I don’t want “to be”

Something tickled me today. I always wondered, how necessary are all the distinctions between various types of word? Or sub-categories of word? Some just don’t seem necessary. What if instead of having to introduce your state of being with the verb “to be” (is/are/am), you could just say with a word that you are in that state?

Consider the phrase:

“The camel is blue”

This ‘is’ (are/am) crops up everywhere. One of its major functions simply being to relate nouns (like “camel”) to adjectives describing their state of being (like “blue”). Would it not be nice to just have a verb form of “blue” that means “to be blue”?

YES IT WOULD. Don’t worry, Esperanto will save us.

The Esperanto word for blue is “blua”. And we could just translate this sentence like this:

“La kamelo estas blua”

Which is literally “The camel is blue”.

However, we don’t have to settle for that! If like me, you think the verb “to be” is unjustly popular, like a celebrity that has risen to fame through sexual deviance alone, then you can change “blua” into a verb meaning “to be blue” by simply changing the “a” to an “i”: “blui”.

Now, we whack this into the present tense “bluas” (“is blue”). And voila:

“La kamelo bluas”



4 thoughts on “I don’t want “to be”

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  2. This is not actually my understanding of constructions such as “bluas”. Try another sentence: “La cxielo bluas” = “The sky is ‘blu-ing'”, or more English-like, “The sky is turning blue”.

    A sentence like “La kamelo bluas” would seem to me to suggest that the camel had had another color, and now (for whatever reason) is becoming more blue-hued.

    Try another one along similar lines: You, I, and a friend are waiting for a table at a restaurant. We’re asked how many are in our party. A perfectly legitimate response would be, “Ni trias” This one seems more like your camel example, so I understand it’s not consistent. Nevertheless, these two specific constructions are referred to in Doko’s “Being Colloquial in Esperanto”.

    If you’re sick of overuse of “estas”, you can do what the younger Esperantists seem to do nowadays: They sort of elide the “e”. “La cxielo ‘stas blua”, “Mia nomo ‘stas ‘Johano’, etc”.

    Great blog, btw..glad I found it from the link on lernu!

    • Thanks! 🙂 Yeah I try not to just plug my blog on Lernu too much, but sometimes one of my posts really does attempt to answer exactly someone’s question! 😀

      The relevant PMEG section here is this one: http://bertilow.com/pmeg/vortfarado/principoj/finajhoj/verbaj.html#i-1og

      I’ve not seen those examples in “Being Colloquial in Esperanto” so if you could link me to the online version that would be great!

      The problem here, and one reason why it looks like you’ve found an inconsistency (but I don’t think there is one), is that verbifying a non-action word follows logic/context, not necessarily a simple rule (like a lot of the word building).

      However, I’m pretty sure people would not generally interpret “bluas” as “becoming/turning blue” or “becoming more blue”, because we have a very neat suffix for this “iĝ”.

      bluiĝi = to become blue
      plibluiĝi = to become more blue

      Though “blue-ing” is quite a neat way to express what it does in fact mean. Because what it conveys is that the subject in question has a blue state, but that the state is more actiony. What I mean by “more actiony” is shown in example below:

      la lago estas blua = the lake is blue

      The alternative “la lago bluas” does mean that “the lake is blue”, but in a more verb-like sense, e.g. “the lake radiates blue”. I’ve written about this nuance here:


      The type of roots we’re talking about mostly here are quality roots (the roots that most naturally become a-words). And that PMEG section has this to say about verbifying them:

      “Se radiko per si mem montras econ aŭ staton, la verba formo normale signifas “esti tia” aŭ “agi kun tia eco”

      Which says:

      “If a root itself shows a quality or state, the verb form normally means “to be that kind of state/quality” or “to action with that kind of quality”.”

      With examples:

      rapid(a) = quick/fast
      rapidi = to action quickly (to be quick)
      aktiv(a) = active
      aktivi = to action actively, to be active
      kuraĝ(a) = courageous
      kuraĝi = to action courageously, to be courageous

      It’s worth noting that sometimes, a more actiony meaning isn’t very clear or so rarely implied that the “estas” form can be considered identical to the short form. E.g.

      esti prava = to be right
      pravi = to be right

      Sorry about the length! Does that convince you? I could do more explaining if necessary! 😀

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