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Tenses 2

Tenses in lojban are a very broad subject, and we have only barely scratched the surface with pu, ca and ba. In this lesson, we will study the so-called event contours, which represent a very different way of viewing tenses than we have seen so far. So let's get to it.

Using the tenses we have previously learned, we can imagine an indefinite time line, and we then place events on that line relative to the now. With event contours, however, we view each event as a process, which has certain stages: a time before it unfolds, a time when it begins, a time when it is in process, a time when it ends, and a time after it has ended. Event contours then tells us which part of the event's process was happening during the time specified by the other tenses. We need a couple of tenses first:

pu'o sumtcita: event contour: bridi has not yet happened during SUMTI.

ca'o sumtcita: event contour: bridi is in process during SUMTI.

ba'o sumtcita: event contour: The process of bridi has ended during SUMTI.

This needs to be demonstrated by some examples. What does mi pu'o {ku} se zdani mean? Answer: "I am about to have a home".

But hey, you might ask, why not just say mi ba {ku} se zdani and even save a syllable? Because, remember, saying that you will have a home in the future says nothing about whether you have a home now. Using pu'o, though, you say that you are in the past of the process of you having a home, which means that you don't have one now.

Note, by the way, that mi ba {ku} se zdani is similar to mi pu'o {ku} se zdani, and likewise with ba'o and pu. Why do they seem reversed? Because event contours view the present as seen from the viewpoint of the process, whereas the other tenses view events as seen from the present.

Let's see a few more examples:

Sentence Possible translation
do pu'o citka lo plise You are in the past of the process of eating an apple – You are about to eat an apple.
mi ca'o gleki You are in the present of the process of being happy – You are currently happy.
do ba'o tavla lo ctuca You are in the future of the process of talking to the instructor – You have finished talking to the instructor.

There is some semantic intersection with pu, ca and ba, of course. But event contours are often more precise than other kind of tenses.

The event contours above describe time intervals. But there are also some event contours to describe point-like stages in the process, such as its beginning. As with ca, they actually extend slightly into the past and future of that point.

The two most important point-like event contours are:

co'a sumtcita: event contour: bridi is at its beginning during SUMTI.

co'u sumtcita: event contour: bridi is at its ending during SUMTI.

Let's see some examples:

Sentence Possible translation
do co'a citka lo plise You in the right at the beginning of the process of eating an apple – You just started eating an apple.
do co'u tavla lo ctuca You are right at the end of the process of talking to the instructor – You just finished talking to the instructor.

Finally, it is also possible to combine event contours with pu, ca and ba:

Sentence Possible translation
do ba pu'o citka lo plise In the future, you will be about to about to eat an apple.
do pu co'u tavla lo ctuca In the past, you had just finished talking to the instructor.

Don't worry too much about it right now though, we will learn more about how compound tenses work later on. They are actually quite intuitive, and mimic an imaginary journey starting from the tenses on the left and going to the right.


As usual, before proceeding to the next lesson, get some practice with interactive exercises – look for the "Practice" button nearby!

Beware that exercises loop indefinitely, so feel free to stop once you feel you've had enough. And be sure to revisit exercises on different days, to benefit from the spacing effect.

Lesson plan

  • Lesson
    • pu'o, ca'o, ba'o
    • co'a, co'u
  • New exercises
    • Translate specifying event contours (OK)
    • Identify the glosses of "pu'o", "ca'o", "ba'o", "co'a" and "co'u" (OK)


dunda x1 [donor] gives/donates gift/present x2 to recipient/beneficiary x3 [without payment/exchange]

pelxu x1 is yellow/golden [color adjective]

zdani x1 is a nest/house/lair/den/[home] of/for x2

tavla x1 talks/speaks to x2 about subject x3 in language x4

pendo x1 is/acts as a friend of/to x2 (experiencer); x2 befriends x1

prenu x1 is a person/people (noun) [not necessarily human]; x1 displays personality/a persona

mlatu x1 is a cat/[puss/pussy/kitten] [feline animal] of species/breed x2; (adjective:) x1 is feline

ctuca x1 teaches audience x2 ideas/methods/lore x3 (du'u) about subject(s) x4 by method x5 (event)

nelci x1 is fond of/likes/has a taste for x2 (object/state)

gerku x1 is a dog/canine/[bitch] of species/breed x2

melbi x1 is beautiful/pleasant to x2 in aspect x3 (ka) by aesthetic standard x4

sutra x1 is fast/swift/quick/hastes/rapid at doing/being/bringing about x2 (event/state)

lojbo x1 reflects [Loglandic]/Lojbanic language/culture/nationality/community in aspect x2

ciska x1 inscribes/writes x2 on display/storage medium x3 with writing implement x4; x1 is a scribe

djuno x1 knows fact(s) x2 (du'u) about subject x3 by epistemology x4

nupre x1 (agent) promises/commits/assures/threatens x2 (event/state) to x3 [beneficiary/victim]

cusku x1 (agent) expresses/says x2 (sedu'u/text/lu'e concept) for audience x3 via expressive medium x4

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

citka x1 eats/ingests/consumes (transitive verb) x2

plise x1 is an apple [fruit] of species/strain x2

vecnu x1 [seller] sells/vends x2 [goods/service/commodity] to buyer x3 for amount/cost/expense x4

skami x1 is a computer for purpose x2

pilno x1 uses/employs x2 [tool, apparatus, machine, agent, acting entity, material] for purpose x3

cmene x1 (quoted word(s)) is a/the name/title/tag of x2 to/used-by namer/name-user x3 (person)

bangu x1 is a/the language/dialect used by x2 to express/communicate x3 (si'o/du'u, not quote)

fanva x1 translates text/utterance x2 to language x3 from language x4 with translation result x5

mukti x1 (action/event/state) motivates/is a motive/incentive for action/event x2, per volition of x3

gasnu x1 [person/agent] is an agentive cause of event x2; x1 does/brings about x2

lerci x1 (event) is late by standard x2

kakne x1 is able to do/be/capable of doing/being x2 (event/state) under conditions x3 (event/state)


mi pro-sumti: me/we the speaker(s)/author(s); identified by self-vocative

do pro-sumti: you listener(s); identified by vocative

ti pro-sumti: this here; immediate demonstrative it; indicated thing/place near speaker

ta pro-sumti: that there; nearby demonstrative it; indicated thing/place near listener

zo'e pro-sumti: an elliptical/unspecified value; has some value which makes bridi true

lo veridical descriptor: the one(s) that really is(are) ...

ku elidable terminator: end description, modal, or negator sumti; often elidable

fa sumti place tag: tag 1st sumti place

fe sumti place tag: tag 2nd sumti place

fi sumti place tag: tag 3rd sumti place

fo sumti place tag: tag 4th sumti place

fu sumti place tag: tag 5th sumti place

se 2nd conversion; switch 1st/2nd places

te 3rd conversion; switch 1st/3rd places

ve 4th conversion; switch 1st/4th places

xe 5th conversion; switch 1st/5th places

xu discursive: true-false question

ma pro-sumti: sumti question (what/who/how/why/etc.); appropriately fill in sumti blank

mo pro-bridi: bridi/selbri/brivla question

na bridi contradictory negator; scope is an entire bridi; logically negates in some cmavo compounds

go'i pro-bridi: preceding bridi; in answer to a yes/no question, repeats the claim, meaning yes

su'u abstractor: generalized abstractor (how); x1 is [bridi] as a non-specific abstraction of type x2

nu abstractor: generalized event abstractor; x1 is state/process/achievement/activity of [bridi]

du'u abstractor: predication/bridi abstractor; x1 is predication [bridi] expressed in sentence x2

sedu'u compound abstractor: sentence/equation abstract; x1 is text expressing [bridi] which is x2

kei elidable terminator: end abstraction bridi (often elidable)

vau elidable: end of sumti in simple bridi; in compound bridi, separates common trailing sumti

cu elidable marker: separates selbri from preceding sumti, allows preceding terminator elision

poi restrictive relative clause; attaches subordinate bridi with identifying information to a sumti

noi non-restrictive relative clause; attaches subordinate bridi with incidental information

ke'a pro-sumti: relativized sumti (object of relative clause)

ku'o elidable terminator: end NOI relative clause; always elidable, but preferred in complex clauses

be sumti link to attach sumti (default x2) to a selbri; used in descriptions

bei separates multiple linked sumti within a selbri; used in descriptions

be'o elidable terminator: end linked sumti in specified description

pi'o pilno modal, 1st place used by ...

mu'i mukti modal, 1st place because of motive ...

gau gasnu modal, 1st place agent/actor case tag with active agent ...

pu time tense relation/direction: did [selbri]; before/prior to [sumti]; default past tense

ca time tense relation/direction: is [selbri]; during/simultaneous with [sumti]; present tense

ba time tense relation/direction: will [selbri]; after [sumti]; default future tense

zo quote next word only; quotes a single Lojban word (not a cmavo compound or tanru)

lu start grammatical quotation; quoted text should be grammatical on its own

li'u elidable terminator: end grammatical quotation; seldom elidable except at end of text

ne non-restrictive relative phrase marker: which incidentally is associated with ...

pe restrictive relative phrase marker: which is associated with ...; loosest associative/possessive

po restrictive relative phrase marker: which is specific to ...; normal possessive physical/legal

po'e restrictive relative phrase marker: which belongs to ... ; inalienable possession

.a logical connective: sumti afterthought or

.e logical connective: sumti afterthought and

.o logical connective: sumti afterthought biconditional/iff/if-and-only-if

.u logical connective: sumti afterthought whether-or-not

na'e contrary scalar negator: other than ...; not ...; a scale or set is implied

to'e polar opposite scalar negator

no'e midpoint scalar negator: neutral point between je'a and to'e; "not really"

tu'a extracts a concrete sumti from an unspecified abstraction; equivalent to le nu/su'u [sumti] co'e

jai convert tense/modal (tagged) place to 1st place; 1st place moves to extra FA place (fai)

la name descriptor: the one(s) called ... ; takes name or selbri description

le non-veridical descriptor: the one(s) described as ...

no digit/number: 0 (digit) [zero]

pa digit/number: 1 (digit) [one]

re digit/number: 2 (digit) [two]

ci digit/number: 3 (digit) [three]

vo digit/number: 4 (digit) [four]

mu digit/number: 5 (digit) [five]

xa digit/number: 6 (digit) [six]

ze digit/number: 7 (digit) [seven]

bi digit/number: 8 (digit) [eight]

so digit/number: 9 (digit) [nine]

pi digit/number: radix (number base) point; default decimal

ro digit/number: each, all

so'a digit/number: almost all (digit/number)

so'e digit/number: most

so'i digit/number: many

so'o digit/number: several

so'u digit/number: few

pu'o interval event contour: in anticipation of ...; until ... ; inchoative ----| |

ca'o interval event contour: during ...; continuative |-----|

ba'o interval event contour: in the aftermath of ...; since ...; perfective | |----

co'a interval event contour: at the starting point of ...; initiative >|< |

co'u interval event contour: at the ending point of ... even if not done; cessative | >< |


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