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.
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2 thoughts on “Replace, or replace?

  1. Mi admiras vin!

    Se vi serĉas Esperanto-librojn el pasintaj jaroj, ne forgesu ke ofte oni trovas librojn en aŭ pri Esperanto en eBay!

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