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.

6 thoughts on “More is not necessarily more.

  1. Zamenhof, in the Fundamento and Ekzercaro §6 writes “La infano jam ne ploras”, – literally “the child already not cries” meaning quite precisely “The child no longer cries”.

    I believe “jam ne” didn’t catch on so well in this kind of context because it can easily get confused by learners as “not yet”, which is why the less confusing but now subtly ambiguous “ne plu” has taken over the job.

    I just thought I’d mention it.


      • Nedankinde. I thought it quite interesting too.

        After learning some Esperanto on Duolingo and also having a look at the Nakamura Theory on Lernu, looking at forums and discussions, and not least looking at the disagreements and perceived ambiguities (that often stem from how learners try to impose word-for-word meaning from English to Esperanto), I thought I should go back to where it all began and read the Fundamento properly. Later I can go back to those more modern sources and see how their Esperanto differs from the original rather than doing it the other way around.

        I started reading the Ekzercaro somewhat casually but soon found interesting things, like the use of “jam ne”, and I realised I should be taking notes, so I’ll start over and make sure not a single nuance is lost on me.


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