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Part I: Esperanto Grammar

Chapter 4 (Part 2): Pronouns, Adjectives, & Adverbs

4.2. Pronouns

A pronoun stands in a sentence in place of a noun. Esperanto uses the following pronouns.

mi = I ni = we
(ci = thou) vi = you
li = he ili = they
ŝi = she si = him/her/it/-self, themselves
ĝi = it oni = one, “they”

In the accusative case, pronouns require a final -n.

Ŝi mortigis sin. = She killed herself.
Oni neniam scias. = One never knows.
Ci amas min. = Thou lovest me.
Se la hundo mordos, mi frapos ĝin. = If the dog bites, I’ll hit it.

The pronouns may be converted to corresponding adjectives by adding -a to the root. This is discussed in the section on adjectives (link).

4.2.1. The Pronoun Ci.

The pronoun vi, "you," is both singular and plural.

The pronoun ci, "thou," is only singular, but is very rarely used; when it does occur it is always rather affected. On the model of European languages, it is intended to communicate intimacy or to be used to persons of lower status (or animals). Sometimes it is used to create pseudo-archaic effects (like “thou” in English), and I have heard it used to children on rare occasions by speakers of languages with comparable pronouns, but it is fair to say that it never really caught on. Indeed, examples are so forced that some authors use ci only to suggest quaintness!

4.2.2. The Pronoun Oni.

The pronoun oni is much more extensively used and is much less stuffy than its English equivalent “one.”

Oni amas belajn vestojn. = People love pretty clothes.
Librojn oni donacas. = They’re giving away books.
Oni ne devas iri. = You don’t have to go.
Oni devas ne iri. = People mustn’t go.
Oni tion malpermesas. = They don’t allow that.
Oni ne scias tion. = That is not known.
Oni diras, ke…. = It is said that…; They say that…
Mi aŭdis onidiron, ke…. = I heard a rumor that…

Most speakers avoid using oni in the accusative case. Oni is used in many cases where in English a passive would be colloquial. Because English speakers tend to use far too many passives in Esperanto, it is perhaps legitimate to propose oni as “a way to avoid the passive.”

Oni ne plu konstruas tiajn domojn.
= Such houses are not built any more.
Oni jam formanĝis ĉiom!
= Everything had already been eaten up.

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4.2.3. The Pronoun Si.

The reflexive pronoun si is translated “herself,” “himself,” “itself,” “themselves,” or “oneself.” Si never stands as the subject of the clause.; it is used to refer back to the subject.

Li lavis la infanon kaj poste sin. = He washed the child and then himself.
Li razis sin. = He shaved.
Ŝi vestos sin rapide. = She’ll get dressed fast.
Ŝi jam scias vesti sin. = She already knows how to dress herself.
Ili kombis sin. = They brushed their hair.
Oni devas sin prepari. = One must prepare oneself.

*-Caution to students of Latin: In a subordinate clause, Latin se normally refers to an antecedent outside its own clause. This does not usually occur with Esperanto si.

Si refers to the nearest available subject, not necessarily the subject of the whole sentence. (More precisely, sin refers to the subject of the verb of which sin is the object, even if that subject is simultaneously the object of a different verb and therefore in the accusative case.)*

Li helpis ŝin lavi sin.
= He helped her wash herself.
Li helpis, ke ŝi lavu sin.
= He helped her wash herself.
Ŝi igis lin vundi sin.
= She made him hurt himself.
Ŝi ordonis al li dediĉi sin al la movado por vegetalaj rajtoj.
= She ordered him to dedicate himself to the vegetable rights movement.

Si is used with reference only to a third-person subject, never “I” or “you.”

Mi razos min tuj. = I’ll shave immediately.
Mi duŝos min. = I’ll take a shower.
Purigu cin! = Cleanse thyself!
Kombu vin! = Comb your hair!

In conformity with usage in several European languages (but not English), reference to parts of one’s body oftentimes is accomplished with la and al si (or other appropriate pronoun):

Mi razos al mi la vizaĝon.
= I’ll shave [my face].
Ŝi neniam razas al si la krurojn.
= She never shaves her legs.
Ŝi neniam lavas al si la orelojn!
= She never washes her ears!
Ŝi vundis al si la fingrojn je rompita glaso.z
= She hurt her fingers on a broken glass.

Sin is used in a few compounds:

Ŝi estas sindona. = She is generous. [= self-giving]
Li estis tre singarda. = He was very cautious. [= self-preserving]

These compounds are understood as root-like and do not change the sin even when the person in question is vi, ni, or mi:

Vi estas tre sindona, sinjoro.
= You are very generous, sir.
Mi studas sindefendon.
= I am studying self-defense.
Vi tro gardas vin! Ne estu tiel singarda!
= You’re too cautious! Don’t be so cautious.

*-Caution to students of French: Mem is apparently derived from French même but corresponds to it only in the sense of “self.” When même means “same” or “even” the Esperanto word is sama or : Elle porte toujours le même manteau. = Ŝi portas ĉiam la saman mantelon. Cette règle est valable même pour vous. = Tiu regulo validas eĉ por vi.

The word mem is also translated “herself, himself, themselves, itself” in English. The similarity between si and mem lies only in the English translations, however. They are quite different words. Si is a reflexive pronoun, while mem is an intensifying particle, which stands beside a noun or pronoun but does not replace it.*

Ŝi mem dresis la leonon.
= She trained the lion herself.
Ŝi dresis la leonon mem.
= She trained the lion itself.
Mi mem batos lian pugaĉon.
= I shall beat his miserable backside myself!

Naturally it is possible to use mem together with si if sense and required emphasis require this:

Li donis tri al mi kaj kvar al si mem.
= He gave three to me and four to himself.
Ŝi mem lavis sin.
= She herself washed herself.

4.3. Adjectives

An adjective is a word used to modify a noun or pronoun. Words like “wide,” “miserable,” “secondary,” “his,” and “Japanese” are adjectives. Esperanto adjectives end in -a

Jen mia nova libro. = Here’s my new book.
Ŝi estas studentino diligenta. = She is a diligent student.
La hundeto estas tre juna. = The puppy is very young.

4.3.1. The Plural & Accusative of Adjectives

Adjectives take the plural and accusative endings (-j and -n) to agree with the nouns they modify:

Ili estas studentinoj diligentaj.
= They are diligent students.
La studentoj estas diligentaj.
= The students are diligent.
Min tedas liaj longaj rakontoj.
= His long stories bore me.
Oni diras, ke via patrino havas novajn armeajn botojn.
= They say your mother has new army boots.

Sometimes one adjective modifies two nouns. In this case, the Esperanto adjective always takes the plural ending ( j), even though each noun may be singular:

Li amas siajn edzinon kaj infanon.
= He loves his wife and child.
Li amas sian edzinon kaj infanon.
= He loves his wife and a [someone else’s] child.
Mi aĉetis belajn kravaton kaj ĉapelon.
= I bought a beautiful tie and hat.
Mi aĉetis belan kravaton kaj ĉapelon.
= I bought a beautiful tie and a hat.

Notice that in the last example, only the tie is beautiful. Nothing is said about the beauty of the hat.

If the noun or verb is left unexpressed, the adjective takes appropriate endings anyway:

La ruĝaj floroj estas pli grandaj ol la flavaj.
= The red flowers are bigger than the yellow ones.

Return to top. Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives are formed from the personal pronouns by adding the adjective ending -a: mia = “my, mine”; via = “your,” “yours”; etc.

Ĝi ne estas mia kato; mi kredis, ke ĝi estas via kato!
= It’s not my cat; I thought it was your cat!

*-The la is in fact often omitted in conversation among speakers of languages which, like English, do not have a comparable usage. I have always thought of this omission as substandard, but several readers of earlier drafts of this book felt that including the la in speech was rather bookish.

When it is used without a noun, a possessive adjective normatively takes the article la.*

Li pli amis ŝian patrinon ol la sian.
= He loved her mother more than his own.
La via estas pli bela ol la nia.
= Yours is prettier than ours.

It is very unusual —even jarring— to use onia, although the form is logical. Instead of the hypothetical onia, one uses a full phrase or, if the meaning is clear, simply la.

Wrong: Dum neniu aĉetas onian aŭton, oni restas senmona.
= As long as no-one buys one’s car, one stays broke.
Right: Dum neniu aĉetas la aŭton kiun oni vendas, oni restas senmona.
= Dum neniu aĉetas la aŭton, oni restas senmona.
= As long as no-one buys one’s car, one stays broke.

Compare the following two examples:

Se vi ofendos la publikon, neniu aĉetos viajn pentraĵojn.
= If you offend the public, nobody will buy your paintings.
Se oni ofendos la publikon, neniu aĉetos la pentraĵojn.
= If one offends the public, nobody will buy one’s paintings.

The reflexive adjective sia is used instead of lia, ŝia, ilia, or ĝia when these mean “his own,” “her own,” “their own,” or “its own.” (Compare the pronoun si discussed in the section on pronouns. [link])

Li manĝis sian fromaĝon. = He ate his [own] cheese.
Ŝi manĝis sian fromaĝon. = She ate her [own] cheese.
Ĉiu manĝu sian fromaĝon. = Each one should eat his [own] cheese.
Oni manĝu sian fromaĝon. = People should eat their cheese.

In English we do not need to use the word “own” unless we wish to stress or clarify the idea. The sentence “He ate his cheese” can mean that he ate his own cheese, or that he ate the cheese of someone else. Greater precision is necessary only in event of probable confusion. In Esperanto there is no choice: If one can say “his/her/its/their own” (sia), then one must say it. Li manĝis lian fromaĝon can mean only “He ate his [someone else’s] cheese.” More examples:

Ili trinkis sian teon. = They drank their [own] tea.
La hundo respondas al sia dresisto.
= The dog answers to its [own] trainer.
Ŝi frapis lian amikon.
= She struck his friend. Li frapis lian amikon.
= He struck his [someone else’s] friend.
Ŝi frapis ŝian amikon.
= She struck her [someone else’s] friend.
Li frapis ŝian amikon.
= He struck her friend.
Ŝi frapis sian amikon.
= She struck her [own] friend.
Li frapis sian amikon.
= He struck his [own] friend.
Kiom da amikoj ili frapis?
= How many friends did they strike?

Sia always refers to the subject of its own verb:

Li permesis al siaj infanoj, ke ili karesu siajn kolubrojn.
= He let his kids pet their [own] snakes.
Li permesis al siaj infanoj karesi siajn kolubrojn.
= He let his kids pet their [own] snakes.
Li permesis al siaj infanoj karesi liajn kolubrojn.
= He let his kids pet his snakes.
Ŝi ordonis al li donaci sian salajron al la movado por vestigi katojn.
= She ordered him to donate his salary to the movement to clothe cats.
Ĉiu vestigu tuj siajn katojn.
= Let everyone immediately clothe his cats.
Sian katon ankoraŭ ne vestigis ŝi.
= She has not yet clothed her cat.
Li petis, ke ŝi vestigu tuj sian katon.
= He asked her to clothe her cat immediately.
Li petis, ke ŝi vestigu tuj lian katon.
= He asked her to clothe his cat immediately. Predicate Adjectives as Stative Verbs

A predicate adjective is one which constitutes the statement made about the subject of the sentence. The verb is normally a form of esti:

Vi estis prava. = You were right.
Mono estas ĉiam necesa. = Money is always necessary.
La muro estos ruĝa. = The wall will be red.

It is possible (and increasingly common) to drop the esti form and apply the verb ending directly to the adjective stem to form a “stative” verb:

Vi pravis. = You were right.
La mono ĉiam necesas. = Money is always necessary.
La muro ruĝos. = The wall will be red.

There are a few people who are very depressed by this structure, and a great many who misunderstand it. The structure is typically found among the fluent but rambunctious young and the fluent but rambunctious young-at-heart. It is part of Esperanto, but not yet common to the whole community of speakers. Some stylists write letters to editors condemning this particular structure, which apparently does not exist in most European languages. Others insist that a form like ruĝas (literally “reds”) would have to correspond to estas ruĝe (whatever that might mean) rather than to estas ruĝa(j) = “is/are red.” Accordingly if you use stative verbs very much you can expect occasional whining and grumbling. However, such verbs are already quite common in actual fact; they correspond to usage in Chinese and some other languages; they are perfectly logical; they obviate the overuse of esti; and they will probably be a dominant form in Esperanto by the year 2050. (Well, perhaps by 2052.)

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4.4. Adverbs

*-Not all adverbs end in -e. Some words ending in - are adverbs (such as hodiaŭ = “today” or apenaŭ = “scarcely”), some of the correlatives function as adverbs (such as ĉiom = “all of it”), and a few roots function directly as adverbs (such as nun = “now,” tuj = “immediately”). The -e ending is used to create adverbs from roots that are not inherently adverbial. (Note, by the way, that -aŭ is not an ending. It is always part of the root itself.)

An adverb is, in general, a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or sometimes a whole clause or sentence. Adverbs generally convey information about where, when, how, how much, or why something happens. “Soon,” “tomorrow,” “usually,” and “merely” are adverbs. Some noun phrases (like “every morning”) function as adverbs. Prepositional phrases (like “in the tub” or “by phone”) function as adverbs. Not surprisingly, prepositional phrases in one language often turn up as adverbs in another.

The ending -e makes a stem into an adverb.*

fidel- = faith(ful)(ness)
fidela = faithful
fidele = faithfully

If you are commenting on the general situation around you, use an adverb:

Bone! = Good!
Agrable! = It’s pleasant here! = That’s pleasant! = How pleasant!
Tre interese! = That’s very interesting!
Estas bone ĉi tie. = Things are good here.

In Esperanto, the weather is often described with an adverb and the verb esti :

Estas varme! = It’s hot!

An adverb is used (in connection with esti) as the complement of a verbal subject:

Legi stultajn romanojn estas bone.
= Reading stupid novels is good.
Vidi stultajn filmojn estas pli bone.
= Seeing stupid films is better.
Labori dek horojn sinsekve ĉe la komputilo estas blindige.
= Working ten hours together at the computer is blinding.

An adverb is used (in connection with esti) when the subject is a clause beginning with ke or with a correlative beginning with k-:

Estas memevidente, ke ŝi malamas lin.
= It’s self-evident that she hates him.
Estas feliĉe, ke li havas tiom da mono.
= It’s a good thing he has so much money.
Al mi estas nekompreneble kial ŝi ankoraŭ laboras en la muzeo.
= It’s incomprehensible to me why she still works in the museum.

A single adverb can often be used in Esperanto where several words would be usual in English.

hejme = at home
konforme = in conformity
mane = by hand
vespere = in the evening
tagmeze = at noon
Novjare = at New Year’s

Sometimes a tightly bound phrase can become a single adverb:

pezkore = with a heavy heart
man’-en-mane = hand-in-hand
meznokte = in the middle of the night
longdistance = by long distance
noktmeze = in the middle of the night

An adverb can have a prepositional phrase attached to it:

okaze de la datreveno = on occasion of the anniversary
rilate al lia letero = with respect to his letter

A few adverbs, formed from transitive verbs, continue to take their direct objects:

koncerne vian hungarinon = as to your Hungarian lady
rilate lian leteron = with respect to his letter

4.4.1. Adverbs of Place & Movement (Accusative Adverbs)

Some adverbs indicate the place where something happens:

hejme = at home
tie = there
universitate = at the university

By adding the accusative ending -n to these, they come to mean the place to which someone or something is going:

Kie vi sendas la leteron? En la poŝtoficejo.
= Where are you sending the letter? In the post office.
Kien vi sendas la leteron? Hejmen, al Taĝikio.
= Where are you sending the letter? Home to Tajikistan.

For more on this see the section on Accusatives of “Movement Toward” in the section on nouns and pronouns (link).

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4.5. Comparisons of Adjectives & Adverbs

Comparative forms of adverbs and adjectives are formed with the words pli = “more” and malpli = “less.” The word ol corresponds to the English word “than”:

Mi estas juna, sed vi estas pli juna. = I am young, but you are younger.
Vi estas pli juna ol mi. = You are younger than I am.
Mi estas malpli juna ol vi. = I am older (less young) than you.
Vi estas juna, sed mi estas malpli juna. = You are young, but I am less young.

Superlative forms are made with plej = “most” and malplej = “least”:

Mi estas la plej juna membro de la klubo.
= I am the youngest member of the club.
Li estas la plej bela viro en la ĉambro.
= He is the handsomest man in the room.
Vi estas la malplej sincera persono en la mondo!
= You are the least sincere person in the world!
Vi estas la plej malsincera persono en la mondo!
= You are the most hypocritical person in the world!

In adjectives and adverbs involving both plej and the prefix mal , it is usually immaterial whether mal- is attached to the original adjective or adverb or to the plej:

Vi estas la plej malsincera persono en la mondo!
= You are the most insincere person in the world!
Vi estas la malplej sincera persono en la mondo!
= You are the least sincere person in the world!

In most Romance languages there is a single word corresponding with both pli and plej, and the distinction between “more” and “most” is made by adding an article before “most.” If you happen to be talking with speakers of these languages, be prepared to see signs of these instincts erroneously carried into Esperanto.

Tiu estas la pli (instead of plej) bona kantisto en Italio!
= That is the best singer in Italy!

More importantly, you may be met with misunderstanding if you use la before pli or leave it out before plej:

Li estas unu el la pli gravaj personoj.
= He is one of the more important people (misunderstood as most important people).
Diru nur la pli necesajn faktojn.
= Give only the more important facts (misunderstood as most important facts).
Li estas plej amata en Hungario.
= He is most loved in Hungary (misunderstood as more loved, triggering the question “Than where?”).

The elements plej and pli occasionally enter into other structures:

La proponon favoris malsufiĉa plejmulto.
= An insufficient plurality favored the proposal.
La Jaŭ-oj estas nacia malplimulto de Ĉinio.
= The Yao are a national minority in China.
Ĉu nihilismaj rokmuzikaj vidbendoj plejparte superas la kantojn de lokaj Esperantaj kluboj?
= Do nihilistic rock videos for the most part surpass the songs of local Esperanto clubs?

The expression used in Esperanto that corresponds to the English “as…as…” is tiel…kiel… or occasionally tiom…kiom….

Ŝi estas tiel alta kiel mi. = She is as tall as I.
Ŝi estas tiom alta kiom mi. = She is as tall as I..
Tio ne estas tiel bona kiel ĉi tio. = That is not so good as this is..
Mia robo estas tiel bela kiel la via. = My dress is as pretty as yours..
Mia robo estas bela tiel kiel la via. = My dress is as pretty as yours..
Li havas tiom kiom ŝi havas. = He has as much as she has..
Li havas tiel multe kiel ŝi havas. = He has as much as she has. .

The expression used in Esperanto that corresponds to the English “the more … the more …” is ju pli … des pli …:

Ju pli ni kunvenos, des pli feliĉaj ni estos.
= The more we get together the happier we’ll be.

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