Tasting the Grammar of Esperanto


(Based on the Esperanto grammars, studies and compilations of Gyula Baghy, Pierre Janton, Kálmán Kalocsay, Włodzimierz Opoka, Georg F. von Ostermann, Oszkár Princz, Seán Ó Riain and Trevor Steel)


Revised by David R. Curtis


The alphabet and the pronunciation

The alphabet of Esperanto consists of 28 letters:

a [a](as a in pa, are);
b [bɔ];
c [tsɔ](as ts in wits, bits, tsetse fly);
ĉ [t
∫ɔ](as ch in church, leech, chair);
d [d
e [
ɛ](as a in air, e in there),
f [f
g [g
ɔ](as g in go);
ĝ [d
ʒɔ](as g in gem, hedge);
h [h
ɔ](as h in how);
ĥ [
](h, guttural, as ch in loch);
i [i](as e in we);
j [j
ɔ](as y in yet and hay);
ĵ [
ʒɔ](as s in pleasure);
k [kɔ];
l [l
m [m
n [n
o [
ɔ](as o in or);
p [p
r [r
ɔ](r trilled);
s [s
ɔ](as s in so, see);
ŝ [
∫ɔ](as sh in she);
t [t
u [u](as oo in soon);
ŭ [w
ɔ](as w in leeway);
v [v
z [z

Esperanto is phonetic. All letters sounded: one letter one sound.


No irregularities. No exceptions.


The accent

The accent or stress falls on the last syllable but one. The vowels of monosyllabic words and those at the end of words are always short. Try to read aloud the following verse from the poem by Sándor Petőfi: “At the End of September” (“Fine de septembro”) translated by Kálmán Kalocsay:


Jen, floras ankoraŭ la floroj en valo,
Jen, verdas ankoraŭ la poploj ĉe l’ font’,
Sed vidu, jam tie la vintra vualo,
La nego ekkovris la supron de l’ mont’.


The definite and indefinite articles

The definite article la (the) is invariable: la patro (the father), la patrino (the mother). It is never used before proper names.

The indefinite article is a part of the noun, if used: rozo estas floro (a rose is a flower).


Grammatical endings

The nouns invariably end in -o: patro (father); patrino (mother); arbo (tree). The plural is indicated by the letter -j. The objective case takes -n in both numbers: Mi havas floron, birdon kaj libron. (I have a flower, a bird and a book.) Mi havas florojn, birdojn kaj librojn. (I have flowers, birds and books.)

All adjectives as well as participles used as adjectives end in -a: evidenta (evident), forta (strong), riĉa (rich), freŝa (fresh), manĝanta knabo (a boy, eating), belaj floroj (beautiful flowers). All adjectives agree in case and number with the nouns they describe: Mi havas belajn florojn. (I have beautiful flowers.)

The adverbs end in -e or -aŭ: angle (English[ly]), bele (beautifully), entuziasme (enthusiastically), baldaŭ (shortly, soon).

The infinitive ends in -i: esti (to be), havi (to have), trinki (to drink), labori (to work).

Personal pronouns








(thou, rarelyused)








(The personal pronouns form the objective case by adding -n: min, vin, cin, lin, ŝin, ĝin, nin, vin, ilin.)


Possessive pronouns

The possessive pronouns are formed by adding -a to the corresponding personal pronouns: mia (my), via, cia, lia, ŝia, ĝia, nia, via, ilia.


The reflexive

The reflexive pronoun si is used only in the third person whether singular or plural: mi lavas min (“I wash myself”), vi lavas vin, ci lavas cin, but: li, ŝi, ĝi lavas sin; - ni lavas nin, vi lavas vin, but: ili lavas sin.


The general subject

In Esperanto the word oni is used as the general subject. Oni ne povas ĉiam pravi. (One cannot always be right.)



The particle ne marks the negation; it stands always before the denied word: li ne povis (he could not), Estis ne mi kiu ricevis. (It was not I who received.)


Asking a question

A question that expects a yes/no answer involves only putting the particle ĉu before the equivalent statement: Ili venos morgaŭ. (They will come tomorrow.) Ĉu ili venos morgaŭ? (Will they come tomorrow?)

All other questions are introduced by a question word starting with “Ki-“. Kio? (what?), Kiu? (who, which one?), Kia? (what sort of?), Kie? (where?), Kien? (where to?), Kial? (why?), Kiam? (when?), Kiel? (how?), Kies? (whose?), Kiom? (how much/many?)


Conjugation of verbs

Infinitive: -i lern/i (to learn)


Present tense: -as mi lernas (I learn), vi lernas (you learn), li, ŝi, ĝi lernas (he, she, it learns), ni lernas (we learn), vi lernas (you learn), ili lernas (they learn)

Past tense: -is mi lernis (I learned), vi lernis (you learned) etc.

Future tense: -os mi lernos (I will learn), vi lernos (you will learn) etc.


Present tense: -us mi lernus (I should learn), vi lernus (you would learn), etc.

Past tense: estus -inta mi estus lerninta (I should have learnt), vi estus lerninta (you would have learnt), etc.

Imperative -u Lernu! (Learn!)


The complex conjugation



Active participle

Passive participle

Present tense estas -anta manĝanta (eating) -ata manĝata (being eaten)
Past tense estis -inta manĝinta (having eaten) -ita manĝita (having been eaten)
Future tense estos -onta manĝonta (about to eat) -ota manĝota (about to be eaten)


The genitive relation

Possession is denoted by de and de la. The word order is: possession – preposition – possessor.

La ĉapelo de Johano (John’s hat), la domo de la patro (the father’s house).


The comparison

The ending of positive degree of adjectives is: -a bela (beautiful), forta (strong)

The comparative is indicated by pli pli bela (more beautiful), pli forta (stronger)

The superlative is indicated by la plej la plej bela (the most beautiful), la plej forta (the strongest)

It is important to know, that in superlative before the adjectives the definite article la is always used, but it is never used before adverbs. plej bele (most beautifully), plej forte (most strongly)

Comparison is as follows: - In case of equality: Vi estas tiom bela kiom ŝi. (You are as beautiful as she. [comparing measures of beauty]) In case of difference the particle ol is used: Vi estas pli forta ol li. (You are stronger then he.)

Li estas la plej kuraĝa homo en la mondo. (He is the most courageous man in the world.) El la tri fratinoj Maria estas la plej bela. (Out of the three sisters Mary is the most beautiful.)


The numerals


1 unu; 2 du; 3 tri; 4 kvar; 5 kvin; 6 ses; 7 sep; 8 ok; 9 naŭ; 10 dek; 11 dek unu; 12 dek du; 13 dek tri; 19 dek naŭ; 20 dudek; 21 dudek unu; 22 dudek du; 30 tridek; 40 kvardek; 50 kvindek; 60 sesdek; 70 sepdek; 80 okdek; 90 naŭdek; 100 cent; 110 cent dek; 200 ducent; 1000 mil; 2005 dumil kvin; 2999 dumil naŭcent naŭdek naŭ; 1 000 000 unu miliono; 1 000 000 000 unu miliardo; 1 000 000 000 000 unu biliono



Cardinals + -a unua (first); dua (second); tria (third) etc.


Numeral adverbs

Cardinals + - e unue (firstly); due (secondly) etc.



Cardinals + -obl- unuoble (once); duoble (twice); duoble du estas kvar (twice two are four); unuobla (single); duobla (double)


Cardinals + -on- duono (one-half); triono (one-third)


Collective numerals

Cardinals + op- unuopa (single); duopa (double); unuope (separately, one at a time); duope (in pairs, by two’s); unuopo (group of one); duopo (double, duplicate); kvaropo (quartet)


Distributive numerals

po + cardinals po unu (one at a time); po du (two at a time)


What is the time?

The ordinals are used to express the time:

3 h la tria; 3.05 h la tria kaj kvin minutoj; 3.15 h la tria kaj dek kvin minutoj/la tria kaj kvarono/kvarono post la tria; 3.30 h la tria kaj duono; 3.45 h la tria kaj tri kvaronoj/kvarono antaŭ la kvara/la tria kaj kvardek kvin minutoj

Kioma horo estas? (What time is it?) Estas la oka kaj tridek. (It is half past eight.) Je kioma horo? (At what time? When?) Je la oka. (At eight o’clock.)



Kioma tago / kia dato estas? (What is the date to-day?) La 15-a de marto 2005 (It is the 15th of March, 2005) Morgaŭ estos la 16-a de marto 2005. (Tomorrow will be the 16th of March, 2005)

Kioman daton/tagon? (On what date?) La 15-an de marto (On the 15th of March)


All prepositions take the nominative case. Only to show direction (Where to?), after a few prepositions signed by (A) words take the termination of the objective case.

al - to, towards;
anstataŭ - instead of;
antaŭ - before (A);
apud - beside, nearby (A);
ĉe - at, by;
ĉirkaŭ - around (A);
da - of (follows expressions of quantity: multe da homoj /a number of people/);
de - of, from;
dum -during, while;
ekster - outside, besides (A);
el - out of;
en - in, at (A);
ĝis - till, until;
inter - among, between (A);
je - at (the preposition je has no definite meaning): je la oka horo (at eight o’clock), Je via sano! (/To/ your health!), Mi staras je via dispono. (I am at your service.), li suferas je bronkito (he suffers from bronchitis); je la nomo de la leĝo (in the name of the law);
kontraŭ - against;
krom - except;
kun - with;
laŭ - according to;
malantaŭ - behind (A);
malgraŭ - despite;
per - by means of;
por - for;
post - after (A);
preter - beyond, past, by;
pri - about, concerning;
pro - for, because of;
sen - without;
sub - under, beneath (A);
super - over, above (A);
sur - on (A);
tra - through;
trans - across (A).



There are two principal forms of derivations: the prefixes and suffixes, which are affixed to the words.



Here are some examples from about twenty prefixes used in Esperanto. Some prepositions can also be prefixes.

bo- relation by marriage patro (father); bopatro (father-in-law); bopatrino (mother-in-law)

dis- separation, dispersion, apart sendi (send); dissendi (distribute); disbati (smash)

ek- commencement, suddenness vidi (see); ekvidi (catch a glimpse); eklabori (start work); ekkanti (start singing); sidi (sit); eksidi (sit down)

eks- ex- edzo (husband); eksedzo (former husband); eksdirektoro (former director)

fi- morally wrong, shame homo (man); fihomo (villain, disgusting man); fivorto (swear word)

for- distant, going away veturi (travel); forveturi (drive off)

ge- of both sexes patro (father); patrino (mother); gepatroj (parents); gefiloj (sons and daughters); gesinjoroj (ladies and gentlemen)

mal- opposite bona (good); malbona (bad); bela (beautiful); malbela (ugly); mallonga (short)

mis- wrongly, involving an error kompreni (understand); miskompreni (misunderstand)

pra- primordial, antiquity, remoteness homo (man); prahomo (prehistoric man); praarbaro (virgin forest)

re- return, repetition of action, reciprocation doni (give), redoni (give back); reveni (come back), reskribi (rewrite); rekonstrui (reconstruct, rebuild)

retro- reverse direction iri (to go); retroiri (to go back); retrorigardi (look back)

vic- vice-, deputy-, step- prezidanto (president); vicprezidanto (vicepresident); patro (father); vicpatro (stepfather); juĝisto (judge); vicjuĝisto (deputy-judge)



-aĉ- pejorative, aesthetically undesirable ridi (to laugh); ridaĉi (to cackle); domaĉo (hovel); homaĉo (wretch); skribaĉi (scrawl)

-ad- action prolonged or habitual kanti (sing); kantado (singing); legadi (keep on reading); legado (extended reading); paroladi (talk on and on)

-aĵ- concrete manifestation of abstraction novaĵo (novelty, news); external manifestation of activity segaĵo (sawdust); characteristic behaviour infanaĵo (a childish action); edible flesh of animal bovaĵo (beef); ŝafaĵo (mutton)

-an- member of group, inhabitant, follower klubano (member of a club); aziano (Asiatic); kristano ( Christian)

-ar- collective, group arbo (tree); arbaro (forest); vorto (word); vortaro (dictionary)

-ĉj- diminutive of masculine (first name) Johano (John); Joĉjo (Johnny); patro (father); paĉjo (daddy)

-ebl- possibility, suitability, -able, -ible legi (to read); legebla (readable); manĝebla (edible)

-ec- abstract quality bela (beautiful); beleco (beauty); boneco (goodness); blankeco (whiteness)

-eg- augmentative belega (extremely beautiful); pordo (door); pordego (gateway); ridegi (laugh heartily)

-ej- place, characteristic of lerni (learn); lernejo (school); herbejo (meadow); tenisejo (tennis court)

-em- liking, tendency, inclination, capability kantema (fond of singing); laborema (hard working, assiduous); timema (fearful); ŝparemo (thrift)

-end- that must be -ed, obligation fari (to do); farenda (that must be done); pagenda (that must be paid, payable); lernenda (that must be learned)

-er- small part of whole fajrero (spark); sablero (grain of sand); panero (breadcrumb)

-estr- chief, boss urbo (town); urbestro (mayor); teamestro (captain of team)

-et- diminutive bela (beautiful); beleta (pretty); dometo (small house, cottage); dormeti (doze)

-id- offspring, descendant, youth reĝo (king); reĝido (prince); hundido (puppy); Izraelido (Israelite)

-ig- make, induce, render akra (sharp); akrigi (to sharpen); cindro (ash); cindrigi (reduce to ashes); paco (peace); pacigi (pacify); ruino (ruin); ruinigi (to ruin)

forms the transitive of intransitive verbs dormi (to sleep); dormigi (to make somebody sleep)

forms the factitive of transitive verbs labori (to work); laborigi (to make somebody work)

-iĝ- “becoming”, converts a transitive into an intransitive sano (health); saniĝi (be recovering one’s health); beliĝi (grow more beautiful); paliĝi (to fade); La folioj verdiĝas. (The leaves are turning green); Mi movis la seĝon, la seĝo moviĝis. (I moved the chair, the chair moved.)

-il- tool, instrument tranĉi (cut); tranĉilo (knife); veturi (travel); veturilo (vehicle); ŝlosilo (key)

-in- female viro (man, male); virino (woman); koko (cock); kokino (hen)

-ind- worthy of kredi (believe); kredinda (believable); laŭdinda (praiseworthy); aminda (loveable)

-ing- socket, holder, sheath glavo (sword); glavingo (scabbard); piedingo (stirrup); kandelingo (candlestick); fingringo (thimble)

-ism- -ism, doctrine, system kapitalo (capital); kapitalismo (capitalism); absolutismo (absolutism); anglismo (Anglicism); vandalismo (vandalism)

-ist- professional ŝuo (shoes); ŝuisto (shoemaker); vendi (sell); vendisto (seller, vendor); instrui (to teach); instruisto (teacher); adherent of -ism komunisto (communist); kapitalisto (capitalist)

-it- inflammation (disease) apendico (appendix); apendicito (appendicitis); gingivo (gingiva); gingivito (gingivitis); tendeno (tendon, sinew); tendenito (tendinitis)

-iz- provide, deliver, cover with butono (button); butonizi (to sew buttons); orizi (to gild); kanalizi (canalize)

-nj- diminutive of feminine nouns patrino (mother); panjo (mum, mummy); avino (grandmother); avinjo (granny); Maria (Mary); Manjo (Molly); Anjo (Annie)

-on- fraction du (two); duono (half); tri (three); triono (third); kvarono (quarter)

-op- collective numeral unuopo (group of one); duopo (a group of two, pair); triopo (triplicate); kiomope vi estas? (how many people are you?)

-uj- container mono (money); monujo (vallet); cindro (ash); cindrujo (ash-tray); abelo (bee); abelujo (beehive); two other uses of -uj- are now avoided: rozo (rose); rozujo (rosebush); hungaro (Hungarian); Hungarujo (Hungary)

-ul- person juna (young); junulo (young man, youth); riĉa (rich); riĉulo (rich person); bonulo (good man); belulino (beautiful woman); saĝulo (wise man)

-um- universal suffixe without precise meaning somero (summer); somerumi (spend one’s summer holidays); oro (gold); orumi (to gild); aero (air); aerumi (to air); plando (sole of foot); plandumo (sole of shoe); malvarma (cold); malvarmumi (to catch a cold); plena (full); plenumi (to fulfill); umo (thingamy)