Did you see him running too?

Here’s a little treat that is floating around the internet in all sorts of nooks and crannies:

  1. Mi vidis la knabon kuri
  2. Mi vidis la knabon kuranta
  3. Mi vidis la knabon kurantan

What’s the difference between them?

The explanation is usually in Esperanto, or buried in discussions in the Lernu forums. So good ole me has done the digging, and here’s my impression!

Basics:

  • Knabo = boy
  • Vidi = to see
  • Kuri = to run / running
  • -anta = Present participle ending (see series on participles), it shows that an action is ongoing.

So in all of the examples, I saw a boy, and my seeing of him involved him running.

The difference between -i and -anta(n)

The verb with just “i” (kuri), simply states the action in general. It is the base form of the verb. The action was seen, and you could have seen the action finish. Because it gives no information about tense or completed-ness about the action.

Whereas “-anta(n)” specifically treats the action as an ongoing or repeated process. Using “-anta(n)” says nothing about the action being completed, or what happened subsequently; I simply saw the ongoing action.

The difference between -anta and -antan

The “knabo” is the direct object here. The boy is being seen (the object of “vidis”). When we’re describing an object we have a choice to add the “n” or not. This well known example shows the difference this “n” can make:

  • Li farbis la domon ruĝa = He painted the house red
  • Li farbis la domon ruĝan = Li farbis la ruĝan domon = He painted the red house

If the “n” is present, then the a-word is matching the o-word’s “n”, and is therefore just an attribute of the o-word. In other words, the house was already red when he began painting it. The house that he painted, just happened to be red.

If the “n” is not present, then the a-word is not an attribute, it is the result of the action or something that happens during the action. So the a-word is now emphasised; he painted something red, and the house happened to be what he painted. See my previous post for more explanation on this.

So here’s the three translations. Notice how in practice 1 and 2 will probably translate the same. I’ve included the nuance in brackets:

  1. I saw the boy running (I may have seen him finish running)
  2. I saw the boy running (I am only saying I saw the ongoing running)
  3. I saw the running boy (He was running when I saw him)

See how 1 and 2 emphasise the running because it’s not just an attribute of the boy. What we saw was the running, and the boy happened to be doing it.

In 3, the emphasis is with the boy, the running is just what he happened to be doing when I saw him (it was just an attribute of the boy).

Even more fun:

What happens if we up and do this?

  • Mi vidis la knabon kurante

An adverbial participle! If you know the difference between adverbs and adjectives (e-words and a-words in Esperanto) the answer may well be obvious!

Here’s the key bit of info:

  • Adjectives (a-words) describe nouns (o-words), but
  • Adverbs (e-words) describe anything BUT nouns. In this sentence, a verb.

So, before, “kurant-a(n)” was describing the o-word (knabo), the boy. “kurant-e” now describes the main verb, the “seeing”.

In other words, the seeing was done while running.

Does this making it clearer?

  • Kurante mi vidis la knabon = While running, I saw the boy
The person doing the seeing is doing the running now!

Thanks to the commenter guleblanc (below) for reminding me of this extra fun!

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11 thoughts on “Did you see him running too?

  1. Great article. I very well understand those (the first two I came across before) :
    * Li farbis la domon ruĝa = He painted the house (to) red
    * Li farbis la domon ruĝan = He painted the red house (to what color? this is not mentioned)
    * Mi vidis la knabon kuri = I saw the boy to run
    * Mi vidis la knabon kurantan = I saw the running boy (He was running when I saw him)
    * Mi vidis la knabon kurante = I saw the boy while (I was) running

    But this one I do not understand:
    * Mi vidis la knabon kuranta
    Is it ? :
    “Mi vidis la kuranta knabon” = I saw the (usually) running boy (he might or not be running when seen)
    I do not understand this you have written in the article :
    “I saw the boy running (I am only saying I saw the ongoing running)”
    It doesn’t seem to have a meaning like this one “Li farbis la domon ruĝa”.

    • The reason “kuranta” seems slightly different to “ruĝa” is more to do with “vidis” versus “farbis”, because “vidis” is just a perception action, “kuranta” isn’t the results of our action, it’s just what we see. Whereas “farbis” causes the house to be “ruĝa”.

      The difference becomes more obvious when you try to say something like:

      “Mi vidis la domon ruĝa”

      Doesn’t sound right does it?

      In my articles example, the main different between “kuranta” and “kurantan” is of emphasis. When we using “kurantan” we’re only saying that the running is an attribute of the boy (we perhaps saw him doing other things than running), so the emphasis is on the boy.

      But when we use “kuranta” we’re specifically pointing to the fact that it’s the running we saw, not necessarily any other action. So the emphasis is on the running.

      That’s not explained very well in the article… I’ve got a better understanding of it since then! 😀

  2. Thank you soooo much for this explanation! I have been looking for a clear explanation of participles and I couldn’t find one. Glad I stumbled upon your blog. 🙂

  3. Nu, mi kredas ke la malsamo inter “kuranta” kaj “kurantan” en ĉi tiu okazo estas normale tre malgrava, sed via esploro estas interesa.

  4. Ankaux, interesas al mi ke oni pova alangligi la vortgrupon “Mi vidis la knabon kurante” tiel: I saw the boy running. Sed tiuokaze, la vidanto kuras, kaj povas esti ke la knabo komplotas kun la meloj.

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