Turn around – de temp’ al temp’ mi disrompiĝas!


It’s all about word versatility this evenin’. We turn a simple word into whole bag of tricks. So don’t turn back, nor avert your eyes. The word of interest is:

Turni : To Turn (pronounced TOOR-nee)

This word specifically means that the subject is turning something. As in “I turned the hands of the clock”, or even “I turned the clock into a watch”. But never “I turned around” or “I turned into a badger”. The difference with those last ones, is that they are implying that the turning is happening to the subject of the verb, the thing doing the action. But Esperanto has a different word for that.

Therefore, if I said the broken phrase “Mi turnis en melon” for “I turned into a badger”, an Esperantist would ask you “You turned what into a badger?” Your sentence is incomplete!

First, lets take the dictionary dive:

Turnilo: winch / crank / tool for turning

Using the suffix “-il” for specifying a tool for performing an action, we can arrive at “a tool for turning”, which is quite versatile in itself; we can tack any noun at the front to get “a tool for turning [noun]”:

  • ŝraŭbturnilo: screwdriver
  • diskturnilo: disk unit / drive / turn table

Deturni: to turn away / to avert

Deturnu viajn okulojn! = Avert your eyes! Here we use the word for “from”. So instead of just turning a thing, we’re turning it from something else. Whenever you get a nice strong action word like this, you can make fun use of “sen” = “without” to describe things that proceed without that action. Here the “a” ending makes an adjective, for describing nouns:

  • sendeturna: without turning away / unflinchingly.  “la sendeturna okulo” = “The unaverting / unflinching eye”.

Returni: to turn back

The “re” prefix means repetition, or going back. So putting the “re” infront of “turni” will usually mean turning something back the other way, or in the opposite direction.

Turniĝi: to turn (around) / rotate / gyrate / revolve (toor-NEE-jee)

Here’s that sneaky “iĝ” suffix again. It means literally “to become [turned]”. Our root here is “turn”. So this is like putting the turning action back on the subject. Remember how we couldn’t use “turni” to have the subject talk about itself turning, it must always be turning something else? Well we can with the suffix: I turned into a badger = Mi turniĝis en melon. While it might be hard at first to deal with Esperanto’s strict nature about who is the subject of a verb, it actually means the sense of words very easy to interpret and reason over for word building when you get the hang of it.

Elturniĝi: to manoeuvre / wangle / contrive

Woah. How did we get that? Looks like a flippin’ Elvish name! So we start with the basic “turniĝi” and add to it the ever useful “el” meaning “out of”. So it’s literally like turning yourself out of a difficult situation! And whenever you’ve got yourself a cool verb like that, you can always make a word to describe someone with that quality:

Elturniĝema: elusive, resourceful, slippery, wily

The “em” suffix (and the adjective “a” ending here) describes something that has the tendency, inclination, or disposition for a given action. So something/someone that is “elturniĝema” is one who tends to be able to wangle and manoeuvre!

A lot of the above can be mix ‘n’ matched, many things that work for “turni” (turning something) work for “turniĝi” (being turned)!

Kapturno: dizziness, giddiness, swimming (in head), vertigo

Using the noun ending “o”, a “turno” is just “a turn(ing)”. When we combine with “kapo” = “head”, we have a head-turning. Which is used to refer to when it feels like your head keeps turning you strangely when you’re a bit dizzy!

And now for some extra fun outside of the safety of a dictionary:

Diskturnisto: DJ

Using the “ist” suffix, which is like English “er” in “Shoemaker”, “Writer”, “Runner”, or “ist” in “Novelist”, “Florist”, “Tourist”, we can define someone who is professionally occupied with turning disks 😀

Neturnita: Unturned / Yet to turn

One might used this to describe someone bitten by a zombie but not yet dead… 😛

Why not… Combine the power of -ig & -iĝ?!


… It’s sheer madness,  that’s why. But it’s fun, and that’s what we’re here for.

I was trawling through the latest updates to the PMEG (because I know how to party), and found that it’s not entirely unheard of to combine the suffixes -ig & -iĝ in a word. But -ig & -iĝ are sorta like opposites, why don’t they just cancel out?

These suffixes are really useful word-building tools, so if you’re not familiar with how they work, then you can see some examples in my previous post here. Otherwise, here’s quick recap (skip if you’re familiar with -ig & -iĝ):

“g” is pronounced like “g” in “goat”, and “ĝ” is pronounced like “g” in “gem”.

[word]+ig = cause / make happen [word]

For example :

  • “morti” = “to die”
  • “mortigi” = “to kill” (literally: cause to die)

[word]+iĝ = become [word]

For example:

  • “rompi” = “to break (something)”
  • “rompiĝi” = “to become broken”  (In English we tend to just keep using “break”, basically something breaking).

So the reason one might expect the suffixes to cancel out is: you’ve got “rompiĝi” = “to become broken”, so when adding -ig (rompiĝigi) you might expect to have made: “to cause something to become broken” which seems just the same as “rompi” (to break something)!

Note that the “i” ending after the suffixes is what makes the final constructed words into verbs.

An example of both -ig & -iĝ being used in the PMEG is: formoviĝigi

What a beautiful beast of a word, eh? Break it down:

  1. movi: to move (something)
  2. formovi: to move (something) away
  3. formoviĝi: to be moved away / to become moved away
  4. formoviĝigi: to cause to be moved away / to make (something) moved away

There’s a nuanced difference of meaning between your standard formovi and formoviĝigi.

“Formovi” alone implies a direct causation: we actually moved something away. Whereas there’s room for indirect methods in “formoviĝigi”, because we’re just causing something to end up being moved, to become moved. So the addition of “ig” doesn’t quite return us to the original meaning of “formovi”.

In the PMEG’s example, the moving is accomplished through intimidation, not actual physical movement:

  • Rajdmilicanoj formoviĝigis la publikon = Yeomen made the public move away.

Well, we’ve had our fun. But, of course, we must be sensible when talking to new people. It’s usually more clear to just separate off the -ig:

  • Rajdmilicanoj igis la publikon formoviĝi

But where’s the excitement there!? I say just talk more slowly and more loudly 😀 ĥeĥe

All poetical

I’ve been at the word building again… I recently agreed to start a symphonic metal band, and have a new found addiction to writing lyrics. So it was only a matter of time before the idea of writing Esperanto lyrics crept into my brain! Especially since the singer has already said she’d be up for singing it!

I’m currently working on a few themes, and some possible imagery and poetic language I could use. And during the process I’ve come up with all sorts of constructed words, so I thought I’d share a few!

I’ll put each in a phrase for ease of understanding.

  • Ekstermensigu ĉion alian! = Put everything else out of your mind!
    • Ekster = outside
    • Menso = mind
    • -ig is a suffix meaning “to make/cause <root>” (see previous posts)
  • Ŝiaj kruelaj agoj senamigis sin = Her cruel actions, rendered her without love.
    • Sen = without
    • Amo = love
    • -ig (as above)
  • Ne donu al ŝi vian amon, ŝi estas korvundema = Don’t give her your love, she is likely to break your heart.
    • koro = heart
    • vundi = wound/hurt
    • -em is a suffix means “has a tendency to <root>” (see previous post)

So it’s like “hurtful” but for the heart!

Make more tasty!

I’ve been playing around with making words in Esperanto recently. Been daydreaming in conversations with people. Every word they say that I don’t know in Esperanto, I try to make it, using what I do know in Esperanto.

Out of my playing, I’ve stumbled on a useful set of steps for making a particular kind of word (much like this previous post, check it out, it’s neat!).

So, do you by now know what I mean by a “quality” root? If not see this post.

Today we’ll be using quality roots, and these:

  • pli = more (see this post for more details)
  • malpli = less (“mal” is a prefix that reverses the meaning of things)
  • igi = suffix meaning “to cause/make <root>”, e.g. “boli” = “boil”, but “boligi” = “to cause to boil”
  • iĝi = suffix meaning “to become <root>”, e.g. “pala” = “pale”, but “paliĝi” = “to become pale”

Now, say you’ve got a quality root in its adjective form, like this:

  • bela = beautiful
  • longa = long
  • vasta = extensive, vast, wide

You can do a neat thing with them. Using this formula:


Things in brackets show alternatives! So you get a few choices here. The idea is, you’ve got some quality, like “beautiful”, and you want to make a verb which means: to become, or cause someone/something to be, more or less that quality:

  • beli = to be beautiful
  • plibeligi = to embellish (literally: to make more beautiful)
  • plibeliĝi = to grow/become more beautiful
  • malplibeligi = to make less beautiful
  • malplibeliĝi = to become less beautiful

Cool, huh?

This saves you some work:

  • Mi estas bela, sed… = I am beautiful, but…
    • ŝi volas igi min (esti) pli bela
    • ŝi volas plibeligi min

They mean roughly “she wants to make me more beautiful”. But look at the second one! So neat! So neat in fact, that I wasn’t sure on the structure of the above. I think the “esti” is optional. The long way around would be then “estigi min pli bela”. Also note that “beligi” would mean “make beautiful”.

Sometimes, all this adding of “ig” and “malpli” etc. makes the words really long, so sometimes we use shorter forms. Look at these two:

  1. plilongigi = (literally) to make more long
  2. longigi = (literally) to make long

There is a clear theoretical difference. 1 implies something is already long, and you are making it longer, and 2 says nothing about how long it was, but you’re now making it long (maybe like English, the omission of “pli” might mean that the thing wasn’t long or beautiful until you made it so). But in practice, this distinction matters little, and often the shorter word will be used. Especially when you get to “malplilongigi”, you might just say “mallongigi”. See this PMEG page for this note, and more “ig” examples.

Here’s a few more I like:

  • plilongigi = to lengthen (to make longer)
  • plivastigi = to extend (to make more extensive)
  • verdigi = to colour green (to make green)
  • plilarĝigi = larĝigi = to widen
  • malplivarmigi = to cool down/ to cool (something)

Unify and rise up!

I was listening to really quite an interesting talk today, but the room was SO incredibly warm, and I’d had to much for lunch. So I began to nod off… BUT! In an effort to stay awake and thinking, I began to listen really hard, and try to translate in my head what they were saying into Esperanto!

I noted down all the words that I could not translate, and subsequently tried to build words for them. And one of my favourites was for “unify”. I had no idea what the word for “unify” was! So I came up with the idea of making many things into one.

Soooo… “unu” is the word for “one”, and the suffix “ig” means “to cause/make <root>”. So “unuigi” = “to make one/to unify/to unite (something)”!

Esperanto word-building wins! I thought it was pretty neat. I later looked it up, to confirm, and found this definition in Reta-Vortaro:

  • Kunigi plurajn objektojn en unu tuton = To make together several objects into one whole

Also, wanna know something weird?

Well, according to my wordpress stats, someone found my blog today, by googling “esperanto porn”!

Word building on fire

I was pleased today. I decided that I wanted to know how to say “to kindle” (as in start a fire) in Esperanto. And instead of looking it up, I tried to think of the most logical way of constructing it…

Okay so I need to start with “to burn” (bruli), but this means, that the subject is burning (mi brulas = I am burning: i’m actually on fire, not burning something else). So I need to make it “cause something to burn”, by adding the appropriate suffix “bruligi” = “to burn (something)”. Then I need to add in the idea of the burning just starting, “ekbruligi”! (see post on ek).

The reason I was pleased, is that I then looked up this word, and found its entry in the dictionary to mean exactly as I planned! I think I’m really understanding word building now.

I really like the rhythm of the word “ekbruligi” too! It’s nice and bouncy.

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?

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!

Become out of bed

A simple little post today. I was charmed by a delightful combination of little words:

  • Ellitiĝi = to get out of bed / to get up (El-li-Ti-ji).
  • Mi ellitiĝis = I got out of bed.

Made from:

  • El = out of
  • Lito = bed
  • Iĝi = to become (though this suffix is important and interesting and will receive more attention in future posts!)

So “elliti” = “to be out of bed” (from ellit-: concept of out of bed). By adding “iĝi” one makes it “to become out of bed”, in other words, get up, get out of bed.

I thought it seemed quite neat!

Continue to endure!

Possibly confusing words today! Following on from the theme of the last post; check it out if you don’t know what I mean by transitivity.

The word “daŭri” is often translated as “continue”, but this can be misleading. Your first defence is to think of it as “to endure/last”.

  • Li ne daŭros = He will not last/endure/continue

This is an intransitive use of the verb; there is no object. The action “lasting” is what the subject “he” is doing, it’s not doing anything to an object.

However, in English we use “continue” in the following way too:

  • He continued his speech

Notice here, that there’s an object! See how the object – the speech – is being continued, rather than the subject “he” as in “he will continue/endure”. This is a different meaning!

This is where the “ig” suffix comes in handy again! The easiest way to make a verb transitive (so it acts on an object) is to give it this suffix. Then a subject can cause an object to do something.

So “daŭrigi” means “to cause to continue/ to continue <something>”:

  • Li daŭrigis sian rakonton = he continued his story

Notice how it must have an object. He must be causing something to continue. So what happens if you don’t say anything after “daŭrigi”? An object is implied!

  • Li daŭrigis = He continued

This does not imply that he endured or lasted! Instead it implies he continued something, caused something to continue.

Conversely, if you see “daŭri” before words that are receiving the accusative “n” (so ordinarily they should be objects), despite the fact that daŭri is intransitive and so shouldn’t take a direct object, then this is something else…

In future posts, I will explain the different uses of the accusative “n”, just note that you may see such constructions as:

  • Mi daŭros du monatojn = I will last/endure [for] two months.

Notice how the amount of time is in the accusative. The amount of time isn’t an object of the verb, nothing is being done to the time, the accusative here is just showing a relation between the action and the duration of it. No doubt there’ll be more about this in future!

Interesting thoughts

I thought I’d share with everyone, someone’s interesting advice about learning Esperanto. I can’t remember where I got the advice, so it could be from the Lernu.net forums, or one of the books I’ve been reading. At the time I read it, I thought it was pretty interesting, but only as I continue to bear it in mind does it become more and more helpful.

It’s easy to fall into a trap when learning a new language (at least for me it is!), whereby as you learn, you map each new word to a particular word in your native language. Often this can work out okay, like memorising “kato = cat”, but often it doesn’t. Sometimes one word in English will have far more different uses than is sensible with the “equivalent” word in Esperanto, and vice versa.

Coming from English (and certainly other languages) to Esperanto, one of the biggest problems where this style of learning gets you into bother is with verb transitivity. The idea that some verbs describe actions that happen between a subject and object(s), and others describe things that happen to the subject, unrelated to anything else.

  • “She ran”. In this phrase, “she” is the subject and running is the action. “To run” is intransitive here: it is an action that the subject performs, it is not performed on/to an object.
  • “She hit him”. In this phrase, “she” is the subject, and is performing a hitting action on the object “him”. “Hit” is therefore transitive.

But English is a spaghetti mess of a language, and as such, tonnes of its verbs can have entirely different meanings depending on whether or not you give them an object; you can just arbitrarily use the same word as intransitive or transitive.

  • “The water boiled”. Intransitive! The subject is water, and it is hot and bubbling, the boiling is happening to the subject.
  • “She boiled the water”. Transitive! So… what?! If we were to take “boil” to mean the same thing as the first phrase, then “she” (the subject) would be boiling, and how is “the water” then to be interpreted? But that’s not the case, “boil” now means “to cause to boil”!

A problem arises because Esperanto isn’t a mess, it’s really quite neat.

I’ve only come across 7 verbs in Esperanto that can be both transitive and intransitive, and in these cases it made sense to do so, the meaning didn’t shift like in “boil”, the subject was always performing the same action, but it just happened to be possible to do it with or without a recipient of the action (You’ll have to make noises like you’re interested if you want to know which ones, and get me to justify my view here! :D).

So let’s take “boli” = “to boil”

  • La akvo bolis = The water boiled.

Here, the water is bubbling and boiling itself. It didn’t cause anything to boil; the verb “boli” is intransitive, it cannot take an object!

  • *Ŝi bolis la akvon* makes as little sense as the English interpretation above where “she” is bubbling and boiling, and we don’t know what the water is doing. In Esperanto “boli” can only be used about the thing that is bubbling.

In order to get the other meaning we must change the word. Verbs in Esperanto can be made transitive by adding “ig” to the end. It’s like saying “to cause to <root>”, so “boligi” = “to cause to boil”:

  • Mi boligis la akvon = I boiled the water / I caused the water to boil.

So, the problem we often have is remembering what’s intransitive and what’s transitive, so we know how to use a word, for which there is perhaps just a single word in English.

So here comes the simple advice. Do not learn words by their English equivalents, learn them by picturing the concepts, imagining the actions, then you’ll never mistake them.

Which makes complete sense. If you imagine the scene of bubbling and boiling of the subject for “boli”, you’ll never mistakenly put “ŝi” in front of it unless she herself is actually bubbling and boiling! So I’ve been trying not to translate sentences or words, but capture their meaning and what thoughts and feelings they evoke. It certainly feels like it’s allowing me to progress faster!

Replace, or replace?

I was momentarily confused by something today, but after looking into it, things looked a lot clearer, and then very useful. It involves the word “anstataŭ”, which means “instead of”:

  • Mi trinkis teon anstataŭ kafon = I drank tea instead of coffee.
Specifically, my confusion was over two words related  to “anstataŭ”: “anstataŭi” versus “anstataŭigi”. Two verbs derived from the original preposition. Adequate translations of both could be “to replace” (because it is the action of being instead of something). But there is a very important difference between them.

Look at the following sentences:
  1. The badger replaced the rabbit (The badger itself is now there instead of the rabbit).
  2. The badger replaced the rabbit with a cat (The badger exchanged the rabbit for a cat).
Here the badger is the subject of the verb “to replace”, and there is either one or two objects (rabbit and cat). In the first sentence the badger (the subject) replaces the rabbit (the object) with itself. However, in the second sentence the badger doesn’t replace anything itself, it replaces one object with the other. Clearly there are two different functions of the word “replace”.

This may not be confusing for English people that are used to it, but imagine a student of English learns the meaning of “replace” as in the first sentence. Then sees the second sentence and may think:

“Okay… So the badger replaces the rabbit (exchanges it for itself like in the first sentence)… with a cat? Does that mean “by means of a cat”? So the badger replaces the rabbit using the cat in some way? (Maybe the badger throws the cat at the rabbit, so that it can replace it?).” – Incorrect! And confusing.

This shows that having only a single word for both of these cases is ambiguous. But Esperanto has you covered.
  1. La melo anstataŭis la kuniklon per la kato
  2. La melo anstataŭigis la kuniklon per la kato
The first sentence is like the silly meaning described above: “The badger replaced the rabbit (with itself) by means of the cat”. The second sentence says that the badger replaced the rabbit with the cat (exchanged the rabbit for the cat). Furthermore:
  1. La melo anstataŭis la kuniklon
  2. La melo anstataŭigis la kuniklon
The first sentence means that the badger replaced the rabbit with itself. The second sentence means that the badger replaced the rabbit with something else (unspecified), a much more useful distinction than the previous examples.

How are we to remember this? Why is this the case? The answer is fairly simple.

When making “anstataŭ” into a simple verb “anstataŭi” we are calling on the simple act or state of being “instead of” something: replacing something. Therefore, the subject replaces the object. Adding the ending “ig” is like saying “to cause <root>” (I will eventually get round to blogging about “ig” in more detail!), so “anstataŭigi” could be thought of  as causing a replacement (instead of participating in it); the subject is causing one object to be replaced by (means of) the other.