Time with sumti

There are times, though, when you want to say things about time, and Lojban has more than enough cmavo for this. Let's say that Zhang left the bar at 10 o'clock and Susan arrived at 11 (thus missing her date). The most precise way is to use times, as in the last lesson:

la jan. cliva le barja ti'u la jaucac. .i la la suzyn. klama le barja ti'u la feicac.

Tip: As mentioned just above, .i is used in Lojban to separate sentences from each other. You can think of it as a spoken version of the full stop (period) at the end of a sentence.

However, if the actual times are not important, we can say:

ba lenu la jan. cliva kei la suzyn. klama le barja
After Zhang left, Susan came into the bar.


pu lenu la suzyn. klama le barja kei la jan. cliva
Before Susan came into the bar, Zhang left.

which translates more naturally as:

When Susan came into the bar, Zhang had already left.

(This, by the way, is another case of context meaning you don't have to put everything in — we haven't said that the place Zhang leaves is the bar, we just understand it from the context.)

What are these ba's, pu's and kei's? Well, the kei's you hopefully remember from the section above: they close off the phrase opened by the nu. As you probably guessed, ba is 'after' (from the gismu for 'future' or 'later', balvi) and pu is 'before' (from the gismu for 'past' or 'earlier', purci).

Whenever we use ba and pu like this, we are situating the time of one event relative to the time of another. The time we will most frequently want to use as a reference point is the speaker's here-and-now. If we want to situate the event in the main bridi relative to the here-and-now, we can leave out the sumti, and just use the tense cmavo on its own. So if we want to say that Susan came to the bar some time after right now, and not after Zhang's leaving, we can say:

baku la suzyn. klama le barja

baku here is not a city in Azerbaijan; it means 'afterwards' or 'later'. The ku is necessary to separate ba from la suzyn. (you can also say it as two separate words, ba ku — it makes no difference). Similarly, "Zhang left earlier (than now)" would be:

puku la jan. cliva

Note: What's actually going on is that ba starts a sumti, and ku ends the sumti — but the sumti itself has been left out, like we said. So ba ku means ba ... ku: 'after [something].' If we didn't have the ku in place, the ba would swallow up any sumti following it. So ba la jan. cliva means not "afterwards Zhang left", but "after Zhang, (she) left."

Let's imagine that Susan is not so unlucky, and arrives just as Zhang is leaving. We can then say:

ca lenu la jan. cliva le barja kei la suzyn. klama le barja
At the moment when Zhang was leaving the bar, Susan came to the bar.

ca also comes from a gismu, in this case cabna, which means 'simultaneous with', so another way to say the same thing would be

lenu la jan. cliva le barja cu cabna lenu la suzyn. klama le barja
The event of Zhang leaving the bar is simultaneous with the event of Susan coming to the bar.

Note: There is a difference between ku and kei in these sentences: ku separates the ca from the rest of the sentence, while kei terminates an event. We could have said ca lenu la jan. cliva le barja ku kei ku instead: the first ku matches le barja, the kei matches nu la jan. cliva le barja, and the second ku matches lenu la jan. cliva le barja. Because the syntax is unambiguous, we could even have said lenu la jan. cliva le barja ku ku — though we might be thought slightly cuckoo to say it like that.)

If you leave out the sumti following ca, the resulting phrase caku is interpreted as 'simultaneous with the speaker's here-and-now'. If something is simultaneous with the here-and-now, then of course that means it is happening now; so caku itself just means 'now':

caku la suzyn. klama le barja
Now, Susan goes to the bar.

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

We now have three 'time words': pu (before), ca (at, while) and ba (after). We can modify these with another three, zi, za and zu (series of cmavo often take an -i, -a, -u pattern, if they don't follow the AEIOU sequence). These mean a short, medium and long time distance. So puzi is 'a short time ago,' puza is 'a while ago' and puzu is 'a long time ago'. How long 'long' is depends on what we're talking about — if the subject is archaeology, puzu could be thousands of years; if you've missed your train it could be a matter of minutes.

Let's say this time the unlucky Susan missed Zhang by only a few minutes. We could then say:

bazi lenu la jan. cliva kei la suzyn. klama le barja

And if you're in the unfortunate position of having to tell Susan that she's just missed Zhang, you would say:

puziku la jan. cliva le barja



x1 is sad/depressed/dejected/[unhappy/feels sorrow/grief] about x2 (abstraction)


x1 is happy/gay/merry/glad/gleeful about x2 (event/state)


but, however (This is an attitudinal, just like .uu and .ei)


x1 is a room of/in structure x2 surrounded by partitions/walls/ceiling/floor x3 (mass/jo'u)


x1 [agent] reads x2 [text] from surface/document/reading material x3; x1 is a reader

Exercise 2

Translate the following. Don't forget your nu's and kei's!

  1. Juliette went to Paris a while ago.

  2. A long time ago, I read Camille.

  3. Ivan just left the room.

  4. Yoshiko kissed Jorge just after Pierre came into the room.

  5. Tracy was sad just a minute ago. But Mike is happy now.