Idiot doctrine

Perhaps an example of Esperanto humour today… I came across this word: “Idiotismo”. It means “Idiom”. An idiom is a word or group of words whose meaning is based only on usage. In other words, just by looking at the words you can’t tell what they mean, in fact, often they’ll seem to mean something completely different!

For example “She kicked the bucket”. “To kick the bucket” is an idiom, it means “to die”. A non-native speaker only beginning to learn English may wonder what on earth you’re talking about!

Esperanto has very few idioms. As a language, it makes quite a lot of sense!

So the funny thing is that “Idioto” means “Idiot” and “Ismo” means “doctrine/-ism”. So in the eyes of Esperanto, an idiom (“Idiotismo”) is made up of those words! It’s the same as “Idiot doctrine” or an “Idiotism”! 😀


A different expression

I was amused by the variety of different ways of expressing “marry” today… Turns out that there isn’t a dedicated verb for it:

  • Edzo = husband
  • Edzino = wife (“in” is the feminine suffix)
  • Edziĝi = to marry, to get married, to become a husband (“iĝ” means “to become <root>”)
  • Edziniĝi = to marry, to get married, to become a wife
  • Geedziĝi = to marry, to get married (the “ge” prefix means both sexes, so you’d use it when talking about both of them “they got married”).

All of the ones with “iĝ” are like “become a wife/husband”, so they can’t take a direct object, like “I married her”, because it would actually mean “I became married her”, which doesn’t make sense, for that you need “ig” = “to cause to be <root>”

  • Edzigi = to make/cause to be a husband, to marry (a man)
  • Edzinigi = to make/cause to be a wife, to marry (a woman)
  • Geedzigi = to make/cause to be man and wife, to marry (the couple, like a priest would)
Funny, no?

Baby branch

Fewer posts this week I’m afraid! Tough week. Hopefully I’ll have some ideas sorted out for next week!


I found an awesome usage of word building today: branĉido = sprout/shoot

  • Branĉo = branch
  • -id suffix means “offspring of <root>”, “born of <root>”.
  • Pronounced “branch-ID-o”

Now, there is a word “ŝoso” (pronounced “SHO-so”, quite pretty itself), which means “sprout/shoot”. But I like the logic of “branĉido”!

The “-id” suffix can also be used metaphorically. There is a another constructed language called “Ido” based off of Esperanto, short for “Esperantido”, offspring of Esperanto! 🙂

Partying with Participles #5

Yet another participles post! Read the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

This time, I’m talking about using the noun ending “o” on the end of the participles.

  • Ami = to love
  • Amanta = loving
  • Amanto = one who is loving, one who loves (amanta persono)

So notice that with the noun ending, the participle usually describes a person characterised by the action of the participle.

You choose between active or passive participles depending on whether the person is doing the action or receiving it (respectively):

  • Amanto = one who is loving, one who loves (amanta persono)
  • Amato = one who is loved (amata persono)

Note that you don’t use the “-ul” suffix to make it about a person (timi=to fear, timulo = coward), it’s already about a person.

If you wanted to be talking about a thing, not a person, then it usually suffices to note bother with the participle and instead use the “aĵ” ending.

  • Amaĵo = loved thing

Though this could also mean a thing that loves. But since that’s a less likely interpretation, and context helps, you’re normally fine. Though conceivably you could add this ending onto the participles (amantaĵo = loving thing), if you really needed to be specific to stop people misunderstanding.

Also for those few who didn’t already know, doesn’t the ending of “Esperanto” look familiar? It should do.

  • esperi = to hope
  • esperanta = hoping
  • esperanto = one who is hoping, one who hopes (esperanta persono)

Bear in mind that “Esperanto” (with a capital letter) is now recognised as a noun referring to the language. If you want the old meaning, you have to use a non capital letter. For example, Esperanta means relating to Esperanto the language, as in Esperanta kurso (Esperanto course). An “esperanta kurso” is a course that is hoping…

This concludes the bulk of material about the participles! I’m sure they’ll crop up here and there again though! You’re welcome to ask about anything I’ve missed, and if it’s a substantial amount, I may form my answer in a post!

Ahead of before

I think this letter is very pretty: ŭ

Maybe even as pretty as “j”s… 

I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. You will most often find it after an “a” or an “e”. It’s somewhat like a “w”.

  • Antaŭ is like “ANT-ow”, like “ow” in “cow”.
  • Eŭropo is like “Ayw-ROP-o”, like “ayw” in “wayward”.

It’s sometimes used to spell foreign words with “w”s in them, or in onomatopoeic words.

Today’s post is about “antaŭ”. Both it’s prettifulness, and how it makes some pretty varied words in word building.

  • Antaŭ = ahead of, in front of, before (in terms of both time and space)

So without further delay, here are some combinations I found interesting:

  • Antaŭe = ahead, formerly, previously
  • Antaŭa = previous, last, prior, former
  • Antaŭvidi = to foresee (vidi = to see, so somewhat like “to see beforehand”)
  • Antaŭsento = presentiment, an intuition about the future (before-feeling)
  • Antaŭzorgo = precaution (zorgo = care, so like “care beforehand”
  • Antaŭdiri = to forecast, to prophesy, to foretell (diri = to say,tell)
  • Antaŭparolo = foreword (parolo = speech)
  • Antaŭlasta = the one before last, penultimate (lasta = last)
  • Antaŭsigno = indication, omen (signo = sign,signal)
  • Antaŭdecidi = to decide in advance
  • Antaŭjuĝo = prejudice (juĝo = judgment, so “judge beforehand”)
  • Antaŭafero = a preliminary (afero = thing, a before thing)
  • Antaŭtempa = premature (tempo = time, before-time)
What a variety!

I love the sound of the first two. The “ŭe” and “ŭa” sounds I think are the ones to blame!

Do comment if you know of any other interesting words made from “antaŭ”!

It happened just now!

So, saying something happened in the past is easy, right?

The most common way is to use the simple past tense ending “is”:

  • Kuri = to run
  • Mi kuris = I ran/I was running (at some point in the past)

How do you say that the past event you’re talking about only just happened? Easy! And in a similar way to English:

  • Mi ĵus kuris = I just ran/ I was just running
Note that “ĵus” is pronounced like “zhooss” where “zh” is a french “j” or like “s” in English “pleasure”.

A useful bit of knowledge indeed.

The thing that makes it slightly cooler than English, is that “ĵus” enjoys exclusive rights over this particular usage. What do I mean by this? Well, “just” in English can also mean something like “only” as in “I have just 20 dollars”, and a couple other things too.

But in Esperanto, “ĵus” is used only for this temporal concept of having just happened. So whenever you are discussing the past tense, this can be used to bring it to the immediate past.

I also just like the sound of it! 🙂

Partying with Participles #4

Now here’s the fourth in the series concerning participles and their antics. Check out the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

Today’s post is about using the various participles with the “e” ending, the ending for adverbs as in:

  • Amiko = Friend
  • Amika = Friendly
  • Amike = Friendlily / In a friendly way

So what does doing this to a participle achieve?

Quite a bit. It’s almost like making two phrases in one!

So here’s two phrases connected with “and”:

  • La melo manĝis kamelon, kaj pensis samtempe pri la sekvonta manĝo = The badger ate a camel, and at the same time was thinking about the next meal.
How can they be joined? E-participle!
  • Manĝante kamelon la melo pensis pri la sekvonta manĝo = (while) eating a camel the badger thought about the next meal.

(Note how “pensis” the simple past tense was translated as both “was thinking” and “thought”. The simple tenses are flexible, which is why Esperanto uses them more. Future post!)

So instead of having two separate main verbs “manĝis” and “pensis” and the surrounding goop, we have “X was thinking about Y” plus the extra information that X was eating something. So they allow you to provide additional context in the same phrase.

Notice now that because “manĝ-” has become a participial adverb (not a main verb), it cannot have it’s own subject. That is, the thing that is doing the eating, will always be the subject of the main verb (here, pensi). So whatever is doing the thinking, must be doing the eating (or whatever the adverb is about).

If you want the subject to be on the receiving end of the action, you must use a passive participle (so that you’re being eaten, rather than eating. Check out the comments on this post for further explanation!):

  • Manĝote de la kamelo, la melo pensis pri feliĉaj aferoj = About to be eaten by a camel, the badger thought about happy things.

Notice the differences you can get with the different aspects of participles too. In the first example the eating was ongoing, in this example, the eating is anticipated.

This allows you to be very succinct with expression. This is one of my favourite examples from “Being Colloquial in Esperanto”:

  • Eĉ pafote silentadus li = Even about to be shot he would remain silent

“Li” is the subject of the main verb “silentadus” = “would remain silent”. So the adverb describes “li”. And the adverb means “about to be shot” because it’s an anticipated action, and a passive one (so “li” is anticipated to receive the action).

Obviously when things get really compact, you should probably reserve those gorgeous sentences for written communication.

Check out the PMEG for more examples.

Next time, I’ll be discussing what happens if you use the “o” ending for participles, instead of “a”, “e” or the verbal endings (that I’ve already talked about)!


I was recently asked on the “Looking for Answers?” page (where you can ask me things to see if I’ve blogged about them, and if I haven’t, I may do!) about what kinds of Esperanto books I use or courses I use, in order to learn Esperanto!

I decided that this was a particularly good idea, not only because I might highlight learning tools that you didn’t know about, but also because you might know of learning tools that I don’t know about! So don’t hesitate to suggest them, especially if they fit with my style of learning, so I’ll add a little information about how I like to learn too, maybe you’ll find it useful, or have suggestion for me.

So, I use a number of different things, because sometimes I’m only in the mood for certain kinds of learning. I’ve always found vocabulary difficult to build in foreign languages, but grammar to be intensely interesting. So perhaps ill-advisedly, I often spend hours poring over grammatical documents with a contented distant grin. In an effort to counter this obvious bias, I try to frequently look up a Wikipedia article and read the Esperanto version, so that I might continue to expand my vocabulary.

I’ve also begun reading various Esperanto fiction: “La Hobito” and “Gerda Malaperis”. The Esperanto Hobbit is still very taxing on my brain, and I find myself looking up words a lot, but it’s an old favourite, so I’m very much helped by my knowledge of the English version. “Gerda Malaperis” is probably more sensible. It starts off incredibly basic, with only dialogue, like a play. It slowly progresses into more complex prose, and often repeats sentences in slightly different ways to cement the vocab (which is also listed in a separate wordlist). Because this book is rather set out like a learning-to-read book. But I found it interesting, unlike my memories of learning to read English books! I also try to read aloud, and pay attention to pronunciation.

For courses, I follow Kellerman’s Complete Grammar of Esperanto. It suits me perfectly, because every lesson, it gives me my fix of interesting grammatical points (explained very clearly with examples) and a small list of vocabulary (I can absorb lots of grammar but not too much vocab in one go). Then provides exercises for translating to and from Esperanto (I only wish it had the answers too!). They vary in difficulty and don’t leave you thinking you can only handle basic translations (like much of the Spanish exercise books I’ve experienced for example). It’s very long and detailed, but each lesson is very short, so you can always delve in for short periods at a time, and you always feel like you’re progressing.

I’ve also been following the “Ana” courses on They have a listening exercise component that I’d been missing for a long while. I wouldn’t want to learn grammar from just these lessons (though they provide links to more info), but it’s very useful for vocabulary building and listening skills.

I had never come across Jen Nia Mondo before! But the description sounds very good! I’m going to start with it. I could do with some Esperanto listening exercises that I can do on the go!

No doubt, when my university studies aren’t taking up so much time, I will begin a correspondence course, because I feel like once I reach a certain level, I want someone who’s being dealing in Esperanto for years to help me improve more, and rid me of bad habits.

Also when I’m more confident with listening and speaking, I will no doubt hassle people for Skype conversations, given that my university has stopped doing an Esperanto course only this year! 😦 Lame!

Being Colloquial in Esperanto was great once I’d learnt the basics. It expands on the basics and talks about anything that might catch you out. There’s lots of little interesting bits, and a massive section on troublesome words. It was also a massive help on learning about participles.

Once my reading skills were starting to catch on, I starting reading over the Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko. And I was surprised at how detailed it was. It talks about so many little nuances that had never occurred to me, and really opened my eyes about the grammar of Esperanto. Definitely a favourite.

Has anyone read the “Plena Analiza Gramatiko de Esperanto”? Any good? How current is the latest version? How does it compare to PMEG?

I also found this page very helpful with word building in Esperanto. Before I could read PMEG, it introduced me to the idea of roots being of different types (action,object etc.).

For dictionaries, I’m waiting on the online version of the PIV (because I’m poor!), which they say will be in test-form by the end of the year. For now I make use of’s dictionary, and Reta-Vortaro mostly.

When trying to look up how words are used, but can’t find a related bit of grammar, I often turn to Tekstaro, a collection of Esperanto texts that you can search through automatically using patterns of letters. E.g. “bol\VF” will search for all verb forms of the verb “boli”. It will then show the contexts that the results occurred in. Very useful!

And finally, I badger the people on Lernu 😀

Fiery Slime in the Loo!

Fajra ŝlimo en la necesejo!

Three words I liked today:

  1. Fajra = Fiery (from fajro = fire)
  2. Ŝlimo = slime/sludge/mud
  3. Necesejo = toilet/toilet room/loo
Pronunciation notes:
  1. The “aj” is pronounced like the english word “eye”. And trill that “r” of course!
  2. Ŝlimo is pronounced like “Sh-lee-mo”
  3. Necesejo is pronounced like “Net-ses-ay-o” (the “ej” is pronounced like “ay” in “hay”).
The reasons I like them:
  1. This is just a sexy word. Maybe would be cool as a girl’s name? I don’t have many favourite words beginning with “f”, but that “ajra” combo sounds delightful!
  2. There is scarcely anything more fun than pronouncing an “ŝ” before a consonant. And this really does make a sound that makes me think of slime. Cool.
  3. “Necesejo” literally means something like “necessary place” or “place of necessity” from “necesa” = “necessary” and the suffix “-ej”, which means “place for <root>” or a place characterised by the root (ĉevalo = horse, ĉevalejo = stable). I think this translation is a neat way of rendering “toilet”, just feels right!
Shorter and sweeter post than last time! A little easier on the eyes 😀

Partying with Participles #3

This is the 3rd in a series of posts about Esperanto’s participles! Don’t know what they are? Don’t even know what a participle is? Then take a look at the 1st and 2nd posts.

The last post showed how we form Esperanto’s six different participles, and what they mean in their adjectival (quality-like, a-word) form. This is the form that is used when the participles are describing nouns (words like “camel”).

The post stated a important distinction. It showed that participles show the state of completion of an action, which is slightly different than simply showing tense (past,present,future). If you don’t remember, take a look at the previous post.We will find out why this is an important distinction after a brief talk about passive phrases and how to make them with the passive participles, which are the ones formed with “at/it/ot” suffixes.

So what’s a passive phrase? It’s a phrase that appears in the passive voice rather than the active voice. In English, this is really quite common:

  • The elf greeted the dwarf = active voice
  • The dwarf was greeted (by the elf) = passive voice
It all centres around how the verb “to greet” is used. In the simplest case (active voice), the subject of the action (the one doing it), the elf, is performing the action (a greeting), to the direct object (the one receiving the action,the dwarf).
However, we can move around the sentence so that the object (dwarf) is mentioned first (so that it’s actually the subject!), and we combine the “to greet” verb, with a form of the verb “to be” (is,are,was,will be), to show that the dwarf isn’t doing the action (even though we mention it first as a subject), it is actually receiving the action. The passive is useful especially if we don’t know who did the action, because the “by the elf” bit is optional.
We can do the same thing in Esperanto, using a form of the verb “esti” = “to be”, plus a passive participle:
  • La elfo salutis la gnomon = The elf greeted the dwarf (note: I’m using the word for dwarf from “The Hobbit”, because it’s better! :))
  • La gnomo estis salutita (de la elfo) = The dwarf was greeted (by the elf)
Notice this gives us many choices! When reading the examples below, bear in mind the “Esti” bit describes when in time something occurred (past,present,future), and the different participles show whether in that time the action was ongoing, completed, or going to be completed:
  • Estas salutata = is being greeted
  • Estas salutita = is greeted (the greeting finished)
  • Estas salutota = is about to be greeted
  • Estis salutata = was being greeted
  • Estis salutita = was greeted (greeting finished)
  • Estis salutota = was about to be greeted
  • Estos salutata = will be being greeted
  • Estos salutita = will be greeted (at some point in the future, the greeting will be complete)
  • Estos salutota = will be about to be greeted

It’s possible to stretch things further by using more forms of “Esti”, i.e. “Estu” or “Estus”, but you’ll be lucky if you see that around!

So why is the idea of completion rather than tense an important distinction?

  • The camel was found a few years ago
How do we use participles to render this phrase in Esperanto? Let’s imagine that the participles show tense not completion. Now we have two sources of tense, “esti” will be in a tense, and “trovi” = “to find” will be in some kind of tense. So using past, present and future, we’ve got 9 choices again like above. But instead of being examples like:
  • Action in past, and completed = Estis trovita
  • Action in present, and completed = Estas trovita
  • Action in present, and ongoing = Estas trovata
We have a set of two tenses, like these examples:
  • Action in past, and occurring around then (present tense relative to the past), whether completed or not = Estis trovata
  • Action in past, and occurred in the past relative to this past = Estis trovita

Notice how this might affect your translation of the example sentence?

Using the idea of aspect we’d do it this way:

  • La kamelo estis trovita antaŭ kelkaj jaroj
“Estis trovita”: At some point in the past, the camel was found (the finding was complete).

Using the idea of tense, so we have two tenses (the second happening relative to the first) we’d have:

  • La kamelo estis trovata antaŭ kelkaj jaroj

“Estis trovata”: At some point in the past, in the present relative to this past, the camel was found or being found

Turns out these two styles were apparently either side of a big argument about passive participles in Esperanto (it-ists versus at-ists) ! According to “Being Colloquial in Esperanto”, the aspect camp won! So stick with the first version!

So why can this strategy of rendering passive phrases using passive participles be inelegant?

Notice the following things about the camel sentence:

  1. The entity who did the finding is totally irrelevant, so we don’t need to saying “was found by somebody”, which you might do with “de <somebody>” after the passive participle.
  2. We had to decide whether the action was completed or in the process of happening (-ita or -ata suffixes), when neither are especially important; we are just trying to convey that the camel was found a number of years ago.

So it’s not very succinct  in this case, is it? There are alternatives.

  1. Using the pronounce “Oni” = “one, they, people”
  2. Using the suffix “-iĝ” = “become <root>”
  1. Oni trovis la kamelon antaŭ kelkaj jaroj = They/People found the camel a few years ago/The camel was found a few years ago
  2. La kamelo troviĝis antaŭ kelkaj jaroj = The camel became-found a few years ago/The camel was found a few years ago

This expresses the same idea, with simple tenses, no resorting to “esti”. The “oni” makes it clear that that the finders are unimportant. And the “iĝ” suffix leaves less room for mentioning who did the finding, because it brings all the emphasis to the action happening to the camel.

So in speech, they’ll usually be less call for using passive participles in this fashion. In writing, if you really wish to be absolutely certain about the state of completion of actions you might use them. The state of completion should be an important and necessary fact in this case.

The most readily understood participle in speech is probably the one ending in “-ita”, so perhaps you’d use it in speech in this situation:

  1. In “The elf greeted the dwarf”, you want to emphasise the dwarf, so you want passive
  2. You still want the elf to be present, so you don’t want to use “Oni”
  3. “de <somebody>” is a little strange when using the “iĝ” suffix, because it gives the feeling of the action just happening, it really downplays the cause of the action
So you say “La gnomo estis salutita de la elfo”.
However, you can achieve emphasis in other ways. Esperanto has very flexible word order, so “The elf greeted the dwarf” could be written:
  1. La elfo salutis la gnomon
  2. La gnomon elfo salutis
  3. La gnomon salutis elfo
  4. La elfo gnomon salutis
Style 1 is most common, so the others show some kind of emphasis. Notice how you can move the dwarf to the front without changing the meaning, because it has the accusative “n”.
Lastly, there is a short form of these passive constructions with “esti”. Most adjectives can be turned into a verb which means “to be <adjective>”:
  • Blua = blue
  • Blui = to be blue
  • Mi bluas = I am blue
  • Mi bluis = I was blue
  • Mi estas blua = I am blue
  • Mi estis blua = I was blue
You can do the same with participles:
  • La gnomo salutitis = The dwarf was greeted

I think it’s really neat, and I like the getting rid of this “esti” in the way. However, that’s a lot of meaning packed into a tight space, when people already try to avoid passive forms with participles. So perhaps stick to it only in writing!

Next time I’ll talk about using participles in an adverbial form (with the -e ending instead of -a), and why they allow you to be very expressive in a compact and neat way. While you wait, you can take a look at a past post on adverbs in Esperanto!

Hmm… Maybe…

A delightful little root/affix today: “ebl-” = “can be done”

A word of possibilities. It’s very simple but useful. First I’ll talk about its use as a word by itself (with the grammatical endings only), then it’s use in word building.

  • Ebla = Possible

This is the adjectival form, used to describe nouns (o-words).

  • La konversacio estas ebla = The conversation is possible.
  • La ebla konversacio = The possible conversation
  • Ebli = To be possible

The root “Ebl-” I think is quality like, which is why “Ebli” is “to be possible”. So you can use it to avoid the “estas” bit:

  • La konversacio eblas = The conversation is possible.
  • Eblo = Something which is possible (a particular thing)
  • Mi ne konsideros la eblon = I will not consider the possibility
  • Eble = maybe,possibly,perhaps.

I quite like how “eble” can be used to get a “might” construction using future tense:

  • Mi eble laboros = I maybe will work (=I might work)

I think this is nice too:

  • Ebligi = To make possible

Which uses the “-ig” suffix “to cause <root>” see previous posts 1,2,3,4.

When used as a suffix, I think it always has to be at the end of a verb. Because, it makes the idea of the root “possible”.

  • Legi = to read
  • Legebla = readable, possible to read, legible
  • Legeble = readably, legibly
  • Legebli = to be legible

Notice how most of the time the verb will have to be transitive (see previous posts on transitivity: 1,2). This means that it can take a direct object: how can something be readable if you can’t read something? The something is the object. If the verb was “to sleep”, “sleepable” doesn’t make sense. Because you don’t “sleep something”.

However the exceptions are intransitive verbs whose indirect objects or prepositionally related nouns can sometimes take the accusative.

E.g. the PMEG gives:

  • loĝi = to live (dwell)
  • loĝebla = liveable, place that can be lived in
  • loĝi ĝin = loĝi en ĝi = to live in it

Did you know that you can make 3 different words for “possibility” out of this suffix (see this post!)?