Summary of Esperanto Lesson 1:
- Grammar: Nouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Personal and possessive pronouns, Verbs - Present Tense, Objects
- Conversation: Introducing yourself
- Exercise: Translation
- History: Esperanto's beginnings
Be sure to make use of the pronunciation appendix.
Since Esperanto is a very regular language, all its rules can be applied universally without exceptions. This means Esperanto grammar concepts are much easier to understand than those of natural languages. In this first lesson, we shall examine how to form nouns, adjectives, and the present tense.
In any language, nouns are words that designate a person, place, thing, idea, or quality. Some examples of nouns in English are: "house", "friends", "cake", "John", "France", and "gardens".
In Esperanto, all nouns end in -o. The part of the word that goes before the -o is known as the root. For example, in the word urbo (city), urb- is the root and the -o makes it a noun.
To make a noun plural, add a -j to the end, for example urboj (cities).
To say a or an, as in "a town", just say the noun on its own, e.g. urbo (town, a town). There is no indefinite article ("a" or "an") in Esperanto.
The word for the is la, e.g. la urbo (the city). La never changes for singular or plural.
Adjectives are words that describe a noun. Some English examples are: "happy", "tired", "beautiful", "young" and "fresh".
To change an Esperanto noun into its corresponding adjective, replace the -o with an -a. For example, urbo (town) gives rise to urba (urban, "relating to a town").
In Esperanto, an adjective must "agree in number" with the noun it describes. This means that if the noun is singular, the adjective must also be. If the noun is plural, the adjective must also be, too. Some examples: la freŝa kuko (the fresh cake), la freŝaj kukoj (the fresh cakes); feliĉa homo (a happy person), feliĉaj homoj (happy people).
The prefix mal- changes an Esperanto word into its opposite meaning - a feature that greatly reduces the vocabulary. Here are some examples of mal- words in Esperanto: malfeliĉa (unhappy), mallaca (alert, not tired), malbela (ugly), maljuna (old) and malfreŝa (stale).
Adverbs are words that describe a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. They indicate manner, place, time or quantity. Some English examples are: "quickly", "orally", "at home", and "in writing".
To change an Esperanto word into an adverb, replace the usual ending (-a for adjectives, -o for nouns, and -i for verbs) with -e. The meaning of the base word determines whether it becomes a manner, place, time or quantity adverb.
- Manner - How something is done, "He runs quickly." ; "He submitted it in writing."
- Place - Where something is done, "He runs at home."
- Time - When something is done, "He runs on Sunday."
- Quantity - "He runs a lot."
Please note that not all adverbs use this rule, but the overwhelming majority of them do. Once you are introduced to these adverbs, it will be obvious why they are exceptions.
 Personal pronouns
In Esperanto there are ten personal pronouns. However, you will initially need to only know seven of these pronouns.
|Person||Singular (one person)||Plural (more than one)|
|First (the speaker)||mi (I, me)||ni (we, us)|
|Second (the listener)||vi (you, you all)|
|Third (somebody else)||Masculine||li (he, him)||ili (they, them)|
|Feminine||ŝi (she, her)|
- The other pronouns ("oni", "si") will be covered later.
- "Ci", a pronoun translated "thou", is rarely used.
- The third person neuter singular pronoun, "ĝi", is not exactly the same as the English "it" because it can be used as a gender-neutral pronoun for a living person. For example, "Look at that baby. I can't tell if it is a boy or a girl."
 Possessive pronouns
To turn a personal pronoun into a possessive pronoun (which is an adjective), simply add an -a to the end.
 Verbs - present tense
The basic form of a verb is called its infinitive. In English, this is the part of the verb that has "to" in front of it, as in the sentence "John likes to play football". In Esperanto, the infinitive simply has an -i after the root, e.g. ludo (a game), ludi (to play).
The present tense has three forms in English. For example, one can say either "I kick", "I am kicking" or "I do kick"; "he laughs", "he is laughing", "he does laugh"; "Robert eats the cake", "Robert is eating the cake", "Robert does eat cake". All these forms are represented under one form in Esperanto.
To form the present tense of any Esperanto verb, simply substitute the -i in the root with -as. Some examples: mi legas (I am reading), li ridas (He is laughing), Roberto manĝas la kukon (Robert eats the cake).
You will also note that there is no verb conjugation in Esperanto for person. For example, in English you would say "Bob eats", "I eat", and "She eats"; In Esperanto, you would use the same form of the verb: "Bob manĝas", "Mi manĝas", "Ŝi manĝas".
 Objects and the accusative case
Like in English, every complete declarative sentence in Esperanto requires at least two parts: a subject and a verb. In the sentence "I ate", the subject is "I" and the verb is "ate". A subject is a noun which performs an action. However, in the sentence "I ate spaghetti", there is a third word: "spaghetti". The word "spaghetti" in this sentence is what is known as a direct object. A direct object is a noun which is having an action performed on it. It is being "verb'ed", so to speak.
|I ate spaghetti.||I||ate||spaghetti|
|The cat loves the dog.||the cat||loves||the dog|
|Bob punched John.||Bob||punched||John|
|Jennifer likes ponies.||Jennifer||likes||ponies|
|Frank gave Jane flowers.||Frank||gave||flowers|
Take special note of the last sentence. In the first three sentences, the direct object directly followed the verb. However, in the last sentence, the word "Jane" directly follows the verb "gave". So why isn't Jane the direct object of the sentence? Because Jane is not having an action performed on her by the verb of the sentence, "give". Frank is not giving Jane, Frank is giving flowers to Jane. Since the flowers are what is being given, the flowers are the direct object.
So what is Jane in this sentence, then? Jane is what is known as an indirect object. An indirect object is a noun which is neither performing an action nor having an action performed directly upon it, but receiving the action of the verb less directly than the direct object (hence the name). In Esperanto, the indirect object will always take a preposition. For example, "Frank baked Jane a cake" becomes "Frank baked a cake for Jane."
|Sentence||Subject||Verb||Direct object||Indirect object|
|Frank gave Jane flowers||Frank||gave||flowers||(to) Jane|
|Mary wrote Susan a letter.||Mary||wrote||a letter||(for) Susan|
|Harry read Dr. Phillips the message.||Harry||read||the message||(to) Dr. Phillips|
|The war veteran tells schoolchildren his stories.||the war veteran||tells||his stories||(to) schoolchildren|
|The U.S. Constitution grants Americans Freedom of Speech.||the U.S. Constitution||grants||Freedom of Speech||(to) Americans|
In English, the order of the words in a sentence determine whether a noun is a subject, a direct object, or an indirect object. In English, the order is either "subject, verb, direct object" or "subject, verb, indirect object, direct object". Esperanto, however, is more flexible. In order to make a direct object in Esperanto, one simply adds the letter "n" to the noun (if the noun is plural, the "n" is added after the "j").
Therefore, in Esperanto, subjects, verbs, and direct objects can be put in any order! All of the following sentences, which mean "the apple loves the banana" are grammatically correct in Esperanto.
- La pomo amas la bananon.
- La pomo la bananon amas.
- Amas la pomo la bananon.
- Amas la bananon la pomo.
- La bananon la pomo amas.
- La bananon amas la pomo.
 Conversation - Introducing yourself
|estas||am, are, is|
Two people - Jean and Frank - meet for the first time:
- Frank: Saluton! Mia nomo estas Frank. Kaj via?
- Jean: Saluton! Mi estas Jean. De kie vi venas?
- Frank: Mi venas de Novjorko, en Usono. Kaj vi?
- Jean: Mi venas de Parizo, en Francio.
 Exercise: Translation
- Translate the following Esperanto dialogue into English:
- Jonah: Saluton! Mi estas Jonah.
- Kelly: Saluton, Jonah. Mi estas Kelly. Mi venas de Parizo, en Francio. Kaj vi?
- Jonah: Mi venas de Novjorko.
- Translate the sentences into Esperanto:
- The happy friends are Julie and Kelly.
- The beautiful cake is stale!
- He is sad.
- Translate the sentences into English:
- La ĝardenoj belaj estas malnovaj.
- Mia domo estas en la urbo.
- Iliaj domoj estas belaj.
 History of Esperanto
 Language Evolution
A declaration endorsed by the Esperanto movement in 1905 limits changes to Esperanto principle. That declaration stated, amongst other things, that the basis of the language should remain Fundamento de Esperanto ("Foundation of Esperanto", a work by Zamenhof), which is to be binding forever: nobody has the right to make changes to it. The declaration also permits new concepts to be expressed as the speaker sees fit, but it recommends doing so in accordance with the original style.
Zamenhof's approach is why Esperanto is uniquely strong among constructed languages. More generally, there are five primary reasons for its strength:
- Re-thinking it all: Zamenhof started developing his constructed language early, and he had done an enormous amount of work by the time he left for university. When he returned home in 1881, as the legend goes, he found that his father had burned all his notes and work. Thus Zamenhof was forced to begin again, but this time he had the advantage of all that he had learned in his first attempt. He commented later in a letter to N. Borovko, "I worked for six years perfecting and testing the language, even though it had seemed to me in 1878 that the language was already completely ready."
- Tapping innate structures: Zamenhof based his language on a regularized version of natural languages, rather than building a totally novel and abstract structure (an approach used by some others). Not only are the word roots generally from natural languages, the overall structure mimics natural languages. This approach means that Esperanto can exploit desirable features from naturally evolved languages.
- Delay before publication: When Zamenhof was ready to publish his language, the Czarist censors would not allow it. Stymied, he spent his time in translating works (such as parts of the Bible and Shakespeare) into Esperanto. This enforced delay led to continuing refinement and improvement before the language was presented to the world.
- Esperanto belongs to the Esperantists: Developers of constructed languages are usually extremely possessive of their brain-children and reject any attempt by others to contribute or have a significant role in the development of the language. Zamenhof declared that "Esperanto belongs to the Esperantists" and moved to the background once the language was published, allowing others to share in the development and creation.
- Stability: Constructed languages are often destroyed by continual tinkering, with the constant changes making the language impossible to learn and use. Zamenhof, in contrast, published his Fundamento de Esperanto and established it as an unchanging foundation. This gave Esperanto a stability of structure and grammar similar to that which natural languages possess by virtue of their great body of literature and speakers. Thus one could learn Esperanto without having it move from underfoot.
However, modern Esperanto usage may in fact depart from that originally described in the Fundamento. The translation given for "I like this one", in the phrases below offers a significant example. According to the Fundamento, Mi ŝatas ĉi tiun would in fact have meant "I esteem this one". The traditional usage would instead have been Ĉi tiu plaĉas al mi (literally, "this one is pleasing to me"), which, although it differs from the English phrasing in "I like this one", more closely reflects the phrasing in several other languages (e.g. French celui-ci me plaît, Spanish éste me gusta, Russian это мне нравится [eto mnye nravitsya], German Dieses gefällt mir).
Other changes from traditional Esperanto have affected the names of countries, whose endings have changed from -ujo to -io. Also, women's names ending in -a (e.g. Maria) are now recognized although this is strictly an adjectival ending, whereas previously purists would have insisted on the noun ending -o (e.g. Mario).
In addition to these, Esperantists have formed many words to express concepts which have arisen more recently, but where possible these have indeed conformed to the existing style of the language. For example, "computer" is komputilo, (adding the suffix -il- meaning a tool to the root of the verb komputi, 'to compute'). Eŭro is another good example: even though the currency is called euro in all the European Community's official languages which use a Latin script, in Esperanto Eŭro was chosen because it better fits the phonology of the language.
Not all changes meet ready acceptance, however. For example, the neologism ĉipa meaning "cheap" has appeared as an alternative to the more verbose malmultekosta, but remains in minority usage.
|"Mia nomo estas..."||"My name is..."|
|"Mi estas..."||"I am..."|
|"Mi venas de..."||"I'm from..." ("I come from...")|
|estas||am, are, is|
|ĝia||its, his/her, his/hers|
 What You Need to Know
- All nouns in Esperanto end in "-o"
- All adjectives in Esperanto end in "-a"
- Most adverbs in Esperanto end in "-e"
- Personal pronouns are used to refer to people or things.
- To change a personal pronoun into a possessive pronoun, add "-a".
- The infinitive form of verbs in Esperanto ends in "-i".
- To change verbs to be in the present tense, remove the "-i" and add "-as".
- Plurals end in "-j".
 Extra vocabulary