I believe this is more of a grammatical question than a translational one. What I am referring to is things like this in English (using something I saw on Reddit as an example):

Zamenhof Day Duolingo Challenge

I an not a native English speaker but AFAIK such things are normal in English, and most words can work both as nouns and adjectives, so I guess some of the words in the example are treated as adjectives and this somehow makes sense.

But how to translate this to Esperanto? I know that simply sequencing nouns will not work:

WRONG: Zamenhofa tago Duolingo defio

But does this look fine:

Zamenhofa taga duolinga defio

Or would it be better to use prepositions:

Defio por la zamenhofa tago en Duolingo

Or is there a completely different and better way?

  • IMO this is caused by the mismatch between part of speech (adjective, noun) and grammatical function (noun modifier). Both adjectives and nouns can act as modifiers of other nouns. If we assume that in Esperanto only adjectives can act as noun modifiers, then the second version (Zamenhofa taga duolinga defio) would be best. However, matters get more complex through the internal structure, as taga is not independent, but part of ((Zamenhofa tago)(duolinga)defio). So from that P-O-V I would prefer this halfway solution between the first and the second. Sep 27, 2016 at 13:31

2 Answers 2


I think the closest equivalent to these sequences in Esperanto would be to combine all of the components into a single word. However with long sequences like this one that would be a bit of a mouthful. Maybe a compromise like the following would be the most natural:

Zamenhoftaga defio de Duolingo

I think in your first suggestion you’d need to change something to make it clear that the Zamenhofa only describes the day and not the whole challenge. In fact in most styles of British English you would be expected to hyphenate it as follows to resolve the ambiguity:

Zamenhof-Day Duolingo Challenge

Otherwise I think your two suggestions are grammatically correct and it’s just a matter of taste how you word it.


If you have the option, it is better to use prepositions.

Zamenhof-Taga Defio ĉe Duolingo

Zamenhof-Taga Duolinga Defio

As you know, when you need to use a noun as an adjective, you must either add the -a ending or insert a hyphen. I have used Zamenhof-Taga instead of Zamenhofa Taga in order to make the structure of the expression clearer. (I think the punctuation Zamenhoftaga is more common, but this is easier to read.)

Modern English has always permitted nouns to be used as adjectives, but the compulsion to use long noun-strings or noun-sequences is fairly new, dating from World War I or so. For example, the expression "enemy forces" was not used before that time; people wrote "hostile forces" or "enemy's forces" instead.

The sudden popularity of the long noun-string is usually attributed to the influx of German-American journalists into the English-language press in 1900-1920. German scientific writing may also have contributed. It is suited to headlines and is helpful in creating certain kinds of neat technical terms (e.g. English-language press).

Nowadays the BBC routinely puts up expressions like "China summit" and "Turkey coup" even when there is no shortage of space, which is a bit unfortunate as people learn English from the BBC, and these formations sound inane and add unnecessary ambiguities. In Esperanto you would say Ĉinia kongreso and Ŝtatrenverso en Turkujo.

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