Nuances of Repetition

Image by Shabinh from Pixabay

I stumbled across a little nuance in how we talk about repeated actions. I stumbled across a little nuance… ok, too obvious.

When we use a noun (Esperanto O-word) that names an action, we usually talk about a single instance of that action, and we can talk about several using the plural form.

Let’s roll with eĥo (echo), because ĥ is an under-appreciated letter (pronounced like the ch in Scottish loch).


A single echo


Echoes – more than one echo

But in Esperanto, we also have access to the suffix “ad” (click to see related posts), which implies that an action is repeated or continual:


A long echoing, or several echoes together at a time.

What if we went full-on and pluralised that too? What then?


Several long echoes, or several times when echoes were repeated.

What happens is that we talk then of several long echoings or several points when echoes were repeated! Makes sense. I’d never really thought about comparing plurality with repeatedness, so I thought that was interesting! (check out the inspiration source at PMEG).

And I hope you’re enjoying as much as me the fact that an “echo” in itself is also a repeated sound, so we’ve got repeats inside repeats…

Whenever I talk about a word I tend to do a dictionary dive, and I wanted to also share something I found when reading up on eĥo:



An example usage might be:

La krio seneĥe velkis

The cry echolessly faded

It’s just a joy to pronounce 🙂

In favour of numberable

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pexels

If you’re anything like me, you often sit pondering the nature of countable nouns. The countability, or enumerability, of things is an important consideration – despite my spellchecker refusing to acknowledge it.

This is the idea that some nouns name individual things that one could count, and yet others name things whereby the quantity is unspecified or arbitrary, a non-individual thing or substance. And we use these nouns slightly differently. For example, with countable nouns like “squirrel”, “house”, and “tree”, we can talk about them like this:

There are two squirrels in a house.

But that would sound mega weird with uncountable nouns like “water”, “sand”, or “milk”:

There are two sands in a milk.

Because those are not countable; talking about one or more of them is a bit strange. There are some uncountable nouns, like “metal”, where we do sometimes use the plural to refer to many types of that noun (rather than individual instances). For example:

She held in her grasp two metals.

This does not mean two bits of metal, this means two types of metal.

This is all largely the same in Esperanto, with the same words you’d expect. But there is an interesting word-building quirk to be aware of!

When we make words with the aĵ suffix, we make a concrete thing to do with the root word. For example: “utila” means “useful”, and “utilaĵo” is a “useful thing”.

And the quirk to be aware of is that words produced in this manner can frequently make sense as either countable or non-countable nouns, and you’ll find them in both uses. One example that PMEG discusses is “produktaĵo”. The verb “produkti” means “to produce” so “produktaĵo” is a thing which is produced, and can be countable or non-countable depending on context. It is like the difference between English “product” and “produce”, where “product” names individual countable things, but we talk about “produce” as we would “water”:

Kiam vi kolektos la produktaĵon de la tero…

When you have gathered the produce of the land…

Sciuroj importas 75% de siaj produktaĵoj

Squirrels import 75% of their products.

Most of the time, context is gonna show you which you’d want to translate it as. And obviously the plural “j” is often a dead giveaway that we’re being countable. But sometimes, the sentence might be short enough that the meaning could go either way, the PMEG gives:

Li lavis tolaĵon

Countable: He washed a linen (e.g. item of clothing made of linen)
Uncountable: He washed linen

Pretty neat!

By the way, the Esperanto for “to count” is “nombri” from “nombro” (number). So “countable” is “nombrebla”, which is pretty delicious in my books. It’s inspired me to prefer “numberable” in English over all the other pretenders: countable, numerable, enumerable…

One Neat Trick

To -i or to -ado

Photo by Emre Öztürk on Unsplash

What’s the difference between tricking and tricking? Or “trompi” and “trompado”?

For those unfamiliar with the suffixes, “i” is the base form of a verb, the dictionary form, the infinitive. So trompi means “to trick” – no sense of time/tense. Notice how when we want to put it in e.g. present tense in English we lose the “to”, and even sometimes add an “s”: “he tricks the squirrel” (present tense in Esperanto: trompas). But we use this base form under some circumstances, e.g. “he loves to trick squirrels” (“loves” is doing our tense work).

The “-ado” suffix has a few purposes, but the one I’m interested in here is using it to create the noun (or name) of an action from the action verb. So for example “trompi” is a verb meaning “to trick”, but “trompado” is a noun, so we can talk about “the tricking” of something, in a nouny way. E.g. “the tricking of squirrels is no simple matter”. If you want to learn a bit about Esperanto root words, and making them nouns/verbs/adjectives here’s an old blog post.

So lets compare this the usage of “trompi” and “trompado” below as closely as we can:


la ruzaj meloj amas trompi sciurojn

the cunning badgers love tricking (to trick) squirrels


la ruzaj meloj amas trompadon de sciuroj

the cunning badgers love the tricking of squirrels

In both cases, we’ve got the revelation that this particular clan of badgers enjoy squirrels getting tricked. But you may see the difference between these two sentences even from the English: in example 1, we’re suggesting that what the badgers enjoy is doing the tricking themselves, but in 2, we make no such implication; we’re suggesting that the badgers find enjoyment regardless of who is performing the tricking. And that’s exactly the difference in the use of -i and -ado here! The -i form always implies a subject doing the action, and it’s usually the same subject as the verb it’s working with (here “amas”), but -ado is independent of subject. Neat huh.

This post was inspired by this PMEG page, where you’ll also find the following quote, which demonstrates fluidly the flexible neatness of Esperanto participles.

Aga O-vorto nomas agon sen konsideri eventualan faranton

An action O-word names an action without considering a potential do-er (i.e. one who might do the action)

To me, “sen konsideri eventualan faranton” is a construction that flows so neatly in Esperanto, but always feels like a stumble in English. As you can see in my translation, I either resort to the informal “do-er”), or I have to spell out the exact meaning laboriously “one who does the action”. I could perhaps strain and use other terms like “actor”, but it feels clunky, and it’s nice to be able to derive my meaning from the base word that’s already appropriate: “do” (fari).

Learn more about Esperanto participles from my old series on them:

“Screwing” is fun in Esperanto


I just had quite the enjoyable eight or so minutes; I discovered the word for “screw” in Esperanto, and it is gorgeous and supremely fun to pronounce over and over:


The first bit might take some effort if you’re not used to the combo, because we’ve got ŝ sounding like “sh” in “show”, immediately followed by a rolled r! Then that satisfying ending with (like “ow” in “how”) followed by bi  (like the word “bee”).

As Esperanto regulars will see, the “i” ending makes this the verb form, so it means “to screw”, from the base noun form “ŝraŭbo” which is just “a screw”.

And it only gets better with some of the combos you can build off of this guy. Let me show you a couple of my faves.

ŝraŭbaĵilo = screw threading tool

Now that’s fun to say, and I think, quite a neat construction. Here we’ve got two suffixes:

  • : the ĵ is like the “s” in “pleasure”. This suffix when applied to a root which is at base a noun, produces that concrete thing/object which is most related to the original thing. So applying it to “wood” makes “something made from wood” applying it to spider makes “spider web”. Typically context will make this most clear. Here, “ŝraŭbaĵo” would be “screw threading”. See my other posts referring to . The PMEG has a super useful page for better understanding this powerful suffix here.
  • il: applying this suffix (pronounced like “eel”) to a root we get a “tool for [root] “.  Here, we get a “tool for producing screw threading”! Of course, followed by the “o” noun ending. Other posts mentioning il here.

ŝraŭbingo = nut

This also quite neatly produces a related word, by quite simple means. We’ve got the suffix: ing which means “holder for [root]”!

But crucially, the important bit is that these words are delightful to wrap the tongue around!

If you’d like to stick to the beauty of Esperanto’s one sound per letter, then remember to pronounce the ending as “bin” followed by “go” (as “go” in “got”), instead of how the “ng” merges in English “bingo”. But you won’t be hassled if you don’t care about such things!

Now, my wife caught me talking about using nuts on screws (not bolts), and gave me a informative lecture! So for anyone who knows the differences: if we go by the dictionary at , “ŝraŭbo” in Esperanto is a very general term for a cylindrical threaded object that one turns to fix!

Esperanto missed its chance


I’m not certain whether Esperanto can recover from such a horrendous and unforgivable oversight. I feel like it might be possible, but it’d take some work. Let me explain.

I’m talking about a dilemma that many Esperantistas will have encountered: the actual Esperanto word for dilemma “dilemo”.

Well now, the term “dilemma” and its many incarnations in other languages (dilema, dilemma, dilemmeДилемма, dilema), originate from the greek for “double proposition”. Surviving separately in both English and Esperanto are the terms “lemma” and “lemo” respectively for just “proposition”. This separation means that “trilemma” is also used in English, for when you’ve got three alternatives to consider instead of two!

I thought that was pretty neat. But this is only possible because English is numerically promiscuous, caring not whether the number 2 is represented using prefixes like “bi”, “two”, or “di”.

To make this relationship more clear, I reckon that Esperanto should have gone for “dulemo” since our fair “two” is “du”. This would be the perfect hint that tri-lemo, dek-lemo and sescent-sesdek-ses-lemo are perfectly reasonable 😀

Now, of course I’m just playing with you, Esperanto; I love you to bits. But you gotta admit, dulemo is way more fun even by itself. For one, it looks like it could also mean “the tendency to be a ‘d-person'”, whatever that might be…  😀 (d(o) – ul – emo).

Turn around – de temp’ al temp’ mi disrompiĝas!


It’s all about word versatility this evenin’. We turn a simple word into whole bag of tricks. So don’t turn back, nor avert your eyes. The word of interest is:

Turni : To Turn (pronounced TOOR-nee)

This word specifically means that the subject is turning something. As in “I turned the hands of the clock”, or even “I turned the clock into a watch”. But never “I turned around” or “I turned into a badger”. The difference with those last ones, is that they are implying that the turning is happening to the subject of the verb, the thing doing the action. But Esperanto has a different word for that.

Therefore, if I said the broken phrase “Mi turnis en melon” for “I turned into a badger”, an Esperantist would ask you “You turned what into a badger?” Your sentence is incomplete!

First, lets take the dictionary dive:

Turnilo: winch / crank / tool for turning

Using the suffix “-il” for specifying a tool for performing an action, we can arrive at “a tool for turning”, which is quite versatile in itself; we can tack any noun at the front to get “a tool for turning [noun]”:

  • ŝraŭbturnilo: screwdriver
  • diskturnilo: disk unit / drive / turn table

Deturni: to turn away / to avert

Deturnu viajn okulojn! = Avert your eyes! Here we use the word for “from”. So instead of just turning a thing, we’re turning it from something else. Whenever you get a nice strong action word like this, you can make fun use of “sen” = “without” to describe things that proceed without that action. Here the “a” ending makes an adjective, for describing nouns:

  • sendeturna: without turning away / unflinchingly.  “la sendeturna okulo” = “The unaverting / unflinching eye”.

Returni: to turn back

The “re” prefix means repetition, or going back. So putting the “re” infront of “turni” will usually mean turning something back the other way, or in the opposite direction.

Turniĝi: to turn (around) / rotate / gyrate / revolve (toor-NEE-jee)

Here’s that sneaky “iĝ” suffix again. It means literally “to become [turned]”. Our root here is “turn”. So this is like putting the turning action back on the subject. Remember how we couldn’t use “turni” to have the subject talk about itself turning, it must always be turning something else? Well we can with the suffix: I turned into a badger = Mi turniĝis en melon. While it might be hard at first to deal with Esperanto’s strict nature about who is the subject of a verb, it actually means the sense of words very easy to interpret and reason over for word building when you get the hang of it.

Elturniĝi: to manoeuvre / wangle / contrive

Woah. How did we get that? Looks like a flippin’ Elvish name! So we start with the basic “turniĝi” and add to it the ever useful “el” meaning “out of”. So it’s literally like turning yourself out of a difficult situation! And whenever you’ve got yourself a cool verb like that, you can always make a word to describe someone with that quality:

Elturniĝema: elusive, resourceful, slippery, wily

The “em” suffix (and the adjective “a” ending here) describes something that has the tendency, inclination, or disposition for a given action. So something/someone that is “elturniĝema” is one who tends to be able to wangle and manoeuvre!

A lot of the above can be mix ‘n’ matched, many things that work for “turni” (turning something) work for “turniĝi” (being turned)!

Kapturno: dizziness, giddiness, swimming (in head), vertigo

Using the noun ending “o”, a “turno” is just “a turn(ing)”. When we combine with “kapo” = “head”, we have a head-turning. Which is used to refer to when it feels like your head keeps turning you strangely when you’re a bit dizzy!

And now for some extra fun outside of the safety of a dictionary:

Diskturnisto: DJ

Using the “ist” suffix, which is like English “er” in “Shoemaker”, “Writer”, “Runner”, or “ist” in “Novelist”, “Florist”, “Tourist”, we can define someone who is professionally occupied with turning disks 😀

Neturnita: Unturned / Yet to turn

One might used this to describe someone bitten by a zombie but not yet dead… 😛

Nuboj en la kosmo

Nuboj en la kosmo

Bela kaj bone vortigita blogaĵo pri interesa temo !


Homoj, kiuj regule uzas teleskopon scias ke nenio estas pli ĝena ol nuboj. Malgraŭ tio, multaj el la plej belaj strukturoj en la kosmo estas nubegoj. Ne temas pri nuboj el akvo, kiel tiuj, kiujn oni vidas surtere, sed nuboj el jonoj, gasoj kaj polveroj. Ili troviĝas ekster la sunsistemo, sed ja videblas kiel svagaj makuloj en multaj teleskopoj. Pro tio, ili nomiĝas nebulozoj, laŭ la Latina vorto ”nebula”, kiu signifas nebulo aŭ nubo. Kosma turisto ankoraŭ povus rigardi ĉirkaŭ si tamen. Malgraŭ tio ke nebulozoj estas miloj da fojoj pli densaj ol ”malplenaj” partoj de la universo, ili daŭre estas malpli densaj ol la plej bonaj vakuoj, kiujn inĝenieroj povas krei surtere. Se oni plenigus botelon de 1L en nebulozo, oni tipe kaptus kelkajn milionojn da atomoj. Tio sonas kiel granda kvanto, sed se oni farus la saman sur la surfaco de la Tero, oni fakte kaptus ĉirkaŭ 1022 

View original post 2,108 more words

Apply squirrels where needed – Apliku laŭbezone sciurojn


I recently realised that one of the little enjoyments of my day is when I discover words that demonstrate neat uses of word building. And so this marks the start of a new sub-type of blog post category!

In “productive words”, I’ll introduce a root word which I think has one or more interesting, convenient, or useful constructions that are also found in an Esperanto dictionary (safety reasons). Then, we’ll completely throw caution to the wind and posit some more constructions that aren’t in the dictionary for the sheer heck of it.

Feel free to ask about any words used, or methods of construction; I won’t go into all of them here to start.

Bezoni : To Need

Dictionary examples:

  1. laŭbezone: where needed / as need be / as needed
  2. bezonaĵo: requisite / a thing that is necessary
  3. senbezona: needless

“Laŭ” (“according to” / “following” / “along”) is a frequent culprit for producing interesting constructed words. It works so nicely with so many things. Number 1 is definitely my favourite! So succinct, and avoids those different English variations in favour of a single logical version. But I do also like how simply we get to “requisite” using the “aĵ” suffix!

My thoughts:

  1. Bezonema: needy
  2. Bezonaĉo: base/nasty urge/need also has “necesbezono” as “manko de ĉio, kion postulas la fizika vivo”. What would you say that translates to? Basic needs?

Why not… Combine the power of -ig & -iĝ?!


… It’s sheer madness,  that’s why. But it’s fun, and that’s what we’re here for.

I was trawling through the latest updates to the PMEG (because I know how to party), and found that it’s not entirely unheard of to combine the suffixes -ig & -iĝ in a word. But -ig & -iĝ are sorta like opposites, why don’t they just cancel out?

These suffixes are really useful word-building tools, so if you’re not familiar with how they work, then you can see some examples in my previous post here. Otherwise, here’s quick recap (skip if you’re familiar with -ig & -iĝ):

“g” is pronounced like “g” in “goat”, and “ĝ” is pronounced like “g” in “gem”.

[word]+ig = cause / make happen [word]

For example :

  • “morti” = “to die”
  • “mortigi” = “to kill” (literally: cause to die)

[word]+iĝ = become [word]

For example:

  • “rompi” = “to break (something)”
  • “rompiĝi” = “to become broken”  (In English we tend to just keep using “break”, basically something breaking).

So the reason one might expect the suffixes to cancel out is: you’ve got “rompiĝi” = “to become broken”, so when adding -ig (rompiĝigi) you might expect to have made: “to cause something to become broken” which seems just the same as “rompi” (to break something)!

Note that the “i” ending after the suffixes is what makes the final constructed words into verbs.

An example of both -ig & -iĝ being used in the PMEG is: formoviĝigi

What a beautiful beast of a word, eh? Break it down:

  1. movi: to move (something)
  2. formovi: to move (something) away
  3. formoviĝi: to be moved away / to become moved away
  4. formoviĝigi: to cause to be moved away / to make (something) moved away

There’s a nuanced difference of meaning between your standard formovi and formoviĝigi.

“Formovi” alone implies a direct causation: we actually moved something away. Whereas there’s room for indirect methods in “formoviĝigi”, because we’re just causing something to end up being moved, to become moved. So the addition of “ig” doesn’t quite return us to the original meaning of “formovi”.

In the PMEG’s example, the moving is accomplished through intimidation, not actual physical movement:

  • Rajdmilicanoj formoviĝigis la publikon = Yeomen made the public move away.

Well, we’ve had our fun. But, of course, we must be sensible when talking to new people. It’s usually more clear to just separate off the -ig:

  • Rajdmilicanoj igis la publikon formoviĝi

But where’s the excitement there!? I say just talk more slowly and more loudly 😀 ĥeĥe

Esperantic Quest

“Esperantic”! Such a tasty word. I wish we had something like “Englic” as the adjectival form of English. A missed opportunity.


Long ago, I blitzed through the first version of the Esperanto course on Duolingo, and actually found it very useful for cementing vocabulary in my head in a way that helped my understanding and generation of sentences, right from the basics.

It has come to my attention in recent days that the course seems to have undergone a large update, with plenty new and higher level material! So the time has come to undertake some more Duolingo learning, since my vocabulary sucks compared to my grammar understanding.

Is there anyone who would care join the Esperanta Serĉado? A little competition always makes things more fun. Follow me at !

Vintro Venas…

Frothing at the Mouth


In the past weeks, a number of perfectly pleasant interactions with completely competent individuals out in the world made me feel very… animated, shall we say. And after regaling friends with my tales of these… Interactions… A lovely little Esperanto word formed in my brain:

  • ŝaŭmbuŝa

Besides being gorgeous and bouncy with them lil’ accents and an almost balanced feeling (ŝaŭ … uŝa), it’s just plain fun to say aloud:

  • sh + ow (as in “cow”) + m + BOO + sha
  • showm-BOO-sha

And I think it’s a neat way of expressing the sentiment of this post’s title idiom:

  • ŝaŭmo = froth/foam
  • buŝo = mouth
  • ŝaŭmbuŝo = a frothing/foaming mouth
  • li estis ŝaŭmbuŝa = He was frothing at the mouth (literally: he was froth-mouthed, via the adjectival -a ending)
  • ili trasuferis lian ŝaŭmbuŝan rakonton = They suffered through his frothing-mouthed story.

We could even go full adverb here (with the magic adverb-making -e ending) should we need to describe a verb instead of a noun/pronoun:

  • ŝaŭmbuŝe = froth-mouthedly / with a frothing mouth / while foaming at the mouth / etc.
  • ŝi laŭte kriis ŝaŭmbuŝe = She shouted loudly, foaming at the mouth

This word is an example usage of a word-building formula I discussed on the blog in the distant past, but instead here we’re using an “object root” (ŝaŭmo) as the property “P”. Why not take a trip into my past and see:

Cut the red and blue wires!


Which wires did you cut?

Maybe this would’ve been clearer if I’d chosen one of these for the title:

  1. Tranĉu la ruĝan kaj bluan dratojn!
  2. Tranĉu la ruĝajn kaj bluajn dratojn!

I noticed an interesting post (link) on the forums concerning a similar ambiguity concerning beach flags. So of course I ambled on over to the PMEG (link) for some advice.

I had never thought of using the “a(n)” and “aj(n)” (singular and plural adjective endings) as tools to reduce ambiguity in this way; I thought it was pretty damn cool! In particular, I hadn’t considered using singular adjectives to refer to plural nouns like that.

As I understand it, the singular endings in example 1 imply that we are talking about a blue wire and a red wire. But the plural endings in example 2 imply that we’re probably talking about several red ‘n’ blue wires (because each of the red and blue adjectives apply to all wires)!

Though I do wonder whether 2 could potentially refer to all of them technically…

To Word-thingy


As you know, the PMEG is a pretty awesome resource. And a great model for clear and concise language. Whilst having a read the other day, it used a word that particularly tickled me. Check out this sentence:

  • En la komencaj tempoj la principoj por fari A-vortojn el ne-ecaj radikoj ne estis klare vortumitaj = In the early days [of Esperanto], the principles for making A-words from non-quality roots were not clearly vortumitaj.

Now, I may be reading into this a bit much, but this struck me as a particularly inticing use of the suffix “-um”.

The suffix “-um” has an indefinite meaning. It really has to be used sparingly for when nothing else will do, otherwise we’d be awash with ambiguity. It’s often used on a root when there’s a common thing done with the root, that the normal form of the root does not really cover, but that everyone will guess when you’re talking about it.

I once read someone describe its use on an action root as “to do the X thing” where X is the root. So “brakumi” is “to do the arm thing”, and context or common usage would tell us this is “to hug”. In fact, I think I saw this on the “Amikumu” website, which describes the meaning of “amikumu” as “do the friend thing” (pass time with friends). equates “vortumi” with “vortigi” (to express with words / to phrase). By itself this is quite a neat word. But why might PMEG have chosen “vortumi” instead of “vortigi”?

The PMEG sentence is not trying to say that no one ever tried to talk about the word building principles, but that no one set them out like the PMEG is doing in a more clear, official-like manner for others to follow. So I think “vortumi” is actually quite like the English idiom “to put into words”, which also implies “put into speech or writing”!

Let’s be Sensible

In a very old post of mine (, I started talking about what comes out when we start sticking “a” on the end of word roots. And at the time of writing, it was very much in line with the PMEG’s recommendation. But the world moves on, guys. One day, you wake up and decide, hey, we need a spring clean. There’s a dusty old corner of Esperanto, and in it lies a filthy web of unclarity (one day un- will have the power in English of Esperanto’s mal- even if it kills me).

I’m looking at korekta. And its ilk.

Notice at the end of that post that I suggest that some words, and perhaps action-roots in general, can take on the –ata or -ita participle meanings when adding the “a”. The PMEG now advises against such vile practice, and for good reason.

For a little refresher, what normally happens when you add “a” to an action-root is something like this:

  • Helpi = to help
  • Helpa hundo = helpful dog / dog that is helping (like helpanta)

That is, the thing being described by the new a-word is characterised by the given action, or performing the action. So for a word like korekta, here’s the good and consistent usage:

  • Korekti = to correct
  • Korektaj okulvitroj = corrective glasses / (vision) correcting glasses (like korektanta)

But you, me, and a little of even Ole Zammy, have used it like this:

  • Korekta respondo = correct answer (like korektita)

And there are a few other words that this phenomenon regularly presents itself with (e.g. kompliki & konfuzi).

Aside from just being plain inconsistent (since this usage seems to be in a minority of examples that are influenced by native language happenstance (e.g. the existence of “correct” in English)), using “a” in this manner can give the impression that the originally action root is actually a quality root. This could lead people to erroneously employ “korektigi” for “make correct” instead of “korekti”, where such –ig words already have specialised meaning.

So let’s be sensible and clean up our act!

And here’s what happens when you launch into explaining this to an unsuspecting fiancée that hasn’t started learning Esperanto (YET :D):



Hmm, quite interesting, but I sense an Esperanto rant approaching:


Oh yeah, here it comes:


That’s a lot of details you’re going into… I don’t think you’re gonna stop, are you?


The Ambiguous Lock


A curiosity-led ambling through the pathways of the internet one night revealed something to me that I’d never previously noticed about the English word “unlockable”. A quirk whereby it may mean either of:

  1. impossible to lock
  2. capable of being unlocked

In first case, we have “un + lockable”, where the “un” acts like “not”, and says that we mean “not lockable”. And for the second meaning, we have “unlock + able”, which says that we mean “possible to unlock”.

Pretty wildly different meanings! And seemingly all because the “un” prefix is permitted to mean either negation (not lock) or reverse/opposite action (unlock). Despicable! And Zamenhof knew it; thankfully he blessed us with both “ne” and “mal”, so that we didn’t have to tolerate such flagrant ambiguity in Esperanto:

  • ŝlosi = to lock
  • malŝlosi = to unlock
  • ŝlosebla = lockable
  • neŝlosebla = impossible to lock
  • malŝlosebla = capable of being unlocked

Neat !

Incredibly Concerning Cafe

My fianĉino and I were minding our own business, finding safe places for pancakes covered in syrup. When, to my shock and great despair, I discovered something truly sinister about the cafe hosting us.

Just a reminder to remain vigilant:



How must we must?


Got something weird for you today, which came up on the forums a little while back. Have you ever tried telling someone that they don’t have to do something, or that they have to not do something?

Well if you do in Esperanto, you could be in for some head scratching and confused grunting, or be the cause of said scratching/grunting in another.

Let’s start with an easier example: telling someone they cannot do something and telling someone they can not do something if they like.

  1. You cannot feed her = Vi ne povas manĝigi ŝin
  2. You can not feed her (if you like) = Vi povas ne manĝigi ŝin (se vi volas)

See how 1 is just a simple negation of the verb. Without the “ne” (vi povas manĝigi…), this would mean, “you can feed her / you are able to feed her”; you have the ability to feed her. With the “ne” in front of the verb, like negating any verb,  this is reversed: you don’t have the ability to feed her; you cannot feed her, you are not able to feed her. In other words, the ability (to feed) is missing.

But in 2, the verb is not negated at all! Since in order to negate a verb, you must place the “ne” before it. So here, you most definitely do have an ability, you are able to do something. And what is that something? To not feed her.

This shows how the “ne” derives different meaning very logically from its placement. I’m happy with this!

But the reason for this post is that the behaviour of the verb “devi” (to have to / to must) leaves something to be desired. It has acquired a meaning in negation which is quite unruly. I can understand why, but I don’t like it, and have a suggestion for how to get people out of the habit, without breaking any rules, so that eventually tradition may change.

Well, let’s get started:

a. You don’t have to feed her
b. You have to not feed her / You must not feed her

How would we anticipate that the above are translated into Esperanto?

In the previous discussion “povi” was talking about “ability”. 1 was the lack of an ability to feed her, and 2 was an ability to not feed her.

We’ve got exactly the same problem here, except that instead of “ability” we have “duty”. In example a, we have the lack of a duty; you don’t have the duty to feed her. And in example b, you do have a duty, and the duty is to not feed her. So, logically, a negates the verb of interest (says that there is no duty, no “devi”) and b negates the feeding that follows (not the duty). Thus we’d expect:

a. Vi ne devas manĝigi ŝin = You don’t have to feed her
b. Vi devas ne manĝigi ŝin = You have to not feed her

But chances are, most readers would read both of those examples as “you must not feed her”!

What the jam!?

Now, I dunno about other languages, but I can certainly see at least one reason why English speakers might naturally keep falling into this behaviour. And that’s the fact that “devas” can translate as “must”. If “devas” could only mean “have to”, then a would clearly be “you don’t have to…” and b would be “you have to not…” because of the “ne” placement, and thus the distinction is made easily.


When “must” craftily creeps in, as it often does, we’ve got a problem, since we don’t say “you don’t must feed her”. We always switch to “don’t have to”. But if the reader is translating “devas” as “must”, then both a and b legitimately seem to say “you must not feed her”, since a is negating “must”, and b is following the more usual English word order of “must” usage.

Interestingly, as the PMEG reveals, Zamenhof himself confused these usages often, using both with the “you must not feed her” meaning (the “devas ne” meaning), so the issue is certainly widespread. The PMEG suggests this might be due to this being the most common meaning required, and that “ne” before verb is the most common style of negating.

When Zamenhof wanted the “you don’t have to feed her” meaning (the logical “ne devas” meaning), he used a completely different verb: “bezoni” = “to need”:

  • Vi ne bezonas manĝigi ŝin = You don’t need to feed her (You don’t have to feed her).

Buuuut bitter-sweetly, Esperantists are apparently beginning to see the logic and use the “ne” placement logically. But this means we’re in a situation where we have to decide whether the writer/speaker is aware of this problem or not, because if he/she is, then we’d interpret “ne devas” one way, and if not, the other!

Of course, if you have the luxury of speaking instead of writing, you could try to use intonation to get across which meaning you’re after. But would everyone interpret you the same way?

What to do? Especially if you want to encourage the newer logical usage without making unwelcome sweeping changes that aren’t understandable to traditional speakers?

My idea is the following:

I will never use “ne devi” in that order until the new logical usage is standard. Simply because, in Zamenhofian usage, it means one thing, and in the growing more logical usage, it means another.

Instead I will use “devi ne” since in both usages it means “must not / have to not”. And I will use “ne bezoni” to mean “don’t need to / don’t have to”. Since again, in both usages, this is unambiguous.

So with this tactic, not only am I following Zamehofian tradition, but my works will also be understandable to those with knowledge of this nuance. If we all did this for long enough, perhaps “ne devi” would fall out of use in the old way, and eventually make a return in its logical usage? One can hope 🙂

The inspiration for the discussion in this post (especially the usage of the words “missing” and “lacking” to explain the logic) is the PMEG post on this matter. See

Meloy: ilùi estoit nosay maystroy


Remember how last time I got utterly nerdy on yo asses? Well it’s only gonn’ get worse.

I think I’ve already mentioned that I’m ever so slowly writing a little Esperanto novella, a fantasy parody. In this book, there are ridiculous sorcerers, and exceedingly ridiculous spells, and I wanted magic to be associated with archaic language and full of mystery, as often one does.

Non-artificial languages are steeped in history, it’s easy to pick an ancestor, like Latin, and make such use of it for this goal. But what about Esperanto?

Well, we do have over 120 years of history, but we have the Fundamento, and we make a considerable effort to make sure the core of Esperanto stays the same, so everyone can always understand each other. Have you ever read Esperanto text by the creator of Esperanto himself? Not only was he incredibly eloquent with the language, but he’s also perfectly understandable from all that time ago. If you’re interested in how he responded to people’s questions about the language’s grammar, like I was, read the “Lingvaj Respondoj“. Esperanto has indeed changed over time (take a peek here for more info), but nothing like the difference between Spanish and Latin.

So what can be done? Well, of course someone way smarter than me has already thought such a thing would be bloody cool. Have you ever heard of Arcaicam Esperatom? Archaic Esperanto (AEo)? It’s like an Esperanto code, designed to make Esperanto like the difference between Middle English and Modern English or somethin’.

The best easy-access description of it I’ve found is the Esperanto-language wiki-page on the topic. It purposely adds complexity to the language, like more noun cases and verb conjugations, and gives it a slightly Latinesque feel. The title of this post is the Archaic Esperanto for the following:

Badgers: they will be our masters

Meloj: ili estos niaj majstroj

Sooo, all my sorcerers’ spells will be some lump of archaic obfuscation 😀 I’m thinking I’ll try to make spells be AEo tongue-twisters, or poems. Or perhaps in the realm of the more silly: food recipes, or instructions for electrical appliances, always spoken with great seriousness, because no sorcerer now knows the true meaning of the words!

See if you can translate the sentence below to archaic Esperanto!

The courageous fish, whom the badger had quietly killed, had been travelling from Paris to Shanghai.

La kuraĝa fiŝo, kiun la melo mallaŭte mortigis, antaŭe vojaĝadis de Parizo al Ŝanĥajo.

Boisterous Bajoran Buffoonery: badger disguised in costume crashes sci-fi convention


I’m a trifle nerdy, and that’s setting off my understatement-o-meter. But whether or not you are too, you’ve probably heard this quote before:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Your brain may even have read it in a commanding captain’s voice. Then a massive wind up, and POW; we’re in warp. Daa, dadada, dadada BOM BOM, dadadada da daa daa daaaa dadada daaa, –

Ahem. *lays down trumpet*

Anyway, I’ve always remarked, as I’m sure many before me have, that the ending line is so punchy.

To boldly go….

Some of you may remember certain school teachers of English language endlessly chastising you for splitting infinitives: this process of instead of keeping the “to” with its “go”, you split it with a word describing the action.

To ceaselessly battle.

To tirelessly study.

Many seem to consider it bad style. And often it can look clumsy. But I think there’s a place for it. It certainly feels at home in that Star Trek quote. And it’s that quote that fuelled me to ignore my English teacher! What if it were “to go boldly”?! Doesn’t that sound lame? Generally, the real way of getting around a split infinitive involves rephrasing completely. But dat ain’t needed nor wanted here, son.

ANYWAY. Why did I bring this up? You’ve probably realised that in many languages, you simply cannot split the infinitive, because it is only one word!

Take Esperanto: infinitives are the i-forms of verbs:

  • danci = to dance
  • ami = to love
  • iri = to go
  • tedanci = to do the tea dance (makes tea rain from the sky!).

I certainly can’t put “boldly” in the middle of “iri”.

So this got me thinking. How do we translate this? And is it as punchy? And is there anything we can do if it ain’t so punchy?

So the most naive translation I can come up with for that bit is this:

  • iri aŭdace kien neniu iris antaŭe (literally: to go boldly where no one has gone before)

Now, you gotta admit, that iri aŭdace — iris antaŭe combo really does give it a nice rhythm. BUT, you may disagree, but it really does read like “to go boldly” to me; it makes sense, but the punchiness is gone. It’s like a normal utterance. The power of the boldness word is lost.

What are our options? Well, in Esperanto, given the slightly freer word-order, a common technique for applying emphasis is to bring the word requiring emphasis to the beginning of the phrase, if this is permitted:

  • aŭdace iri kien neniu iris antaŭe (literally: boldly (to) go where no one has gone before)

Despite the unfortunate consequence that pronouncing “-ce” then “iri”  is a little less pretty, this really does bring back some umph, don’t you think? You get right to main point in the first word – BOOM, not even having to say a pesky “to”! (The thing that stops this starting to translate like “boldly going where…”, is how the paragraph begins: “it’s continuing mission: to X, to Y, to Z.” i.e. not “Xing, Ying, Zing”.)

There is another tool on Esperanto’s belt of course VORTFARADO!!! (or word-building…).

  • aŭdaciri kien neniu antaŭe iris (literally: boldy-go where no one before has gone)

Notice I change the order of “antaŭe” and “iris” to maintain the rhythm (aŭdaciri — antaŭe iris), purely poetic and unnecessary 😛

Now, what’s going on ‘ere then. “Aŭdaciri”? can I just go and do that? This is actually more than just just boldly going (as you may know if you’re familiar with this section of the PMEG). This is like a special kind of going, a kind of going that is by its very nature, daring and bold. Exploring the dangerous bits, inviting new trouble, poking your nose into the fresh-universe-snow. The going is defined by the daring.

Why? I’ll explain with the PMEG example. You can’t just go around sticking on adjectives and adverbs (a-words and e-words) to things and expect them to mean the same plain old thing:

  • dika = thick
  • fingro = finger
  • dikfingro = thumb
  • dika fingro = thick finger

Get my drift? If you join those words together, you are saying that its very nature is highly influenced by the attached property; we’re not talking about just a slightly thicker finger here; this finger is something else, it’s set apart, and one of its defining apartnesses is its thickness compared to a normal finger.

We’re not just being bold while we go through the universe; we’re bloody well pioneering for our species, our whole movement through the universe is about audacity and facing the new, the strange, the tough, and the scary head-on. THAT is how we are going through the universe.

How’s that for punchy?

(Note: an acceptable translation for “boldly” might have been “kuraĝe”, with more connotations of courageousness. But that is like boldness against fear. When what I think we really want here, is boldness in the face of trials of our morality, understanding, strength, etc. I.e. not necessarily things that make us afraid, but things that make us confront our own darkness and thought, and struggle to find the right path. A pretty lofty goal, hence audacity, intrepidity).

Before the hedgehogs attacked, we were already overwhelmed with badgers

Or: on the use of “ol” after “antaŭ“. 


Hello Duolingo-folk, 5+ years after I wrote this! Let me know if you need further clarification in the comments below!

Why you gotta go and use “ol” after “antaŭ” sometimes?

“Antaŭ” is the word for “before” and “in front of” in Esperanto! So it’s doing the work of two:

  • La hundo estas antaŭ la kato = the dog is infront of the cat.
  • Antaŭ la alveno de la hundo, la kato estis feliĉa = before the arrival of the dog, the cat was happy.

I’ve made posts touching on “antaŭ” before, such as this one.

But sometimes “ol” has to come after it:

  • Antaŭ ol la erinacoj atakis, nin meloj jam superŝutis = before the hedgehogs attacked, we were already overwhelmed with badgers

Wanna know why? Eh?!

What happens when I want to say “the squirrel sang before the cat (sang)”?

  • La sciuro kantis antaŭ la kato = The squirrel sang in front of the cat.

What tha?! When we just used “antaŭ” by itself it means “in front of” here! It only tends to mean “before” when it’s followed by an expression of time, or an event (the squirrel sang before morning).

This is because we’re trying to use it like a different class of word. See, “antaŭ” is a preposition; it defines a relationship with a noun: before her arrival, in front of the cat.

We’re trying to use it like a conjunction; a word that connects two whole phrases together (like “the squirrel sang” and “the cat sang”). That just ain’t gonna fly. If we allowed that, then that singing example would be an ambiguous sentence wouldn’t it? How would we know whether the squirrel was singing in front of the cat, or whether it sang some time before the cat sang?

“ol” is the word we use to help us know which usage we’re going for! Together “antaŭ” and “ol” make our conjunction, and roughly mean “antaŭ kiam” = “before when”  or “before at what time” (which is also usable, but way less traditional and usual).

The squirrel sang, before at what time the cat sang.

It’s the same deal with the preposition “post” (=after/behind). Except “post kiam” is most used!

Troubled badgers are best left to their own thoughts

Ĝenatajn melojn oni lasu kun iliaj propraj pensoj


I gone done made some new words didn’t I?

I managed to find inspiration to add more to my fantasy parody in the making. And that’s mostly owed to a set of very strange and vivid dreams.

Anyways, while I was on a roll, I created a couple words I like:

  • “Foriru!” ŝi bojis ĝeniĝbrove. = “Go away!” she barked with a troubled frown.
    • ĝeni = to trouble
    • ĝeniĝi = to be troubled (see posts about the affix “iĝ”, which is like “to become ” or “to be ed”)
    • brovo = (eye)brow
    • So literally “troubled-brow-ly”
  • Li komencis kuri, stumblis, malstumblis, sed tiam falis. = He started to run, stumbled, found his feet, but then fell.
    • “mal” is a prefix which reverses the meaning of the word that it goes in front of (see previous posts)
    • So “malstumbli” literally means “to un-stumble”. I just love the idea of “un-stumbling”!

Badgers proven to be more evil than squirrels.

I met some lovely Esperantists today! It was quite a shock being greeting in Esperanto for the first time! My brain was slightly confused, despite how much I’d prepared by listening to Esperanto radio. And I definitely need to practice speaking more, not for pronunciation, but for actually coming up with sentences on the spot!

I came up with 2 words I liked this week!

1. Plendema = fussy

  • plendi = to complain
  • -em = a suffix which means “tendency to <root>”. See previous posts.

2. Korloko = soft spot (as in “I have a soft spot for a good curry”).

  • koro = heart
  • loko = location
  • So it’s like saying “There’s a place in my heart for….”

And also a phrase that I kinda like:

  • Ni rekafu baldaŭ! = We should go for a coffee again soon!

Neat huh? 😀

Got a question for you, ain’t I?

Aren’t affixes lovely? They are like the sprinkles of word building; shove some nice spongy root words together and sprinkle on the affixes. Some roots are so neat and generally useful they are all but official affixes.

You may be aware that over the many years of Esperanto’s life, many have tried to introduce new prefixes and suffixes for one reason or another. You can read about the ones that remain unofficial here (for prefixes) and here (for suffixes).

Some of those seem pretty useful, and others redundant, and some are useful for certain scientific folk. If all of those were official, can you imagine the learning load?! Getting the hang of the proper use of affixes in word building is a little trickier than just lumping roots together, so we definitely don’t want a whole barrel of them, but:

If you could have just one more affix widely used and official in Esperanto, what would you have? You could pick from the unofficial ones, or make up your own! You know you want to.

I quite enjoy one of the meanings of the unofficial suffixes, “e”. Check out meaning 2.

Say you’ve got an object, e.g. a brick (briko). And you want to say the equivalent of “brick-coloured”. You’d probably go for: “brikkolora”. Meaning 2 is exactly this. Instead of relying on suffixing the full “kolora”, you would just go “brikeo”. Short an sweet.

Only thing that bothers me, is that I’m not satisfied with my pronunciation of “e” followed by a vowel. It just feels unwieldy having to pronounce “e” as in “bet” followed by another vowel. I kinda wish “eĵ” was a suffix. Something about “brikeĵa” pleases me 😀

Though I wonder if there could be a more generally useful suffix than one that just means colour! 😛

Building words from phrases

I’m a little stunned that I’ve not come across this PMEG page before… I think not anyway… Though feel free to correct me if you’ve seen me mention it before.

It’s all about making words out of phrases (rather than just shoving roots and affixes together). It’s a goldmine of inspiration for word building, and gets you thinking about how to really play with your words.

I’ll probably write a couple posts over time on it, and today will be concentrating on the section entitled “Vortigo per A-finaĵo aŭ E-finaĵo”, which, as you may know, means something like “making a word with an A-ending or an E-ending”.

Now, you may recall that A-words (adjectives) are used to describe O-words (nouns). So if you’ve got your O-words (which shows a thing or concept), you can describe the kind of thing using an A-word:

  • melo = a badger
  • blua melo = a blue badger

E-words, describe everything else, and you’ll mostly see them describing actions.

  • ŝi kuris = she ran
  • ŝi rapide kuris = she ran quickly

So, what this section of the page talks about, is taking a phrase of some sort, and smooshing it into a single word, and then using it to describe something where that original phrase would apply.

A simple example is the first one.

  • sur tablo = on a table
  • surtabla lampo = a table-top lamp, a lamp which is on the table

You can even make an adverb version, if you’d rather describe an action:

  • Ili sidis surtable = They sat on the table (literally like: they sat on-table-ly)

Instead of:

  • Ili sidis sur la tablo

Just look at the flexibility of those examples on that page though!

This one’s really cool:

  • kun blanka ĉapelo = with a white hat

You could be boring and start a sentence as below, which is going to be slow starting and lengthy despite the simple property you’re trying to express:

  • La homo kun blanka ĉapelo… = The person with a white hat

Or you could set yourself up for a more interesting/complex yet succinct sentence with:

  • La blankĉapela homo… = The person with a white hat / the white-hatted person

Ain’t that grand?

Here’s one that I just thought of:

  • en la dorsa poŝo = in the back pocket
  • La endorspoŝa telefono… = The back-pocketted phone… / the phone in the back pocket…

Written out long you’d have to go for:

  • La telefono, kiu estas en la dorsa poŝo… = the phone which is in the back pocket


House found to be haunted by ghostly badgers.

Today, you get a couple of words I’ve come up with!

Firstly, we have:

malinformadi = to keep uninformed

  • mal : prefix which reverses the meaning of a word
  • informi : to inform
  • -ad : a suffix which implies repeated or continual action (read more about ad)

Example sentence:

  • Kiel antaŭzorgo, la sciuroj malinformadas la melojn = As a precaution, the squirrels keep the badgers uninformed.

It’s very much an active thing to be doing. When you are “malinformi” you are doing the very opposite of informing. Not simply just “not informing”, you are actively putting someone in the dark. The “ad” bit in the full word, stresses the ongoing, repeated process.

Next up, we’ve got:

feliĉigaĵo = something that makes you happy

  • feliĉa : happy
  • -ig : suffix which means “to make/cause <root>” (read more about ig)
  • -aĵ : suffix which shows we’re talking about a concrete thing, which is somehow characterised by the word that comes in front of it. (read more about aĵ)

Example sentence:

  • Ĉiu serĉu la feliĉaĵojn = Each person should look for the things that make them happy

At risk of blowing my own trumpet, I thought those words lend themselves to quite neat sentences 🙂

Also, please do excuse the title… I found myself giving this post a very boring title and decided to spice it up with a little strange. In future, I might use slightly more odd titles, but also try to translate them into Esperanto, you know, for kicks. 😀

Title: Domo troviĝis hantata de fantomaj meloj

Just got real

Well ‘ello there!

I’m receiving some top quality spam comments these days, here’s today’s top spam quote:

Your bio web page should contain the photographs of the topless product and specific specific information and facts

Topless Esperanto, eh? Not sure what that would entail.

Anyway, in about a month’s time, it looks like I’m meeting some Esperantists! Face-to-face Esperanting for the first time in the lovely (currently snowy…) Brighton. I hope they’re ready for some stuttering and a few “mi bedaŭras, ĉu vi povus ripeti tion?”‘s.

In an effort to not look like too much of a silly, I’m looking more closely at, so I can improve my listening skills (they are in desperate need). I’ve noticed that they now upload a transcript to accompany each broadcast, so it’s possible to check your understanding!

Anyway, here’s a few words I found and thought were pretty neatly constructed:

  • trapiki = to pierce, puncture
    • tra = through
    • piki = to stab, sting, prick
    • literally means “to stab through”, just makes sense!
  • intertempe = all the while, meanwhile
    • inter = between, among (see previous post)
    • tempo = time
    • The “e” is the adverb ending, it’s like the “ly” ending in English, only more regular.
    • Literally, the word is like “between time -ly”. So if you’re describing an action with it, then the action happens in a way that’s between times (meanwhile!)
  • interplektita = intertwined
    • inter = among, between
    • plekti = to wreath, twine, plait
    • -ita is the completed passive participle ending. This means that the action (of intertwining) is complete, and that the thing we’re talking about, received the action (rather than performed it).

Esperanto’s offspring

I love some of the spam I get as comments on this website:

Good response in return of this issue with firm arguments
and telling the whole thing regarding that.

Today, I’m finally back at my work desk properly, slaving away already.

I’ve noticed that a few folks are chatting about Ido at, in a thread started by someone who was curious about why a person might choose to learn Esperanto instead; what makes Ido so bad? If you don’t know what Ido is, it’s another constructed language, a spin-off from Esperanto in which changes were made that were thought to fix Esperanto’s “flaws”. It was never widely adopted. Amusingly, “Ido” is Esperanto for “offspring”, it’s an Esperantido.

Among many smaller reasons, one key thing for me that makes Ido lesser in my eyes (from what little I’ve learnt of it), is that its word formation system sounds like it lacks the implicit fluid logic of Esperanto word building. Too much has to be made explicit, there’s no need for all that gumpf. Check out this interesting article about word formation in Esperanto, and read section 7 for a particular mention of how Ido’s word formation is different.

All poetical

I’ve been at the word building again… I recently agreed to start a symphonic metal band, and have a new found addiction to writing lyrics. So it was only a matter of time before the idea of writing Esperanto lyrics crept into my brain! Especially since the singer has already said she’d be up for singing it!

I’m currently working on a few themes, and some possible imagery and poetic language I could use. And during the process I’ve come up with all sorts of constructed words, so I thought I’d share a few!

I’ll put each in a phrase for ease of understanding.

  • Ekstermensigu ĉion alian! = Put everything else out of your mind!
    • Ekster = outside
    • Menso = mind
    • -ig is a suffix meaning “to make/cause <root>” (see previous posts)
  • Ŝiaj kruelaj agoj senamigis sin = Her cruel actions, rendered her without love.
    • Sen = without
    • Amo = love
    • -ig (as above)
  • Ne donu al ŝi vian amon, ŝi estas korvundema = Don’t give her your love, she is likely to break your heart.
    • koro = heart
    • vundi = wound/hurt
    • -em is a suffix means “has a tendency to <root>” (see previous post)

So it’s like “hurtful” but for the heart!

Badger vs. Squirrel

Ello again!

Mostly due to the wormy accusative “n”, Esperanto has quite flexible word order. The following phrases mean pretty much the same thing, “a badger frightened a squirrel”:

  • melo timigis sciuron
  • melo sciuron timigis
  • sciuron timigis melo
  • sciuron melo timigis
  • timigis melo sciuron
  • timigis sciuron melo

Are there any differences at all between these alternatives? Subtle ones, yes. The difference is one of emphasis.

I’ve had a read of the topic in the PMEG, and have distilled a few rough rules that’ll get you making use of this subtle emphasis change.

Firstly some terms:

  • The “subject” is the thing doing the action. In our case, the subject is “melo” : the badger.
  • The “direct object” is the thing receiving the action. In our case, the direct object is “sciuro”: the squirrel.
  • Our action here is “timigi” = “to frighten”.

The usual word ordering is “subject – action – direct object”. So anything that departs from this ordering generates emphasis in some way.

Here’s the rules:

  1. If the subject is moved to the end (everything else remaining same), then the emphasis is on the subject:
    • timigis sciuron melo : a badger did the frightening, not anything else.
  2. If the action is moved to the front (everything else remaining same), then the emphasis is on the action:
    • timigis melo sciuron : a badger frightened a squirrel, it didn’t e.g. kiss it.
  3. If the direct object is moved to the front (everything else remaining same), then the emphasis is on the direct object:
    • sciuron melo timigis : a squirrel was frightened, not e.g. a vole.

Next, let’s look at a phrase that has a prepositional relationship (e.g. inside/on/under/with/against):

  • La melo loĝis en truo = The badger lived in a hole

Two rules here:

  1. Move the prepositional relationship to the front, and the prepositional relation is emphasised:
    • en truo la melo loĝis : the badger lived in a hole, not e.g. in a box.
  2. Move also the subject to the end and then the subject is emphasised:
    • en truo loĝis la melo : the badger lived in a hole, not e.g. the squirrel.

There are exceptions, and particular words that act in different ways. These are generally quite obvious when you come across them. One of the key exceptions is “ki-” correlatives (kiu, kie, kia, kiel, kiam, kiom, kio). These are usually at the front of their part of the phrase. You can read more in this PMEG section.


No need to resort to that!

If you’ve been lurking around here for a while, you may have read my series on Esperanto’s participles. If you haven’t and you have no idea what I’m talking about, why not take a stroll over there now?

They are incredibly useful things. You can even use them to create complicated verb tenses. However, one of those old posts shows why resorting to participles for complicated tenses can be a little on the inelegant side.

In today’s post I’ll be sharing a few PMEG tips on how to avoid resorting to complex tenses.

Take the following sentence:

  • When you phoned me, I was eating.

This implies that when I received your call, I was in the middle of eating. How might we say this in Esperanto?

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi manĝis.

Using the simple past tense, we’re in a little trouble. Because this could mean any of:

  • When you phoned me, I was eating
  • When you phoned me, I ate (i.e. I started eating when you called)
  • When you phoned me I had eaten (already)

Does this mean we have to resort to complex tenses?

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝanta (I was in the middle of eating)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝonta (I was about to eat)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝinta (I had already eaten)

All those different meanings by changing a single vowel! In speech this is a little mean on your listener, no?

How about these instead:

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, ĝuste tiam mi manĝis (I was eating exactly when you called)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi jam antaŭe manĝis (I had already previously eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi ankoraŭ ne manĝis (I hadn’t yet eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi ĵus manĝis (I had only just eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi intencis/planis manĝi [baldaŭ] (I intended/planned to eat [soon])

Simple ways to stick to the simple tenses!

Read more here, and here.