Cardinal Numbers in Tok Pisin

Numbers in Tok Pisin occur with and without –pela suffixed to them:

    1                       wan                                  wanpela
    2                      tu                                       tupela
    3                      tri                                      tripela
    4                      foa                                    fopela
    5                      faiv                                   faipela
    6                      sikis                                 sikispela
    7                      seven                               sevenpela
    8                      et                                       etpela
    9                      nain                                 nainpela
    10                    ten                                    tenpela

Those without –pela attached correspond to the names of the numbers in English and are used for mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and for counting money and telling the time, some of which will be presented in more detail later. Numbers beyond ten are not constructed as in English although one may occasionally hear the shorter ones with –pela attached to them, e.g.

    elevenpela                 eleven
    eitinpela                     eighteen
    twentipela                 twenty

Sometimes an older method of counting beyond ten is resorted to in modern contexts to make sure that there is no ambiguity or doubt about what is said. For example, on aircraft where the noise level is high the hostess might say The journey will take thirty-five minutes and will use tripela ten faiv minit for thirty-five . The numbers in this older method of counting are based on ten (except for the hundreds) and are regularly derived. Consider, for example:

    11                    wanpela ten wan
    12                   wanpela ten tu
    18                   wanpela ten et
    26                  tupela ten sikis
    54                  faipela ten foa
    80                  etpela ten
    100                wan handet

In the classroom nating, not or siro is used for nought or zero but outside it in everyday life the idea of nothing is expressed by i no gat wanpela (lit. there is not one). Approximations are given by samting olsem, e.g. Em i gat samting olsem fotisikis kina He’s got about K46 (lit. something like K46).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *