No need to resort to that!

If you’ve been lurking around here for a while, you may have read my series on Esperanto’s participles. If you haven’t and you have no idea what I’m talking about, why not take a stroll over there now?

They are incredibly useful things. You can even use them to create complicated verb tenses. However, one of those old posts shows why resorting to participles for complicated tenses can be a little on the inelegant side.

In today’s post I’ll be sharing a few PMEG tips on how to avoid resorting to complex tenses.

Take the following sentence:

  • When you phoned me, I was eating.

This implies that when I received your call, I was in the middle of eating. How might we say this in Esperanto?

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi manĝis.

Using the simple past tense, we’re in a little trouble. Because this could mean any of:

  • When you phoned me, I was eating
  • When you phoned me, I ate (i.e. I started eating when you called)
  • When you phoned me I had eaten (already)

Does this mean we have to resort to complex tenses?

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝanta (I was in the middle of eating)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝonta (I was about to eat)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝinta (I had already eaten)

All those different meanings by changing a single vowel! In speech this is a little mean on your listener, no?

How about these instead:

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, ĝuste tiam mi manĝis (I was eating exactly when you called)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi jam antaŭe manĝis (I had already previously eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi ankoraŭ ne manĝis (I hadn’t yet eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi ĵus manĝis (I had only just eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi intencis/planis manĝi [baldaŭ] (I intended/planned to eat [soon])

Simple ways to stick to the simple tenses!

Read more here, and here.

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