Go to Introduction, Contents.
Go to previous / next page.

Part I: Esperanto Grammar

13. Affixes (Prefixes & Suffixes)

Zamenhof sought to reduce the word-learning burden of Esperanto by allowing individual roots to be modified by a small set of affixes (prefixes and suffixes). This would create additional vocabulary out of familiar elements. This section includes a list of the “official” affixes, examples of their use, and a few comments about them.

13.1. Prefixes

bo-
The prefix -bo- is attached to a kinship term to indicate an in-law relationship:

patrino = mother bopatrino = mother-in-law
frato = brother bofrato = brother-in-law

dis-
The prefix dis- suggests dispersion in all directions.

Ŝi disrompis la vazon. = She smashed the vase to bits.
Li disdonos prospektojn. = He’ll be giving out tracts.
Ŝi aŭskultas sekretajn radiodissendojn.
= She listens to secret radio broadcasts.
Li dissendadas fileterojn.
= He keeps sending dirty letters around.
Li vaste disbabilis pri la sekreto.
= He yammered to everyone about the secret.

ek-
The prefix ek- emphasizes the onset of the action of the verb, in contrast to its continuation or completion:

Ŝi nur hodiaŭ eksciis, ke ŝi estas graveda.
= She found out only today that she is pregnant.
La terura monstro ekvidis la glavon de Daĉjeto kaj ekforkuris.
= The terrible monster took one look at Little Davey’s sword and fled.

When it is attached to intransitive verbs, ek- has an effect very similar to attaching the suffix -iĝ-.

Ŝi eksidis ĉe la tablo, tute ne invitite.
= She sat down at the table completely uninvited.
Ŝi sidiĝis ĉe la tablo, tute ne invitite.
= She sat down at the table completely uninvited.

For more on this, see the sections on -ig- and -iĝ- in this list and in Part I. Contrast the suffix -ad-.

eks-
The prefix eks- (cognate with English ex-) means former:

eksinstruisto = former teacher eksprezidanto = ex-president


Return to top.

fi-
The prefix fi- is disparaging and indicates that the root refers to something of low moral quality.

virino = woman fivirino = whore
libro = book filibro = dirty book
penso = thought fipenso = unclean thought
kanto = song fikanto = smutty song, risqué ditty

Caution: Some (most) Esperantists distinguish between -aĉ-, as referring to something that is of poor quality or broken down, and fi-, designating something immoral. However a few speakers consider these two affixes to differentiate what is objectively bad (-aĉ-) from what is subjectively worthless (fi-). Speakers of the second kind sometimes use fi- as a polite way to speak of their own productions or efforts:

Mi ĝojas, ke miaj fikantoj plaĉas al vi.
= I am happy that my humble songs please you.

Such a usage is a jarring error and should be avoided, but do not be alarmed if you occasionally hear fi- used this way.

ge-
The prefix ge- indicates that both females and males are explicitly included:

gesinjoroj = ladies and gentlemen
gepatroj = parents
geamikoj = friends of both sexes
geonkloj = aunt(s) & uncle(s)
geedzoj = husband(s) & wife/wives
gefratoj = siblings

This prefix is commonly omitted if there is no possibility of confusion and if there is no particular desire to stress that both sexes are explicitly included in the word. Talking about a field of sheep as geŝafoj rather than simply ŝafoj is just as silly as it seems (or it implies an unusual interest in the sex of sheep). The ge- is NOT omitted for kinship terms or with the word gesinjoroj. See -in-.

Since ge- specifically includes both sexes, it is traditionally used only with plural nouns. However in recent years it has become common (although not universally well regarded!) to use it with a singular noun to stress that sex is irrelevant. This usually occurs with kinship terms, since these are words in which the unmarked form is unambiguously male:

Vi bezonos noton de via gepatro pri tio.
= You’ll need a note from your parent about that.
Vi rajtas inviti nur unu gefraton al la festeto.
= You may invite only one sibling to the little party.

Some people jokingly extend the usage of ge- in various ways, but such extensions are not yet standard and should be regarded as experimental, humorous, and what have you. Here are a few examples of such non-standard extensions:

gedormi = to sleep together (= kundormi)
gesole = alone with each other (of a couple) (= solaj)
geumi = to make sex (= amori)
geviro = a gay man (= gejo)

*-Caution for students of Romance languages: Mal merely reverses the meaning of the root. In and of itself it does not mean or imply “bad” in any way. La malo means “the opposite.” It does not mean “badness”!

mal-
The prefix mal- causes the root to reverse its meaning:*

bona = good malbona = bad
laŭta = loud mallaŭta = soft
kosta = expensive malkosta = cheap, inexpensive
avantaĝo = advantage malavantaĝo = disadvantage
ami = love malami = hate
amiko = friend malamiko = enemy
bone = well malbone = badly

Needless to say, this prefix can be used only with roots that are able to have a relatively unambiguous opposite. The word ananaso means “pineapple,” but malananaso would be meaningless!

In compounds, mal- reverses the meaning only of whatever is between it and the first suffix. Suffixes therefore refer to the reversed unit, including the mal-:

granda = large malgrand-a = small
grandega = huge malgrand-ega = tiny
NOT malgrandeg-a = “anti-huge”
juna = young maljun-a = old
junulo = a youth maljun-ulino = old woman
NOT maljunulin-o = “anti-maid”
bela = beautiful malbel-a = ugly
beleta = pretty malbel-eta = plain
NOT malbelet-a = “anti-plain”
bona = good malbon-a = bad
bonulo = virtuous person malbon-ulo = bad person
NOT malbonul-o = “anti-saint”

The mal- prefix was devised to reduce the number of roots and decrease the learning burden for Esperanto. Thus if one knew the word bona, one automatically could form the word malbona. From the beginning, however, some speakers have felt uncomfortable with some such compounds, and words came into general use to replace some mal- words. Many of these have entered the language (sometimes without driving out the easily recreated mal- words). Zamenhof himself used some of the early “replacements.” In other cases, the mal- words have continued to receive preference, and proposed replacements have remained less common or even unused. Here is a list of some of these doublets. The boldface shows the words common enough to bother about, in my opinion. An asterisk (*) indicates that the “replacement” is much more narrow in sense than the mal- word it partially replaces. A cross (†) shows that the word never caught on.

absolvi = malkondamni† = absolve
absurda = malracia = irrational, absurd
aflikti = malĝojigi = sadden, afflict
amara = maldolĉa = bitter
aperti† = malfermi = open
aspra* = malglata = rough-surfaced
aŭdaca = maltima = audacious
basa* = malalta = bass, low (voice)
breva = mallonga = brief
cis = maltrans = up to but not across
despero = malespero = despair
disipi† = malŝpari = waste
dista = malproksima = fora = distant
dura = malmola = hard (not soft)
efemera = maldaŭra = temporary, fleeting
eta = malgranda = small
falsa = malvera = false
febla* = malforta = feeble, weak
fiaski = malsukcesi = miscarry, fail
fiktiva = malreala = fictional
fini = malkomenci† = finish
forgesi = malmemori† = forget
frida = malvarma = cold
hati = malami = hate
humida = malseka = damp, wet
hungri† = malsati = to be hungry
infre = malsupre = below
kurta = mallonga = brief, short
kvereli = malpaci† = quarrel, feud
lanta = malrapida = slow
lasciva = malĉasta = lascivious

*--It is unclear whether liva = “left” is coming into general use, although we may hope so. Especially in international transportation it would avoid confusion between dekstra and maldekstra, which sound too similar when spoken in noisy environments (for example when road instructions are given in cars).”

liva [Note] = maldekstra = left (side)
lontana = malproksima = distant
loza = malfirma = malstreĉa = loose-fitting; loose-packed
magra* = malgrasa = thin (of people, meat)
manki = malesti = be missing
mava† = malbona = bad
men† = malpli = less
milda = malsovaĝa = mild
minca† = maldika = slim
morgaŭ = malhieraŭ† = tomorrow
moroza* = malafabla = morose
morto = malvivo† = death
neglekti = malzorgi = neglect
noci = malutili = damage, inhibit

*-A few speakers seem to distinguish between being physically old (maljuna) and being old in one’s manner or point of view (olda). This would fit with the emergence of the term olduloj as a faintly derogatory term for older people who resist change, as seen from the perspective of the junuloj. However, this distinction between olda and maljuna is only emergent and is not consistently observed.

obskura = malluma = dark
obskura = malfama = unknown, obscure
obstaklo = malhelpaĵo = barrier, obstacle
olda = maljuna = old [Note]
olda = malfreŝa = stale
orgojlo = malhumilo = pride, egocentrism
ovri = malfermi = to open
pasiva = malaktiva† = passive
perversa = malvirta = perverse, perverted
pigra = maldiligenta = lazy
pisi = maltrinki =urini = to urinate
pita† = malgranda = little
plumpa = malgracia = crude, clumsy
poka† = malmulta = little, few

*-This provides an excuse for poltroni = “to chicken out”!

poltrona = malkuraĝa = cowardly [Note]
povra = malriĉa = poor (without money)
povra = kompatinda = poor (pathetic)
rara = malofta = rare
skoldi* = mallaŭdi = scold
sob = malsupren = suben = downward

*-The element soft- seems to be getting a new (and different!) lease on life in the computer Anglicism softvaro = “software,” sometimes simply called softo.

softa† [Note] = mallaŭta = soft (not loud)
sombra = malhela = dark
sordida = malpura = dirty
sor† = supren = upward
streta† = mallarĝa = narrow
strikta = malvasta = tight, narrow
stulta = malinteligenta = stupid
stulta = malsprita = stupid, dull
stupida† = malsaĝega = foolish
svaga = malpreciza = vague
svelta = maldika = slim, slender
ŝrumpi = malŝveli = shrink
tarda = malfrua = late
trista = malgaja = sad
turpa = malbela = ugly
vaka* = malplena = empty
vanui† = malaperi = to vanish
vigili*† = maldormi = remain awake; keep watch

The word ne = “no, not” is sometimes used as a prefix to negate the idea of the root without reversing it.

amiko = friend neamiko = non-friend malamiko = enem

This provides a way of negating roots that do not have clear opposites:

blua = blue neblua = “non-blue” malblua (meaningless)

Formations with ne- and mal- do not necessarily have exact equivalents in English, partly because English tends to allow only one kind of negating prefix with any root:

diskreta = discreet nediskreta = not discreet maldiskreta = indiscreet
kuraĝa = brave nekuraĝa = not very brave malkuraĝa = timorous
taŭga = appropriate netaŭga = not appropriate maltaŭga = inappropriate
sincera = sincere nesincera = insincere malsincera = hypocritical
amika = friendly neamika = unfriendly malamika = hostile


Return to top.

mis-
The prefix mis- suggests the malfunction of whatever is indicated by the root:

miskompreni = to misunderstand
misparoli = to say something wrong
misami = to love inappropriately

pra-
The prefix pra- refers to antiquity and primordiality:

prahistorio = prehistory
prapatroj = ancestors
prahomoj = protohuman hominids

re-
The prefix re- shows (1) repetition or (2) restoration to a previous state.

Ni vizitis ŝin en la malliberejo kaj revizitis ŝin post ŝia liberiĝo.
= We visited her in jail and visited her again after she got out.
Foje Daĉjeto sukcesis mem laĉi la ŝuojn. Refoje li penis malsukcese.
= Once little Davey succeeded in tying his shoes himself. He tried again without success.
Ne laŭdu lian kanton ĉar li eble rekantos ĝin!
= Don’t praise his song or he may sing it again!
Ŝi kantis La Himnon kaj ĝin rekantis kaj rerekantis kaj ree rerekantis ĝis forfuĝis ĉiuj krokodiloj.
= She sang The Anthem and sang it again and again and yet again until all the non-Esperantists had fled.
Diego neniam redonis mian libron.
= Diego never gave back my book.
Ili penis resaniĝi per oleo de serpento.
= They tried to get well again using snake oil.
Esperanto min rejunigis kaj nun mi varbas senĉese.
= Esperanto rejuvenated me and now I recruit people non-stop.


Return to top.

13.2. Suffixes

-aĉ-
The suffix -aĉ- is disparaging and indicates that something is of poor quality:

kabano = shack, cabin kabanaĉo = miserable shanty, hut
kuracisto = doctor kuracistaĉo = quack
vesto = clothing vestaĉo = rags worn as clothing
viro = man viraĉo = no-good-nik
ĉarma = cute, charming ĉarmaĉa = cutesy

See usage note under fi-.

-ad-
The suffix -ad- stresses the duration of an action. The prefix ek- stresses its beginning:

dormi = to sleep ekdormi = to fall asleepdormadi = to be sleeping
manĝi = to eat ekmanĝi = to start eatingmanĝadi = to keep eating
Li ekdormadis. = He fell into a long slumber.

Sometimes a root with the ending -o names an action. In that case, the addition of -ad- emphasizes that the action is continuous:

Ŝi parolis. = She talked parolo = talking, speaking
Ŝi paroladis. = She talked on and on. parolado = the act of talking on and on
Li kombis al si la harojn. = He combed his hair. kombo = a stroke with a comb
Li kombadis al si la harojn. = He kept combing his hair. kombado = the act of continuous combing
kombilo = a comb

At other times a root with the ending -o names a non-action, such as an instrument, or the result of an action. In that case, the addition of -ad- is necessary to show that the action itself, not the instrument or result, is intended.

Ŝi batis lin. = She hit him.
Ŝi batadis lin. = She gave him a pummeling.
bato = a blow
batado = the act of beating
Li kantis. = He sang.
Li kantadis. = He sang on and on.
kanto = a song
kantado = the act of singing
Mi martelis. = I hammered.
Mi marteladis. = I hammered on and on.
martelo = a hammer
martelado = the act of hammering
Li brosis al si la harojn. = He brushed his hair.
Li brosadis al si la harojn. = He kept brushing his hair.
broso = a brush
brosado = the act of brushing.

*-In the case of desegn-, the root is a verb, and the -o ending ought to name the action, but usage has evolved to include desegno for the design itself. Accordingly the -ad- is necessary if you want to be clear about “designing” and -aĵ- is necessary to be clear about “a design.” Most roots take one or the other, but don't need both.

Excessive use of -ad- (like any other excess) is clumsy style, but if you are not sure whether the stem is basically verbal or not —does desegno mean “a drawing” or “the act of drawing”?— then the -ad- ensures that you have an action form.*

(For more on komb- and bros-, see Part II.)

-aĵ-
The suffix -aĵ- normally signifies a concrete object or product associated with the root, an external manifestation of it, or a behavioral manifestation of it. It is also used to derive the term for a kind of meat from the name of the animal from which it comes.

komponi = to compose komponaĵo = a composition
konstrui = to construct konstruaĵo = building
manĝi = to eat manĝaĵo = food (manĝo = a meal)
trinki = to drink trinkaĵo = a drink
bela = beautiful belaĵo = trinket, ornament
ĝentila = polite ĝentilaĵo = a point of etiquette
nova = new novaĵo = news, item of news
amiko = friend amikaĵo = a friendly act; a symbol of friendship
infano = infant, child infanaĵo = a childish thing to do
glacio = ice glaciaĵo = ice cream
porko = hog porkaĵo = pork
bovo = cow, cattle bovaĵo = beef
fiŝo = a fish fiŝaĵo = a piece of fish

*-In practice there is some overlap between -an- and -ist- in this third sense. A Christian is normally a kristano, but a Marxist is usually a marksisto, and a Buddhist is sometimes a budhano and sometimes a budhisto. The choice seems to be dictated in part by prior usage in European languages with similar suffixes (such as English). Similarly it is usual to speak of kristanismo = “Christianity” but of marksismo = “Marxism” and budhismo (not budhanismo) = “Buddhism.” If you follow your English instincts your usage should be inconspicuous, but be prepared for different (perhaps more logical) usage from speakers with different instincts.

-an-
The suffix -an- refers to (1) a member of a group, (2) an inhabitant of a country or other place, or (3) a follower of a person, philosophy, or religion.*

Kanado = Canada kanadano = Canadian
Usono = United States usonano = American
kurso = course kursano = student in a course
Kristo = Christ kristano = Christian
Budho = Buddha budhano = Buddhist
klubo = club klubano = club member
muzeo = museum muzeano = museum member

Contrast -an- with -ist- and -ul-. Note that, in general (but not always) -an- is attached to noun roots, -ist- to verb roots, and -ul- to adjective or verb roots, but it is the sense that matters.

klubo = club klubano = club member
bela = beautiful belulo = handsome person
pentri = to paint pentristo = painter

See also -uj-. For more on place names, see that part of the section on nouns.


Return to top.

-ar-
The suffix -ar- indicates a group of whatever is designated by the root:

haro = a hair hararo = hair, a head of hair
ŝafo = sheep ŝafaro = flock of sheep
estro = leader estraro = the leadership, the board
profesoro = teacher profesoraro = faculty
esperantisto = Esperantist esperantistaro = the Esperantists

-ĉj- and -nj-
Nicknames are formed in Esperanto by means of -ĉj- for males and -nj- for females (plus the -o that signals a noun). These suffixes may be attached to any fragment of the whole name, so long as the result is reasonably pronounceable:

Name Nicknames
Johano Johaĉjo, Jonĉjo, Joĉjo
Barbara Barbanjo, Barnjo, Banjo
Miĥaelo Miĥaĉjo, Miĉjo
Maria Marinjo, Marnjo, Manjo
Manjo fine ĉesis sakri en Volapuko. = Maggie finally quit cursing in Volapük.
Daĉjeto ĉiam faligas la saŭcon sur sian pantalonon. = Little Davey always dumps the gravy on his trousers.
Zamĉjo, ni amas vin! = Zammy, we love you!

The forms -ĉj- and -nj- can also be used with other words, typically kinship terms:

patro = father paĉjo = daddy, papa
patrino = mother panjo = mommy, mama
onklo = uncle onĉjo, oĉjo = unk
onklino = aunt onjo = auntie
bopatrino = mother-in-law bopanjo = mommy-in-law

-ebl-
The suffix -ebl- indicates that the root, normally a transitive verb, can be applied; that is, it shows the possibility of a thing happening:

legi = to read legebla = legible, readable
manĝi = to eat manĝebla = edible
ĝui = to enjoy ĝuebla = enjoyable
renovigi = to renovate renovigebla = renewable

See also -iv- in the section on pseudo-affixes.

-ec-
The suffix -ec- refers to an abstract quality, trait, attribute, or essence associated with the root:

bona = good boneco = goodness
bela = beautiful beleco = beauty
amiko = friend amikeco = friendship
infano = child infaneco = childhood

In cases where an adjectival root is used as a noun by adding -o, the noun is already abstract, so the -ec- is largely redundant and is sometimes omitted:

grand(ec)o = bigness, size
sincer(ec)o = sincerity
sprit(ec)o = wit
modern(ec)o = modernity

*-Some speakers attempt to contrast the use of -ec- in such cases to refer to the “quality” of the root as against the absence of -ec- referring to its “abstraction.” The distinction has never made much sense to me, and so far I have never heard a sentence actually spoken in ordinary conversation where it made any difference. Most speakers seem to include the -ec- most of the time.

There was a time when omitting the redundant -ec- was considered elegant in a spare kind of way. My impression is that it is today more common to include it.*

When the root shows the material of which something is made, -eca refers to a similar but different material:

Mi ofte fumas argilan pipon. = I often smoke a clay pipe.
La pudingo estis refoje argileca. = The pudding was clay-like again.
Li portis silkecan ĉemizon. = He was wearing a silky shirt.
Oni verŝis farbon sur ŝian peltecan mantelon. = They poured paint on her imitation fur coat.


Return to top.

-eg-
The suffix -eg- is the opposite of -et- and increases the size or strength of the root:

domo = house domego = mansion
urbo = city urbego = metropolis
bona = good bonega = excellent
plori = cry ploregi = wail & caterwaul
ega = huge ege = vastly
egiĝi = to grow huge

-em-
The suffix -em- indicates a tendency toward what the root expresses:

labori = to work laborema = industrious
ami = to love amema = amorous
paroli = to speak parolema = talkative, loquacious
emo = inclination emi al = to incline towards
grandiĝi = to grow large grandiĝema = inclined to get big
(the way kittens grow into cats)
Li forgesas la ŝuojn denove! = He’s forgetting his shoes again!
Li forgesemas la ŝuojn. = He tends to forget his shoes.

-end-
The suffix -end- means “necessary” or “must”:

aranĝi = to arrange aranĝenda = which must be arranged
vidi = to see videnda = which must be seen
paroli = to speak priparolenda = which must be discussed
La afero estas aranĝenda aŭ ni pereos.
= The matter must be taken care of or we shall perish.
La libro estas studenda por ĉiu komencanto.
= The book is to be studied by every beginner.

Note the contrast between the suffixes -ind- = “worth doing” and -end- = “needing doing”:

fari = to do farinda = worth doing farenda = to be done
manĝi = to eat manĝinda = delicious manĝenda = to be eaten
Tiuj pomoj estas manĝendaj. = Those apples need eating.
Mi nun scias, ke mia edzo ne estas aminda.
= Now I know that my husband is not worth loving.
Sed ĉar li estas via edzo, li estas amenda.
= But since he is your husband he must be loved.
Feliĉe li estas amebla. = Fortunately, he’s lovable.

-er-
The suffix -er- indicates a single element of what is designated by the root. (Often the root refers to a mass of something not normally countable.)

pluvo = rain pluvero = raindrop
mono = money monero = coin
sablo = sand sablero = grain of sand
fajro = fire fajrero = spark
akvo = water akvero = drop


Return to top.

-estr-
The suffix -estr- means “chief of.”

estri = to be in charge of
estraro = officers, board of directors
estrarano = officer, member of the board
lernejestro = school principal

These terms tend to be used for clubs and associations, including Esperanto clubs. A government, however, is registaro from regi = “to govern.”

-et-
The suffix -et- diminishes the size or strength of the root. It is commonly also used as a separate word meaning small:

domo = house dometo = cottage
urbo = city urbeto = town
bela = beautiful beleta = cute, pretty
iom = some iomete = a little bit
infano = child infaneto = little child
ete = somewhat, a little etulo = a small person, child
etigi = to reduce etiĝi = to become small

-ej-

The suffix -ej- refers to a place, usually a room or building. For example, a lernejo is a place where one learns, hence a school.

oficejo = office
laborejo = place of work
kinejo = movie theater
aŭtomobilejo = garage
manĝejo = dining room
kuirejo = kitchen
studejo = study, den
porkejo = pig pen

-foj-
The suffix -foj- is attached to numbers and corresponds to English “times”:

tri = three trifoje = thrice, three times
Ni trifoje avertis Daĉjeton, sed ankoraŭ li turmentadis la katidon.
= We warned little Davey three times, but he still kept pestering the kitten.

Although most often used as a suffix, foj- is technically a regular root, and occurs as a noun or adverb. See fojo in the list of “Potentially Troublesome Words.”

-i-
See -uj-.


Return to top.

*-Historical note: With a capital letter, Ido is the name of an early XXth-century language project derived from Esperanto. It attracted considerable interest before the First World War because of its claims to be “more rational” than Esperanto, but constant reforms to make it conform to ever-shifting ideas of rationality doomed it. There are still a handful of Idists to be found, but most seem to be Esperantists who have learned Ido out of interest in the history of Esperanto.

-id-
The suffix -id- indicates offspring. As an independent word, ido means offspring.*

hundo = dog hundido = puppy
kato = cat katido = kitten
reĝo = king reĝidino = princess (= princino)
Frankenŝtajn’ = Frankenstein Frankenŝtajnido = Son of Frankenstein

-ig-
The suffix -ig- is discussed at length in the section on transitive and intransitive verbs. Note also that it carries the sense of causation:

laca = tired lacigi = to weary, to tire out [someone]
rufa = red [of hair] rufigi = to dye [hair] red
riĉa = rich riĉigi = to enrich
edzino = wife edzinigi = to make [someone] a wife
edzo = husband edzigi = to make [someone] a husband
en mano = in a hand enmanigi = to take [something] in hand
sen vesto = without clothes senvestigi = to undress [someone]
sen kulpo = without guilt senkulpigi = to clear [someone] of guilt
el = from eligi = to cast [something, someone] out
kun = with kunigi = to unite [something]
for = distant forigi = to put [something] at a distance
tro = too troigi = to exaggerate

Verbs formed with -ig- are transitive, i.e., they require a direct object, whether stated or implied.

dormi = to sleep dormigi = to put [someone] to sleep
devi = must devigi = to compel
halti = to stop haltigi = to make [someone] stop
pendi = to hang down pendigi = to hang [something] up

Most Esperanto verb roots are either transitive or intransitive, not both. Accordingly a common use of -ig- is to make an intransitive verb transitive:

3bruli = to burn with crackling and popping and giving forth of smoke
bruligi = to set fire to something
Kiam ŝi bruligis la paperon, ĝi brulis.
= When she lit the paper, it burned.

When -ig- is added to verbal roots that are already transitive, the effect is to create a need for two direct objects:

Li skribis la leteron. = He wrote the letter.
Li skribigis ŝin. = He made her write (something).
Li skribigis la leteron. = He had the letter written (i.e., he made somebody write the letter).
Li skribigis al ŝi [= ŝin] la leteron. = He had her write the letter.
Li igis ŝin skribi la leteron. = He had her write the letter.

See also the section on Transitive and Intransitive Verbs for more details.

-iĝ-
The suffix -iĝ- carries a sense of becoming.

laca = tired laciĝi = to weary, to grow weary
rufa = red [of hair] rufiĝi = to turn red [of hair]
riĉa = rich riĉiĝi = to get rich
el lito = from bed ellitiĝi = to get out of bed
en lito = in bed enlitiĝi = to go to bed, get into bed
edzo = husband edziĝi = to become a husband, get married
edzino = wife edziniĝi = to become a wife, get married

Verbs formed with -iĝ- are intransitive, i.e., they may not take a direct object.

dormi = to sleep dormiĝi = to fall asleep
sidi = to sit sidiĝi = to sit down, to be seated
ŝanĝi = to change [something] ŝanĝiĝi = to be changed, to change

Most Esperanto verbs root are either transitive or intransitive, not both. Accordingly a common use of -iĝ- is to make a transitive verb intransitive:

komenci = to set [something] going
komenciĝi = to get going
Kiam li komencis la feston, ĝi vere komenciĝis.
= When he started the party, it really got going.

When -iĝ- is added to a verb that is already intransitive, the resultant verb stresses the fact that the action is just beginning, and is roughly equivalent to -ek-:

sidi = sit, be sitting sidiĝi = eksidi = sit down, be seated

See also the section on Transitive and Intransitive Verbs for more details.


Return to top.

-il-
The suffix -il- names an instrument used to perform the function indicated by a verbal root:

kombi = to comb kombilo = a comb
skribi = to write skribilo = a writing instrument
manĝi = to eat manĝilo = an eating utensil

In most cases a term made with -il- is a rather generic term, and more specific words also exist (sometimes -il- forms derived from different verbs) by which one can be more precise:

manĝilo = eating utensil forko = fork kulero = spoon tranĉilo = knife
skribilo = writing instrument plumo = pen krajono = pencil feltmarkilo = felt marker

Note that -il- is not applied if the root is already the name of an instrument:

broso = a brush brosi = to brush
martelo = a hammer marteli = to hammer

(For more on komb- and bros-, see the section on “Potentially Troublesome Words.”)

*-Usually the term junul(in)o is also treated as inherently showing sex, and one does not speak of a young woman as a junulo, but only as a junulino. The derived term junularo= “youth,” however, always includes both sexes.

-in-
The suffix -in- means “female.”

In Esperanto a noun is ambiguously neuter/neutral or male unless clearly marked female. Thus an instruisto may be a teacher of either sex and refers to a male teacher only if context makes it clear that sex is relevant; instruistino, on the other hand, can only be a female teacher. If it is desirable to specify male sex more emphatically, the adjective vira or the prefix vir- may be used, but is comparatively rare.

A number of nouns are always regarded as sex-marked, and no neutral form exists. This includes all kinship terms, the word vir(in)o, and words used as polite titles sinjor(in)o, fraŭl(in)o.*

patro = father patrino = mother
sinjoro = Mr. sinjorino = Mrs.
viro = male person virino = woman

Never does viro refer to “man” in the sense of “mankind.” The generic words for human beings are homo and persono, neither of which normally takes -in- because both stress the irrelevance of sex. “Humanity” (or “mankind”) is normally homaro.

Special Note on Titles

In Esperanto the words sinjoro, sinjorino, and fraŭlino (“Mr., “Mrs.,” and “Miss”) may be used without attached names, as in European languages generally.

Bonan tagon, sinjorino. = Good day, madam.
Dankon, fraŭlino. = Thank you, miss.

Although it is possible to equate these words to “sir,” “madam,” and “miss,” they occur in this usage far more frequently in Esperanto than their equivalents do in English.

The titles are also used by some speakers with personal names, a custom that is far more limited in English usage. Thus Anna Jones can be:

sinjorino = sinjorino Jones = sinjorino Anna

This differentiation is particularly common among Japanese Esperantists, since it corresponds with usage in Japanese. In that case sinjorino Anna is less formal than sinjorino Jones, but does not risk the excessive intimacy of Anna alone:

sinjorino > sinjorino Jones > sinjorino Anna > Anna > Anjo
formal informal

*-It is best to try to follow the usage of the group you are with when addressing one of its members. Often more formal terms are used when addressing or sometimes when talking about an older person than when talking to or about a younger one. And some titles, like doktoro, are of course reserved to people who have received various degrees or occupy certain official positions.

Note, however, that not all speakers make the distinction. Prepare to be addressed in a variety of ways. Among Esperantists today, you will rarely make a faux pas if you reciprocate whatever usage is used on you.*

See also fraŭl(in)o in Part II.

-ind-
The suffix -ind- means worthy of:

vidinda = worth seeing
aŭskultinda = worth listening to
indulo = a worthy person
ne dankinde = not worth thanks (= you’re welcome)

Note the contrast between the suffixes -ind- and -end-:

fari = to do farinda = worth doing farenda = to be done
manĝi = to eat manĝinda = delicious manĝenda = to be eaten

Further examples can be found in the article on -end- earlier in this list.

-ing-
See -uj-.

-ism-
The suffix -ism- refers to a philosophy, ideology, or movement, just as its English equivalent does:

marksismo = Marxism
dadaismo = Dadaism
modernismo = modernism
3kristanismo = Christianity
internaciismo = internationalism

It can also refer to characteristic behaviors or phenomena, also exactly the way the English “-ism” does:

alkoholismo = alcoholism
magnetismo = magnetism
hipnotismo = hypnotism
gigantismo = gigantism

*-This usage is criticized by purists as too discrepant from the other meanings of -ism-. But it is very common, and even purists understand it just fine, I notice.

Finally, it can refer to a linguistic or other stylistic feature (especially turns of phrase borrowed from various languages):*

anglismo = Anglicism
francismo = Gallicism
ĉinismo = Sinicism
latinismo = Latinism
idiotismo* = idiom

*-Idiotismo = “idiom” is in fact a borrowing from the French. However, its seemingly regular derivation from idioto = “idiot” nicely reflects the view held by most Esperanto speakers about languages full of idioms!

-ist-
The suffix -ist- refers (1) to a person professionally, expertly, or continually occupied with something, or (2) to an adherent of a particular ideology:

laboristo = worker
instruisto = teacher
oficisto = office holder/worker
ĝardenisto = gardener
marksisto = Marxist
budhisto = Buddhist
biciklisto = cyclist
esperantisto = Esperantist

When the person is merely doing something rather than being involved in it as an occupation or as a point of belief, it is more common to use a participle:

pentristo = a painter pentranto = person who is painting
kantisto = a singer kantanto = person who is singing
Bedaŭrinde la nehaltigebla kantanto ne estis kantisto kaj ni devis lin eligi.
= Unfortunately the person who sang unstoppably was no singer and we had to throw him out.

See the entry on -an- in this list.

-nj-
See -ĉj-.


Return to top.

-obl-
The suffix -obl- corresponds with the “-ble/-ple” in English words like “double,” “triple,” “quintuplet,” and so on; in other words, it refers to the multiplication of the quantity indicated by the root:

duobla porcio = double ration
trioble naŭ = three times nine
kvinoblo = five times the number
multobla = many-fold, many times the …
multobligi = to duplicate many time; to mimeograph
oblo = a multiple
Tio estas duoble (pli) grava. = That is doubly important.
Mi jam pagis vin trioble! = I’ve already paid you thrice over!

-on-
The suffix -on- is attached to numbers to make fractions. It is exactly equivalent to attaching “1/” before a number:

du = 2 duono = 1/2
tri = 3 triono = 1/3
sesdek kvin = 65 sesdekkvinono = 1/65

Fractions are nouns and are inflected just like other nouns:

Donu al mi nur duonon de la mono.
= Give me only half of the money.
Donu al ŝi du trionojn.
= Giver her two-thirds.
La infanoj tre zorge dividis la kukon en dekduonojn.
= The children carefully divided the cake into twelfths.
La infanoj tre zorge dudekonigis la kukon.
= The children carefully divided the cake into twelfths.

-op-
The suffix -op- is attached to numbers to refer to things taken “at a time.” The essential idea is that of a collectivity containing several of the same thing:

sepope = seven at a blow
kvinope = (all) five together
triope = in threes
Ili ĉiam parolas duope.
= They always both talk at once.
Kvaropiĝu, infanoj!
= Form groups of four, children!
Ili atakis min. Kiomope? Kvinope.
= They attacked me. How many at a time? Five at a time.

Nearly always, -op- is used in an adverb or adjective. It is unnecessary in a noun, since merely adding -o to the noun has the same result:

trio = triopo = trio, triad, group of three
duo = duopo = duet, duo

The extra “groupiness” of -opo sometimes leads to its being used in titles of small groups, despite its redundancy, especially if the name is intended to sound a little silly:

funebra duopo = gruesome twosome
infera triopo = ungodly trio
Note the contrast with the preposition po, despite sometimes similar translations:

*-Caution: Since forms in -ope usually modify the verb, they usually refer to the subject. This sentence therefore would normally not mean that the jars were in groups of three.

Ili aĉetis po tri bokalojn.
= They bought three jars apiece.
Ili aĉetis bokalojn triope.
= Shopping in a group of three they bought jars. *
Kvinope ili trinkis po dek ses glasetojn da sakeo.
= The five together drank sixteen little glasses of sake apiece.


Return to top.

*-Usage varies when the thing held is not actually inserted into the holder. Most often such a holder is called a tenilo = “holder”: Li aĉetis ŝildotenilon por sia aŭto. = “He bought a license-plate holder for his car.”

-uj-/-ing-/-i-
The suffixes -uj- and -ing- both are used to indicate containers. The difference is that -uj- is a container for several of whatever the root indicates, while -ing- is a container for but one, which is normally partially inserted into it:*

cigaredingo = cigarette holder cigaredujo = cigarette box
ovingo = egg cup ovujo = egg carton, egg compartment
ombrelingo = umbrella case ombrelujo = umbrella stand
fingringo = thimble
salujo = salt shaker
monujo = wallet, purse

In addition, the suffix -uj- may be used to form the name of a tree from the name of its fruit. (This usage has become less common over the years, with the word -arbo being suffixed to the name of the fruit instead.)

pomo = apple pomujo (pomarbo) = apple tree
piro = pear pirujo (pirarbo) = pear tree
figo = fig figujo (figarbo) = fig tree

Finally, -uj- is added to the name of an ethnic group to indicate the territory it occupies.

ruso = a Russian Rusujo = Russia
sviso = a Swiss Svisujo = Switzerland
ĉino = a Chinese Ĉinujo = China
berbero = a Berber Berberujo = land of the Berbers

Note in this last example that Berberujo in this case does not indicate anything visible on a political map. Similarly Esperantujo is used to refer to “wherever Esperantists are to be found,” the “Esperanto milieu,” “Esperantist circles,” and the like.

Especially as an ending for showing a political state, the -uj- tends to become -i- in the usage of ever more Esperantists. It is now a bit old-fashioned to say Ĉinujo or Francujo, and one more often hears Ĉinio or Francio. (Esperantujo has held out against this trend somewhat longer, but even Esperantio is emerging as a colloquial form.)

For more on place names, see the subsection on place names in the section on nouns.

-ul-
The suffix -ul- indicates a person characterized by the root.

belulo = a handsome man
belulino = a beautiful woman
junulo = a youth
junularo moderna = youth today
karul(in)o = (my) dear
altulo = a tall person
laŭtulo = a loud person
grizharulo = a grey-haired person
barbulino = a bearded lady
maljunuleto = a little old man
drinkulo = a sot
timulo = a coward

See also the entry on -an- in this list.

-um-
The suffix -um- is used to produce idiosyncratic derivatives from roots (most often nouns) when other suffixes are inappropriate to the purpose. Here are the most common ones:

butiko = a shop butikumi = to shop
cerbo = brain cerbumi = rack one’s brains
kruco = cross krucumi = to crucify
kubuto = elbow kubutumi = to elbow people (in a crowd)
malvarma = cold malvarmumo = a cold
mastro = master (of house, etc.) mastrumi = attain mastery over
nazo = nose nazumi = to nose around, nose through
nomo = name nomumi = to name [to an office]
orbito = an orbit orbitumi = to orbit
plena = full plenumi = to fulfill
polekso = thumb poleksumi = (1) to thumb through , (2) to thumb a ride
proksima = close proksimuma = approximate
vento = wind ventumi = to fan
vintro = winter vintrumi = to spend the winter

One of the most significant uses of -um- is to derive the name of an article of clothing from that of a body part:

brako = arm brakumo = arm of a garment
kolo = neck kolumo = collar
mano = hand manumo = cuff (of sleeve)
nazo = nose nazumo = nosebag, nose-cover


Return to top.

13.3. Affixes as Roots

*-This characteristic has been used to argue that there is therefore no real difference between affixes and any other root. The counter-argument is that the affixes differ because of their specialized use as affixes and comparatively broad applicability in that function, quite aside from their standing as roots. In fact a handful of short roots tend to get used as though they were affixes. See the section on Prepositions and Other Roots as Affixes.

Suffixes and prefixes in Esperanto are able to act as roots to make independent words, so long as they take the necesary grammatical endings:*

malo = opposite
ejo = place ina = female
eco = essence ree = again
emo = tendency aĵo = thing
male = on the contrary; the other way around ano = member
aro = group, array


Return to top.

13.4. Pseudo-affixes

So-called “pseudo-affixes” in Esperanto are largely suffixes which are used in the international vocabulary of science. The scientific suffix -ol-, for example, is added to the name of a hydrocarbide to produce the name of the corresponding alcohol, as in English: meta = “methanol.” Similarly -oz-, which comes into scientific English as “-ous,” -ose,” or “osis,” occurs in illness terms: tuberkulozo = “tuberculosis.” In inorganic chemistry -oz- shows oxides and salts of low valence: feroza klorido = “ferrous chloride” (FeCl2). In organic chemistry it indicates a sugar-type molecule: fruktozo = “fructose.”

*-The pseudo-affixes call attention to themselves when used. Using these freely will puzzle some people and alarm others. Although a few speakers will think you are admirably avant-garde, nearly all listeners will tend to be distracted by how you are speaking rather than concentrating on what you are saying.

In addition to their use in scientific and technical contexts, a few of these international suffixes have begun to show up in everyday, colloquial Esperanto acting as though they were part of the regular suffixing system of the language. So we find -oz- used to mean “full of” whatever the root designates, and encounter expressions like birdo kantoza = “a bird filled with song.” It is beyond the scope of this book to deal with the technical vocabulary of science, but some of the more colloquial pseudo-affixes are listed here.*

-esk-
The pseudo-suffix -esk-, corresponds to the “-esque” in Franco-English words like “grotesque” or “Japanesque,” but it may be more widely applied, especially in very slangy speech.

La fromaĝo de Viskonsono ne estas svisa, sed almenaŭ sviseska.
= The cheese in Wisconsin is not Swiss, but it is at least Swiss style.
Ŝia muziko estas tre “hard-rock”-eska!
= Her music resembles hard rock.

-ik-
The pseudo-suffix -ik- appears in the names of some sciences, of which the most common are ekonomiko = “economics,” lingvistiko = “linguistics,” informatiko = “information science,” and komputiko = “computer science.” It appears to be used ever more often in new compounds, such as edukiko = “pedagogy, the study of education.” Probably few speakers are able to distinguish consistently between -ik- and the pseudo-suffix -ologio-, and it will be interesting to see if either actually evolves into general colloquial usage at the expense of the other. (The logical lingviko = “linguistics” is still rare and has by no means displaced lingvistiko, the term that probably is responsible for the start of -ik- as an increasingly colloquial suffix.)

Li studas komputikon ĉe la Universitato de Zagrebo.
= He studies computer science at the University of Zagreb.

-iv-
The pseudo-suffix -iv- is the active equivalent of the passive suffix -ebl-. When attached to a transitive verb root, -ebl- means “able to be Verb-ed,” but -iv- means “able to Verb”:

legi = to read legebla = legible, readable legiva = literate, able to read
manĝi = to eat manĝebla = edible manĝiva = able to eat
Rusaj vortoj estas neparoleblaj.
= Russian words are unpronounceable.
Tiu papago estas tre paroliva.
= That parrot is very capable of speech.
Tiu papago estas tre parolema.
= That parrot is very talkative.
Du parolivuloj ne estas tuta Esperanta klubo.
= Two people who can speak are not a whole Esperanto club.

The pseudo-suffix -iv- is in competition for colloquial status with the already colloquial root pov-, used as a suffix with the same meaning:

legi = to read legpova = literate, able to read
manĝi = to eat manĝpova = able to eat

Even as there is something sleek, modern, and slightly daring about the use of -iv- (especially with roots which do not correspond with roots that would use the cognate suffix in other languages), so there is a homey, familiar, down-on-the-farm feel about -pov- in this usage, at least to me.


Return to top.

-olog-, -ologi-
Many names of academic disciplines end in -ologio. The names of corresponding specialists end in -ologo.

Li blinde enamoriĝis al biologo.
= He fell blindly in love with a biologist.
Mi forlasis etnomuzikologion por farigi ĵurnalvendisto.
= I abandoned ethnomusicology to become a newspaper salesman.
Esperantologio kapablas interesi nur esperantologojn.
= Esperantology can be interesting only to Esperantologists.
La etnologon sorĉis la krokodil-adorantoj.
= The crocodile worshippers bewitched the ethnologist.

-oz-
The pseudo-suffix -oz- means “full of” the root:

La ĉambro estas aeroza kaj lumoza.
= The room is full of air and light.
Via argumento estas truoza.
= Your argument is full of holes.
Ŝia konto monozas, do mi ŝin amas.
= Her account is full of money, so I love her.
Konto monoza, estonteco roza.
= Account full of money, future full of roses.


Return to top.

13.5. Prepositions & Other Roots as Affixes

There is a tendency for Esperanto prepositions to become prefixes to the verbs they are commonly used with, making the original object of the preposition into a direct object. Occasionally the preposition is prefixed, but the original prepositional phrase nevertheless remains intact:

Li parolis pri vi.
OR Li priparolis vin. .
(OR Li priparolis pri vi.) = He spoke about you.
Ŝi lasas al mi fari tion.
OR Ŝi lasas min fari tion.
OR Ŝi allasas min fari tion.
(OR Ŝi allasas al mi fari tion.) = She lets me do that.

A preposition can also be added (redundantly) to an already transitive verb.

Ili traktis la aferon kun siaj amikoj.
OR Ili pritraktis la aferon kun siaj amikoj.
= They discussed the matter with their friends.
Mi ne povas juĝi romanojn.
OR Mi ne povas juĝi pri romanoj.
OR Mi ne povas prijuĝi romanojn.
= I can’t judge novels.

This tendency produces a large series of colloquial derivatives of some verbs:

ellasi = “from-leave” = let out, release
enlasi = “in-leave” = let in
delasi = “of leave” = deposit, put down; leave out
elparoli = “out-speak” = pronounce
priparoli = “about-speak” = discuss
subparoli = “under-speak” = discuss in secret
antaŭparoli = “before discuss” = discuss ahead of time
antaŭparolo = “before discussion” = prologue, preface

Although prepositions have the strongest tendency to become prefixes, this tendency also extends to a few other elements, notably the particle for = “away.” This has various effects. In most cases the result is easily visible in the translation.

lasi = to allow; leave forlasi = abandon, depart from
meti = to put formeti = put aside
iri = to go foriri = to go away
manĝi = to eat formanĝi = to eat up
veturi = to travel forveturi = to drive off, run off
preni = to take forpreni = to carry off, take away
profesia = professional eksterprofesia = outside of one’s profession
iri = to go eniri = to enter
skribi = to write enskribi = to inscribe
labori = to work kunlabori = to cooperate
paroli = to speak pluparoli = to talk on
bona = good plibonigi = to improve
lerni = to learn ellerni = to learn completely
manĝi = to eat elmanĝi = to eat up
nun = now ĝisnune = hitherto
hieraŭ = yesterday la ĝishieraŭa plano = the plan till yesterday


Return to top.

Sometimes there is no comparable English distinction.

ligi = to tie together kunligi = to tie together
amiĝi = to fall in love enamiĝi = to fall in love

El = “from” and pri = “about” are among the most common of the prepositions that do service as prefixes. Both can be used with their literal meanings:

Li eliris. = He went out.
Ŝi priparolis sian fratinon. = She spoke about her sister.
Li priploris la morton de sia edzino. = He bewailed his wife’s death.

In addition to their literal meanings, El = “from” and pri = “about” can each mean “thoroughly” or “completely,” adding a sense of completion or finality:

Ŝi elpensis la planon. = She thought out the plan.
Ili ne povis plu elteni. = They couldn’t hold out any longer.
Li prilaboris plenan portreton. = He worked out a whole portrait.
La sukero estas eluzita. = The sugar is all used up.

Zamenhof sometimes also used pri- to create derivative verbs with a different object, usually an object that “surrounds” or is a context for the verb without pri-:

Ŝi ŝtelis balailon. = She stole a broom.
Ŝi priŝtelis balailan vendejon. = She robbed a broom store.
La polico ŝin serĉis. = The police sought her.
La polico ŝin priserĉis. = The police searched her.
La polico ŝian ĉelon priserĉis. = The police searched her cell.
Ili plantis hordeon en la kampo. = They planted barley in the field.
Ili priplantis la tutan ĝardenon. = They planted the whole garden.
La lampo prilumis la ĉambron. = The lamp lit up the whole room.
Ili semis rizon. = They sowed rice.
Ili prisemis rizokampon. = They sowed a ricefield.
Li tondis ŝiajn harojn. = He cut her hair.
Li pritondis ŝian kapon. = He cut her hair.
Li ĵetis ŝtonon. = He threw a stone.
Li priĵetis viron. = He threw (something) at a man.
Li rabis tridek dolarojn. = He stole thirty dollars.
Li prirabis tridek homojn. = He robbed thirty people.
Ili konstruis kastelon. = They built a castle.
Ili prikonstruis la tutan bienon. = They built on the whole estate.
Ŝi verŝis la saŭcon en la poton. = She poured the gravy into the pot.
Ŝi sperte priverŝis la porkaĵon per la saŭco. = She skillfully basted the pork with the gravy.
Daĉjeto priverŝis la tablon per la supo. = Little Davey poured the soup all over the table.

Although most of the pri- compounds listed here are now colloquial, some others have become mere curiosities, and the device is rarely used to create new compounds today.

The preposition sub = “under” produces several rather specialized terms:

aĉeti = to buy subaĉeti = to bribe
kompreni = to understand subkompreni = to infer
aŭskulti = to hear subaŭskulti = to eavesdrop on
ridi = to laugh subridi = to snicker
voĉo = voice subvoĉo = undertone
teni = to hold subteni = to support

Some words are used so freely in compounding, that they are difficult to distinguish from affixes:

arb-o = tree figarbo = fig tree monarbo = money tree
art-o = art kuirarto = art of cooking deklamarto = art of reading aloud
fin-i = to finish finaranĝi = to complete the arrangements finskribi = to finish writing
fuŝ-i = to mess (something) up fuŝlerni = to dabble in studying fuŝkanti = to sing poorly
plen-a = full homplena = full of people vermoplena = full of worms plenkreskulo = grown-up
sat-i = be full, satisfied satmanĝi = to eat to fullness satlegi = to read as much as one wants


Return to top.