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Part I: Esperanto Grammar

Chapter 5: Prepositions.

A preposition links a noun or noun phrase to a verb, adjective, or another noun or noun phrase. In English, “on,” “at,” “underneath,” and “during” are prepositions. Zamenhof sought to define the meanings of Esperanto prepositions as precisely as possible. When no particular choice of preposition was obvious from the sense, the generalized preposition je was to serve. In actual practice, je is surprisingly rare.

On the other hand, sometimes the prepositions that are used seem a bit arbitrary and vary from one speaker to another. Does one knock on a door? At a door. Outside the door? Against the door? Does one live on a certain street? Beside the street? Along the street? In the street? Different languages traditionally select different prepositions, and there is considerable range of usage in Esperanto. Notice how Zamenhof changes prepositions he uses with the verb frapi = “to strike, knock”:

La patro frapis sur la pordo, kvazaŭ li estus fremdulo.z
= The father rapped at the door, as though he were a stranger.
Oni frapetis je la pordo.z
= Someone knocked at the door.
[Li frapis] la frunton je la planko.z
= [He knocked] his forehead on the floor.
[Li frapis] sin kontraŭ la ŝtonajn murojn.z
= [He knocked himself] against the stone walls.
La maro frapadis sur la rokon.z
= The sea was knocking onto the rock.
Lia stranga konduto frapis ĉiujn.z
= His strange behavior struck everyone.

In general, if a very literal meaning of a preposition is applicable, that is the best preposition. If not, you may usually assume there will be variation in usage. Not everybody’s instinct is the same, so sometimes you may be a little surprised by a preposition someone uses, but the results are ordinarily perfectly intelligible:

Jen bildo de/pri mia patrino.
= Here’s a picture of my mother.
Li loĝas en/ĉe/laŭ/apud/sur la strato Rossetti.
= He lives on Rossetti Street.
Mi fidas al/je vi, kara.
= I have faith in you, dear.
Ni forestos por/dum unu monato.
= We’ll be gone for one month.

If nothing seems appropriate, je will usually work fine:

Ŝi venos je la oka horo.
= She’ll come at eight.
Mi estas je unu jaro pli juna ol vi.z
= I’m younger than you by one year.
La reĝo vetis kun li je ses berberaj ĉevaloj.z
= The king bet him six Berber horses.
[Li ekfrotis] alumeton je la muro.z
= He scraped a match on the wall.
La ĉielo kovriĝis je nuboj.z
= The sky covered over with clouds.
Li sendis ĉekon je tri mil dolaroj.
= He sent a check in the amount of three thousand dollars.
Vortaroj, vortaroj! Mi jam estas riĉa je vortaroj! Sed mi ne povas trovi la diablan vorton!
= Dictionaries, dictionaries! I am rich in dictionaries! But I can’t find the damned word!

When je is the appropriate preposition, it is allowable to omit it and put its object into an accusative case, but this is advisable only if no other use of the accusative is likely to be confused with it.

Mi fidas je vi, kara. = I have faith in you, dear.
Mi fidas vin, kara. = I have faith in your, dear.
Mi estas unu jaron pli juna ol vi. = I’m one year younger than you.

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