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Tok Pisin for Beginners

Tok Pisin is a creole language spoken in the northern mainland of Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands. It
is one of the official languages of Papua New Guinea and the most widely used language in use there, spoken
by over 4 million people. Tok Pisin is also more commonly called in English "New Guinea Pidgin".
The name "Tok Pisin" itself comes from the language, with "tok" meaning "talk" and "pisin" meaning "pidgin". A
pidgin language is one that is created to facilitate communications between two different groups which share
no common language. Since its formation, however, it has been steadily developing a more complex and
distinctive grammar, and it is now considered a creole (a pidgin language that now has native speakers). The
vocabulary is 5/6 Indo-European (mostly English, with some German, Portuguese, and Latin), 1/7 MalayoPolynesian, and the rest is from Trans-New-Guinea and other languages.
Part one of this course is only intended for absolute beginners.

Contents
Lesson 1: Pronunciation
Pronunciation Exercises

Lesson 2: Personal Pronouns, Inclusive / Exclusive


Personal Pronouns Inclusive / Exclusive Vocabulary Exercises

Lesson 3: Verbs, Modals, & Plural Nouns


Verbs Modals Plural Nouns Vocabulary Exercises

Lesson 4: Days, Months, Greetings, Adjectives, and Possesive Pronouns


Days of the Week Months Greetings Adjectives Possessive Pronouns Vocabulary Exercises

Lesson 5: Prepositions, Comparisons, & Numbers


Prepositions Comparisons Numbers Vocabulary Exercises

Part One - The Basics


Lesson 1: Pronunciation
Pronunciation
Tok Pisin has an interesting way of writing because its uses natural sounds. Unlike English, Tok Pisin does not
contain a difficult spelling system. Instead, words are written as how they are said. Many sounds with
consonants that are not pronounced in English are written without those consonants in Tok Pisin. For example:
"work" (if you say it with a British or Australian accent, the "r" isn't pronounced) would be written "wok". Tok
Pisin also has an absence of the "sh", "j" and "ch" sounds. These are replaced with an "s", and the "f" sound is
replaced by the "p".

The Tok Pisin word for "fish" would then be "pis" and the word for finger would be "pinga" (remember, the "r"
wouldn't be pronounced). For all those Spanish speakers out there, this is really how "finger" is written.
There are twenty-two letters in the alphabet.

Vowels
Letter
Sampa
Aa
[a]
Ee
[e]
Ii
[i]
Oo
[o]
Uu
[u]
Consonants
Letter
Sampa
Bb
[b]
Dd
[d]
Ff
[f]
Gg
[g]
Hh
[h]
Jj
[ dZ ]
Kk
[k]
Ll
[l]
Mm
[m]
Nn
[n]
Pp
[p]
Rr
[r]
Ss
[s]
Tt
[t]
Vv
[v]
Ww
[w]
Yy
[y]
Dipthongs
Letter
Sampa
ai
[ ai ]
au
[ au ]

IPA
[a]
[e]
[i]
[o]
[u]

Equivalence
as a in "father"
as e in "example"
as i in "issue"
as o in "code"
as u in "clue"

IPA
[b]
[c]
[f]
[g]
[h]
[]
[k]
[l]
[m]
[n]
[p]
[r]
[s]
[t]
[v]
[w]
[j]

Equivalence
as b in "baby"
as d in "doctor"
as f in "feet" (used in some words)
as g in "ghost"
as h in "help"
as j in "jew" (used in some words)
as k in "kill"
as l in "law"
as m in "month"
as n in "name"
as p in "palm"
as in Spanish r or dd in "ladder"
as s in "sail"
as t in "top"
as v in "vibe"
as w in "weigh"
as y in "yes"

IPA
[ ai ]
[ au ]

Equivalence
as i in "time"
as ow in "cow"

Note that that C, Q, X, and Z of the English alphabet have been removed. Their sounds are replaced by K or S,
KW, KIS, and S respectively.

Exercises
Exercise A: Read aloud:
1) pikinini
2) grin
3) meri
4) buk
5) pas
6) wok
7) pusi
8) haus
9) hat
10) nogut
11) pupol
12) kar
13) man
14) mamapapa
15) wait
16) gras
17) dok
18) skul

Lesson 2: Personal Pronouns, Inclusive / Exclusive


Personal Pronouns
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. For example: he, herself, it, and this. If we replaced the
nouns in the sentence "Please give the book to John" it would read "Please give it to him.". There are different
types of pronouns. For now, we will look at the personal pronouns.
In Tok Pisin the pronouns are as follows, according to the simpler common pronoun chart, which has only
singular and plural:

1st person
2nd person
3rd person

Singular
mi I, me
yu you
em he,she, it

Plural
mipela we
yupela you (all)
ol
they, them

To make a pronoun plural, you add "-pela". -pela is also used in adjectives. *em and ol are not part of this rule*
Tok Pisin extends the distinction between you (singular) and you (plural). You would use yutu, when addressing
two people, or yutri, when there are three people. Four or more people would be yupela.

Inclusive / Exclusive
Tok Pisin has what is called an inclusive and exclusive rule. In English, when you say something like "we are
friends" in English, you wouldn't know whether that person meant you or someone else. Tok Pisin, however, has
a rule for making that distinction.
Example:

we (excluding you) are kids


we (including you) are kids

mipela stap pikinini


yumi stap pikinini

we (inclusive) = yumi
we (exclusive) = mipela
Now we will look again at the personal pronoun table, expanded to include the extensions we discussed.

Singular
1st
mi I, me
excl.
1st
-incl.

--

2nd yu

you
(familiar)

3rd em he,she, it

Dual

Triple
Plural
both of
all of
he/she and
mitupela
mitripela
them mipela
them
I
and I
and I
you
both of
all of
yumitupela (familiar) yumitripela you yumipela you
and I
and I
and I
you
you
yupela
yutupela
you two yutripela
(four or
three
more)
they
they
ol
tupela
they two tripela
(four or
three
more)

More Examples:

I am a kid
You are a kid
He is a kid
She is a kid
It is a dog
They are kids

mi stap wanpela pikinini


yu stap wanpela pikinini
em i stap wanpela pikinini man
em i stap wanpela pikinini meri
em i stap wanpela dok
ol i stap pikinini

There are a few things in the above examples which you haven't seen. First is the present progressive form
"stap". It's the equivalent of the English "to be" with the "-ing" ending. It's used in this case like "to be", and is
normally used with a verb. We will look at more of these tense markers in the next lesson.
The word "wanpela" means "one", and when needed, acts as the indefinite article "a/an".
The word "i" that appears before the verb is called a predicate marker, and it must occur in a sentence when
the subject is em, "ol, or a noun. The creation of such an device in the language might be caused by the
misinterpretation of "he" when used in reduplication. In simpler terms, a person might say "John, he is a fool",
with "he" referring back to "John". With "i" sounding like "ee", this seems a logical explanation.

Lastly, note that nouns do not change form when used as plurals. The plural is inferred mainly from the
context. We will discuss this more in the next lesson.

Vocabulary

man
meri
pikinini
dok
pikinini man
pikinini meri
buk
studen
tisa
kar
Jon
Tom

Exercises
Exercise A: Translate to English:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

Em i stap wanpela man.


Em i stap wanpela pikinini meri.
Em i stap wanpela tisa.
Mipela stap studen.
Em i stap wanpela kar.

Exercise B: Translate to Tok Pisin:


1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

They are books.


It is a dog.
John is a boy.
Tom is a teacher.
She is a woman.

Solutions
Solution of Exercise A:
1) He is a man.
2) She is a girl.
3) He is a teacher.

man
woman
kid, child
dog
boy
girl
book
student
teacher
car
John
Tom

4) We are students.
5) It is a car.

Solution of Exercise B:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

Ol i stap buk.
Em i stap wanpela dok.
Jon i stap wanpela pikinini man.
Tom i stap wanpela tisa.
Em i stap wanpela meri.

Lesson 3: Verbs, Modals, & Plural Nouns


Verbs
In this lesson we will cover some verbs and their forms. In Tok Pisin, verbs don't change from person to person
(1st person, 2nd person, etc..). Also, you don't have to add any "ed" or "ing" suffixes to show tenses. Ex: mi wok
nau(I'm working now) mi wok asde (I worked yesterday).
Most Tok Pisin verbs come from a root verb in English or a local language, like "kat" ("cut"), "giv" ("give"), "rit"
("read"). To make these verbs transitive (acting upon a object), the ending "-im" is added.

I cut
I give
I read

Intransitive
Mi kat
Mi giv
Mi rit

Transitive
I cut fruit
Mi katim frut.
I give money
Mi givim mani.
I read books
Mi ritim buk.

There are some verbs that have slightly different forms when going from intransitive to transitive:
lukluk => lukim (see)
toktok => tokim (talk)
Some verbs do not get changed for transivity at all, however, such as "kaikai" ("eat"). "kaikai" also means "food"
when used as a noun.
We are going to look at 4 tenses here: the present ("I do"), the present progressive ("I am doing"), the past ("I
did"), and the future ("I will do"). Each of these is shown by an auxillary verb (or lack of). The present tense
uses no auxillary verb, being the most basic of tenses. The present progressive tense is shown by "stap", as we
learned in the previous lesson. The past tense is marked with "bin", which comes from English "been". The
future tense is shown with "bai", which is a short form of "baimbai", which in turn comes from the English "by
and by". There is also an immediate future tense shown by "laik". Be careful not to confuse this with the modal
"laik" which will be shown later.

kat = cut

giv = give

Present
Mi kat.
I cut.
Mi giv.
I give.
(intransitive)
Present
Mi katim frut. I cut fruit.
Mi givim mani. I give money.
Present
Mi stap katim I am cutting fruit. Mi stap givim I am giving money.

progressive frut.
Mi bin katim
Past
frut.
Bai mi katim
Future
frut.
Future
Mi laik katim
(immediate) frut.

mani.
I have/had cut
Mi bin givim I have given
fruit.
mani.
money.
Bai mi givim
I will cut fruit.
I will give money.
mani.
I am about to cut Mi laik givim I am about to give
fruit.
mani.
money.

These tense markers interact with the predicate marker "i" in different ways.

Jon i bin wok asde


Jon bai i wok tumora

John worked yesterday


John will work tomorrow

In the first sentence, you can see that it works pretty much like you would expect, with the verb tense
markerbin coming after the i. However, in the second sentence, the i comes after the tense marker bai. This is
probably because of the way such phrases would be said in English. We would say (in a simplified way) "John he
worked yesterday" and "John, by and by, he works tomorrow". Now note an even bigger change in the next
sentence.

Jon i wok i stap nau

John is working now

In the above example, the verb (wok) goes before the auxillary verb (stap>), and an extra i is added.
Lastly, we have pinis, which equates to the English "finish" and always goes after the verb.

Jon i wok pinis

John is finished working

Modals
Modal verbs are special verbs which behave very differently from normal verbs. The work with normal verbs to
further define them. We will look at five of them here: laik, save, ken. mas, and inap.

Modal Usage

From

Tok Pisin

laik

desired

English "like"

Jon i laik wok

save

habitual

Portuguese "saber"
(know)

Jon i save wok


long tunde

English
John likes to
work.
John works on
Tuesday.

English "can"

Jon i ken wok

John can work.

English "must"

Jon i mas wok

John must work.


John is able to
work.

mas

permission,
ability
obligation

inap

able

ken

Jon inap wok

Note that "inap" has no i before it. This is because it has already been combined ("inap").

Plural Nouns
In Tok Pisin, nouns are pluralized by putting "ol" before the word.

Example:
man = man
ol man = men

I saw a man
I saw men

mi bin lukim wanpela man


mi bin lukim ol man

Note: If pluralization is implied, as in "triplea dok (three dogs), don't use "ol".

I saw three men

mi bin lukim tripela man

Vocabulary

tete
asde
tumora
nau
frut
mani
pas
wok
rait
kat
giv
rit
kaikai
toktok
lukluk
tripela

Exercises
Exercise A: Translate to English:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)

Yupela bai i ritim tripela buk.


Em i katim i stap tete.
Mipela givim mani.
Mi bai i raitim tripela pas.
Em inap ritim wanpela buk.
Ol i wok i stap tete.

today
yesterday
tomorrow
now
fruit
money
letter
to work, job (also used as "to do")
to write
to cut
to give
to read
to eat, food
talk, speak
see, look
three

Exercise B: Translate to Tok Pisin:


1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)

You (sing) will give money.


She cut fruit yesterday.
He must read a book now.
I will cut fruit today.
We will see John tomorrow.
They (plural) read the letters.

Solutions
Solution of Exercise A:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)

You (plural) will read three books.


He cut frut today.
We give money.
I will write three letters.
She can (is able) read a book.
They (plural) work today.

Solution of Exercise B:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)

Yu bai i givim mani


Em i bin katim frut asde.
Em i mas ritim wanpela buk nau.
Mi bai i katim frut tete.
Mipela bai i lukim Jon tumora.
Ol ritim pas.

Lesson 4: Days, Months, Greetings, Adjectives, and Possesive Pronouns


Days of the Week
Now you can learn a few basic word groups, like days of the week.

Days of the Week


Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Months

Mande
Tunde
Trinde
Fonde
Fraide
Sarere
Sande

Months
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

Jenueri
Februeri
Mars
Epril
Mei
Jun
Julai
Ogas
Septemba
Oktoba
Novemba
Disemba

Greetings

Greetings
Welcome
Good morning
Good afternoon
Good evening
Hello
Daily Expressions and Phrases
What is your name?
please
sorry
Thank you
Thank you very much
Do you know Tok Pisin?
I speak English
Enjoy!
What do you think?
How much does this cost?
today

Welkam
Monin tru, Gutpela monin
Avinun tru, Gutpela avinun
Gutpela nait
Gude, Halo
Husat nem bilong yu?
plis
sori
Tenkiu
Tenkiu tru, Tenkiu tumas
Yu save Tok Pisin?
Mi save tok Inglis
Hamamas!
Yu ting wanem?
Em hao mas?
tete

tomorrow
yesterday

tumora
asde

Adjectives
In Tok Pisin, adjectives are made by adding the suffix "-pela" to the end of some words. Adjectives come
before the noun they define, as in English.
Example:
noun = red, adjective = redpela

tisa i save i laik yusim redpela buk


em i save istap naispela olgeta taim
em i gat bikpela haus

the teacher likes to use the red book


she is always beautiful
he has a big house

Some adjectives don't include "-pela"

em i nogut
liklik buk

he's bad
little book

Possessive Pronouns
In Tok Pisin, you show possession by putting the word "bilong" after the object that someone or something
possesses.
Examples:

mama graun bilong mi


mamapapa bilong mi
haus bilong waswas

my home land
my parents
the bathroom/ shower room

Note: "waswas" comes from "wash"

Vocabulary

braun
red
grin
yelo
pink
pupol
blak
wait
haus
buk
kar

brown
red
green
yellow
pink
purple
black
white
house
book
car

mamapapa
nais
hat
nogut
gat
piksa boks
blu
gras

parents
beautiful
hard, hot, hat (be careful how you use it)
bad
have
television
blue
hair

Exercises
Exercise A: Translate to Tok Pisin:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

The boy has a brown book.


The woman is beautiful.
I have a red TV.
She likes green cars.
The teacher has blue hair.

Solutions
Solution of Exercise A:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

Pikinini man i gat braunpela buk.


Meri i naispela.
Mi gat redpela piksa boks.
Em i save i laikim grinpela kar.
Tisa i gat blupela gras.

Lesson 5: Prepositions, Comparisons, & Numbers


Prepositions
Prepositions are short words that describe a relationship between other words in a sentence. Most prepositions
tell where or when, or show possession. Some common prepositions in English are "on" ("on the table"), "in" ("in
the house"), "at" ("at the store"), and "over" ("over time").
Tok Pisin only has two prepositions. The first one we saw in the previous lesson to show possession: "bilong"
meaning "belong". It also can be used to mean "of" or "for". The other preposition is "long", and it is used for
basically everything else (at, in, on, to, with, until etc.). "long" also means "tall, long", so don't confuse them.

Comparisons
As we learned in the previous lesson, adjectives are formed by adding "-pela" to certain words. Now we will
show you how to compare things using those adjectives.

First, we have need the adjective to show the comparison, like "longpela" meaning "tall, long". In English, we
might say that someone is "taller", but since Tok Pisin doesn't change the form of the adjective to show
comparison, we need to use a qualifer instead. So instead of saying "taller", we would say "more tall". In Tok
Pisin, "more" is shown by "moa". This would go after the adjective.

Em i longpela moa long papa bilong em.

She is taller than her father.

Note:
"papa bilong em" = "her father". This is using the method of showing possession you learned in the previous
lesson.
"long" = "than". This is the other preposition that you learned in this lesson.
We can show that a comparison is greater using reduplication of "moa" into "moa moa". This is like saying "much
more".

Em i longpela moa moa long papa bilong


She is much taller than her father.
em.
A comparison to show that some is "even" more of something is achieved by adding another modifer: "yet",
which equates to English "even, yet". This is placed after "moa".

Em i longpela moa yet long brata bilong


em.

She is even taller than her brother.

Note: brata bilong em" = "her brother".


Beyond a comparison, we have the superlative, which says that something is the most. In English, for example,
comparing two heights would be "taller", but the among all heights, only one is "tallest". This is shown in Tok
Pisin with the contruction "long ol".

Em i longpela long ol.


Mama bilong em i sotpela long ol.

She is tallest.
Her mother is shortest.

Note: "mama bilong em" = "her mother". "sotpela" = "short".

Numbers
The numbers 1-10 in Tok Pisin have two forms. The first form is used in forming other numbers and in
numerical situations, like telling time. The second form is when they take on the ending "-pela" and act as
adjectives. "siro" (zero) has no such adjective form.

Numbers (0-10)
0
siro
1
wan
2
tu
3
tri
4
foa
5
faiv
6
sikis
7
seven

wanpela
tupela
tripela
fopela
faipela
sikispela
sevenpela

8
9
10

et
nain
ten

etpela
nainpela
tenpela

To form the other numbers, a sort of math is involved. The adjective form is used to describe number forms,
like saying 11 = one ten plus one = wanpela ten wan. Some numbers also have single words to describe them.

Numbers (continued)
11
wanpela ten wan
12
wanpela ten tu
13
wanpela ten tri
14
wanpela ten foa
15
wanpela ten faiv
16
wanpela ten sikis
17
wanpela ten seven
18
wanpela ten et
19
wanpela ten nain
20
tupela ten
21
tupela ten wan
22
tupela ten tu
23
tupela ten tri
30
tripela ten
40
fopela ten
50
faipela ten
60
sikispela ten
70
sevenpela ten
80
etpela ten
90
nainpela ten
100
wan handet
200
tu handet
300
tri handet
1000
tausen
2000
tu tausen
1,000,000
one milien

eleven
twelv
tetin
fotin
fiftin
sikistin
seventin
etin
naintin
twenti
twentiwan
twentitu
twentitri
teti
foti
fifti
sikisti
seventi
eti
nainti

Vocabulary
Some of these words you've learned already.

Vocabulary

bikpela
longpela
liklik(pela)
gutpela
sotpela
dok
pusi
mama
papa
brata
susa
pikinini meri
skul
wok

Exercises
Exercise A: Translate to Tok Pisin:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)

The dog is bigger than the cat.


The girl is even bigger than her mother.
My mom is shorter than me.
I am smaller than my mom.
The girl is even smaller than her sister.
School is even more important than work.

Solutions
Solution of Exercise A:
1)
2)
3)
4)

Dok i longpela moa long pusi.


Pikinini meri i longpela moa yet long mama bilong em.
Mama bilong mi i sotpela moa long mi.
Mi liklik moa long mama bilong mi.

big, superior, older


tall, long
little, small
good
short
dog
cat
mother
father
brother
sister
girl
school
work

5) Pikinini meri i liklik moa yet long susa bilong em.


6) Skul i bikpela moa yet long wok.

End Of Part One