Time and selbri

What we've looked at so far is similar to (but not quite the same as) English words like before, after and so on. However, we can use exactly the same cmavo with selbri to give effects which are similar (but not identical) to English tenses. Actually this is easier, but I left it till later to avoid the danger of malglico!

Basically, any time cmavo (or sequence of cmavo) can go before a selbri and put the whole bridi into that time. This is precisely the same thing the time cmavo would be doing if followed immediately by ku, with an empty sumti in between. So

la jan. pu cliva le barja


puku la jan. cliva le barja

both mean "Zhang before the here-and-now leaves the bar," or "Zhang left the bar." We can do the same thing with zi/za/zu, so la jan. puza cliva le barja, just like puzaku la jan. cliva le barja, means "Zhang left the bar a while ago."

Tip: By the way, ma ca tcika would be an even more usual way to say "What time is it?"

Another group of cmavo which can be used here is ze'i/ze'a/ze'u. Just as zi/ze/zu indicate a short, medium or long time from the present (or whatever other time we happen to be talking about), these cmavo indicate short, medium or long durations for the action or state we are talking about. So mi ze'u bajra means "I run for a long time." (Not "I am a bar for a long time" — that's barja! Lojban does tend to keep you on your toes like that.) Again, we can put these together, so mi puzaze'u bajra means "A while ago, I ran for a long time." A few more examples ...

A complete explanation of time cmavo can be found in Chapter 10 of The Complete Lojban Language.

Exercise 3

Translate the following, placing the tense words before the selbri.

  1. I will work for a short while.

  2. I will work very soon.

  3. I was working for a medium amount of time, a long time ago.

  4. I work some time around right now.

  5. Right now, I've been working for some time.