Log in
Papua New Guinea Flag

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 Malayo-Polynesian, and the rest is from Trans-New-Guinea and other languages.

Part one of this course is only intended for absolute beginners.

Part One - The Basics

Lesson 1: 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.

 Letter Sampa IPA Equivalence
 A a  [ a ]  [ a ]  as a in "father"
 E e  [ e ]  [ e ]  as e in "example"
 I i  [ i ]  [ i ]  as i in "issue"
 O o  [ o ]  [ o ]  as o in "code"
 U u  [ u ]  [ u ]  as u in "clue"
 Letter Sampa IPA Equivalence
 B b  [ b ]  [b]  as b in "baby"
 D d  [ d ]  [c]  as d in "doctor"
 F f  [ f ]  [f]  as f in "feet" (used in some words)
 G g  [ g ]  [g]  as g in "ghost"
 H h  [ h ]  [h]  as h in "help"
 J j  [ dZ ]  [ʤ]  as j in "jew" (used in some words)
 K k  [ k ]  [k]  as k in "kill"
 L l  [ l ]  [l]  as l in "law"
 M m  [ m ]  [m]  as m in "month"
 N n  [ n ]  [n]  as n in "name"
 P p  [ p ]  [p]  as p in "palm"
 R r  [ r ]  [r]  as in Spanish r or dd in "ladder"
 S s  [ s ]  [s]  as s in "sail"
 T t  [ t ]  [t]  as t in "top"
 V v  [ v ]  [v]  as v in "vibe"
 W w  [ w ]  [w]  as w in "weigh"
 Y y  [ y ]  [j]  as y in "yes"
 Letter Sampa IPA Equivalence
 ai  [ ai ]  [ ai ]  as i in "time"
 au  [ au ]  [ au ]  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.


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:

  Singular   Plural
 1st person  mi  I, me  mipela  we
 2nd person  yu  you  yupela  you (all)
 3rd person  em  he,she, it  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.


 we (excluding you) are kids  mipela stap pikinini
 we (including you) are kids  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 Dual Triple Plural
 mi  I, me  mitupela he/she and I  mitripela both of them
and I
 mipela all of them
and I
 --  --  yumitupela you (familiar)
and I
 yumitripela both of you
and I
 yumipela all of you
and I
 2nd  yu  you (familiar)  yutupela you two  yutripela you three  yupela you
(four or more)
 3rd  em  he,she, it  tupela they two  tripela they three  ol they
(four or more)

More Examples:

 I am a kid  mi stap wanpela pikinini
 You are a kid  yu stap wanpela pikinini
 He is a kid  em i stap wanpela pikinini man
 She is a kid  em i stap wanpela pikinini meri
 It is a dog  em i stap wanpela dok
 They are kids  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.


 man  man
 meri  woman
 pikinini  kid, child
 dok  dog
 pikinini man  boy
 pikinini meri  girl
 buk  book
 studen  student
 tisa  teacher
 kar  car
 Jon  John
 Tom  Tom


Exercise A: Translate to English:
1) Em i stap wanpela man.
2) Em i stap wanpela pikinini meri.
3) Em i stap wanpela tisa.
4) Mipela stap studen.
5) Em i stap wanpela kar.

Exercise B: Translate to Tok Pisin:
1) They are books.
2) It is a dog.
3) John is a boy.
4) Tom is a teacher.
5) She is a woman.


Solution of Exercise A:
1) He is a man.
2) She is a girl.
3) He is a teacher.
4) We are students.
5) It is a car.

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Ol i stap buk.
2) Em i stap wanpela dok.
3) Jon i stap wanpela pikinini man.
4) Tom i stap wanpela tisa.
5) Em i stap wanpela meri.

Lesson 3: Verbs, Modals, & Plural Nouns


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  Mi kat  I cut fruit  Mi katim frut.
 I give  Mi giv  I give money  Mi givim mani.
 I read  Mi rit  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
 Mi kat.  I cut.  Mi giv.  I give.
 Present  Mi katim frut.  I cut fruit.  Mi givim mani.  I give money.
 Mi stap katim frut.  I am cutting fruit.  Mi stap givim mani.  I am giving money.
 Past  Mi bin katim frut.  I have/had cut fruit.  Mi bin givim mani.  I have given money.
 Future  Bai mi katim frut.  I will cut fruit.  Bai mi givim mani.  I will give money.
 Mi laik katim frut.  I am about to cut fruit.  Mi laik givim mani.  I am about to give money.

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

 Jon i bin wok asde  John worked yesterday
 Jon bai i wok tumora  John will work tomorrow

In the first sentence, you can see that it works pretty much like you would expect, with the verb tense marker bin 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

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  English
 laik  desired  English "like"  Jon i laik wok  John likes to work.
 save  habitual  Portuguese "saber" (know)  Jon i save wok long tunde  John works on Tuesday.
 ken  permission, ability  English "can"  Jon i ken wok  John can work.
 mas  obligation  English "must"  Jon i mas wok  John must work.
 inap  able    Jon inap wok  John is able to work.

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.

man = man
ol man = men

 I saw a man  mi bin lukim wanpela man
 I saw men  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


 tete  today
 asde  yesterday
 tumora  tomorrow
 nau  now
 frut  fruit
 mani  money
 pas  letter
 wok  to work, job (also used as "to do")
 rait  to write
 kat  to cut
 giv  to give
 rit  to read
 kaikai  to eat, food
 toktok  talk, speak
 lukluk  see, look
 tripela  three


Exercise A: Translate to English:
1) Yupela bai i ritim tripela buk.
2) Em i katim i stap tete.
3) Mipela givim mani.
4) Mi bai i raitim tripela pas.
5) Em inap ritim wanpela buk.
6) Ol i wok i stap tete.

Exercise B: Translate to Tok Pisin:
1) You (sing) will give money.
2) She cut fruit yesterday.
3) He must read a book now.
4) I will cut fruit today.
5) We will see John tomorrow.
6) They (plural) read the letters.


Solution of Exercise A:
1) You (plural) will read three books.
2) He cut frut today.
3) We give money.
4) I will write three letters.
5) She can (is able) read a book.
6) They (plural) work today.

Solution of Exercise B:
1) Yu bai i givim mani
2) Em i bin katim frut asde.
3) Em i mas ritim wanpela buk nau.
4) Mi bai i katim frut tete.
5) Mipela bai i lukim Jon tumora.
6) 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  Mande
 Tuesday  Tunde
 Wednesday  Trinde
 Thursday  Fonde
 Friday  Fraide
 Saturday  Sarere
 Sunday  Sande


 January  Jenueri
 February  Februeri
 March  Mars
 April  Epril
 May  Mei
 June  Jun
 July  Julai
 August  Ogas
 September  Septemba
 October  Oktoba
 November  Novemba
 December  Disemba


 Welcome  Welkam
 Good morning  Monin tru, Gutpela monin
 Good afternoon  Avinun tru, Gutpela avinun
 Good evening  Gutpela nait
 Hello  Gude, Halo
 Daily Expressions and Phrases
 What is your name?  Husat nem bilong yu?
 please  plis
 sorry  sori
 Thank you  Tenkiu
 Thank you very much  Tenkiu tru, Tenkiu tumas
 Do you know Tok Pisin?  Yu save Tok Pisin?
 I speak English  Mi save tok Inglis
 Enjoy!  Hamamas!
 What do you think?  Yu ting wanem?
 How much does this cost?  Em hao mas?
 today  tete
 tomorrow  tumora
 yesterday  asde


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.

 noun = red, adjective = redpela

 tisa i save i laik yusim redpela buk  the teacher likes to use the red book
 em i save istap naispela olgeta taim  she is always beautiful
 em i gat bikpela haus  he has a big house

Some adjectives don't include "-pela"

 em i nogut  he's bad
 liklik buk  little book

Possessive Pronouns

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


 mama graun bilong mi  my home land
 mamapapa bilong mi  my parents
 haus bilong waswas  the bathroom/ shower room

Note: "waswas" comes from "wash"


 braun  brown
 red  red
 grin  green
 yelo  yellow
 pink  pink
 pupol  purple
 blak  black
 wait  white
 haus  house
 buk  book
 kar  car
 mamapapa  parents
 nais  beautiful
 hat  hard, hot, hat (be careful how you use it)
 nogut  bad
 gat  have
 piksa boks  television
 blu  blue
 gras  hair


Exercise A: Translate to Tok Pisin:
1) The boy has a brown book.
2) The woman is beautiful.
3) I have a red TV.
4) She likes green cars.
5) The teacher has blue hair.


Solution of Exercise A:
1) Pikinini man i gat braunpela buk.
2) Meri i naispela.
3) Mi gat redpela piksa boks.
4) Em i save i laikim grinpela kar.
5) Tisa i gat blupela gras.

Lesson 5: Prepositions, Comparisons, & Numbers


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.


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.

    "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 em.  She is much taller than her father.

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.  She is tallest.
 Mama bilong em i sotpela long ol.  Her mother is shortest.

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


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  wanpela
 2  tu  tupela
 3  tri  tripela
 4  foa  fopela
 5  faiv  faipela
 6  sikis  sikispela
 7  seven  sevenpela
 8  et  etpela
 9  nain  nainpela
 10  ten  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  eleven
 12  wanpela ten tu  twelv
 13  wanpela ten tri  tetin
 14  wanpela ten foa  fotin
 15  wanpela ten faiv  fiftin
 16  wanpela ten sikis  sikistin
 17  wanpela ten seven  seventin
 18  wanpela ten et  etin
 19  wanpela ten nain  naintin
 20  tupela ten  twenti
 21  tupela ten wan  twentiwan
 22  tupela ten tu  twentitu
 23  tupela ten tri  twentitri
 30  tripela ten  teti
 40  fopela ten  foti
 50  faipela ten  fifti
 60  sikispela ten  sikisti
 70  sevenpela ten  seventi
 80  etpela ten  eti
 90  nainpela ten  nainti
 100  wan handet  
 200  tu handet  
 300  tri handet  
 1000  tausen  
 2000  tu tausen  
 1,000,000  one milien  


Some of these words you've learned already.


 bikpela  big, superior, older
 longpela  tall, long
 liklik(pela)  little, small
 gutpela  good
 sotpela  short
 dok  dog
 pusi  cat
 mama  mother
 papa  father
 brata  brother
 susa  sister
 pikinini meri  girl
 skul  school
 wok  work


Exercise A: Translate to Tok Pisin:
1) The dog is bigger than the cat.
2) The girl is even bigger than her mother.
3) My mom is shorter than me.
4) I am smaller than my mom.
5) The girl is even smaller than her sister.
6) School is even more important than work.


Solution of Exercise A:
1) Dok i longpela moa long pusi.
2) Pikinini meri i longpela moa yet long mama bilong em.
3) Mama bilong mi i sotpela moa long mi.
4) Mi liklik moa long mama bilong mi.
5) Pikinini meri i liklik moa yet long susa bilong em.
6) Skul i bikpela moa yet long wok.

End Of Part One

This is the end of part one.

Thanks for your interest in this course! If you discovered any mistakes or you just want to say something then please let us know . We do need feedback!

Printed from UniLang.org, the online language community