In English, we make a yes/no question by changing the order of the words (e.g. You are ...Are you ...) or putting some form of do at the beginning (e.g. Does she smoke?). This seems perfectly natural to someone whose native language is English (or German), but is actually unnecessarily complicated (as any speaker of Chinese or Turkish will tell you). In Lojban we can turn any proposition into a yes/no question by simply putting xu somewhere in the sentence (usually at the beginning.) Some examples:

xu do nelci la bil.
Do you like Bill?

xu mi klama
Am I coming?

xu crino
Is it green?

There are two ways to answer these questions. Lojban, like some other languages, does not have words that mean 'yes' or 'no'. One way to answer "yes" is to repeat the selbri e.g.

We can also use go'i, which repeats the last bridi (without the question)

Note: However, if you say "You like Bill", and I then say "You like Bill", I am repeating your words, but not your meaning. To do that, I would need to say "I like Bill" instead. It is much more useful for go'i to repeat the meaning than the words of the bridi; so go'i after xu do nelci la bil. means not do nelci la bil., but mi nelci la bil.. In other words, in an answer to a "Do you?" type of yes/no question, go'i means "Yes (I do)", as you'd expect.

What about negative answers? Any bridi can be made negative by using na. This negates the whole of the bridi, so you can put it anywhere you want, with a little extra grammar. But the simplest place to put it grammatically is right before the selbri. So mi cu na nelci la bil. means "It is not true that I like Bill," or in other words, "I don't like Bill."

Tip: By default, na is followed by a selbri. Since cu has the job of indicating that a selbri is coming up, na makes it superfluous. So you can simply say mi na nelci la bil.

As an answer to a question, we do the same thing, so we just say na nelci or na go'i.

Logical note: Negatives are a lot more complicated than they look, in both English and Lojban. Strictly speaking, mi na nelci la bil. is true even if I've never heard of Bill (since it's pretty hard to like someone you know nothing about.) We'll look at some other negatives later, but for the time being na will do fine. Just as in English, if you ask someone if they like Bill, and they reply "No" because they haven't met him, they're being amazingly unhelpful — but not really lying.

English also has a number of wh- questions — who, what etc. In Lojban we use one word for all of these: ma. This is like an instruction to fill in the missing place. For example:

Finally we have mo. This is like ma, but questions a selbri, not a sumti — it's like English "What does x do?" or "What is x?" (remember, being and doing are the same in Lojban!) More logically, we can see mo as asking someone to describe the relationship between the sumti in the question. For example:

do mo la klaudias.
You ??? Claudia
What are you to Claudia?

The answer depends on the context. Possible answers to this question are:

Note 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. There are ways to specify time in Lojban, but it's not necessary to use them. (Just to satisfy your curiosity though, "I kissed Claudia" is mi pu cinba la klaudias.)

We've said that mo can also be a "What is ..." type of question. The simplest example is ti mo — "What is this?" You could also ask la meilis. mo, which could mean "Who is Mei Li?", "What is Mei Li?", "What is Mei Li doing?" and so on. Again, the answer depends on the context. For example:

There are ways to be more specific, but these normally involve a ma question; for example la meilis. gasnu ma ("Mei Li does what?").

There are more question words in Lojban, but xu, ma and mo are enough for most of what you might want to ask. Three other important questions, xo ("How many?") ca ma ("When?") and pei ("How do you feel about it?") will come in the lessons on numbers, time and attitudes.

Exercise 2: Lojban general knowledge quiz

Answer the following questions (in Lojban, of course). Most of the answers are very easy; the trick is to understand the question! For example, cynyny. mo "What is CNN?" — tivni "Broadcaster"

  1. la brutus. mo la .iulius.

  2. ma prami la djuliet.

  3. xu la paris. nenri la .iunaited.steits.

  4. ma finti la .anas.kaREninas.

  5. xu la porc. sutra

  6. la lis.xarvis.azuald. catra ma

  7. xu la djorj.eliot. ninmu

  8. la sakiamunis. mo

  9. la cekspir. mo la xamlet.

  10. la das.kapiTAL. cukta fi ma

  11. xu la xardis. fengu la lorel.