15

On websites there are often buttons with verbs on them.

  • Continue
  • Log in
  • Remember me
  • Like
  • Search

Should these be written in the imperative or infinitive form? For example, should I use Memoru min or Memori min?

  • 2
    This is an interesting question. – kiamlaluno Oct 2 '16 at 5:49
19

There seems to be a consensus, looking at the talk mentioned by Johmue, lernu.net, vortaro.net, and esperantujo.directory:

  • Commands given to the user by the program/programmers use the imperative (e.g. Subtenu nin, Kontaktu nin, Enigu vian nomon)
  • Commands the user gives to the program use the infinitive (e.g. Ensaluti, Serĉi)

I would like to point out that this is not the choice in all languages. For example in Danish, where there is also a pronounced difference between imperative and infinitive, almost all buttons use the imperative.

  • 1
    If the infinitive is used in the sense of "Por ... alklaku cxi tiun butonon" shouldn't sunch a button say "Kontakti nin"? – Antonia Montaro Oct 1 '16 at 14:19
  • @AntoniaMontaro Yes, You are right, some commands could belong to both categories. I think kontaktu nin is chosen to say that they really want users to contact them; it is not just a button made to service users. – svendvn Oct 1 '16 at 14:52
10

We had this discussion back in about 2003, when I was leading the group who were translating the OpenOffice.org suite into Esperanto.

It boiled down to whether one considers the application to be a tool with which the user accomplishes things, or whether the application is an entity which itself accomplishes tasks when prompted by the user. Someone in the team put it like this [paraphrasing from memory]: "Is each button or menu option a potential answer to the question "What would you like to do now?" or are they commands whereby the user tells the machine what to do?"

The consensus — partly on philosophical grounds, but partly also mirroring usage in languages other than English — was as described by @svendvn above: that commands to the user from the application (or from its creator, or the author of a website) are written with the -u form, whereas menu options and button labels use the -i form.

At the time this was not widely established — there were translations of the browsers Opera and Firefox in circulation, for example, that used -u across the board — but I'm pleased to say that subsequent websites and applications do seem to have largely adopted the -u/-i distinction.

4

You can use either. It depends if you view the button text as a label or a command. If you are telling the user what to do then use -U. If you are giving the user an option then us -I.

For example, is the login button saying "to login press here", or is it telling you to "login by pressing here."

3

There was a discussion on this on the Twitter Translation Center forums some time ago:

https://translate.twitter.com/forum/esperanto/topics/6788

I think we should follow the precedent put forth by other sites, including vortaro.net, Facebook's EO translation, and Lernu.net's own EO version, which is to use -i for actions and to always include the accusative when describing the object of an action (even though it's not a full sentence, it's important to be clear what the action is acting on). For example, using this style, "Report Spam" should be "Raporti Spamon".

Other languages also seem to use the infinitive form.

  • 1
    I agree that following the precedent set by Esperanto websites is a good idea, but the last comment about other languages is not too accurate. There seems to be no clear rule. For example, Spanish tends to use infinitives, while Norwegian and Polish tend to use imperatives. – miĥaŭ Nov 29 '16 at 13:16
-1

It's not as clear in English what kind of words are imperative in English, since we make no special declension on verbs for so doing, but if you carefully infer the meaning of a verb as attempting to influence the behavior of another, then you can safely judge that a word is an imperative in all languages.

For example:
Stand up!
Sit down!
Settle down!
Help!
Be good!
Have fun!

These are all imperatives in English and would be translated in this fashion in any languages that would have special declensions for imperatives.

  • I didn't vote this down, but it was flagged for review, so I'm reviewing it. This answer would be more helpful if there was more justification for giving the answer that you did. I also think this information was already contained in one of the other answers. You could have voted that one up if you agreed with it. – Tomaso Alexander Nov 30 '16 at 18:40
  • Sorry about that. You are right. I thought it was just very obvious and I was being a bit condescending. I will delete it. – Karlomanio Nov 30 '16 at 18:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.