Root problem

Recently I made a post about the word “surhavi” meaning “to wear” or literally, “to have on” (made up of the words “sur” = “on” and “havi” = “to have”). I mentioned that there is a good reason why “sur” appears before “havi”, even though in a literal translation “to have on” (in the other order) makes sense.

It’s for the sake of logic when building words in Esperanto. See, fundamentally, the word “surhavi” is about having in some way, it is the having of something on you. So “have” is the main concept, and “on” is modifying it, by saying that the having is done in a certain kind of way: “on”.

This is how it works when word building. The main concept is the last word, and the root which modifies this word goes before it. Longer words can be built by repeating the process.

Therefore, “mortodoro” is some kind of death smell, whereas “odormorto” is not… maybe it’s a death characterised mostly by smell? A smelly death?

It was already red!

So something about Esperanto that I don’t think I’ve mentioned, but is necessary to know for this post, is the fact that an adjective can appear either before or after the word it is describing. Esperanto is easy going like that. Thus:

  • La blua kato, is the same as:
  • La kato blua
Only possible difference could be that there is ever so slightly more emphasis on the one that comes first.
Okay, now we’ve established that, what’s the difference between these two:
  • Mi farbis la domon ruĝan (= Mi farbis la ruĝan domon)
  • Mi farbis la domon ruĝa

“farbis” = “painted” , “domo” = “house”, and “ruĝa” = “red”.The only difference is that in the second sentence, the word for “red” does not receive the accusative “n” (therefore isn’t attributed to “domon”, which does have the ending,  in the usual way).What effect does this elicit?

In the first sentence, the “red” adjective is describing the object “house”. It is describing what that object is, before it receives the action of the sentence (in this case a painting action). Whereas in the second sentence  the adjective is not attributed to the description of what the object was before the action. It says what the action did to the object.


Bearing this in mind, the first sentence states that I painted a house that was already red (but I didn’t state what colour I painted it), whereas the second sentence states that I painted a house the colour red (but I didn’t state what colour it was originally).Therefore, conceivably one could say:

  • Mi farbis la domon bluan ruĝa, or
  • Mi farbis la bluan domon ruĝa

In order to mean “I painted the (already) blue house (now) red.”

Time and Space

Some prepositions are just plain cool. Prepositions show the role of a noun phrase. So say we have a noun phrase like “the red man” (it’s a noun “man” modified by “the red”). A preposition shows the role in the sentence that noun phrase has, it could be “on the red man”, “by the red man”, “before the red man” etc.

Some prepositions have a general concept, and this concept can be applied to both time and space. Some of which are:

  • antaŭ = before, in front of
  • ĉirkaŭ = about, around
  • de = of, from, by
  • ĝis = until, up to
  • inter = between, among
  • post = behind, after
You should be able to see their different usages within spacial relations and temporal relations, by observing the the different alternative English translations I’ve given.

For example, “antaŭ”. You can be physically before (in front of) a person or thing. But something can also occur before something else in time (before you ate badgers in the afternoon). Antaŭ would be used in both cases.

To on-have!

I almost made a new category today… Yes, yes I know I already have failed to distribute my posts fairly among them… It was going to be for constructed Esperanto words I find in use that seem particularly cunning in their creation. But I think I’m going to use the “alluring words” category for them, and simply state the reason for their noteworthiness!

Today is “surhavi”. It mostly seems to be translated as “to wear” (clothing). It is made up of:

  • sur = on
  • havi = to have

So a vaguely sensible literal translation might be “to have on” (so why is the word made so that “on/sur” comes before “have/havi”? I know the answer, and will post about it in the near future 😀 EDIT: here) . I quite liked its simple yet obvious construction!

There is another word “porti” which means “to carry/wear”. I wonder whether “surhavi” would be used to emphasise that you mean you are actually wearing something, if that thing is usually carried rather than worn?

Joy of Numbers

Mmm numbers. So there are two angles to today’s post, but both concern numbers. Firstly take a gander at the numbers 1 to 10:

  1. unu
  2. du
  3. tri
  4. kvar
  5. kvin
  6. ses
  7. sep
  8. ok
  9. naŭ
  10. dek
The first angle falls under the “alluring words” category. I think they are so simple and cute. They seem like the bare minimum, and yet still smack of what makes me think “three” or “nine” or “eight” from the various languages I’ve looked at. This is exactly what numbers should be: not cumbersome.

Next, for what’s interesting. I think the Esperanto number system is very nicely laid out (in terms of making the numbers greater than ten), but that’s a story for another day. Today I’m marvelling at the ease with which one can construct the different types of number. I’ll explain.

The above numbers are “cardinal” numbers, the numbers we use to count things, to state how many things  there are:

  • Estas du kameloj = There are two camels
  • Estas kvar viroj = There are four men
In order to make the “ordinal” numbers (the numbers we use to order things in a list e.g. first, second, third, fourth…), we simply add “a” :
  • First = unua
  • Second = dua
  • Third = tria
  • Fourth = kvara
  • Fifth = kvina
You can also change these to other parts of speech like “unue” or “trie” = “firstly” or “thirdly” respectively.

In order to make multiples, we simply use “-obl-“. Then the correct part of speech ending. So, the multiple made from “two” is “double”. If used like an adjective in “double shot” we use “duobla” (“a” the adjective ending). If we use like an verb “The slime doubled in size” we would use “duoblis” (“is” the past tense verb ending).

  • Single = unuobla
  • Double = duobla
  • Triple = triobla
  • Quadruple = kvarobla
Note that you can easily use these endings on ANY number, unlike English where I start to not be able to think of what comes next…

In order to make fractions, we use the “-on-” suffix. Specifically, this makes the reciprocal of a number. So if you add it to 4, you get 1/4 (quarter), if you add it to 8 you get 1/8 (eighth).

  • (A) half = duono
  • (A) third = triono
  • (A) quarter = kvarono
In order to make repetitions, we use the root “foj” = “time,occasion”. Remember from the word “iufoje” = “sometimes”?
  • Once = unufoje
  • Twice = dufoje
  • Thrice = trifoje
And you can keep going: kvarfoje, kvinfoje… I have no idea if we have English equivalents, other than just saying “four times”, “five times”.

In order to make groups, we can play with the suffix “-op-“. Again, depending on the part of speech ending, we can get interesting different effects:

  • du = two
  • duopo = a group of two, duet
  • duopa = is an adjective that describes something that is made up of two members
  • duope = by/in (groups of) twos
Look at all the different English changes you have to learn for just a few (a,op,obl,foj etc.) simple Esperanto ones! And you can’t even reliably permute all different types of number with English! Esperanto saves us again.


I keep seeing this word around. For some reason, perhaps its tiny nature, I’ve just been skipping over it… Poor little word. But I looked it up today, turns out, it’s an interesting little thing!

The word is: ajn.

So simple! Pronounced like the “ine” in English “fine”.

The interesting thing, is that it adds a notion of indefiniteness or generality. It doesn’t seem to be used to attach to other words, but to follow them as its own little word (I imagine if you were to tack it onto the end of words, it could be easily confused with the adjectival plural accusative ending).

It’s mainly used after the correlatives that start with Ki- and i-, but looks like it can be used with those starting with Ĉi- and Neni-.

Here’s some before and after examples:

  • Kio = what
  • Nenie = nowhere
  • Kie = where
  • Kies = whose
  • Ia = some kind
  • Kiom = how much
  • Kiam = when
  • Kia = what kind
And now with ajn:
  • Kio ajn   = whatever
  • Nenie ajn = nowhere whatsoever/at all
  • Kie ajn = wherever
  • Kies ajn = whosesoever
  • Ia ajn = any kind whatsoever
  • Kiom ajn = however much
  • Kiam ajn = whenever
  • Kia ajn = whatever kind
Pretty interesting little word. Just look how many different constructions you’d have to learn to get the same expressiveness in English!

Revisiting an old flame

So, a while back I posted about a word “iafoje”, in the category of “alluring words”, because it is a very, very pretty word. But it’s also sneaky! It has a hidden depth that I did not quite notice at the time, when I translated it as “sometimes”. Which is fine! Don’t worry! There’s just a nuance to it beyond that.

So, in the time since that post I’ve found other words to mean “sometimes”, made by adding different words to the root “foj” meaning “time,occasion”. With also the “e” ending for adverbs (“sometimes” is an adverb because it describes verbs, action words, you do some action “sometimes”).

  • iufoje, which is made with “iu” meaning “some, any, someone”
  • kelkfoje, which is made with “kelk(a)” meaning “some,several”
Compared to:
  • iafoje, which is made with “ia” meaning “some kind (of)”
So can you start to see where the nuances might be? I wasn’t too sure about the differences myself at first, but chatted with a couple folks at to make sure they said the same things I was wondering:
  • iufoje: suggests some indefinite time(s), any times, some times. A good phrase used by one of the Lernu folks was “sporadic events”
  • kelkfoje: simply suggests some bunch of multiple events/times
  • iafoje: suggests definite types of events.
I think it’s so interesting how you can express these different nuances of meaning in such simple ways, by building with these blocks of meaning.So in the original post I was saying how I found the word used alot in the Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko. So why do they use this kind of “sometimes” instead of the others?I’ll tell you what I think. It’s often used in the context of explaining the usage of a word, concept, affix or suchlike. “Sometimes X is used in this context… Here it conveys….” etc.

This “sometimes” is talking about specific occasions when X is used in a specific way. Therefore, the obvious choice is iafoje!

With… With… and… With?

I once went to the park with a friend in order to eat badgers with spoons, but the people there got very angry with us because of it.

… Notice that I used the word “with” three times in the above sentence. But each time I did so, its meaning was distinctly different. This may not be very difficult for a fluent English speaker, but it does seem a bit much. Plus, it’s needless ambiguity! If you’re English, the last “with” will probably seem most likely to mean that the people were angry at my friend and I. But why doesn’t the “with” mean the same as it does in the first instance? In other words, why doesn’t it mean that the people got angry at the same time (or at the same thing) as my friend and I? Because they got angry with us!

Same with the second example, why aren’t we eating badgers that are together with spoons? Instead we are using the spoons to eat the badgers.

So what does Esperanto do about this? Three different words!

  • Kun = “with” in the sense of being together with something.
  • Per = “with” or “by means of”, eat badgers by means of spoons.
  • Kontraŭ = “with” or “against”. Think of it as being angry against someone, rather than together with them.

Lexical sweeties

I fancy some pretty words today. I just have these moods sometimes. I just idly flip through dictionaries or prose, looking for words that jump out at me for some reason. I’ve been slowly getting tired of English (although I recently made a list of favourites, but it took a long search, and I certainly I already knew most of them). Whereas Esperanto has many delights for two reasons: I’m new to it, and you can just make words without a care in the world!!!

So today, I’ll share with you a few things I’ve found.

  • Tuj = immediately, right away, at once
  • Usage: Ni diris tuj  al ili = We told them immediately!
Look at it! So simple and cute. I do have a weakness for those “j”s though! I just love the sound of it though. The way you pronounce “uj” is a little odd for us English’uns. The example often given is this (I certainly can’t think of any other English occurrences of it):
  • “uj” is pronounced similar to the “uj” in “hallelujah”
And with the “t” at the beginning it makes for a nice snappy word, quite reminiscent of immediacy in itself! I especially like it used in compound words:
  • tujmesaĝo = instant (immediate) message
What else do we have….
  • Kvazaŭ = as though, as if, in a way
  • Usage: Li estis kvazaŭ pikita per ponardo = He was as though stabbed by a dagger
I’m not normally a fan of too many harsh sounds or harsh looking letters together, and ‘k’ and ‘z’ in my books are both… both. And yet, the weird “Kv” sound is growing on me, like an odd friend that you first avoid, but somehow ends up a close friend. And the “aŭ” sound (like “ow” in “how”) I’ve always been a fan of. The word nicely rolls of the tongue. It’s such a nice why of introducing something that that only seems to be the case.
Finally for now:
  • Laŭ = along, according to, following, by
  • Usage: Mi restas tie ĉi laŭ la ordono de mia estro = I remain here according to the order of my master.
  • Similar to English, it has many uses, like following along the proper direction of something (river, grain of wood, hair direction).
Another short and snappy word, with a nice little sound to it, yet expressing a good concept!

Greetings human!

Spent a little while learning the aspect of Esperanto I’ve been neglecting: how to ask how someone is, general conversational phrases and such like.

One thing that confused me, was why greetings are presented in the accusative case (they have an ‘n’ on the end).

So at first, one might expect (coming from a language that has only remnants of an accusative case), that in order to say “Good day!” to someone, you might say:

  • Bona tago = (a) good day.
But this is not how things are done! This is how you say it:
  • Bonan tagon! = Good day!
A word with this accusative ‘n’ normally has said ‘n’ because it is on the receiving end of the action of a verb:
  • Kamelo manĝis la kamelon = A camel ate the camel.
The second camel is on the receiving end of being eaten, so Esperanto uses the ‘n’ to show this. Which means I could have written it:
  • La kamelon kamelo manĝis = A camel ate the camel.
And it’d mean the same thing! But in English we rely on word order to tell who’s doing what.
So why are greetings (including phrases like “good night” and “good morning” etc.) put in the accusative??
It’s because a phrase is implied, in which the greeting is in fact on the receiving end (the object of) an action:
  • I wish you a <greeting>
The greeting is the object of the verb “to wish” (without the “n”, you’re just saying “a good day”… a good day what?)

Speaking very Esperantily

Adverbs make me giggle in Esperanto. I find myself enjoying them immensely, then I feel weird about getting so excited about a feature of a language! But so what?

An adverb is a word that describes verbs (action words like “speak”), adjectives (describing word like “blue” or other adverbs. In English you can make a lot of words into adverbs by adding “-ly”:

  • I ran quickly
Notice how “quickly” modifies the “run” action, telling you that it was particularly fast.
The thing about Esperanto, is that you can make any word into an adverb, by just changing the ending to an “e”!
  • Mi ŝatas paroli Esperante = I like to speak in Esperanto.
“Esperante” is an adverb, so it modifies the “paroli” verb meaning “to speak”, telling you that the speaking is done in an Esperanto way! I like to think of it as speaking “Esperantily”!
In English, when we can’t make a legal adverb with “-ly” or use some irregular form (the adverb of “good” is “well”), we have to resort to prepositions like “in” as in the sentence above, or “by” in the sentence below:
  • Ni iras aŭte = We go by car
The word for “car” is “aŭto”, the “o” was simply changed to “e” to get the adverb. So we are travelling “car-ily”!

Skipping what’s unnecessary

The “pleonastic it” is when in English we use the word “it” simply to satisfy grammar, but where it adds no meaning:

  • “It’s raining” – What’s raining? “it” shouldn’t be needed.

So Esperanto does away with it! The verb “to rain” is “pluvi”

  • “Pluvas” = “It’s raining/It rains”
This is often the case with sentences about the weather, where in English we like to say “it’s thundering”, or “it’s hailing”, Esperanto will simply use the verb.
However, there are other such situations, any time the “it” isn’t referring to a concrete thing that you’ve previously referred to seems to be a candidate for verbs without their “it” subject.
Take this example from
  • “Temas ne pri li, sed pri ŝi.” – “It’s not about him, but about her.”
“Temas” (temi = to be about) doesn’t have a subject! But in English we use “it”.
Also, in English we often introduce things with “There are/is…”. In this case the “there” isn’t necessary, and in Esperanto we can just use the verb for is/are:
  • “Estas kameloj” = “There are camels”.
It seems like the word “there” is only necessary in Esperanto if you are talking about a particular place where something is. So perhaps:
  • “Tie estas kameloj” means “There (in that place) are camels”.

Mmm words.

So… I got distracted from the course material. I’ve been reading the “Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko“. My Esperanto is just at the level where I think I can understand it. A wonderfully detailed grammar of Esperanto, in Esperanto.

Reading it, I had a sudden idea for another type of post! I read the word “iafoje” (pronounced roughly: ee-a-FOY-ey). It looks so weird and pretty! Like an unexpectedly pretty blue alien.

Anyway, it means “sometimes”, made up of “ia” = “some kind of” and the adverb form of “fojo” = time/occasion. I like it because, the sounds seem to easily bounce as you sound them out. It’s filled with vowel sounds, but it just fits! And the “foj” makes it sound pretty being the stressed part of the word!

So I’m making a new category, “Alluring Words”, for those words that are handsome in shape or meaning or both!


Today marked a return to course material in Esperanto. For a week or so now I’ve been indulging various linguistic whims concerning Esperanto. Browsing the forums at, getting knee-deep in various issues of the language that are probably far beyond me at the moment, but it was certainly interesting!

But as I said, today I returned to the Esperanto learning material I was working with, from where I left off. In doing so, I came across the prefix “ek-“.

Alone as a word, it means something like “let’s go!” or “let’s start!”.

However, when you put it at the beginning of a word, it gives the feeling of a ephemerality, or suddenly starting:

  • dormi = to sleep; ekdormi = to fall asleep
  • vidi = to see; ekvidi = to catch sight of
  • aŭdi = to hear; ekaŭdi = to get wind of
  • flugi = to fly; ekflugi = to take flight
  • brili = to shine; ekbrili = to flash
  • kanti = to sing; ekkanti = to burst into song
  • rigardi = to look at; ekrigardi = to glance at
  • bati = to hit; ekbati = to lash out
  • ridi = to laugh; ekridi = to burst out laughing
  • rigardo = a look; ekrigardo = glance
Seems to make some awesome meanings that you need entirely new words or phrases for in English, and it seems to naturally imply them without much thinking required. Quite an interesting little word! I’m having fun making a few slightly less innocent words with it…

Useful building blocks

There are a bunch of useful and important words, which take the place of words or phrases and answer the questions: who, what, where, when, how, how much, why, whose and what kind. In Esperanto, these words a constructed from two parts. One part indicates the type of question  (e.g. are we talking about why, or where, or who?), the other part indicates how the question is being addressed.

Here’s some examples:

  • “Ki-” is a first part (indicates how the question is being addressed), it shows that the question is being addressed with a question!
  • “I-” is a first part too, it shows that the question is being addressed with an indefinite answer.
  • “-e” is a second part (indicates the type of question), it indicates a question of place (where?).
  • “-el” is also a second part, it indicates a question of manner (how?).

Having learnt these four, you can make various different words.

“Ki-” shows the actual question, so putting it with the second parts we get:

  • Kie =  where
  • Kiel = how

But “I-” shows an indefinite answer to the question.

So “ie” answers “where” with “somewhere”, and “iel” answers “how” with “somehow/in some way”.

  • Ie = somewhere/in some place
  • Iel = somehow/in some way

Say we learnt just one more second part “-al” which indicates a question of reason (why?). Now we can make another two words!

  • Kial = why
  • Ial = (for) some reason

Take a look at the table forming all the possible words:

Esperanto correlatives