Sneaky nuance

I’ve talked before about using the verb form of a normally a-word instead of using “estas <adjective>”, for example:

  • Vi estas kuraĝa = You are courageous
  • Vi kuraĝas = You are courageous

For a long while, I’ve kept my eye open for any information about whether these phrases have different nuances, or whether they are strict equivalents. And this week I found something.

Firstly, it makes sense that if everyone uses these alternatives interchangeably then nuances in difference will slowly be lost. And this has happened with many words, e.g.

  • Vi estas prava = you’re right
  • Vi pravas = you’re right

No one would notice a nuance if you chose one of these in particular over the other, since they’ve become so interchangeable.

However, to use an example of Claude Piron’s:

  • La lago estas blua = the lake is blue
  • La lago bluas = the lake radiates blueness/glows blue

The idea here is that given that ‘estas blua’ is by far the more common construction, the other form feels intentionally different.

The possible nuance that arises when a word which is normally an a-word is made into a verb is a more action-like, verby meaning. So in the example above, the a-word only describes a static state of being blue, but the verb form (bluas) instead describes a blue-ness that is actually happening.

I think this nuance allows for some really interesting writing! Though I wonder how well it would come across in speech.

  • This page of the PMEG gives advice on making verbs, see the section “Verboj el ne-agaj radikoj” for information specifically about this idea of making verbs from a-words
  • This page of the PMEG gives advice on what I’ve been talking about, the loss of “esti”, under the section “Verbigo de perverba priskribo”