20 January 2014

[en] About -us and -u in Esperanto

de Ferdinand Cesarano

Someone asked me recently about the aforementioned suffixes in the Lingvo Internacia and their meaning.

The ending -us is the marker of the conditional mood. But, in order to make constructing sentences simpler, it also serves as the past subjunctive in the subordinate clauses of conditional sentences.

'Se vi estus tie ĉi, mi estus feliĉa'. The 'estus' in the main clause 'mi estus feliĉa' is in the conditional mood. The 'estus' in the subordinate clause 'se vi estus tie ĉi' equates to the past subjunctive.

In Italian, this would be 'Se tu fossi qui, sarei felice.' So we see that 'estus' takes the role of both tenses in this classic 'sequence of tenses' sentence. Still, its basic function is as conditional.

The -u ending is typically called the imperative mood. But subsumed in this are also the moods that are more specifically defined as the 'cohorative' (giving orders to oneself) and the 'jussive' or sometimes 'volative' (expressing a wish, as in 'may you be healthy').

It also serves as the subjunctive in a sentence such as 'I want you to learn Esperanto well': 'Mi volas ke vi lernu bone Esperanton'.

So, while the names 'conditional' for the -us ending and 'imperative' for the -u ending are to some extent generalisations, they are indeed the correct names for these moods in Esperanto.