Esperanto-usa offers a free 10-lesson postal course which does an excellent job of getting people started on their esperantic journey. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that the postal course doesn’t cover every aspect of Esperanto grammar. Yes, there are only 16 rules, but applying those rules is not always trivial. Yes, Esperanto is the easiest language in the world to learn, but it’s still a living language and cannot and should not be treated trivially.
An example of Things you won’t find the in the Free 10-Lesson Postal Course is an adequate translation of the English phrase, “I would have [done something] to it.” The [done something] can be any any verb. I’m going to specifically use the phrase, “I would have noticed it.” because it’s a line from a story I’m writing, and about which have had numerous conversations with both “experts” and lay people, and I most definitely count myself among the latter. (Just in case you’re wondering, it is a hole in the ground, which the protagonist fell into.)
There are two tenses of the verb that need to be dealt with. It’s both conditional and in the past. Several people insisted that the best translation should be simple, “Mi rimarkus ĝin.” But that doesn’t put it in the past, though these same people argue that it’s unnecessary to do so. I respectfully disagree. Why have all all those participles that we sweated over so long if we don’t use them?
The next attempt at translating the phrase yields, “Mi rimarkintus ĝin.” While technically correct, and is allowed by the rules, I am told that turning a participle into a verb “just isn’t done.” It’s evidently the equivalent of saying ain’t in polite company. You can find the word in the OED, but that doesn’t mean you should make it part of your vocabulary. Don Harlow once advised, “… tiu uzado estas evitinda.” Conversely, E. Williger feels that this usage makes the speaker sound “snooty” as if to advertise, “I know more esperanto than you do!”
This is where Bertilo Wennergren comes in. After completing a basic esperanto course, every student should be required to get his book, Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko, an online version of which can be found at his website. This book has settled many an argument over esoteric grammatical points.
Looking up the section on participles, Mr. Wennergren gives an example, Li estus leginta libron, se… That is, he would have read the book, if …
There is a rule that you don’t use the accusative when the verb is esti. Yet, here is an apparent violation of that rule. Never the less, everybody who reads the phrase knows immediately how to translate the idea, and agrees that the primary activity involved is not esti but legi, even if that verb has been turned into an adjective by the participle. We find an explanation for this on page 123 of Mr. Wennergren’s book. The expression esti [participle adverb] acts as a kunmetita verbo.
You can find the passage in question in the Pages section of this blog, titled La Tria Paŝo – Parto unu.