the article for numbers.

Exercise 1

What are the following numbers in Lojban? (don't forget li!)

  1. 35
  1. 4,802
  1. 6,000
  1. 7.54
  1. 6,891,573.905

Numbers and articles

So far, we've looked at three articles: la, for cmene,

le, for sumti and li for numbers. So li bi

is "the number eight." Actually, outside mathematics, li is not

used very much. What we usually want to say is things like "three people,"

or "the two women."

Note for mathematicians: Lojban has a number of words to deal with

basic mathematics, and also an incredible number of words to deal with just

about any mathematical expression you can think of in a separate subset of

the language. But come on guys, this is a beginners' course.

We can use numbers either before or after le. For example,

ci le gerku
means "three of the dogs", while
le ci gerku
means "the three dogs."

What do we do, though, if we just want to say "three dogs"? For this we

need another article, lo. The logic of lo is pretty

complicated, but it basically means "something which really is," which nine

times out of ten is the same as English "a" or "some" (translating Lojban

grammar into English like this is a mortal sin, but even so, this is the

best thing to do with lo at this stage!).

Note for logicians: lo prenu cu klama expresses the proposition

"There exists at least one person, such that that person goes."

ci lo gerku therefore means "three of those which really are dogs",

or in plain words, "three dogs". lo ci gerku, however, means that

there are only three dogs in the world, which is not something you'd really

want to say (mathematicians and logicians can look up the relevant parts of

The Complete Lojban Language if they want clarification on this


Let us now consider the English sentence "Three dogs bit me." This actually

has two possible meanings. The one we would expect is that I was attacked

by a pack of dogs, and all of them bit me. However, I could be an extremely

unfortunate person who was bitten by three separate dogs on three different

occasions. Lojban is a logical language, and so does not tolerate this

confusion! If I say ci lo gerku cu batci mi, I just mean that three

dogs bite me. Maybe one dog bit me in the morning, one in the afternoon,

and one at night, or maybe I mean that I have been bitten by a dog three

times in my life. However, if I say lu'o ci lo gerku cu batci mi, I mean that a group of three dogs bit me. lu'o means

"the mass composed of" and in effect converts a bunch of individuals into a

coherent unit. If you're a fan of computer strategy games, think of

lu'o as like the "group" command for units (there's also an

"ungroup" command, lu'a).

With le things are simpler. While le pano ninmu means "the

ten women", '''lei pano ninmu means "the ten women treated as a

group or mass". Let's imagine that ten women I have in mind kiss me on ten

separate occasions. I could then say le pano ninmu cu cinba mi, in

which case I'd consider myself quite fortunate. However, if I say

'''lei pano ninmu cu cinba mi, I mean that the ten women kiss me

en masse, in which case I would consider myself either blessed or

harassed (maybe I'm a rock star or something). However, it does not

necessarily mean that each and every woman kisses me, simply that I was

mobbed by a group of ten women and kissed by one or (probably) more in the



Warning: this section gets into some tricky logical stuff. Skip it if

you're not interested.

Question: If le ci prenu means "the three people," and re le prenu means "two of the people, how do you say "two of the three


You probably go this one pretty easily: re le ci prenu. If,

however, we use lo, the meaning changes. We can't say re lo ci prenu to mean two out of any three people (i.e. two thirds of the

population). This is because while le ci prenu means the three

people that I have in mind, by the same logic, lo ci prenu means

the three people that actually exist, i.e. that there are only three people

in the universe. You would therefore only use the number+lo+number

formula if you knew the actual numbers rather than just the proportions,


re lo mi ci mensi cu nelci la rikis.martin.

Two of my three sisters like Ricky Martin.

This states two facts: that I have three sisters (not actually true!) and

that two of them like Ricky Martin (it doesn't actually state that my third sister hates him~--~she may be indifferent to him, or never have heard

of him). If I use le in the same sentence, it isn't actually wrong,

but it allows the possibility that I have, say, five sisters, but I'm only

talking about three of them! This is one of the few areas where le

and lo are not like "the" and "a/some".

One way out of this is to use fi'u, which is like the Lojban slash

sign. So "two out of every three people" is really "2/3 of people", or

refi'uci lo prenu


I've said that words like "most" and "many" are numbers in Lojban, which is

pretty logical if you think about it. The following "numbers" are

particularly useful:

none (we've already seen this as "zero")
each / all
almost all
many / a lot of
at most
at least

Some examples:

no le ninmu cu nelci la bil.
None of the women like Bill.
no lo ninmu cu nelci la bil.
No women like Bill. because '''''lo ninmu''_ potentially includes all women that exist
coi rodo
Hi, everyone
mi nelci ro lo mlatu
I like all cats.
mi na nelci ro lo gerku
It's not true that I like all dogs. (this is not the same as "I don't like any dogs", which would be mi nelci no lo gerku or mi na'e nelci rolo gerku~--~"I other-than-like all dogs")
so'i lo merko cu nelci la nirvanas.
Many Americans like Nirvana (the

group, not the mystical state).

so'u lo jungo cu nelci la nirvanas.
Few Chinese people like Nirvana.
su'e mu le muno prenu cu cmila
No more than five out of the fifty people laugh(ed) (let's say a comedian told a bad joke).
su'o pa lo prenu cu prami do
At least one person loves you.

This last one is logically the same as lo prenu cu prami do, which

means "there exists at least one person such that that person loves you,"

but it makes the meaning clearer and more emphatic.

Exercise 2

Translate the following sentences.

  1. All babies are beautiful.
  1. The pack of three cats bite the dog.
  1. What a surprise! Mei Li loves two men. (use an attitudinal indicator)
  1. Most men love at least one woman.
  1. It is not true that all men love at least one woman.
  1. The group of four women kiss Ricky Martin.
  1. It's a shame that no-one likes Bill. (use an attitudinal indicator)
  1. The baby bites two people (separately).
  1. One in three women like David Bowie.
  1. No more than 15% of Buddhists eat meat. ("Buddhist" is budjo, as you may remember from Lesson 3).
  1. Nine out of ten cats like "Whiskas." (use a cmene)

Number Questions

Remembering the sentence re lo mi ci mensi cu nelci la rikis.martin., how would I answer the following question?

xo le mensi cu nelci rikis.martin.
The answer, of course is re, which means that xo is the question word for numbers (though not all questions that can be answered with a number have to take xo, as we'll see in the next lesson).

xo is also used in mathematics, as in

li ci su'i vo du li xo
3 + 4 = ?

A few more examples:

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

Note: It is not actually necessary to include the lo after

xo. In fact, it isn't necessary after any number~--~for example

ci lo gerku could be simply ci gerku, if you prefer.

However, many Lojbanists prefer to keep the lo for the sake of


A final question

Lojban has no difference between singular and plural~--~"the dog" and "the

dogs" can both be le gerku. But suppose you wanted to make a

distinction between the two~--~how would you do it?


In addition to numbers, this lesson has entered the dangerous waters of

Lojban articles. Lojban articles may seem difficult at first, but they are

perfectly logical. In fact it's probably because they are logical that

people have problems with them to start off with - you have to learn to

think in a slightly different way. For the curious, here are the main

articles and article-like words:

that named
that described
that which really is
the number (lu is not an article, it's a quotation mark!)
the referent of (not really an article, as it takes a full sumti or pro-sumti, as in la'edi'u~--~the thing the last sentence refers to, as opposed to the words of the last sentence)
the stereotypical
the typical
the mass named
the mass described
the mass which really is
the set named
the set described
the set which really is

We also looked briefly at lu'o, which turns a set into a mass, and

lu'a, which turns a mass into a set of individuals ("group" and

"ungroup"). Strictly speaking, these aren't articles, though.

If all this looks terribly complicated, don't be discouraged! As you can

see, these articles are all really variants on la, le and

lo, which are normally all you will need. My personal advice (not

official Lojban policy!) is when in doubt, use le'''. This is

because the only time le is completely wrong is with a

cmene (which needs la, of course). If you use le

where another article would be more appropriate, you may not express

yourself as clearly as you wanted, but at least you will not be talking

nonsense, like you would in German if you said "der Frau".

Answers to Exercises

Exercise 1

  1. 35 = li cimu
  1. 4,802 = li vobinore or li vo ki'o binore (the spaces are optional)
  1. 6,000 = li xa ki'o
  1. 7.54 = li ze pimuvo (again the space is optional)
  1. 6,891,573.905 = li xa ki'o bisopa ki'o muzeci pisonomu (if that looks long, try writing it as a word in English!)

Exercise 2

  1. ro lo cifnu cu melbi
  1. lei ci mlatu cu batci le gerku
  1. .ue la meilis. prami re lo nanmu
  1. so'e lo nanmu cu prami su'o pa lo ninmu
  1. ro lo nanmu na prami su'o pa lo ninmu
  1. lu'o vo lo ninmu cu cinba la rikis.martin. (give yourself a pat on the back if you got that one right!)
  1. .uinai or .uu no lo prenu cu prami la bil. or na su'o pa lo prenu cu prami la bil.
  1. le cinfu cu batci re lo prenu
  1. pafu'ici loi ninmu cu nelci la deivd.bo,is. (note that "Bowie" is not pronounced bau,i or as in "bowie knife")
  1. su'e pipamu loi budjo cu citka lo rectu
  1. sofu'ipano loi mlatu cu nelci la .uiskas.

A final question

"The dog" would be le pa gerku. Normally, we wouldn't bother with

the pa though, unless we wanted to make it quite clear that we only

have one dog in mind. "The dogs" would be le su'o re gerku (or

lei su'o re gerku, if we're thinking of them as a group)~--~"the at

least two dogs". However, it is hard to think of many situations where you

would need to say this. Like some other languages (e.g. Chinese), Lojban

normally leaves number up to context. You guessed it~--~you've just spent

all this time learning to say how many people, dogs etc. there are, and

piso of the time, you don't need to! But, like many features of

Lojban, it can be very useful when you want it, so please don't feel


Lesson 5: Times, days, dates

One way to ask the question "What is the time?" is ma

tcika. We know that ma is the sumti

question word, so tcika must be

a selbri meaning "is the time", with the ti meaning "this event", or, in other words "now". The place structure of

tcika is

x{SUB()}1{SUB} (hours, minutes, seconds) is the time of state/event x{SUB()}2{SUB} on day/date x{SUB()}3{SUB}, at location x{SUB()}4{SUB}, by calendar x{SUB()}5{SUB}

A full answer would obviously be very long-winded, but remembering the

Lojban convention that you miss out all the places after the last one

you really need, a typical exchange would be:

  1. ma tcika ti
  1. li vo
  1. "What's the time?"
  1. "Four"

Note the li, since we are talking about a number here. li vo

is short for li vo cu tcika ti—"four is the time of this


If we want to be a bit more precise, we need to use pi'e.

This is like pi, but doesn't need to keep the same value. In

normal counting, pi is a decimal point, in hexadecimal it's a

hexadecimal point and so on, but it never changes its value.

pi'e doesn't have that restriction, so we can

use it to separate hours from minutes. So an alternative answer to the

question could be

li vo pi'e mu
"Five past four."

or if you want to be particularly precise,

li vo pi'e mu pi'e pabi
"Five minutes and eighteen seconds past four."

Let's imagine, though, that the time is not five past four, but five

to four. We can still say li ci pi'e mumu (4:55) but we can also

say li vo pi'e ni'u mu. ni'u is the

Lojban minus sign (for negative numbers, not for subtraction)—what we

are saying is "4:-5".

For "half past four" you can also use pi and say

li vo pimu—4.5. I don't particularly like

this method, but it is perfectly good Lojban. If we are using numbers

for times, it is normal to use the 24-hour system, so 6 p.m. is li pabi (18:00).

Another possibility, is to use cmene for

hours, so "four o'clock" is la vocac., "five

o'clock" is la mucac. and so on. For 11 and 12

we need extra numbers. Fortunately

Lojban has these and more; the number system actually goes up to 16

(hexadecimal), so we have the extra numbers


Obviously for anything

other than talking about computer programming, the numbers 13-15 are

useless, but we can use 10-12 for hours. "Ten o'clock" is la daucac. "Eleven o'clock" is la

feicac.and "twelve o'clock" is la gaicac..

For "morning" and "evening" we can then add lir. and lec.,

meaning "early" and "late". So la mucaclir. is five in the


Exercise 1

What are the following times in Lojban?

  1. Nine o'clock
  1. Eleven o'clock in the morning.
  1. Two in the afternoon.
  1. Midnight.
  1. 9:25
  1. 12:15
  1. 14:30
  1. 17:50

If we want to give the time of an event, rather than just tell the time,

we need to fill in some more places. The second place of tcika is "state/event", so we need some way to show

that the sumti in this position is a state or an event,

and not a thing.

la daucac. tcika le mi klama

does not mean "Ten o'clock is the time that I go" (or come!), but "Ten

o'clock is the time of my goer," which is meaningless. We get round

this problem with the word nu, which


guessed—"state/event". This is called an "abstraction descriptor" (or

"abstractor" for short), other common descriptors being ka (quality or property), ni (amount) and so on (for a complete

list, see The Complete Lojban Language, p. 269). What nu does here is allow us to put a whole bridi into

a sumti place. It's usually written together

with the article (le or lo) but is actually a separate word. So what we want


la daucac. tcika lenu mi klama

(note that there is no cu here, since la daucac. is a


If "Ten o'clock is the time that I go" sounds

backwards, there are two ways you can switch it round. One is using

se, which swaps the first and second places of

the bridi.

le nu mi klama cu se tcika la


means exactly the same thing. se is

co-incidentally is pretty much the same as Spanish "se", but is actually

part of a series along with te, ve and xe, which convert the first and third,

first and fourth, and first and fifth places. These aren't used so much

in sentences as se, but are often used in making

lujvo (compound words), as we'll see later in the course.

Still too long

and clumsy? Get ready for more Lojban tricks. It would be really nice

if klama had a place for the time of

going/coming, but it doesn't (after all, you wouldn't really want a

six-place selbri!).

To get round this problem of missing places, Lojban has a series of

"tags" of the class BAI. The one we want here is ti'u, meaning "with time". So we can now say

mi klama ti'u la daucac.

So why, you may ask, didn't I just say that in the first

place? I could have done, but then you wouldn't have found out about

nu and se! There is

more to this lesson than meets the eye.

Days and Months

The days of the week are also numbers, this time adding djed., from the gismu,

djedi, meaning "day".

There is at present some disagreement about which day should be day one,

though. The original convention was to follow the Judeo-Christian

convention of taking Sunday as the first day, giving

la padjed.
la redjed.
la cidjed.

... and so on. However, in a meeting in 1992 it was

agreed that Monday be day 1, and Sunday be either 7 (la zedjed.) or zero (la

nodjed.) according to taste. Eventually, though,

people will use whichever system they prefer until one becomes

universally accepted. This may sound chaotic, but I have gone into this

point as a good example of how in Lojban a large part of the language is

"left to usage"—meaning that ultimately the language depends on the

way people choose to use it in practice. People are also free to work

out alternative conventions for cultures which do not use a seven-day

week, possibly adding to the name to make it clear; e.g. la padjedjung. could be the first day of the Chinese

ten-day week.

Months also use numbered cmene, adding mast., so January is la

pamast. and so on. Again, since there are twelve months,

we use the extra numbers, so October is la


Exercise 2

What are these days and months in Lojban?

  1. Saturday
  1. Thursday
  1. March
  1. August
  1. November
  1. December

Just in case you're interested, the words for seasons are:


for full definitions of these words, see the gismu list). If the seasons where you live don't

match this pattern, then you can easily create new

words. For example, the rainy season or monsoon could be

carvycitsi (from carvi,

rain, and citsi, season) or simply la carv. . Here are some I made up for fun to give

a better idea of the weather in the UK:

la lekcarv.
"the cold rain"—Spring
la mliglacarv.
"the warm (mildly-hot) rain"—Summer
la bifcarv.
"the windy rain"—Autumn
la duncarv.
"the freezing rain"—Winter

Joking aside, this shows two features of word-building in

Lojban: making cmene by losing the final vowel

(which we saw in Lesson 1) and creating lujvo,

or compound words. You actually need a pretty good knowledge of Lojban

to make up lujvo on the spot, but we'll learn

how to make simple lujvo later on in this



The gismu for dates is detri:

x{SUB()}1{SUB} is the date (day, week, month, year) of state/event

x{SUB()}2{SUB}, at location x{SUB()}3{SUB}, by calendar x{SUB()}4{SUB}

Phew! Like tcika, though, most places of detri can be left out. The location is

only important if we're talking about radically different timezones, or

different planets, and the calendar is normally assumed to be the

standard Western one—if you want to use, for example, the Arabic or

Chinese calendars, you can put le xrabo or le jungo in the

fourth place (as always, context is important—in a discussion of

Islamic history we would probably assume that the Arabic calendar was

being used).

The tricky bit is the number in x{SUB()}1{SUB}. Normally we don't

want to specify the day, week, month and year! To prevent

confusion, the following conventions are used:

  1. If there is only one number, it is the day e.g. li pano is "the 10th".
  1. If there are two numbers, they are the day and month e.g. li pano pi'e pare is 10/12, or "the 10th of December".
  1. If there are three numbers, they are day, month, year (not month, day, year, as in the American convention) e.g. li repa pi'e ze pi'e pasoxaso is 21/7/69 - the date of the first moon landing.

We can therefore say

li repa pi'e ze pi'e pasoxaso cu detri lenu lo remna cu pamoi klama le lunra
21/7/1969 is-the-date-of the-event a human first go (to) the moon

Here we have another case of abstraction with nu. Just like articles have the terminator ku (which is usually missed out), abstractors like

nu have the terminator kei. kei is not necessary in

this particular sentence, because the abstraction comes at the end, but

it would be necessary if there were other places after

x{SUB()}2{SUB}—if, for example we wanted to emphasise that this was

the date in Houston (but not in Tokyo) we would say

li repa pi'e ze pi'e pasoxaso cu detri lenu lo remna cu pamoi klama le lunra kei la xustyn.
21/7/1969 is-the-date-of the-event a human first go (to) the moon (according to the time at) Houston

The kei here is important, as it is necessary to

stop the nu abstraction running into la xustyn., which would make the sentence say that a

person went to the moon from Houston—true, but not what we want. By

the way, if you're wondering why kei wasn't necessary in the tcika example, it

was because the cu marked the next word

as the main selbri.

Just as with tcika, we often want to put the event first—after

all in most languages we would normally say "My birthday is on the

fifteenth of August" rather than "The fifteenth of August is the date of

my birthday." We can manage this change by using place tags, e.g.

fe lenu mi jbena kei cu detri fa li pamupi'ebi
the-event I am-born is-dated 15/8

but it is easier to use se like this:

lenu mi jbena cu se detri li pamupi'ebi
the-event I am-born is-dated 15/8

And, as you probably guessed, there is a BAI tag for "dated": de'i (notice how BAI tags tend to be

similar to the selbri they suggest). So the

other way I can tell you my birthday is mi jbena de'i li


Question: If only one number is used with

detri, it is the day. So how do we say what year an event

happened without giving the day and month as well?

The gismu, nanca cannot be used instead of

detri, since it has the place-structure

"x{SUB()}1{SUB} is

x{SUB()}2{SUB} years in duration, by standard x{SUB()}3{SUB}," i.e. it gives the length of an

event in years, not the year when an event happened. One way out is to

use a cmene for the year, so the year I am

writing this would be la pasososonanc.

Exercise 3—history quiz

Give the dates to answer these questions, using cmene for the years.

  1. lenu la kolombus. facki lo cnino gugde cu se detri ma
  1. la mexmet. dable'a la konstantinopolis. de'i ma
  1. lenu fraso jecyga'ibai cu se detri ma
  1. la marks. .e la .engels. ciska le guntrusi'o selpeicku ku de'i ma
  1. la muxamed. klama la medinas. de'i maVocabulary:;facki:find, discover
conquer, sieze ("war-take")
revolution ("government-change-force")
Communist ("work-govern-idea")
manifesto ("thought-book")


Apart from times and dates, this lesson has covered some important

points of Lojban grammar.

  • Some simple lujvo.
  • The descriptor for states and events, nu, and its terminator, kei.
  • Conversion—swapping round places—with se.
  • The BAI tags ti'e ("with time") and de'i ("with date").

Answers to Exercises

Exercise 1

  1. la socac.
  1. la feicaclir.
  1. la recaclec.
  1. la revocac.orla gaicaclir. (if you follow the convention that midnight is 12 a.m.)
  1. li sopi'eremu
  1. li parepi'epamu
  1. li pavopi'ecinoorli pavopimu
  1. li pazepi'emunoorli pabani'upano

Exercise 2

  1. la zedjed.
  1. la mudjed.
  1. la cimast.
  1. la bimast.
  1. la feimast.
  1. la gaimast.

Exercise 3

  1. la pavosorenanc.
  1. la pavomucinanc.
  1. la pazebisonanc.
  1. la pabivobinanc.
  1. la xarerenanc. (or la pananc., if you're using the Muslim calendar)

Lesson 6: Time and Space: basic Lojban "tenses"

By this time, you may have been wondering what had happened to all the tenses. After all, a large part of learning a language is learning

tenses, and figuring out which one you ought to be using. English, for

example, has about a dozen tenses (depending on what you count as a tense) and some languages have more. Use the wrong one and you're, well, wrong. In addition, there are a load of words and phrases like "before", "in a while", "some time ago" and so on.

Lojban deals with time quite differently. Like some other languages

(e.g. Chinese), tense is not compulsory. All the bridi we've looked

at so far have had no particular time attached to them, and this is

perfectly acceptable, in fact it is normal. Saying mi klama ti

de'i la redjed. is good Lojban, even if out of context we don't know

if it means I'm coming here next Monday, or I came here last Monday. In most cases, sentences don't happen out of context, and the context is usually enough to tell us if we're talking about the past, present or future. Putting a past tense in just because the same sentence in English would be in the past tense is rather malglico.

Time with sumti

There are times, though, when you want to say things about time, and

Lojban has more than enough cmavo for this. Let's say that Zhang

left the bar at 10 o'clock and Susan arrived at 11 (thus missing her

date). The most precise way is to use times, as in the last lesson:

la jang. cliva le barja ti'u la jaucac. .i la la suzyn. klama le barja ti'u la reicac.

However, if the actual times are not important, we can say:

ba lenu la jang. cliva kei la suzyn. klama le barja
After Zhang left, Susan came into the bar.


pu lenu la suzyn. klama le barja kei la jang. cliva
Before Susan came into the bar, Zhang left. or more naturally, When Susan came into the bar, Zhang had already left. (this, by the way, is another case of context meaning you don't have to put everything in~--~we haven't said that the place Zhang leaves is the bar, we just understand it from the context)

What are these ba's, pus and keis? As you probably guessed, ba is "after" (from the gismu for "future" or "later", balvi) and pu is "before" (from the gismu for "past" or "earlier", purci). kei is a Lojban terminator~--~not a killer android, but a way of showing where a phrase finishes, a bit like closing brackets or parentheses. We saw this in Lesson 5 when we were talking about dates and times. kei is necessary here to keep the time phrase separate from the rest of the bridi~--~it's like the comma in the English sentence. In fact all sumti (other than cmene) and selbri have terminators, but usually we can leave them out, just like we leave out the cu separator when we don't need it. Just out of interest, the last sentence with all terminators and separators included would read:

.i pu le nu la suzyn. cu klama le barja ku vau kei ku la jang. cu

cliva vau

This is why we don't use terminators unless we really need them! A

criticism I've heard of Lojban is that all these terminators are "unnatural", and when I started learning the language I too had my

doubts about them. In fact terminators are just a more specific way of representing a pause in speech or a piece of punctuation in

writing~--~most of the time you don't need them, but it's very useful to have them available when you do. There are very specific rules for when a terminator can and can't be omitted, but in practice it comes

perfectly intuitively.

If we only want to say that Susan came to the bar later, and Zhang's

leaving is unimportant or understood, we can then say:

baku la suzyn. klama le barja

baku means "afterwards" or "later". The ku is necessary to

separate the ba from la suzyn. (you can also say it as two

separate words, ba ku~--~it makes no difference). Similarly, "Zhang

left earlier" or "Zhang had left" would be:

puku la jang. cliva

arrives just as Zhang is leaving. We can then say:

caku la suzyn. klama le barja:At that moment, Susan came. Which is

an easier way to say

ca lenu la jang. cliva le barja kei la suzyn. klama le barja

(note the difference between ku and kei here: ku separates

the ca from the rest of the sentence, while kei terminates an

event). ca also comes from a gismu, in this case cabna,

which means "now" or "simultaneous with", so another way to say the same thing would be

lenu la jang. cliva le barja cu cabna lenu la suzyn. klama la barja
The event of Zhang leaving the bar is simultaneous with the event of Susan coming to the bar.

We now have three "time words": pu (before), ca (at, while) and

ba (after). We can modify these with another three, zi, za and zu (series of cmavo often take an -i, -a, -u pattern, if they don't follow the AEIOU sequence).

These mean a short, medium and long time distance. So puzi is "a

short time ago," puza is "a while ago" and puzu is "a long time ago". How long "long" is depends on what we're talking about~--~if the subject is archeology, puzu could be thousands of years; if you've

missed your train it could be a matter of minutes.

Let's say this time the unlucky Susan missed Zhang by only a few

minutes. We could then say:

bazi lenu la jang. cliva ku la suzyn. klama le barja

or as two bridi,

la jang. cliva le barja .i caziku la suzyn. klama

Exercise 1

Translate the following. Don't forget your nus and kus!

  1. Juliette went to Paris a while ago.
  1. A long time ago, I read "Camille."
  1. Ivan just left.
  1. Yoshiko kissed Jorge just after Pierre came into the room.
  1. Tracy was sad just a minute ago. But Mike is happy now. Vocabulary: room -kumfa; badri~--~sad; gleki - happy;ku'i~--~but, however (bet you'd forgotten that one!).

Time and selbri

What we've looked at so far is similar to (but not quite the same as)

English words like "before", "after" and so on. However, we can use

exactly the same cmavo with selbri to give effects which are

similar (but not identical) to English tenses. Actually this is easier,

but I left it till later to avoid the danger of malglico!

Basically, any time cmavo can go before a selbri and put the

whole bridi into that time. So

la jang. pu cliva le barja

means "Zhang before-leave the bar," or "Zhang left the bar." We can do the same thing with zi/za/zu, so la jang. puza cliva le barja

means "Zhang left the bar a while ago."

Another group of cmavo which can be used here is ze'i/ze'a/ze'u.

Just as zi/ze/zu indicate a short, medium or long time from the present (or whatever other time we happen to be talking about), these

cmavo indicate short, medium or long times for the action or state

we are talking about. So mi ze'u bajra means "I run for a long

time." again, we can put these together, so mi puzaze'u bajra means

"A while ago, I ran for a long time." A few more examples ...

oi.uinai le mi zdani puzi se darxi lo lindi
Oh no! My house has just been struck by lightning! (Every language course has to have a few of these ridiculously artificial examples!) Note that if you have a tense before the selbri you don't need cu~--~zdani cannot run into puzi.
la bil. ze'u pinxe loi birje
Bill drinks beer for a long time.
mi bazize'a xabju la djakartas.
Pretty soon I'm going to live in Jakarta for a while.
la natos. baze'u gunta la belgrad.
NATO will attack Belgrade for a long time.

Note that this does not mean that NATO is not attacking Belgrade now (it is at the time I'm writing this). 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. There are ways to say that NATO will continue to attack, but that comes later (sorry, I know I keep saying that things will come later, but you wouldn't really want to have to learn everything at once~--~it would be like an English course teaching "will go" and "will have been going" in the same lesson). A complete explanation of time cmavo can be found in Chapter 10 of The Complete Lojban Language.


This is where things start getting strange. In Lojban, space can be a

"tense" just as much as time. This is because there is no difference

between what traditional grammar calls "prepositions" and tenses. As

we've seen, English, like many languages, treats a word like "earlier"

and the past tense ending "-ed" as two totally separate things, while in Lojban they're the same. Space words like "in" or "near" are

prepositions in English, and can never be tenses, but in Lojban we treat them just like time words (or if you prefer, you can say that Lojban treats time as a dimension, as in Einstein's physics).

Remember the word ti? This is part of a series ti, ta, tu, meaning roughly "this", "that" and "that over there." If we're talking about places rather than things, we say vi, va, vu, meaning roughly "here", "there" and "yonder" or "way over there". Again, this is determined by the thing you're talking about. If you're telling a doctor where you feel pain, ti might be the end of your toe, while if you're talking about astronomy, ti could be the solar system. We can therefore say

viku mi gunka
Here, I work. or, more naturally, "I work here."

We've seen that puku means "before something" (as in pu lenu la

zhang. cliva kei). Similarly, vi ku means "at the location of

something", and we can expand it in the same way to say what the

"something" is, e.g.

vi la paris. mi gunka
In Paris, I work.
vu le mi zdani mi gunka
A long way from my home, I work
va lenu la KEnedis. se catra kei mi gunka
A medium distance from here Kennedy was killed, I work.

Note the kei~--~if it wasn't there, catra would run into mi, so the listener might start interpreting the sentence as "A medium distance from where Kennedy was killed by me ..."

Just like the time cmavo, place cmavo can be attached to selbri. For example, instead of saying viku mi gunka, you can say mi vi gunka~--~"I here-work." Again, this sounds odd in English, but one of the purposes of Lojban is to encourage you to say things in different ways, which may lead to being able to say different things. Lojban expands the mind (warning: unproven Lojban propaganda!).

If we combine place vi etc. with fa'a, they become more productive. fa'a is a place cmavo meaning "towards", so fa'avi is "here" as direction, as in "come here". For example:

la bil. fa'avi bajra
Bill towards-this-place runs Bill runs here.

Note that the more natural translation is ambiguous, since it could also

translate la bil. vi bajra, meaning that this is where Bill runs, not where he runs to. This may pass unnoticed by native English speakers, but speakers of languages which are more precise about direction find it extremely vague (Turkish, for example, has at least three words to translate "here"). There is a whole class of cmavo that work like fa'a (called FAhA type cmavo, unsurprisingly). These include to'o (away from), zu'a (to the left of), ri'u (to the right of), ne'i (within) and so on (again, all the space cmavo are explained in Chapter 10 of The Complete Lojban Language).

We can also combine time and space. For example, mi vipuzu gunka

means "I here-past-long-time-distance work", or "I used to work here a long time ago." A common expression with ku is puzuvuku,

meaning "long ago and far away"~--~a standard way to begin a fairy story or legend!

Getting back to daily speech, these time and space cmavo are very

useful for questions. ca ma is "simultaneous with what?", or in other words, "when?" (a simpler alternative to ti'u or di'e). Similarly, vi ma means "at the location of what?", or "where?"

Exercise 2

Translate the following.

  1. le do zdani vi ma
  1. la bil. puzevi zutse
  1. le cipni puzifa'ava vofli
  1. la tcarlz.daruin. puva xabju
  1. mi bafa'avu cadzuVocabulary:zutse~--~sit; cadzu~--~walk.


In this lesson we have covered the following:

  1. Time cmavo: pu, ca, and ba.
  1. Time intervals: zi, za and zu.
  1. Duration: ze'i, ze'a and ze'u.
  1. Location: vi, va and vu There are many more cmavo to describe time and space, but they are only there if you need them. In fact, unless you want to be specific about time or space, you don't even need the ones in this lesson. Remember the golden rule of Lojban grammar: If you don't need it, don't use it! Lojban grammar is your servant, not your master.

Answers to exercises

Exercise 1

  1. puzaku la juLIET. cliva la paris.
  1. puzuku mi tcidu la kaMIL.
  1. puziku la ivan. cliva le kumfa
  1. puzi lenu la pi,ER. klama le kumfa ku la .iocikos. cinba xorxes.
  1. puziku la treisis. badri .i ku'i caku la maik. gleiki

Exercise 2

  1. Where is your house?
  1. Bill was sitting here a while ago.
  1. The bird just flew away. [literally the bird flew a short time ago

to a medium distance from here]

  1. Charles Darwin lived near here. [[note that we don't need zu to specify that he lived near here a long time ago, we assume that the person we're talking to knows who Darwin was, and therefore knows that he lived over a century ago. In fact, you could even miss out the pu, but I left it in to avoid confusion~--~maybe my friend thinks I'm talking about a different person with the same name, or that I'm somehow speaking metaphorically about the spirit of Darwin.]]
  1. I will walk far away. again note the English has two meanings, since it could also mean that I will walk in some distant place

Lesson 7: Getting Personal: Pro-sumti

So far we've been referring to everybody by name, which can get very

repetitive if you want to tell a story, or even string two sentences

together. Consider the following:

la suzyn. klama le barja .i la suzyn ze'e pinxe loi vanju .i la suzyn. zgana lo nanmu .i le nanmu cu melbi .i caku le nanmu cu zgana la suzyn.
Susan goes to the bar. Susan drinks some wine for a while. Susan notices sees, observes a man. The man is beautiful. At that moment, the man notices Susan.

Note the use of melbi ~--~ in

English we usually

describe men as "handsome" rather than "beautiful", but this rather

sexist distinction doesn't apply in Lojban. However, if you really

wanted a Lojban word for "handsome" (beautiful-kind-of-man) I suppose

you could say melnau (melbi + nanmu).

It is

pretty tedious to have to keep repeating "Susan" and "man". English

gets round this problem by using pronouns, like "she" or "he".

This works OK in this case, because we have one female and one male in

the story so far, but it can get confusing when more characters enter

the scene (and it's even more confusing with languages that only have

one word for "he", "she" and "it", like Turkish or spoken Chinese).

Lojban has pro-sumti, which are

like pronouns~--~sort of.


fact, we've already met some pro-sumti: mi and do, and the ti/ta/tu group, but we still don't have he/she/it,

which are a bit more complicated. One way of dealing with this is a

group of cmavo which refer back to something

we've just said. In fact we have met one of these in a different

context: go'i. Just as go'i on its own repeats the previous bridi, le go'i repeats the first sumti of the

previous bridi.

So we can rewrite the first three sentences as

la suzyn. klama le barja .i le go'i ze'e pinxe loi vanju .i le go'i zgana lo nanmu

The system breaks down here, though, since

nanmu is not in the first, but the second place

of the previous bridi. English doesn't bother

with precision here~--~"he" just

means "some male person mentioned earlier." This works in the example

here, because there is only one man in the story, but what about

Bill saw Rick. He hit him

Did Bill hit Rick, or did Rick hit Bill? We don't know.

Coming back to the man Susan

saw, we can refer to him as ri, which means "the

most recent sumti". So we can say

.i le go'i zgana lo nanmu .i ri melbi

ri is one of a series, ri/ra/ru,

meaning "the most recent/fairly recent/distant sumti", but as far as

I've noticed, ra and ru aren't very popular in Lojbanistan at the moment. ri, on the

other hand, is used a lot, since it's

very common for the last thing in one sentence to be the subject of the

next sentence.

Another pro-sumti is da, which means

"someone/something". You may remember zo'e, which means also

means "something", but with zo'e the something is unimportant -

it's just a way of filling a sumti place. da, on the

other hand, is important~--~it is something or someone we are talking


Note for logicians: da is the "existential

x", as in "There exists some x such that x is ..."

Coming back to our story, we could start by saying

da klama le barja~--~"Someone came to the bar." da and its companions

de and di are used a lot for talking about language

- you see them frequently on the Lojban e-mail list, for example. By

the way, there are no do and du in this series, because

these already have other meanings: "you" and "is the same thing as".

Assigning pro-sumti

If we're telling a story in English, the

meaning of, say, "she" keeps changing. At the moment, it means "Susan",

but if Susan's friend Jyoti walks into the bar, "she" could very well

mean "Jyoti". In Lojban, we can keep on using le go'i,

ri and their relatives, but there is an easier way of dealing

with a larger cast of characters.

What we do is assign pro-sumti as

and when we need them, using the cmavo goi (which I am

told is like the Latin word sive). The sumti assigned by

goi are a series called KOhA, consisting of ko'a,

ko'e, ko'i ... you get the idea?

Note for grammarians: series of cmavo (called

selma'o in

Lojban) are referred to by the name of a typical member written in

capitals (with a small "h" instead of the apostrophe). For example, the

attitudinals we looked at in Lesson 1 are part of selma'o .UI .

Note for lawyers (and frustrated non-lawyers): the

equivalent in legal documents of goi is

"henceforth referred to as," and ko'a is

something like "the party of the first part". Lojban has

in fact been proposed as the ideal language for law, where precision is

of utmost importance. It would also allow non-lawyers to understand

legal documents, which would be something of a miracle.

OK, let's go back to Susan's story. We start by saying

la suzyn. goi ko'a klama le barja

This means that from now on, every

time we use ko'a, we mean "Susan". The man she

sees can then be ko'e, so we say

.i ko'a zgana lo nanmu goi ko'e

Now every time we use ko'e it means that

particular man, so the full story so far reads:

la suzyn. goi ko'a klama le barja .i ko'a ze'e pinxe loi vanju .i ko'a zgana lo nanmu goi ko'e .i ko'e melbi .i caku ko'e zgana ko'a

(note how the cus have disappeared~--~ko'a, like mi, doesn't need them).

Assigning ko'e to lo nanmu is actually better than

starting the next sentence with le nanmu. This is because le nanmu

simply means "the thing I have in mind which I call 'man',"

which is not exactly the same as "the man" (it could, in theory, be

something totally different). Some Lojbanists would even say that using

le like this is a bit malglico.

Note: if you combine

ko'a/e/i/o/u with ri/ra/ru, don't count ko'a-type pro-sumti when

you're counting back. For example

la suzyn. rinsa ko'e .i ri cisma

doesn't mean that ko'e (the man, in this

context) smiles, but that Susan smiles. This is

because it is pointless to have a backwards-pointing (anaphoric) pro-sumti referring to a fixed pro-sumti like ko'e~--~it's

simpler just to re-use ko'e and keep

ri/ra/ru for more important things.

Let's continue by

introducing Susan's friend Jyoti (if people are wondering where I get

all these unusual names from, Jyoti is an old Gujarati friend of mine).

We continue ....

caku la djiotis. goi ko'i mo'ine'i .i ko'i cusku lu coi ranjit. li'u ko'e

At that time, Jyoti henceforth

third-thing-referred-to moving-inside. Third-thing-referred-to says

"Hello Ranjeet" to second-thing-referred-to.

Just then Jyoti comes in

and says "Hello, Ranjeet" to the guy. mo'ine'i is

another space "tense". mo'i indicates movement;

ne'i means "inside" (from the gismu, nenri). The selbri is missed out because the way Jyoti moves is not important (klama is possible, but unnecessary, but we could use bajra, for

example). This is creative Lojban~--~it's not exactly ungrammatical to

leave a selbri out like this, but it means that

this is a sentence-fragment, not a bridi. Don't

try this at home, kids.

lu, li'u, du'u and vo'a

lu and li'u are like

"quote" and "unquote"~--~they put something someone says into a sumti. li'u is one of the

few terminators that can almost never be missed out, since that would

make everything else that follows part of the quotation. You can also

nest quotations, e.g.

la ranjit. pu cusku lu la djiotis. pu cusku lu coi li'u mi li'u
Ranjeet said "Jyoti said "Hello" to me."

which is similar to

la ranjit. pu cusku lu la djiotis. pu rinsa mi li'u
Ranjeet said "Jyoti greeted me."

Both can also be expressed in a rather more subtle way:

la ranjit. pu cusku le du'u la djiotis. pu rinsa vo'a
Ranjeet past-express the-predicate Jyoti past-greet the-first-place OR Ranjeet said that Jyoti greeted him.

du'u is a tricky but very useful cmavo meaning, in logical terms, "the predicate".

What this means in ordinary language is something like "the statement

that X is true". Sorry, that wasn't really ordinary language. The

closest equivalent in English is "that", as in "Ranjeet said

that ...". Here's another example of du'u:

la suzyn. na djuno le du'u la jang. cinynei vo'a
Susan doesn't know that Zhang fancies ("sexually-likes") her.

And here we have another pro-sumti: vo'a. This means "the first sumti of this bridi", and

like the others, comes in a series~--~vo'e refers

to the second sumti, vo'i to the third and so on. In practice, vo'a is used quite a lot, while the others are

rarer, but that could be because people still tend to think in terms of

natural languages (notably English), and as people start

thinking more in Lojban, the others could get used more.

vo'a is very useful to give the sense of "herself", "itself" and so on. For


la meilis. pensi vo'a
Mei Li thinks about herself.
le gerku cu batci vo'a
The dog bites itself.

You can also say

mi nelci vo'a
I like myself.

but this is the same as mi nelci mi, which

is simpler and more aesthetic.

Now for something clever.

la suzyn. zgani la djiotis. soi vo'a vo'e
Susan notices Jyoti and vice versa. OR Susan and Jyoti notice each other.

soi is a cmavo meaning

something like "you can change these sumti round

and the bridi will still be true". If there is

only one sumti after the soi, the other one is taken to be the one

immediately beforesoi. So we

can say the same thing more briefly as

la suzyn. zgani la djiotis. soi vo'a, or even just

ko'a zgani ko'i soi vo'a (vo'a is fixed, and,

unlike ri can point back to

ko'a, though you can also repeat ko'a if you prefer).

Exercise 1

Translate the following. Assume the same values for

ko'a/e/i that we have been using so far (i.e.

ko'a is

Susan, and so on).

Note:doi is used to show

who you're talking to (without doi the cmene might become the first sumti of the bridi). It's a

bit like English "O" (as in "O ye of little faith") or the Latin

vocative (as in "Et tu, Brute").

.i ko'a ca cusku lu .ue coi li'u ko'i soi vo'a .i ko'a .e ko'i xanka cmila .i caku le go'i catlu ko'e .i ko'e cusku lu doi djiotis. le do pendo mo li'u .i ko'i cusku lu la suzyn. li'u .i ko'e cusku .ui lu lo do pendo du lo mi pendo li'u .i ko'i fengu catlu ko'e .i ko'a xunfirbi'o

Vocabulary: xanka~--~nervous, worried; catlu~--~look at

compare with zgani; pendo~--~friend; fengu~--~

angry; xunfirbi'o~--~blush [xunre (red) + flira (face) +

binxo (become)]

Some more personal pro-sumti

We've already seen two personal pro-sumti, 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.
  1. A number of people I'm talking to.
  1. The person or people I'm talking to and some other person or people.
  1. 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 rodo, "all of

you" (or U.S. "Y'all") and, as we've seen, coi rodo is "Hello all"~--~a

common way to start an e-mail to a list.

You can also use specific numbers~--~redo would

mean "the two of you" or "you two" (for example, I start e-mails to my

parents with coi redo). You can also use

numbers with doi e.g. rodoi ko klama ti.

3. is expressed by do'o~--~you and someone

else, and 4. is completely different. It's normally expressed by roda or, more specifically

ro le prenu, but often you can just miss it out altogether.

English "we" is almost as confusing, as it can mean the speaker and the

listener(s), the speaker and some other people, or the speaker and the

listener and some other people. Not surprisingly, Lojban has three

pro-sumti for "we":

  • mi'o~--~you and I (but no-one else)
  • mi'a ~--~I and another / others (but not you)
  • ma'a~--~you and I and another / others

Some examples:

mi prami do
I love you.
mi'a penmi do ti'u la cicac.
We'll meet you at three o'clock.
ma'a remna
We are all human.

Exercise 2

The story continues! For each of the pro-sumti in bold say who or what they mean. Just two other

points: ka is like nu,

but while nu describes a state or event, ka describes a property or quality. na'e is like na but only

negates the selbri~--~it says that there is some

relationship between the sumti other than that

which the selbri describes. As we saw in Lesson

5, mi na nelci ro lo gerku means "It is not true

that I like all dogs," (or "I don't like all dogs), while mi na'e nelci ro lo gerku is more like "I dislike

all dogs."

ko'a mliburna .i ko'a mo'ini'a clatu le kabri .i caku ri simlu leka cinri ko'a .i ko'e cinba ko'i soi vo'a .i ko'i cusku lu pe'i redo puzi ninpe'i li'u .i le vanju cu simlu leka mutce cinri .i ko'a sutra pinxe le go'i .i ko'e cusku lu .yyy. na go'i .i mi'a puze'e na'e penmi li'u .i baziku ko'a cmila .i ko'a cusku lu .u'i redo bebna .i .e'u

ma'a klama lo dansydi'u

Vocabulary:mliburna~--~mildly embarrassed milxe (mild) + burna (embarrassed); ni'a~--~down, below (space

"tense"); kabri~--~cup, glass; vanju~--~wine; simla~--~seem [x{SUB()}1{SUB} seems to have

property x{SUB()}2{SUB} to observer x{SUB()}3{SUB}]; cinri~--~interesting; pe'i~--~"I think" (opinion

attitudinal); ninpe'i~--~meet for the first

time cnino (new) + penmi (meet); .y.~--~"er"

(hesitation); mutce~--~much, very; bebna~--~silly; .e'u~--~suggestion (attitudinal); dansydi'u~--~

disco dansu (dance) + dinju (building).

Answers to Exercises

Exercise 1

Susan and

Jyoti say "Oh! Hello!" to each other at the same time. They laugh

nervously. At that moment, Jyoti looks at Ranjeet. He says "Who's

your friend?" She says "Susan." He says "Delighted~--~any friend of

yours is a friend of mine." She looks at him angrily. Susan blushes.

Note that in order to get this into understandable English, we've

had to change some of the pro-sumti back into names. We could also make

the translation sound more natural by changing the word order a bit

more, changing "says" to "asks" when it's a question, and maybe putting

the whole thing into the past tense. du here translates as "is",

but don't use it for just any case of "is"~--~it is like the = sign in

maths and can only be used for two expressions that describe the same

thing. Using du to translate the "is" in, say, "Susan is a

doctor" is extremelymalglico.

la suzyn. du lo mikce would mean that Susan is the same as each and every doctor

(the correct Lojban would be simply la suzyn. mikce).

Exercise 2

  1. ri = le kabri
  1. vo'a = la ranjit. "Ranjeet and Jyoti kiss each other."
  1. redo = la suzyn. .e la ranjit. "You two."
  1. le go'i = le vanju "She drinks it quickly."
  1. go'i = la suzyn. puzi ninpe'i la ranjit. soi vo'a Note that here go'i refers not to the previous sentence in the story, but to the previous sentence in the conversation. Obviously Susan wouldn't be talking about a story that hasn't been written yet!
  1. ma'a = la suzyn. .e la ranjit. .e la djiotis. "Let's all go to the disco."