To suddenly know!

I was reading “Gerda Malaperis!” (Gerda disappeared!) by Claude Piron and came across this word: ekscii

Remember that “c”s are pronounced like “ts”s and those two “i”s are pronounced separately! Like:

  • ekst-see-ee

Not only does the word look bizarrely cool, but I thought the meaning was pretty nifty too.

“Ek-” is a prefix usually put on the front of an action, that makes a new word that emphasises the start, or sudden beginning of the action. See my previous post talking about it.

“Scii” (which in itself is a pretty interesting word, it’s the word I have most trouble pronouncing fluently in a sentence, especially when a word ending in “s” comes before it…) means “to know”.

So the result is literally something like “to suddenly know”. More usually translated as “to find out”! I’d been wondering how to say that in Esperanto, given that translating “find” and “out” together makes no sense… Find outside?

Advertisements

Partying with Participles #2

This is the second in a series of posts about participles. Click here to go to the first in the series. 

I finished the last post saying that participles can be defined along two dimensions:

  1. The timeframe the action occurs in.
  2. Whether it is active or passive.

It’s important to remember what the difference between active and passive is for this post, so look back at the previous post if you don’t remember!

Unlike English, Esperanto doesn’t have just past and present participles, it has something like past, present and future participles.

Where more specifically:

  • Past refers to an action that has been completed, finished and fulfilled.
  • Present refers to an action beginning/continuing/unfinished.
  • Future refers to an action not yet begun, but intended.

This shows that Esperanto’s participles don’t quite have the idea of tense, but more like “aspect”, which considers the state of completion of an action, rather than the time (tense) it occurs in.

This is a very important distinction to remember when we start talking about one of the ways in which to create a passive phrase in Esperanto (next participle post).

For now, it’s time to introduce how we form the participles.

Here’s how to make the three active participles for the verb “to sing” = “kanti”:

  • La kantanta kamelo = The singing camel (The singing is happening,ongoing)
  • La kantinta kamelo = The camel that sang (Lit. The having-sung camel. The singing has stopped)
  • La kantonta kamelo = The camel about to sing (Lit. The going-to-sing camel. The singing is anticipated, but not yet begun)

Note why they’re active: the camel is doing the singing.

Here’s how to make the three passive participles for the verb “to sing” = “kanti”:

  • La kantata melodio = The tune being sung (Lit. the being-sung tune. The singing is currently happening)
  • La kantita melodio = The tune that was sung (Lit. the sung tune. The tune was sung, it’s not being sung now)
  • La kantota melodio = The tune about to be sung (Lit. the going-to-be-sung tune. The tune hasn’t begun yet, but will do)

Note why they’re passive: the tune is sung (it would be the direct object of “to sing”), the tune isn’t doing the singing (like the camel was)

An easy way to remember which aspect (or phase of completion) each suffix means, is to look at the vowel before the “t” (passive) or “nt” (active). Compare them to the simple verb forms:

  • Mi kantas = I sing (present)
  • Mi kantis = I sung (past)
  • Mi kantos = I will sing (future)
  • -ant and -at are present/ongoing, just like “as” is present
  • -int and -it are past/completed, just like “is” is past
  • -ont and -ot are future/not started, just like “os” is future

As mentioned above, the next post will discuss creating passive phrases using “esti” = “to be” and the passive participle. E.g.

  • La kamelo estis trovita antaŭ kelkaj jaroj = The camel was found a few years ago.

It will discuss why it’s important in this instance to think of “aspect” rather than “tense”, and also why there can be more elegant ways of creating this phrase than using participles (despite the English-speaker’s temptation!).

And there is plenty more to talk about after that!

I should also mention that my learning of the intriguing details about participles is being greatly helped by the book “Being Colloquial in Esperanto”. There is an appendix devoted to the finer points about participles.

Bloodthirsty as a squirrel

A neat use of “kiel” today. “Kiel” is one of the correlatives, a ton of really useful words that are built via a system of meaningful syllables. Take a look at my previous post introducing them briefly, it points you to a full table of all of them that you can make.

In general “kiel” means “in what way”, or “how”.

  • Kiel vi fartas? = How are you doing?

In it’s other use, “kiel” is often translated as “as”.

  • La melo estas murdema kiel sciuro = The badger is bloodthirsty as a squirrel (The badger is bloodthirsty in what way a squirrel [is bloodthirsty])

It can also be used in combination with the correlative “tiel” (“in that way”) in order to get a “as…as…” construction:

  • Mi estas tiel ekscitiĝa kiel ŝi = I am as excited as she (is). (I am in that way excited (as) in what way she (is excited))
  • Vi estas tiel inteligenta kiel bela = You are as intelligent as (you are) beautful.

It can also be used to introduce a phrase (relative clause) with “tiel”, as in this example from PMEG:

  • Mi zorgas pri ŝi tiel, kiel mi zorgas pri mi mem. = I care about her in the way in which (way) I care about myself.

Imagine here that “tiel” is a placeholder for the whole relative phrase that follows. It’s like:

  • I care about her [in that way]

Then, in order to elaborate on which way you mean (fill in the square brackets), “kiel” introduces a phrase:

  • [In what way?] (in the way) I care about myself.

Oddly, this was all sparked by me coming across an Esperanto song called “Glimanta kiel oro” = “Shining/Gleaming like/as gold”.
Look at the funky thing you can do with “kiel” and the accusative “n” (you’ll see these sentences all over Esperanto learning material):

  1. Li traktis min kiel princon = He treated me like (I was) a prince
  2. Li traktis min kiel princo = He treated me like a prince (would treat me)

I love this. It makes perfect sense. So we have “li” = “he”, always doing the treating (the subject of the verb). And we have “min” = “me” always receiving the treatment (the direct object of the verb). Then, in order to decide whether “kiel” is comparing a prince to the subject or the object, we just match it’s ending:

  1. Leave the ending without the “n” to match “li”, so “kiel” is comparing prince to “li”.
  2. Add the “n” on the end to match “min”, so “kiel” is comparing prince to “min”!

More emphasis!

A little useful word: mem

This is another emphasis word (friday’s emphasis word).

“Mem” goes after a word in order to stress that we’re talking about just that thing, not another.

It often translates as “itself/herself/himself/self”. But it must not be confused with reflexive pronouns.

  • Mi mem batalis! = I myself fought! (No one else did)
  • Mi batalis kontraŭ mi = I fought with myself (“mi” is acting as a reflexive pronoun in the second instance)

Notice how “mem” can only intensify the sentiment you’re conveying. Whereas a reflexive pronoun is another entity that can take part in an action. In order to further show that they perform a different function, look at it in the same sentence as a reflexive pronoun:

  • Oni pensas pri si mem = People think about themselves (but slightly more emphasised, like “themselves alone”).

I came across the above example when reading here.

Couple more examples:

Mi aŭdis la belan kanton mem = I heard the beautiful song itself (No other song but this particular one).
Ŝi mem kompletigis la laboron = She herself finished the work (she finished without help)

Short and sweet!

Partying with participles #1

There are so many little interesting details about participles, that I’m not going to try to talk about them in a single post. So this will be the first in a series of posts about participles. There’ll be different kinds of posts in between, to keep things varied, but you might find a post every week or so continuing in this series.

I’m also probably going to start from a more basic level than usual for two reasons:

  1. Participles are so expressive, that it can be complicated to understand how they work (this is certainly a learning experience for me). And,
  2. If there are interested readers who haven’t learnt much about participles up until now, I wouldn’t want to estrange them with a series of incomprehensible posts!

Anyway, there’s never any harm in cementing the fundamentals.

Generally speaking, participles are adjectives made from verbs. In Esperanto we have to be a little more precise to avoid confusion. Participles are not made by changing the verbal “i” suffix to the adjectival “a” suffix. Esperanto participles are like new quality roots made from what were once action roots (using suffixes like “at”,”it”,”ot”,”ant”,”int”,”ont”). For information on root types see my previous post.

So participles show some kind of action or state derived from the verb they come from. Let’s start out in English.

English has two different kinds of participle, the “present” participle and the “past” participle.

Take the verb “to shout”. We could simply use it as a verb:

  • The men like to shout

Or we could make it a participle:

  • I saw a shouting woman (present participle)
  • The shouted insults were unimaginative (past participle)

Notice how they are used like adjectives, they modify the nouns (woman and insults), just like how the adjectives “blue” or “nasty” would:

  • I saw a blue woman
  • The nasty insults were unimaginative

The present participle shows that the action is current and ongoing. The past participle shows that the action was in the past (surprise!).

Notice how in “shouting woman”, the woman is actually doing the shouting (she’s the subject of what was the verb “to shout”), but in “shouted insults”, we don’t know who did the shouting, but we do know what was shouted. The insults are the direct object of what was the verb “to shout”.

This difference is what we call active and passive participles. A participle is active, if the thing being described by it is actually doing the action. A participle is passive, if the thing it describes is on the receiving end of the action (the direct object). Note how this means that a verb can only be used as a passive participle if it is a transitive verb, because only transitive verbs can have direct objects.

In English we arbitrarily use the past participle as either active or passive, depending on the original verb:

  • The fallen leaf: past active participle of “to fall”; the leaf did the falling.
  • The smashed watch: past passive participle of “to smash”, the watch is the direct object. It didn’t do the smashing, it was on the receiving end of it.

Why is this important? Because things are a tad different in Esperanto! You need to know when to use active or passive!

There are six Esperanto participles!

Loosely, an Esperanto participle can be past, present or future, but at the same time, active or passive! That makes six choices!

So that’s it for now. But look out for next time, when I’m going to go into why Esperanto participles don’t quite have a tense (past,present,future), but rather more like something known as “aspect”. Then after that, we’ll get right down to some of the uses of participles, and what happens when we start to play around with grammatical endings and suffixes.

Yes indeedy!

The sneaky “ja”, it just crops up all over the place. I hadn’t paid much attention to it beforehand, because you can almost get away with not knowing about it. Without it, you’ll get the gist of the sentence, but not the nuances.

I don’t know why I left it so long to look it up. It’s quite prettiful.

(Little note, remember to pronounce it “ya”!)

It’s function is to emphasise. This is often achieved using English “do” or words like “certainly” or “indeed”:

  • Mi ja legas = I do read.
  • Vi ja kuraĝas = You certainly are courageous
  • Mia amiko ja ekzistas = My friend does exist (indeed exists)!

I think the sound of the word really nicely fits its function. Something about also stressing the sound gives it a real feeling of emphasising the phrase. Whereas “do” and “does” feels a bit empty to me now.

Notice how it emphasises the truth of the phrase. If you combine it with a negative word, it can (you guessed it) emphasise the negative!

  • Via amiko ja ne ekzistas! = Your friend certainly doesn’t exist!

Now a warning from the PMEG. Even though alone “ja” emphasises the truth or positiveness of a phrase, it is not a replacement for “yes”.

The Esperanto word for “yes” is “jes” (pronounced the same). You can even emphasise your yes: “Jes ja!” It’s like saying “Yes, it is indeed such!” (since the main verb here is implicit: “it is such” (“yes, it is such”. Which will hopefully help you remember not to say “Ja jes” which is not correct, because the “ja” is supposed to refer to this implicit “it is such” phrase after “jes”. It does not modify “jes”:

  • Jes, tiel estas. = Yes, it is such (yes, it is that way )
  • Jes, tiel ja estas = Yes, it is indeed such
See how it’s modifying “estas” rather than “jes”.

Overall, a handy little word.

To at be there!

I came across a fantastic little word today:

  • ĉeesti
It is pronounced “che – esti”. Be sure to pronounce each “e” separately, don’t roll them into a single sound like in English “feed”.


It generally means “to attend, be present, witness”. The reason that it is so neat, is that no new word was used to make it like those three completely different English words. It’s made from two very simple parts, but makes perfect sense.

  • ĉe = at
  • esti = to be
To literally “to be at”. Check out the finer details of “ĉe” here. Want to know why it’s “ĉeesti” rather than “estĉei” even though its translation is “to be at” rather than “to at be”? Check out this post. If it still doesn’t make sense, comment below!
  • Mi ĉeestos vian feston. Eble. = I will be at your party. Maybe.