la karda


This is a distilled overview of the Lojban language.

Finally, some aspects of Lojban are omitted entirely!

The goal of this guide is to give an idea of what Lojban is like before losing your interest and is one of the quickest ways to get started with the language. Often new ideas are conveyed visually with only a small amount of text.

Special Thanks

A number of people have contributed to the creation of this document in various ways:

A general thanks goes to the entire IRC community, since it is the largest driver of Lojban's on-going promotion and evolution.

Thanks goes to la selpa'i ku who's article on ZAhO was the inspiration for the section on "Understanding Time" and has made a number of corrections to errors in this document as well as helping along my own study of Lojban. And of course their many contributions to the language itself.

Additional thanks to those who have contributed minor corrections:

la ilmen, la cirko, la kalmari, la gleki and la tsani

Core Grammar

Parts of Language

In Language there are three major parts:

nouns: the things we talk about

verbs: tell us what the nouns do

sentences: says something using nouns and verbs

Types of Words

Lojban only has two kinds of words:

particles: short words that perform grammar functions

verbs: tell us what nouns do

What about Nouns?

What about nouns?!

Hold that thought.

Standard Form

Every sentence follows the form:

i x1 VERB x2 x3 xN

i separates multiple sentences.

The first noun appears before the verb. Additional nouns follow the verb.

Verbs Say What Nouns Do

Verbs tell us what the nouns do:

Simple Pro-nouns

Some particles act like pro-nouns:

mi - me, the speaker

do - you, the listener

ti - this, something nearby

Verbs and Nouns

Nouns can be put in the places and the verb says what they do:

  mi    dunda   ti        do
[donor]   │   [gift] [beneficiary]
  x1    verb     x2       x3

     "I give this to you."

Rearranging Nouns

Putting the nouns into different places changes what they do:

  do    dunda   ti        mi
[donor]   │   [gift] [beneficiary]
  x1    verb     x2       x3

    "You give this to me."

Converting Verbs to Nouns

The particles lo and ku convert verbs to nouns from the x1 role:

Pattern: lo VERB ku => NOUN

   dunda: x1 donates gift x2 to beneficiary x3
lo dunda ku <== [donor] dunda [gift] [benefactor]
─────┬─────        ├──────┼──────┼────────┤
   noun           x1    verb     x2       x3

lo dunda ku creates a noun-description which refers to "a donor":

  mi    dunda   ti    lo dunda ku
[donor]   │   [gift] [beneficiary]
  x1    verb     x2       x3

   "I gave this to a donor."

Complex Sentences

Using multiple verbs, complex sentences can be formed:

mlatu: x1 is a cat

pinxe: x1 drinks beverage x2

ladru: x1 is milk

lo mlatu ku   pinxe   lo ladru ku
 [drinker]      │     [beverage]
    x1        verb        x2

    "A cat drinks some milk."

The Drama of Language

The previous example can be thought of as a kind of stage-play, directed by the Verb and starring the Nouns.

Breakfast Time, a play by Pinxe!

The Verb Director tells us what Roles are available and What Happens:

Pinxe says, "x1 drinks beverage x2"


  1. A Drinker drinks!
  2. A Beverage is imbibed!



lo mlatu ku   pinxe   lo ladru ku    <= actors in the play
 [drinker]      │     [beverage]     <= roles in the play
   role1    director    role2

    "A cat drinks some milk."

Rearranging Verbs

The particles of the SE family rearrange verbs:

Pattern: SE VERB => VERB'

The roles of the x1 and xN nouns are swapped in the new modified verb:

[traveler] klama [destination] [origin] [route] [vehicle]

[destination] se klama [traveler] [origin] [route] [vehicle]

[origin] te klama [destination] [traveler] [route] [vehicle]

[route] ve klama [destination] [origin] [traveler] [vehicle]

[vehicle] xe klama [destination] [origin] [route] [traveler]

SE In Action

These SE modified verbs are useful both in making nouns and as the main verb of sentences:

fraxu: x1 forgives x2 for x3

vecnu: x1 sells x2 to buyer x3 for price x4

dakfu: x1 is a knife

  lo se fraxu ku  te vecnu   lo dakfu ku
     [buyer]         |        [goods]
       "The forgiven buys a knife."

friti: x1 offers x2 to x3

xamgu: x1 is beneficial to x2

ginka: x1 is an encampment of x2

  lo se friti ku  xamgu   lo se ginka ku
    [benefit]       |      [beneficiary]
   "The offering is good for the campers."

FA Labels

The FA family of particles allows for breaking the default noun ordering of sentences without modifying the verb:

Pattern: FA NOUN => NOUN'

FA Family:

fa  fe  fi  fo  fu
x1  x2  x3  x4  x5

Each particle from the FA family simply specifies what the following noun is doing in the sentence. In other words which role from the verb fills.

This allows putting all of the nouns after the verb:

dunda fa mi ti do - "I donate this to you"

Or skip some places entirely:

mi dunda fi do - "I donate to you"

Counting resumes from any FA particle:

 fe ti dunda fa mi do
 ──┬──       ──┬── ─┐
  x2          x1   x3
"I donate this to you"

Cmavo and Brivla

Lojban has names for the two kinds of words that make up its dictionary:

cmavo - mi, ti, do, lo, ku

brivla : dunda, klama, mlatu, ladru

Selbri Sumti and Bridi

It also has names for the different parts of speech that come to life in lojban sentences:

selbri - the verb phrases central to sentences and nouns

sumti- the noun phrases that take on semantic roles

bridi- the combination of a selbri and its sumti

Bracket Legend:

  <> - selbri verb
  [] - sumti noun
  {} - bridi statement

Notice how selbri verb phrases appear throughout:

lo <se <jdice>> ku <nandu> lo <sonci> ku

Sumti nouns are placed around the root selbri:

[lo se jdice ku] nandu [lo sonci ku]

And the whole structure, a selbri with its sumti, is a bridi:

{lo se jdice ku nandu lo sonci ku}


By combining multiple consecutive independent selbri, a tanru or compound-selbri verb can be created:

mi <<djica> <citka>> lo plise ku

    "I want-eat an apple."

Two brivla cidja and dunda come together below to create a compound-selbri inside a sumti:

      Simple Selbri
lo <<cidja> <dunda>> ku <prami> lo <prenu> ku
      Selbri Tanru

      "The food-donor loves people."

But what is the definition of a composite-selbri or tanru?

Tanru are metaphorical, so their full meaning is ambiguous. However, basic structure of the definition is that of the '''right most''' selbri component:

gleki : x1 is happy about x2

cadzu : x1 walks on surface x2

gleki cadzu : x1 happy-walks on surface x2

What does "happy-walk" really mean? Only the speaker knows for sure!


Proper Nouns

Proper nouns are created by using la instead of lo:

mi prami lo rozgu ku
         ──       ──
"I love roses."

mi prami la rozgu ku
         ──       ──
"I love Rose."

Names are sumti just like any other.


Introducing one's own self is done with the cmavo mi'e:

Pattern: mi'e NAME

mi'e la rozgu ku
"I'm Rose."


Greeting another person is done with the cmavo coi:

Pattern: coi SUMTI

coi la rozgu ku
"Hello, Rose."

coi lo tadni ku
"Hello, student"

coi do
"Hello, you."

Or just, "coi"


Farewells are offered with the cmavo co'o:

Pattern: co'o SUMTI

co'o la rozgu ku
"Goodbye, Rose."

Requesting Attention

Requests for attention are made with the cmavo ju'i:

Pattern: ju'i SUMTI

ju'i la rozgu ku
"Hey, Rose."

If multiple listeners paying attention you can address them individually with doi:

Pattern: doi SUMTI

doi la mirli ku ko mipri
"Keep it secret, Moose"

Yes No Questions

"Yes or No" questions can be asked by using the xu cmavo:

i xu do citka lo plise ku
"Did you eat an apple?"

Notice that even though the sentence is now a question rather than a statement the overall structure hasn't changed.

The xu is placed after the sentence separator i so as to apply to the whole sentence equally. By placing xu after a specific word emphasis can be placed on it:

i do citka lo xu plise ku
"Was it an apple you ate?"

Yes No Answers

"Yes" and "No" answers can be supplied with the following replies:

In the affirmative, "go'i" is used:

Q: xu do citka lo plise ku
A: go'i

The denial is supplied by: na go'i

Sumti Questions

Sumti specific questions can be asked by using the ma cmavo in place of the sumti in question.

do citka ma
"What did you eat?"

ma catra ma
──       ──
"Who killed who?"

To answer sumti questions simply state what fills the missing place:

lo plise ku

Or restate the question with the places filled in:

do catra mi

Selbri Questions

Selbri specific questions can be asked by using the mo cmavo in place of the selbri in question.

mo fa mi do ti
"What are we doing with this?"

do mo
"You are/doing what?"

do mo fengu mi
"What kind of angry are you at me?"

Attitude Questions

A special kind of question using the cmavo pei asks the listener to share their feelings or disposition about some topic:

i pei mi cliva
"How do you feel about me leaving?"

pei is another word which can direct its emphasis by way of right-attachment:

i mi jukpa lo jipci ku pei
"How do you feel that its chicken that I cook.

Attitude Cmavo

In addition to making an explicit statement about one's self, an answer to pei can be given with cmavo from the UI Family of "attitudinals".

ui - I'm happy

a'o - I hope

i'e - I approve

There are many attitudinals and they all express, in one way or another some aspect of the speaker's disposition about the speech the attitudinal is appears in.

i ui do prami mi
"You love me, and I'm happy about it."

i a'o do snada
"I'm hopeful you succeed."

Like many other cmavo, UI attitudinals give emphasis to the part of speech they attach to:

do pinxe lo birje ku e'u
"I suggest beer to be what you drink."

Attitude Ranges

Attitudinals have an inherent "range" or "intensity spectrum" which can be altered from the default.

Without any modifier you get the default attitude. However, nai and other cmavo can affect the sense of the UI cmavo:

ui cai - I'm happy as possible

ui sai - I'm very happy

ui - I'm happy

ui ru'e - I'm kinda/sorta happy

ui cu'i - I'm neutral in my happiness

ui nai - I'm unhappy

ui nai sai - I'm very unhappy

and so on...

Evidential Cmavo

A sub-family of the attitudinals, the UI2 Evidentials, express an epistemological claim. In other words, how the speaker came to know or state whatever it is they are saying:

i ti'e do nelci mi
"I hear rumored that you like me."

i pe'i lo plise ku xamgu
"It is my opinion that apples are beneficial."

i za'a do mutce xagji
"I observe that you are very hungry."

i ba'a la rozgu ku zvati lo zdani ku
"I expect Rose is at the house."

Discursive Cmavo

Another sub-family of the attitudinals, the UI3 "discursives" express the point or purpose of a part of or a whole statement.

i do citka lo titla ku po'o
"You only eat sweets."

i ji'a mi nitcu lo jdini ku
"Also, I need money."

i si'a mi terpa lo jukni ku
"Similarly, I'm afraid of spiders."

i ku'i lo jenmi ku daspo
"However, armys are destructive."


Having a sense of humor is key to any conversation:


i xo'o lo se platu ku banli
"Oh jeeze, great plan."

i xo'o nai lo skaci ku melbi
"Seriously, that skirt is beautiful."


i zo'o se ckaji do
"Ho! Typical you."

i zo'o nai mi nelci lo cutci
"I do like these shoes..."


i u'i xu do mulno
"Haha, are you done yet?"

i u'i nai xu do mulno
"Yea.. are you done yet?"

Changing the Subject

If things get tense you can always change the subject with ta'o:

i ta'o do klama ma
"By the way, where are you going?"

You can also return to a previous topic by adding nai:

i ta'o nai mi'o casnu ma
"Returning, what were we discussing?"

Requests and Commands

Ultimately if things go completely sour you may have to request your interlocutor to leave:

i e'o do cliva
"Please, you leave."

Or if they have been particularly offensive you might demand it!

i ko cliva
"I implore you to leave."

Any command is possible by using "ko" in place of the normal "do".

Sumti Manipulation

Saying "and" and "or"

To make statements about different sumti at the same time the connective cmavo je can be used:

Pattern: SUMTI je SUMTI => SUMTI'

i mi nelci [[lo plise ku] je [lo perli ku]]
"I like apples and pears."

Similarly, ja can be used for "or":

i ko cuxna [[lo dakfu ku] ja [lo mruli ku]]
"Pick the knife or the spear"


To group multiple sumti together to say that they do something together, jo'u can be used:

Pattern: SUMTI jo'u SUMTI => SUMTI'

i [[mi] jo'u [do]] bevri lo pipno
"You and I carry the piano"

i mi se catra [[lo fagri ku] jo'u [lo bisli ku]]
"I was killed by fire and ice."


To associate one sumti with another by way of ownership the cmavo po is used:

Pattern: SUMTI po SUMTI => SUMTI'

i [[lo karce ku] po [mi]] spofu
"My car is broken."

i ko cpacu [[lo ckiku ku] po [do]]
"Go get your keys."


For a weaker association than ownership you can use pe:

Pattern: SUMTI pe SUMTI => SUMTI'

i mi vasxu [[lo vacri ku] pe [do]]
"I'm breathing your air."

i ko zutse [[lo stizu ku] pe [mi]]
"Sit in my chair."


To specify how many of a sumti there are, a number can be placed before the sumti:

Pattern: PA SUMTI => SUMTI'

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

i mi viska [mu [lo bakni ku]]
"I see 5 cows."

i mi se raktu [so so [lo nabmi ku]]
"I am troubled by 99 problems."

Subjective Numbers

Other kinds of "subjective numbers" exist too which are pretty handy:

i xu do citka [du'e [lo plise ku]]
"Did you eat too many apples?"

so'u lo plise ku    - "a few apples"
so'o lo plise ku    - "several apples"
so'i lo plise ku    - "many apples"
so'e lo plise ku    - "most of the apples"
  ro lo plise ku    - "all the apples"
 rau lo plise ku    - "enough apples"
mo'a lo plise ku    - "not enough apples"
da'a ci lo plise ku - "all but three apples"

Selbri Manipulation

Negation and Affirmation

Most selbri manipulation is performed via prefix cmavo. For example negation is done with na:


i mi <na <xagji>>
"I'm not hungry"

On the flip-side you can say something is certain:

i mi <ja'a <xagji>>
"I am definitely hungry"

Scaling Relevance

Other cmavo have related effects which specify how strongly the selbri is applied:

i mi <no'e <xagji>>
"I'm not really that hungry."

i mi <to'e <xagji>>
"I'm full!"

Saying "and" and "or"

Similarly to sumti, selbri can be joined with the very same connective words:

i mi <<tatpi> je <xagji>>
"I'm tired and hungry"

i mi'o e'u <<citka> ja <cliva>>.
"We should eat or leave."


While Lojban bridi don't have any implicit tense, selbri can be modified to have such tense:

mi <pu <viska>> do
"I saw you."

mi <ca <viska>> do
"I see you."

mi <ba <viska>> do
"I will see you."

Temporal Distance

In addition to direction, temporal distance can also be provided:

mi <pu zi <viska>> do
"I just saw you!"

mi <pu za <viska>> do
"I saw you a while ago."

mi <pu zu <viska>> do
"It has been a long while since I've seen you."


Selbri can also be modified in terms of spatial proximity:

mi <vi <viska>> do
"I saw you right here!"

mi <va <viska>> do
"I saw you nearby."

mi <vu <viska>> do
"I saw you elsewhere."


Selbri can be "pre-injected" with a sumti, removing a sumti place from the definition, with the be cmavo:


dunda : x1 donates gift x2 to beneficiary x3

dunda be lo plise ku : x1 donates apples to beneficiary x2

By default be injects a sumti into the x2 place, but the FA family can be used to specify which place should be filled:

vecnu be fi lo jecta ku : x1 sells x2 to the state

Multiple sumti places may be filled, separated by bei:

vecnu be lo xarci ku bei lo jecta ku : x1 sells weapons to the state

Preloaded Sumti

Note that be forms a new selbri even though it incorporates a sumti:

┌──────new selbri──────────┐
<<vecnu>  be  [lo xarci ku]> = x1 sells weapons to x2
    │               │
base selbri   injected sumti

This is a little strange when used as the main verb of a sentence:

 (who)         (sells guns)       (the state)
  ma     <vecnu be lo xarci ku>   lo jecta ku
[seller]             │              [buyer]

lo xarci ku could just have been provided as x2 to a normal vecnu. The be appears unnessecary. However, this is very useful for creating interesting sumti!

             ┌───preloaded selbri─────┐
mi tavla [lo <<vecnu> be [lo xarci ku]> ku]
"I talk to the seller of weapons.

ko na lebna [lo <<sidbo> be fi [mi]> ku]
"Don't you take ideas of mine."

This is far more explicit than using pe or po.



Similar to the transformation of selbri into sumti the same can be done for whole bridi into selbri with the help of du'u and kei:

Pattern: du'u BRIDI kei => SELBRI

The definition of such a selbri is something like:

x1 is the fact represented by the inner bridi

┌───fact selbri────┐
du'u do prami mi kei =  x1 is the fact that: you love me
     inner bridi

Adding lo and ku, the selbri is transformed into a sumti allowing one to talk about the fact inside:

[lo <du'u {do prami mi} kei> ku] = "the fact that you love me"

These nested fact sumti can be used as any other:

             ┌───fact selbri────┐
mi djuno [lo du'u do prami mi kei ku]
                  inner bridi

    "I know that you love me."


Where du'u gets at the truth of a matter, nu can emphasize the time and location in which a bridi takes place:

Pattern: nu BRIDI kei => SELBRI

The definition of such a selbri is something like:

x1 is the event described by the inner Bridi

┌──fact selbri───┐
nu do speni mi kei =  x1 is the event of: you are married to me
   inner bridi

Just like with du'u these nu selbri can be turned into sumti with lo and ku:

[lo <nu {do speni mi} kei> ku] = "the event of our marriage"

And can be incorporated into larger sentences:

             ┌──fact selbri───┐
mi djica [lo nu do speni mi kei ku]
                inner bridi

    "I desire our marriage."


A third word, ka can also create a selbri from a bridi much like du'u and nu:

Pattern: ka BRIDI kei => SELBRI

The bridi must contain at least one ce'u sumti:

             ┌───────property selbri────────┐
mi cnici [lo ka ce'u citka lo titnanba ku kei ku]
                       inner bridi

The ce'u has no meaning of its own. The selbri that receives the property specifies what it refers to. In this case, it is cnici taking the property as its x2.

cnici: x1 is orderly/neat/ordered in property x2

And so it is the x1, or mi, who is orderly in the eating of cookies.

mi cnici [lo ka ce'u citka lo titnanba ku kei ku]
    bound sumti

   "I am orderly in the eating of cookies."

The ce'u can appear anywhere in the inner bridi:

do cinmo [lo ka la mam ku vajni ce'u kei ku]
         bound sumti

"You feel the emotion of Mother being important to you."

Some selbri words make comparative statements:

zmadu: x1 is more than x2 in property x3

do zmadu mi [lo ka ce'u citka lo titnanba ku kei ku]
                          inner bridi

do citka lo titnanba ku is more than mi citka lo titnanba ku

"You are more than me in the eating of cookies."
"You eat more cookies than me."

Numerous property relations exist within the Lojban lexicon.

Relative Phrases

Additional information about a sumti can be provided by attaching a bridi to it with noi:

Pattern: SUMTI noi BRIDI ku'o => SUMTI'

Similarly to the properties created with ka, noi bridi have a stand-in word ke'a:

ko penmi la rozgu ku noi mi prami ke'a ku'o
                          inner bridi

       "Meet Rose, who I love."

The noi bridi is attached to la rozgu ku and so it is her to whom ke'a refers to.

If the information is not merely incidental but nessecary to discern which thing is being talking about poi can be used instead:

ko penmi lo bruna ku poi mi prami ke'a ku'o
                          inner bridi

"Meet the brother I love (compared to whichever I don't.)"

Understanding Time

The basic tenses pu, ca and ba were covered previously but there is a bit more to say about time.

Basic Tenses

The tense for stating something is currently happening is ca:

mi ca citka
"I am currently eating."

Another way of stating this (which will be helpful later) is:

"The present coincides with my eating."

   Past       Now       Future

How about the other tenses?

mi pu pensi
"I was thinking."

"The past coincides with my thinking."

 Past       Now       Future

do ba jimpe
"You will understand."

"The future coincides with your understanding."

 Past       Now       Future

Event Contours

All events have a "temporal extent" or lifetime. It is often useful to describe the various "stages" within an event. The ZAhO family of tenses can be used for accessing them:

                                              ╎ pu'o: before
pu'o    ═══════════╣  ╠════════════     ba'o  ╎ co'a: the outset
      co'a      de'a  di'a       co'u         ╎ de'a: break
                                              ╎ di'a: resumption
        └───────────┬─────────────┘           ╎ co'u: finish
                  co'i                        ╎ ba'o: after
                                              ╎ co'i: for the duration

Like basic tenses, they modify a selbri to create a new one:


mi <co'a <citka>> lo plise ku
"I'm starting to eat an apple."

mi pacna lo nu <co'u <carvi>> kei ku
"I wish for it to finish raining."

ko <de'a <tadni>>
"Take a break from studying."

mi <pu'o <sipna>>
"Its before my bedtime."

mi <ba'o <prami>> do
"My loving you has passed.""

Tensed Contours

If no basic tense is provided, ca or present-tense is assumed:

mi <ca <co'a <citka>> lo plise ku
    ──  ────
"I'm starting to eat an apple"
"The present coincides with the start of my apple eating."

 Past       Now       Future

But how do the ZAhO contours interact with different CA tenses?

mi <pu <pu'o <sipna>>>
    ──  ────
"It was before my bedtime."
"The past coincides with the runup to my bedtime."

  ┊ ╠═══╣
 Past       Now       Future

mi <ba <ba'o <prami>>> do
    ──  ────
"My loving you will have passed."
"The future coincides with the aftermath of our love."

                 ╠═══╣  ┊
 Past       Now       Future


Additional sumti places can be added to a bridi by importing them with fi'o:

Pattern: fi'o SELBRI SUMTI => SUMTI

The x1 place of the specified selbri is added to the bridi and filled with the specified sumti:

                       ┌────────fi'o clause───────┐
mi citka lo titnanba ku fi'o <jukpa> [la rozgu ku]

"I'm eating the cookies baked by Rose"

Stage Additions

This can be understood in terms of the stage-play metaphor used before. fi'o terms act as assistant directors adding additional roles:


   mi    citka  lo titnanba ku  fi'o jukpa   la rozgu ku  <= actors
[eater]    │       [meal]           │           [cook]    <= roles
   ├───────┼──────────┤             ├─────────────┤
role1  director    role2     asst. director  jukpa1-role

SE Prepositions

Any selbri is compatible and that includes ones modified by SE:

lo cinfo ku kalte fi'o se pilno lo kanla ku
"The lion hunts with its eyes."

lo kalte ku cizda'u fi'o te jvinu lo se citka ku
"The hunter is a monster from the perspective of the meal."

Spatial Prepositions

Some useful selbri for prepositions stating where the bridi takes place:

 selbri    │ gloss
 se zvati  │ located at
 se jibni  │ located near
 se nenri  │ located in
 te ragve  │ across from
 se gapru  │ above
 se cpana  │ ontop of
 se cnita  │ underneath
 se sruri  │ surrounding

Temporal Prepositions

A few selbri useful for prepositions denoting when a bridi takes place:

 selbri    │ gloss
 tcika     │ at time
 detri     │ on date
 balvi     │ before
 cabna     │ during
 purci     │ after

Causal Prepositions

Some selbri useful for propositions explaining how a bridi came about:

 selbri    │ gloss
 mukti     │ motivated by
 rinka     │ caused by
 krinu     │ justified by
 jalge     │ with result

BAI Prepositions

A small number of cmavo in the BAI family can be used for specifying useful prepositions as a shortcut:


Just like fi'o prepositions each cmavo from the BAI family encodes a particular sumti place:

 selbri    │ BAI    │ gloss
 mukti     │ mu'i   │ motivated by
 rinka     │ ri'a   │ caused by
 krinu     │ ki'u   │ justified by
 jalge     │ ja'e   │ with result
 vanbi     │ va'o   │ under conditions
 gasnu     │ gau    │ performed by
 tadji     │ ta'i   │ with approach
 catni     │ ca'i   │ by authority
 cusku     │ cu'u   │ said by
 se pilno  │ sepi'o │ using tool

These can result in slightly more terse prepositional clauses:

                 ┌─────BAI clause─────┐
lo cinfo ku kalte sepi'o [lo kanla ku]
"The lion hunts with its eyes."