In favour of numberable

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pexels

If you’re anything like me, you often sit pondering the nature of countable nouns. The countability, or enumerability, of things is an important consideration – despite my spellchecker refusing to acknowledge it.

This is the idea that some nouns name individual things that one could count, and yet others name things whereby the quantity is unspecified or arbitrary, a non-individual thing or substance. And we use these nouns slightly differently. For example, with countable nouns like “squirrel”, “house”, and “tree”, we can talk about them like this:

There are two squirrels in a house.

But that would sound mega weird with uncountable nouns like “water”, “sand”, or “milk”:

There are two sands in a milk.

Because those are not countable; talking about one or more of them is a bit strange. There are some uncountable nouns, like “metal”, where we do sometimes use the plural to refer to many types of that noun (rather than individual instances). For example:

She held in her grasp two metals.

This does not mean two bits of metal, this means two types of metal.

This is all largely the same in Esperanto, with the same words you’d expect. But there is an interesting word-building quirk to be aware of!

When we make words with the aĵ suffix, we make a concrete thing to do with the root word. For example: “utila” means “useful”, and “utilaĵo” is a “useful thing”.

And the quirk to be aware of is that words produced in this manner can frequently make sense as either countable or non-countable nouns, and you’ll find them in both uses. One example that PMEG discusses is “produktaĵo”. The verb “produkti” means “to produce” so “produktaĵo” is a thing which is produced, and can be countable or non-countable depending on context. It is like the difference between English “product” and “produce”, where “product” names individual countable things, but we talk about “produce” as we would “water”:

Kiam vi kolektos la produktaĵon de la tero…

When you have gathered the produce of the land…

Sciuroj importas 75% de siaj produktaĵoj

Squirrels import 75% of their products.

Most of the time, context is gonna show you which you’d want to translate it as. And obviously the plural “j” is often a dead giveaway that we’re being countable. But sometimes, the sentence might be short enough that the meaning could go either way, the PMEG gives:

Li lavis tolaĵon

Countable: He washed a linen (e.g. item of clothing made of linen)
Uncountable: He washed linen

Pretty neat!

By the way, the Esperanto for “to count” is “nombri” from “nombro” (number). So “countable” is “nombrebla”, which is pretty delicious in my books. It’s inspired me to prefer “numberable” in English over all the other pretenders: countable, numerable, enumerable…

“Screwing” is fun in Esperanto


I just had quite the enjoyable eight or so minutes; I discovered the word for “screw” in Esperanto, and it is gorgeous and supremely fun to pronounce over and over:


The first bit might take some effort if you’re not used to the combo, because we’ve got ŝ sounding like “sh” in “show”, immediately followed by a rolled r! Then that satisfying ending with (like “ow” in “how”) followed by bi  (like the word “bee”).

As Esperanto regulars will see, the “i” ending makes this the verb form, so it means “to screw”, from the base noun form “ŝraŭbo” which is just “a screw”.

And it only gets better with some of the combos you can build off of this guy. Let me show you a couple of my faves.

ŝraŭbaĵilo = screw threading tool

Now that’s fun to say, and I think, quite a neat construction. Here we’ve got two suffixes:

  • : the ĵ is like the “s” in “pleasure”. This suffix when applied to a root which is at base a noun, produces that concrete thing/object which is most related to the original thing. So applying it to “wood” makes “something made from wood” applying it to spider makes “spider web”. Typically context will make this most clear. Here, “ŝraŭbaĵo” would be “screw threading”. See my other posts referring to . The PMEG has a super useful page for better understanding this powerful suffix here.
  • il: applying this suffix (pronounced like “eel”) to a root we get a “tool for [root] “.  Here, we get a “tool for producing screw threading”! Of course, followed by the “o” noun ending. Other posts mentioning il here.

ŝraŭbingo = nut

This also quite neatly produces a related word, by quite simple means. We’ve got the suffix: ing which means “holder for [root]”!

But crucially, the important bit is that these words are delightful to wrap the tongue around!

If you’d like to stick to the beauty of Esperanto’s one sound per letter, then remember to pronounce the ending as “bin” followed by “go” (as “go” in “got”), instead of how the “ng” merges in English “bingo”. But you won’t be hassled if you don’t care about such things!

Now, my wife caught me talking about using nuts on screws (not bolts), and gave me a informative lecture! So for anyone who knows the differences: if we go by the dictionary at , “ŝraŭbo” in Esperanto is a very general term for a cylindrical threaded object that one turns to fix!

Apply squirrels where needed – Apliku laŭbezone sciurojn


I recently realised that one of the little enjoyments of my day is when I discover words that demonstrate neat uses of word building. And so this marks the start of a new sub-type of blog post category!

In “productive words”, I’ll introduce a root word which I think has one or more interesting, convenient, or useful constructions that are also found in an Esperanto dictionary (safety reasons). Then, we’ll completely throw caution to the wind and posit some more constructions that aren’t in the dictionary for the sheer heck of it.

Feel free to ask about any words used, or methods of construction; I won’t go into all of them here to start.

Bezoni : To Need

Dictionary examples:

  1. laŭbezone: where needed / as need be / as needed
  2. bezonaĵo: requisite / a thing that is necessary
  3. senbezona: needless

“Laŭ” (“according to” / “following” / “along”) is a frequent culprit for producing interesting constructed words. It works so nicely with so many things. Number 1 is definitely my favourite! So succinct, and avoids those different English variations in favour of a single logical version. But I do also like how simply we get to “requisite” using the “aĵ” suffix!

My thoughts:

  1. Bezonema: needy
  2. Bezonaĉo: base/nasty urge/need also has “necesbezono” as “manko de ĉio, kion postulas la fizika vivo”. What would you say that translates to? Basic needs?

House found to be haunted by ghostly badgers.

Today, you get a couple of words I’ve come up with!

Firstly, we have:

malinformadi = to keep uninformed

  • mal : prefix which reverses the meaning of a word
  • informi : to inform
  • -ad : a suffix which implies repeated or continual action (read more about ad)

Example sentence:

  • Kiel antaŭzorgo, la sciuroj malinformadas la melojn = As a precaution, the squirrels keep the badgers uninformed.

It’s very much an active thing to be doing. When you are “malinformi” you are doing the very opposite of informing. Not simply just “not informing”, you are actively putting someone in the dark. The “ad” bit in the full word, stresses the ongoing, repeated process.

Next up, we’ve got:

feliĉigaĵo = something that makes you happy

  • feliĉa : happy
  • -ig : suffix which means “to make/cause <root>” (read more about ig)
  • -aĵ : suffix which shows we’re talking about a concrete thing, which is somehow characterised by the word that comes in front of it. (read more about aĵ)

Example sentence:

  • Ĉiu serĉu la feliĉaĵojn = Each person should look for the things that make them happy

At risk of blowing my own trumpet, I thought those words lend themselves to quite neat sentences 🙂

Also, please do excuse the title… I found myself giving this post a very boring title and decided to spice it up with a little strange. In future, I might use slightly more odd titles, but also try to translate them into Esperanto, you know, for kicks. 😀

Title: Domo troviĝis hantata de fantomaj meloj

Oh the possibilities

There’s a sneaky word that has the possibility of tripping you up when translating to Esperanto, especially coming from an English background!

However, instead of Esperanto being the playground bully waiting to trip up poor awkward English, Esperanto is once again helping us to be more concise.

Take a look at the suffix “-ebl”, here’s a post of mine on it.

Why talk about it again? Because this time, it’s about using it as fully fledged root word.

  • Ebla = possible

So here it is. How might you translate “possibility” into Esperanto? Here’s three possibilities:

  • Eblo = possibility
  • Eblaĵo = possibility
  • Ebleco = possibility

Other Esperanto words might set you up for trouble here:

  • Kulpa = guilty, culpable
  • Kulpo = blame, guilt
  • Kulpeco = culpability

Why does “eco” correspond to “-bility” (as with loads of other words too, I suspect), but we can get “possibility” from all three of those endings?

The answer is this. It’s quite helpful in a bunch of cases to think of Esperanto affixes to loosely correspond to common endings in English (at least when you’re starting out), like how “e” creates adverbs in Esperanto similarly to how “ly” creates them sometimes in English (rapida = quick; rapide = quickly), like how “-ness” or “-bility” in English are often similar to “-ec” in Esperanto. However, this is only a rule of thumb. One has to understand what you actually mean by adding “eco”.

In the case with “possibility”, we English use this word to cover the meaning of all three of those alternatives! It’s not like “blame” versus “culpability”.

“Eblaĵo” and “Ebleco” is where we really have to drive the difference:

  • “Eblaĵo” refers to a thing that is possible. “Aĵ” is a suffix, which usually denotes a concrete thing, so “eblaĵo” is “something which is possible, a possibility”.
    • Tio estas eblaĵo = That’s a possibility; that’s a possible-thing
    • La mondo estas plena de eblaĵoj = The world is full of possibilities/possible-things
  • “Ebleco” refers to the property of possible-ness: how possible something is. “Ec” is a suffix, which usually denotes a property or quality of something, not the something itself. You could therefore talk about the “ebleco” of an “eblaĵo”.
    • Tio havas fortan eblecon = That has a strong possibility (“tio” refers to an “eblaĵo”, and “ebleco” is talking about the level of possibility it has).
  • “Eblo” I think out of usage tends to refer to “eblaĵo”, but technically it is the generic noun form of “possible”, which can mean either “ebleco” or “eblaĵo”. So if you’re ever unsure, just use “eblo”.

Reading material on the subject from the PMEG: 1, 2

Chocolate born to chirp

A desire suddenly happened upon me to look up pleasant-sounding words with the letters “ĝ” and “ĉ” in them, which respectively are pronounced as “g” in “gem” and “ch” in “chin”.

So here are some that I’ve found, and enjoy the sound of:

  1. Ŝanĝiĝi = (Shan-JEE-jee) to change (not change something else. The subject of this verb is the thing that’s changing). E.g. nun ke li havas amanto, li ŝanĝiĝis = now that he has a lover, he has changed (he  changed, became changed). From “ŝanĝi” = “to change (something into something), plus “-iĝi” = “to become <root>”, so “ŝanĝiĝi” = “to become changed into something”.
  2. Naskiĝi = (Nask-EE-jee) to be born.
  3. Ĉokolado = (Cho-ko-LA-do) Chocolate.
  4. Ĉasaĵo =  (Cha-SA-zho, where “zh” is pronounced like “s” in “pleasure”) game, quarry (in a hunt). “Ĉasi” = “to chase/hunt”, and the suffix “-aĵ” means a concrete thing characterised by the root word. Therefore “Ĉasaĵo” is a thing that is chased/hunted, i.e. quarry.
  5. Ĉifi = (CHEE-fee) to crumble, crease (something).
  6. Ĉirpi = (CHEER-pee) to chirp.

In 1, I love the “jee-jee” bit, especially when you have the word in past tense “ŝanĝiĝis”, finishing with the “s” makes it sound very flowing to me.

In 2, I think I almost like the “nask” sound almost as much as “ĝ”!

3 sounds bumpy in a rhythmic way, it’s kinda fun to say over and over…

4 and 5 are generally quite pleasing to pronounce, but the “ĉir” in 6 is my favourite sound out of the three. There’s something much more pleasing about its sound than how “chir” would be pronounced in English (“chirp” sounds so bland in comparison).


Today’s post is about the suffix “-ec” (which is pronounced “ets”, e.g. “boneco” is pronounced “bonetso”).

This post relies on knowing about the different kinds of roots in Esperanto (quality, object, and action roots). I’ve written a post about this.

This suffix makes words that are the quality of or state of being in the root word. It always shows an abstract concept/quality. This contrasts with the “-aĵ’ suffix, which always shows a concrete thing.

If the root that you attach the suffix to already has a quality-like meaning, like “bona” = “good” then the new word is the property or state of that word. So here, “good” (bona) becomes “goodness” (boneco), which is the property of something that is good. You can talk about the “goodness” of something.

How is this different from the noun form of “bona”, i.e. “bono”. The noun form alone is the concept itself of “good”.

When added to a non-quality root, “ec” adds the idea of the quality, property or state related to that root, what it is like to be that root.

  • homo = human, person
  • homeco = human-ness (the quality of being human)
  • ŝtono = stone
  • ŝtoneco = stoniness (the quality of being (hard) like stone)
  • vivi = to live
  • vivo = life
  • viveco = life-ness? The quality of being full of life.
  • unu = one
  • unueco = one-ness, the quality of being as one.

When a noun form has many different types of meaning, adding the “ec” suffix can serve to disambiguate, and select only the quality meaning:

  • belo = A beautiful thing, abstract idea of beauty, or beautifulness (the beauty quality of something)
  • beleco = Beautifulness

Which I think is cool, so you can be specific when you need to but vague when not. This sort of thing can be done with “-aĵ” and “-ad” too.

You can use “ec” with endings other than “o” too! With “a” or “e” (adjective or adverb respectively), the meaning is something like “of similar quality/type as <root>”

  • ŝtoneca koro = Heart as hard as stone (without feeling)

I particularly like this usage, it seems to have a simple elegance to it!

These examples are courtesy of the PMEG! The page also briefly mentions a couple more minor usages of “ec”, but these were my favourite bits 😛

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!


Time to discuss uses of the suffix “aĵ”! By attaching this to a root, you make a word into a concrete thing (a definite instantiation) of the meaning of the root (Compare to the suffix “ec” which shows an abstract quality or state of the meaning of the root. Future post!)

The weird “ĵ” letter is pronounced like a french “j”. If you don’t know what this sounds like, then it’s also like the “s” in the English word “pleasure”.

I think it’s one of my favourite letters. I already loved “J”, but J with a circumflex above it? Splendid!

Okay. Your main use of “aĵ” is on quality-like roots (the ones that are naturally adjectives, see my post on the matter). Some examples are courtesy of PMEG, the main reference for this post.

  • bela = beautiful, belaĵo = a particularly beautiful thing, an instantiation of beauty
  • utila = useful, utilaĵo = a concrete thing which is useful
  • saĝa = wise, saĝaĵo = a concrete thing characterised by wisdom. Maybe a piece of wisdom (e.g. a saying)

See how a particular quality becomes an instantiation of that quality?

It can also be used on action-like roots (the ones that prefer being verbs). In this case the meaning is more varied. It can be a thing which is the result of the action, or does the action, or is used by the action, or is the object of the action, and more!

  • fari = to do/make, faraĵo = something that was done/made, is being done or made, or will be done/made.
  • desegni = to design/draw, desegnaĵo = something that was designed/drawn, a picture.
  • bruli = to burn, brulaĵo = something which burns
  • kovri = to cover, kovraĵo = something with which one covers
  • manĝi = to eat, manĝaĵo = something to eat, food.

Notice how with “fari”, “faraĵo” can be all sorts of variations on a theme (i.e. whether the thing was done, will be done, or is being done now). It is possible to be more specific using participles (adjectives made from verbs). More details in future posts but:

  • farataĵo = something that is being done/made
  • faritaĵo = something that was done/made
  • farotaĵo = something that will be done

Sometimes when you make a noun by using the “o” suffix, the new word can mean several things.

  • konstrui = to build/construct
  • konstruo = the action of building, manner of building, a built something (e.g. house)

If you wish to be more specific, “aĵ” can be your friend.

  • konstruaĵo = a built something

It reflects only the concrete manifestation meaning.

“Aĵ” can be used on all sorts of words to make an instantiation of something to do with the root.
I quite like one of the examples from PMEG:

  • mi = I
  • miaĵo = something that concerns me, or which belongs to me

It can even be used on words that are already concrete manifestations, like:

  • aŭto = car
  • aŭtaĵo = a car thing (thingy-majig!), some specific thing related to cars.

Another use you’ll find is on animal roots, in order to make the corresponding food:

  • porko = pig, porkaĵo = pork

And by itself as a noun “aĵo”, it means a concrete thing (of arbitrary type)!