Esperanto has a lot of ways to modify the intensity of adjectives. Even ignoring pli and plej, the following possible levels of intensity of bona exist: bona, boneta, bonega, tre bona, tre boneta, tre bonega, ege bona, ege boneta, ege bonega, treege bona, treege boneta, treege bonega. If we include pli and plej as modifiers, then the number of possible levels goes up to 36.

I doubt few Esperantists would actually use all of these forms; they add a little variety, but introduce ambiguity¹. But they are possible, whether or not someone dares to use them. Is there an accepted way to order them by intensity?

¹For example: what do tre boneta and treege boneta mean? "Very somewhat good" vs. "Extremely somewhat good"?

1 Answer 1


Boneta, bona, and bonega are (theoretically) different concepts. Boneta means "good in a small way", i.e. "fairly good", and stands in relation to bona in the same way that beleta ("pretty") stands to bela ("beautiful"). Similarly, bonega can be understood as "not just good, but on a superior level" which is why it is translated as "excellent".

Thus, tre boneta means "very good in a small way"—like a bad poem which has been very careful versified, or a bad painting displaying a high level of technique, or (if you'll indulge me) an armed robber who just got out of prison who always offers visitors a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Apart from that, it seems reasonably clear that the sequence tre, ege, treege is increasing in intensity.

Zamenhof touches on this in one of his Lingvaj Respondoj from 1908.

(EO) Tute prave vi diras, ke la sufikso eg ne povas servi por simpla anstataŭado de la vortoj “granda” aŭ “tre”, sed ĝi devas servi por kreado de vortoj novaj kun senco speciala. Tia neĝusta uzado de la sufikso certe ne estas aprobinda, kaj, kiom oni povas, oni devas ĝin eviti. Tamen esti tro severaj en ĉi tiu rilato ni ankaŭ ne devas. En multaj okazoj, en kiuj ni povus bone uzi la vortojn “granda” aŭ “tre”, ni povas ankaŭ sen peko kontraŭ la spirito de Esperanto uzi la sufikson eg, ĉar tre ofte la saman ideon unu persono povas prezenti al si kiel ideon simplan en granda mezuro, dum alia persono ĝin prezentas al si kiel ideon specialan. Ekzemple, la vorton “bonega” ni preskaŭ ĉiam povus anstataŭigi per “tre bona”, kaj tamen en la samaj okazoj oni ankaŭ povas prezenti al si bonecon eksterordinaran kaj uzi por ĝi vorton apartan tiel same, kiel oni faras preskaŭ en ĉiuj lingvoj.

(EN) You are quite correct to say that the suffix eg cannot serve as a simple replacement for granda or tre, but must serve to create new words with special meanings. That sort of incorrect usage of the suffix [in which tre and granda are systematically neglected] cannot be approved of, and one should avoid it as much as possible. However we must also avoid being too severe on that question. On many occasions, when we could well use the words granda or tre, we could also without sinning against the spirit of Esperanto use the suffix eg, for very often the same idea may be presented by one person as a simple idea taken to an extreme, and by another person as a special idea. For example, the word bonega we can nearly always replace with tre bona, and nevertheless in the same situations we can also think of ourselves as meeting with extraordinary bonecon, and use a separate word, just as one does in nearly all languages.

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