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toki pona page 11 - numbers

The vocabulary for this page:

word meaning
wan one, part (of smth), united
tu two, divide, divided
sike circle, round, ball, year
mani money, large domesticated animal
esun trade, market, shop, exchange
mun moon, star, night sky object
nanpa number, (ordinal indicator)
poki box, container, bowl, cup, drawer
sin new, additional, fresh, extra
suno sun, light, brightness, shine


The most basic numerals in toki pona are these words:

This is, quite obviously, a very limited system. But it is not unique to toki pona: languages from some hunter-gatherer societies stop their numerals at three, two or even one. (In fact, the Pirahã language is reported to only have had words for “small quantity” and “large quantity”, the values of which change based on context.)

However, there is also a second, additional system that is officially defined, and commonly used, to describe larger numbers. It repurposes some of toki pona’s words as additional numerals:

In this system, words are added or repeated in order to form numbers. For example, 42 is “mute mute tu” (20+20+2) and 18 is “luka luka luka tu wan” (5+5+5+2+1).

As you can see, this is still a rather limited system. Just to name the year in which this page was originally written (2020), it would require one to repeat the word “ale” twenty times and add one “mute” at the end.

These limitations are all part of toki pona’s philosophy of simplifying thought and avoiding unnecessary detail. Some people have tried coming up with other numeral systems, but none have found widespread acceptance.

Using numerals

Regardless of the specific system, numerals are treated as adjectives and added at the end of nouns or noun phrases:

soweli wan – one animal

waso lili tu – two small birds

For ordinal numbers (first, second…), the word “nanpa” followed by the number is used.

jan nanpa wan – first person

tomo nanpa mute luka luka wan – 31st house (or house #31)

The phrase “nanpa wan” is sometimes used along with adjectives as a superlative modifier:

nena (Ewelesu/Somolunma) li nena suli nanpa wan lon ma ale. – Mount (Everest/Chomolungma) is the largest mountain in the whole world.

The calendar

In combination with “tenpo”, the words “suno”, “mun” and “sike” are commonly used to describe periods of time:

tenpo suno – day (“sun time”)

tenpo pimeja – night (“dark time”)

tenpo mun / tenpo sike mun – month (“moon time / moon cycle”)

tenpo sike / tenpo suno sike – year (“circle time / sun circle time”).


In addition to being used for ordinal numerals, the word “nanpa” itself can mean “number” or “digit”. For example,

ilo nanpa – calculator (“number device”)

nanpa pona – score/points (“good numbers”)

Of course, one has to be careful then, because using actual numerals in this case would be confusing. For example, would “ilo nanpa tu” mean “second tool” or “two calculators”? In the latter example, reshuffling the words into “ilo tu nanpa” could work.


When talking about weather, the commonly used sentence is “[noun] li lon”, which literally means “[noun] exists” and translates to “It is [noun]y”. Examples:

suno li lon. – It is sunny.

telo sewi li lon. – It is rainy. (“Sky water” exists.)

seli li lon. – It is warm.

lete li lon. – It is cold.

Dialectal differences

This part of the document describes how certain toki pona courses differ in explaining certain ideas, or how communities differ in using them.

Different courses differ on how to write ordinal numbers.

The official book and the “12 days of sona pi toki pona” videos suggest simply adding “nanpa”, followed by the number, while the “o kama sona e toki pona!” course suggested adding “pi nanpa” and the number.

jan nanpa wan – first person

jan pi nanpa wan – first person

In the community, the former way seems slightly more widespread, so this course will follow its example.


Now, try to figure out the meaning of these sentences.

And try to translate the following sentences into toki pona.


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