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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.
The pronouns may be converted to corresponding adjectives by adding -a to the root. This is discussed in the section on adjectives (link).
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!
The pronoun oni is much more extensively used and is much less stuffy than its English equivalent “one.”
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.”
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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.
*-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.)*
Si is used with reference only to a third-person subject, never “I” or “you.”
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):
Sin is used in a few compounds:
These compounds are understood as root-like and do not change the sin even when the person in question is vi, ni, or mi:
*-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 eĉ: 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.*
Naturally it is possible to use mem together with si if sense and required emphasis require this:
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
Adjectives take the plural and accusative endings (-j and -n) to agree with the nouns they modify:
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:
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:
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Possessive adjectives are formed from the personal pronouns by adding the adjective ending -a: mia = “my, mine”; via = “your,” “yours”; etc.
*-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.*
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.
Compare the following two examples:
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])
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:
Sia always refers to the subject of its own verb:
A predicate adjective is one which constitutes the statement made about the subject of the sentence. The verb is normally a form of esti:
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:
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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*-Not all adverbs end in -e. Some words ending in -aŭ 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.*
If you are commenting on the general situation around you, use an adverb:
In Esperanto, the weather is often described with an adverb and the verb esti :
An adverb is used (in connection with esti) as the complement of a verbal subject:
An adverb is used (in connection with esti) when the subject is a clause beginning with ke or with a correlative beginning with k-:
A single adverb can often be used in Esperanto where several words would be usual in English.
Sometimes a tightly bound phrase can become a single adverb:
An adverb can have a prepositional phrase attached to it:
A few adverbs, formed from transitive verbs, continue to take their direct objects:
Some adverbs indicate the place where something happens:
By adding the accusative ending -n to these, they come to mean the place to which someone or something is going:
For more on this see the section on Accusatives of “Movement Toward” in the section on nouns and pronouns (link).
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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”:
Superlative forms are made with plej = “most” and malplej = “least”:
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:
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.
More importantly, you may be met with misunderstanding if you use la before pli or leave it out before plej:
The elements plej and pli occasionally enter into other structures:
The expression used in Esperanto that corresponds to the English “as…as…” is tiel…kiel… or occasionally tiom…kiom….
The expression used in Esperanto that corresponds to the English “the more … the more …” is ju pli … des pli …:
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