Esperanto/Introducing yourself

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Be sure to make use of the pronunciation appendix.

Grammar[edit]

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.

Nouns[edit]

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).

Some examples of nouns in Esperanto: homo (human), domo (house), amikoj (friends), kuko (cake), Johano (John), Francio (France) and ĝardenoj (gardens).

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[edit]

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").

Some examples of adjectives in Esperanto: feliĉa (happy), laca (tired), bela (beautiful), juna (young) and freŝa (fresh).

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[edit]

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."

Some examples of adverbs in Esperanto: rapide (quickly), buŝe (orally), hejme (at home), and skribe (in writing).

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[edit]

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)
Neuter ĝi (it)
  • 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[edit]

To turn a personal pronoun into a possessive pronoun (which is an adjective), simply add an -a to the end.

Esperanto English
mia my, mine
via your, yours
ŝia her, hers
lia his
ĝia its
nia our, ours
ilia their, theirs

Verbs - present tense[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Sentence Subject Verb Direct object
I ate spaghetti. I ate spaghetti
The cat loves the dog. the cat loves the dog
Bob insulted John. Bob insulted 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

This basal reader stuff is real cute. You'd almost believe that English could be a clear means of communicating. However, something working in the lab on small toy problems doesn't mean it will work on the complexities of real life. So now let's try some more advanced sentences in English.

Sentence Real Subject Incorrect Subject Real Verb Incorrect Verb Real Direct object Incorrect Direct object Real Indirect object Incorrect Indirect object
Now let's try more advanced sentences in English. let's try_(attempt) try_(hold due process against) more advanced sentences in English more advanced sentences in English
The history student's classmate found his faux pas offensive. The history student's classmate found_(determined and classified) found_(discovered) his faux pas (tactless blunder) his faux pas offensive (systematic campaign of tactless blunders) (to be) offensive (infuriating)
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution makes the citizenry's trust in their ability to criticize their governor's administration of the draft presumptive. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution The First Amendment makes_(converts and transforms) makes_(redirects) the citizenry's trust in their ability to criticize their governor's administration of the draft the citizenry's trust in their ability to criticize their governor's administration of the draft presumptive (into something that is) presumptive to the United States Constitution

As you can see, English sometimes chokes on the complexities of real life. The incorrect understanding of the sentence about the First Amendment has the same basic structure as "The pilot makes the heading in the flight plan to the north.", giving the false parse a similar structure to "The amendment redirects the trust in their ability to criticize, into the Constitution.", which would mean "The First Amendment has persuaded the citizenry to trust that they are able to criticize the governor's administration of the presumptive draft on the grounds that the governor is administrating the presumptive draft unconstitutionally instead of trusting that they are able to criticize the governor's administration of the presumptive draft on other grounds.", which, depending on the minute details of history, the English language, and then-current law, could actually make sense, but is not the correct understanding of the grammar or the meaning of the sentence. People can sort of use their sapience to get past part of this problem, but in controversies, debates, and trials where words are deliberately or accidentally twisted, in technical fields, in natural language processing, and with English as a Foreign Language, this obviously isn't working. Now you know why natural language processing is an unsolved problem in computer programming. With thanks to Google Translate for its non-proficient but speedy and indispensable assistance, now let's see if a student's possibly incorrect Esperanto can do any better.

Sentence Subject Verb Direct object Indirect object
Franko donis floroj al Janino. Franko donis floroj (al) Janino
Mario skribis leteron al Susan. Mario skribis leteron (al) Susan
Mario legis la mesagxon al Doktoro Phillipo. Mario legis la mesagxon (al) Doktoro Philipo

We'll try that again with Esperanto. We'll start with the translation of "Now let's try more advanced sentences in Esperanto.", which is "Nun ni provu iom Esperantajn frazojn kiuj estas pli progresintaj."

Sentence Real Subject Incorrect Subject Real Verb Incorrect Verb Real Direct object Incorrect Direct object Real Indirect object Incorrect Indirect object
Nun ni provu iom Esperantajn frazojn kiuj estas pli progresintaj. ni provu iom Esperantajn frazojn kiuj estas pli progresintaj
La samklasano de la studento kiu studas historion klasifikis studenta manko de takto al desesperanta. La samklasano de la studento kiu studas historion klasifikis studenta manko de takto (al) desesperanta
La Unua Amendo kiu modifas la Usona Konstitucio konvertas la civitanara konfidon ke civitanaro povas kritikas la guberniestra administrado de deviga militservo en io kiu estas suppozata. La Unua Amendo kiu modifas la Usona Konstitucio konvertas la civitanara konfidon ke civitanaro povas kritikas la gubierniestra administrado de deviga militservo (en) io kiu estas suppozata

In English, word order in a sentence helps determine whether a noun is a subject, a direct object, or an indirect object. In English, the order is often "subject, verb, direct object", "direct object, subject, verb" or "subject, verb, indirect object, direct object", and various other orders. As you can see from the table above, there are many plausible but incorrect comprehensions of the English sentences, but no plausible incorrect comprehensions of their Esperanto translations. That's because grammar in planned languages, such as Esperanto, tends to be much more precise than in natural languages. Esperanto uses affixes to explicitly and unambiguously mark words for part of speech, case, gender and number. Thus, part of speech tagging of Esperanto's single-stem words is already solved. 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, with little, if any, loss of clarity. 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[edit]

Vocabulary
Esperanto English
saluton hello, hi
mia my, mine
nomo name
estas am, are, is
kaj and
via your, yours
de from, of
kie where
venas come, comes
en in, at
Novjorko New York
Usono USA
Parizo Paris
Francio France
feliĉa happy
amiko friend
kuko cake

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[edit]

  1. Translate the following Esperanto dialogue into English:
    1. Jonah: Saluton! Mi estas Jonah.
    2. Kelly: Saluton, Jonah. Mi estas Kelly. Mi venas de Parizo, en Francio. Kaj vi?
    3. Jonah: Mi venas de Novjorko.
  2. Translate the sentences into Esperanto:
    1. The happy friends are Julie and Kelly.
    2. The beautiful cake is stale!
    3. He is sad.
  3. Translate the sentences into English:
    1. La ĝardenoj belaj estas malnovaj.
    2. Mia domo estas en la urbo.
    3. Iliaj domoj estas belaj.

Vocabulary[edit]

Phrases[edit]

Esperanto English
"Mia nomo estas..." "My name is..."
"Mi estas..." "I am..."
"Mi venas de..." "I'm from..." ("I come from...")

Words[edit]

Esperanto English
ami to love
saluton hello, hi
nomo name
estas am, are, is
kaj and
de of, from
kie where
venas come, comes
Novjorko New York
Usono USA
Parizo Paris
Francio France
mi I, me
vi you
li he, him
ŝi she, her
ĝi it
ni we, us
ili they, them
mia my, mine
via your, yours
lia his
ŝia her, hers
ĝia its, his/her, his/hers
nia our, ours
ilia their, theirs

What You Need to Know[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Esperanto English
Germanio Germany
Britio Britain
Alĝerio Algeria
Hispanio Spain
Nederlando the Netherlands
Italio Italy
Grekio Greece
Rusio Russia
Polio Poland
Belgio Belgium
Skandinavio Scandinavia



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