o is a particle that has three use cases. The first is after the subject to get their attention. Note that this can be considered a complete sentence in itself.
- jan Pepe o! - hey Pepe!
The second use is at the start of a sentence. It take the place of the subject and implies a command.
- o awen e mi! - wait for me!
The third case combines the last two, effectively taking the place of li. It also could be seen as softening the tone to that of a request.
- jan Pepe o awen e mi! - hey Pepe please wait for me!
The different uses of o in toki pona are clear cases on their own, but when combined with other rules can lead to some confusion. Lets start with simple commands starting with o because they are really straight forward. To use o with commands, treat o as a substitute for sina and use the glyph with normal block structure rules.
In this way o works similar to the first sentences we learned to draw with mi or sina as the subject. o operates in place of the subject, and the verb does not require li.
o with a subject
When the sentence has a subject, o functions as a container. The subject glyph and any cartouche attached to it all go within the o.
It is somewhat different from the containers we have see so far, because when we write the sentence out, the name comes before the o. This is an exception to the block order rules.
Later on we will see one one other container, la, that reverses the block order rules in this way. These exceptions shouldn’t be too hard to get used to. Just remember that the o refers to this subject so the subject rests inside the o, just as prepositions refer to the direct objects they contain.
When we are addressing others, but not giving direct orders, the grammar of the sentence is different. Everything that comes after the o is a complete sentence with its own subject.
The o is still connected to the person who is being address, so this is what we infix in the o. then a comma is added between the o container and the rest of the sentence to make the separation more apparent.
Just as this comma isn’t strictly necessary when writing out the toki pona, you can leave it out here too if need be.
I don’t use this comma glyph as often as I might use a comma when writing, since much of the infixing we are doing serves to group the language just as a comma might. Also without clauses, toki pona has relatively few uses for commas in general. Feel free however to use this glyph in the middle of your sentence block structures if you need to break the glyphs up to create a pause or emphasize the block order.