Badger vs. Squirrel

Ello again!

Mostly due to the wormy accusative “n”, Esperanto has quite flexible word order. The following phrases mean pretty much the same thing, “a badger frightened a squirrel”:

  • melo timigis sciuron
  • melo sciuron timigis
  • sciuron timigis melo
  • sciuron melo timigis
  • timigis melo sciuron
  • timigis sciuron melo

Are there any differences at all between these alternatives? Subtle ones, yes. The difference is one of emphasis.

I’ve had a read of the topic in the PMEG, and have distilled a few rough rules that’ll get you making use of this subtle emphasis change.

Firstly some terms:

  • The “subject” is the thing doing the action. In our case, the subject is “melo” : the badger.
  • The “direct object” is the thing receiving the action. In our case, the direct object is “sciuro”: the squirrel.
  • Our action here is “timigi” = “to frighten”.

The usual word ordering is “subject – action – direct object”. So anything that departs from this ordering generates emphasis in some way.

Here’s the rules:

  1. If the subject is moved to the end (everything else remaining same), then the emphasis is on the subject:
    • timigis sciuron melo : a badger did the frightening, not anything else.
  2. If the action is moved to the front (everything else remaining same), then the emphasis is on the action:
    • timigis melo sciuron : a badger frightened a squirrel, it didn’t e.g. kiss it.
  3. If the direct object is moved to the front (everything else remaining same), then the emphasis is on the direct object:
    • sciuron melo timigis : a squirrel was frightened, not e.g. a vole.

Next, let’s look at a phrase that has a prepositional relationship (e.g. inside/on/under/with/against):

  • La melo loĝis en truo = The badger lived in a hole

Two rules here:

  1. Move the prepositional relationship to the front, and the prepositional relation is emphasised:
    • en truo la melo loĝis : the badger lived in a hole, not e.g. in a box.
  2. Move also the subject to the end and then the subject is emphasised:
    • en truo loĝis la melo : the badger lived in a hole, not e.g. the squirrel.

There are exceptions, and particular words that act in different ways. These are generally quite obvious when you come across them. One of the key exceptions is “ki-” correlatives (kiu, kie, kia, kiel, kiam, kiom, kio). These are usually at the front of their part of the phrase. You can read more in this PMEG section.


The accusative is a worm

It slithers its way into every corner of the language. I found a use of it today that I’ve not seen previously, whilst browsing through PMEG.

It sort of indicates position of a part, though usually a body part. Here’s one of the PMEG examples:

  • Li haltis dum momento, la kapon klinita iom flanken. = He stopped for a moment, his head inclined a little to the side.

Notice how the sentence is quite short and sharp in English too. One way of understanding it, is to imagine it a little fuller with e.g. “tenante”:

  • Li haltis dum momento, tenante la kapon klinita iom flanken. = He stopped for a moment, holding his head inclined a little to the side.

This also shows why the “N” might be suitable here, it’s because you’re implying a “tenante”, “havante” or “metinte” (holding, having, or having put), of which the “kapo” is the direct object.

A sneaky, slimy worm.


I was recently asked on the “Looking for Answers?” page (where you can ask me things to see if I’ve blogged about them, and if I haven’t, I may do!) about what kinds of Esperanto books I use or courses I use, in order to learn Esperanto!

I decided that this was a particularly good idea, not only because I might highlight learning tools that you didn’t know about, but also because you might know of learning tools that I don’t know about! So don’t hesitate to suggest them, especially if they fit with my style of learning, so I’ll add a little information about how I like to learn too, maybe you’ll find it useful, or have suggestion for me.

So, I use a number of different things, because sometimes I’m only in the mood for certain kinds of learning. I’ve always found vocabulary difficult to build in foreign languages, but grammar to be intensely interesting. So perhaps ill-advisedly, I often spend hours poring over grammatical documents with a contented distant grin. In an effort to counter this obvious bias, I try to frequently look up a Wikipedia article and read the Esperanto version, so that I might continue to expand my vocabulary.

I’ve also begun reading various Esperanto fiction: “La Hobito” and “Gerda Malaperis”. The Esperanto Hobbit is still very taxing on my brain, and I find myself looking up words a lot, but it’s an old favourite, so I’m very much helped by my knowledge of the English version. “Gerda Malaperis” is probably more sensible. It starts off incredibly basic, with only dialogue, like a play. It slowly progresses into more complex prose, and often repeats sentences in slightly different ways to cement the vocab (which is also listed in a separate wordlist). Because this book is rather set out like a learning-to-read book. But I found it interesting, unlike my memories of learning to read English books! I also try to read aloud, and pay attention to pronunciation.

For courses, I follow Kellerman’s Complete Grammar of Esperanto. It suits me perfectly, because every lesson, it gives me my fix of interesting grammatical points (explained very clearly with examples) and a small list of vocabulary (I can absorb lots of grammar but not too much vocab in one go). Then provides exercises for translating to and from Esperanto (I only wish it had the answers too!). They vary in difficulty and don’t leave you thinking you can only handle basic translations (like much of the Spanish exercise books I’ve experienced for example). It’s very long and detailed, but each lesson is very short, so you can always delve in for short periods at a time, and you always feel like you’re progressing.

I’ve also been following the “Ana” courses on They have a listening exercise component that I’d been missing for a long while. I wouldn’t want to learn grammar from just these lessons (though they provide links to more info), but it’s very useful for vocabulary building and listening skills.

I had never come across Jen Nia Mondo before! But the description sounds very good! I’m going to start with it. I could do with some Esperanto listening exercises that I can do on the go!

No doubt, when my university studies aren’t taking up so much time, I will begin a correspondence course, because I feel like once I reach a certain level, I want someone who’s being dealing in Esperanto for years to help me improve more, and rid me of bad habits.

Also when I’m more confident with listening and speaking, I will no doubt hassle people for Skype conversations, given that my university has stopped doing an Esperanto course only this year! 😦 Lame!

Being Colloquial in Esperanto was great once I’d learnt the basics. It expands on the basics and talks about anything that might catch you out. There’s lots of little interesting bits, and a massive section on troublesome words. It was also a massive help on learning about participles.

Once my reading skills were starting to catch on, I starting reading over the Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko. And I was surprised at how detailed it was. It talks about so many little nuances that had never occurred to me, and really opened my eyes about the grammar of Esperanto. Definitely a favourite.

Has anyone read the “Plena Analiza Gramatiko de Esperanto”? Any good? How current is the latest version? How does it compare to PMEG?

I also found this page very helpful with word building in Esperanto. Before I could read PMEG, it introduced me to the idea of roots being of different types (action,object etc.).

For dictionaries, I’m waiting on the online version of the PIV (because I’m poor!), which they say will be in test-form by the end of the year. For now I make use of’s dictionary, and Reta-Vortaro mostly.

When trying to look up how words are used, but can’t find a related bit of grammar, I often turn to Tekstaro, a collection of Esperanto texts that you can search through automatically using patterns of letters. E.g. “bol\VF” will search for all verb forms of the verb “boli”. It will then show the contexts that the results occurred in. Very useful!

And finally, I badger the people on Lernu 😀