Joy of Numbers

Mmm numbers. So there are two angles to today’s post, but both concern numbers. Firstly take a gander at the numbers 1 to 10:

  1. unu
  2. du
  3. tri
  4. kvar
  5. kvin
  6. ses
  7. sep
  8. ok
  9. naŭ
  10. dek
The first angle falls under the “alluring words” category. I think they are so simple and cute. They seem like the bare minimum, and yet still smack of what makes me think “three” or “nine” or “eight” from the various languages I’ve looked at. This is exactly what numbers should be: not cumbersome.

Next, for what’s interesting. I think the Esperanto number system is very nicely laid out (in terms of making the numbers greater than ten), but that’s a story for another day. Today I’m marvelling at the ease with which one can construct the different types of number. I’ll explain.

The above numbers are “cardinal” numbers, the numbers we use to count things, to state how many things  there are:

  • Estas du kameloj = There are two camels
  • Estas kvar viroj = There are four men
In order to make the “ordinal” numbers (the numbers we use to order things in a list e.g. first, second, third, fourth…), we simply add “a” :
  • First = unua
  • Second = dua
  • Third = tria
  • Fourth = kvara
  • Fifth = kvina
You can also change these to other parts of speech like “unue” or “trie” = “firstly” or “thirdly” respectively.

In order to make multiples, we simply use “-obl-“. Then the correct part of speech ending. So, the multiple made from “two” is “double”. If used like an adjective in “double shot” we use “duobla” (“a” the adjective ending). If we use like an verb “The slime doubled in size” we would use “duoblis” (“is” the past tense verb ending).

  • Single = unuobla
  • Double = duobla
  • Triple = triobla
  • Quadruple = kvarobla
Note that you can easily use these endings on ANY number, unlike English where I start to not be able to think of what comes next…

In order to make fractions, we use the “-on-” suffix. Specifically, this makes the reciprocal of a number. So if you add it to 4, you get 1/4 (quarter), if you add it to 8 you get 1/8 (eighth).

  • (A) half = duono
  • (A) third = triono
  • (A) quarter = kvarono
In order to make repetitions, we use the root “foj” = “time,occasion”. Remember from the word “iufoje” = “sometimes”?
  • Once = unufoje
  • Twice = dufoje
  • Thrice = trifoje
And you can keep going: kvarfoje, kvinfoje… I have no idea if we have English equivalents, other than just saying “four times”, “five times”.

In order to make groups, we can play with the suffix “-op-“. Again, depending on the part of speech ending, we can get interesting different effects:

  • du = two
  • duopo = a group of two, duet
  • duopa = is an adjective that describes something that is made up of two members
  • duope = by/in (groups of) twos
Look at all the different English changes you have to learn for just a few (a,op,obl,foj etc.) simple Esperanto ones! And you can’t even reliably permute all different types of number with English! Esperanto saves us again.