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The Short Summary of Esperanto

By Andy West
Written 13 February 2009
Updated 7 February 2010.


There are twenty-eight letters in the Esperanto alphabet. It is based on the Latin alphabet we use, with six letters wearing little hats to show their sounds are somehow different.

as in father
as in bat
as in cats
as in chat
as in door
as in date
as in food
hard, as in go
soft, as in gem
as in hat, never silent
as in German Bach or Spanish baja
as in machine
as in yet
as in azure, French jour
as in king
as in lot, never in little
as in mat
as in nut
as in open
as in pan
as in rat, but trilled
hard, as in sack
as in shack
as in top
as in lunar
as in wet
as in vase
as in zip




There is only one article, la (the).

Kato (cat), la kato (the cat).

Those whose native tongues have no article (e.g., Russian, Japanese) may drop the article.


Nouns end in o, to which plurals add j. There are two cases, subject and object; the latter adds n. Prepositions form the other cases.

Kato (cat), katoj (cats), kato ĉasas muson (a cat chases a mouse), kato manĝas musojn (a cat eats mice).


Adjectives end on a, and take the plural and object endings of the nouns that they modify. Comparative: pli (more) … ol (than). Superlative: plej (most) ….

Kato blanka, white cat. Katoj blankaj, white cats. La infano estas pli juna ol mi, the child is younger than I. La junulino estas la plej bela en ni, The young woman is the prettiest among us.

Pli and plej have opposites: malpli (less) and malplej (least). La vetero estas malpli milda ol mi esperis, the weather is less pleasant than I hoped.

Balanced comparatives use the word pair ju … des: ju pli multa, des pli ĝoja, the more, the merrier.


The numerals are unu (1), du (2), tri (3), kvar (4), kvin (5), ses (6), sep (7), ok (8), naŭ (9), dek (10), cent (100) and mil (1000).


Ordinals form with the adjective ending: unua, first; oka, eighth.


Fractions form with on: duono, half; okono, eighth.


Multiples form with obl: duobla, double, okoble, eightfold.


Groupings form with op: duopo, duet, two together; okopo, octet.


Rates form with the preposition po: po du hore, at the rate of two per hour.

Numerals also take noun and adverb endings.

Tens and hundreds are compound words: dudek (20), ducent (200). Thousands are not: du mil (2000), dudek mil (20,000).

Numbers are grouped the European way: Thousands are separated by a period, and decimals by a comma: 2.545,50 (du mil kvincent kvardek kvin kaj kvin centonoj).

Million is a noun: tri milionoj da homoj, three million people. Zero (0) may (nulo) or may not (nul) be a noun.


The personal pronouns are mi (I), vi (you), li (he), ŝi (she), ĝi (it), ni (we), ili (they), si (oneself), and oni (one, they). Pronouns take adjective (mia, my) and object (min, me) endings.

There are also pronoun sets that end with o for things and u for people:

kiu (who?)/kio (what?),
tiu (that one)/tio (that thing),
ĉiu (everyone)/ĉio (everything),
neniu (nobody)/nenio (nothing), and
iu (someone)/io (something).

These words take noun plural and object endings; and also take ĉi for nearness (tiu ĉi, this person), and ajn to make the word indefinite (iu ajn, anyone).

There is a separate pronoun for addressing one person: ci (thou/tu/du/ti). But the counterparts of ci in most European societies are used to address children, friends and familiars, and in English is used in poetry and in some religious services to address God. Zamenhof himself prefered that ci not be used, and so it isn't.



Verb tense endings: as (present), is (past), os (future). These are the same regardless of noun ending or pronoun.

Mi vidas, I see. Mi vidis, I saw. Mi vidos, I will see.


Verb mood endings: us (conditional), u (wish/command), i (infinitive).

Mi vidus, se …, I would see, if …. Vidu! See! Mi vidu, let me see. Necesas, por ke mi vidu, It is necessary, so that I may see. Vidi, to see.

active participle

Active participle affixes: ant (present), int (past/perfect), ont (future). These take noun, adjective and adverb endings.

Mi estas vidanta, I am seeing. Mi estas vidinta, I have seen. Mi estas vidonta, I am about to see.

passive participle

Passive particle affixes: at (present), it (past/perfect), ot (future). These also take noun, adjective and adverb endings. The particle's agent is marked by de (by).

Mi estas vidata de iu, I am being seen by someone. Mi estas vidita de iu, I have been seen by someone. Mi estas vidota de iu, I am about to be seen by someone.

Esperanto can also use the affix as a conversational passive: Mi vidiĝis, I was seen.


Adverbs end in e, and use pli and plej like adjectives.

Feliĉe, happily. Pli feliĉe, more happily. Plej feliĉe, most happily.

There are also particle adverbs of one- to three-syllable words. The most common are ne (not), plu (further), nun (now), nur (merely), jam (already) tuj (immediately), tre (very) and tro (too much).

Prepositional Phrase

Nouns and pronouns after prepositions take the subject case.

De la libro, of the book. Al vi, to you.


Every word is pronounced as it is spelled. There are no silent letters.

This applies to words like scio (s`tsi-o), knowledge; knabo (k`na-bo), boy; pneŭmo (p`neoo-mo), car tire; and horo (ho-ro), hour.


The accent falls on the second-to-last syllable.

Oranĝsuko, orange juice; pomkaĉo, apple sauce; rolulino, female character (in play, etc.).

Compound Word

New words can be formed by joining existing words, with the main word at the end. Grammar endings and affixes are words in their own right.

Pordotenilo, door handle; nomlisto, list of names; ejo, place


If there is another negative word in a sentence, ne (not) is dropped. There are no double or triple negatives, as in French and conversational English.

Mi ne estas, I am not. Mi ne estas plu, I am not anymore. Mi neniam estas, I am never (not mi ne estas neniam).


To connote motion towards somewhere, a noun, pronoun or adverb adds n.

Mi iras en la domon, I go into the house. La birdo flugis en la arbon, the bird flew into the tree.

Prepositional Meaning

Each preposition has a definite meaning. If no suitable preposition is available, then use the generic preposition je, which is meaningless in itself. Also, you can also use the object ending n without a preposition if the ending is not otherwise used.

Je kioma horo li venos?Kioman horon li venos?, At what time will he come?

Je or the object ending usually serves as the focus of time, measure or value. Li estas dudek jarojn aĝaLi estas aĝa je dudek jaroj.

Borrowed Words

Words can be borrowed from other languages but must conform to the spelling of Esperanto. Existing roots should be used if possible.

We do not use a word like teatrika when teatra already exists and means the same thing.

Sometimes new words exist side by side with existing words: bitoko/bajto (byte), teksaĵo/vebo (Web, as in World Wide). Sometimes words are adopted when Esperanto cannot express them with existing roots: There is no real word in Esperanto for bito (bit, or binary digit), and resentimento (French ressentiment) is not really the same as resento.


The subject ending in nouns and the a in la can be dropped to make a phrase sound better.

l' okulo (lo KOO lo), the ear; de l' koro (del KO ro, of the heart; pasad' al Hindujo (pa SAD al hin DOOEE o), passage to India.