Tongan Language Course

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Postby ego » 2005-01-21, 22:30


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  Ko e motu‘alea Tongá    The Tongan alphabet

Aa    a        like a in father or like the Spanish a

Ee    e        like e in end or like the Spanish e

Ff    fā       like in English

Hh    hā       like h in horse but more deep in the throat, something between ح and خ in Arabic

Ii    i        like ee in beep or like the Spanish i

Kk    kā       like in English

Ll    lā       like in English but sometimes like r

Mm    mā       like in English

Nn    nā       like in english

Ng ng   ngā      like ng in singer, not like in finger (see notes)

Oo    o        like o in odd or like the Spanish o

Pp    pā       like in french or in Spanish, unaspirated

Ss    sā       like in English

Tt    tā       like in French or in Spanish, unaspirated

Uu    u        like oo in boot, or like the Spanish u

Vv    vā       like in English

‘    fakau‘a        glottal stop (see notes)

So the Tongan alphabet has seventeen letters. It seems small but it is still the biggest Polynesian alphabet. For instance the Sāmoan has fifteen and the Hawai‘ian only thirteen letters!

Don’t ever forget to count the fakau‘a as a letter. For example the word “fakau‘a” has 7 letters, while when we say “the first letter of the word ‘io” we mean the fakau‘a and not the “i”


1. In Tongan there are no consonants’ clusters. That means we will never see two clusters together not separated by a vowel. The letter “ng” is concidered one single letter in Tongan, so it is not an exception. Also, all words end with a vowel

2. The vowels’ clusters: In Tongan there are no diphthongs. That means that in a vowels’ cluster each vowel maintains its original pronounciation. Clusters like “ee” are pronounced eh-eh, “oo” is pronounced oh-oh etc: tatau (ta-ta-oo), toutou (to-oo-to-oo), sai
(sa-ee), faingofua (fa-ee-ngo-foo-a), engeenga (e-nge-e-nga)

3. The vowels can all be lengthened. When they are lengthened they are written with a macron (“macron” = long in Greek) over them: ā, ē, ī, ō, ū. Thus their duration, the time they are pronounced, is doubled. Attention: The macron is not a stress. That means that a vowel with a macron is doubled in duration but it is not stressed as well.
The macron never exists at the penultimate, unless if there is a macron on the ultimate too. When there is a word ending in a vowel with a macron, and it has to take a suffix which will has as a result the vowel with the macron to be the penultimate, it is doubled and the macron is lifted: fakahā + suffix ‘i --> fakahaa‘i and not fakahā‘i.

4. All Tongan words are stressed on the penultimate. The only exception is if there is a macron on the ultimate. Then the stress falls on the ultimate (ex. fenetā, muikū, pehē, pongatō…). When the words are preceded by some specific articles, adjectives and tense signs their intonation changes and the stress falls on the ultimate. Then this is noted by a stress: Tongá, vaká, tohí, onongó etc. We will mention that when we will talk about these words. If they precede a word with a macron on the utimate, the vowel with the macron is doubled and the stress falls on the second of the two same vowels: fenetaá, muikuú, peheé, pongatoó etc. We will say more about these later also

5. When we have macrons on both the penultimate and the ultimate syllables, the stress falls on the ultimate. Examples mālō, mālōlō: the stress falls on the last “ō”

6. The letter “ng” is pronounced like in “sing”, “singer” and not like in “finger”. Thus there is only one single sound produced, not a compound one (n-g). The sound comes from deep in the throat. It was written as “G” formerly and it still is in other Polynesian languages like Sāmoan, Tuvaluan, Futunan, and recently in Māori, but it is the same sound. Its pronounciation can be difficult in some words, but it’s all a matter of practice

7. The glottal stop (fakau‘a) is a weird sound for the Hindoeuropeans but it is not so exotic since it exists also in Arabic, Hebrew and many other languages. It’s a stoppage of the breath by the closure of the glottis, that is to say, the opening between the vocal hords. It is not a totally new sound though. We all execute a glottal stop when we exclaim Uh uh! (ICT p. xviii). The grunting sensation that comes between those two words is the glottal stop. It’s very important not to ommit it when talking because the meaning of the word can change

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lēsoni        lesson

‘uluaki       first

lea           language, speech, to speak, to talk

motu‘alea      alphabet

‘io           yes, answer to all greetings, compliments and farewells

‘ikai         no   

hingoa        name

nofo          to stay, to remain

‘alu          to go

mou           you (plural)

hai           who, which

               Greetings, farewells etc

These are some of the most common greeting, goodwill, farewell etc expressions in Tongan:

Mālō e lelei        hello (lit. congrat. on being well, the being in good health is worthy of gratitude)

Fēfē hake?         how are you? (fēfē means how, hake is idiomatic with fēfē)

Sai pē            just fine

Sai                to be good, to be alright, to be well

Mālō e lava mai        welcome (lit. thanks for coming)

‘Io, mālō e tau mo eni         response to mālō e lava mai

Ko hai ho hingoá?        What’s your name? (ko is an equivalent of the verb to be, hai means which and ho your. We’ll talk about these later)

Ko _____ au        I am _______

Ko hoku hingoá ko _____    My name is _______

‘Alu ā ē           Goodbye (to the person leaving) (lit. go on)

Nofo ā ē           goodbye (to the person staying) (lit. stay there)

Mou ō ā ē          goodbye (to the persons leaving, plural form of ‘alu ā ē)

Mou nofo ā ē        goodbye (to the persons staying, plural form of nofo ā ē)

Faka‘au ā ē        goodbye (to one person leaving, formal)

Mou faka‘au ā ē      goodbye (to many persons leaving, formal)

Kātaki             please, excuse me (lit. have patience)

Mālō               thank you, congratulations

Mālō ‘aupito        thanks a lot

‘Aupito             a lot, much

Fakamolemole        please, excuse me (lit. to apologize)

‘Ofa atu            best wishes (lit. love to you. ‘Ofa means love. It’s much used at the end of letters)

Note: The expressions ending in ā ē are read as one word, the stress falls on ā but there is a rising of the voice on ē. It’s like the rising of the intonation of the word “man” in the English “Go away man!” The ē can be ommited. Those ā and ē are just interjections with no specific meaning.

Don’t care about learning the meaning of each single word in the above expressions because we shall learn them in the next lesson

That is all for the first lesson. It was a bit long because we had to mention everything about pronunciation. I hope it is not too much. If you think of something like that, please let me know. You don’t have to memorize all notes about pronunciation; I just want them to be here so that you can look after them anytime you need to in the future. The next lessons will be much shorter though. I would like you to help me draw the lessons better for you. I will be waiting for questions, remarks, suggestions etc. No drills for this time since your vocabulary doesn’t allow them. You can just memorize the greetings.

I want to mention some books I am always adviced to draw these lessons. For anyone interested on further reading I suggest them undoubtly:

“Tongan Grammar” by C.M. Churchward, Vava‘u Press Ltd, the first (as far as I know) Tongan grammar published. It is the basis for all studying Tongan.
“Intensive Course in Tongan” by Eric Shumway, Bringham Young University, Hawai‘i, a great book with 130 lessons, dialogs, rare texts and many more. Also accompanied by audio tapes. Eric Shumway is concidered an expert in the Tongan language.
All grammar notes and rules given in these courses are based upon these two books. Notes wich I found from the “Tongan Grammar” will be mentioned in a parenthese with the mark “Gr” and the number of the session and paragraph given right after. Notes from the “Intensive Course in Tongan” book will be given with the mark “ICT” and the number of the lesson or the page.
“Dictionary Tongan – English, English – Tongan” by C.M. Churchward, Government Printing Department, Nuku‘alofa.
Also some websites like,, and others where you can find texts in Tongan.

I am now on the making of some Tongan pages at the UniLang Wiki. Many are already done. You can find them at this address: For the moment only the alphabet page would be useful for you, but in the future you can consult it for other information as well.

‘Ofa atu
Last edited by ego on 2005-02-22, 10:46, edited 6 times in total.

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Postby ego » 2005-01-21, 23:15

I want to mention something about the previous. In the tables the fakau'a is sometimes seen as ‘ and sometimes as ’ . I do not know why this happened but it is anyway the same. The correct form is the first. Don't mistake it for the stress which is placed upon the letter: á é ú etc

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Postby projetdefleur » 2005-01-22, 1:34

Looks very good polyglossos :) I'll try to follow along, but as a hint - homework is fun to do and helps to learn ;)
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Postby ego » 2005-01-22, 4:11

I know projetdefleur, that's true, but I don't know what kind of drill I could add since you know only greetings. Still we can make some practice at the chatroom if you wish :wink:
I will add drills in all lessons after you are able to create some sentences of your own, and this will become very soon. I have already made drills for the 3d lesson and I am trying to add also to the second which I will post next saturday.
'Ofa atu

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Postby projetdefleur » 2005-01-22, 5:07

Mālō :)

'ofa atu
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Postby ego » 2005-01-23, 22:50

Something I forgot to add to the lesson: When one has to say "I am fine, thanks, how are you?", like saying "what about you" he/she has to say fēfē hake koe? Koe is a postponed pron. which means Thou (you singular) and we will talk about it later

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Postby ego » 2005-01-28, 18:19


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mahino        to understand

‘alu          to go (singular form)

fēfē          how

lelei         good, well

tangi         to cry

pē            just, postposed modifier (see notes)

sai           fine, well, good, nice

fetaulaki‘anga      meeting place

ama           canoe’s windward side

kata          to laugh

ha‘u          to come (singular form)

mālōlō        to rest

fiefia        happy, to be happy

mou           you (plural)

ō             to go (plural form)

ō mai         to come (plural form)

ui            to call, to call out

mohe          to sleep

pongipongi    morning

pō            night

‘aho          day

efiafi        afternoon

‘ofa          love, kindness, to love, to be kind to, to be fond of


As you have noticed the verbs “to go” and “to come” have different forms for the singular persons and the plural persons. This doesn’t happen with the rest of the verbs though, so don’t panic! We could call these verbs “irregular” if this term can apply in Polynesian languages.

Pē is a very common word in Tongan. It is impossible to find an exact equivalent in english. Often it is used as “just”: sai pē – just fine, inu pē – just drink. Other meanings include “merely, exactly, however, after all, nevertheless”. Sometimes it is used indiscriminately, usually after the verb, and it should be untranslatable


The imperative

Every verb in Tongan is used also as the singular imperative form without any changes. Thus we have:

‘Alu! Go!

Mohe! Sleep!

Ha‘u! Come!

The plural is formed by adding the “mou” before the verb:

Mou mohe! Sleep! (all of you)

Mou ui! Call out! (all of you)

Mou mālōlō! Rest! (all of you)


Mou ō! Go! (all of you)

Mou ō mai! Come! (all of you)

In order to say let’s we use the pronouns ta and tau before the verb. We use ta when two persons are included to the action which will take place and tau when the persons are three or more:

Ta ō! Let’s go (us two)

Tau ō! Let’s go (us three, four…)

Ta and tau are preposed pronominal pronouns about which we will start talking in the next lesson.

Some more greetings, goodwill, apologies etc

Mālō e lelei ki he pongipongí ni - Good morning (lit. gratitude for being well this morning)

Mālō ‘etau lava ki he efiafí ni - Good afternoon (lit. gratitude for we reached this afternoon)

Mālō ‘etau lava ki he poó ni - Goodnight

Mohe ā - Sweet dreams

Mālō e ‘ofa - Thanks for your kindness

‘Āua! - Sure! Exactly!

Ko au - response when somebody’s called your name

Ē? Isn’t it? Not so?

Ē! Hey!

Ō? Sorry?

Tulou - excuse me (when you are about to pass in front of)

Mālie - good, splendid, wonderful, well done

And finally a very common interjection which shows surprise, both of happiness and sadness
(depending on the way you will say it), is ‘oiauē! It’s like the English wow, oh! It’s the same Māori “auē”

You can find all these Tongan greetings, farewells and other common expressions at the wiki at the address ... xpressions

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-Mālō e lelei Sione         Hi John (Sione = John)

-‘Io, mālō e lelei          Hi

-Fēfē hake?                 How are you?

-Sai pē, mālō, fēfē hake koe? I am fine thanks, how are you?

-Sai pē, mālō ‘aupito       I am fine, thanks a lot

Ta inu?                     Shall we drink?

‘Io, ta inu pē              Yes, let’s drink

That’s enough for the second lesson. I will be waiting for comments. In the next lesson I will start adding some drills in the lessons, I am just (pē :wink: ) waiting to teach some more grammar and vocabulary. You will take a look on them and post me your replies. You may post them here which would be better because everybody could thus see possible mistakes and corrections. If someone is shy he/she can post them as private messages

Finally let me apologize for my English, it’s not very good and I know I often mistaken. Kātaki fakamolemole (“please, be patient”) :)

‘Ofa atu
Last edited by ego on 2005-02-05, 2:47, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby ego » 2005-02-04, 19:45



Fale - house

‘Api - house, home

Fale koloa - shop, store

Fale ako - school

‘Api ako - school

Fale kai - kitchen

Kolo - town

Nuku‘alofa - Tonga’s capital

‘Eulope - Europe

Ou - I (for the present tense)

Ki - to, towards

Tahi - sea

Matātahi - beach

Vai - water

Inu - to drink

La‘ā - sun

Vaka - boat, ship

Vakapuna - airplane

Faiako - teacher

Ta‘ahine - girl

Tamasi‘i - boy

Tamasi‘i ako - pupil (male)

‘univēsiti - university

ilifia - to be afraid

mālōlō - to rest, (euph.) to die

mate - to die

puaka - pig

mālohi - strong, strongly, hard, powerful, powerfully


1. Don’t forget that there are no diphthongs in Tongan. Thus, the word “ou” is pronounced oh-oo

2. We learned in the previous lesson the verb ako – to study, to go to school. Here we see that with the word fale – house in front of it we form the word “school”, that is “house of studying”. Thus we have “house of eating” (kitchen), “house of goods” (shop) (koloa - goods) etc. We will find more “fale’s” in the future.

Grammar - The Present Tense

In Tongan there are only four tenses. Now we will learn the present tense. It’s the equivalent of both the Simple Present and the Present Continuous in English.

In Tongan a verb never changes. There is only one form for each verb. In english for instance the verb “call” can be found as “called”, “calling” etc but in tongan the equivalent verb, “ui” doesn’t have any other types. It is always ui. So, since verbs are unchangeable, in order to show their tense we put before them other words, which are called tense signs. The tense sign of the present is the ‘oku.

After the tense sign comes the pronominal pronoun, that is the words for “I, thou, he, she, it, we, you, they”. In this lesson we will learn only the first person singular pronominal pronoun which is ou. Just keep in mind that the first singular pronominal pronoun has different forms for the four tenses; we will see that later. The rest of the pronominal pronouns are standard for all tenses.

In order to say “I am coming” we have to put first the tense sign (‘oku), then the pronominal pronoun (ou) and then the verb (ha‘u): ‘Oku ou ha‘u

Thus we have:

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 ‘Oku ou ‘alu         I am going / I go

‘Oku ou mohe          I am sleeping / I sleep

‘Oku ou inu            I am drinking / I drink

‘Oku ou ui            I am calling / I call

‘Oku ou ako            I am studying / I study   etc.

You must confess this was easy… Tongan conjugation is very easy because the verb doesn’t change at all and because there are only 4 tenses. We will learn all of them soon.
You can find a full conjugation of a Tongan verb here ... onjugation but it will be a bit confusing for you now. It will be useful in next lessons though

The locational preposition “ki”

Ki means to, towards. Thus, ‘oku ou ‘alu ki matātahi, means “I am going to the beach”, ‘oku ou ha‘u ki ‘api, “I am coming to the house”, ‘oku ou ‘alu ki ‘Eulope, “I am going to Europe” etc. Ki shows the sense of the movement towards something.

In Tongan when we want to ask someone where he/she is going we say ‘alu ki fē? Fē means “where”. It is a very common question when we meet a friend, or even a stranger in the street, and it is an evidence of friendly interest and not of inquisitiveness (Gr. 34. 10) After this specific question we usually answer starting with 'Alu ki... We don't use the 'Oku ou here. It's just an idiomatic expression. i will ask my Tongan friend for details.


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-Mālō e lelei Mele!          Hello Mary (Mele means Mary)

-‘Io, mālō e lelei!          Hello

-‘Alu ki fē?                Where are you going?

-‘Alu ki kolo              I am going to the town

-Sai. ‘Alu ā ē              Nice. Goodbye (go there!)

-Nofo ā                     Bye bye


Translate the following sentences:

I am going to the store

I am drinking just water

Let us (many) go to the sea

I am too happy

Good afternoon, come! (pl.)

My name is ______, what is your name?

Stay (sing.), I am going to the town

I am studying hard!

You can also make your own sentences with greetings etc and post them if you won’t me to check them. In the next lesson we will learn the rest of the pronominal pronouns and also how to make questions

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Postby ego » 2005-02-12, 11:32



Mei - from

Lau - to mention, to think, to consider, to read

Lau tohi - to read a letter or a book

Tohi - book, letter

Komipiuta - computer

Fono - a town or village meeting

Fāmili - family

Fefine - woman

Fonua - land

Pule‘anga - state, kingdom, government

Tangata - man

Tu‘i - king

Pule‘anga fakatu‘i - kingdom, monarchy

Tala - to tell

Pehē - to say

Talanoa - to chat, to talk (in an informal way)

Hisitōlia - history

Tēpile - table

Sea - chair

Loki - room

Mohe - to sleep

Loki mohe - bedroom

Loki kai - dining room

Loki mālōlō - W.C.

Loki talanoa - lounge

Loki kaukau - bathroom

Tama ako - pupil, student (more polite than tamasi‘i ako)


The rest of the pronominal pronouns for singular and plural

We learned in the previous lesson the pronominal pronoun ou for the first singular in the present tense. The second singular pronoun is ke and the third is ne. When ‘oku precedes them, its stress falls on the ultimate and it becomes ‘okú:

‘Okú ke ‘alu - you (sing.) are going
‘Okú ne ‘alu - he/she/it is going

The pronominal pronouns for the plural are:

Tau - we, inclusive. This one is used when both the speaker and the listener are included in its sense. When one sais “we are going” and he means “me and you are going” (he includes the listener to the action) he must use the tau: ‘oku tau ō

Mau - we, exlusive. This is used when the listener is NOT included in the “we”. When one sais “we are going” and he means “me and the others, not you, are going” he must use the mau: ‘oku mau ō

Mou - you (plural). We already learned that in the imperative: ‘oku mou ō – you are going

Nau - they: ‘oku nau ō - they are going

The stress of the ‘oku doesn’t change here

These are all for the singular and the plural. They are the same in the rest of the tenses that we will learn later. Only the first singular (ou) has a different form for the other tenses. In Tongan there is also the dual number, which has four more persons that we will learn in another lesson


In Tongan in order to ask a question one doesn’t have to make any changes in the sentence. The question is shown just with the intonation.


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‘Okú ke mohe?                  Are you (sing.) sleeping?

‘Ikai, ‘oku ou mālōlō pē       No, I am just resting

‘Oku mou ō mai mei kolo?       Are you (pl.) coming from the town ?

‘Io, ‘oku mau ō mai mei kolo   Yes, we are coming from the town


Translate the following sentences:

We (incl.) are going to the house

Are they just chatting?

No, they are reading a letter

Are you (pl.) drinking water?

Yes, we are drinking just water

Are we (incl.) afraid?

Are you (pl.) going to Europe?

No, we are just going to the city

She is coming from the beach

Shall we stay?

'Ofa atu

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Postby ego » 2005-02-16, 13:26

From now on I will post one lesson every two weeks :shock:

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Postby Ariki » 2005-02-19, 4:17

mālō kaume`a

drill answers to lesoni 3

1/`Oku ou `alu atu ki `api
2/`Oku ou inu pē
3/`Oku ta ō atu ki tahi (wasn't sure if it was plural, dual or inclusive/exclusive)
4/Mālō`etau lava ki he efiafi ni, mou ha`u mai!
5/Ko Tangata`eiki hoku hingoa/Ko hoku hingoa ko Tangata`eika (this way sounds very westernised!), ko hai hou hingoa?
6/Koe nofo! `Oku ou `alu atu ki kolo!
7/`Oku ou ako mālohi!

The tenses in Tongan look like the actor emphatic phrases used in Māori (where the agent doing the action owns it). I wasn't sure of saying 'your' in Tongan. In Māori and Rapa Nui 'tōu' is used.

Drill answers to lesoni 4
1/ `Oku ta ō atu ki he fale lā
2/`Oku na talanoa pē
3/`Ikai, `oku na lau tohi
4/`Oku mo inu?
5/`Io, `oku ma inu pē
6/ `Oku ta ilifia?
7/ `Oku mo `ō atu ki `Eulope?
8/ `Ikai, `oku ma ki nuku pē
9/ `Oku ne mai mei matatāhi
10/`Oku ta nofo mai?

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Postby ego » 2005-02-20, 21:48

Thanks for your attention riki. You made some small mistakes, here they are:

Lēsoni 3:

1. What is this "atu" that you put right after 'alu? The verb "to go" is just 'alu. So "I am going" is 'oku ou 'alu. The store is "fale koloa". 'Api means home. So the sentence should be 'oku ou 'alu ki fale koloa

2. You forgot the word "water": 'Oku ou inu vai pē

3. As we said in lesson 2, the "let's" is expressed with the pronouns ta (dual) or tau (plural) plus the verb. Nothing else, no tense marker. So you should say "ta ō ki tahi". You also put that "atu" here too. Delete it.

5. The verbs to go and to come have an irregularity: They have different forms for singular and plural+dual. The verb "to come" is ha‘u for singular and ō mai for plural+dual. So "come!" (plural) is mou ō mai and not mou ha‘u mai. You can not say mou ha‘u, you must say mou ō mai.

6. "your" (singular) in Tongan is ho‘o ('e-class nouns) or ho ('o-class nouns). In this case ("what is YOUR name") you must use ho: Ko hai ho hingoá? The stress of hingoa also falls on a here. The stress of the words always falls to the final when a possesive adjective is preceding.

7. The imperative is just the verb for singular. So, "stay!" is nofo!. The "koe" could be used as emphatic indeed, but it should be after the verb: nofo koe! = You stay! Here also delete that "atu".

8. No mistakes found :wink:

Lēsoni 4:

1. I guess you have learned some more Tongan from somewhere :P I can see you already know the article he. It is not wrong to use it here, but as we will learn in the 6th lesson, there are some nouns before which we usually don't have to put the article, and fale is one of them ("self-defining nouns"). What is the lā you put after fale? I don't know it. "We (dual) are going to the house" is 'okú ta ō ki fale The stress of 'oku falls on u before ta.

2. Same before na

3. correct :D

4. You used the pronoun mo which is for dual number. It means "you two". I asked for the plural pronoun which is mou. The word for water is vai. Maybe I forgot to add it to the vocabulary :oops: So the correct sentence is 'oku mou inu vai?

5. correct, although dual again.

6. Dual again. The plural pronoun is tau

7. Dual again :P The plural would be: 'Oku mou ō ki 'Eulope?

8. The word for "city" is kolo. So you must say 'Ikai, 'oku mau ō pē ki kolo

9. The verb to come is ha‘u (sing.). So you should say 'okú ne ha‘u. The stress of 'oku falls again.

10. "Shall we + verb" in Tongan is expressed by the pronoun for "we" (this can be tau, mau, ta or ma) + the verb. Don't put the tense marker here. It is the equivalent of "let's ..." in the interrogative. So, you should say "tau nofo?" The "mai" is an adverb which means "to me" or "to us". In this case you should better avoid it.

I hope I helped,

Faka'apa'apa atu ("respect to you") :D

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Postby Ariki » 2005-02-21, 0:33


This isn't a defence..I thought I'd better explain myself (and it's good to have tamasi`i ako and faiako interaction)!

1/ I used atu because in other Polynesian languages atu is used to mean 'away' as in 'away from this place' e.g. e haere atu ana ia ki te nuku = He/she/it is going (away from the speaker) to the village. Atu is the opposite directional to mai in other Polynesian languages.
3/Same as 1
5/I wish all irregularities in all the Polynesian languages were the same!
6/So ho is 'o' and ho'o is e-class? Got it. In Eastern Polynesia it's 'o' class and 'a' class.
7/No argument there....just got a bit confused with the way it was dealt with in the lesson...I thought it was strange to emphasize subject too...coz it's the same word order in Māori/Rapa Nui - E noho (koe)!

lesoni 4
1/I deduced that the definitive Eastern Polynesian te = he in Tongan. The lā I thought meant there (yonder) as it does in Eastern Polynesian languages (where it is written and pronounced rā)
3/I don't know why I got all the personal pronouns mixed up....I'll have to check the wiki again
8/I thought city would have been nuku (because of the name of the capital)...never mind

And thankyou for correcting it so promptly! Bring on lesson 5! 8)

aroha nui

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Postby ego » 2005-02-21, 14:24

Hey, I like discussing these issues. I want that interaction too.

Indeed, atu means away in Tongan too as I have already told you privately, and one could say it is the opposite of mai. But I have never seen it with 'alu. I will ask my Tongan friend but till then I would suggest to use 'alu and ō alone.

That lā doesn't exist in Tongan. "Here" is heni, "there" is hena, and there is also a which is more like "there" and I think it is the closest to lā. It something between demonstrative adverb and an interjection. I hope you understand. Ex. 'Alu ki hē! Go there! When no specific place is denoted or when it is something out of view etc.

An easy way to remember the pronouns is that the dual pronouns are monosyllable: ta, ma, mo, na while the plural are two-syllable: tau, mau, mou, nau.

Nuku means yam in Tongan and it is also a male name. I know Nuku'alofa means "abode of love" but I still haven't managed to find the constituent words in the dictionary :oops:

The 5th lesson will come soon, in the next days, I am just trying to find some proper drills..

By the way you asked me about how to say "what are you doing" in Tongan. I thought a bit about it, well it is not so simple as in English. There are many ways. The most exact equivalent is "Ko e hā ho'o me'a 'oku fai?" You already know "ko", "e" is the article, "hā" means what, "ho'o" means your, "me'a" means thing, 'oku is the tense marker, and "fai" means to do. So lit. it goes like "Is what the your thing doing?" We are going to talk about these in the next lessons.

About the 'e-class and ho-class nouns. Thank God I finally found a complete list of almost all Tongan nouns classified as 'e-class or ho-class in my book of Tongan grammar :D . It explains also the logic on which this classification is based. I will explain in the next lesson. The words for food (me'akai) and water (vai) you asked about, are 'e-class.

'Ofa atu

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Postby ego » 2005-02-22, 14:40



Loi - to lie

Tala - to tell

Tahi - sea

Moana - ocean

Vaka - boat, ship

Vakapuna - airplane

Pālasi - palace

Fale Alea - Parliament

‘Uta - bush, mainland, the land in the interior, away from the coast

Motu - island

Mo‘unga - mountain

Vai - water

Loto - inside, interior

Tu‘a - outside, exterior

Hala - road, street

To‘omata‘u - right

To‘ohema - left

Mu‘a - front

Mui - back, behind

‘Olunga - above

Lalo - below

Peito - kitchen

Fale mahaki - hospital

Maama - world, earth

Langi - sky, heaven

‘Aneafi - yesterday

‘Apongipongi - tomorrow

Pusi - cat, pussy

Faka‘ofo‘ofa - beautiful, handsome

Talavou - good-looking, healthy, youth, young man

Pe - or

Lelei - good, well

Sai - to be well, to be good, to be suitable

Lahi - very (after the adj. or the adv.)

Hū mai! - Come in!

Ta‘u - year

Pa‘anga - Tonga’s currency: 1 Pa‘anga (TOP or T$) = 100 sēniti


The prepositions ki and mei become kia and meia before names of persons:

Kia Mele = to Mary
Meia Sione = from John

Note that in meia the accent falls on ei as if it was a single sound, and not on i.


The verb “to be”

In Tongan as well as in the rest of the Polynesian languages there is no exact equivalent of the verb “to be”. When we want to say that someone is something we don’t use any verb: ‘Oku ou mālohi – I am strong
‘Okú ne faka‘ofo‘ofa = she is pretty

Other prepositions

We have learned till now the prepositions ki (kia) and mei (meia). As we said, ki denotes direction and movement and it is the equivalent of the English “to”, “towards” and mei denotes origin and it is the equivalent of the English “from”.
The preposition ‘i is the equivalent of the English “in” or “at”. It denotes place but not movement. Examples:

‘Oku ou ‘i ‘api – I am at home

‘Okὑ ke ‘i Tonga? – Are you in Tonga?

Just as the prepositions ki and mei become kia and meia before proper names, the preposition ‘i becomes ‘ia. We will find some examples soon.

The numbers

Since there are not much grammar for this lesson, you could memorize also the numbers :P
You can find them as well as examples here: ... an_numbers
How to use them:
The question “how many” is “fiha?” in Tongan. ‘Oku fiha? means “how many are there” but also “how much” when asking for a price.

The cardinal numbers almost always follow the noun and there is an ‘e (or e) between them:

Fale ‘e taha – one house
Pa‘anga ‘e hongofulu – ten pa‘anga
Sēniti e nima – five cents

The number precedes the noun when the noun denotes a period of time. Then the ‘e is ommited:
Tolu ta‘u – three years

The cardinal numbers are used as ordinal also except for the “first” which is ‘uluaki:

Taufa‘ahau Tupou fā: Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV (Tonga’s present King)
Taufa‘ahau Tupou ‘uluaki: Taufa‘ahau Tupou I

As you can see in this case the number is used without the ‘e.


Translate the following sentences:

Is Tonga beautiful?

Are they at home?

No, they are coming from the beach

Tomorrow we (excl) are going to the sea

Tell Mary!

Thou are laughing, thou are happy

I am reading history

We (incl.) are in the dining room

We (incl.) are going to the dining room

They are above

Are you (pl.) in the bush?

Get out! (lit. go to the outside)

Thwenty islands

Forty four cents

192 houses

14.947 books

In the next lesson we will learn how to use the articles

‘Ofa atu

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Postby Ariki » 2005-02-22, 15:40

Drill answers

1/ `Oku Tonga Talavou?
2/ `Oku nau `i `api?
3/ `Ikai, `oku nau ō mei matātahi
4/ `Apongipongi, mau `aul ki tahi
5/ Talanoa kia Mele!
6/ `Oku koe kata, `oku koe fiefia
7/ `Oku ou lau hisitōlia
8/ `Oku tau i loto i loki kai
9/ `Oku tau `alu ki loki kai
10/ `Oku nau `i `olunga
11/ `Oku koe `i `uta?
12/ `Alu ki fafo!
13/ Uongofulu `e motu
14/ Sēniti `e fā fā
15/ Fale `e taha hiva ua
16/ Taha fā hiva fā fitu `e lau

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Postby ego » 2005-02-24, 17:45

That's good work riki. Some hints:

1. I shouldn't put that drill, I forgot that you don't know yet the articles :oops: . Talavou is used for young men and women. It means good-looking, healthy and strong. For things it's better to use faka'ofo'ofa

2. correct :D

3. Remember: the plural form of "to go" is ō, "to come" is ō mai. So you should say 'oku nau ō mai mei matātahi

4. You forgot the tense marker 'oku. The verb here is again ō. By the way, it's better to put the words for "yesterday, today, now, tomorrow, last night etc at the end of the sentence: 'oku mau ō ki tahi 'apongipongi

5. To tell is "tala". Talanoa is to chat.

6. We haven't learned "koe" yet :P . For "you" after the tense marker you must always use "ke": 'Okú ke kata, 'okú ke fiefia. By the way can you type the stress?

7. Correct :D

8. What you wrote is "We are inside the kitchen". "We are in the kitchen" is 'oku tau 'i fale kai.

9. The verb is again ō

10. Correct :D

11. The plural preposed personal pronoun for "you" is mou. So you must say 'oku mou 'i 'uta

12. Go out! = 'Alu ki tu'a! Your structure is correct :D

13. The noun comes before the number: Motu 'e uongofulu

14. Correct :D

15. Correct :D

16. The word for book is "tohi" and it comes before the number: Tohi 'e taha fā hiva fā fitu

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Postby ego » 2005-03-02, 14:46



Mala‘e - village green, park, village square
Puha - box
Folau - to voyage, to travel, to sail
Exercise (lesson) - lēsoni ‘ahi‘ahi

Try to memorize also the list of the self-defining nouns given in the rules below


The self-defining and the common nouns

Till now we have learned the prepositions ki (= to) and mei (= from). You have noticed that we used them right before the noun they identify without any article. We said “ki kolo” and “mei kolo” (to the town, from the town). So we didn’t use any equivalent of the English “the”. This doesn’t happen always though. The difference is that in Tongan, all nouns are classified into two categories: self-defining and common nouns (Gr. 14.1). Self-defining nouns are used without the definite article since as their name shows, they are considered definite by themselves. We could say that “they don’t need the article to be definite”. These nouns are proper names of persons or places or words which are used as if they were proper names of persons or places. So we say:

Kia Mele = to Mary (name of a person, self-defining noun)
Ki Tonga = to Tonga (name of a place, self-defining noun)
Meia Siosiua = from Joshua
Mei ‘Amelika = from America

Words which are used as proper names of persons or places: These words are identified as self-defining and are usually put without the definite article. At times they can be used with the article. Then the meaning can remain the same for some of them but it changes considerably for some others. These words are:

a) Words about sea, ocean, island, river, landing places: moana (ocean), vaha (open sea), vai (pool), tahi (sea), matātahi (beach), motu (island), mo‘unga (mountain), ‘uta (the interior of the land), lolofonua (underground), fonualahi (mainland), vaka (boat) [but not pōpao – canoe]

b) Words showing position: loto (inside), tu‘a (outside), mu‘a (front), mui (behind, beyond), ‘olunga (above), lalo (below), to‘omata‘u (right), to‘ohema (left), tokelau (north), tonga (south), hahake (east), hihifo (west)

c) Words denoting buildings, houses, rooms etc: fale, ‘api, loki, fale ako, ‘api ako, peito (kitchen), pālasi (palace), Fale Alea (Parliament), fale mahaki (hospital), hala (road), mala‘e (village green) etc

d) The names of the months

e) The words maama (world, earth), langi (sky, heaven), ‘aneafi (yesterday), ‘apongipongi (tomorrow), kō (place which is away or the place where someone lives, “my place”, “your place” etc)

All these words are self-defining and usually they are not preceded by the definite article.
The rest of the nouns form the second category of nouns, the common nouns, which are preceded by the definite article.

The articles

Tongan has definite and indefinite articles like English. The definite articles are e and he and the indefinite article is ha. First about the two definite articles. The he is used immediately after the prepositions ‘e, ki, mei, ‘i. In all other cases e is used. Attention: When a word is preceded by the definite article the stress falls on the ultimate.
‘Oku ou lau e tohí – I am reading the book
‘Oku ou tala ki he tamasi‘í – I am telling to the boy

The indefinite article is the equivalent of the English a, an, some:
‘Oku ou lau ha tohi – I am reading a book
‘Oku ou tala ki ha tamasi‘i – I am telling to a child

In this case the stress does not fall

The ha can be used with the meaning of “some”: ‘Oku ou fiema‘u ha me‘akai = I want some food

Finally the ha is used before nouns identified with numbers:
Ha vaka ‘e taha = one boat
Ha fale ‘e ono = six houses

In daily talk when the preposition ‘i is used before the article he, the preposition is ommited:

‘Oku ou ‘i he fonó --> ‘oku ou he fonó

In some cases we can use the definite article before a word, and still not put the accent on the final. In this case there is a sense of indefiness similar to the one expressed with the indefinite ha. The difference is slight and sometimes hard to explain.

Tongan has also emotional articles. These identify nouns for which the speaker feels affection, love or pity. These articles are si‘i (definite) and si‘a (indefinite):

Te u fakata‘u si‘i pusí – I will buy the little cat
Te u fakata‘u si‘a pusi – I will buy a little cat

Here the speaker wants to show his/her love for the cat. Note that with the definite si‘i the stress falls on the ultimate again.


Code: Select all

-‘Okú ne he puhá?                     Is it in the box?
-‘Ikai, ‘okú ne he tohí              No, it’s in the book
-‘Oku mou ō mai mei kolo ?           Are you coming from the town ?
-‘Ikai, ‘oku mau ō mai mei he fonuá   No, we are coming from the land

Note that kolo didn’t take the definite article he, while fonua did.


Translate the following:

Are you (sing.) going to the beach?

No, I am going to the canoe

Are they in the school?

You (pl.) are sailing from Tonga to Fiji

I am in the palace

Are they in the book?

No, they are in the computer

It is in the exercise

'Ofa atu

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Postby ego » 2005-04-06, 12:36



Fāmili - family
Kāinga – relatives
Fāngota – to fish
Mohe – to sleep
Mohenga – bed
Fakamohe – to put to sleep
Kakau – to swim
Kaukau – to bath
Fānau - children
Pēpē – baby
‘Otua – God
Tamai – father
Kui – Grandparent
Kelekele – land, soil
Fonua – land, country
Fakafonua – traditional, national, pertaining to the land
Tauhi – to take care of
Taa‘i – to beat, to hit
Faiako – teacher, to teach


More on articles – the focus markers – transitive and intransitive constructions

In the previous lesson we learned the structure “‘Oku ou lau e tohí” (I am reading the book). As we said, e is the definite article. In fact this is the way Tongans speak. In written form this sentence would be ‘Oku ou lau ‘a e tohí. This ‘a is the focus marker and it is usually ommited in daily talk. In the European languages, the distinction is subject-object. The subject is in the nominative, while the object in accusative, dative etc. In Tongan the distinction is different. There is the focus marker ‘a which denotes “the focus of the verb’s action”. With intransitive verbs, this is the equivalent of the European “subject”. See the following paradigms:

‘Oku mohe ‘a e tamasi‘í - The boy is sleeping - The boy is the focus of the verb’s action.
‘Oku tangi ‘a e fefiné – The woman is crying
‘Oku ō ‘a e fānaú – The kids are going
‘Oku kaukau ‘a e fa‘eé – Mum is taking a bath
‘Oku kai ‘a Paula – Paul is eating

With transitive verbs though, the focus of the verb’s action is the object:

“The boy is reading the book” – The focus of the verb’s action is the book. The action and its consequences are lead towards the book. In this case, the ‘a will precede the word for “book”. The other noun, the boy, will be preceded by another marker, ‘e. When the noun is not proper, ‘e is followed also by the definite article he:

‘Oku lau ‘e he tamasi‘í ‘a e tohí

Note that the word order is VSO. More examples:

‘Oku tauhi ‘e he fa‘eé ‘a e fānaú – The mother is taking care of the kids
‘Oku taa‘i ‘e he tangatá ‘a e ta‘ahiné – The man is beating the girl
‘Oku fai ‘e Sione ‘a e lēsoní – John is doing the lesson
‘Oku tauhi ‘e he Tu‘í ‘a e kakaí – The King takes care of the people

Note again that proper nouns, like Sione, Paula etc. are not preceded by the definite articles e and he. The word ‘Otua is not considered to be a proper noun and it takes the definite articles.

Remember that in daily talk the focus marker ‘a is ommited:

‘Oku kata e tangatá – The man is laughing
‘Oku tauhi ‘e he fa‘eé e pēpeé – The mother takes care of the baby
‘Oku talavou e fefiné – The woman is beautiful

When the object of a transitive construction is not something specific, one particular object, person etc then it comes right after the verb without any articles:
‘Oku inu vai ‘a e tamasi‘í – The boy is drinking water
‘Oku kai talo ‘a e fefiné – The woman is eating taro

You can see here that although the verbs are transitive according to the European standards, the construction in Tongan is intransitive. The focus marker ‘a remains before the subject. Contrast the following:

‘Oku inu ‘e he tamasi‘í ‘a e vaí – The boy is drinking the water (some specific quantity of water)
‘Oku kai ‘e he fefiné ‘a e taló – The woman is eating the taro (some specific piece of taro)


Translate the following sentences, as they would be in written language:

Is Tonga beautiful?

The pupil is lying

The teacher beats the pupil

The boy is swimming

The woman is resting

The man is taking care of the children

The father is putting the baby to sleep

Are you (plural) at the kitchen?

She is going to the hospital

I stay at home

Translate the following sentences as they would be in spoken language:

The kids are drinking kava

The kids are drinking the kava

The family is fishing

'Ofa atu


Postby Guest » 2005-04-13, 0:23

Definitely want to learn the language of the Tongan people.[/list]

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