There-abouts

A bunch of uses of a neat little word today: ĉe

It mostly means “at” in the sense of showing close proximity. Though it can sometimes be translated as “with”, check this old post in order to not confuse it with the other words that can be translated as “with”.

It’s quite a versatile little word, without much changing its meaning. Mostly because “proximity” covers a variety of meanings.

Note that “apud” means “near”, but “ĉe” is much nearer (as you would expect from “at”), so don’t confuse them. “Apud” also often carries the meaning of being to the side of something (ĉe does not).

“Ĉe” allows you to point to a place without having to be precise about exact location.

Time for some examples!

  • Ĉe la angulo de la ĉambro, mi vidis melon = At the corner of the room, I saw a badger.

Notice how it shows that the badger was somewhere about the corner of the room, but it doesn’t necessarily imply the the badger is pushed up against the corner touching it. Note that we might say “in” instead of “at” in English, which I think is funny since you can’t actually be inside the corner, since it’s just a meeting of walls and floor!

The location that something is proximal to, doesn’t have to be geographical, just as in English when we say things like “at the back of your head” or “at the end of your toe”. The place can even be just the title of the place “I work at (ĉe) the university”.

Similarly, it can refer to a location in time too!

  • Mi iros hejmen ĉe la fino de la tago = I will go home at the end of the day.

But don’t use it to refer to hours in time, e.g. “at four o’clock”, there is another word used for this.

This is interesting:

  • Ĉe melo la ĉaso neniam finiĝas = With a badger, the hunt never ends.

This broadens “ĉe” to be pointing out the general situation of an object/action. Notice how in the previous examples there may be an action such as “I will go home”, and where it is situated is elaborated using “ĉe”: “ĉe la fino de la tago”, the action is situated at the end of the day (a place in time, the same works for location).

Now here, the action is the hunt never ending. Where is this true? In what situation? With a badger! Instead of a time or location, we provide an entity/object, but it’s still a situation. You’ll often find this construction in proverbs.

Another nice, but simpler use is the following:

  • Ĉu vi amuziĝis ĉe mi? = Did you have fun at my place?

So abstractly “ĉe mi” is “my (I/me) sitation” and literally “at me (I)”. So my situation could be my general living space (my home) or my current location, i.e. “my place”.

Similarly with “ĉe ni”, “our situation”, though given that several people often don’t share the same house, the meaning is slightly different. What do we all share? Perhaps a region of the country? A country? A continent?

  • Estas tiel varme en via urbo! Ĉe ni, estas neniam varme. = It’s so warm in your city! In (at) ours (our city) its never warm.

Notice how “warm” is represented with an adverb (varme=”warmly”) here instead of an adjective (varma), like in “La urbo estas varma”. Weird huh? Future post!

(Main inspirations/guides for this post are the PMEG page, and the little section on ĉe in the Complete Grammar of Esperanto)

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14 thoughts on “There-abouts

  1. i am a beginner so this is more a clarification I am seeking than a comment or critique.

    In most examples I came across, ĉe was spatial and je temporal.

    Li estis ĉe la lernejo
    Li renkontis min je la sepa

    Is this understanding incorrect?

    Thanks

    • “Je” is very commonly used to talk about the time of day.

      And one of the main senses of “ĉe” is certainly location “at” a place.

      But it’s a little more complicated. “Je” is just an indefinite thing, it can be used when none of the meanings of other prepositions apply. E.g. “mi kredis je dio” = “I believe in god” (the English use of “in” is very non-literal) here.

      Also, when talking about events in time, rather than just the hour “ĉe” can be used. Like “ĉe la fino de la tago” = “at the end of the day”.

      Check out the PMEG pages on the two, they are filled with examples:

      http://bertilow.com/pmeg/gramatiko/rolmontriloj/rolvortetoj/lokaj_rolvortetoj/che.html

      http://bertilow.com/pmeg/gramatiko/rolmontriloj/rolvortetoj/je.html

      • Thank you Andy. I did not know about PMEG, thanks for the links. It has been about 3-4 weeks since I started on Esperanto and so far, duolingo has been the only source, except for a few peeks into lernu.net forums … a real komencanto 🙂

        • Always happy to point another to the PMEG! It’s been a massive help from very early on in my Esperanto learning because of it’s concise and easy to read style.

          I like what they’ve done with the Duolingo course; it cemented a lot of vocabulary in me, which is something I struggle with, being a lover of grammar. I do hope they continue to expand and add to it. And happily, it seems to have generated a surge in popularity for Esperanto, with new learners like yourself!

    • You had me confused for a moment, but I believe I’m correct in the usage of “ĉe ni”. In the same way that you’d use “ĉe mi” (like French “chez moi” I think?) for “at my place”.

      Check out this PMEG example sentence:

      En la varmaj landoj la suno radias alian varmegon ol ĉe ni. = …ol en nia (malvarma) lando.

      • You’re right about “chez moi”, though in French the preposition “chez” means something completely different. Depending on the context, it may mean “at the house of [following noun]” or “among”. For example: “nous avons décidé de retourner chez moi” = we decided to go back to my house; “il est très populaire chez les athlètes” = it is very popular among athletes. Zamenhof’s choice to change the meanings slightly in this way mystifies me, though he might have drawn it from a different language.

        • Interesting! I didn’t know that about the French!

          One possible motivation could be out of the fact that he attempted to constrain the meanings of all those little helper words, to specific definite ideas, to make things simple to learn. And then have the catch-all “je”. For the athletes sentence, I’d use “laŭ”, I think!

        • Im certainly no expert! Lol and I’ve actually changed my mind, for some reason I read the phrase as if it was popular according to the athletes…

          Certainly ‘inter’ seems more appropriate here. Though I’m more tempted by ‘che’, what do you make of this pmeg example?

          Ĉe botisto la ŝuo estas ĉiam kun truo

          I think this means literally: with a bootmaker the shoe is always with a hole.

          “a bootmaker’s shoe is always with a hole”

          I’m not sure if this meaning extends though, would it make sense as kind of:

          It is popular with (che) the athletes

        • Suddenly things get very interesting! Let’s compare meanings with the various prepositions.

          “Ĝi estas tre populara laŭ la atletoj.”

          This means that athletes say that it is very popular. Whether it actually is popular is left to be answered later.

          “Ĝi estas tre populara inter la atletoj.”

          This says to me that athletes certainly find it useful, but the preferences of other groups are still open to interpretation.

          “Ĝi estas tre populara ĉe la atletoj.”

          And here’s where I’m confused. As far as I’ve learned, the only meaning of “ĉe” is spatial. So something like “ĝi estas tre populara ĉe la atletejo” Is perfectly fine (“it is very popular at the athletes’ training camp”?). But unless the athletes themselves are a place, the spatial meaning cannot be used. So we have to translate by the “with” meaning: “it is very popular with athletes”. But that means exactly the same thing as if we had used “inter”!

          I think the catch is: the use of “inter” says nothing about the preferences of others. However, the use of “ĉe” suggests that it is the OPPOSITE of the verb or adjective (in this case, “populara”) elsewhere.

          And then there’s the word for “with” itself, “kun”. So

          “Ĝi estas tre populara kun la atletoj.”

          might be a middle ground between “inter” and “ĉe”. It doesn’t seem to suggest anything about other’s preferences, though the rest of the phrase might read: “aliloke, ĝi estas eĉ pli populara” or “aliloke, ĝin amas neniu”.

          By the way, in my Esperanto posts over the past while I’ve been trying to exploit its linguistic freedom and vary my word order. I thought I’d ask: does this interfere with your comprehension when you read it?

        • I agree with your “laŭ” one. And I agreed at first with your “inter” one, and I think most people will understand it that way… Though I can’t speak for very experienced Esperantists. But there’s something about “inter” here that doesn’t sit well with me.

          It almost feels like the “among” (or even “between”!) suggests that it’s popular at least among a subset of the athletes but not necessarily all… I may be reading too much into this.

          Whereas if we could actually use “ĉe” here, it almost feels exactly perfect to say it’s popular with this particular set of athletes. “ĉe” can also be used temporally too btw. But the thing that makes it feel perfect with me, is that it’s used kinda figuratively too. With the “ĉe mi” example. This doesn’t mean “close proximity to me”, it’s “at my place”: the logical, more useful sense. And it feels like with “at the athletes” the logical meaning would be the one we’re after… But I have my doubts really.

          But I can’t find anything solid in the PMEG about either of them, except for that bootmaker example!

          And miaopinie, “kun” says something completely different. “Kun” very much describes “with” in the sense of togetherness. So to me, “ĝi estas tre populara kun la atletoj” suggests that whatever “ĝi” is, it is popular when it is together with the athletes.

          I wonder if we’re missing anything here? Maybe should open it to the lernu forums.

          And about varying word order, I’m probably quite biased. My brain is still very Englishy, so I understand word order similar to English a little quicker. Normally everything is easy to understand if you maintain the same style of word order in a text. If you change mid-text, people will think you’re trying to emphasise something in some way. But I haven’t had any trouble understanding you. 🙂

        • Though I’m starting to wonder (with kun) if “It’s popular when with athletes” is actually exactly what we want!! Confusing. Because it’s saying nothing about popularity with anyone else, but that it is indeed popular with the athletes, which is exactly what we’re after…

  2. Pingback: There-abouts « Adventures in Esperanto « Paulino Brener’s Weblog

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