Time and Space

Some prepositions are just plain cool. Prepositions show the role of a noun phrase. So say we have a noun phrase like “the red man” (it’s a noun “man” modified by “the red”). A preposition shows the role in the sentence that noun phrase has, it could be “on the red man”, “by the red man”, “before the red man” etc.

Some prepositions have a general concept, and this concept can be applied to both time and space. Some of which are:

  • antaŭ = before, in front of
  • ĉirkaŭ = about, around
  • de = of, from, by
  • ĝis = until, up to
  • inter = between, among
  • post = behind, after
You should be able to see their different usages within spacial relations and temporal relations, by observing the the different alternative English translations I’ve given.

For example, “antaŭ”. You can be physically before (in front of) a person or thing. But something can also occur before something else in time (before you ate badgers in the afternoon). Antaŭ would be used in both cases.


I keep seeing this word around. For some reason, perhaps its tiny nature, I’ve just been skipping over it… Poor little word. But I looked it up today, turns out, it’s an interesting little thing!

The word is: ajn.

So simple! Pronounced like the “ine” in English “fine”.

The interesting thing, is that it adds a notion of indefiniteness or generality. It doesn’t seem to be used to attach to other words, but to follow them as its own little word (I imagine if you were to tack it onto the end of words, it could be easily confused with the adjectival plural accusative ending).

It’s mainly used after the correlatives that start with Ki- and i-, but looks like it can be used with those starting with Ĉi- and Neni-.

Here’s some before and after examples:

  • Kio = what
  • Nenie = nowhere
  • Kie = where
  • Kies = whose
  • Ia = some kind
  • Kiom = how much
  • Kiam = when
  • Kia = what kind
And now with ajn:
  • Kio ajn   = whatever
  • Nenie ajn = nowhere whatsoever/at all
  • Kie ajn = wherever
  • Kies ajn = whosesoever
  • Ia ajn = any kind whatsoever
  • Kiom ajn = however much
  • Kiam ajn = whenever
  • Kia ajn = whatever kind
Pretty interesting little word. Just look how many different constructions you’d have to learn to get the same expressiveness in English!

Speaking very Esperantily

Adverbs make me giggle in Esperanto. I find myself enjoying them immensely, then I feel weird about getting so excited about a feature of a language! But so what?

An adverb is a word that describes verbs (action words like “speak”), adjectives (describing word like “blue” or other adverbs. In English you can make a lot of words into adverbs by adding “-ly”:

  • I ran quickly
Notice how “quickly” modifies the “run” action, telling you that it was particularly fast.
The thing about Esperanto, is that you can make any word into an adverb, by just changing the ending to an “e”!
  • Mi ŝatas paroli Esperante = I like to speak in Esperanto.
“Esperante” is an adverb, so it modifies the “paroli” verb meaning “to speak”, telling you that the speaking is done in an Esperanto way! I like to think of it as speaking “Esperantily”!
In English, when we can’t make a legal adverb with “-ly” or use some irregular form (the adverb of “good” is “well”), we have to resort to prepositions like “in” as in the sentence above, or “by” in the sentence below:
  • Ni iras aŭte = We go by car
The word for “car” is “aŭto”, the “o” was simply changed to “e” to get the adverb. So we are travelling “car-ily”!

Skipping what’s unnecessary

The “pleonastic it” is when in English we use the word “it” simply to satisfy grammar, but where it adds no meaning:

  • “It’s raining” – What’s raining? “it” shouldn’t be needed.

So Esperanto does away with it! The verb “to rain” is “pluvi”

  • “Pluvas” = “It’s raining/It rains”
This is often the case with sentences about the weather, where in English we like to say “it’s thundering”, or “it’s hailing”, Esperanto will simply use the verb.
However, there are other such situations, any time the “it” isn’t referring to a concrete thing that you’ve previously referred to seems to be a candidate for verbs without their “it” subject.
Take this example from Lernu.net:
  • “Temas ne pri li, sed pri ŝi.” – “It’s not about him, but about her.”
“Temas” (temi = to be about) doesn’t have a subject! But in English we use “it”.
Also, in English we often introduce things with “There are/is…”. In this case the “there” isn’t necessary, and in Esperanto we can just use the verb for is/are:
  • “Estas kameloj” = “There are camels”.
It seems like the word “there” is only necessary in Esperanto if you are talking about a particular place where something is. So perhaps:
  • “Tie estas kameloj” means “There (in that place) are camels”.


So here’s another interesting simplification Esperanto makes over English. The word “kaj” (pronounced like the “ki” in “kite”) means “and”.

So you can say:

“La fiŝoj kaj katoj” = “The fishes and cats”.

Sometimes, depending on where this comes in a sentence, we might want to introduce it with “both”.

“I like both fishes and cats.”

But this essentially just introduces the conjunction, so why should it be anything but the word used for this conjunction? So “kaj” also means “both”.

“Mi ŝatas kaj la fiŝojn kaj la katojn.” = “I like both the fishes and the cats.”

Same works for “aŭ” (pronounced like “ow” in “how”), which means “or”, but can also mean “Either…or”

“Mi ŝatas aŭ la fiŝojn aŭ la katojn.” = “I like either the fishes or the cats.”

Trimming the Fat

I found a nifty little thing today. Ever noticed how in English the word “between” is used when you’re referring to two persons or objects, but you up and switch to “among” when the number hits three or more?

Well, this is not always the case. More strictly,”between” is used when describing the relationship between X and Y, if X is a thing surrounded by Y, which is a group of things taken individually/distinctly. E.g. fixed options:

  • The choice was between Maths, Chemistry and Science.

Whereas “among” is used when Y is taken collectively, in a vaguer sense:

  • Swimming among fishes is pleasant

“Fishes” here is just the type of the surrounding things (vague collective). Quite like the kind of word that appears after “da” in Esperanto (see here if you’re interested in knowing about “da” from a post of mine!)

Even this does not describe all the nuances some like to place on the differences between “between” and “among”, but the point is, the difference is almost always obvious in our description of Y, so why must the preposition (“between” or “among”) express this difference also?

Esperanto’s approach therefore is to use a single word “inter” for both!

So if you had these sentences:

  1. She works between a tall man and a short man.
  2. She works among many men.

The word “inter” would be used for both “between” and “among”.

In those few situations, if they exist, where the same sentence in English with one of “between” or “among” substituted for the other produces another useful, logical sentence with a distinct meaning, Esperanto would simply use an additional helper word to clarify the difference. This seems like a much more sensible approach!