[Volapük.com] Volapük.com Home

A Quick Look at Volapük


This pamphlet has been written mainly with the linguist in mind. Its purpose is to introduce the reader to the grammar of Volapük, thus equipping him or her with the necessary knowledge to translate Volapük with the aid of a dictionary.

The vocabulary, although of high frequency, has been limited to let readers' attention be directed to acquiring the grammar rather than vocabulary.

The grammar is presented in four stages with sentences for translation after each stage to check readers' grasp of the grammar.

What is Volapük?

Volapük was invented by Johann Martin Schleyer in l879, and is the oldest international auxiliary language about to enter the third millennium. It was, in fact, the start of the International Auxiliary Language Movement as we know it to-day.

Is Volapük easy to learn?

No language is easy to learn, but because of the regularity of its structure and the logic of its forms, the study of Volapük is an asset to personal development. Having studied the language, we find that our conception of language in general is greatly enhanced, and that our thought processes are considerably sharper.

Is this pamphlet all I need?

Although the able student will have obtained an adequate grasp of the grammar, a good dictionary will also be invaluable.

However, for those who have enjoyed this “Quick Look at Volapük” and would like to obtain a more detailed course, thereafter subscribing to the Circular Letter (Sirkülapenäd) which appears every month, and which contains a wealth of reading matter in Volapük, they will be able to obtain full details by writing to:

Flenef Bevünetik Volapüka,
24 Staniwell Rise,
DN17 1TF
United Kingdom

If, on the other hand, you have enjoyed making the acquaintance of this first of all international auxiliary languages, but would now like to say good-bye, then you have certainly come away with a sharper perception of language itself.

And doesn't that make it all very much worth while?

A Sound Guide to Volapük

The alphabet of Volapük has 27 letters, which are:

a, ä, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, ö, p, r, s, t, u, ü, v, x, y, z = 8 vowels and 19 consonants.

Please remember that every single vowel and consonant must be pronounced clearly!

The vowels are pronounced in the following manner:

Aas inlArd[a]Oas inrOte[o]
Äas inmère[ɛ]~[æ]Öas inFrench jeu[ø]
Eas inbEd[e]Uas insOOn[u]
Ias inbEEr[i]Üas inFrench rUE[y]

The consonants are pronounced as follows:

Bas inBall[b]Nas inName[n]
Cas inCharGe[tʃ]~[dʒ]Pas inPain[p]
Das inDull[d]Ras inRain[r]
Fas inFall[f]Sas inSame[s]
Gas inGall[ɡ]Tas inName[t]
Has inHall[h]Vas inVain[v]
Jas inSHoe/rouGe[ʃ]~[ʒ]Xas infiX[ks]
Kas inKill[k]Yas inYell[j]
Las inLame[l]Zas inbiTS/biDS[ts]~[dz]
Mas inMall[m]    

In Volapük, every single letter, including every single vowel, must be sounded!

Practise now with the numbers from 1 to 10:

bal, tel, kil, fol, lul, mäl, vel, jöl, zül, deg

Practise these words of one syllable:

flor ‘flower’; hit ‘heat’; fluk ‘fruit’; nif ‘snow’

In words of more than one syllable, it is the last syllable which takes the stress:

florüp (‘flower-time’) ‘Spring’ [floˈryp]
hitüp (‘heat-time’) ‘Summer’ [hiˈtyp]
fluküp (‘fruit-time’) ‘Autumn’ [fluˈkyp]
nifüp (‘snow-time’) ‘Winter’ [niˈfyp]

Try two consecutive vowels:

rein ‘rain’ [reˈin]
tood ‘car’ [toˈod]

Try three consecutive vowels:

neai ‘never’ [neaˈi]

First Part • Dil Balid

Vödem • Vocabulary

Subsats • Nouns Pönops • Pronouns Värbs • Verbs
bür‘an office’ ob‘I’ binön‘to be’
dom‘a house’ or/ol‘you’ (polite/familiar) finükön‘to finish’
flen‘a friend’ om‘he’ golön‘to go’
hipul‘a boy’ of‘she’ kolkömön‘to meet’
jipul‘a girl’ on/os‘it’ läbön‘to have’
man‘a man’ oy‘one’ löfön‘to love’
pened‘a letter’ obs‘we’ penön‘to write’
stul‘a chair’ ors/ols‘you’ (polite/familiar) vilön‘to want’
tood‘a car’ oms‘they’ (m.) visitön‘to visit’
vom‘a woman’ ofs‘they’ (f.)   
   ons‘they’ (n.)   
Konjuns • ConjunctionsPräpods • Prepositions
ed (before a vowel)‘and’ko‘with’

Gramat • Grammar

1. There are no words for ‘a’ or ‘the’ in Volapük; however, in order to indicate unassimilated or foreign words in the language, the word el is used for ‘the’:

tood ‘a car, the car’
bür ‘the office/an office’
el Sputnik ‘the Sputnik’

2. The infinitive ends in -ön.

binön ‘to be’
labön ‘to have’
penön ‘to write’

3. To form the present tense, remove the ending -ön of the infinitive, and put the relevant pronoun in its place; if you want to emphasize the person involved, then place the pronoun also at the beginning as separate word; where a word is the recipient of an action (that is, the direct object) it has the ending -i. (Please note that the verb ‘to be’ does not have a direct object!)

Visitobs domi ‘we visit (we are visiting) the house’
of vilof toodishe wants (she does want) a car’
binom flen ‘he is a friend’
finükoms penedi ‘they finish (they are finishing) the letter’
ed ol binol flen ‘and you are a friend’

4. Or is the polite word for ‘you’ and is used to address people formally; however, for one child, one relative, or people with whom you are on familiar terms, as well as animals, use ol. Ors is the plural of or and ols the plural of ol. In modern Volapük, however, the familiar word for ‘you’ (ol/ols) is generally preferred; it all depends on you, the user!

5. On means ‘it’ when referring to something definite; the plural of on is ons; on the other hand, os means ‘it’ when referring to something indefinite, also when ‘it’ refers to the weather or to (clock) time. Please note that oshas no plural!

Here is a bit of practice for you. (See Key for answers.)

I. Translate into English:
a) Pened binon in tood.
ä) Man binom ko vom.
b) Kolkömom jipuli.
c) Penob penedi.
d) Visitobs domi.
e) Obs vilobs toodi.
f) Seadofs in bür.
g) Labom fleni.
h) Golof ko pened.
i) Seadoy su stul.
j) El paparazzo visitom vomi.
  II. Translate into Volapük:
a) It is in the house.
ä) You are a friend.
b) You are setting on the letter.
c) He is going with a friend.
d) They are meeting a boy and a girl.
e) A man is sitting on the chair.
f) A woman is going with the girl.
g) He is writing a letter in the house.
h) They do have a car.
i) The edelweiss is in the office.

Second Part • Dil Telid

Vocabulary • Vödem

Subsats • Nouns Ladveks • Adjectives Värbs • Verbs
blod‘a brother’ obik‘my’ kömön‘to come’
cil‘a child’ orik/olik‘your’ (polite/familiar) lükömön‘to arrive’
daut‘a daughter’ omik‘his’ plidön‘to like’
fat‘a father’ ofik‘her’ primön‘to begin’
gespik‘an answer’ onik‘its’ vobön‘to work’
läd‘Mrs, Ms’ oyik‘one’s’ dunön‘to do’
lädül‘Miss’ obsik‘our’   
mot‘a mother’ orsik/olsik‘your’ (polite/familiar)   
nem‘a name’ omsik‘their’ (m.)   
säk‘a question’ ofsik‘their’ (f.)   
son‘a son’ onsik‘their’ (n.)   
sölMr, Sir      
sör‘a sister’      
Vöds votik • Other wordsVöds säkik • Question words
ab‘but’kim?‘who?’ (m.)
ad‘(in order) to’kif?‘who?’ (f.)
adelo‘today’kin?‘what?’ (definite)
de‘of’kis?‘what?’ (indefinite)
no‘no, not’kiöpo?‘where?’

Grammar • Gramat

6. To form the plural, simply add -s to the end.

dom, doms ‘a/the house, the houses’
säk, säks ‘a/the question, the questions’
labob dautis tel ‘I have two daughters’
voms binofs sörs ‘the women are sisters’

7. In order to make a question out of a statement, where there is a verb, this is followed by the unstressed interrogative particle -li.

Kiöpo binon-li pened? ‘Where is the letter?’
Kömof-li ko flen? ‘Is she coming with a friend?’
Voboms-li ko flens? ‘Are they working with friends?’
Visitons-li? ‘Do they visit?’ (both sexes)

Where there is no verb, the -li may be used without one:

no-li? ‘isn't it?’
odelo-li? ‘tomorrow?’

8. The negative particle no goes before the verb:

No löfob fleni olik ‘I don't like your friend’
No vilol-li primön? ‘Don't you want to begin?’

9. The genitive and dative cases may be expressed in two ways, thus:

de daut or dauta ‘of a/the daughter’
de dauts or dautas ‘of daughters, of the daughters’

ad daut or daute ‘to a/the daughter’
ad dauts or dautes ‘to daughters, to the daughters’

10. Possessives are expressed by either form of the genitive case.

Flen de hipul or flen hipula ‘the boy’s friend’
Nems de sörs or nems söras ‘the sisters’ names’
Tood de fat obik or tood fata obik ‘my father’s car’

11. The imperative, used in requesting or commanding, is expressed by the endings -ös and -öd:

(Singular) Kömolös ko flen! ‘(Please) come with a friend!’ (expressing a wish)
(Plural) Kömolsöd ko flen! ‘(You must) come with a friend!’ (expressing a command)

12. The future tense is formed by removing -ön from the infinitive, then by prefixing o- to the beginning and adding the necessary personal pronoun to the end:

Okömobs odelo ‘we shall/will come tomorrow’

13. The past tense (the preterite) is formed by also removing -ön from the infinitive, then by prefixing ä- to the beginning. (If you want to bring the past more into the present (that is to use the present perfect), put e- at the beginning); finally add the necessary personal pronoun to the end:

Älöfol-li hipuli? ‘Did you (use to) love the boy?’
Elöfol-li hipuli? ‘Have you loved the boy (up to now)?’
Äpenob penedi ‘I was writing a letter’
Epenob penedi ‘I have (already) written a letter’
No äslipom in bür ‘He wasn't sleeping in the office’
No eslipom in bür ‘He hasn't slept in the office (up to now)’
Äseadob ‘I sat; I used to sit; I was sitting; I did sit’
Eseadob ‘I sat; I have sat; I have been sitting’
No ävilobs ‘We didn’t want; we weren’t wanting’
No evilobs ‘We haven’t wanted (up to now)’

Here is a bit more practice for you. (See Key for answers.)

I. Translate into English:
a) No plidob gespikis ad säks
ä) Äslipol-li in bür fata?
b) Lio binon-li nem söra orik?
c) Kiöpo primon-li pened?
d) Odelo fat obik openom penedi mote onsik
e) Si! blod olik oslipom in dom obsik
f) Söl 'Smith' labom soni bal e dautis tel
g) Kitimo elükömof-li mot olik?
h) Ab kin äseadon-li in tood söla 'Smith'?
i) Kikodo no evilols-li primön nen blod obik?
  II. Translate into Volapük:
a) Finish the letter in your father's office!
ä) They were wanting to come with our friends
b) We will meet my brother's children tomorrow
c) Yes, Miss 'Jones' used to work with my father's friend
d) But his sister didn't have one daughter, she had two
e) No, we will not be starting today, we will be starting tomorrow
f) Did you meet your friends today?
g) Where will he be when his mother comes?
h) Were they her sisters?
i) Please don't go to the office without my friends!

Third Part • Dil Kilid

Vocabulary • Vödem

Subsats • Nouns Ladveks • Adjectives Värbs • Verbs
bovül‘a cup’ at, ats‘this, these’ drinön‘to drink’
buk‘a book’ et, ets‘that, those’ dunön‘to do, to make’
kaf‘coffee’ badik‘bad’ givönto give
kafibötöp‘a café’ bäldik‘old’ lilön‘to hear’
poldan‘a policeman’ gretik‘great’ remön‘to buy’
tied‘tea’ gudik‘good’ sagön‘to say’
vat‘water’ hitik‘hot’ sedön‘to send’
vär‘a glass’ nitedik‘interesting’ segolönto go out
   nulik‘new’ spikönto speak
Vöds votik • Other wordsPräpods • Prepositions
vemo‘a lot, very’  
ud (before a vowel)‘or’  

Grammar • Gramat

14. Adjectives are invariable when they follow their noun, unless separated from it by another word which is not an adjective; however, if they precede their noun, then they must agree with that noun:

Buk smalik nitedik ‘a small interesting book’
Labob buki smalik nitedik ‘I have a small interesting book’
Labob bukis smalik e nitedikis ‘I have small and interesting books’
Labob smalikis nitedikis bukis ‘I have small interesting books’

15. Adverbs are formed by the simple addition of -o.

gudik, gudiko ‘good’, ‘well’
badik, badiko ‘bad’, ‘badly’

16. The comparative and superlative are formed by adding -um and -ün respectively to function as adjectives and adverbs:

nulik, nulikum, nulikün ‘new’, ‘newer’, ‘newest’
verätik, verätikumo, verätiküno “correct’, ‘more correctly’, ‘most correctly’

17. The present participle (as in ‘drinking’) is formed by replacing the infinitive -ön with -öl:

drinön, drinöl ‘to drink’, ‘drinking’
lilön, lilöl ‘to hear’, ‘hearing’
spikön, spiköl ‘to speak’, ‘speaking’

18. The conditional is formed by adding -öv to the personal pronoun at the end of the verb:

Sedoböv penedi blode obik ‘I would send a letter to my brother’
Penomöv penedi ‘He would write a letter’
Mot oba liloföv cilis ‘My mother would hear the children’
Poldans plidomsöv ad kömön ‘The policemen would like to come’
Läd okolkömoföv sölis odelo ‘The lady would be meeting the gentlemen tomorrow’

19. To express a future event which had not yet taken place in the past, simply add ö- to the relevant verb:

Äsagof, das ökömof ‘She said that she would come’
Ävilons, das öremobs toodi ‘They wanted us to buy the car’

20. To say: Let (me, us, him, her, them) do something , we use the verb leadön followed by the infinitive of the verb:

Leadobsös primön vobi! ‘Let's begin work!’
Leadonsös vobön! ‘Let them work!’
Leadolös obi visitön cilis! ‘(You) let me visit the children!’

Here is a bit more practice for you. (See Key for answers.)

I. Translate into English:
a) Man at binom vemo gretik.
ä) Kolkömoböv moti olik, if älabob toodi.
b) Ven äbinobs in kafibötöp, mot obik äremof bovüli tieda pro blod bäldikum obik.
c) Poldan esagom, das elogom fleni orik in dom.
d) Ädrinobs kafi hitik se bovüls smalik.
e) Segolöl se kafibötöp, ekolkömob fleni bäldik.
f) Äsagoy, das poldan öspikomöv ko blod obik dö hipuls et.
g) Egivob buki nitedikün flene.
h) Kisi ödunolöv-li, if äbinol ob?
i) Remobsös toodi at!
  II. Translate into Volapük:
a) Who gave the correct answer to the question?
ä) Did you drink the water out of that glass?
b) If they were here, they would speak with your father about these boys.
c) Today I gave my old books to my older sister.
d) Would the boy's answer be good or bad?
e) Being old friends, we talked a lot.
f) Let us begin tomorrow!
g) Would you meet my mother if you had my car?
h) He did not hear correctly.
i) A small girl was talking with that interesting old man.

Fourth Part • Dil Folid

Vocabulary • Vödem

Subsats • Nouns Ladveks • Adjectives Värbs • Verbs
düp‘an hour’ koldik‘cold’ jelodön‘to defend’
neif‘a knife’ malädik‘ill’ kötön‘to cut’
säned‘supper, tea’ nemögik‘impossible’ lavönto wash
   mögik‘possible’ sevädükön‘to introduce’
      vüdön‘to invite’
Präpods • Prepositions
ad‘for (the purpose of)’ta‘against’
fa‘by’‘at (time)’
me‘by (means of)’  

Grammar • Gramat

21. To form the pluperfect (I had -ed), remove -ön from the infinitive and prefix i- to the beginning. Finally, add the necessary person pronoun to the end.

Iremobs bovüli tieda ‘we had bought a cup of tea’
Ilabof toodis tel ‘she had two cars’

Ilükolkömons-li?Had they arrived?’

22. Similarly, to form the conditional perfect (‘I would have -ed), remove -ön from the infinitive and prefix u- to the beginning with the necessary personal pronoun at the end.

Uvobobs ‘we would have worked

As before, a future event not yet completed in the past would have the prefix ü-:

Esagoms, das üvoboms ‘They said they would have worked

23. Reflexive pronouns (himself, herself, itself, oneself, yourself, yourselves, themselves) are expressed by ok/oks which is modified according to its function in the sentence; the idea of each other is expressed by od/ods, which again is modified according to its function:

Älöfofs okis ‘they used to love themselves
Älöfofs odis ‘they used to love each other
Ojelodom oki ‘he will defend himself
Ojelodoms odis ‘they will defend each other
Ekötof oki ‘she's cut herself
Ekötof ofi ‘she's cut her (that is, someone else)’
Iplidols odis ‘you had liked each other
Iplidols okis ‘you had liked yourselves

24. The passive in the various tenses is formed by adding the prefix p- to the various active tenses; (in this respect pa- is the present passive form). Any agent (the person or thing doing the action) is expressed by the word fa ‘by’. Here are some examples in the different tenses:

löfob ‘I lovepalöfob (fa mot obik) ‘I am loved (by my mother)’
elöfol ‘you’ve loved’ pelöfol (fa fat olik) ‘you’ve been loved (by your father)’
älöfom ‘he loved; löfom (fa cils okik) ‘he was loved (by his own children);
ilöfof ‘she’d loved’ pilöfof (fa daut obik) ‘she’d been loved (by my daughter)’
olöfoy ‘one will love; polöfoy (fa blods) ‘one will be loved (by the brothers)’
ulöfobs ‘we'll have loved; pulöfobs (fa sons obsik) ‘we’ll have been loved (by our sons)’

25. The definite article el (See № 1) is only used in Volapük to denote foreign words which have not been assimilated into the language. This word is modified just like any ordinary noun:

Els paparazzi espikob ko jiel Sheila ologobs hieli Rob odelo!

26. Time is expressed thus:

Clock time:

Binos düp folid ‘it's 4 o'clock’
Binos minuts deg pos düp folid ‘it’s 4:10’
Binos düp folid e laf ‘it’s 4:30;
Binos minuts teldeg bü düp lulid ‘it’s 4:40’
Binos foldil bü düp lulid ‘it’s 4:45’


Tü del balid yanula ‘on the first (day) of January’


Bäldoti kinik cil at labon-li? ‘how old is this child?’
Labon bäldoti yelas kil ‘it is three years old’

Here is a last bit of practice for you. (See Key for answers.)

I. Translate into English:
a) Evüdob ofi ad sänedön
ä) Fa hiel <Ian> päprimon, pened at fa jiel Joan pefinükon
b) Blod obik ilavom oki me vat koldik
c) Ikötof oki me neif
d) Sevädükolös ofi obe!
e) Äbinos verätik, das om no ivilom kömön
f) Si! Ükömob ko of, if no ibinob malädik
g) Elükömöl, fat obik eprimom ad vobön ko oms
h) Tü del kilid yanula cil olabon bäldoti yelas fol.
  II. Translate into Volapük:
a) Who has drunk the water out of this glass?
ä) You will be invited to that house at three o'clock
b) Let us defend ourselves!
c) My father had wanted to wash it
d) The letter was not written by me; e) Having seen Gladys, he wanted to talk with her
f) He introduced himself to me today
g) It had been impossible!
h) It's one o'clock, and at two o'clock my son will be here!

Key to the Comprehension Check


I a) The letter is in the car
ä) A man is with the woman
b) He meets (is meeting) a girl
c) I write (am writing) a letter;
d) We visit (are visiting) the house
e) We want (do want, are wanting) a car
f) They sit (do sit, are sitting) in the office
g) He has a friend
h) She is going with the letter
i) One sits (is sitting) on the chair
j) The paparazzo visits (does visit, is visiting) the woman.

ii) a) Binos in dom
ä) Binol flen
b) Seadol su pened
c) Golom ko flen
d) Kolkömons hipuli e jipuli
e) Man seadom su stul
f) Vom golof ko jipul
g) Penedom penedi in dom
h) Labons toodi
i) El Edelweiss binon in bür.


i) a) I do not like the answers to the question
ä) Did you sleep (or: were you sleeping) in the father’s office?
b) What is your sister's name?
c) Where does the letter begin?
d) Tomorrow my father will write (or: will be writing) a letter to their mother
e) Yes, your brother will sleep (or: will be sleeping) in our house
f) Mr. Smith has a (or: one) son and two daughters
g) What time has your mother arrived?
h) But who was sitting in Mr. Smith's car?
i) Why didn't you want to begin without my brother?

ii) a) Finükolös penedi in bür fata (or: de fat) olik!
ä) Ävilons kömön ko flens obsik
b) Okolkömobs cilis bloda (or: de blod) obik odelo
c) Si! Lädül Jones ävobof ko flen fata obik
d) Ab sör omik no älabof dauti bal, älabof tels
e) No, no oprimobs adelo, oprimobs odelo
f) Ekolkömol-li flenis olik adelo?
g) Kiöpo obinom-li ven mot oma (or: de om) okömof?
h) Äbinofs-li sörs ofik? i) No gololsös lü bür nen flens obik!


i) a) This man is very big
ä) I would meet your mother if I had a car
b) When we were in the café, my mother bought a cup of tea for my elder brother
c) The policeman said that he saw your friend in the house
d) We were drinking hot coffee out of small cups
e) Going out of the café I met an old friend
f) One said or: it was said) that a policeman would speak with my brother about those boys
g) I've given a most interesting book to a friend
h) What would you do if you were me?
i) Let's buy this car!

ii) a) Kin egivon-li gespiki verätik säke?
ä) Ädrinol-li vati se väret?
b) If äbinons is, öspikons ko fat olik dö hipuls at
c) Adelo egivob bukis bäldik obik söre (or: ad sör) obik bäldikum
d) Binonöv-li gespik hipula (or: de hipul) gudik u badik(a)?
e) Binöl flens bäldik, äspikobs vemo
f) Leadobsös primön odelo!
g) Kolkömolöv-li moti obik if ölabol toodi obik?
h) No älilom verätiko
i) Jipul smalik äspikof ko man bäldik nitedik et.


i) a) I invited her to supper
ä) Begun by Ian, this letter was finished by Joan
b) My brother had washed himself in cold water
c) She had cut herself with a knife
d) Introduce her to me!
e) It was correct that he hadn't wanted to come
f) Yes, I would have come with her if I hadn't been ill
g) Having arrived, my father began to work with them
h) On the third day of January the child will be four.

ii) a) Kin edrinon-li vati se vär at?
ä) Povüdol dome (or: ad dom) et tü düp kilik
b) Leadobs jelodön obis!
c) Fat obik ivilom lavön osi
d) Pened no päpenon fa ob
e) Elogöl jieli Gladys, evilom spikön ko of
f) Esevädükom oki obe adelo
g) Ibinos nemögik!
h) Binos düp balid e tü düp telid son obik obinom is!