This post is based on Practical Marshallese by Peter Rudiak-Gould, a freely distributed, full-length textbook for learning the native language of the Marshall Islands. It has been used since 2004 as the official language manual for all volunteers in the WorldTeach Marshall Islands program, and it has formed the basis of language classes for Americans at Kwajalein Atoll. The 102 short lessons describe the grammar of the language in practical and familiar terms, and a glossary presents 1500 useful words.

There is, there are, there are many

– To say a sentence like ‘there are sharks or ‘there is a lot of breadfruit’ in Marshallese, you use the equivalent of the phrases ‘there is,’ ‘there are,’ ‘there are many,’ etc. in English.  As in English, they go at the beginning of the sentence:

ewōr[2] there is, there are
ewōr juon there is one
ewōr ruo/jilu/emān/ there are two/three/four/…
ewōr jet there are some, there are a few
ejjeḷọk there is no, there are no, there is none, there are none
elōñ there is, there are (occasionally means: there are many)
elukkuun lōñ there are many
ebooḷ there are many
eiiet there are few
eḷap there is a lot
edik there is not very much
ebwe there is enough, there are enough
ejabwe there is not enough, there are not enough
emaat there is no more, there is none left

For example:

Ejjeḷọk mā ilo Amedka = there is no/breadfruit/in/America = There is no breadfruit in America
Ewōr armej ilo Bikini    = there are/people/in/Bikini = There are people on Bikini
Emaat ni                      = there are no more/coconut = There are no coconuts left

– To make a question like ‘Are there ___?’, ‘Is there___?’ add the question marker ‘ke’:

Ewōr ke bōb?  = there is/?/pandanus = Is there any pandanus?
Elōñ ke ek?      = there is/?/fish = Are there any fish?
Ebwe ke raij?   = there is enough/?/rice = Is there enough rice?
Emaat ke mā?  = there is no more/?/breadfruit = Is the breadfruit all gone? or Is there any breadfruit left?

– To make a sentence like ‘There will be ___’ ‘There was ___’ put the future or past tense marker after the ‘e’ in the word:

Enaaj wōr armej  = it-FUTURE/there are/people = There will be people
Eaar ejjeḷọk ni     = it-PAST/there are no/coconut = There were no coconuts
Ekar ḷap jāān       = it-PAST/there is a lot of/money = There was a lot of money

– When you want to put a word like this in the middle of a sentence (for instance, to say ‘I ate a lot of breadfruit’ or ‘I saw a few sharks’), the words are sometimes different:

jet some, a few
bwijin many
elōñ many[3]
ebooḷ many
jejjo few
eḷap a lot of
jidik a little

For example:

Iaar lo elōñ pako          = I-PAST/see/many/shark = I saw many sharks
Kwaar ṃōñā jidik mā   = you-PAST/ear/a little/breadfruit = You ate a little breadfruit


A: Ewōr ke ek ilo Amedka? A: Are there any fish in America?
B: Elōñ.  Elukkuun lōñ ek ilo lọjet in Amedka. B: Yes there are.  There are many fish in the oceans of America.
A: Ak pako?  Elōñ ke? A: What about sharks?  Are there any?
B: Eiiet pako. B: There aren’t very many sharks.
A: Ak mā? Ewōr ke mā ilo Amedka? A: What about breadfruit?  Is there any breadfruit in America?
B: Ejjeḷọk.  Ripālle rej jab ṃōñā mā. B: No, there is none.  Americans don’t eat breadfruit.
A: Ak bao? A: What about birds?
B: Ebooḷ bao ilo Amedka, āinwōt Ṃajeḷ. B: There are many birds in America, like the Marshall Islands.


tallōñ to climb
ettoon (E: sometimes tōtoon) dirty, messy
erreo (E: sometimes rōreo) clean
karreo to clean, clean up
ettōr (E: tōtōr) to run
pija (from English) picture, drawing, photograph, to draw, to take a picture, to get one’s picture taken, camera
pileij (from English) plate
niñniñ baby
waini brown coconut (older than a green coconut), copra
wōtḷọk (E: buñḷọk) fall, fall down

Practical Marshallese

Published by Marco Mora-Huizar

I am a Spanish and Marshallese translator. Iaar katak Kajin Majol ilo Enid, Oklahoma.

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