Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nouns Part I

Every single noun in Esperanto, which is the subject of the sentence ends in -o.

La hundo bojas - The dog barks; The dog is barking
La virino laboris - The woman worked.

Plural subjects add -j.

La hundoj bojas - The dogs bark; The dogs are barking
La virinoj laboris - The women worked.

You should be able to pick out the nouns in this sentence even if you don't know what all the words mean:

La hundoj kaj la kato dormis ekster la domo.

Monday, April 5, 2010

There Are No Irregular Verbs

There are no irregular verbs. Verbs in Esperanto are so simple that you will find it easy to conjugate every verb in the present, past, and future tense after this post. Verbs in the infinitive end in -i. The verb esti means "to be". Let's conjugate this in English first.

I am
thou art
he is
she is
it is
one is
we are
you are
they are

As a native English speaker, I find this simple. But the verb "to be" in English is irregular. It's irregular in the Romance languages as well. Spanish is more complicated than English because Spanish has two verbs which mean "to be" - ser and estar. Not only must one remember how to conjugate each one, one must also know when to use each. Let's just look at ser:

yo soy
el es
ella es
usted es
nosotros somos
vosotros sois
ellos son
ellas son
ustedes son

Much more variation than in English and causes non-native speakers of Spanish much difficulty. Now, let's look at Esperanto's esti

mi estas
ci estas(Ci is almost never used, but is listed here for completeness)
li estas
ŝi estas
oni estas
ĝi estas
ni estas
vi estas
ili estas

Esti, like all Esperanto verbs, is regular. To conjugate esti in the present tense, remove the -i at the end and add -as

Let's try it with manĝi - to eat
Removing the -i leaves us with the root manĝ. Add -as and we have manĝas. We won't even bother listing out the pronouns with it because the verb does not change no matter which pronoun we use it with.

What about the other tenses? They're just as easy. For the future, drop the -i and add -os. This would give us estos and manĝos for our examples.

Mi manĝos - I will eat
Vi estos - You will be

For the past, drop the -i and add -is.

Ni manĝis - We ate
Ili estis - They were

It's that simple. Here are some useful verbs to experiment with:

  • helpi - to help
  • doni - to give
  • veni - to come
  • lerni - to learn
  • stari - to stand
  • sidi - to sit
  • dormi - to sleep
  • legi - to read
  • trinki - to drink
  • voli - to want
  • bezoni - to need
  • paroli - to speak
You can also use the infinitive as-is. Mi venis helpi means "I came to help."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One Definite Article

 Esperanto's grammar is simple. There is no greater example of this than in the part of speech called the article.

In English, we have three articles - "a", "an", and "the". "The" is a definite article. "A" and "an" are indefinite articles. In other words, if you say "the table", you are referring to a specific table, but if you say "a table", which particular table doesn't matter.

We are lucky enough in English to only have to deal with these three. Spanish, which is supposedly the easiest foreign language for native English speakers to learn, has many more articles. In Spanish, one must not only distinguish between definite and indefinite, but also between gender and number. Esperanto, in contrast, only has one article, "la" which is the definite article.  Esperanto does not use an indefinite article.

Suppose I want to say, "The boys and the girl played a game with the dog." Let's just look at the nouns

  1. The boys
  2. the girl
  3. a game
  4. the dog
Translating these to Spanish, we would have
  1. Los niños
  2. la niña
  3. un juego
  4. el perro or la perra, depending whether the dog was male or female.
Translating instead to Esperanto, we have
  1. La knaboj
  2. la knabino
  3. ludon
  4. la hundo (male) or la hundino (female)
Notice that number and gender do not matter. To translate "the" we simply use la. Looking at #3 we can see that the English indefinite article "a" is not translated. "An", which is the indefinite article used before nouns which begin with a vowel sound, is not translated either. The full sentence in Esperanto: La knaboj kaj la knabino ludis ludon kun la hundo.

Esperanto, with only one article to remember, has an advantage over both English, Spanish, and many other languages.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Personal Pronouns / Personaj Pronomoj

Esperanto's personal pronouns are easy. Before we get to them, let's consider some of them in other languages.

Just how do you say "you" in Spanish? The answer is that it depends on how many people you are addressing and how familiar you are with them. Your choices are , usted, vosotros, ustedes, or vos. Vosotros is not used in all Spanish-speaking countries and vos is used even less. This can cause much confusion for non-native speakers.

French makes things a little easier. There are only tu and vous. Even with only two choices, it is easy to make mistakes. Vous can be both plural and singular but formal. Tu is always singular and always informal. Do I use tu with my lover, my pets, my children, my best friend? Again, the answer is "It depends." If you incorrectly use tu you may likely offend someone.

Italian can also be confusing. Italian also has an informal word, tu. The formal word is Lei. Lei can also mean "she".  Supposedly this is easy enough to figure out in context, due to Italian's complex system of verb endings. But do you really want to go to that much trouble?

Esperanto has a simple answer - vi (pronounced "vee"). Vi is used as singular you and plural you. You can confidently use vi with everyone you meet. Address a head of state as vi and you're not going to unintentionally offend anyone.

Esperanto does have another word for you, but ci (pronounced "tsee") is used the same way we use "thou" in English. That is, ci is used when praying or in poetry, but never in conversation.

Here are the personal pronouns in Esperanto:

Mi - I
Vi - You
Li - He
Ŝi - She
Ĝi - It
Oni - "One" or "they" or "people"
Ni - We
Ili - They

Pretty simple. Oni is the odd one out. This is used similarly to the French on. In sentences where "they" is not specific, oni is used.

"Our neighbors are evil. They killed our cat." - We would use ili in this case because "they" refers to the neighbors. In Esperanto: Niaj najbaroj estas malbonaj. Ili mortigis nian katon.

"They say cats have nine lives." - We would use oni here because "they" does not refer to someone specific. In Esperanto: Oni diras ke katoj havas naŭ vivojn.

Let's Count to Ten/ Ni Nombru ĝis Dek

1 - unu
2 - du
3 - tri
4 - kvar
5 - kvin
6 - ses
7 - sep
8 - ok
9 - naŭ
10 - dek

If you've studied other languages, some of these numbers may seem familiar. If not, du, tri and dek should at least sound familiar. Consider the English words duet, dual, tripod, tricycle, and decade, for instance.

Although the title of this post is "Let's Count to Ten", you can actually count to ninety-nine (99) with just these ten numbers. It's just a matter of addition or multiplication.

11 - dekunu
12 - dekdu
13 - dektri
14 - dekkvar
15 - dekkvin
16 - dekses
17 - deksep
18 - dekok
19 - deknaŭ
20 - dudek
21 - dudekunu
22- dudekdu
30 - tridek
99 - naŭdeknaŭ

See the pattern? It doesn't get much simpler than this.

Word Building With Affixes

Learning Esperanto vocabulary is fairly straightforward. This is because Esperanto makes heavy use of affixes. An affix is either a prefix or a suffix which changes the meaning of the root word. Let's look at an example. We will use the word domo, which means "house". Domo is the root word. The affixes are bold red.

la domo - the house
la domego - the mansion
la dometo - the cottage
la domo - the hovel

These can also be applied to verbs. The prefix mal is especially useful because it denotes an opposite.

fermi - to close
malfermi - to open
fermegi - to slam

Fermegi is an especially interesting example of word building. My dictionary says the word for slam is brufermi. But I didn't know that until just now. However, because of the suffix eg, I can still get my point across even if I don't quite know the correct word to use. More importantly, this construction will be easily understood by other Esperanto speakers. There are many of different affixes available in Esperanto which makes expanding your vocabulary quite simple once you know a root word.

What This Blog Is About

Welcome to Esperanto is Easy! This blog is about how easy it is for native speakers of English to learn Esperanto. The plan is that many of the posts here will be micro-lessons in Esperanto. Because it's much easier to learn something new in small doses, most posts will favor focusing on a particular concept.

Not all posts will be Esperanto micro-lessons. Some posts will also point out the problems English speakers have when learning certain other languages and will show how Esperanto solves that problem.