Go to Introduction, Contents.
Go to previous / next page.
File last modified: 150702

Part I: Esperanto Grammar

Chapter 10: Correlatives

Perhaps because these concepts are so chaotically handled in most languages, I have never met anyone who could tell me what a “correlative” was outside the context of Esperanto grammar. In Esperanto, however, a correlative is a word made from the following table. Correlatives do an enormous amount of the grammatical grunt work.

-U(J)(N) person, thing*
-O(N) situation, fact
that T- -A(J)(N) type, kind
what K- -E(N) place
all, every Ĉ-   I   -AL reason
any #- -EL manner
no NEN- -AM time
-OM quantity
-ES possession
*- Particular persons or things, taken individually
#- indicates the absence of prefix here.
(J) and (N) indicate that these endings should be applied as necessary.

Thus tiom means “that quantity”; kiam means “what time”; nenie means “no place”; ĉiom means “all of it”; and so on.

The following chart gives essentially the same information displayed in a slightly different format:

TI- KI- ĈI- I- NENI-
-U (J) (N) tiu = this/that (one) kiu = which (one) ĉiu = each (one) iu = some /any (one) neniu = no (one)
-O (N) tio = this/that kio = which-/what ĉio = every¬thing io = some¬thing, any¬thing nenio = nothing
-A (J) (N) tia = this¬/that kind of kia = what kind of ĉia = every kind of ia = some /any kind of nenia = no kind of
-E (N) tie = there kie = where ĉie = every-where ie = some¬where, any¬where nenie = nowhere
-AL tial = for this/that reason; therefore kial = for which /what reason; why ĉial = for every reason ial = for some/any reason nenial = for no reason
-EL tiel = in this/that way; thus kiel = in which¬/what way; how ĉiel = in every way iel = in some/any way neniel = in no way
-AM tiam = then, at this/that time; then kiam = at which/what time; when ĉiam = at all times; always iam = some¬time, any time neniam = never
-OM tiom = this /that amount kiom = which/what amount; how much ĉiom = all, all of it iom = some /any amount of it; somewhat neniom = no amount, none, none of it
-ES ties = that one’s kies = whose ĉies = every-one’s ies = some¬one’s, any¬one’s nenies = no one’s

Examples:

Jen la virino kies filon vi savis.
= Here’s the woman whose son you saved.
Mi ne kapablas manĝi tiom da glaciaĵo!
= I can’t eat that much ice cream!
Tian politikon mi ĉiel kontraŭstaros!
= I shall oppose such a policy in every way!
Li neniam parolos sufiĉe malrapide.
= He will never speak slowly enough.
Ne tiel plendu pri ĉio.
= Don’t complain that way about everything.
Ne tiom plendu pri ĉio.
= Don’t complain so much about everything.
Tiu viro ne sciis tion.
= That man didn’t know that.
Kiam ŝi plej bone telefonu?
= When should she (best) call?
Kiam plej bonos, ke ŝi telefonu?
= When will it be best for her to call?
Ial mi vidas ŝin ĉie.
= For some reason I see her everywhere.
Kiu purigu la lavopelvon?
= Who’s supposed to clean the sink?

10.1. Special Features of the Series in -O

Note that correlatives in -o do not distinguish singular and plural. The usual referent of such correlatives is (1) an unspecific “thing” or (2) the general situation already known to the listener. In context, English translations are usually “that,” “all this,” “the above,” “such matters,” and the like. Reference to a specific person, thing, or phenomenon is made with the -u forms.

Ĉu vi komprenas tion?
= Do you understand that? (i.e., what was just said)
Ĉu vi konas tiun?
= Do you know that one ? (i.e., that person, book, or whatever)
Kio estas tio?
= What’s that?
Mi bategos la personon kiu diris tion!
= I’ll clobber the person who said that!
10.2. Special Features of the Series in K-

*-This corresponds etymologically to the QU- and CU- of Latin, French or Spanish words like que, quel, cual, qui, quand, cuando, and the like, but note that the French and Spanish que has a huge range of usages corresponding to much more specific Esperanto words.

The series in K-* serves both (1) to form questions and (2) to create expressions to attach relative clauses to main clauses:

Kiu estas via patro?
= Who is your father?
la homo kiu estas via patro
= the man who is your father
Kie loĝas vi?
= Where do you live?
la strato kie loĝas vi
= the street where you live

Caution: In English (but not in Esperanto) some expressions can be relatives rather than interrogatives because of the word order or the use of “do.” “Where do you live?” and “… where do you live” are quite different for us. But in Esperanto kie loĝas vi (or kie vi loĝas) does both jobs.

Kie li loĝas?
= Where does he live?
Mi scias, kie li loĝas.
= I know where he lives.
Kie li falis?
= Where did he fall down?
Vi staras sur la trotuaro kie li falis.
= You are standing on the sidewalk where he fell down.

For more about the way this works, see the section on “Forms in T-K and Ĉ-K” below.

Kiel tends to get especially heavy use among the correlatives. It often means “in what manner” (“how”), but tends to be used in questions to mean “to what degree” (“how much”) (where it overlaps with kiom in actual practice)

Mi ne scias kiel ripari la komputilon.
= I don’t know how to fix the computer.
Ĉu vi scias kiel inteligenta ŝi estas?
= Do you know how smart she is?
Kiel bela estas la mateno!
= How beautiful the morning is!

Kiel is also used roughly like English “as” or “like” (where it overlaps with kvazaŭ):

Kiel vi fartas?
= How are you?
Ŝi traktis lin kiel filon.
= He treated him as a son.
Ŝi traktis lin kiel patrino.
= She treated him as a mother would.
Li mortigis malamikojn kiel ratojn.
= He killed enemies like rats.
Li mortigis malamikojn kiel Napoleono.
= He killed enemies like Napoleon (i.e., the way Napoleon did).
10.3. The Particle Ĉi

The series in T- (corresponding to English “th” words like “this,” “that,” “there,” “then”) is a general demonstrative, meaning both “this” and “that.” How can one distinguish “this” from “that”? One way to distinguish them is the use of the little word ĉi, placed before or after the correlative. Using ĉi marks closeness to the speaker, and it does this very clearly and vividly. Its absence does not necessarily mark great distance, but simply fails to emphasize closeness. Sometimes forms without ĉi are also best translated “this”:

Ĉu tio estas kafo?
= Is this/that coffee?
Ĉu tio ĉi estas kafo?
= Is this coffee?
Ĉu ĉi tio estas kafo?
= Is this coffee?
Ĉu mi rajtas sidiĝi tie ĉi?
= May I sit down right here?
Ĉu mi rajtas sidiĝi tie?
= May I sit down here/there?
Mankas al mi mono; vi tion komprenas, ĉu ne?
= = I don’t have any money; you understand this/that, don’t you?
Tion komprenante, kial vi deziras edzigi min?
= = Understanding that/this, why do you want to marry me?
Kio estas tio en mia poŝo? Ĉu melaso? Diable! Daĉjo!
= What’s this in my pocket? Molasses?! Damn! Davey!

Used with a Ĉ- correlative, ĉi approximates such English expressions as “all this,” “all this time,” and so on:

Ĉi ĉio estas kafo.
= All this is coffee.
Ĉiuj ĉi estas miaj amikoj.
= All these people are my friends.
Vi ĵus aĉetis ĉiom ĉi, amĉjo. Pripagu!
= You just bought all this, buddy. Pay up.

The same ĉi, by the way, is occasionally used in connection with other words than T- or Ĉ- correlatives, usually as a prefix and usually hyphenated:

Mi sendas ĉi-kune…
= I am sending herewith…
Li ne venos ĉi-jare.
= He won’t be coming this year.

Most Esperantists regard use of ĉi directly with a noun as jarring:

Clumsy: Ĉi viro estas mia edzo.
= This man is my husband.
Colloquial: Tiu ĉi viro estas mia edzo.
= This man is my husband.
Colloquial: Ĉi tiu viro ĉi estas mia edzo.
= This man is my husband.
Colloquial: Tiu viro ĉi estas mia edzo.
= This man is my husband.

10.4. The Particle Ajn

Even as ĉi modifies T- words to stress closeness, converting “that” to “this,” so the word ajn modifies words in the I- series (iu, iel, iam, iom, and so on) to specify “any” as against “some.” Ajn is often translatable as “whatever” or “at all.” (Nothing, in theory, prevents its use with other forms, as some of the following examples show.)

Mi ĝojegos pri iom ajn da manĝaĵo.
= I’ll rejoice at any amount of food whatever.
Vizitu nin iam ajn.
= Visit us any time at all.
Li deziras ian amikinon ajn!
= He wants any kind of girlfriend at all!
Iel ajn ni venĝos!
= We’ll be avenged by fair means or foul.
Mi faros ion ajn, eĉ studi Esperanton!
= I’ll do anything at all, even study Esperanto!
Daĉjeto helpis neniel ajn en la projekto.
= Little Davey helped in no way at all in the project.
Li akceptos ion ajn.
= He’ll accept anything at all.
Ŝi akceptos ĉion ajn.
= She’ll accept any and all.
Ni sukcesos iel ajn disvastigi pacon, eĉ se necesos mortigi ĉiujn ajn!
= We’ll succeed in some way or other in spreading peace, even if we have to kill absolutely everybody.

10.5. Special Features of Correlatives Ending in -OM

Correlatives ending in -om refer to quantity. Although an -om form often functions as the subject or object of a sentence, and is therefore noun-like, it does not require -n to show the accusative case.

Ŝi scias neniom pri la afero.
= She knows nothing about the matter.
Neniom tentos min.
= No amount will tempt me.
Li ŝtelis ĉiom de la ĉokolado.
= He stole all of the chocolate.

Nevertheless many speakers regard the -om series words as also adverbs, which can modify adjectives and other adverbs:

Ĉu vi scias kiel inteligenta ŝi estas?
= Do you know how smart she is?
Ĉu vi scias kiom inteligenta ŝi estas?
= Do you know how smart she is?

The use of-om words to modify adjectives is not universally approved. Those who favor the usage (including me) argue that it serves to make the following kind of distinction clearly:

Ŝi estas tiel inteligenta kiel vi.
= She is intelligent in the way that you are.
Ŝi estas tiom inteligenta kiom vi.
= She is just as intelligent as you are.

Those who oppose the use of kiom with adjectives correctly argue that very few speakers in fact make such a distinction, so that kiel has to be understood as assuming either meaning by context anyway, and that, because the use of kiom is so rare, it is jarring when it does occur. As time passes, it seems ever less jarring, however.

10.5.1. Kioma> = “Whichth”

Kioma, made of the correlative kiom plus the adjective suffix -a, would correspond to the English “whichth,” except that there is no English “whichth.” In other words, Kioma asks the question to which the answer is first, second, third, and so on. Consider the following:

Kioma filo vi estas de li? La tria.
= Which of his sons are you? The third.
Kiu filo vi estas de li? Karlo.
= Which of his sons are you? Charles.

The English question is ambiguous as to which of the two kinds of answers is sought. There is no such ambiguity in Esperanto.

Kioma horo estas? La sepa.
= What time is it? Seven o’clock.
Kioman klason vi ĉeestas/sekvas/vizitas?
= What grade are you in?
Kioma tago estas hodiaŭ? La 12a.
= What day [of the month] is today? The 12th.
Kiu tago estas hodiaŭ? Vendredo.
= What day [by name] is it today? Friday.

The most common use of kioma, by far, is for telling time:

Kioma horo estas? La 15a.
= What time is it? 3 pm.


Return to top.