No need to resort to that!

If you’ve been lurking around here for a while, you may have read my series on Esperanto’s participles. If you haven’t and you have no idea what I’m talking about, why not take a stroll over there now?

They are incredibly useful things. You can even use them to create complicated verb tenses. However, one of those old posts shows why resorting to participles for complicated tenses can be a little on the inelegant side.

In today’s post I’ll be sharing a few PMEG tips on how to avoid resorting to complex tenses.

Take the following sentence:

  • When you phoned me, I was eating.

This implies that when I received your call, I was in the middle of eating. How might we say this in Esperanto?

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi manĝis.

Using the simple past tense, we’re in a little trouble. Because this could mean any of:

  • When you phoned me, I was eating
  • When you phoned me, I ate (i.e. I started eating when you called)
  • When you phoned me I had eaten (already)

Does this mean we have to resort to complex tenses?

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝanta (I was in the middle of eating)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝonta (I was about to eat)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi estis manĝinta (I had already eaten)

All those different meanings by changing a single vowel! In speech this is a little mean on your listener, no?

How about these instead:

  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, ĝuste tiam mi manĝis (I was eating exactly when you called)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi jam antaŭe manĝis (I had already previously eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi ankoraŭ ne manĝis (I hadn’t yet eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi ĵus manĝis (I had only just eaten)
  • Kiam vi telefonis al mi, mi intencis/planis manĝi [baldaŭ] (I intended/planned to eat [soon])

Simple ways to stick to the simple tenses!

Read more here, and here.

An interesting mood

I was meant to write this for friday… What a fail! I want to talk about the “U-mood” of verbs in Esperanto. Most English books seem to call it the “imperative” mood. But on page 67 of “Being Colloquial in Esperanto”, David Jordan points out that its functions include things that could be considered “imperative”, “volitive” or “subjunctive” when comparing to how these moods are used in some other languages. If this means nothing to you, no worries, I’m gonna explain.

A brief (and coarse) statement of what is meant by a “verb mood”:

Know verb tenses? Ways of modifying the verb (like “to hope”) so that it is in the past, present or future. Well “mood” is another way of altering verbs to show some other detail. Mood shows how the speaker considers the action to be aligned with reality, desire, or intent. The “indicative” mood is the simplest, and it shows that the action was, is or will occur: a fact. It’s the one you get used to first (in Esperanto verb endings in indicative are “-as”, “-is” and “-os” for example). The reason the mood we’re interested in is called the U-mood in Esperanto, is because it involves putting the ending “-u” on the verb (esperi = to hope, goes to “esperu”).

So, combining what I’ve read in section 12.1.3 in “Being Colloquial in Esperanto”, on this PMEG page, this one too,  and around the Lernu forums, here’s how I reckon one uses the “u-mood”!

A verb in the u-mood, generally corresponds to an action/state that is not a fact/real, but that is desired, ordered, or aimed for.

You can use it for direct commands (like the “imperative” mood):

  • Kuru! = run!
  • Pafu lin! = shoot him!

Here, you are implying the pronoun “vi” (“you”). In other words, there is a person you’re commanding; you’re telling them to run or shoot him. A common word for “please” in Esperanto is usually used in the U-mood (since you’re expressing desire):

  • Bonvolu helpi min! = Please help me!

You can include a pronoun to make indirect commands. These often have many different translations, often including words like “let” or “should”, or “ought” or “may”.  They show a desire for the action, or that that action should be. In a full sentence or scenario, context will normally reveal which nuance is appropriate, but extra little words could also clarify.  So (including examples from the sources):

  • Georgo faru ĝin! = Let George do it!
  • Li parolu = Let him speak = He should speak
  • Li parolu, mi petas = Let him speak, please (I ask)
  • Ni manĝu! = Let’s eat!
  • Oni ne provoku melon = One shouldn’t (oughtn’t) provoke a badger.
  • Ŝi belu, kaj mi ŝin forgesu = Let her be beautiful and let me forget her

I love “ŝi belu”, so NEAT. That’s grammar-gasm material right there.

The U-mood is also used in phrases introduced by “ke” (= “that”) after a verb which expresses desire, a strong wish, request or command. The phrase introduced by “ke” is called a subordinate clause; the verb in this clause should be in the U-mood. This usage corresponds to some uses in other languages of the “subjunctive” mood.

  • Mi petis ke vi ne provoku la melojn = I asked you to not provoke the badgers! *(literally: I asked that you not provoke the badgers)
  • Mi volis ke vi alportu al mi lin vivanta! = I wanted you to bring him to me alive!

Note that you don’t need the U-mood after an expression of hoping (like, say, in Spanish with the subjunctive):

  • Mi esperas ke vi venos = I hope that you will come

However, if you want to add the nuance that the phrase is desired as well as hoped for, then you might use it:

  • Mi esperas ke vi venu = I hope and want that you will come

Furthermore, the U-mood should be used after “por ke” = “in other that” = “in order to” = “so that”. Since the phrase that follows will always be what is aimed or desired.

  • Mi aĉetis glavon por ke mi venku la melojn = I bought a sword, so that I might defeat the badgers
I don’t think I’ve missed anything major… But do let me know if I have! 😀

* I’ve always jumped at the chance to unashamedly split my infinitives; I thoroughly enjoy doing so.