Should-a, Would-a, Could-a…

Hello Duolingo-folk, 9+ years after I wrote this! Let me know if you need further clarification in comments below!

Let me present to you three special words:

  • devus
  • volus
  • povus

A brief explanation of this “us” ending first! “Us” usually puts a word into the conditional mood. (Beware not to pronounce it like English “us”, it is pronounced “oos”)

  • Mi manĝas = I eat (present tense, from “manĝi” = “to eat”)
  • Mi manĝus = I would eat (conditional mood)
  • Mi kuras = I run (from “kuri” = “to run”)
  • Mi kurus = I would run

Notice how in English this corresponds to using “would” with the verb. Also notice that the conditional mood shows something that is conditional, or not true at the moment:

  • Mi kurus, sed mi lacas = I would run, but I’m tired. (The running won’t happen due to tiredness)
  • Mi ridus, se vi kurus = I would laugh if you’d run. (The running only might happen, therefore the laughing only might happen).

Similarly used for imaginary, unreal things:

  • Se mi estus sana, mi kurus = If I would be (were to be) healthy, I would run.

Why are “devus“, “volus” and “povus” special?

Because they each have a special meaning, that isn’t quite what you’d expect from the conditional mood. They certainly can be used in the normal way, but often with the help of other words.

Instead of showing that the concept is conditional, unreal, or imagined, they often show that it is in fact real, but might not (or probably won’t) happen.

Let’s start with “devi“, “voli” and “povi“:

  • devi = to have to, to must
  • voli = to want,wish for
  • povi = to be able to, to can

Some present tense examples:

  • Mi devas aĉeti melon = I must buy a badger.
  • Mi volas manĝi melon = I want/wish to eat a badger.
  • Mi povas manĝi melon = I can eat a badger.

The special meanings:

  1. Mi devus aĉeti melon = I should buy a badger.
  2. Mi volus manĝi melon = I would like to eat a badger.
  3. Mi povus manĝi melon = I could eat a badger.

Notice how in each case, the action/state is still true (must, want, or being able to), but there is some doubt as to whether they’ll be carried out:

  1. I should really buy a badger (must), but I may not.
  2. I’d still like to (want to) eat a badger, but I may not.
  3. I can eat that badger, but I may not.

If the conditional mood was acting as normal it would be more like this:

  1. I would have to buy a badger [e.g. if I had money.] (The must is not true, or only maybe true, given the money condition)
  2. I would like to buy a badger [e.g. if they weren’t so evil.] (The liking/wanting is not true)
  3. I would be able to eat a badger [e.g. if they weren’t so big.] (The “being able to” is not true)

Notice for 1 and 3 the distinction is obvious in English: the special meanings use “should” or “could”, whereas the proper conditional mood sentences go back to using “would”. However, in 2 we use the same word in English, “would”. Even in the special meaning of “volus” we say “would” like. But these are two different meanings:

  • I would like to eat a badger
  • I would like to eat a badger, if I were silly.

The first sentence uses the special meaning of “devus”, and the second uses the proper conditional. In the first sentence, the liking is true, but the liked thing (eating) may not happen. In the second sentence, the liking isn’t even true, it is conditional on me being silly. (Other than using the extra words to disambiguate these two meanings in English, we often use intonation. In the second sentence one would emphasis “would” (and often “if” too) far more than the other  words.)

Similarly in Esperanto, if we want the true conditional meaning of these words, instead of their special meanings, one should expand upon the sentence, by adding such a conditional statement, or introducing the verb with words that imply conditionals, e.g. “kvazaŭ” = “as if, as though”:

  • Kvazaŭ devus … = As though it would have to…

Check out the PMEG page.

For The Almighty Badgers

Hello Duolingo-folk, 9+ years after I wrote this! Let me know if you need further clarification in the comments below!

Time to cement the very important difference between the similarly spelt “pro” and “por”. They could easily be confused, because in some situations they are both translated as “for” in English.

Think of them like this:

  • pro = because of, on account of, for the sake of
  • por = for, in order to, meant for


  • Mi skribis la leteron pro vi = I wrote the letter for you (for your sake, on your account).
  • Mi skribis la leteron por vi = I wrote the letter for you (meant for you).

Pro expresses the cause,motive or reason for an action, feeling or state. In the format: <action/feeling/state> pro <reason/cause>. So:

  • Mi timas la mondon pro la meloj = I fear the world because of the badgers.

Pro can also be used before “tio, ke”. Literally “because of/on account of that thing, that…” Which is almost exactly equal to “ĉar” = “because”:

  • Meloj estas kruelaj pro tio, ke ili manĝas homoj = Badgers are cruel on account of the fact (thing) that (because) they eat people.

“Por” can show what something is meant for:

  • Mi aĉetis melon por vi = I bought a badger for you.

Or very similarly, what an action/feeling is in aid of:

  • Mi faris ĝin por mia sano = I did it for my health.

It works similarly before a verb infinitive (word ending with “i”), and like English, then becomes “in order to”:

  • Mi kuris por eskapi la melojn = I ran in order to escape the badgers.

Similarly to “meant for” is also shows what an action/feeling/thing affects:

  • Meloj estas agrablaj por la okuloj = Badgers are pleasing for the eyes.

“Por” can also show agreement for (in favour of) something, meaning the opposite of “kontraŭ” (against).

  • Mi estas por la propono = I am for (in favour of) the proposal.

In a similar way it can show a subjective viewpoint as in this example from the PMEG page on “por”:

  • Por patrino ne ekzistas infano malbela = For (from the viewpoint of) a mother, there doesn’t exist an ugly child

It can also be used before “ke”. “Por ke” = “in order that / so that”. This requires you to use the imperative (a “u” ending). I’ll leave this for a future post. Here’s an example:

  • Mi oferos min al la meloj, por ke vi povu (imperative) ilin eskapi = I will sacrifice myself to the badgers, so that you can escape them.

“Por” is also used in expressions of time:

  • Por momento = For a moment

And also shows what you are paying for:

  • Mi pagis por du meloj = I paid for two badgers.

It’s meaning kind of overlaps with “pro” when paying for things, or providing things (which is like paying with something other than money). This is especially the case with gratitude.

Because “pro” could be used as in this example from PMEG:

  • Kion vi postulas pro la poto? = What are you demanding (in terms of price) for (on account of the) the jug?

But the most overlap is here:

  • vi dankos min por tio = you will thank me for that
  • vi dankos min pro tio = you will thank me for that

The reason they can be both used to mean about the same thing, is because “pro” is saying “thanks on account of that” i.e. showing motive for the thanks. Whereas “por” is used in the sense of paying thanks for that (and we know that “por” can be used in paying expressions). I kinda prefer “pro” 🙂

(I took inspiration from all over the place for this post. There’s a bit on por and pro in “Being Colloquial in Esperanto“, and in the PMEG (por,pro), and in Kellerman’s Complete Grammar of Esperanto!)

Off to Edinburgh!

I’m afraid that I shall be away for a week! Going to Edinburgh. I shall endeavour to make some posts if I get time between events! However, there is indeed the chance that I will not have the time!

Today, I’ll leave you with an amusing colloquial word I came across reading some Esperanto material:

  • maltrinki = to pee

It is made up of: the prefix “mal” and the root word “trink-” and the verb ending. “Trinki” means “to drink”. “Mal” when attached to a word, renders the opposite meaning. Similar to “un-” in English. So if “bona” = “good” (which it does), then “malbona” = “bad”. So here “maltrinki” means “to un-drink”, therefore, “pee”!

Certainly made me giggle. And of course there are far more clinical terms for the action… but who needs those with gems like these? 🙂

Become out of bed

A simple little post today. I was charmed by a delightful combination of little words:

  • Ellitiĝi = to get out of bed / to get up (El-li-Ti-ji).
  • Mi ellitiĝis = I got out of bed.

Made from:

  • El = out of
  • Lito = bed
  • Iĝi = to become (though this suffix is important and interesting and will receive more attention in future posts!)

So “elliti” = “to be out of bed” (from ellit-: concept of out of bed). By adding “iĝi” one makes it “to become out of bed”, in other words, get up, get out of bed.

I thought it seemed quite neat!

Adjectives and their Antics

Thought I’d talk a little of the frolicking of adjectives today!

This post relies on you knowing what I mean by “quality-like” roots,”action-like” root words and “thing-like” root words. Luckily, you can find out in my previous post.

So today’s post answers the question: what happens when you make a root word into an adjective using the “a” suffix? If you want more examples than I give, go to the the PMEG page on the topic, the page which is the inspiration and main reference of this post.

Starting with the simple case: quality-like roots. These roots already show description or quality, so adding the “a” usually just expresses that quality:

  • blua = blue (from blu- exressing quality of blue)
  • bona = good (from bon- expresses quality of good)
  • bela = beautiful

There are some infrequent exceptions. They normally depend on context, and most could understand them without having had to learn the exceptions beforehand:

  • stulta demando = a stupid question. The question itself cannot be acting stupid (as one may interpret something which is stulta), it is rather that the question was made through stupidity.
  • laŭta ĉambro = a loud room. The room isn’t being loud (the usual interpretation of laŭta), instead, the room is full of loudness (the things inside it are being loud).

What happens when the root is a thing-like root?

It means something related to the root, the thing. Somehow a description that is typical of the thing. This will be different depending on the context.

An example used on the PMEG page is “reĝa” from the thing-like root “reĝ-” (Therefore it’s inherently an ‘o’ word “reĝo” = “king”).

  • reĝa konduto = kingly/regal conduct. Behaviour in the manner of a king, with the qualities of a king.
  • reĝa persono = kingly person, royal person, person characterised by royality/kingliness.
  • reĝa palaco = royal/kingly palace, a king’s palace.

And when the roots are action-like? 

They show a meaning related to (characterised by) the action in question. They are similar to the present/past active participles in Esperanto (future posts!). Present active shows that an action is happening, and past active shows that it happened.

From help- (and its action “helpi” = “to help”):

  • helpa hundo = a helpful dog, a dog that’s helping.
  • helpa diro = a helpful statement, a statement that helped.

From nutr- (and its action “nutri” = “to nourish”):

  • nutra problemo = nutritional problem
  • nutra manĝaĵo = nourishing/nutritional food, food which nourishes.

Adjectives made from action-like roots can have an additional possible meaning. For example, given the examples above and the word “korekt-” (action-like root, “korekti” = “to correct”), extending the examples above:

  • korekta X

“X” should be something that corrects, or is characterised by correcting.

But it is often far more useful as something much closer to passive participles (future posts!), these are things which have received an action instead of dishing it out (active).

So here, X could also be something that is correct, or corrected!

Same goes for others to:

  • kompliki = to complicate
  • komplika X: X can be complicating or complicated!
  • veki = to wake
  • veka X: X can be waking or awoken.

This shows that the adjectival “a” can be a very general description, sometimes relying on context to disambiguate. If you need a specific meaning, and the context doesn’t make this clear, then you must turn to the more precise participles!

Action, Quality, Thing.

For the sake of future posts, word roots types are the topic for today. This is an important concept in Esperanto for understanding how we build words.

Most words in Esperanto can be said to consist of a root and an ending. Where the root gives the word the core meaning, and the ending marks whether it’s a noun/adjective/verb etc. and its tense, mood, or plurality.

And these endings are productive! The verb form may not be in the dictionary, but we can just use a verbal ending to make it. We can even smoosh roots together for new core meanings before assigning the endings.

But the main point today, is one that has only been touched on in previous posts. That is, that roots are not these neutral creatures that have no properties or characteristics of their own until they receive their endings.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll rarely see a root by itself twiddling its thumbs. They do in most cases need these endings in a sentence. However, they do have their own properties. There are different classifications of root word. And depending on which classification a root lies in, they act in different ways when different roots or endings are applied to them.

An example in the PMEG is the comparison between “brosi” (to brush) and “kombi” (to comb). Their roots are “bros-” and “komb-“. The “i” shows that they are being used as verb infinitives (as in “I want to comb/brush my hair”).

So what happens when we change them to nouns with our handy noun suffix “o”?

“broso” means “brush”. But “kombo” means… The action of combing!!! As in “My hair needs a combing”. What. The. Hell… Why? We did exactly the same thing, with very similar words!

It’s all because of the roots. “Komb-” is an action-like root. “Bros-” is a thing-like root. When you add the noun ending to a thing root (bros-) it just means the thing. But when you add it to an action root, it means “the action of <root>”. There are other ways to achieve what we want with these roots: knowing that “komb-” is an action root, but that we want the word for “comb” we can use the tool-like suffix “il”, “Kombilo” means “(a) comb”. Conversely, we can use the continual action suffix “ad” on “bros-” if we wanted “the action of brushing”, “brosado”.

This may seem unnecessarily complicated at first, but once the idea is internalised, it makes the process of word-building a lot more foolproof and interpret-able.

There are three main classes with respect to the the characteristics above: action-like, quality-like, and thing-like (like verb, adjective, noun).

Though we could define subcategories. Since within the class of thing-like words, for example, there are tool words, profession words, people words, animal words. All of these will have slightly different interactions (that are usually quite obvious don’t worry).

The point of this post is to create awareness of this fact rather than talk about all possible different interactions of these words (Or I’d be basically translating the PMEG). I’ll give you a few examples of the different roots, and in future posts I’ll talk about interesting things you can do with different roots. For example, it’s not always enough to say “oh this suffix changes the meaning of words to X”. Often one must say “When applied to quality-like roots the meaning is X, with thing-like roots Y…” (Check out this post, which shows how the verb ending interacts with a few different root classes).

Quality-like roots inherently show description, the quality or characteristics of something:

  • blu-: blua = blue
  • saĝ-: saĝa = wise
  • bel-: bela = beautiful

These words naturally lend themselves to the “a” ending of adjectives, describing words.

Action-like roots inherently show action, or state.

  • kur-: kuri = to run
  • rid-: ridi = to laugh
  • kant-: kanti = to sing

The words naturally lend themselves to the “i” ending of verb infinitives (and other verb endings). The “i” shows you the action you expect from the root, and then other affixes will derive meaning from the different interpretations of the action.

Thing-like roots are those that fit into neither of the above, being about either concrete things, or concepts.

  • tabl-: tablo = (a) table
  • hund-: hundo = (a) dog

They lend themselves to the noun ending “o”. They will action differently than the previous categories when participating in word building.

Continue to endure!

Possibly confusing words today! Following on from the theme of the last post; check it out if you don’t know what I mean by transitivity.

The word “daŭri” is often translated as “continue”, but this can be misleading. Your first defence is to think of it as “to endure/last”.

  • Li ne daŭros = He will not last/endure/continue

This is an intransitive use of the verb; there is no object. The action “lasting” is what the subject “he” is doing, it’s not doing anything to an object.

However, in English we use “continue” in the following way too:

  • He continued his speech

Notice here, that there’s an object! See how the object – the speech – is being continued, rather than the subject “he” as in “he will continue/endure”. This is a different meaning!

This is where the “ig” suffix comes in handy again! The easiest way to make a verb transitive (so it acts on an object) is to give it this suffix. Then a subject can cause an object to do something.

So “daŭrigi” means “to cause to continue/ to continue <something>”:

  • Li daŭrigis sian rakonton = he continued his story

Notice how it must have an object. He must be causing something to continue. So what happens if you don’t say anything after “daŭrigi”? An object is implied!

  • Li daŭrigis = He continued

This does not imply that he endured or lasted! Instead it implies he continued something, caused something to continue.

Conversely, if you see “daŭri” before words that are receiving the accusative “n” (so ordinarily they should be objects), despite the fact that daŭri is intransitive and so shouldn’t take a direct object, then this is something else…

In future posts, I will explain the different uses of the accusative “n”, just note that you may see such constructions as:

  • Mi daŭros du monatojn = I will last/endure [for] two months.

Notice how the amount of time is in the accusative. The amount of time isn’t an object of the verb, nothing is being done to the time, the accusative here is just showing a relation between the action and the duration of it. No doubt there’ll be more about this in future!

The 7 and a guest

Following from the last post, and the comment of curiosity, here’s a little post to share what I’ve seen of verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive. First I’ll number the words, then I’ll talk a little about the corresponding numbers!

(Alphabetical order)

  1. Afekti = To pretend to have / put on airs / feign / strike poses / attitudinise
  2. Bati = To beat
  3. Blovi = To blow
  4. Cedi = To give up / cede / relinquish / give away
  5. Fumi = To smoke
  6. Ludi = To play
  7. Pasi = To pass

1. Using “afekti” one can “feign an interest” (afekti intereson). Here the verb is taking an object, or one can simply “afekti” or “put on airs, strike poses”, be altogether fake. Here there is no object. Notice in both cases that the subject will always be the one feigning or pretending, but sometimes that isn’t enough information and sometimes the person is feigning a particular thing (like interest or friendship).

This shows that it makes sense to be both intransitive and transitive unlike the “boil” (boli) example in the previous post. Where in English when we use “boil” with an object, the object is being boiled (the subject is making it do so), and without an object, the subject itself is boiling. This complete and utter change of meaning doesn’t fly in Esperanto, and we must choose between “boli” or “boligi” instead.

2. One may beat something, or something may be beating (like your pulse). In the first example the “something” is an object (therefore transitive) and in the later there is no object (intransitive): your heart doesn’t beat on anything, it is just beating according to its own schedule. Again, the meaning is the same, in both cases the subject is doing the beating, so there shouldn’t be a separate word.

3. You can blow a sore finger or hot soup (transitive), or the wind can just be blowing (intransitive).

4. You could give up chocolate (transitive) “oni povas cedi ĉokoladon”, or a faulty bridge could just give way (intransitive).

5. A chimney can smoke (no object, therefore intransitive), or one can smoke a cigarette (transitive). Again the meaning doesn’t change, although the cigarette is on fire it is the person who is smoking. Therefore, in both cases, the subject of the verb is smoking. So the meaning doesn’t change, so it shouldn’t be two separate words.

6. One can play a role in a film (oni povas ludi rolon), or play an instrument/game (oni povas ludi violonon/ludon): all transitive uses. Alternately, a child (or fun loving adult!) could simply play! (oni povas ludi). No object! Intransitive.

7. One can pass something by (ni pasis la melon), or something can just pass by (like time): jaroj pasis.

Sometimes it might look like a normally transitive verb is without an object, but usually the object is implied or replaced by a sub-phrase acting as an object. And conversely, sometimes it looks like an intransitive verb has an object, but there are more reasons why something might receive the accusative “n”!

Also I think it might be debatable whether “fajfi” (to whistle) is also both intransitive and transitive or not. Or even one or the other…

E.g. a kettle could whistle (intransitive) or I could whistle a tune (transitive)!

You can find the first seven in “Being Colloquial in Esperanto” along with more examples!

Interesting thoughts

I thought I’d share with everyone, someone’s interesting advice about learning Esperanto. I can’t remember where I got the advice, so it could be from the forums, or one of the books I’ve been reading. At the time I read it, I thought it was pretty interesting, but only as I continue to bear it in mind does it become more and more helpful.

It’s easy to fall into a trap when learning a new language (at least for me it is!), whereby as you learn, you map each new word to a particular word in your native language. Often this can work out okay, like memorising “kato = cat”, but often it doesn’t. Sometimes one word in English will have far more different uses than is sensible with the “equivalent” word in Esperanto, and vice versa.

Coming from English (and certainly other languages) to Esperanto, one of the biggest problems where this style of learning gets you into bother is with verb transitivity. The idea that some verbs describe actions that happen between a subject and object(s), and others describe things that happen to the subject, unrelated to anything else.

  • “She ran”. In this phrase, “she” is the subject and running is the action. “To run” is intransitive here: it is an action that the subject performs, it is not performed on/to an object.
  • “She hit him”. In this phrase, “she” is the subject, and is performing a hitting action on the object “him”. “Hit” is therefore transitive.

But English is a spaghetti mess of a language, and as such, tonnes of its verbs can have entirely different meanings depending on whether or not you give them an object; you can just arbitrarily use the same word as intransitive or transitive.

  • “The water boiled”. Intransitive! The subject is water, and it is hot and bubbling, the boiling is happening to the subject.
  • “She boiled the water”. Transitive! So… what?! If we were to take “boil” to mean the same thing as the first phrase, then “she” (the subject) would be boiling, and how is “the water” then to be interpreted? But that’s not the case, “boil” now means “to cause to boil”!

A problem arises because Esperanto isn’t a mess, it’s really quite neat.

I’ve only come across 7 verbs in Esperanto that can be both transitive and intransitive, and in these cases it made sense to do so, the meaning didn’t shift like in “boil”, the subject was always performing the same action, but it just happened to be possible to do it with or without a recipient of the action (You’ll have to make noises like you’re interested if you want to know which ones, and get me to justify my view here! :D).

So let’s take “boli” = “to boil”

  • La akvo bolis = The water boiled.

Here, the water is bubbling and boiling itself. It didn’t cause anything to boil; the verb “boli” is intransitive, it cannot take an object!

  • *Ŝi bolis la akvon* makes as little sense as the English interpretation above where “she” is bubbling and boiling, and we don’t know what the water is doing. In Esperanto “boli” can only be used about the thing that is bubbling.

In order to get the other meaning we must change the word. Verbs in Esperanto can be made transitive by adding “ig” to the end. It’s like saying “to cause to <root>”, so “boligi” = “to cause to boil”:

  • Mi boligis la akvon = I boiled the water / I caused the water to boil.

So, the problem we often have is remembering what’s intransitive and what’s transitive, so we know how to use a word, for which there is perhaps just a single word in English.

So here comes the simple advice. Do not learn words by their English equivalents, learn them by picturing the concepts, imagining the actions, then you’ll never mistake them.

Which makes complete sense. If you imagine the scene of bubbling and boiling of the subject for “boli”, you’ll never mistakenly put “ŝi” in front of it unless she herself is actually bubbling and boiling! So I’ve been trying not to translate sentences or words, but capture their meaning and what thoughts and feelings they evoke. It certainly feels like it’s allowing me to progress faster!

More is not necessarily more.

I realised after a while that I’ve been reading sentences with “pli” and “plu” in for a while now without any problem. But I translate them most often as “more” (both of them). Then it occurred to me that Esperanto usually has a good reason for having more than one of these little words despite there being a single English translation. So I realised I had no idea what the difference was, so went on a mission to find out!

Pli versus Plu!

Abstractly, the difference is this: “plu” is “further/additionally/more” in relation to time or space. “Pli” means “more” but in relation to size, grade or degree.

So while “plu” is used for something that is continuing or ongoing, “pli” means “more than a certain amount” and as such is used for comparisons.

  • La melo ne plu aŭskultas al mi = The badger no longer [/more] listens to me
  • La melo estas pli bela ol la kato = The badger is more beautiful than the cat.

This shows that obviously if you use “ne” in conjunction with “plu” is means to not continue etc.

Something a little harder? I found this example on the PMEG page about “plu” using the word “rakonti” = “to relate/tell/narrate”

  • Li rakontis plu = He continued his narration (narrated more)
  • Li rakontis pli = He related more things (than previously/up until now/than others do/did)

Isn’t that awesome? With the change of a single character you get a whole different feel of the word “more”.

“Being Colloquial in Esperanto” also has a bunch of example sentences of the two words (alternatively p.184 of the paper copy).

Edit: Bonus fun!

As pointed out below, sometimes another word can act as “more”. This word is “ankoraŭ” which most often is translated as “still/yet”. It describes a past action/state that is still in effect.

However it also means something else. I’ll give you an example from the PMEG page:

  • Poste mi ankoraŭ parolos pri ĝi ~ Afterwards I will still [more] talk about it. (I will add to what I’ve said)
  • Poste mi plu parolos pri ĝi ~ Afterwards I will talk more about it. (I will resume the same talk)

In these cases, “ankoraŭ” shows repetition or more of the same type of thing. “Plu” shows continuation of the same thing.

Adjectives making solo careers

When an adjective (word ending in “a”) is directly describing a noun (words ending in “o”), and when the context clearly shows what the noun should be, it’s often possible to just omit the noun:

  • Mia melo estas la plej bela [melo] en la mondo = My badger is the most beautiful [badger] in the world (see how the second “melo” is unnecessary because we know what’s being discussed).
  • Ili estas la unuaj [personaj] kiuj manĝas melojn = They are the first people who eat badgers. *
  • Granda melo estas pli forta ol malgranda [melo] = A big badger is stronger than a small [badger] (Again the second “melo” is unnecessary).
Understanding that this is what you mean is facilitated by using a word like “la”  (or “ol”, something that sufficiently narrows the meaning) in front of the adjective, to show that you are talking of a specific thing.This is also why telling the time looks the way that it does:
  • Estas la naŭa [horo] = It’s nine o’clock (literally: It’s the ninth [hour])
Here “horo” is obviously implied and therefore not necessary. The same occurs in phrases like “The ninth day of september”, you can simply say “The ninth of september”.
Also worthy of note is the word “alia” = “other/another” (remember not to stress it like the person name [AH-lia], instead make sure that stress is on the penultimate syllable: a-LI-a ). “Alia” is often used in the manner described above (only implying a noun rather than explicitly stating it), because the implied noun is usually very obvious.
Think about it, if I’m talking about X, then go on to speak about “another” Y, the word “another” suggests that Y is of the same type as X:
  • Mi amis tiun melon, trovu por mi alian [melon] = I loved that badger, find [for] me another [badger].
There are also words that mean quantities (e.g. some, several) that perform similar functions often. You can find these, more examples and my main resource for this post on this PMEG page.
I always find it handy to know these little things about a language, just so you know that such constructions are recognised. I find it gives me more confidence using the language!
*Thanks to folks at forums for helping me with the translation of the second half of this sentence, I was unsure about using “ke/kiu” or using nothing at all with “manĝi”.

Replace, or replace?

I was momentarily confused by something today, but after looking into it, things looked a lot clearer, and then very useful. It involves the word “anstataŭ”, which means “instead of”:

  • Mi trinkis teon anstataŭ kafon = I drank tea instead of coffee.
Specifically, my confusion was over two words related  to “anstataŭ”: “anstataŭi” versus “anstataŭigi”. Two verbs derived from the original preposition. Adequate translations of both could be “to replace” (because it is the action of being instead of something). But there is a very important difference between them.

Look at the following sentences:
  1. The badger replaced the rabbit (The badger itself is now there instead of the rabbit).
  2. The badger replaced the rabbit with a cat (The badger exchanged the rabbit for a cat).
Here the badger is the subject of the verb “to replace”, and there is either one or two objects (rabbit and cat). In the first sentence the badger (the subject) replaces the rabbit (the object) with itself. However, in the second sentence the badger doesn’t replace anything itself, it replaces one object with the other. Clearly there are two different functions of the word “replace”.

This may not be confusing for English people that are used to it, but imagine a student of English learns the meaning of “replace” as in the first sentence. Then sees the second sentence and may think:

“Okay… So the badger replaces the rabbit (exchanges it for itself like in the first sentence)… with a cat? Does that mean “by means of a cat”? So the badger replaces the rabbit using the cat in some way? (Maybe the badger throws the cat at the rabbit, so that it can replace it?).” – Incorrect! And confusing.

This shows that having only a single word for both of these cases is ambiguous. But Esperanto has you covered.
  1. La melo anstataŭis la kuniklon per la kato
  2. La melo anstataŭigis la kuniklon per la kato
The first sentence is like the silly meaning described above: “The badger replaced the rabbit (with itself) by means of the cat”. The second sentence says that the badger replaced the rabbit with the cat (exchanged the rabbit for the cat). Furthermore:
  1. La melo anstataŭis la kuniklon
  2. La melo anstataŭigis la kuniklon
The first sentence means that the badger replaced the rabbit with itself. The second sentence means that the badger replaced the rabbit with something else (unspecified), a much more useful distinction than the previous examples.

How are we to remember this? Why is this the case? The answer is fairly simple.

When making “anstataŭ” into a simple verb “anstataŭi” we are calling on the simple act or state of being “instead of” something: replacing something. Therefore, the subject replaces the object. Adding the ending “ig” is like saying “to cause <root>” (I will eventually get round to blogging about “ig” in more detail!), so “anstataŭigi” could be thought of  as causing a replacement (instead of participating in it); the subject is causing one object to be replaced by (means of) the other.

The collection begins.

My collection of Esperanto books has begun. Thanks to the Esperanto Association of Britain (EAB). They have a fair amount in their bookstore. I can’t believe I didn’t notice before.

I now have “La Hobito” (Esperanto version of “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, one of my favourite authors) and the Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko (linked to the online version). Despite it being free to read online, the amount that I just browse it led me to desire a paper copy to sift through. Also on its way is Being Colloquial in Esperanto (link to online version) by David K. Jordan, not written in Esperanto, but sounded like an interesting read and the EAB had some in stock (The UK Amazon attempted to charge me £40 for it)!

So I’m going to curl up in my very cushioned chair with a cup of tea and the PMEG and come up with the next few posts!

Anyone who can suggest some interesting sci-fi/fantasy Esperanto (translation or original) books that I might move onto next, comment below!

Both neutral to last

Got a few pretty words for you today. They’re simple enough in meaning, but I find them pretty enough to mention. So without further delay:

  1. Ambaŭ = both
  2. Neŭtrala = neutral/impartial
  3. Daŭri = to continue/last/endure
The “aŭ” bits are pronounced like “ow” in “however”. The “eŭ” bit is a bit weirder. It’s often described as the “ayw” in “wayward”. Everything else is how you’d expect.I think perhaps I have a liking for the “ŭ” letter. It just seems to go nicely with things.

My favourite in the list is “ambaŭ”. I was always a fan of the English word “amber” but the thing that let it down ever so slightly, was the mildly dull “er” sound at the end. Here, it’s replaced with a wide-mouthed sound that just complements the first syllable perfectly!

A word of caution though! If you have a sentence that contains “both A and B”, ambaŭ is not used in this context, one would say instead “kaj A kaj B”.

Ambaŭ is used in situations like “I want both animals!”

“About” working hard

I saw some, what I perceived to be, odd uses of the word “pri” today.

Loosely, by itself “pri” means “about/concerning”, but it turns out this little word is a hard worker! You can do some interesting things with it in word building.

So, drawing mostly from what I understand of the PMEG pages (a, b, c) on the topic:

Firstly, when used by itself, it’s simple enough!

  • Mi parolas pri kameloj = I’m talking about camels
  • Mi legas libron pri la urbo = I’m reading a book about the city

When used to prefix a noun or adjective, the meaning is also simple enough! It then relates to a concept about the root:

  • priama = that which concerns love, about love (from amo = love)

When use to prefix a verb, things get a little more interesting! It always makes the verb transitive (means that the verb takes an object). If the verb is already transitive, it makes the verb’s object about something else!

“silenti” = “to be quiet”. It is intransitive, it cannot have an object. Being quiet doesn’t happen to anything, only the subject of the verb is doing something (being quiet). So you might say:

  • Mi silentas pri la hundo = I’m being quiet about the dog.

Notice how the dog has to be introduced by a preposition “pri” because it is not the direct object of the verb. See this though:

  • Mi prisilentas la hundon = I’m being quiet about the dog.

So, often by prefixing “pri” you allow whatever would normally follow “pri” in this context, to become the object of the verb (now it’s got the “n” ending). So an intransitive verb is made transitive. So what happens when you prefix a transitive verb?

  • Li pensis maldecajn pensojn pri ŝi = He was thinking dirty thoughts about her
  • Li pripensis ŝin per maldecaj pensoj = He was thinking about her with dirty thoughts.

Notice that the original object switches its grammatical role as the direct object, with what, again, normally comes after “pri”. Now “her” is the direct object!

I like this, it allows stylistic variants that are easily understood. I like there being a simple way for the object to be something else. What if I like the sound of “maldecaj” a little more than “maldecajn” in this context? It can be done!

Sometimes when used as a verb prefix, the changes are a little harder to get (there’s some trickier usages basically) it serves to change the role of the object of that verb still, but sometimes doesn’t change it with what normally follows “pri”:

An example the PMEG gives is the verb “semi” = “to sow”.

When using “semi” the object of the verb is whatever (seeds) you’re sowing. So:

  • Li semas tritikon en la kampo = He is sowing wheat (object) in the field

Notice how the wheat is the object of the action, but the place in which seeds are sown (about) is introduced with the preposition “en” = “in”.


  • Li prisemas la kampon per tritiko = He is sowing (about) the field with wheat

Notice now that the place is the direct object (receiving the “n” ending), and the seeds must be introduced with a preposition!

Interesting huh? An entirely different slant on the verb with a simple prefix. Love it.

There are a few slightly more sneaky examples on the PMEG pages if you’re interested in knowing what the usages are!