Changing, whether one wants to or not

I was looking up a few words in the dictionary when I came across a little gem: “vole nevole”, it means “whether one wants to or not”. Such a neat little construction! It comes from the action root “vol-“.

“Voli” means “to want/wish”. Its adjective form (“vola”) means “willful, desired”, and so the adverb “vole” means “willfully”. And just like we use “pli malpli” for “more or less”, “vole nevole” is used for what is essentially “willfully or not willfully”.

Also! I’ve noted down another word. I came across it on one of my usual strolls around the ole PMEG. You’ll find it near the bottom in the “Vortfarado” (word building) section! It’s “tiama”, it’s an adjective derived from the table-word “tiam”. “Tiam” means “then/in that time”. But “tiama” is able to describe a noun (0-word). It usually translates as something like “of that time” or “then”:

  • En 1872, mi renkontis la tiaman meloreĝon= In 1872, I met the badger-king of that time

Seems pretty neat!

Oh, by the way

Awesome word today: parenteze (pronounced pa-ren-TE-ze)

It means “by the way”.

The reason it’s awesome in my opinion, is because it makes way more sense (i.e. what do we actually mean by, “by the way”?? What way??).

We often use “by the way” to introduce a parenthetical statement (a statement which is not grammatically necessary, and is like an afterthought, or additional explanation. This was in fact a parenthetical statement by the way, and it is placed in parentheses (in brackets (another parenthetical statement)).

The Esperanto word for “parenthesis” is “parentezo”. By changing the noun ending “o” to the adverb ending “e”, we make the word more like “in a parenthetical manner, parenthetically” in other words, “by the way”!

Verse 33

Just for fun, I decided to translate one of my favourite verses of the Tao Te Ching (a Taoist text). I have a book with a few different English translations, and the characters used in the ancient chinese text, with explanations about their shades of meaning and how they go together. So first, I translated my favourite English version into Esperanto, and then I produced a translation from the explanations of the chinese characters (Because my chinese is awful, and I know even less about more ancient forms of it!).

Turns out that (if I haven’t made grave errors), Esperanto can get much closer to the format of the original characters in a nice way, than English can.

So here’s what I got from translating the chinese characters directly:

Konante aliajn, oni inteligentas.
Konante sin, oni saĝas.

Venkante aliajn, oni fortas.
Venkante sin, oni ĉiopovas.

Forte alpaŝante vivon, oni ja akiras ion.
Kontentante pri sia vivo, oni ja akiras ĉion.

Dediĉante sin al sia vivejo, oni vivas longe.
Mortante tamen ne forgesote, oni ja vivas eterne.

So, making quite a literal English translation of this, you get:

In knowing others, one is intelligent.
In knowing oneself, one is wise.

In conquering others, one is strong.
In conquering oneself, one is all-powerful.

Approaching life forcefully, one surely gets something.
In being content in one’s life, one surely gets everything.

In being dedicated to one’s place, one lives long.
In dying but not being forgotten, on surely lives forever.

In my opinion, the English version in this style looks stunted and not flowing, it needs more gumpf to make it sound nice (I already had to add all those “in”s!). This is the style that the book I have goes for:

One who knows others is intelligent
One who knows onself is enlightened

And even here, most lines have to be prefixed with “one who”. It kinda helps it flow, and sometimes repetition is part of rhythm, but I think I’m beginning to prefer Esperanto here!

My Esperanto version is much closer to the ordering and use of the chinese characters than this English version (especially given that the Esperanto words mostly map one-to-one with the characters). I just found this interesting!

I also found the following interesting whilst translating:

  • ĉiopova = all-powerful, omnipotent. Literally “everything-able” or like “able to do everything”. I thought this was a nice construction. Not my own, I stumbled across it.
  • alpaŝi = to approach, to tackle, to deal with. “paŝi” means “to tread, to stride, to stalk”, and “al” means “to, toward”. I thought that was another neat construction to stumble across!

Some things I was unsure about:

  • I use “ejo” on the penultimate line. I use it because I’m not talking about any old place “loko”. I’m talking about the place one has in the world, ones own path through the universe. EDIT: changed to “vivejo” (vivo = life),see comments below. I love the idea of a “life-place”.
  • “Ne forgesote” = “not going to be forgotten, not being forgotten” on the last line. “Forgesi” = “to forget”. Here we want “to be forgotten” so we use a passive participle (-ot suffix rather than -ont), I’m sure of this. But I wasn’t sure if it should be “ne forgesate” = “not being forgotten” (present tense), however I felt that this implied that one need only not be forgotten in the present, whereas the true meaning is to never be forgotten, so future tense “ne forgesote”.Another alternative was “ne forgesiĝante” = “not becoming forgotten”, or “ne forgesiĝonte” = “not going to become forgotten. But after I thought of using the future tense “forgesote”, the “become” bit of these alternatives seemed to be unnecessary extra baggage.

An open question:

  • I use “Kontentante pri sia vivon…” = “Being content with one’s life…”. Could this be entirely replaced by “viv-kontentante” does that make sense? From the verb “vivkontenti” = “to be content with life, to be life-content”.Similarly, I use “Dediĉante sin al sia ejo” = “Dedicating oneself to one’s place”. Could I replace this with “Ej-dediĉante sin” = “place-dedicating oneself”.

Do comment if there are any errors! Or if you wish to ask about any 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)!

Revisiting an old flame

So, a while back I posted about a word “iafoje”, in the category of “alluring words”, because it is a very, very pretty word. But it’s also sneaky! It has a hidden depth that I did not quite notice at the time, when I translated it as “sometimes”. Which is fine! Don’t worry! There’s just a nuance to it beyond that.

So, in the time since that post I’ve found other words to mean “sometimes”, made by adding different words to the root “foj” meaning “time,occasion”. With also the “e” ending for adverbs (“sometimes” is an adverb because it describes verbs, action words, you do some action “sometimes”).

  • iufoje, which is made with “iu” meaning “some, any, someone”
  • kelkfoje, which is made with “kelk(a)” meaning “some,several”
Compared to:
  • iafoje, which is made with “ia” meaning “some kind (of)”
So can you start to see where the nuances might be? I wasn’t too sure about the differences myself at first, but chatted with a couple folks at to make sure they said the same things I was wondering:
  • iufoje: suggests some indefinite time(s), any times, some times. A good phrase used by one of the Lernu folks was “sporadic events”
  • kelkfoje: simply suggests some bunch of multiple events/times
  • iafoje: suggests definite types of events.
I think it’s so interesting how you can express these different nuances of meaning in such simple ways, by building with these blocks of meaning.So in the original post I was saying how I found the word used alot in the Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko. So why do they use this kind of “sometimes” instead of the others?I’ll tell you what I think. It’s often used in the context of explaining the usage of a word, concept, affix or suchlike. “Sometimes X is used in this context… Here it conveys….” etc.

This “sometimes” is talking about specific occasions when X is used in a specific way. Therefore, the obvious choice is iafoje!

Speaking very Esperantily

Adverbs make me giggle in Esperanto. I find myself enjoying them immensely, then I feel weird about getting so excited about a feature of a language! But so what?

An adverb is a word that describes verbs (action words like “speak”), adjectives (describing word like “blue” or other adverbs. In English you can make a lot of words into adverbs by adding “-ly”:

  • I ran quickly
Notice how “quickly” modifies the “run” action, telling you that it was particularly fast.
The thing about Esperanto, is that you can make any word into an adverb, by just changing the ending to an “e”!
  • Mi ŝatas paroli Esperante = I like to speak in Esperanto.
“Esperante” is an adverb, so it modifies the “paroli” verb meaning “to speak”, telling you that the speaking is done in an Esperanto way! I like to think of it as speaking “Esperantily”!
In English, when we can’t make a legal adverb with “-ly” or use some irregular form (the adverb of “good” is “well”), we have to resort to prepositions like “in” as in the sentence above, or “by” in the sentence below:
  • Ni iras aŭte = We go by car
The word for “car” is “aŭto”, the “o” was simply changed to “e” to get the adverb. So we are travelling “car-ily”!