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What we've looked at so far is similar to (but not quite the same as) English words like before, after and so on. However, we can use exactly the same cmavo with selbri to give effects which are similar (but not identical) to English tenses. Actually this is easier, but I left it till later to avoid the danger of malglico!
Basically, any time cmavo (or sequence of cmavo) can go before a selbri and put the whole bridi into that time. This is precisely the same thing the time cmavo would be doing if followed immediately by ku, with an empty sumti in between. So
la jan. pu cliva le barja
both mean "Zhang before the here-and-now leaves the bar," or "Zhang left the bar." We can do the same thing with zi/za/zu, so la jan. puza cliva le barja, just like puzaku la jan. cliva le barja, means "Zhang left the bar a while ago."
puku la jan. cliva le barja
Tip: By the way, ma ca tcika would be an even more usual way to say "What time is it?"
Another group of cmavo which can be used here is ze'i/ze'a/ze'u. Just as zi/ze/zu indicate a short, medium or long time from the present (or whatever other time we happen to be talking about), these cmavo indicate short, medium or long durations for the action or state we are talking about. So mi ze'u bajra means "I run for a long time." (Not "I am a bar for a long time" — that's barja! Lojban does tend to keep you on your toes like that.) Again, we can put these together, so mi puzaze'u bajra means "A while ago, I ran for a long time." A few more examples ...
.oi.uinai le mi zdani puzi se lindi
Oh no! My house has just been struck by lightning! (Every language course has to have a few of these ridiculously artificial examples!)
Note: If you have a tense before the selbri you don't need cu — le zdani cannot run into puzi to form a single sumti.
la bil. ze'u pinxe loi birje
Bill drinks beer for a long time.
Tip: Remember: you don't drink something which is a beer, but rather something which is some beer. As discussed way back in Lesson 4, that means a mass rather than an individual — though as it happens lo birje also makes sense, as 'a (fixed) quantity of beer'.
mi bazize'a xabju la djakartas.
Pretty soon I'm going to live in Jakarta for a while.
lo la natos. vinji baze'u gunta la BE,ograd.
NATO aircraft will attack Belgrade for a long time.
Note: This does not mean that NATO is not attacking Belgrade now (it is at the time I [Robin] am writing this). In Lojban, if we say that something is true at a particular time, it doesn't mean that it is not true at any other time. There are ways to say that NATO will continue to attack, but that comes later. (Sorry, I know I keep saying that things will come later, but you wouldn't really want to have to learn everything at once — it would be like an English course teaching will go and will have been going in the same lesson).
A complete explanation of time cmavo can be found in Chapter 10 of The Complete Lojban Language.
Translate the following, placing the tense words before the selbri.