🎓 Learn Lojban

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Lesson 1. The language at a glance


The basic thing you need to know about Lojban is 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 ' .

Words are pronounced as they are written.

There are 10 vowels in Lojban:

a as in father (not as in face)
e as in get
i as in machine (not as in hit)
o as in choice, not or ough in thought (not as in so, o should be a "pure" sound).
u as in cool (not as in but)
y as in comma (not as in misty or cycle)

4 vowels are written using combinations of letters:

au as in cow
ai as in high
ei as in weigh
oi as in boy

As for consonants, they are pronounced like in English or Latin, but there are several 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, like J in Spanish Jose or Kh in Modern 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 i before vowels is considered a consonant and pronounced shorter, for example:
  • ia is pronounced as ya in yard
  • ie is pronounced as ye in yes
u u before vowels 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 placed on the second to last vowel. If a word has only one vowel, you just don't stress it.

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

Non-Lojban vowels like the short i and u in Standard British English hit and but, are used by some people to separate consonants. So, if you have trouble pronouncing two consonants in a row (e.g. the vl in tavla, which means to talk to), then you can say tavɪla — where the ɪ is very short. However, other vowels like a and u must be long.

The simplest sentence

The basic unit in Lojban is "sentence". Here are three simple examples:

le prenu cu tavla mi The person speaks to me.

le prenu
the person
… talks to …, … speaks to …
I, me

mi prami do I love you.

… loves … (someone)

mi ca cu tavla do I now talk to you.

now (pronounced as shah)

le prenu cu tavla mi
The person talks to me.

I / me

mi prami do
I love you.


Each sentence in Lojban consists of the following parts from the left to the right:

  • the head:
    • consists of so-called "terms",
      • le prenu is the only head term in the example le prenu cu tavla mi above,
      • mi, ca are head terms in the example mi ca cu tavla do above.
  • the head separator cu:
    • pronounced as shoe since c is for sh,
    • shows that the head has ended,
    • can be omitted when it's clear that the head is completed.
  • the tail:
    • the main relation construct (called "selbrisni" in Lojban)
    • + possibly one or more terms after it,
      • tavla, prami are selbrisni, main relation constructs in the examples above.
      • mi is the only tail term in the example le prenu cu tavla mi above.
      • do is the only tail term in the example mi prami do above.
head terms
tail terms

In Lojban, we mostly speak of relations rather than nouns or verbs.

Here are the two relation words, which roughly correspond to verbs:

… is a person / are people
… speaks to …

Each relation has one or more roles that can also be called "slots" or "places". Above, they are labelled with "…" Those slots are to be filled with arguments (called "sumti" in Lojban). Argument terms are constructs like le prenu, mi, do no matter whether those terms end up being in a head or in a tail of a sentence. We put argument terms in order, thus filling these slots and giving a concrete meaning to the relation.

list of argument terms

We can also turn such relation into an argument term.

For that we put a short word le in front of it:

… is a person
le prenu
the person, the people


… speaks to …

and thus

le tavla
the speaker, the speakers

It might sound strange how person can be a "verb", but in fact, this makes Lojban very simple:

relation word with slots unfilledargument form (sumti)
prenu… (someone) is a person le prenuthe person / the people
le prenuthe one who is a person / those who are people
tavla… (someone) speaks to … (someone) le tavlathe speaker / the speakers
le tavlathe one who is a speaker / those who are speakers

The first slot of the relations disappears when using le, hence such alternative translations as the one who … is possible.

Notice, that Lojban, by default, doesn't specify number between the speaker or the speakers. That is, le tavla is vague in that regard, and we will soon discover ways to define the number.

Apart from argument terms there are modal terms like ca:

mi ca cu tavla do I now talk to you.


Modal terms do not fill slots of the main relation construct ("selbrisni"). Instead, they are applied to the whole sentence enriching or narrowing its meaning.

Thus, terms in Lojban are represented with:

  • argument terms that fill in slots of relations. Examples are:
    • nouns like le prenu (the person)
    • pronouns like mi (I, me), do (you). Pronouns work exactly as nouns, but le is not used for them. They work as arguments on their own.
  • modal terms that do not fill slots of relations but specify additional, сlarifying information.
    • for example, ca (now, in present).

Some more examples:

mi nintadni
I am a new student, a fresher.

mi nintadni I am a new student.

… (someone) is a new student, a newbie

Unlike in English we don't have to add the verb "am/is/are/to be" to the sentence. It is already implied. The relation word nintadni (… is a new student) already has this English "am/is/are/to be" built into its English translation.

do jimpe You understand.

… (someone) understands … (something)

le prenu cu pilno le fonxa
The person uses the phone.

mi pilno le fonxa I use the phone.

… (someone) uses … (something)
… is a phone, … are phones
le fonxa
the phone, the phones

mi citka
I eat.

mi citka I eat.

… (someone) eats … (something)

do citka You eat.

mi citka le plise I eat the apples.

le plise cu kukte
The apples are tasty.

le plise cu kukte The apples are tasty.

le plise
the apples
… (something) is tasty

A simpler sentence in Lojban would contain only one main relation word:

It is a car.

karce Car! It is a car.

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 relation word meaning is a car.

We can of course be more precise and say, for example:

bolci Ball! It is a ball.

where bolci is a relation word meaning is a ball.

ti bolci This is a ball near me.

ta bolci This is a ball near you.

pronoun: this thing near me
pronoun: this/that thing near you
pronoun: that one away from you and me

this one (near me, the speaker)

this one (near you, the listener)

that one over there (away from you and me)

Similarly, you can say

… is a rain

carvi It is raining.


… is a rain, … is raining


pluka It's pleasant.


… is pleasant

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

prami Someone loves.

le prenu cu bajra
The person runs.

bajra Someone runs.

… runs using limbs

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


le prenu cu pinxe le djacu
The person drinks the water.

… drinks … (something)
le djacu
the water

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

do citka You eat.
mi pinxe le djacu I drink water.
mi citka le plise I eat apples.

«.i» separates sentences

We place a short word .i to separate any two consecutive sentences:

mi tavla le prenu .i le prenu cu tavla mi I'm talking to the people. The people are talking to me.

.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»

le simply turns a relation construct into an argument, but such argument has no number associated with it. The sentence

le prenu cu tavla mi The people talk to me. The person talks to me.

doesn't specify the number of people talking to me. In English, it is impossible to omit the number because people in English implies more than one person. However, in Lojban, you can omit the number.

Now let's specify how many of the people are relevant to our discussion.

Let's add a number after le.

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

le ci prenu
The three people

le pa prenu cu tavla mi The person talks to me. The one person talks to me.

We add a number after le and thus specify individual people.

For numbers consisting of several digits, we just string those digits together:

le re mu prenu cu tavla mi The 25 people talk to me.

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

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

le za'u re prenu cu tavla mi More than two people talk to me.

le me'i pa no prenu cu tavla mi Fewer than 10 people talk to me.

le za'u ci prenu cu tavla mi More than three people talk to me.

To say just people (plural number) as opposed to one person, we use za'u pa, more than one or simply za'u.

le za'u pa prenu cu tavla mi le za'u prenu cu tavla mi The people talk to me.

za'u by default means za'u pa, hence such contraction is possible.

le prenu
the person / the people
le pa prenu
the person (one in number)
le za'u prenu
the people (two or more in number)


… (someone) is smart, … has a talent

… has a talent

… comes to … (some place or object)

le prenu cu klama ti
The person came here.

… likes … (something)
le zarci
the market

le prenu cu zvati le zarci
The person is at the store.

le najnimre
the orange (fruit), the oranges

… is an orange

le badna
the banana, bananas

… is a banana

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

le mu prenu cu klama le zarciThe five people come to the market.
le pa re prenu cu stati .i do statiThe 12 people are smart. You are smart.
le prenu cu nelci le pliseThe people like the apples.
le za'u re prenu cu citka .i le me'i mu prenu cu pinxe le djacuMore than two people eat. Fewer than 5 people drink the water.
le za'u re prenu cu statiMore than two people are smart.

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

The 256 people are smart.le re mu xa prenu cu stati
Fewer than 12 apples are tasty.le me'i pa re plise cu kukte

Compound relation

Compound relation construct (tanru in Lojban) are several relation words placed one after another.

tu melbi zdani That one is a nice home.

melbi zdani
… is a nice home

that one (away from you and me)
… is beautiful, nice
… is a home or nest to … (someone)
melbi zdani
compound relation construct: … is a beautiful home to … (someone)

le prenu cu melbi dansu
The person nicely dances.

do melbi dansu You nicely dance.

… dances

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

Compound relations are a powerful feature that produces richer meanings. You just string two relation words together, and the left component of such compound relation adds a flavor to the right one.

We can put le (e.g. with a number) to the left of such compound relation getting a richer argument term:

le pa melbi zdani
the beautiful home

Now we know why there was cu after head terms in our example:

le pa prenu cu tavla mi The person talks to me.

Without cu it'd turn into le pa prenu tavla, which would have the meaning of the person-talker - whatever that could mean.


le pa tavla pendo The talking friend

le pa tavla cu pendo The talking one is a friend.

Remember about placing cu before the main relation construct in a sentence to prevent unintentional creation of compound relations.

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

ti cmalu karce
This is a small car.

le pa melbi cmalu karce the pretty-small car, the car small in a pretty way

le mutce melbi zdani the very beautiful home

… is very, … is much


… is quick
… is big
… is small
… is a cat

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

le melbi karce the beautiful car / the beautiful cars
do sutra klama You quickly come. You come fast.
tu barda zdani That is a big home.
le pa sutra bajra mlatu the quickly running cat
le pa sutra mlatu the quick cat
le pa bajra mlatu the running cat

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

This is a small car. ti cmalu karce
tasty apples le kukte plise
the quick eaters le sutra citka
You are a quickly walking person. do sutra cadzu prenu

Yes/No’ questions

In English, we form a yes/no question by changing the order of the words, for example

You are … ⇒ Are you …?

or by using some form of the verb to do at the beginning, for example:

You know … ⇒ Do you know?

In Lojban, the word order can be retained. To turn any assertion into a yes/no question, we simply insert the word xu at the beginning of the sentence:

xu do nelci le gerku Do you like the dogs?

le gerku
the dog, the dogs

ti prenu .i ti gerku
This is a person. This is a dog.

Remember that in Lojban, punctuation like "?" (question mark) is optional and used mostly for stylistic purposes. This is because the question word xu already shows that it is a question.

Other examples:

xu mi klama Am I coming?

… comes to … (somewhere)

xu pelxu Is it yellow?

… is yellow

We can shift the meaning by placing xu after different parts of the sentence. Explanations what changed in the meaning are given in brackets:

xu do nelci le gerku Do you like the dogs?

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

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

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

do nelci le gerku xu You like those things, are they dogs? (You only question the validity of the relation gerku).

What is expressed using intonation in English is expressed by moving xu after the part we want to emphasize in Lojban. 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:

do xu nelci le gerku Do YOU like the dogs?

  • when placed at the beginning of a relation, interjection modifies the whole relation:

xu do nelci le gerku Do you like the dogs?

  • interjections can be placed after different parts of the same relation to shift the meaning.

do nelci le gerku xu You like those entities, are they dogs?

Here, only the relation gerku (not the argument le gerku) is modified by the question word xu. So here we wonder only of that relation. We assert that you like these objects or live beings and we ask you if those are dogs.

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

do nelci le barda xu gerku Do you like the BIG dogs?

Now, how to reply to such 'yes/no' questions? We repeat the main relation construct:

— xu le mlatu cu melbi — melbi — Are the cats pretty? — Pretty.

To answer 'no', we use the modal term na ku:

— xu le mlatu cu melbi — na ku melbi — Are the cats pretty? — Not pretty.

na ku
term: it is false that …

Or, we can use a special relation word go'i:

— xu le mlatu cu melbi — go'i — Are the cats pretty? — Pretty.

relation word that repeats the main relation of the previous sentence

Here, go'i means the same as melbi since melbi is the relation of the previous relation.

— xu le mlatu cu melbi — na ku go'i — Are the cats pretty? — Not pretty.

The modal term na ku can be used not only in answers:

na ku mi nelci le gerku It is false that I like the dogs. I don't like the dogs.

mi na ku nelci do I don't like you.

Its opposite, the term ja'a ku affirms the meaning:

mi ja'a ku nelci do I do like you.

ja'a ku
term: it is true that …


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

xu le barda zdani cu melbi Is the big home beautiful?
— le prenu cu stati xu
— na ku stati
— Are the people smart?
— No.
do klama le zarci xu Do you go to the market?
xu le verba cu prami le mlatu Does the child love the cats?

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

Is the car fast? xu le karce cu sutra
— Is the orange tasty?
— Yes, it is.
— xu le najnimre cu kukte
— kukte
Does the dog love you? xu le gerku cu prami do

Happiness and polite requests: ‘Yay!’ = «ui», ‘Please!’ = «.e'o»

The interjection ui show happiness of the one who is speaking. It is used just like the smiley face ‘:)’ the smiley-face in messaging, to indicate that you're glad of something. Although, smileys can be ambiguous, and ui has only one meaning, which is handy.

ui do klama Yay, you are coming!

interjection: Yay!, interjection of happiness

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

.e'o do lebna le fonxa Could you take the phone, please? Please take the phone.

interjection: please (pronounced as eh-haw with a short pause or break before the word)
to take (something)

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.


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

le tcati
the tea

… is some tea

le ckafi

… is some coffee

to watch, observe (using any senses)
le skina
the film, the movie

le prenu cu zgana le skina
The person watches the movie.

to care of (someone, something)
ui carvi Yay, it rains! Yay, it is raining!
.e'o do sutra bajra Run quickly!
.e'o do pinxe le tcati Please, drink tea!
.e'o zgana le skina Please, watch the film!

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

Please, be smart! .e'o do stati
Please, go home! .e'o do klama le zdani
Please, drink the coffee! .e'o do pinxe le ckafi
Yay, I talk to you! ui mi tavla do
Please, take care of the child. .e'o do kurji le verba

And’ and ‘or

do nintadni .i je mi nintadni You are a newbie. And I am a newbie.

do .e mi nintadni You and I are newbies.

do .e mi nintadni
You and I are new students.

mi tadni .i je mi tavla do I study. And I talk to you.

mi tadni gi'e tavla do I study and talk to you.

.i je
conjunction "and" combining sentences into one.
conjunction "and" connecting arguments.
conjunction "and" connecting sentence tails.

We can combine two sentences into one statement using the conjunction .i je, which means and:

do nintadni .i je mi nintadni You are a newbie. And I am a newbie.

Since both sentences have the same tail, we can use a contraction: the conjunction .e means and for arguments:

do .e mi nintadni You and I are newbies.

do nintadni .i je mi nintadni means exactly the same as do .e mi nintadni

We can also use .e for connecting arguments in other positions.

Both of these sentences mean the same thing.

mi pinxe le djacu .e le jisra I drink the water and the juice. mi pinxe le djacu .i je mi pinxe le jisra I drink the water, and I drink the juice.

le jisra

le prenu cu pinxe le jisra
The person drinks the juice.

If the sentence head is the same but the tails differ, we use the conjunction gi'e, which means and for sentence tails:

mi tadni .i je mi tavla do mi tadni gi'e tavla do I study and talk to you.

Both variations mean the same; gi'e simply leads to a more conсise form.

There are also ways to add and for components of compound relations:

le melbi je cmalu zdani cu jibni ti The pretty and small home is near.

melbi je cmalu zdani
… is a pretty-and-small home

… is near to …
this thing, this place near me

je is a conjunction that means and in compound relations.

Without je, the sentence changes the meaning:

le melbi cmalu zdani cu jibni The prettily small home is near.

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

In le melbi je cmalu zdani (the pretty and small house) both melbi and cmalu modify zdani directly.

Other common conjunctions include:

le verba cu fengu ja bilma The child is angry or ill (or maybe both angry and ill)

do .a mi ba vitke le dzena You or I (or both of us) will visit the ancestor.

and/or inside compound relations
and/or when connecting arguments
… is angry

… is angry

… is ill

le prenu cu bilma
The person is ill

to visit (someone)
… is an ancestor of …

… is an ancestor of …

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
.o nai
either … or … but not both (when connecting arguments)
… is old

… is old

Note: it's better to remember jo nai as a single construct, and the same for .o nai.

mi prami do .i ju do stati I love you. Whether or not you are smart.

le verba cu nelci le plise .u le badna The child likes the apples whether or not (he/she likes) the bananas.

whether or not …
whether or not … (when connecting arguments)

«joi» is ‘and’ for mass actions

do joi mi casnu le bangu You and I are discussing the language.

… discusses …
le bangu
the language
conjunction and for masses

If I say do .e mi casnu le bangu it may mean that you discuss the language, and I discuss the language. But it doesn't necessarily mean that we are in the same conversation!

This distinction can be made more visible if we expand this sentence using .i je:

do .e mi casnu le bangu do casnu le bangu .i je mi casnu le bangu You discuss the language. And I discuss the language.

In order to emphasize that you and I participate in the same action, we use a special conjunction joi meaning and that forms a "mass":

do joi mi casnu le bangu You and I are discussing the language. You and I being a single entity for this event are discussing the language.

There also exists a pronoun mi'o (you and I together), which can be rephrased as mi joi do (it's just longer). In Lojban, you may use not a single word for we but more precise constructs like mi joi le pendo (literally I and the friends).

do joi le pendo joi mi casnu
You, the friend and I are in a discussion.


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

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

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

The friends and I like the rain. le pendo .e mi cu nelci le carvi
Either I or you go to the market. mi .o nai do klama le zarci
I look at the big and beautiful car. mi catlu le barda je melbi karce
The child drinks the water and/or the juice. le verba cu pinxe le djacu .a le jisra
The child and the small one discuss the car. le verba joi le pa cmalu cu casnu le karce (note the use of joi. the small one is just le pa cmalu).

But …

le najnimre cu barda .i je ku'i le badna cu cmalu The oranges are big. But the bananas are small.

interjection: but, however

Actually, in English, but is the same as and, and it adds a flavor of contrast.

In Lojban, we just use the conjunction .i je (or .e, gi'e, je, depending on what we connect) and add the flavor of contrast to it with the interjection ku'i. As usual, the interjection modifies the construct before it.

Events: ‘dancing and being together’ — «le nu dansu .e le nu kansa»

Some slots of relations expect an event:

le cabna cu nicte Now it's nighttime. At present it's night.

… (event) is at present with …; … (event) happens now
le cabna
the present time, the present event
… (event) happens at night

But what if we want to describe an event using a whole sentence?

Any sentence can be turned into a relation construct by putting nu in front of it:

le nicte cu nu mi viska le lunra The night is when I see the Moon. Nighttime is an event when I see the Moon.

le nicte
the nighttime

le nicte
the nighttime, nighttimes
to see (something)
le lunra
the Moon

Here, le nicte is the first argument of the sentence and nu mi viska le lunra is the main relation construct of the sentence. However, inside this main relation, we can see another relation: mi viska le lunra embedded!

The word nu transforms a complete sentence into a relation that denotes an event (in its generic sense, its can be a process, a state etc.)

Here are some more examples:

nu mi tavla
… is an event of me talking
nu do tavla
… is an event of you talking

By adding le in front of nu, we create an argument that denotes an event:

pinxe ⇒ le nu pinxe
… drinks ⇒ the drinking
dansu ⇒ le nu dansu
… dances ⇒ the dancing
kansa ⇒ le nu kansa
… is together with … ⇒ being together
klama ⇒ le nu klama
… comes to … ⇒ the coming
le nu do klama
the coming of you, you coming

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

Some more examples with slots that expect events instead of ordinary entities:

mi djica le nu do klama ti I want you to come here (to this place)

… wants … (some event)

mi gleki le nu do klama I'm happy because you are coming.

… is happy of … (some event)

… is happy about event …

le nu pinxe le jisra cu nabmi mi Drinking the juice is a problem to me.

… (event) is a problem to … (someone), … (event) is problematic to … (someone)


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

to use (something)
le skami
the computer
mi nelci le nu do dansu I like you dancing.
xu do gleki le nu do pilno le skami Are you happy of using computers?
do djica le nu mi citka le plise xu Do you want me to eat the apple?

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

Coming here is a problem. le nu klama ti cu nabmi
I want you to be happy. mi djica le nu do gleki

In Lojban, we express the time when something happens (grammatically, in English it's usually called tense) with modal terms. We've already seen the modal term ca meaning at present.

Here is a series of time-related terms that tell when something happens:

le prenu pu cu tavla mi The people talked to me.

le prenu ca cu tavla mi The people talk to me (at present).

le prenu ba cu tavla mi The people will talk to me.

When after the time-related particle we place a bare argument then we form a term with a slightly different meaning:

mi pinxe le djacu ca le nu do klama I drink the water while you are coming.

The ca le nu do klama part is a long term meaning while you come / while you are coming. The le nu do klama is an argument meaning coming of you, you coming.

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

Time-related particles are grouped into series by their meaning to make them easier to remember and use.

Words for simple tense:

  • pu means before … (some event), pu alone denotes past tense.
  • ca means at the same time as … (some event), ca alone denotes present tense.
  • ba means after … (some event), ba alone denotes future tense.

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

  • The people talk to me.
  • The people talked to me.
  • The people will talk to me.

and other similar choices.

But in Lojban tense particles are optional, we can be as vague or as precise as we want.

The sentence

le prenu cu tavla mi The people talk to me.

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.

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

We can combine tense particles with and without arguments after them:

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

Note that the term pu (past tense) is put only in the main relation (mi pu cu citka). In Lojban, it is assumed that the event I danced occurs relative to the event of eating.

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

More examples of time-related terms:

le nicte cu pluka The night is pleasant.

… is pleasant

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

Here, the head of the sentence contains one term ba le nicte, a modal term with its inner argument. Then after the separator cu, the main relation of the sentence pluka is followed (pluka alone means It is pleasant.)

To say will be pleasant we should use the future tense term:

le nicte ba cu pluka The night will be pleasant.

Also note that adding an argument after a time-related particle can lead to a drastically different meaning:

le nicte ba le nu citka cu pluka The night is pleasant after eating.

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 notion of "present time".

It's also possible to integrate modal particles into the main relation construct:

le nicte ba cu pluka le nicte ba pluka The night will be pleasant.

Both sentences mean the same, ba pluka is a relation construct meaning … will be pleasant.

The structure of le nicte ba pluka is the following:

  • le nicte — the head of the sentence with just one term le nicte
  • ba pluka — the tail of the sentence that only consists of the relation ba pluka

Contrast this with the previous sentence le nicte ba cu pluka:

  • le nicte ba — the head of the sentence with two terms le nicte and ba
  • pluka — the tail of the sentence that only consists of the relation pluka

The advantage of le nicte ba pluka over le nicte ba cu pluka is only in conciseness; you can usually skip saying cu in such cases since the sentence can't be understood otherwise anyway.

If you wish to put a modal term before an argument term you can separate it from the following text by explicitly "ending" the term with the helper word ku:

ba ku le nicte cu pluka le nicte ba cu pluka le nicte ba pluka The night will be pleasant.

ku prevents ba le nicte from appearing thus retaining ba ku and le nicte as separate terms.

One last note: English definitions of Lojban words may use tenses even when the original Lojban words do not imply them, e.g.:

… talks to …, … speaks to …
… is pleasant

Although talks, is etc. are in the present tense (we can't always get rid of tense in English words because that's how English works), we must always assume that tense is not implied in the meaning of the defined Lojban words unless the English definition of such words explicitly mentions such tense restrictions.

Another series of time-related particles, event contours:

tense particle: the event is at its beginning
tense particle: the event is in progress
tense particle: the event is complete
tense particle: the event is viewed as a whole (has started and then finished)

Most relation words describe events without specifying the stage of those events. Event contours allow us to be more precise:

mi pu co'a сu cikna mi pu co'a cikna I woke up.

… is awake
co'a cikna
… wakes up, becomes awake
pu co'a cikna
… woke up, became awake

le prenu co'a cikna
The person wakes up.

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

mi pu ca'o сu sipna mi pu ca'o sipna I was sleeping.

… sleeps

le mlatu ca'o sipna
The cat is sleeping.

mi ca ca'o pinxe I am drinking.

mi ba ca'o pinxe I will be drinking.

mo'u is used for describing the completion of events:

mi mo'u klama le tcana I arrived at the station.

le tcana
the station

le prenu mo'u klama le tcana
The person has arrived at the station.

co'i usually corresponds to the English Perfect tense:

le verba ca co'i pinxe le jisra The children have drunk the juice.

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

he English Present Simple tense describes events that happen sometimes:

le prenu ca ta'e tavla The people (habitually, sometimes) talk.

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:

le prenu pu co'i tavla mi The people had talked to me.

le prenu ba co'i tavla mi The people will have talked to me.

The relative order of time-related particles 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 do we get the Present Perfect tense.

Another series of modal particles emphasizes that events happen during an interval:

for a short time
through some time, for a while, during …
for a long time

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

le prenu cu sipna ze'a le nu carvi
The person is sleeping while it's raining.

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

Note: we cannot elide cu here since nicte sipna (… is a night sleeper) is a tanru and thus would lead to some other (if weird) meaning.

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

Compare ze'a with ca:

mi pu ca le nicte cu sipna I slept at night.

le nicte
the nighttime

When using ze'a, we are talking about the whole interval of what we describe.

Note that nicte is itself an event, so we don't need nu here.

Modal particle for because:

mi pinxe ri'a le nu mi taske I drink because I am thirsty.

mi citka ri'a le nu mi xagji I eat because I am hungry.

because … (of some event)
… is thirsty

… is thirsty

… is hungry

… is hungry

Modal particles denoting place work in the same way:

mi cadzu fa'a do to'o le zdani I walk in the direction of you away from the home.

Note that, unlike klama, the modal particles fa'a and to'o denote directions, not necessarily start or end points of the route. For example:

le prenu cu klama fa'a do The person comes towards you.

means that the person is simply moving towards your direction, but not necessarily to you (maybe to some place or person near you).

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

… is a city
towards …, in the direction of …
from …, from the direction of …
at … (some place)

Note: nu shows that a new inner embedded sentence starts within the main sentence. We put kei after such relation to show its right border, similar to how we use ")" or "]" in math. For example:

le gerku cu plipe fa'a mi ca le nu do ca'o klama The dog jumps towards me when you are coming.

le gerku cu plipe fa'a mi
The dog jumps towards me.

to jump


le gerku cu plipe ca le (nu do ca'o klama kei) fa'a mi The dog jumps (when you are coming) towards me.

Brackets ( and ) are used here only to show the structure; they are not necessary in a normal Lojban text.

We use kei after the inner sentence do ca'o klama to show that it ended, and the tail of the external sentence (*le gerku cu plipe...) continues with its terms.

Compare this sentence with the following:

le gerku cu plipe ca le (nu do ca'o klama fa'a mi) The dog jumps (when you are coming towards me).

As you can see, do klama fa'a mi is a relation inside the bigger one, so fa'a mi is now inside it.

Now, it's not the dog that comes towards me, but you.

At the end of sentences, kei is never needed as the end of any sentence is a right border by itself anyway.

Consider the following example with a time-related particle:

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

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

We can rearrange the sentence by moving ba le nu mi dansu around, as long as it remains after pu.


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

le tsani
the sky
…is present at … (some place or event), … stays at … (some place)
le canko
the window
le fagri
the fire
You and I
le purdi
the garden
le tcati
the tea
mi ca gleki le nu do catlu le tsani I am happy that you look at the sky.
xu le gerku pu ca'o zvati le zdani Were the dogs staying at home?
do pu citka le plise ba le nu mi pinxe le jisra You ate the apples after I drank the juice.
ko catlu fa'a le canko Look towards the window.
xu do gleki ca le nu do ca'o cadzu bu'u le purdi Are you happy when you are walking in the garden?
ca le nu mi klama le zdani kei do pinxe le tcati ri'a le nu do taske When I go home you drink tea because you are thirsty.

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

You will look at the car. do ba catlu le karce
You want it to rain in future. do ca djica le 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 le zdani ca le nu carvi

Names. Choosing a name

cmevla, or name word, is a special kind of word used to build names. It's easy to recognize le cmevla in a text flow, as they are the only words that end in a consonant and are wrapped by one dot on each side.

Examples of le 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: .bab.

The simplest example of using a name would be

la .bab. cu tcidu Bob reads/is reading.

… reads

le prenu ca'o tcidu
The person is reading.

la is similar to le, but it converts a word into a name instead of a simple argument.

In English, we start a word with a capital letter to show that it is 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 .bab.djansyn. cu tcidu Bob Johnson reads/is reading.

Here, we separated the two cmevla with just one dot, which is enough.

It's common to omit dots in front of and at the end of le cmevla to write texts faster, for example, when text chatting. After all, le cmevla are still separated from neighboring words by spaces around them:

la bab djansyn cu tcidu

However, in spoken language, it is still necessary to put a short pause before and after le cmevla.

Bob's first name, the name of the language Lojban, can be used in Lojban without many changes:

la .lojban. cu bangu mi I speak Lojban. Lojban is a language of me. Lojban is a language I use.

… is a language used by … (someone)

mi nintadni la .lojban. I am a new student of Lojban.

mi tadni la .lojban. I study Lojban.

le prenu ca ca'o tadni la .lojban.
The person is now studying Lojban.

Lojban letters directly correspond to sounds, so 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 all languages do this to some extent. For example, English speakers tend to pronounce Jose as Hozay, and Margaret in Chinese is Mǎgélìtè. Some sounds simply 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.

For example:

la .djansyn.
Johnson (probably, closer to American pronunciation)
la .suzyn.
Susan (the two letters s are pronounced differently: the second one is actually a z, and the a is not really an a sound)

Pay attention to how the name is pronounced natively. As a result, 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 .rober.

Here are "Lojbanizations" of some names:

  • Alicela .alis.
  • Mei Lila .meilis.
  • Bobla .bab.
  • Abdulla .abdul.
  • Yan or Ianla .ian.
  • Alila .al.
  • Dorisla .doris.
  • Michellela .micel.
  • Kevinla .kevin.
  • Edwardla .edvard.
  • Adamla .adam.
  • Lucasla .lukas.


  • Two additional full stops (periods) are necessary because if you don't put those pauses in speech, it might become difficult to know where the name starts and ends, or in other words, where the previous word ends and the next word begins.
  • The last letter of a cmevla must be a consonant. If a name doesn't end in a consonant, we usually add an s to the end; so in Lojban, Mary becomes .meris., Joe becomes .djos., and so on. Alternatively, we can leave out the last vowel, so Mary would become .mer. or .meir.
  • You can also put a full stop between a person's first and last names (though it's not compulsory), so Jim Jones becomes .djim.djonz.

Rules for making le 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 placed between two vowels or at the beginning of a word. iauai and u are consonants here. iai — here is the consonant i with the vowel ai after it.
    • ' (apostrophe). It is placed only between two vowels: .e'e, .u'i
    • . (dot, word break)

To create a Lojban name, follow these rules:

  1. the name must end in a consonant except '. If not, add a consonant at the end yourself. Additionally, wrap it with a dot from each side: .lojban..
  2. vowels can only be placed between two consonants: .sam., .no'am.
  3. double consonants are merged into one: dd becomes d, nn becomes n etc. Or a y is placed between them: .nyn.
  4. if a voiced and an unvoiced consonants are next to each other, insert a y between them: kv becomes kyv. Alternatively, 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, insert a y between them: jz becomes jyz. Alternatively, 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, insert a y between them: cx becomes cyx, xk becomes xyk. Alternatively, 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 a 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.)
  10. the sound for the English "h" as in Harry can be either dropped or replaced with x. Harry can become .aris. or .xaris.

Relation words as names

You can select an enjoyable nickname in Lojban by using not only cmevla but also relation words. You can also translate your present name into Lojban if you know what it means, or choose a completely new Lojban name.

Here are a few examples:

Original name Original meaning Word in Lojban Meaning in Lojban Your name
Alexis helper in Greek le sidjuthe helper la sidju
Ethan solid, during in Hebrew le sliguthe solid la sligu
Mei Li beautiful in Mandarin Chinese le melbithe beautiful ones la melbi

he’ ‘she

Lojban doesn't have distinct words for he or she. Possible solutions:

le ninmu
the woman (in gender sense)

le ninmu
the woman (female human)

le nanmu
the male man (in gender sense)

le nanmu
the man (male human)

le ninmu cu tavla le nanmu .i le ninmu cu jatna The woman talk to the man. She is a leader.

… is a leader, commander

Lojbanists have proposed various words for other genders like

le nonmu
the agender person
le nunmu
the non-binary-gendered person

However, in most situations, using le prenu (the person) or personal names is sufficient.

Another choice is to use the short pronoun ri, which refers to the previous argument term:

mi pu klama le nurma .i ri melbi I went to the countryside. It was beautiful.

le nurma
the rural area
… is beautiful, nice to … (someone)

Here, ri refers to the country side.

… is a rural area

mi tavla le pendo .i ri jundi I talk to the friend. He/she is attentive.

… is attentive

Here, ri refers to the friend.

le gerku cu jundi
The dog is attentive.

Note: ri skips pronouns mi (I) and do (you):

le prenu cu tavla mi .i ri pendo mi The person talks to me. He/she is a friend of mine.

Here, ri skips the previous pronoun mi and thus refers to le prenu which is the preceding argument term available.

Other two similar pronouns are ra and ru.

refers to a recently used argument term
refers to an even earlier used argument term

le pendo pu klama le nurma .i ri melbi ra The friend went to the countryside. The countryside was beautiful to her/him.

Here, since ri is used ra has to refer to a more recent completed argument term, which for this isolated example is le pendo. Arguments like mi and do are also skipped by ra.

If ri is not used then ra can refer even to the last completed argument:

le pendo pu klama le nurma .i ra melbi ru The friend went to the countryside. The countryside was beautiful to her/him.

ra is more convenient when you are lazy and context would resolve reference anyway.

Introducing yourself. Vocatives

In Lojban, vocatives are words that behave like interjections (such as xu which we earlier discussed), but they require an argument to be attached to the right of them:

coi do Hello, you!

vocative: Hello! Hi!

coi do
Hello to you!

We use coi followed by an argument term to greet someone.

co'o do Goodbye to you.

vocative: goodbye!

co'o do
Good-bye to you!

coi ro do Hello everyone! Hello each of you

— is how people usually start a conversation with several people. Other numbers are possible of course: coi re do means Hello you two etc.

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

… is morning
… is daylight time
… is evening
… is nighttime

cerni coi Good morning! It's morning — Hello!

vanci coi Good evening!

donri coi Good day!

nicte coi Nightly greetings!

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

nicte co'o Good night!


.a'o pluka nicte Pleasant night!

interjection: I hope
… is 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 + an argument is used to introduce yourself:

mi'e la .doris. I'm Doris. This is Doris speaking.

vocative: identifies speaker

The vocative doi is used to address someone directly:

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

to leave (something or someone)

Without doi, the name might fill the first argument of the relation:

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 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.

… helps … (someone)

We can omit the argument after the vocative only at the end of the sentence. For example, we can just say:

— coi .i xu do kanro — Hello. How do you do? — Hello. Are you healthy?

… is healthy

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

coi do mi djica le nu do sidju mi Hello. I want you to help me. Hello you. I want that you help me.

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

If you use the vocative on its own (without an argument after it) and the sentence is not finished yet, then you need to separate it from the rest. This is because the things that are most likely to follow the vocative in a sentence could easily be misconstrued as describing your addressee. To separate it from the following argument, use the word do. For example,

coi do la .alis. la .doris. pu cliva Hello! Alice left Doris. Hello you! Alice left Doris

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 the interjections first:

.ui coi do la .alis. la .doris. pu cliva Yay, Hello! Alice left Doris.

Note: in the beginning of a sentence, interjections are usually put before vocatives because:

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

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

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

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

Lesson 2. More basic stuff

Types of words

Lojban words are divided into three groups:

  • Relation words (called selbrivla in Lojban)
    • Examples: gleki, klama.
    • Such words contain at least a cluster of consonants (two or more consonants one after another) within the first 5 sounds + they end in a vowel.
  • Particles (called cmavo in Lojban)
    • Examples: le, nu, mi, fa'a.
    • They start with a consonant (one of b d g v z j p t k f s c x l m n r i u), followed by a vowel (one of a e i o u y au ai ei oi). Optionally, after that, there can be one or more sequences of an apostrophe (') and a following vowel. For example, xa'a'a'a'a'a'a and ba'au'oi'a'e'o are possible particles (even if no meaning is assigned to them).
    • It is quite common to write several particles consecutively without spaces between them. This is allowed by Lojban grammar. So, don't be surprised to see lenu instead of le nu, naku instead of na ku, jonai instead of jo nai, and so on. This doesn't change the meaning. However, this rule does not apply to relation words; relation words should be separated by spaces.
  • Name words (called cmevla in Lojban)
    • Examples: .alis., .doris, .lojban.
    • Usually used for personal names, names of places etc.
    • They can be easily distinguished from the other types of words since they end in a consonant. Additionally, they are wrapped with two dots at the beginning and at the end. Colloquially, dots can be omitted when writing, but when speaking, pauses that correspond to those dots are still a must.

Order of arguments

Earlier we had definitions of relation words such as:

… is a cat, to be a cat
… eats …
… loves …
… come to …

Dictionaries can present definitions of relation words with symbols such as , etc.:

is a car …
comes to

These , , and so on is the explicit notation for the so called slots (other names are: places, roles of relation, terbricmi in Lojban). Slots are filled by argument terms (sumti) in the sentence.

Numbers represent the order in which those slots are to be filled by arguments.

For example:

mi prami do I love you.

This sentence also implies that

  • denotes the one who loves, and
  • denotes the one who is loved by.

In other words, each relation has one or more slots, and those slots are specified and labeled as , , and so on. We put arguments like mi, do, le tavla etc. in order, thus filling these slots and giving a concrete meaning to the relation, thus forming a sentence.

list of argument terms (sumti)
argument term mi
argument term do
slot x₁
slot x₂

The advantage of such style of definitions is that it contains all possible participants of a relation immediately specified.

We can also omit arguments making the sentence more vague:

carvi It is raining. is rain, is raining

(although time here is determined by context, it can also mean It often rains, It was raining, etc.)

prami do Someone loves you. loves you

All omitted places in a relation 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.

pronoun: something or someone unspecified or assumed from context

Modal terms like ca, fa'a etc. add new places to relations, but they don't fill slots of relations. In

mi klama fa'a do I come towards you.

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

mi klama fa'a le cmana le zdani I come (in the direction of the mountain) to the home.

le cmana
the mountain

… is a mountain

Here, the second place of klama is do. The sentence means that the mountain is just a direction, whereas the final point is you.

Here, the term fa'a la cmana (in the direction of the mountain) doesn't replace the second place of the relation klama. The second place of klama is le zdani here.

The sentence means that my home is simply located in the direction of the mountain, but it doesn't necessarily mean I want to reach that mountain. The final destination of me coming is not the mountain but the home.

Similarly, in

mi citka ba le nu mi cadzu I eat after I walk.

the second place of citka is still omitted. A new term ba with its argument le nu mi cadzu adds meaning to the sentence.

The order of arguments of compound relation is the same as the one of the last component in it:

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

tu pendo mi That is my riend. That is a friend of me.

… is a friend of … (someone)

So the order of arguments of sutra bajra pendo is the same as that of pendo alone.

More than two places

Relation can have more than two places. For example:

mi pinxe le djacu le kabri I drink the water from the cup.

drinks from

le kabri the 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 le kabri I drink [something] from the cup.

If we omit zo'e, we get something meaningless:

mi pinxe le kabri I drink the cup.

Another example:

mi plicru do le plise I give you the apples.

gives, donates to some object ; allows someone to use

Relations inside relations


le nicte cu nu mi viska le lunra The night is when I see the Moon.

we have

  • le nicte as of the relation,
  • nu mi viska le lunra as the main relation.

However, inside nu mi viska le lunra, we have another sentence with

  • mi - of the inner relation,
  • viska - the inner relation,
  • le lunra - of the inner relation.

So, despite having an inner structure, nu mi viska le lunra is still a relation with its first term filled with le nicte in this case.

Similarly, in

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

we have

  • mi as , the first place of the relation,
  • citka as the main relation construct,
  • ba le nu mi dansu as a modal term of the main relation of the sentence.

Inside this term, we have:

  • mi as , the first place of the relation inside the term
  • dansu as the main relation construct inside the term.

Such "recursive" mechanism of wrapping relations into relations allows expressing complex ideas precisely.

Why are relation words defined the way they are?

English uses a limited set of prepositions that are reused across various verbs and, thus, have no fixed meaning. For example, consider the English preposition to:

I speak to you.

I come to you.

To me it looks pretty.

In each of those examples, to has a new role that is, at best, remotely similar to roles in other sentences.

It's important to note that other languages use different ways of marking roles of verbs that, in many cases, are very different from those used in English.

Lojban, for instance, marks core roles (slots) of relations by fully defining such relations with the roles placed in sequence (or marked with fa, fe, and so on):

comes to
talks to
is beautiful, pretty to

Such core roles are essential in defining relations.

However, there can be optional roles that make relations more precise:

I speak to you while I'm eating.

It's hard to me because this thing is heavy.

In Lojban, a similar notion of such optional roles is expressed via separate relations or, for most common cases, with modal terms:

mi tavla do ze'a le nu mi citka I speak to you while I'm eating.

nandu mi ri'a le nu ti tilju It's hard to me because this thing is heavy.

is hard to
is heavy

Prepositions in English are similar to modal particles in Lojban, although a usual English preposition can have many meanings while in Lojban, every modal particle has only one (even if vague) meaning.

General rules in the order of arguments

The order of places in relations might be sometimes hard to remember, but let's not worry — you don't need to remember all the places of all relation words. (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 relation words have two-three 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 that does something or is something:

    klama = goes …

  2. The object of some action is usually just after the first place:

    punji = puts on ,

  3. And the next place will usually be filled with the recipient:

    punji = puts on ,

  4. Destination (to) places nearly always come before origin (from) places:

    klama = goes to from

    le prenu cu klama fi le zarci
    The person goes out of the shop.

  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).


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

le verba cu troci le ka cadzu The child is trying to walk.

le verba
the child, the children
tries to do or to be (ka)

le verba cu troci le ka cadzu
The child tries to walk.

The particle ka works much like nu. It wraps a sentence.

The main difference is that some slot in the wrapped sentence is to be linked by some argument outside this sentence.

In this case the first argument le verba of the relation troci makes a link to the first unfilled slot of the inner sentence cadzu (which is inside ka).

In other words, the child tries to achieve a state where le verba cu cadzu (the argument le verba would fill the first unfilled slot of the relation cadzu).

Some relations require only infinitives in some of their slots. Definitions of such words mark such slots as property or ka. For example:

feels (ka)

This means that the infinitive in the second slot () is applied to some other slot (most likely, the first slot, ). Cases where the infinitive is applied to slots other than are rare and are explained in dictionaries for corresponding relations or in the case of relation words invented unofficially, can be deduced from common sense by analogy with other similar relation words.

Another example:

ra sidju le pendo le ka bevri le dakli
He/she helps the friend to carry the bags.

ra sidju le pendo le ka bevri le dakli He/she helps the friend to carry the bags.

helps do (ka)

The relation word sidju requires its third slot to be filled with an infinitive.

le dakli
the bag, the bags

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

mi troci le ka do prami I try to be loved by you.

reads from

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

It is also possible by using the pronoun ce'u to explicitly mark a place that has to be applied to some outer argument:

mi troci le ka do prami ce'u I try to be loved by you.

Another example:

mi cinmo le ka xebni ce'u mi cinmo le ka se xebni I feel like someone hates me. I feel being hated.

Types of places

The dictionary often mentions other types of places, for example:

wants (event)

This event means that you have to fill the place with an argument that represents an event. For instance:

le nicte
le nu mi dansu
me dancing

So we get

mi djica le nicte I want the nighttime event.

do djica le nu mi dansu You want me to dance.

In Lojban, it is not allowed to say, for example:

mi djica le plise I want the apple.

because you want to do something with the apple or you want some event happening with the apple, such as:

mi djica le nu mi citka le plise I want to eat the apple. I want that I eat the apple.

Notice that wrapping a relation expecting an event into a nu changes the meaning:

le zekri cu cumki The crime is possible.

is a criminal event, (event) a crime
(event) is possible


le nu zekri cu cumki That is criminal is possible. It is possible that something is a crime.


mi stidi le ka klama le barja I suggest going to the pub.

suggest action (property) to

mi stidi tu'a le barja I suggest the pub.

tu'a le barja
something about the pub

mi djica le nu mi citka le plise I want to eat an apple.

mi djica tu'a le titla I want the sweetie.

tu'a le titla
something about the sweetie
… is sweet, … is a sweetie

le prenu cu djica tu'a le titla
The person wants the sweetie.

Place structure may put too much burden on specifying actions or events. Sometimes we want to specify only some object in those events or places and skip describing the action or the event altogether.

In the examples above I suggest the pub. most likely implies going to the pub and I want the apple. implies eating it.

However, the Lojban relation word stidi requires a property in its slot. Similarly, djica requires an event in its slot.

The short so called qualifier word tu'a before a term implies an abstraction (property, event, or proposition) but selects only this term from this abstraction skipping the rest. It can be vaguely translated as something about:

mi stidi tu'a le barja I suggest something about the pub (maybe visiting it, meeting near it etc.).

mi djica tu'a le plise I desire something related to the apple (perhaps eating, chewing, licking, throwing it at a friend, etc.)

tu'a le cakla cu pluka mi The chocolate is pleasing to me (likely due to its taste). Something about the chocolate is pleasant to me

is some chocolate

When skipping abstractions, only context tells us what was omitted.

It is also possible to modify the main relational construct:

le cakla cu jai pluka mi tu'a le cakla cu pluka mi The chocolate is pleasing to me.

This allows for the creation of vague argument terms with jai:

le jai pluka cu zvati ti The pleasurable thing is here.

Since le pluka (the pleasant event) is abstract, it's impossible to specify its location. However, a participant in the abstraction can be physically placed somewhere.

Places inside arguments

How do we say You are my friend ?

do pendo mi You are my friend. You are a friend of me.

le pendo
the friend / the friends

And now, how do we say My friend is smart.?

le pendo be mi cu stati My friend is smart.

So when we convert a relation into an argument (pendoto be a friend into le pendothe friend), we can still retain other places of that relation by placing be after it.

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

mi plicru do le plise I give you the apple.

le prenu cu plicru le pendo le plise
The person gives to the friend the apple.

le plicru be mi bei le plise The grantor of the apple to me

le plicru be mi bei le plise cu pendo mi The giver of the apple to me is my friend. The one who gives me the apple is a friend of mine.

Another example:

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

comes to from

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

mi klama le pendo do I come to a friend from you.

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

Neither could we use nu because le nu pendo do is the event of someone being a friend of yours.

So le pendo be do is the correct solution.

Another example:

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


mi nelci le bangu be mi I like my language.

Using be for relations not converted to arguments has no effect:

mi nelci be do is the same as mi nelci do

Relative clauses

le prenu poi pendo mi cu tavla mi The person that is friend of mine talks to me.

le prenu noi pendo mi cu tavla mi The person, who incidentally is a friend of mine, talks to me.

… is white

In the first sentence, the word that is essential to identifying the person in question. It clarifies whom among the people in the context we are talking about. We choose only those who are my friends out of probably many people around. Maybe there is only one person around that is my friend.

As for who is incidentally a friend of mine from the second sentence, it just provides additional information about the person. It doesn't help us identify the person. For example, this might happen when all the people around are my friends.

poi pendo mi is a relative clause, a relation attached to the right of the argument le prenu. It ends just before the next word cu:

le prenu (poi pendo mi) cu tavla mi The person that is friend of mine talks to me.

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

la .bob. ba co'a speni le ninmu poi pu xabju le nurma Bob will marry a girl who lived in the country.

… lives in …, … inhabits … (place, object)
le nurma
the rural area

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

la .bob. ba co'a speni le ninmu Bob will marry a girl.

Another example:

le prenu poi gleki cu ze'u renvi People (which ones?) who are happy live long.

modal term: for a long time
to survive

Removing the relative clause with poi changes the meaning:

le prenu ze'u renvi The people live long.

On the other hand, relative clauses with noi contain just additional information about the argument, to which they are attached. That argument 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 le panka I like Doris whom I habitually see in the park. I like Doris. What else can I say about her? I habitually see her in the park.

to observe (using any senses)

le prenu noi mi ta'e zgana bu'u le panka
The person whom I habitually see in the park.

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 le pa tricu I come to the tree.

le pa tricu cu barda The tree is big.

le pa tricu
the tree (one tree)
is big/large

And now let's join those two sentences:

le tricu noi mi klama ke'a cu barda The tree, to which I come, is big.

Note the word ke'a. We move the second sentence about the same tree into a relative clause and replace the argument le 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 argument to which the relative clause is attached.

So literally our Lojbanic sentence sounds like

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

ke'a can be dropped if context is sufficient enough. The two following sentences mean the same:

le prenu poi pendo mi cu tavla mi le prenu poi ke'a pendo mi cu tavla mi The person that is friend of mine talks to me.

ke'a is often assumed to go to the first unfilled place:

mi nelci la .doris. noi mi ta'e zgana bu'u le panka mi nelci la .doris. noi mi ta'e zgana ke'a bu'u le panka I like Doris whom I habitually see in the park.

Here, mi fills the first slot of the relation ta'e zgana (… habitually sees …), thus, ke'a is assumed for the next, second place.

Relative clauses like usual relations can contain constructs with modal terms:

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

le tricu cu barda
The tree is big.

le cabdei
the day of today

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

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

The meaning has changed a lot.

Finally, voi is used to form le-like arguments but with relative clauses:

ti voi le nu ke'a cisma cu pluka mi cu zutse tu These ones whose smile pleases me are sitting down.

mi nelci ti voi le nu ke'a cisma cu pluka mi
I like these whose smiles pleases me.

this one near me, these ones near me
is pleasant to
sits, is sitting on

Here, voi defines the object near me.

Compare it to:

ti poi le nu ke'a cisma cu pluka mi cu zutse Of these ones those whose smile pleases me are sitting down.

poi restricts the selection to those described in the relative clause. This example might imply that there are many objects (people etc.) around me but with poi I select only necessary ones.

Compare it to:

ti noi le nu ke'a cisma cu pluka mi cu zutse These ones (who are incidentally such that their smile pleases me) are sitting down.

noi simply adds incidental information that is not necessary to determine what ti (these ones) refers to. Perhaps, there is nobody else around to describe.

Finally, just like nu has the right border marker kei, we have

right border marker for poi, noi and voi.

mi tavla la .doris. noi ca zutse tu ku'o .e la .alis. noi ca cisma I talk to Doris, who is now sitting over there, and Alice who now smiles.

Notice that without ku'o we would have tu (over there) joined together with la .alis. (Alice) leading to a weird meaning:

mi tavla la .doris. noi ca zutse tu .e la .alis. noi ca cisma I talk to Doris, who is now sitting over there and on top of Alice (who now smiles).

Notice the zutse tu .e la .alis. part.

For all of poi, noi and voi the right border marker is still the same: ku'o.

Short relative clauses. ‘About

Sometimes, you might need to attach an additional argument to another argument:

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

le vajni
something important

pe and ne are similar to poi and noi, but they attach arguments to arguments:

le pa penbi pe mi cu xunre The pen that is mine is red. (mine is essential to identifying the pen in question)

le pa penbi ne mi cu xunre The pen, which is mine, is red. (additional information)

which is about, has relation to … (an argument follows)
that is about, has relation to … (an argument follows)

le pa penbi ne mi ge'u .e le pa fonxa ne do cu xunre The pen, which is mine, and the phone, which is yours, are red.

right border marker for pe, ne.

«be» and «pe»

Note that relative clauses are attached to arguments, while be is a part of the relation.

Actually, le bangu pe mi is a better translation of my language, since, like in English, the two arguments are related to each other in a vague way.

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

is an arm of

Let's show once again that a construct with be is a part of the relation, whereas pe, ne, poi and noi attach to arguments:

le pa melbi be mi fonxa pe le pa pendo be mi cu barda The beautiful to me phone of the friend of mine is big.

Here, be mi is attached to the relation melbi = to be beautiful to … (someone) and thus creates a new relation melbi be mi = to be beautiful to me. But pe le pa pendo be mi (of my friend) is applied to the whole argument le pa melbi be mi fonxa (the beautiful to me phone).

It can also happen that we need to attach be to a relation, transform that relation into an argument and then attach pe to that argument:

le pa pendo be do be'o pe la .paris. cu stati The friend of yours who is related to Paris is smart. (pe la .paris. is attached to the whole argument le pa pendo be do be'o)

le pu plicru be do bei le pa plise be'o pe la .paris. cu stati Who gave you the apple (and who is related to Paris) is smart. (pe la .paris. is attached to the whole argument le pu plicru be do bei le pa plise be'o)

right border marker for the string of terms attached with be and bei

In these two examples, your friend has some relation to Paris (maybe, he/she is from Paris).

Compare it to:

le pa pendo be do pe la .paris. cu stati The friend of you (you who is related to Paris) is smart.

le pu plicru be do bei le pa plise pe la .paris. cu stati Who gave you the apple (the apple that is related to Paris) is smart.

In these last two examples, however, either you are related to Paris or the apple.

Alice is a teacher’ and ‘Alice is the teacher

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

However, here are three cases:

la .alis. cu ctuca Alice teaches.

mi ctuca
I teach / I am a teacher.

la .alis. cu me le ctuca Alice is one of the teachers.

… is among …, … is one of …, … are members of … (argument follows)

la .alis. ta'e ctuca Alice habitually teaches.

modal particle: the event happens habitually

la .alis. cu du le ctuca Alice is the teacher.

… is identical to …

The particle me takes an argument after it and indicates that there are likely other teachers, and Alice is one among them.

The particle du is used when Alice is, for example, the teacher that we have been searching for or talking about. It indicates identity.

Thus, me and du can sometimes correspond to what in English we express using the verb to be/is/was.

In Lojban, we prioritize the meaning of what we intend to say, rather than relying on how it is literally expressed 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 le panka This is Alice whom I habitually see in the park.

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

la .alis. cu penmi le prenu noi du la .abdul. Alice met the person, namely Abdul.

When using me, you can connect several arguments with and:

tu me le pendo be mi be'o .e le tunba be mi Those are some (or all) of my friends and my siblings.

is a sibling of

do tunba mi
You are my sibling.

Relations with modal particles

We can place a modal particle not only before the main relation construct of the sentence but also at the end of it, producing the same result:

mi ca tcidu mi tcidu ca I (now read).

to read (some text)

When using nu, we create a relation describing some event. 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 le pa cmana pu I went to the mountain. I go to a mountain (in the past).

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

We can also put one or more modal particles as the first element of a relation construct and e.g. use such enriched relation in an argument form:

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

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

pu belongs to le kunti tumla and ca belongs to purdi (as le pu kunti tumla can't add ca at the end).

Having several modal particles in order is not a problem:

le pu ze'u kunti tumla ca purdi What was a desert for a long time is now a garden.

modal term: for a long time

Placing term particles after nouns binds them to outer relations:

le kunti tumla pu purdi
The desert was a garden.

le kunti tumla pu purdi (le kunti tumla) pu purdi The desert was a garden.

New arguments from slots of the same relation

do plicru mi ti You grant me this.

mi se plicru ti do I'm granted this by you.

gives something for use

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

do plicru mi ti means exactly the same as mi se plicru do ti. 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.

le nu mi tadni la .lojban. cu xamgu mi My study of Lojban is good for me.

… is good for (someone)

mi se xamgu le nu mi tadni la .lojban. For me, it's good to study Lojban.

The same can be done when relation are used when creating arguments:

le plicru
those who give, the givers, the donors, the donators
le se plicru
those who are given to, recipients of gifts
le te plicru
those objects that are given for use, gifts

te swaps the first and third places of relations.

As we know, when we add le in front of a relation construct, it becomes an argument. So

  • le plicru means those which could fit in the first place of plicru
  • le se plicru means those which could fit in the second place of plicru
  • le te plicru means those which could fit in the third place of plicru

Thus, in Lojban, we don't need separate words for donor, recipient, and gift. We reuse the same relation 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 useful phenomena are interconnected, Lojban reflects this.

Changing other places in main relations

The series se, te, ve, xe (in alphabetical order) consists of particles that change places in main relations:

  • se swaps the first and second places
  • te swaps the first and third places
  • ve swaps the first and fourth places
  • xe swaps the first and fifth places.

mi zbasu le pa stizu le mudri I made the chair out of the piece of wood.

builds, makes out of
le pa stizu
the chair
le mudri
the piece of wood

le mudri cu te zbasu le stizu mi The piece of wood is what the chair is made of by me.

The mi has now moved to the third place of the relation and can be dropped if we are too lazy to specify who made the chair or if we just don't know who made it:

le mudri cu te zbasu le stizu The piece of wood is the material of the chair.

Similarly to our example with le se plicru (the recipient) and le te plicru (the gift), we can use te, ve, xe to derive more words from other places of relation words:

goes to from via by means

Thus, we can derive that

le klama
the comer / the comers
le se klama
the destination place
le te klama
the place of origin of the movement
le ve klama
the route
le xe klama
the means of coming

le xe klama and the fifth place of klama can denote any means of movement, like driving a car or walking on foot.

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

Free word order: tags for roles in relations

Usually, we don't need all the slots, places of a relation, so we can omit the unnecessary ones by replacing them with zo'e. However, we can use place tags to explicitly refer to a needed slot. Place tags work like modal particles but deal with the place structure of relations:

mi prami do is the same as fa mi prami fe do I love you.

  • fa marks the argument that fills the first slot of a relation ()
  • fe marks the argument that fills the second slot ()
  • fi marks the argument that fills the third slot ()
  • fo marks the argument that fills the fourth slot ()
  • fu marks the argument that fills the fifth slot ()

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 le kabri is the same as mi pinxe zo'e le kabri I drink (something) from the cup.

drinks from
le kabri
the cup, the glass

le prenu cu pinxe fi le kabri
The person drinks from the glass.

mi tugni zo'e le nu vitke le rirni mi tugni fi le nu vitke le rirni I agree (with someone) about visiting parents.

agrees with someone about (proposition)
le rirni
the parent / the parents

With place tags, we can move places around:

fe mi fi le plise pu plicru Someone gave the apple to me.


  • le plise = the apple, we put it into the third place of plicru, what is given
  • mi = me, we put it into the second place of plicru, 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 arguments by placing them after be:

le pa klama be fi le tcadu cu pendo mi The one who comes to the city is my friend.

We may also put all the arguments of one main relation in front of the sentence tail (preserving their relative order). Because of this freedom, we can say:

mi do prami which is the same as mi do cu 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 sentences are also equal in meaning:

mi plicru do le pa plise I give you the apple.

mi do cu plicru le pa plise I you give the apple.

mi do le pa plise cu plicru I you the apple give.


Prenex is a "prefix" of relation, in which you can declare variables to be used later:

pa da poi pendo mi zo'u da tavla da There is someone who is a friend of me such that he/she talks to himself/herself

prenex separator
pronoun: variable.

The pronoun da is translated as there is something/someone … If we use da the second time in the same relation, it always refers to the same thing as the first da:

mi djica le nu su'o da poi kukte zo'u mi citka da I wish there was at least something tasty so that I eat it.

number: at least 1

If the variable is used in the same relation and not in any embedded relations, then you can omit the prenex altogether:

mi djica le nu su'o da poi kukte zo'u mi citka da mi djica le nu mi citka su'o da poi kukte I wish there was at least something tasty so that I eat it. I wish for something to be so that I eat it.

Both examples mean the same, in both cases su'o da denotes there is (were/will be) something or somebody.

However, prenex is useful and necessary when you need to use da deep inside your relation, i.e. within embedded relations:

su'o da poi kukte zo'u mi djica le nu mi citka da There is at least something tasty: I wish I ate it, I want to eat it. There is something tasty I wish to eat.

Notice how the meaning changes. Here, we can't omit the prenex because it will change the meaning of the previous example.

More examples:

mi tavla I talk.

mi tavla su'o da mi tavla da There is someone I talk to.

By default, da as a pronoun alone means the same as su'o da (there is at least one …) unless an explicit number is used.

da tavla da Someone talks to themselves.

da tavla da da Someone talks to themselves about themselves.

talks to someone about topic

pa da poi ckape zo'u mi djica le nu da na ku fasnu There is one dangerous thing: I wish it never happens.

da doesn't imply any particular objects or events, which is often useful:

xu do tavla su'o da poi na ku slabu do Do you talk to someone not familiar to you? (no particular person in mind is described).

.e'u mi joi do casnu bu'u su'o da poi drata Let's discuss in another place (no particular place in mind)

Arguments of existence

pa da poi me le pendo be mi zo'u mi prami da There is someone who is a friend of mine, such that I love them.

Since da is used only once, we might be tempted to get rid of the prenex. But how should we handle the relative clause poi pendo mi (who is a friend of mine)?

Thankfully, in Lojban there is a shortcut:

pa da poi me le pendo be mi zo'u mi prami da mi prami pa le pendo be mi There is someone who is a friend of mine, such that I love them.

Both sentences mean the same.

Arguments starting with numbers like pa le pendo (there is someone who is a friend of mine), ci le prenu (there are three people) may refer to new entities every time they are used. That's why

pa le pendo be mi ca tavla pa le pendo be mi There is one friend of mine who talks to one friend of mine.

This sentence is not precise in telling whether it's your friend talking to himself/herself, or you are describing two friends of yours such that the first one is talking to your second one.

It's more reasonable to say:

le pa pendo be mi ca tavla ri The friend of mine is talking to himself/herself.

pronoun: refers to the previous argument excluding mi, do.

Here, ri refers to the previous argument: le pa pendo altogether.

Note the difference:

  • da means there is something/someone, da always refers to the same entity when used more than once in the same relation.
  • argument like pa le mlatu (with a bare number) is similar to using pa da poi me le mlatu but it can refer to new entities every time it is used.

mi nitcu le nu pa da poi mikce zo'u da kurju mi I need a doctor to take care of me (implying "any doctor will do").

pa da poi mikce zo'u mi nitcu le nu da kurju mi There is a doctor whom I need to take care of me.

One more example:

le nu pilno pa le bangu kei na ku banzu Using just one of the languages is not enough.

… uses …
… is enough for purpose …

Compare it to:

le nu pilno le pa bangu kei na ku banzu Using the language (the one in question) is not enough.

Arguments of existence are naturally used inside inner relations and with tu'a:

mi djica le nu mi citka pa le plise I want to eat an apple, some apple.

mi djica tu'a pa le plise I want something about an apple, some apple (probably, eating it, maybe chewing it, licking it, throwing it at your friend etc.)

Notice the difference:

mi djica tu'a le pa plise I want something about the apple (the apple in question).

I have an arm.’ ‘I have a brother.

The English verb to have has several meanings. Let's list some of them.

pa da birka mi I have an arm. There is something that is an arm of me

is an arm of

We use the same strategy for expressing family relationships:

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

re lo bruna be mi cu clani I have two brothers, and they are tall.

is long, tall

So we don't need the verb to have to denote such relationships. The same applies to other family members:

da mamta mi mi se mamta da I have a mother.

da patfu mi mi se patfu da I have a father.

da mensi mi mi se mensi da I have a sister.

da panzi mi mi se panzi da I have a child (or children).

is a child, offspring of

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

Another meaning of to have is to keep:

mi ralte le pa gerku I have the dog. I keep the dog

mi ralte le pa karce I have the car.

keeps in their possession

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

mi ponse le karce I own the car. I have the car.



The order of

  • terms, starting with numbers,
  • modal terms, and
  • modal particles of relation constructs,

matters and should be read from left to right:

ci le pendo cu tavla re le verba There are three friends, each talking to two children.

The overall number of children here may be as high as six.

By using zo'u, we can make our sentence clearer:

ci da poi me le pendo ku'o re de poi me le verba zo'u da tavla de For three da which are among the friends, for two de which are among the children: da talks to de.

Here, we see that each of the friends is said to talk to two children, and it might be different children each time, with up to six children in total.

How then can we express the other interpretation, in which just two children are involved? We cannot merely reverse the order of variables in the prenex to:

re de poi me le verba ku'o ci da poi me le pendo zo'u da tavla de For two de which are among the children, for three da which are among the friends, da talks to de

Although we have now limited the number of children to exactly two, we end up with an indeterminate number of friends, ranging from three to six. This distinction is called a “scope distinction”: in the first example, ci da poi me le pendo is said to have a wider scope than re de poi me le verba, and therefore precedes it in the prenex. In the second example, the reverse is true.

To make the scope equal, we use a special conjunction ce'e connecting two terms:

ci da poi me le pendo ce'e re de poi me le verba cu tavla ci le pendo ce'e re le verba cu tavla Three friends [and] two children, talk.

This picks out two groups, one of three friends and the other of two children, and says that each of the friends talks to each of the children.

The order matters with modal particles modifying main relation constructs too:

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.

term: the event is completed

Now compare:

mi mo'u co'a speni I am newlywed. I finished becoming a married person.

mi co'a mo'u speni I get widowed. I become finishing being married.

If there are several modal particles in one sentence, the rule is that we read them from left to right together, thinking of 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 argument is attached to the right), and then follow the modals 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 becoming married, i.e., I am newlywed.

In such cases, we say that co'a speni is within the "scope" of mo'u.


In mi co'a mo'u speni, the order of events 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:

mi co'a ta'e citka I start to habitually eat.

mi ta'e co'a citka I habitually start to eat.

Examples with simple tenses:

mi pu ba klama le cmana It happened before I went to the mountain. I in past: in future: go to the mountain.

mi ba pu klama le cmana It will happen after I went to the mountain. I in future: in past: go to the mountain.

The rule of reading terms from left to right can be overridden by connecting modal particles with the conjunction ce'e:

mi ba ce'e pu klama le cmana I went and will go to the mountain. I in future and in past: go to the mountain.

mi cadzu ba le nu mi citka ce'e pu le nu mi sipna I walk after I eat and before I sleep.

Like with modal terms, the position of da matters:

mi ponse da There is something I own.

mi co'u ponse da I lost all my property.

modal term: the event stops

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

Another example:

ro da vi cu cizra Everything is strange here. Every thing here strange

here, at a short distance
is strange

vi ku ro da cizra Here, everything is strange. Here: every thing strange

Did you catch the difference?

  1. Everything is strange here means that if something is not strange somewhere, it becomes strange at this place.
  2. Here, everything is strange simply describes those objects or events that are here (and they are strange). We don't know anything about others in other places.

vi ku ro da cizra
Here, everything is strange.

Another example with an argument term starting with a number:

pa le prenu ta'e jundi There is one person who is habitually attentive.

— it is the same person who is attentive.

ta'e ku pa le prenu cu jundi It habitually happens that there is one person who is attentive.

— it is always that one person is attentive. People may change, but there is always one attentive person.

Generic arguments. ‘I like cats (in general)’. Sets

mi nelci le'e mlatu I like cats.

We've seen le being mostly translated as the English the. However, in some cases, we might want to describe a typical object or event that best exemplifies a type of object or event in our context. In this case, we replace le with le'e:

mi nelci le'e badna .i mi na ku nelci le'e plise I like bananas. I don't like apples.

I might not have any bananas or apples at hand. I'm simply talking about bananas and apples as I understand, remember, or define them.

To make an argument term describing the set of objects or events (from which we derive such a typical element), we use the word le'i:

le danlu pendo pe mi cu mupli le ka ca da co'a morsi kei le'i mabru My pet is an example that at one point mammals die.

is a mammal
is dead
co'a morsi
ca da
at some point in time
is an example of (property) among (set)

Dictionaries specify slots of relations that have to be filled with sets.


lei prenu pu sruri le jubme The people surrounded the table. The mass of people did surround the table.

lei prenu cu sruri le jubme
The people surrounded the table.

We use lei instead of le to show that the mass of objects is relevant to the action, but not necessarily each of those objects individually. Compare:

le prenu pu smaji The people were silent.

lei prenu pu smaji The crowd was silent.

le prenu
the person, the people
lei prenu
the crowd, the mass of people
is silent

le since cu sruri le garna The snakes surrounded the rod. Each of the snakes surrounded the rod.

— here, each snake surrounded the rod probably by curling around it.

lei since cu sruri le garna The snakes surrounded the rod. The snakes together as a mass surrounded the rod.

— here, we don't care about individual snakes, but we state that the snakes as a mass collectively surrounded the rod.

le pa since cu sruri le prenu
The snake surrounded the person.

lei re djine cu sinxa la .lojban. The two rings are a symbol of Lojban.

na ku re le djine cu sinxa la lojban It's not true that each of the two rings is a symbol of Lojban.

is a ring

Indeed, only the two rings together form a symbol.

Consider a sentence:

Apples are heavy.

Does it mean that each apple is heavy, or does it mean that they are heavy if taken together?

In Lojban, we can easily distinguish between these two cases:

le ci plise cu tilju Each of the three apples is heavy.

le plise cu tilju Each of the apples is heavy.

lei ci plise cu tilju The three apples are heavy in total. (so that every apple might be light, but together they are heavy)

is heavy

As you can see, there is an important difference between describing an object within a mass and describing the mass itself.

Numbers in places

le ci plise cu grake li pa no no Each of the three apples weigh 100 grams.

lei ci plise cu grake li pa no no The three apples weigh 100 grams in total. (so that every apple weighs ≈ 33 grams on average)

weighs (number) grams

When a place of a relation requires a number as mentioned by the dictionary, then to use that number, we prefix it with the word li.

li is a prefix signaling that a number, a timestamp, or some math expression is coming.

li mu no Number 50.

A simple mu no not being prefixed by li would be used to denote 50 objects or events.

Lesson 3. Quoting. Questions. Interjections

«sei»: comments to the text

The particle sei allows inserting a comment about our attitude regarding what is said in a relation:

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 arguments formed using le, the relation formed with sei must end in a relation construct.

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 of course add more arguments to the relation with be and bei as we do inside argument terms:

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

la fircku
praises for audience via means

Quotation marks

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

mi cusku lu mi prami do li'u I say "I love you."

expresses/says (quote) to audience

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 draws the 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."

greets someone

le prenu cu rinsa mi
The person greets 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 ku 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 ra cusku Truly, "I won", he said.

interjection: truly

As you can see, je'u is not part of his words. It represents your attitude toward the relation. If you want to quote "je'u mi jinga", use quotation marks like this:

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

Notice the difference between the two examples?

Here are several common relation words related to talking:

ra pu retsku lu do klama ma li'u She asked, "Where do you go?"

mi pu spusku lu mi klama le zdani li'u I replied, "I am going home."

mi pu spuda le se retsku be ra le ka spusku lu mi klama le zdani li'u I replied to her question by saying, "I am going home."

replies to by doing (property of )

The remaining three relation words have identical place structure:

expresses/says (quote) to audience
asks (quote) to audience
replies/says answer (quote) to audience

«zo» — quoting one word

zo is a quotation marker, similar to lu. However, zo quotes only one word immediately following it. This means it does not require an unquote word like li'u; we already know where the quotation ends. By doing this, we save two syllables and make our speech more concise.

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

(quote) is a name of

To present yourself in Lojban using your Lojbanized name, follow the example above. If your name consists of more than one word, use lu … li'u:

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

Another approach is to use me:

mi me la .robin.djonsyn. I'm Robin Johnson.

Notice the difference: "Robin" with quotation marks is a quoted name, whereas Robin is a person.

To show this better, here is a silly variation:

zo .robin. cmene la .robin. "Robin" is Robin's name. "Robin" is a name of Robin.

The first place of cmene is a quote, a text. Therefore, we use lu … li'u or zo to create a quote and fill the first place of cmene with it, instead of la (prefix for names).

Verbs of speech

Here are some relations describing speech:

mi pu skicu le purdi le pendo be mi lo ka bredi I told my friend about my garden being ready.

tells about (object/event/state) to with description (property)
… is ready to …

mi pu cusku lu le purdi cu bredi li'u le pendo be mi lo ka cladu bacru I said to my friend, "The garden is ready," by uttering it loudly.

says (text) for audience via medium
… is loud

mi pu tavla le pendo be mi le nu le purdi cu bredi kei le lojbo I talked to my friend in Lojban about the garden being ready.

talks to about subject in language

In short:

  • skicu means to tell, to describe with some description,
  • cusku means to say some text,
  • tavla means to talk in a language.

Content questions

English has several wh- question words — who, what etc. In Lojban, for both of them we use one word: ma. This word is an argument (like mi, le prenu etc.) and it'ss like a suggestion to 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 plicru do ma — le plise — I give you what? (probably meaning What was it I was supposed to be giving you?) — The apple.

To translate which/what, we also use ma:

— ma gugde gi'e se xabju do — le gugde'usu — In what country do you live? — USA — What is a country and is inhabited by you — USA

… (someone) inhabits … (some place)
se xabju
… (some place) is inhabited by … (someone)

mo is similar to ma, but it is a relation word.

mo suggests to fill in a relation instead of an argument. It's like asking What does X do? or What is X? in English (Lojban doesn't force you to distinguish between being and doing).

We can see mo as asking someone to describe the relationship between the arguments in the question.

— do mo — How do you do? What's up? — You are what, you do what?

This is the most common way of asking How do you do? or Howdy? in Lojban. Some possible answers:

— mi gleki — I'm happy.

is happy

— mi kanro — I'm healthy.

mi tatpi I'm tired.

mi gunka I'm working.

Another way of asking How do you do?:

— do cinmo le ka mo — How do you feel (emotionally)?

feels (property of )

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.

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.

If we do want to differentiate between to do and to be someone or something we use additional relations:

la meilis cu zukte ma Mei Li does what? What does Mei Li do?

le ka lumci cleaning.

la meilis cu zukte le ka lumci Mei Li is does cleaning.

does (property of )
... cleans up or washes ... (something)

ra lumci le zdani
She cleans up the home.

do du ma You are who?

mi du le ctuca I am the teacher.

Using modal terms with ma can give us other useful questions:

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

pe ma is attached only to arguments:

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

Number questions

le xo prenu cu klama ti How many people are coming here?

mu Five.

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

le mu prenu cu klama ti The 5 people are coming to this place.

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

Here are a few more examples:

le xo botpi cu kunti How many bottles are empty?

do ralte le xo gerku How many dogs do you keep?

Verbs of facts

Consider the example:

mi djuno le du'u do stati I know that you are smart.

knows (proposition) about

mi jimpe le du'u do pu citka I understand that you were eating.

understands (proposition) about

mi na jimpe
I don't understand.

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

djuno (to know) and jimpe (to understand) describe facts. It would be illogical to say, I understand that you were eating, but in fact, you weren't.

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

le du'u do mlatu cu jitfa That you are a cat is false.

(proposition) is false

When should you use du'u and when should you use nu? You may consult the dictionary:

  • The label (du'u) or (proposition) marks places where du'u is recommended.
  • The label (nu) or (event) marks places where nu is recommended.

If you mistakenly use nu instead of du'u, you will still be understood. However, fluent Lojban speakers typically distinguish between these particles.

Indirect questions

mi djuno le 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, and there is no question mark. The answer is presumed, and 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 to indicate it's 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 le du'u ma kau tadni la .lojban. I know who is studying Lojban. I know the identity of the person studying Lojban.

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

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

Indirect quotations (reported speech): ‘I said that I would come.

A relation like Alice said, "Michelle said, 'Hello' to me" can also be expressed in a subtler way:

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

Alternatively, you can make it shorter:

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

The combination se du'u allows the expression of indirect speech.

Here are some examples of relations useful for reported speech:

le ninmu pu retsku le se du'u mi klama ma kau She asked where I was going.

mi pu spusku le se du'u mi klama le zdani I replied that I was going home.

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

Questions in reported speech:

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

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

  • If that describes what can be seen, heard, or 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: ‘Yay!’ = «ui», ‘Aye!’ = «ie», ‘Phew!’ = «.o'u»

We know such interjections as ui (Yay!), .a'o (I hope).

do jinga ui You won! (I'm happy about that!)

interjection: Yay!, interjection of happiness

ui mi jinga
Yay! I won!

Interjections work like sei with their relations. 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).

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 while still remaining concise in our speech.

ie tu mlatu Agreed, that is a cat.

ie nai .i tu na ku mlatu No, I don't agree. That is not a cat.

interjection: Yeah! Aye! (agreement)
ie nai
interjection: disagreement

.ai mi vitke do I'm going to visit you.

interjection: I'm going to … (intent)

.au do kanro I wish you were healthy.

interjection of desire

mi clira klama
I came early.

.a'o do clira klama I hope you come early.

interjection: I hope
happens early

.ei mi ciska le xatra ti voi pelji ku'o le penbi
I should write the letter on this paper using the pen.

.ei mi ciska le xatra le pelji le penbi I should write the letter on the paper using the pen.

I should … (obligation)
writes on medium

.i'e do pu gunka le vajni Very good! You did important work.

interjection: Fine! (approval)

.o'u tu mlatu Oh, that's only a cat.

interjection: 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 zmitci Ha-ha, this is a robot.

interjection: Ha-ha! (amusement)
… is an automatic tool

You can add or remove interjections to or from a sentence without the risk of breaking it.

Any word that starts with a pure vowel (excluding u and i before vowels) is prefixed with a dot in Lojban in writing and with a pause in speech. So, the correct spelling is .a'o and so on. It's common to omit dots in writing. However, while speaking, you should always show this dot by making a short pause before saying such a word to prevent merging two neighboring words together into one.

Like with xu or sei-relations, we can add interjections after any argument or relation construct, thus expressing our attitude towards that part of the sentence.

Urging interjections

A special group of "imperative/hortative" interjections are used for instigations, commands, and requests. We have already encountered .e'o:

.e'o mi ciksi da poi mi cusku djica Please, let me explain what I want to say.

interjection: Please … (request)

— au mi klama le nenri — .e'a — I'd like to enter. — Please do.

interjection: I allow, you may … (permission)
le nenri
the interior, what is inside

.e'ei do zukte C'mon, do it!

interjection: Come on! (encouragement, instigation, provocation). Unofficial word

.e'i do zutse doi le verba Sit down, child!

interjection: Do that! (command)

.e'u do pinxe le jisra I suggest that you drink the juice. You'd better drink the juice.

interjection: Let's … (suggestion)

«ko» for quicker urges

do bajra You run.

bajra Someone runs.

In English, the verb itself is a command:


In Lojban, bajra as a sentence means Someone runs (or is running / was running, depending on context). bajra can also mean a command, Do run!, but sometimes context isn't enough to determine if it's an urge to run or simply a statement that someone runs or is running.

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

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

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

It's perfectly fine to say something more precise, like:

do .e'o bajra You, please run!

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

By moving ko in a relation, the command/request is moved to that part. For example:

nelci ko Make it so you are liked by someone!

… likes … (something or someone)

As you can see, we have to restructure this relation in English, which still sounds strange. However, 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.

… takes care of … (someone or something)

Discursive interjections

au mi citka le salta .e ji'a le grute I'd like to eat the salad and the fruits too.

additionally, also, means that there exist others who also are the same (you in this case) or who do the same
… is some salad
… is a fruit

mi si'a nelci do I too like you

— mi nelci le'e mlatu — mi si'a nelci le'e mlatu — I like cats. — I like cats too (Me too).

similarly, too, denotes that something is similar while being different in other unmentioned aspects

Structure of interjections: «nai», «sai», «pei», «dai»

Interjections can consist of

  1. the root, like ui (Yay!)

  2. after it 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.

  • ju'o = interjection: I'm sure (certaintty)
  • ju'o cu'i = interjection: maybe, perhaps (uncertainty)
  • ju'o nai = interjection: I have no idea!

Common examples of interjections:

  • an interjection made of a bare root:

ju'o le bruna co'i klama I'm sure, the brother has come.

  • the scalar particle cu'i turns a bare root interjection into its middle attitude:

ju'o cu'i le bruna co'i klama Maybe the brother has come, I'm not sure.

  • the scalar particle nai turns inttheyerjection 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.

  • the 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 the interjection (together with its scalar particles if we used them):

  • the interjection suffix pei turns interjection into a question.

— .au pei do .e mi klama le zarci — .au cu'i — Do you want that you and I go to the store? — Meh, I don't have any preferences.

— ie pei tu melbi — ie — That one is pretty, isn't it? — Yeah.

  • the interjection suffix dai shows feelings of others, not feelings of the speaker:

ui nai dai do na ku 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 speaker's attitude. 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 the speakers' attitude towards other things.

  • the 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).

  • 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:

zo'o nai ra pu klama la .paris. — I'm serious, he went to Paris.

  • Suffixes can be used on its own:

    • pei when used alone asks for any interjection that the listener would feel appropriate:

— pei le lunra cu crino — .ie nai — The moon is green (what is your feeling about it?) — I disagree.

  • For other suffixes, it means that the root interjection ju'a (I state) was omitted:

zo'o do kusru ju'a zo'o do kusru You are cruel (kidding).

interjection: I state (don't confuse it with ju'o (I'm sure))

Just for reference: interjections in tables

Here is a more comprehensive view: emotional, urging, and various other interjections by series.

Wish …
I'm gonna…
It should be…
.au cu'i
.ai cu'i
.ei cu'i .oi cu'i
.au nai
disinclination, reluctance
.ai nai
unintentionally, accidentally
.ei nai
freedom, how things might need not be
.oi nai
"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!
ue nai
expectation, lack of surprise
ui nai
feeling unhappy
uo nai
feeling incomplete
uu nai
Mwa ha ha!
"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
ie nai
ii nai
I feel safe
io nai
iu nai
"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
.u'i nai
.u'o nai
.u'u nai
"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
.i'i nai
feeling antagonism
.i'o nai
.i'u nai
Attachment to situation
"ahah" as "aha"
I'm listening
"aheeh" as in "Swahili"

I hope

hm, I wonder…
.a'a cu'i
.a'e cu'i
.a'i cu'i
no special effort
.a'o cu'i
.a'u cu'i
.a'a nai
.a'e nai
I'm tired
.a'i nai
.a'o nai
.a'u nai
Eww! Yuck!
you may
come on, do it!
do it!
please, do it
I suggest
.e'a cu'i
.e'ei cu'i
.e'i cu'i
.e'o cu'i
.e'u cu'i
.e'a nai
.e'ei nai
expressing discouragement, demoralization
.e'i nai
.e'o nai
offering, granting
.e'u nai
warning, disadvise
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

Notice how an emotion changes to its opposite when using nai, and to the middle emotion when using cu'i.

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

Moreover, many of these interjections are rarely used.

Combining interjections

iu ui nai Unhappily in love.

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

… wins

In this case, the victory was improbable, so 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 le gerku cu sutra plipe (What do you feel?) Heh, the dog 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 sentence?

We can explicitly label the relation as complete with vau and then put the interjection:

do pu sidju mi vau ui You helped me, yay!

Lesson 4. Practice

Now we know the 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, along with examples illustrating their usage.

They may help you get used to colloquial Lojban more quickly.

  • .i ku'i

mi djuno .i ku'i mi na ku djica I know. But I don't want.

  • mi djica le nu
    I want that …

mi djica le nu mi sipna I want to sleep. I want that I sleep.

  • mi djuno le du'u ma kau
    I know what/who …

mi djuno le du'u ma kau smuni zo coi I know what is the meaning of coi.

mi na ku djuno I don't know.

  • jinvi le du'u
    … has an opinion that …

mi jinvi le du'u la .lojban. cu zabna I think that Lojban is cool.

coi ro do Hello, everyone!

co'o ro do Bye, everyone!

  • jinvi le du'u
    … has an opinion that …

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 le nu
    when …

mi pu bebna ca le nu mi citno I was stupid when I was young.

  • va'o le nu
    provided that …

va'o le nu do djica kei mi ka'e ciksi If you want I can explain.

  • simlu le ka
    … seems to be …

simlu le ka zabna It seems to be cool.

  • ca le cabdei

pu ce'e ca le cabdei mi surla Today I took a rest.

  • mi nelci
    I like

mi nelci le mlatu I like the cat.

  • le nu pilno
    using …

na ku le nu pilno le vlaste cu nandu Using dictionaries isn't hard.

  • kakne le ka
    capable of …

xu do kakne le ka sutra tavla Are you able to talk quickly?

  • tavla fi
    talk about …

.e'ei tavla fi le skami Let's talk about computers!

  • mutce le ka
    very …

mi mutce le ka se cinri I am very interested.

  • troci le ka
    … tries to …

mi troci le ka tavla fo la .lojban. I am trying to talk in Lojban.

  • rinka le nu
    (event) leads to …

le nu mi tadni la .lojban. cu rinka le nu mi jimpe fi do That I study Lojban makes me understand you.

  • gasnu le nu
    (agent) causes …

mi pu gasnu le nu le skami pe mi co'a spofu I made it so that my computer got broken.

  • xusra le du'u
    assert that …

xu do xusra le du'u mi na ku drani Do you state that I am not right?

  • kanpe le du'u
    expect (in the sense of assessment, prediction) that …

mi na ku kanpe le du'u mi jinga I don't expect myself to win.

A simple dialogue

coi la .alis. Hi, Alice!

coi la .doris. Hi, Doris!

do mo How are you?

mi kanro .i mi ca tadni la .lojban. .i mi troci le ka tavla do I'm healthy. I now study Lojban. I'm trying to talk to you.

to be healthy
to study … (something)
to try … (to do something)
to talk [to someone]

zabna .i ma tcima ca le bavlamdei Good. What will be the weather tomorrow?

… is nice, cool
… is the weather
at (some time)
le bavlamdei
tomorrow day (day as an event)

mi na ku djuno .i le solri sei mi pacna I don't know. It'll be sunny, I hope.

to know (fact)
le solri
the sun

Note that le solri cu tcima (literally the sun is the weather) is the way of using tcima in Lojban.

comment starts
to hope (for some event)

mi jimpe I understand.

co'o Goodbye.

Human senses

ju'i la .alis. Hey, Alice!

vocative that draws attention: Hey! Psst! Ahem! Attention!

re'i Listening.

vocative: I'm ready to receive information.

xu do viska ta Do you see that thing near you?

In English we say Сan you see, in Lojban we say just xu do viskaYou see?

Relations describing perception will be explained after the dialogue.

viska .i plise .i le plise cu xunre .i skari le ka xunre Yes. It is an apple. The apple is red. It's colored red.

xu do viska le tarmi be le plise Can you see the form of the apple?

viska .i le plise cu barda Yes. The apple is big.

xu do jinvi le du'u le plise ca makcu Do you think that the apple is ripe?

… is ripe

.au mi zgana le sefta be le plise I'd like to palpate it.

.i ua xutla Oh, it is smooth.

.i mi pacna le nu makcu ie I hope that it is ripe, yeah.

panci pei What about the smell?

.i .e'o do sumne le plise Please, smell it.

le xrula cu panci It smells of flowers.

.i .au mi zgana le vrusi be le plise I'd like to taste the apple.

.i .oi nai le kukte cu vrusi Yum, it tastes sweet.

.i .oi Oh-no.

le xrula
the flower(s)


ma pu fasnu What happened?

mi pu farlu I fell down.

... falls down to ...

xu do cortu Do you feel pain?

cortu .i mi cortu le cidni Yes, I feel pain in the knee.

.i na ku ckape It's not dangerous.

.i ca ti mi ganse le nu da vi zvati 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 le sance Wait, I can hear some sound.

le sance be ma A sound of what?

mi pu tirna le nu le prenu cu tavla I heard a person talking.

.i ca ti mi zgana le lenku Now I feel cold.

ju'i la .alis. Hey, Alice!..

In this dialogue, the most important concepts for human senses were touched. In the following sections we shall explain their place structures, along with additional relations and examples.


sees (object, form, color)
is an object with the color (property)
is the form of
is round (in form)

le prenu co'a viska le cipni
The person notices, begins to see the bird.

mi viska le plise I see the apple.

mi viska le tarmi be le plise I see the form of the apple.

.i le plise cu se tarmi le cukla The apple is round.

.i le plise cu skari le ka xunre The apple is colored red.

Note: we can both say see the form of the apple and see the apple.


hears (object or sound)

le prenu cu tirna lei djacu
The person hears the waters.

mi tirna le palta I hear the plate

mi tirna le sance be le palta poi ca'o porpi I hear the sound of a plate that is falling.

.i le palta cu se sance le cladu It sounds loud.

le palta
the plate
is loud
is quite in sound
is a tone of

We can use cladu and similar words directly:

mi tirna le cladu I hear something loud.

mi tirna le tolycladu I hear something quite in sound.

mi tirna le tonga be le 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:

— ma sance gi'e se tirna do — What sound do you hear?

— le zgike — The music.

— do tirna le sance be ma — You hear a sound of what?

— le plise poi co'i farlu — The apple that has fallen down.

Perception in general

We can also use the vague ganseto sense stimulus.

senses stimulus (object, event) by means
ganse le glare
to feel the heat
ganse le lenku
to feel the cold

mi ganse le plise I sense the apple.

For observing our perceptions we can use zgana:

le prenu cu zgana le sefta be le xrula
The person palpates the surface of the flower.

mi zgana le tarmi be le plise I observe the form of an apple.

.i le plise cu se tarmi le'e cukla The apple is round.

notices, observes, watches . Not limited to vision

Some arguments can be used with different sensory relations. For example, we can

viska le sefta
to see the surface
zgana le sefta
to palpate the surface

Sense of smell

smells (odor)
is an odor of (object)

le mlatu cu sumne le xrula
The cat smells the flower.

mi sumne le xrula I smell the flower.

mi sumne le panci be le za'u xrula I smell the odor of flowers.

mi sumne le panci be le plise I smell the odor of the apple.

.i le plise cu se panci le xrula The apple smells of flowers.

Note that English can be confusing when it comes to distinguishing between smelling an odor and smelling an object that produces that odor. We say to smell the 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 applies to a falling plate and its sound — we may not want to mix them.

In Lojban, we can easily separate these cases, as demonstrated in the examples above.

Sense of taste

is a taste of

le prenu cu zgana le vrusi be le grute
The person tastes, observes the taste of the fruit.

mi zgana le vrusi be le grute I taste the apple. I observe the taste of the fruit

le grute
the fruit, the fruits

.i le plise cu se vrusi le titla The apple tastes sweet.

… is sweet, … is a sweetie

Sense of touch

is a surface of

mi zgana le sefta be le plise I palpate, touch-feel the surface of the apple.

.i le plise cu se sefta le xutla The apple has a smooth surface.


mi cortu le birka be mi I feel pain in my arm. My arm hurts.

mi cortu le cidni be mi
My knee hurts.

mi cortu le cidni I feel pain in my knee, my knee hurts.

has pain in organ , which is a part of 's body
is a knee of


Different languages use different sets of words to denote colors. Some languages simply refer to colors by referencing other "prototype" objects with similar colors, shades, or forms. In Lojban, we use all the options:

ti xunre This is red.

is red

ti skari le ka xunre This is red. This has the color or red things.

ti skari le ka ciblu This has the color of blood.

le ciblu
the blood

Here are some color examples that align with the English language. You can also use other color words, reflecting the way how speakers of different languages typically categorize things.

le tsani cu xunre ca le cerni The sky is red in the morning.

le tsani
the sky

.i le solri cu simlu le ka narju The sun seems to be orange.

le solri
the Sun

tsani .i solri
The sky. The sun.

looks like (property of )

.i le pelxu xrula cu se farna le solri Yellow flowers are oriented towards the Sun.

se farna
is oriented towards
is the direction of

.i le pezli be le tricu cu crino Leaves of trees are green.

is a leaf of
le tricu

.i mi zvati le korbi be le blanu xamsi I am at the border of a blue sea.

… is present at …
is the border of
le xamsi

.i mi catlu le prenu noi dasni le zirpu taxfu I look at a person who wears the violet dress.

wears (something)
is red
is orange
is yellow
is green
is blue
is violet

Other useful relations:

le gusni be le manku pagbu pu na ku carmi The light illuminating dark areas was not intense.

le gusni be fi le solri pu carmi The light from the Sun was intense.

is a light illuminating from the light source
is intense, bright
is dark

«sipna» — ‘to sleep’, «sanji» — ‘to be aware

The following examples illustrate some basic aspects of the mind:

pu ku mi cikna gi'e ku'i na ganse le nu do klama I was awake but didn't sense your arrival.

pu ku ca le nu mi sipna kei mi ganse ku'i le nu do klama While I was asleep I nevertheless sensed you coming.

mi ca'o sipna gi'e sanji le nu mi sipna
I sleep and I'm aware that I sleep.

pu ku mi ca'o sipna gi'e sanji le nu mi sipna I was sleeping and I was aware that I was sleeping. I was having a lucid dream.

mi sanji le nu mi sanji I am aware that I'm aware. I am self-conscious.

is awake
observer senses, notices some stimulus (event) by mrans
is conscious, aware of (event)

ganse doesn't imply any mental processing; it just describes perception, recognition, detection of some stimulus via sensory channels (specified in ).

On the other hand, sanji describes passive sensing, which involves mental processing but not necessarily via sensory inputs at all (some mental relationships are not detected by the senses).

Emotions: «cmila» — ‘to laugh’, «cisma» — ‘to smile

coi .i ma nuzba .i do simlu le ka badri Hi. What are the news? You seem to be sad.

is sad about

le prenu cu simlu lo ka badri
The person seems to be sad.

mi steba le nu le bruna be mi co'a speni le ninmu I am frustrated that my brother gets married the woman.

feels frustration about

mi se cfipu .i xu do na ku gleki le nu le bruna co'a speni I am confused. You are not happy that the brother gets married?

se cfipu
is confused about
is happy about

ie .i le ninmu cu pindi .i le ninmu na ku ponse le jdini .i mi na ku kakne le ka ciksi Yeah. The woman is poor. She doesn't have money. I am not able to explain.

le jdini
the money
is capable of (property of )

ua .i la'a do kanpe le nu le ninmu na ku prami le bruna Ah! Probably, you expect that the woman doesn't like the brother.

interjection: probably, it's likely
expects (some event )

mi terpa le nu le ninmu ba tarti lo xlali .i ku'i le bruna cu cisma ca ro nu ri tavla le ninmu .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.


le prenu cu cisma
The person smiles.
ra cmila
He/she laughs.

mi kucli le nu le ninmu cu prami le bruna I wonder whether the girl likes the brother.

is curious of

mi na ku kanpe I don't expect that.

expects that (event) happens

ko surla Relax!

relaxes by doing (property of )
feels emotion (property of )
feels awe or wonder about
is angry about
thinks is funny
se zdile
is amused by
is amusing
hopes that is true


ca glare It's hot now.

.i ku'i mi ganse le lenku But I feel cold.

interjection: but, however

xu do bilma Are you ill?

bilma Yes.

xu do bilma fi le vidru .i .e'u do klama le mikce Do you have a virus? I suggest you go to a doctor.

le vidru
the virus
le mikce

mi bilma le ka cortu le galxe .i mi sruma le du'u mi bilma fi la .zukam. My symptoms is that my throat aches. I assume that I have a cold.

has pain in organ , which is a part of 's body
la .zukam.
common cold (disease)

ko kanro Get well!

is healthy

ki'e Thanks.

is ill or sick with symptoms from disease

Note that the second place of bilma describes symptoms, such as le ka cortu le galxe = to have pain in the throat. The third place indicates the name of the disease causing those symptoms. Obviously, you may wish to skip filling these places of bilma.

Human body

le nanmu cu se xadni le clani The man has a long body. The man is tall.

se xadni
has the body
is the body of

mi pu darxi fi le stedu .e le zunle xance .i ca ti le degji be le xance cu cortu .i ku'i le pritu xance na ku cortu I hit something with the head and the left hand. Now the finger of the hand hurts. But the right hand doesn't hurt.

hits with

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

is a head of

However, some describe smaller parts:

is a finger/toe on part (hand, foot)

le degji be le xance be le ninmu cu clani The woman's fingers are long. Digits of hand of the woman are long

mi viska le jamfu .i ku'i mi na ku viska le degji be le jamfu I can see the feet. But I don't see its toes.

is a joint attaching limbs
is a lip of mouth, orifice
is a knee or elbow of limb


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 le nu penmi do .i .e'o do klama le nenri be le dinju Pleasure to meet you. Please, come into the house.

ki'e Thanks.

.i .au gau mi do co'a slabu le 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 called "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 ku zvati le dinju .i sa'e mi se tunba le pa bruna .e le pa mensi Also I have two siblings who are now not in the house. To be precise, I have a brother and a sister.

ue .i le lanzu be do cu barda Wow! Your family is large.

je'u pei Really?

interjection: truly

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

is a husband/wife of

co'a speni means to get married:

mi co'a speni la .suzan. I married Susan.

is a family including
is a child of
is a daughter of
is a son of
is a sibling (brother/sister) of
is a brother of
is a sister of

Note that panzi can be applied to grown-up children:

is a child, immature person of age (event)
is a child, offspring of

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

le bersa be le pendo be mi cu verba le nanca be li ci The son of my friend is a child of three years old.

is young
is old, aged

Pairs of traditional words (for humans only):

le ninmu
woman / women
le nanmu
male man / male men
le nixli
the girls
le nanla
the boys
le remna
the humans

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

These words can be used to describe genetically determined sex (both in animals and humans) as opposed to gender:

le fetsi
the female
le nakni

These word describe parental (not necessarily genetic) relations:

is a mother of , acts maternally
is a father of
is a parent of , raises

In the shop

ue do pu te vecnu le laldo karce Wow! You bought an old car.

ie .i ku'i mi na ku pu pleji le so'i jdini Yeah. But I didn't pay much money.

ma pu jdima le karce What was the price of the car?

mi pu pleji le rupnusudu be li pa ki'o le kagni le karce I paid a thousand dollars to the company for the car.

mi pu vecnu le laldo karce pe mi le pendo be mi .i le pendo pu pleji le 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.

comma between digits so that pa ki'o is 1, 000 (one thousand)
sells to
te vecnu
buys from
pays to for
is the price of
is money
costs (number) US dollars
costs (number) euro

Shop, buildings

ma stuzi le zdani be do What is the location of your home?

le korbi be le cmana .i mi se zdani le nurma .i le zdani be mi cu barda dinju gi'e se sledi'u ci da .e le vimstu .e le lumstu The edge of the mountain. I live in the country. My home is a big house and has three rooms plus a toilet plus a bathroom.

je'e .i ku'i mi pu jbena le tcadu .i je ca ti mi se zdani le jarbu be la .paris. .i mi xabju ne'a le zarci I see. But I was born in the city, and now I live in the suburbs of Paris. I live near a shop.

is a place
is a building, house
is a room, a part of a building
is a toilet, a place for excreting
is a bathroom, a place for washing something
is a home of
se zdani
lives in , inhabits
is a city or town
is a suburban are of city/town
is a rural area, is in the country
is a shop

Lesson 5. Modal terms, «da», their relative position

How do modal terms refer to the relation?

Some modal terms, like those that describe time (tense), connect the current relation with the one in the argument after them:

mi cadzu ca le nu le cipni cu vofli I walk when the birds fly.

… walks
le cipni
the bird/birds
… flies to …

mi pu cadzu fa'a le rirxe I walked towards the river.

mi pu cadzu se ka'a le rirxe I walked to the river.

se ka'a
coming to …
directly towards …

Modal terms don't remove ordered places (fa, fe, fi, fo, fu) from the relation:

mi klama se ka'a le rirxe le dinju mi klama fe le rirxe .e le dinju I go to a river, to a house.

In the first example, se ka'a connects le rirxe and then the second place of klama follows, being filled with le dinju. It's the same as just filling the second place of klama two times, connecting them with .eand.

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

le prenu pu cadzu tai le nu ri bevri su'o da poi tilju The person walked as if he was carrying something heavy.

modal term: like …, resembling …

Using «ne» + term. «se mau» — ‘more than …

mi ne se mau do cu melbi I am prettier than you.

se mau
term from se zmadu: more than; the relation itself describes the comparison

This example is similar to

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

In other words, the main relation 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.

More examples:

mi nelci le'e pesxu ne se mau le'e jisra I like jam more than juice.

… is jam

le'e pesxu cu zmadu le'e jisra le ka mi nelci I like jam more than juice. Jam exceeds juice in how much I like it.

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.

In Lojban, we can differentiate the two meanings by attaching se mau to suitable arguments:

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

la .bob. cu nelci la .betis. ne se mau la .maris. Bob likes Betty, and he like Mary less. Bob likes Betty more than Mary.

Comparisons: ‘equal’, ‘the same

mi dunli le mensi be mi le ka mitre .i ku'i mi na ku du le mensi I am as big as my sister. But I'm not her. I equal the sister of me in meters. But I am not identical to the sister._

(any type) is equal to (any type) in (property of and with kau)
is meters long
(any type) is identical to (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 these two verbs:

mi frica do le ka nelci ma kau We differ from each other in what we like. I differ from you in liking what.

le drata be mi cu kakne le ka sidju Someone other than me is able to help.

(any type) differs from (any type) in (property of and with kau)
(any type) is not the same as (any type)

The concept of ‘only

mi .e no le pendo be mi cu nelci le'e badna I and none of my friends like bananas. Among my friends I'm the only one who likes bananas.

The concept of not only is similarly expressed:

mi .e le su'o pendo be mi cu nelci le'e badna It's not just me who likes bananas among my friends. I and some of my friends like bananas.

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 le prenu ba klama No more than 20 of the people will come.

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

never’ — «no roi», ‘always’ — «ro roi»

Terms 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 le zarci I go to the market too often.

is a market

mi pu re roi klama le zarci I went to the market twice.

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

mi klama ti pa roi le jeftu I come here once a 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 time-related particle re'u works like roi, but tells the number of iterations for which the event occurs.


mi pa roi klama le muzga I visited the museum once.

mi pa re'u klama le muzga I visited the museum for the first time.

mi za'u roi klama le muzga I visited the museum more times.

mi za'u re'u klama le muzga I visited the museum again.

mi za'u pa roi klama le muzga I visited the museum more than once.

mi za'u pa re'u klama le muzga I visited the museum not for the first time (maybe for the second/third etc.))

to visit (somebody or something)

Note the difference between:

za'u re'u
again, not for the first time
re re'u
for the second time (same here, no context is needed, and even the exact number of times is given)

le nu tcidu kei ca cu nandu Reading is now difficult.

ca ku le nu tcidu cu nandu Now reading is difficult.

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

ku prevents the following argument terms from attaching to such terms. Compare:

ca le nu tcidu cu nandu When reading, it's difficult.

Here are several places where modal particles can go.

  • Modal term modifies the relation to the right of it:

ca ku mi citka Now I eat.

— here the term is labeled with a word ku as being completed.

ca le cabdei mi citka Today I eat.

— here the term has an argument after it.

mi ca citka I now eat.

— here the modal particle is a part of the main relation construct and without an argument.

  • Modal term is applied to the whole relation:

mi citka ca I eat now.

— here the modal term at the end of the relation.

Joining statements with modals

mi pinxe le jisra ca le nu do co'i klama le zdani I am drinking the juice when you come home.

mi pinxe le jisra .i ca bo do co'i klama le zdani I am drinking the juice, and at the same time you come home.

The two examples convey the same meaning. The second option is mostly used when any of the original relations sound bulky.

Another use is to move modal terms out of scope of other modal terms:

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

In this example, one might suppose that I only buy things if they are expensive. However, that's not the case.

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

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

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

Here, ki'u is placed in another sentence. Thus, na ku doesn't scope over it.

Both examples 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 le 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 relation 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 the da series: da, de, and di. We use them when referring to different objects in one discourse:

ci le mlatu cu citka re le 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 relation and then say a comment about it:

le'e finpe zo'u mi nelci le'e salmone As for fish I like salmon.

… is a salmon
ends the topic and starts the comment of the relation

zo'u is more useful when a pronoun like da is defined in the topic and then used in the comment:

su'o 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 indicate 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 same sentence:

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 argument of the relation:

da zo'u le gerku pe da cu viska mi There is da such that the dog of them sees me. Somebody's dog sees me.

any’ and ‘some’ in examples

The words any and some, along with their derivatives, have many meanings in English. We should be careful when translating the intended meaning:

Translating as da:

  • some: something unspecified:

da pu klama .i je ko smadi le du'u da me ma kau Somebody came. Guess who it was.

mi pu tirna da .i je mi fliba le ka jimpe le du'u da mo kau I heard something, but I fail to understand what it was.

  • some in questions turns into anything, anybody; in Lojban, it's still da:

xu su'o da pu klama Did anybody come?

  • some when using commands, requests, or suggestions:

.e'u mi'o pilno su'o da poi drata Let's try something else. Let's try other things.

.e'u mi'o troci bu'u su'o da poi drata Let's try somewhere else.

  • any can be used in inner relations:

mi rivbi le ka jdice da I avoided taking any decision.

Like in relations inside modal terms:

ba le nu do zgana da kei ko klama After you notice anything, come!

  • Scope: any is used in English when negating, while Lojban uses na ku but then still da:

mi na ku viska su'o da poi prenu I don't see anybody.

  • any is used when making no distinction among members we talk about:

.au nai mi tavla su'o da poi na ku slabu mi I don't want to talk to just anybody.

  • Scope: Negation should be used in an appropriate relation, as shown below:

mi jinvi le du'u na ku da jimpe I don't think that anybody understands.

This can be rephrased as:

mi jinvi le du'u no da jimpe I think that nobody understands.

  • In comparisons, every is turned into any and translated as ro da:

do zmadu ro da le ka se canlu You are taller than anybody. You exceed everybody in size.

  • When providing choice, any is used and translated as ro da:

ro da poi do nelci zo'u .e'a do citka da You may eat anything you like. For everything that you like, I allow you to eat it.

  • For terms like anyone and somewhere:

.e'u mi'o troci bu'u su'o da poi drata Let's try somewhere else.

Here, su'o da poi drata means any other thing or things, place or places. The number of such places is not specified, although any such place might fit.

To say any place but only one place, use:

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

  • Translating any as le'e in generic statements:

le'e gerku cu se tuple le vo da Any dog has four legs. Dogs are expected to have four legs.

  • Using le when describing specific objects, places, or events:

le drata zo'u .e'u mi'o pilno ri The other thing, let's use it.

le drata stuzi zo'u .e'u mi'o troci bu'u ri The other place, let's try there.

Resume: which constructs does scope affect?

Scope is created only by:

  • borders of relations,
  • modal terms and modal particles of the main relation construct,
  • argument terms starting with numbers (like pa le prenuone of the persons).

da, de, di if used without a prenex and without an explicit number in front are meant to mean su'o da, su'o de, su'o di and thus also create scope.

Thus, the relative order of such constructs changes the meaning:

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

ca ku pa le prenu ca zvati Now there is one person.

Scope isn't relevant for relation constructs and for arguments starting with le (like le prenu or le re prenu). Both these sentences mean the same:

le prenu ca ku zvati le zdani ca ku le prenu cu zvati le zdani ca ku fe le zdani fa le prenu cu zvati People are now present.

Modal term scopes from where it's used to the right of the relation until the relation and all its inner relations (if present) end.

Here, ki'u le nu kargu is under the scope of na ku:

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

But here, ki'u le ne kargu is not under the scope of na ku. ki'u is applied to the whole previous sentence, including na ku:

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

Lesson 6: modal terms: time and space

mi citka le 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 about which 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 from saying I work far away to the north. English treats words like earlier, past tense ending -ed, and space words like in or near in three different schemes, while in Lojban they follow the same principle.

Points in time and place

A tense modal particle without an argument following it describes the event as relative to here and now:

mi pinxe ba mi ba pinxe I will drink.

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

A tense modal term with an argument following it describes the event as relative to the event in that argument:

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

Events relative to other events in time

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

la .alis. pu cusku le se du'u ri pu penmi la .doris. Alice told that she had seen Doris before.

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

la .alis. pu cusku le se du'u ri 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 relation is understood relative to whoever utters this relation.
  • the tense of the relation inside the main relation is also understood relative to whoever utters this relation.

In Lojban:

  • only the tense of the main relation is relative to whoever utters the relation.
  • the other tenses are relative to each other. This is why, in la .alis. pu cusku le se du'u ri pu penmi la .doris. the second pu is relative to the first pu. In la .alis. pu cusku le se du'u ri ca kansa la .doris., we use ca (at the same time) which is relative to the outer relation (pu cuskusaid).

However, we can use the modal term nau (at the time or place of the speaker), which will give the same effect as how English works:

Here is an example in English style:

la .alis. pu cusku le se du'u ri nau pu kansa la .doris. Alis said that she was with Doris.

Distance in time and space

modal term: at the same time, place or situation as …
modal term: at … (some time), at the same time as …; "present tense"
modal term: at … (some place); here (at this place)
just (short time ago) or soon (in a short time)
near …
a while ago or in a while, in an unspecified time
not far from …
long time ago or in a long time
far away from …; far away

This is how we can use tense combinations to specify how far we go 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 repeatedly in Lojban and might be worth memorizing. Short and long are always context-dependent, relative, and subjective. For example, 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 tense particle like pu and ba that is said before it:

  • pu zu is a long time ago. pu shows that we begin in the past, and zu indicates 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, and pu indicates that we move backward from that point.

Thus, pu zu is always in the past, whereas zu pu could be in the future.

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

To specify distance in time or space, we use the modal term la'u with an argument specifying the distance:

ba ku la'u le 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 the two of them, as it can mean time, space, or situation.

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

to work

mi bu'u pu zu gunka I used to work here a long time ago. I here-past-long-time-distance work

pu zu vu ku zasti fa le ninmu .e le nanmu Long ago and far away, a woman and a man lived.

The last sentence is how fairy tales often begin.

Duration in time and space

modal term: for a short time
modal term: over a small space
modal term: for some time
modal term: over some space
modal term: for a long time
modal term: 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.

do ze'u klama le mi'a gugde ze'u You spend a long time coming to our country.

we without you
… is a country

mi ba zi ze'a xabju la .djakartas. Pretty soon, I'm going to live in Jakarta for a while.

le 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 the future when viewed from some point in the past but in the past when viewed from today.

le xamsi sea/ocean

le ve'u xamsi ocean

le ve'i cmana cu jibni le ve'u cmana
The hill is near the mountain.

le cmana mountain/hill

le ve'u cmana mountain

le ve'i cmana hill

ti ve'u gerku That's a big dog. This is a dog covering a large space.

«pu'o» — ‘to be about’, «ba'o» — ‘no longer’, «za'o» — ‘still’, «xa'o» — ‘already

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

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

modal term: to be about to do something (the event has not yet happened)
modal term: to be no longer doing something, to have done something (the event has ended)


mi ba tavla le mikce I will speak to the doctor (and I might be speaking now too).

is a doctor

mi pu pu'o tavla le mikce I was about to speak to the doctor (I was not speaking at that time, the event hadn't started by that time).

le prenu pu'o zvati le nenri
The person is about to be inside.

le sanmi ca pu'o bredi The meal is not ready yet.

mi pu ba'o tavla le mikce I had spoken to the doctor.

ba'o carvi
Aftermath of the rain. The rain has stopped.

mi ba ba'o tavla le 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.

modal term: still. The event is in process beyond its natural end
unofficial modal term: already, too early. The event already started and it is too early


ri'a ma do za'o zvati vi Why are you still here?

la .kevin. xa'o zvati vi Kevin is already here.

Stages of event

mi co'a tavla I started talking.

ra ca'o ciska She keeps writing.

ra pu co'u vasxu He stopped breathing (sudden unpredictable change).


mi pu mo'u citka le plise I've eaten the apple up.

la .maks. pu mo'u zbasu ti voi dinju Max has built this house.

ra pu de'a vasxu She ceased to breath (but may breath again later).

mi de'a vasxu
I pause in breathing. I hold my breath.

mi pu di'a citka le plise I resumed eating apples.

mi di'a vasxu
I resume breathing.

modal term: the event starts (the border of the event)
modal term: to be doing something (the event is in progress)
modal term: the event stops
modal term: the event ends (the border of the event)
the event pauses (the event can be expected to continue)
the event resumes

mi de'a ze'i jundi BRB (I'll be right back).

mi di'a jundi I am back (being attentive).

pays attention to

These two expressions are common in text chats for indicating that you are away or not paying attention, and then coming back online:

One could, of course, also say just de'a or di'a and hope the point gets across.

pu'o - about to start co'a - starts ca'o - in progress co'u - aborts de'a - pauses di'a - resumes mo'u - completes ba'o - aftermath za'o - lasts for too long

Continuous and progressive events

modal term: the event is continuous

.i mi pu ru'i citka le plise I was continuously eating apples.

Note the difference:

  • ru'i indicates that the event is continuous and never pauses.
  • ca'o implies 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:

le rokci cu fe'e ro roi zvati The stones are everywhere.

to the left’, ‘to the right

le prenu cu sanli le dertu bu'u le pritu be mi The person stands on the ground to the right of me.

le gerku cu vreta le ckana bu'u le zunle be le verba The dog is lying on the bed to the left of a child.

ko jgari le panbi poi zunle Take the pen on the left.

le mlatu cu plipe bu'u le crane be do A cat jumps in front of you.

ko catlu le dinju poi crane Look at the house in the front.

le verba cu zutse le stizu bu'u le trixe be mi The child sits on the chair behind me.

le prenu cu sanli ki mi bu'u le pritu be le tricu bei mi The person stands to the right of a tree from my viewpoint.

le dinju cu zunle le rokci ti The house is to the left of the rock if viewed from here.

is to the left of as viewed from
is to the right of as viewed from
is in front of ( is between and whoever watches) as viewed from
is behind as viewed from
stands on
sits on
lies on
le dertu
the ground, the dirt
le ckana
the bed
le stizu
the chair
le pelji
the paper
le penbi
the pen

Practice: position

ma nabmi What's the problem?
ma'a nitcu tu'a le fonxa pe la .alis. We need Alice's phone.
.i la .alis. ca zvati ma Where is Alice?
la .alis. ca na ku zvati le bu'u tcadu
.i mi pu mrilu le srana be le fonxa fi la .alis.
.i ri ca ca'o vofli la .paris.
.i ku'i mi pu zi te benji le se mrilu be la .alis.
.i ri curmi le nu mi'a pilno le fonxa
.i .e'o do bevri ri mi
Alice is now not in the city.
I mailed about the phone to her.
Alice is now flying to Paris.
But I just received a mail from her.
She allows us to use the phone.
Please, bring it to me.
.i bu'u ma mi ka'e cpacu le fonxa Where can I get the phone?
le purdi .i .e'o do klama le 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 klama le zunle be le tricu .i ba ku do viska le pa jubme Go to the left of the tree. Then you will see a table.
mi zgana no jubme I notice no tables.
ko carna gi'e muvdu le pritu .i le jubme cu crane le cmalu dinju .i le fonxa cu cpana le jubme .i ji'a ko jgari le penbi .e le 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 le sledi'u pe mi Turn and move to the right. The table is in front of a small building. The phone 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.

Practice: vehicles

mi jo'u le pendo be mi pu ca'o litru le barda rirxe bu'u le bloti I and my friends were traveling on a big river in a boat.
.i ba bo mi'a klama le vinji tcana Then we went to an airport.
.i xu do se marce le karce Did you take a car?
.i na ku se marce
.i mi'a pu klama fu le trene
.i ze'a le cacra mi'a zvati bu'u le carce
We went by train.
For one hour we were in a wagon.
is a vehicle carrying
se marce
is a passenger of
is a car carrying
is a boat carrying
is an aircraft carrying
is a train of cars

Enriching vocabulary. New words using tenses

Many single English words correspond to word combinations in Lojban:

is a picture of
le vi'a pixra
the picture in 2D
le vi'u pixra
the picture in 3D, a sculpture

vi'a pixra
2D picture, 2D drawing.

vi'u pixra
3D picture, sculpture.

le ve'i cmana
the hill (literally "mountain/hill covering little space")
le ve'u xamsi
the ocean (literally "sea/ocean covering large space")
le ba'o tricu
stump of a tree (literally "the no longer tree")

Lesson 7. Letters, referring to relations, dates

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. .a bu by. cy. dy. .ebu
f g i j k l
fy. gy. .i bu jy. ky. ly.
m n o p r s
my. ny. .o bu py. ry. sy.
t u v x y z
ty. .u bu vy. xy. .y bu zy.

As you can see:

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

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

Letters instead of ‘he’ and ‘she

A string of one or more letter names can function as a pronoun, providing an alternative method for referring to previously mentioned arguments in speech.

la .alis. pu klama le nurma .i le nurma cu melbi la .alis. la .alis. pu klama le nurma .i ri melbi la .alis. la .alis. pu klama le nurma .i ny. melbi la .alis. la .alis. pu klama le nurma .i ny. melbi .a bu Alice went to the country. The rural area is beautiful to Alice. Alice went to the country. It is beautiful to her.

All the Lojban variants above have the same meaning.

Since the first letter in .alis. is a (ignoring the dot) and the first letter in nurma is n, we can use letter words to refer to those arguments correspondingly:

  • .a bu refers to la .alis.
  • ny. refers to le nurma

This method might be more convenient than English he or she, or even Lojban ri or ra. It allows us to make speech more concise yet precise, without having to repeat potentially long names or other argument terms repeatedly.

However, it's important to note that there may be situations where we want to refer back to, for example, le nurma, but another argument starting with n appears in the meantime, making ny. unable to refer to the rural area. In such cases, the quickest solution is to repeat the entire argument, i.e., say le nurma:

bu'u le nurma la .alis. pu penmi la .nik. i ri se zdani bu'u le nurma In the country, Alice met Nick. He has his home in the country.

… is a home to …
se zdani
… has a home …, … lives in …

If a name consists of several cmevla, you can use the first letters of them to refer to that name. The same applies to compound relations:

la .djan.smit. cu citka le glare stasu .i dy.sy. nelci fy.sy. John Smith is eating the hot soup. He likes it.

… is hot

dy.sy. is a single pronoun. The same applies to fy.sy..

If you need to put several pronouns one after another, separate them with the word 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 sentence mi klama py. my. would mean I go to PM, which would mean something different.

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.

Different ways of saying ‘we’ in Lojban

In Lojban, there are several pronouns close in meaning to we:

you and I
we without you
you, I, and others

So, when speaking, you have to be more careful about which meaning of we you need.

And finally:

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 together, mi (which refers to one or more speakers) is perfectly correct for we. In practice, you'll usually find mi used like this 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 ba penmi do We'll meet you.

ma'a remna We are all human.

mi djica le nu do cliva We want you to go away.


«ri» instead of ‘he’ and ‘she

Earlier, we learned about the pronoun ri:

pronoun: refers to the previous argument that just finished (skipping stable pronouns like mi, do, words for we)

mi catlu le nanmu .i ri melbi I look at the man. He is handsome.

is beautiful / pretty / handsome to someone

ri refers to the previous completed argument used in text or someone's speech:

la .alis. cu sipna bu'u le sledi'u pe la .alis. Alice sleeps in Alice's room. Alice sleeps-in the of-Alice room.

la .alis. cu sipna bu'u le sledi'u pe ri Alice sleeps in her room. Alice sleeps in the room of [previous argument term].

is a room for purpose (proposition)

The ri is equivalent to repeating the last argument, which is la .alis. here.

One aspect to notice is that ri does not repeat le sledi'u pe ri (which is also an argument), because ri is a part of that argument and therefore that argument is not "previous", not finished yet when ri appears. This prevents ri from making it recursively refer to itself.

Another example:

le du'u le prenu cu melbi cu se djuno ri That the person is pretty is known to herself.

The ri refers to le prenu (and not le du'u le prenu cu melbi although both arguments are complete: le prenu starts last, after the start of le du'u le prenu cu melbi).

Relation inside sei forms a parallel text. ri skips arguments inside sei-relations:

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 skip the whole sei la .doris. pu cusku relation when deciding what ri should refer to.

Pronouns that are stable across the dialogue or story are ignored by ri. We just repeat them directly:

mi lumci mi I wash myself. I wash me


mi prami mi I love myself. I love me.


  • the pronouns 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.
  • similarly, ri itself (or rather, its antecedent) can be repeated by a later ri. In fact, a string of ri words with no other intervening arguments will always repeat the same argument:

la .alis. cu catlu le nanmu .i ri melbi .i ri co'a zgana .a bu Alice notices a man. He is handsome. He notices Alice.

to observe
co'a zgana
to start observing, to notice

In this example, the second ri has the first ri as its antecedent, which in turn has le nanmu as its antecedent. All three refer to the same thing: the man.

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

«go'i» for the previous relation

la .alis. cu klama le barja .i la .alis. cu viska le nanmu la .alis. cu klama le barja .i le go'i cu viska le nanmu Alice comes to the bar. She sees a man.

  • le go'i refers to the first place of the previous relation.
    • go'i presents yet another way of referring back to an argument that we need.
  • le se go'i refers to the second place of the previous relation.
  • le te go'i refers to the third place, and so on.


.i la .alis. cu zgana le nanmu .i ri melbi .i la .alis. cu zgana le nanmu .i le se go'i cu melbi Alice watches a man. He is handsome.

Here, le se go'i refers to the second place () of the preceding relation, which is le nanmu.

Another example:

Bill saw Nick. He hit him.

English doesn't bother with precision here — he just means some male person mentioned somewhere near in the text or deduced from context. Did Bill hit Bob, or did Bob hit Bill? We don't know. In Lojban, we can say:

la .bil. pu viska la .nik. .i le se go'i cu darxi le go'i Bill saw Nick. Nick hit Bill.

However, in most cases, ri or letter words can be used:

la .bil. cu viska la .nik. i ri darxi la .bil. la .bil. cu viska la .nik. i ny. darxi by. Bill saw Nick. Nick hit Bill.

go'i itself is a relation word, 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 relation 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.

Time of day

— ma tcika ti What's the time?

— li cacra bu pa pa Eleven hours

(hours, minutes, seconds) is the time of event

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.

li, a prefix for numbers, is used for timestamps too.

  • cacra bu is a prefix signaling that the number of hours follows. 24-hour time is used almost always in Lojban.
  • mentu bu is a prefix signaling that the number of minutes follows.
  • snidu bu is a prefix signaling that the number of seconds follows.

li cacra bu pa pa mentu bu pa no 11:10 (Ten minutes past eleven)

li cacra bu pa pa mentu bu pa no snidu bu pa ci 11 hours, 10 minutes and 13 seconds.

li cacra bu pa no mentu bu 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 cacra bu pa no tcika le nu mi klama Ten o'clock is the time that I come.

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

mi klama de'i li cacra bu pa no I am coming at 10 o'clock.

at … (time), on … (date)

And one useful example:

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


— ma detri ti What's the date today?

— li mastu bu ze djedi bu pa It's July, 1.

(year, month, day) is the date/time of event

Another option:

— ma ca detri — What is the date now?

  • nanca bu is a prefix signaling that the year follows.
  • masti bu is a prefix signaling that the month follows.
  • jefydei bu is a prefix signaling that the day of week follows.
  • djedi bu is a prefix signaling that the day follows.

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

li djedi bu 2 ca detri It's the second day of the month now.

li masti bu 4 djedi bu 1 ca detri It's April, the first now.

li djedi bu 5 masti bu 7 nanca bu 2005 detri le nu mi jbena The fifth of July (seventh month), year 2005 is when I was born.

is born

We can also use de'i:

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

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

For days of the week, usually, Monday is the first day:

mi gunka de'i li jefydei bu pa I work on Monday.

mi gunka ca ro se detri be li jefydei bu re I work every Tuesday.

xu do pu zvati la .paris. de'i li jefydei bu ci Were you in Paris on Wednesday?

Specifying time intervals

mi nanca li re re I am 22 years old.

is of duration of (number) years

nanca specifies the duration, and to say two years long, fill the second place with a number prefixed by li.

le verba cu masti li re The child is two months old.

is months long

le nu carvi cu djedi li ci It's raining for three days.

(event) is (number) full days long

New verbs from one scale: ‘other than’ — «na'e», ‘anti-’ — «to'e»

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

"Left scalar" particles (to which na'e belongs) are placed to the left of constructs they affect, forming a scale:

The scale itself can be specified using the modal tag ci'u.

  • je'a = indeed (the affirmative position on the scale). The word je'a confirms the meaning of a part of a 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.

le stizu cu na'e xunre be ci'u le ka skari The chair is of a non-red color. The chair is other-than red on the scale of having a color

  • no'e = not really (midpoint on the scale). The word no'e gives a part of a sentence a middle 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 gives a part of a sentence an opposite meaning. It's similar to the English prefix anti-.

mi to'e nelci do I hate you. I anti-like you

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.

Complex modal terms: ‘because’ — «ki'u», ‘despite’ — «to'e ki'u nai»

Modal terms can be negated in two ways to obtain related meanings.

modal term: because, due to explanation …, which can be explained by the fact that …

ki'u ma do cusku zo co'o Why do you say goodbye?

Adding the suffix nai changes the meaning:

ki'u nai
modal term: not because, which cannot be explained by the fact that …?!

mi se nabmi ki'u nai le nu mi laldo ce'e ki'u le nu mi na certu I'm in trouble not because I'm old but because I'm not an expert.

is a problem to
se nabmi
has a problem
is old …
is an expert, professional in property

Adding to'e sets the negation of the meaning:

to'e ki'u
because not, which can be explained by the fact that it does not happen that …

mi jinga to'e ki'u le nu mi pu surla I won because I hadn't rested.

Combining both to'e and nai we get:

to'e ki'u nai
despite the reason …, not because not, which cannot be explained by the fact that it does not happen…,

.i to'e ki'u nai le nu le mamta cu sanga su'o melbi kei le verba na snada lo ka sipna Despite the mother singing beautifully, the child doesn't succeed in falling asleep.

Using se changes the order of arguments. Otherwise, the meaning is preserved.

se ki'u
therefore, which explains the fact that …

ra bilma se ki'u le nu ra na pu cusku zo coi do He is ill, which explains why he didn't say hello to you.

se ki'u nai
but it does not follow that …, which does not explain the fact that …

ra bilma se ki'u nai le nu ra klama le drata tcadu He is ill, which doesn't explain why he is going to another city.

se to'e ki'u
…, the absence of which explains the fact that …

ra bilma se to'e ki'u le nu ra klama le drata tcadu He is not ill, and that explains why he is going to another city.

se to'e ki'u nai
…, the absence of which does not explain the fact that …

ra bilma se to'e ki'u nai le nu ra penmi le mikce He is not ill, and that doesn't explain why he is meeting the doctor.

is a doctor

Lesson 8. Terms and math

Possibly can’, ‘have been’ and ‘haven't yet been

le cipni ka'e vofli
The bird possibly can fly.

le'e cipni ka'e vofli Birds can fly.

le pendo be mi ca'a xendo prenu My friend shows himself as a friendly person.

le 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.

term of potential: possibly can
term of potential: actually is
term of potential: has already happened
term of potential: hasn't ever happened

This series of so-called terms of potential describes possible situations.

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

le'e cipni cu kakne le 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.

li that we saw earlier is similar to le but it starts a mathematical expression (or just a number or a timestamp).

Note that li re su'i ci (2+3) is considered a single expression and treated as one argument.

du is a relation word and means … is 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.

pi is a decimal separator, so no pi mu means 0.5, and 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 by 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 7

first — «pa moi», ‘second’ — «re moi», ‘last’ — «ro moi»

Ordinal numbers such as first, second, and third are used to arrange items in order. In Lojban, they are formed by adding a number followed by moi:

pa moi
is first among (set)
re moi
is second among (set)
ci moi
is third among (set)

ro moi
is last among (set)

Relations can also be used instead of numbers:

me mi moi
is mine
me do moi
is yours

In this case, we had to convert pronouns to relations using me.

le prenu cu pa moi le'i se prami be mi He is my first love.

tu ro moi le'i ratcu pe mi That is my last rat.

le cerni tarci cu ro moi le'i tarci poi cumki fa le nu viska ke'a pu le 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 le'i stizu tu me mi moi stizu (using a compound relation for conciseness)

That's my place.

.i ti voi stizu cu me mi moi le'i pa ci stizu poi jibni le jubme This place is mine among the 13 places near the table.

Cardinal numbers are placed before ordinal numbers in a string and separated by boi:

le ci boi pa moi be le'i kabri pe le ckafi the first three cups of coffee

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

«gau» — make them do it

The term gau marks the agent of an 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

modal term: caused by … (agent), driven by … (someone, some object)
is open

Thus, verbs like to open something and to move something can be rephrased as to make something open and to make something move. Therefore, we don't need to learn extra verbs for every such meaning. Instead, we add the term 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 relation kalrito be open into a new relation:

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!

le karce cu muvdu ti fa le karce cu muvdu fe ti The car moves here.

ko jai gau muvdu fai le karce fe ti Move the car here!

muvdumoves to some place is transformed into a new relation jai gau muvduto move something or someone to some place.

moves to from via
jai gau muvdu fai le karce
moves the car to from via

la .alis. cu klama Alice comes.

la .alis. gau ko klama Make Alice come!

Why?’ — «ri'a», «ni'i», «mu'i», «ki'u»

- ri'a ma carvi - Why is it raining?

- le nu le dilnu ca klaku - Because the clouds are crying.

modal term: because of … (some event)
ri'a ma

Unlike gau, the term ri'a expects not an agent, but an event, such as the clouds are crying:

le dilnu cu klaku ri'a le nu le dargu cu cilmo The skies are crying, resulting in the wet road.

Therefore is the reverse word compared to because:

le dilnu cu klaku .i se ri'a bo le dargu cu cilmo The skies are crying. Therefore, the road is wet.

… is wet

Another type of why is ni'i:

- ni'i ma nicte - le nu le solri na ku te gusni - Why is it night? - Because the sun is not shining.

le solri na ku te gusni .i se ni'i bo nicte The sun is not shining. Therefore, it's night.

modal term: logically because of …
se ni'i
modal term: 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.

mi darxi la .kevin. mu'i le nu ky. lacpu le kerfa be mi I hit Kevin because he pulled my hair.

term: because (of motive …)

In this example, what we have is not two events that 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 omits 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 physical reactions (ri'a) but emphasize responses which have a cognitive/emotional element (mu'i).

le ctuca pu plicru la .ben. le jemna ki'u le nu by. pu zabna gunka The teacher gave Ben the gem as a present because he worked well.

le ctuca
the teacher
le jemna
the gem
is cool, nice
modal term: because (due to explanation …)

The difference between motivation and justification is not always clear, but we can say that justification involves some rule or standard, while motivation does not require it. Compare:

le ctuca pu plicru la .ben. le jemna ki'u le nu by. pu zabna gunka The teacher gave Ben the gem as a present, motivated by his nice work.

This says only that Ben's hard work motivated the teacher to give him the gem, whereas with ki'u, we might imply that it is the custom for teachers to give gems as a reward for good work.

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 gem, it must logically imply that the student has worked nicely.

In the case of ni'i ma nicte, however, the fact that the Sun isn't shining at night logically entails that the Sun isn't shining. Here, we can confidently use ni'i.

So … that

The expression so … that is expressed in Lojban by splitting the sentence into two:

mi tai galtu plipe .i ja'e bo mi farlu I jumped so high that I fell down.

modal term: with the result of …
modal term: in the manner of …

Other examples:

mi tai zukte I act this way

mi tai fengu I am so angry.

is angry at (clause) for action (property of )

If … then

ba ku fau le nu do cizra kei mi prami do If you are strange then I'll love you.

modal term: with the event of …, under circumstances …, concurrently with …

fau is much like ca (when) or bu'u (at (some place)).

In many cases, we can replace fau with ca to get almost the same meaning (sometimes more precise):

mi ba prami do ca le nu do cizra I'll love you when you are strange.

We can replace le with ro lo in such terms getting a new meaning:

mi ba prami do ca ro lo nu do cizra I'll love you whenever you are strange.

«fau» and «da'i». ‘What if …

da'i mi turni I could be a governor.

da'i nai mi turni I am a governor.

  • The interjection da'i marks the relation in which it is put as describing an imaginary event.
  • The opposite interjection da'i nai marks the relation as describing an actual, real event.

Constructs with da'i are usually translated to English with auxiliary verbs such as can/could, will/would, may/might, should, and must. Relations marked with da'i in English are said to be in the subjunctive mood.

Omitting da'i or da'i nai makes the sentence clear only from context, which is usually quite transparent. That's why da'i or da'i nai is not obligatory. We use it for clarity when needed.

Relations with da'i may include the term with fau:

da'i mi gleki fau le nu mi ponse le rupnusudu be li pa ki'o ki'o I would/could be happy if I had one million dollars.

with the event of …
costs (number) US dollars
pa ki'o ki'o
1 million

mo da'i fau le nu mi cusku lu ie nai li'u What if I say "no"?

Here, the event inside fau is equally imagined together with mi gleki. And here is the reverse example:

da'i nai mi gleki fau le nu mi ponse le rupnusudu be li pa ki'o ki'o Having one million dollars, I am happy.

In many circumstances, the word fau can be safely replaced with just ca (at the same time as …):

da'i nai mi gleki ca le nu do klama I'm happy when you come.

Other prepositions can be used when necessary:

da'i mi denpa ze'a le nu do limna I would wait while you took a swim.

waits for (event)…
through some time, for a while, during …


Suppose you come home and hear someone scratching. You can say one of the following sentences:

fau su'o da tu mlatu fau da tu 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 tu 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 tu 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 tu mlatu It is not probable that this is the cat.

fau no da tu 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 relation:

  1. fau da'i da denotes that the event in this relation 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 doesn'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.

Possibility implied in places of relations

Some relations have da'i implied in some of their slots when you don't use da'i explicitly:

mi pacna le nu do ba pluka sipna I hope you will have a pleasant sleep.

hopes for (possible event) with likelihood (number, by default li so'a i.e. close to 1)

mi kanpe le nu do klama I expect you to come.

mi kanpe le nu do ba jinga kei li so'e You'll probably win. I expect with a high probability that you will win.

mi kanpe le nu mi cortu fau ro lo nu su'o lo rokci cu farlu le tuple be mi I know for a fact that if a rock lands on my foot, it will hurt.

expects (possible event) with expected likelihood (a number from 0 till 1, the default value is li so'a, i.e. near 1)

Unlike pacna, the relation kanpe doesn't necessarily imply hope or wish. It can describe impartial expectation, subjective evaluation of the probability of a situation.

cumki fa le nu do jinga It is possible that you win.

- xu ba carvi - cumki - Will it rain? - Maybe.

(possible event) is possible, may, might occur, is a maybe.

- xu ba carvi - lakne - Will it rain? - Probably.

(possible event) is probable, likely

mi djica le nu do jinga I want you to win.

mi djica le nu mi klama la .paris. I would rather visit Paris. I want to visit Paris.

wants (possible event)

mi te mukti le ka klama la .paris. I will visit Paris. I am motivated to visit Paris.

mi te mukti klama la .paris. I'm visiting Paris intentionally.

te mukti
is motivated to bring about goal (possible event) by motive (event)

mi kakne le ka limna I am able to swim.

mi pu kakne le ka gunka I could work. I was able to work.

can, is able to do (property of )

describes a possible event.

mi nitcu le nu mi sipna I need to sleep.

needs (possible event)

mi bilga le ka gunka I must work. I am obliged to work.

must, is obliged to do (property of )

mi curmi le nu do citka ti I allow you to eat this.

allows/permits (possible event)

mi tolcru le nu do nerkla I forbid you to enter.

forbids/prohibits (possible event)

xu do stidi le ka sipna kei mi Do you suggest that I sleep?

inspires (possible action) in actor

mi senpi le du'u ra kakne le ka limna I doubt that he can swim.

doubts that (proposition) is true

mi se xanri le nu mi pavyseljirna I imagine myself being a unicorn. I could be a unicorn.

se xanri imagines (possible event)

xanri (possible event) is imagined by

Lesson 9. Logical conjunctions

Logical conjunctions in Lojban are based on 4 primitive ones: .a, .e, .o, .u. In this lesson, we'll cover them in detail.

Logical conjunctions for arguments

Here are the conjunctions combining two words: this and that.

  • ti .a ta = this and/or that

mi ba vitke le mamta .a le 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 around to visiting both of them at some point.

  • ti .e ta = this and that

mi ralte le pa gerku .e le re mlatu I've got a dog and two cats. I keep one dog and two cats.

  • ti .o ta = either this and that, or none

mi ba vitke le mamta .o le tamne I will visit either both the mother and the cousin, or none of them.

Note that .o can also be translated as not one of the two values, and thus denotes that I will get around to visiting both of them at some point or none.

  • ti .u ta = this, and perhaps that, this whether or not that

mi ba vitke le mamta .u le 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 nai after a conjunction negates what is to the right of it. Placing na before a conjunction negates what is to the left 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

We can also say ti .e nai ku'i ta (this but not that) adding a flavor of contrast for the second argument.

  • 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

This may sound a bit weird for English speakers (I like Alice not…) so you might prefer to swap the arguments and use .e nai instead: mi nelci la .bob. e nai la .alis. or even mi nelci la .bob. i mi na ku 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 le mamta .a nai le 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 le mamta .o nai le tamne I'll visit either the mother or the cousin.

.o nai can also be translated as exactly one of the two values.

If I want to say 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

These are used for connecting arguments. For connecting parts of compound relations we use similar conjunctions: ja, je, jo, ju. So instead of the dot (pause) we use j here.

Logical conjunctions for sentences

This is a more concise way of saying:

mi ralte le pa gerku .i je mi ralte le re mlatu I have a dog, and I have two cats.

.i je joins two sentences with a logical and, showing that both sentences are part of one thought and are true.

Here are examples of 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.

This means both statements are true, i.e., Romeo and Juliet love each other.

The same applies 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.

This means 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.

This means that if Juliet loves Romeo, he definitely loves her, but he may love her anyway (the only impossible outcome 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 neither of the two events happens.

This 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": the combination "eo" is impossible in Lojban, so we used "e'o" and added a consonant at the end of his name.

Note that da refers to the same entity when several sentences are connected.

Logical conjunctions inside compound relations

le melbi xunre fonxa beautifully red phones

le melbi je xunre fonxa beautiful and red phones

Other conjunctions also make sense:

mi nelci ro tu voi xajmi ja melbi prenu I like all persons who are funny or handsome (or both).

mi nelci ro tu voi xajmi jo nai melbi prenu I like all persons who are either funny or beautiful.

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 tu voi xajmi ju melbi nanmu I like all persons who are funny (whether or not beautiful).

And once again, we shouldn't forget the difference between connecting arguments and connecting parts of compound relation constructs:

mi ba vitke le pa pendo .e le pa speni I will visit a friend and a spouse.

mi ba vitke le 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 relation tails

pu ku mi uantida la .soker. gi'e klama le zdani gi'e citka le badna I played soccer, went home, ate the banana.

non-official relation: plays the game , participates in the game

gi'e connects several relations into one with some terms shared. Look at this: It expands into pu ku mi kelci la .soker. i je pu ku mi klama le zdani … which would be lengthier.

With gi'e, we keep the head of the relation constant and specify terms after each of the relation construct (kelci la .soker., klama le zdani …).

Thus, when using gi'e, we have several relations in the tail joined together but having a common head.

gi'e has the same final vowel as in je and thus means and.

Other conjunctions for joining relation tails:

  • gi'a for and/or
  • gi'o nai for either … or
  • gi'u for whether or not etc.

These conjunctions have the same ending as those in the .a, .o, .u series.

Terms in sentences with several tails

Note that tenses as terms and tenses attached to the main relation of the relation make a difference when applied to sentences that contain several attached relations:

  • A term in the head of the sentence is applied to all its tails:

mi ba'o cu citka le badna gi'e pinxe I no longer eat the banana and no longer drink.

Here, ba'o is applied to citka le badna gi'e pinxe.

  • A tense word that is a part of the relation is applied to that relation only:

mi ba'o citka le badna gi'e pinxe I no longer eat the banana, but I do drink.

Here, ba'o is applied to the implied mi citka le badna relation only but not to the implied mi pinxe relation.

Choice questions

Another type of English "or" can be found in questions:

— xu do pinxe le tcati .o nai le ckafi? — pinxe — Will you drink tea or coffee? — Yes.

That's a peculiar, but perfectly reasonable answer: Yes, I will drink tea or coffee.

This happens because "or" has several meanings in English:

  1. A or B can mean either A, or B but not both. We use .o nai here.
  2. A or B can mean A or B or both. We use .a 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 le tcati ji le ckafi? — Will you drink tea or coffee?

Possible answers:

le tcati .e le ckafi Tea and coffee.

le tcati Tea.

le ckafi Coffee.

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 relation tails is gi'i, for compound relations — je'i, for sentences — .i je'i.

Indirect questions are achieved by using ji kau:

Consider the waiter asks a visitor

- le'e dembi ji le'e rismi - The beans or the rice?

Once the visitor answers, the waiter knows whether the visitor wants to eat lamb or beef:

ba le nu le vitke cu spusku kei le bevri cu djuno le du'u le vitke cu djica le nu ri citka le'e dembi ji kau le'e rismi After the visitor replies, the waiter knows whether the visitor wants to eat the beans or the rice.

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

The forethought conjunction ge means and, but it's placed before the first argument term, with gi separating the two arguments. This series is parallel to other conjunctions: ga, ge, go, gu, as well as ga nai, ge nai, go nai, etc. The separator gi is the same for all of them.

Using these conjunctions is a matter of convenience:

mi citka ge nai le badna gi le plise I eat not the banana but the apple.

Here, like in English, not is stated before the first argument.

ge and words in this series can also be used for connecting relations:

ge mi dansu gi mi zgipli le pipno I both dance and play the piano.

plays musical instrument
le pipno

.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

The main relation of a sentence asserts some information unless modified by some interjection:

mi viska do I see you. I assert that I see you

.au mi viska do I wish I saw you.

In the last example I only have a wish but I don't assert that I see you.

Another pair of examples:

le prenu cu cizra .i ji'a je la .alis. cu jinvi le du'u go'i The person is strange. And Alice thinks that too.

la .alis. cu jinvi le du'u le prenu cu cizra Alice has an opinion that the person is strange.

Relations that are inside places may not be asserted. In the last example, the man being strange (le prenu cu cizra) is not asserted by the speaker; it's only Alice's opinion.

The interjection ju'a makes the relation asserted by the speaker. The first sentence can be rephrased as:

la .alis. cu jinvi le du'u ju'a le prenu cu cizra Alice has an opinion that the person is strange, and it is so.

ju'a .au mi viska do I wish I saw you. But I do see you at the same time.

English often fails to translate this powerful ju'a concisely, so the English translation doesn't follow the word order of the Lojban original.

Here's another example:

mi nelci le nu do dansu I like when you dance.

mi nelci le 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, metaphorically speaking. In other words, she is famous.

interjection: marks a construct as metaphorically used.
is a star

tarci denotes real stars, objects in the sky. The interjection pe'a transforms it into a metaphorical meaning.

.i ba ku mi pu viska le cizra stuzi poi le fagri cu nenri .i mi pu klama za'e le fagrystu Then, I saw a strange place with a fire inside. I approached the, let's say, "fire-place."

left interjection: marks the following construct as used not in its usual meaning

Left interjections, as their name suggests, are placed before a modified construct (whereas other interjections are placed 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. Thus, there is no need to look it 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 le du'u ma kau pu darxi ba'e mi .i ku'i mi na ku djuno le du'u ma kau pu darxi do I know who hit me. However, I don't know who hit you.

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 .i in speech to separate sentences, but you might want to use ni'o especially in written text to structure it.

.i le pa nintadni cu klama le ctuca bu'u le galtu bu'u le darno cmanaA newbie visited the master far high in the mountains.
.i sei le nintadni cu cusku doi le ctuca noi certu tavla fo la .lojban. ku'o do skicu .e'o fi mi fe le nu fi ma kau fa la .lojban. cu frica le'e drata banguThe newbie said: "Master, you speak fluent Lojban. Please, tell me what is the difference between Lojban and other languages."
.i le ctuca cu friti tu'a le kabri be lei jinto djacu le nintadni gi'e ba bo cuskuThe master offered him a cup of spring water and then said:
lu .i ca ti ko catlu le djacu gi'e skicu ri li'uNow look at the water and describe it.
.i ku'i sei le nintadni cu cusku mi mo'u pinxe ri i je mi na ku kakne le ka catluThe newbie said: "But I drank it up. I can't look at it."
.i ki'u ma do na ku kakne sei le ctuca cu cuskuWhy can't you?, the master said.
.i sei le nintadni cu cusku le djacu ca pagbu le xadni be miThe newbie said: "Now it's a part of my body."
.i su'o da poi prenu zo'u le mudri co'a pagbu le zdani be daA piece of wood becomes a part of someone's house.
.i su'o de poi prenu zo'u su'o lo bangu poi se tadni cu co'a pagbu le menli be deA language learnt becomes a part of someone's mind.
.i su'o di zo'u le dirgo be le djacu co'a pagbu da poi zmadu fi le ka banliA drop of water becomes a part of something greater.
is a drop of material

«to» … «toi» for parenthetical remarks

Comments placed inside parentheses in English text are formed using the word to instead of the left parenthesis and toi instead of the right parenthesis:

ti poi to vi'o nai do mi na ku djica tu'a su'o lo drata toi plise cu fusra This (no, I don't want another one!) apple is rotten.

to desire
… is different from …
is an apple
rots or decays with agent

Parenthetical remarks can go anywhere interjections can, meaning they can be placed 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 correcting yourself, it's important to know how to fix your mistakes. You can use two words to delete your previous words:

deletion: deletes the last word only
deletion: deletes back until the next cmavo spoken

They delete words as if those words have never been spoken. However, they do not work inside certain quotes (all quotes except lu…li'u), as that would make it impossible to quote these words. Using multiple si in a row deletes multiple words.

In English, when you make a mistake while speaking (factual or grammatical), you usually don't bother to correct it, even if you realize you made a mistake. That's because English is fairly redundant (for this very reason!). If we catch ourselves making an error in English, we quickly provide a correction without going into details like how many words should be canceled: context usually helps us. For example:

I'm learning the English word, … er, Lojban word.

Context and common sense dictate that Lojban word is meant to replace English word. But what if it was meant to replace I'm learning the English word? We wouldn't normally care in natural languages.

However, Lojban allows you to be more precise about which 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. In Lojban, the correction above would be:

.i mi tadni le glico valsi si si lojbo valsi I'm learning the English word, … er, Lojban word.

is a word with the meaning in language

The problem with si is that you have to count words. This can become tedious, and you shouldn't have to keep a transcript of your words when you want to correct yourself.

The other correction word sa is more helpful: sa takes as its argument the word following it. Then this sa deletes words back until it finds the same word or a word of the same class. For example:

.i mi tadni le sa .i mi tadni le lojbo valsi I'm learning the … er, I'm learning the Lojban word. .i mi tadni le lojbo valsi

The argument of sa is the word .i. So the sentence following sa replaces the current sentence up to and including sa. Or consider:

.i mi mrilu fi do de'i li jefydei bu pa sa de'i li jefydei bu re I mailed to you on Monday, … er, on Tuesday. On Monday I mailed it to you, … er, actually, it was Tuesday. .i mi mrilu fi do de'i li jefydei bu re

The correction is de'i li jefydei bu reon Tuesday. So what it replaces is everything from the last relation beginning with de'i: de'i li jefydei bu paon Monday.

Dealing with misunderstanding

— .i mi pu zi te vecnu le flokati — .i le flokati ki'a — I just bought a flokati. — Flokati, huh?

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, you don't know the word, or the grammar confused you — you can repeat the word or relation you didn't get and add ki'a as a plaintive request for clarification. This is even better than Huh?, because you can point out exactly what made you say Huh?

Here is a dialogue:

— mi nelci le kalci — ki'a ? — I like shit. — Whaat???

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.

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. Thus, every pronoun gets re-evaluated.


- mi prami do - go'i - I love you. - You do.

A simple go'i still makes mi refer to the person who used it, and do refer to the listener of the person who said it.

Lesson 11. Trickier topics

Know your first language too

When trying to express yourself in Lojban, it's important not to make it merely a copy of English.

Consider the phrase:

Terry, the tiger, visits the big city.

It might be tempting to use the relation

(guest) visits (someone) at

However, the phrase visits the big city implies visiting a place, not someone at that place, which highlights the fact that the English verb to visit might have several meanings.

Indeed, for instance, if we consider French, we see separate solutions:

I would like to visit my friends.
J'aimerais rendre visite à mes amis.

I would like to visit this city.
J'aimerais visiter cette ville.

French uses rendre visite when visiting someone and visiter when visiting a place.

In Lojban, we translate the meaning, not just words.

Understanding the peculiarities of your own language is also important when trying to express something in Lojban.

The solutions to the example above might be:

la .teris. poi tirxu cu klama le barda tcadu Terry, the tiger, comes to the big city.

is a tiger

la .teris. poi tirxu cu pa roi klama le barda tcadu Terry, the tiger, once comes to the big city.

la .teris. poi tirxu cu pa re'u mo'u klama le barda tcadu Terry, the tiger, for the first time arrives at the big city.

la .teris. poi tirxu cu co'a klama le barda tcadu Terry, the tiger, departs to the big city.

Four meanings of ‘you’ in English

We've already seen two personal pronouns, mi (I or me) and do (you). However, you in English can have multiple meanings, which are translated to Lojban in specific ways:

  • you as the one person I'm talking to:

le pa do
you one

We know that le re prenu means the two people. It's also possible to put numbers after le and before pronouns.

  • you as all of the people I'm talking to:

ro do
each of you, all of you (or Southern U.S. y'all)

One can also use numbers with ko:

ro ko klama ti
All of you, get over here.

  • you as a specific number of people I'm talking to:

le re do
you two

For example, one can start emails to their parents with coi le re do.

Notice that re do means two of you and re le ci do means two of you three.

  • you as the person or people I'm talking to plus some other person or people:

you and someone else

  • you as anyone (e.g., Money can't buy you love.):

It's typically expressed by:

ro da
all da


ro lo prenu
all persons

However, you can often omit it altogether or place zo'e in that position.

More about short relative clauses

Short relative clauses with a pronoun following them can be placed immediately after le:

le gerku pe mi My dog

In such cases, pe can even be omitted:

le gerku pe mi le mi gerku My dog

le mi gerku means exactly the same as le gerku pe mi.

Thus, "le + argument + relation construct" is equivalent to "le + relation construct + pe + argument".

A few rules:

  • if you want to use an argument converted from a relation (for example, with le) or if it's a name, it is advisable to use pe and place it after the argument: le gerku pe la .alis. (Alice's dog).
  • omitting pe is acceptable only when using pronouns without numbers in front of them: le do gerku (your dog) but not le pa do gerku (= le pa do cu gerku = one of you is a dog).

It is much safer to use pe explicitly and place it after the argument to which it is attached: le gerku pe la .alis. and le gerku pe mi are the most intuitive constructs.

Quoting text in different languages

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.

is English

where gy. stands for glico. Other popular choices of delimiting words are the word zoi itself and a Lojban word suggesting the topic of the quotation.

Lojban strictly avoids any confusion between things and the names of things:

zo .bob. cmene la .bob. The-word “Bob” is-the-name-of the-one-named Bob.

zo .bob. is the word, whereas la .bob. is the thing named by the word. The short qualifier words la'e and lu'e placed before terms 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.

The 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.

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 an argument term.

luli'u quote only text that is grammatically correct. To quote any Lojban text, we use lo'ule'u quotes instead.

— xu lo'u je le'u lojbo sumsmi — na ku sumsmi — Is "je" a term? — No.

ma xe fanva zoi gy.What's up?.gy. la .lojban. How to translate "What's up?" to Lojban?

Internal terms

Using be, you can fill in not only slots of relations but also add modal terms:

le xatra be de'i li vo cu se mrilu de'i li ze This letter, dated the 4th, is mailed on the 7th

is a letter

A date tagged with de'i applies only to the xatra. Compare:

le xatra de'i li vo cu se mrilu de'i li ze The letter on the 4th is mailed on the 7th (whatever that can mean)

Without be, the term de'i li vo would apply to the whole relation, not to xatra. 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 in le xatra be de'i li vo the part de'i li vo (the 4th, as a date), applies only to the argument le xatra, and not to the entire sentence.

Compound relations in detail

The grouping of terms in Lojban grammar is particularly important when it comes to tanru (compound relations). The way relations group together in a tanru determines what that tanru means. For example,

the bad music magazine

has two interpretations in English: a bad magazine about music or a magazine about bad music. In Lojban, its equivalent

le xlali zgike karni

has only the interpretation a bad-music magazine, because the first two relations (xlali zgikebad music) group together first. It is important to modify the grouping of relations to ensure the tanru conveys the intended meaning. 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. Similarly, for tanru, we use ke for the left bracket and ke'e for the right bracket.

le xlali ke zgike karni means the 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 for ke'e at the end of the tanru since we already know that it ends here.

.i mi pu zi te vecnu le 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 components in tanru. The other way is to use bo in a new role. When bo appears between two components, it means that those components group together more tightly than anything else. So an alternative way of saying bad (music magazine) is

le xlali zgike bo karni
the bad music-magazine

bo here is similar to the hyphen in the English translation. This means that zgike bo karni should count as a unit, to which xlali (bad) applies.

So bo makes the connections tighter:

la .doris. e la .alis. o nai bo 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. o nai la .bob.

Remember that the right bracket ke'e can often be left out without changing the meaning (as in this case).

Forethought conjunctions are also frequently used because they can eliminate the need for 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

There is no need for bo or ke with forethought conjunctions.

«co» for changing the order in compound relations

There is another way of restructuring compound relations.

mi fanva se jibri I'm a professional translator

is a job of

If I wanted to say that I'm a professional translator from English to German, I could use be and bei:

mi fanva be le dotco bei le glico be'o se jibri I'm a professional translator to German from English.

is German

The fact that it was a compound relation 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 relation, making the rightmost component modify the leftmost instead of the other way around. Any previous argument term fills the modified, any following argument term fills the modifier.

mi se jibri co fanva le dotco le glico

It is the same relation as the previous Lojban one, but much easier to understand. Notice that any argument before the compound relation fills se jibri, while any following it only fills the modifying component: fanva.

The strength by which two components are bound together with co is very weak — even weaker than normal compound relation grouping without any grouping words. This ensures that, in a co-construct, the leftmost component is always the component being modified, and the rightmost component always modifies, even if any of those parts are compound relations. 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.

Another example:

mi merko limna co mutce certu I am a much experienced American swimmer.

is American (the USA sense)

Here is the list of different kinds of groupers in compound relations ranked from the tightest to the most loose:

  1. bo and ke … ke'e
  2. logical connectives inside compound relations like je
  3. not using grouping words
  4. co

Explicit termination of arguments

The small word ku can be used at the end of an argument to explicitly show its right border. ku is analogous to the right bracket in math.

tu du le badna ku ui tu du le ui badna That is the banana (yay!)

As opposed to:

tu du le badna ui That is the banana (yay that it's a banana and not something else in nature!)

Avoiding explicit termination

Another style of speaking involves avoiding termination. Here are some common cases:

Elimination of li'u, the right quotation mark:

lu mi prami do li'u cu se cusku la .alis. lu mi prami do li'u se cusku la .alis. lu mi prami do cu se cusku la .alis. "I love you," said Alice.

li'u can be omitted here because there cannot be two main relation constructs in one sentence. Hence, we first read the lu mi prami do part, and then when we see the cu, we realize that we cannot continue this quoted sentence further. We assume that the quotation has ended and the outer sentence continues. Thus, no ambiguity arises.

Elimination of ku'o, the right border of relative clauses:

le prenu noi mi zgana ke'a ku'o ca tavla le pendo be mi le prenu noi mi zgana ke'a ca tavla le pendo be mi The person whom I'm observing is now talking to my friend.

ku'o can be omitted here when the relative clause that we need (mi zgana ke'a) ends in a term, ke'a in this case. After the relative clause, something other than a term starts, so the relative clause cannot be continued, and thus we know it successfully ends without any explicit right bracket words.

A similar trick would be to always place ke'a at the end of the relative clause:

le prenu noi ke'a melbi ku'o ca tavla le pendo be mi le prenu noi melbi fa ke'a ca tavla le pendo be mi The person who is pretty is now talking to my friend.

However, in the following case, termination is necessary:

le prenu noi mi zgana ke'a ku'o le pendo be mi ca tavla The person whom I'm observing is now talking to my friend.

because after the relative clause mi zgana ke'a, we chose to place another term (le pendo be mi) not belonging to the current relative clause.

A semi-trick here would be to use ce'e:

le prenu noi mi ke'a zgana ce'e le pendo be mi ca tavla The person whom I'm observing is now talking to my friend.

Here, we end the relative clause with the main relation construct zgana. Then we have the conjunction ce'e and a term afterward (le pendo be mi). Since ce'e can join only terms, we know that to the left of ce'e, we have a term, which can only be le prenu noi mi ke'a. Hence, the meaning is retained, and no ambiguity arises. Note that we still need a separate word, ce'e, in such cases, so although we eliminated the bright bracket word, we still had to introduce something else.

Elimination of kei, the right border of inner sentences:

mi cinmo le ka badri kei le tcini le ka badri cu se cinmo mi le tcini mi cinmo fi le tcini fe le ka badri mi cinmo le ka badri ce'e le tcini I feel sad regarding the situation.

mi stidi lo ka citka su'o da kei do mi stidi lo ka ce'u su'o da citka ce'e do I suggest that you eat something.

As you can see, no trick makes the result shorter than the original with kei, so for conciseness, you may wish to use kei.

Conversion from sets to masses

le prenu cu pa moi le'i pendo be mi ku noi lu'o ke'a ca smaji He is the first among my friends who keep silence together. The person is the first among the set of my friends who are now, as a crowd, being silent.

The qualifier word lu'o placed before an argument converts it into a mass made of members of that argument. In this case, ke'a refers to the set of my friends le'i pendo be mi and then lu'o converts the members of the set into a mass, the crowd of my friends.

Sets and subsets

Some infinitives may imply more than one ce'u:

le'i prenu cu simxu le ka prami le'i prenu cu simxu le ka ce'u prami ce'u The people love each other.

members of the set reciprocally do

The relation simxu takes every possible pair from the set specified in place and asserts the relation specified within .

If we have three people, then it would mean all of them love each other.

do ce la .alis. ce mi simxu le ka prami do ce la .alis. ce mi simxu le ka ce'u prami ce'u You, Alice, and I all love each other.

conjunction: joins several arguments into a set

The conjunction ce merges arguments into a set. Thus, do ce la .alis. ce mi might be a more verbose way of le'i prenu from the previous example when we want to name the members of the set.

le'i ci prenu cu simxa le ka tunba
The three people are all siblings to each other.

In total, we assert 6 relations:

  1. You love Alice.
  2. You love me.
  3. Alice loves me.
  4. Alice loves you.
  5. I love Alice.
  6. I love you.

Hence, simxu is a nice shortcut for expressing mutual relations.

Now consider the example:

le'i su'o cmima be le'i prenu cu simxu le ka prami Some of the people love each other.

is a member of set

In this example, we show that a subset of the people in question (a subset of le'i prenu) has mutual love.

This allows us to convey even trickier ideas:

le'i su'o citno cmima be le'i stati prenu cu simxu le ka prami Some youngsters from those smart people love each other. Some young members of the set of smart people love each other.

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Contains phrases with examples of their possible usage.