Don’t use the past to talk about the future!

Just noticed a sneaky little note at the end of this PMEG page. Thought I’d bring it up!

Now keep in mind that the simple past, present, and future tenses in Esperanto (words ending in “is”,”as”,”os” respectively) actually do quite a bit of work (and now that I know much more about them, I’m considering writing a few posts talking about their interesting bits). For example, past tense “legis” from “legi” (to read) can mean any of the following depending on context:

  • read (past tense)
  • was reading
  • have read
  • have been reading
  • had read
  • had been reading

Most commonly it will either be “read” or “was reading”, and maybe helper words will stress the other meanings. E.g. “jam” literally meaning “already”:

  • Ĉu vi jam legis tiun libron? = Have you (already) read that book?

The note on that PMEG page explains what you do in Esperanto when talking about having done something in the future. In English we might say:

  • I will hunt the badger as soon as I have read this book

“I will hunt” is simple future tense. But look at the weirdness we’re doing with the “read” verb. “I have read” is the perfect tense! It describes an already completed action/state! This is a bit odd, since we wouldn’t use “as soon as” if the action was already complete! I should already be hunting the badger if the reading was done!

Fear not, Esperanto makes sense. You’ve got two options. The first and most simple is to use the simple future tense:

  • Mi ĉasos la melon tuj kiam mi legos ĉi tiun libron

Notice “legos” is just the simple future tense (will read). Since all it’s doing is describing a future event!

Your second option, is to be deadly precise using participles (see my series on the things):

  • Mi ĉasos la melon tuj kiam mi estos leginta ĉi tiun libron

“mi estos leginta” is literally “I will be having-read” (“estos” is future tense of “esti” = “to be”), corresponding to “will have read” (=at some point in the future the reading will be completed), in the more clunky English rendering:

  • I will hunt the badger as soon as I will have read this book

It happened just now!

So, saying something happened in the past is easy, right?

The most common way is to use the simple past tense ending “is”:

  • Kuri = to run
  • Mi kuris = I ran/I was running (at some point in the past)

How do you say that the past event you’re talking about only just happened? Easy! And in a similar way to English:

  • Mi ĵus kuris = I just ran/ I was just running
Note that “ĵus” is pronounced like “zhooss” where “zh” is a french “j” or like “s” in English “pleasure”.

A useful bit of knowledge indeed.

The thing that makes it slightly cooler than English, is that “ĵus” enjoys exclusive rights over this particular usage. What do I mean by this? Well, “just” in English can also mean something like “only” as in “I have just 20 dollars”, and a couple other things too.

But in Esperanto, “ĵus” is used only for this temporal concept of having just happened. So whenever you are discussing the past tense, this can be used to bring it to the immediate past.

I also just like the sound of it! 🙂