This may be important for example for the affix -iĝ-, which has two somewhat different main uses depending on whether it's derived from a verbal or nonverbal root (further dividing between adjectives, adverbs etc.) But how do I tell whether something was, for example, an adjective or a verb, when removing that I'm left with the root only?

There are many roots which can easily form an adjective or a verb. Usually the two definitions lead to mutually compatible understandings:

la fenestro fermiĝis = "la fenestro fermis sin" "la fenestro iĝis ferma"

but I think there are examples (here's one slightly constructed) in which they would mean something different:

la fadeno ĵus finiĝis →

  1. la fadeno finis sin (the thread finished)

    The thread (in computer terminology) might have finished all its tasks and exited, yielding the control back to the computer, thus "ending itself".

  2. la fadeno iĝis fina (the thread became "final", or would that be "la fina"?)

    Here I'm using the meaning of fina as in fina venko: the thread is still running, but is the final one, when it finishes, the whole program will be done.

The difference is clear, in 1. my thread has terminated while in 2. it is still running. Of course there are better expressions for each, but that hinders the question. How do I tell, decomposing a word like finiĝis to fin-iĝ-is, whether the fin is a "verbal root" or a "nonverbal root", to apply the definition from the ReVo?

I'm not meaning to ask about this particular one, but generally: when the same Esperanto root can be used to form various parts of speech, is one of them always considered primary and the others derived from it? How do I find which is which?

  • Wells, in his dictionary, answers your question in the affirmative, and devotes some discussion to this topic.
    – Mike Jones
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


Generally, yes. I subscribe to the school of thought that says that this grammatical quality is not so much "assigned" but that it follows naturally from the meaning of the root.

There's a pretty good discussion of it here.


The basic idea behind this theory is that every root in Esperanto -- the root, not the word, is the basic unit of Esperanto -- has an inherent grammatical quality. For example, the root ŝton' ("stone") is a noun, the root kur' ("run") is a verb, and the root ruĝ' ("red") is an adjective. Grammatical endings of -O, -I and -A respectively are therefore redundant.


To answer your last question:

How do I find which is which?

You can find it in PIV. For example, if you look up fino, you will see that the primary meaning of the root fin- is verbal.

  • 2
    You now have a partial answer, but it would be a complete answer if you answer the other question ("when the same Esperanto root can be used to form various parts of speech, is one of them always considered primary and the others derived from it?") with a simple "yes". So I suggest you edit that in.
    – Raizin
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 21:08

In order to respond the second part of the question: From every root you can theoretically derive every word class, it still has its primary class (lexeme class, so to say). There are rare examples where a root belongs to two classes at the same time (FALS': both verbal and adjectival) or where a root changes its class (DETAL': originally adjectival, now possibly substantival), but these exceptions prove the rule.

So, when you have a derived adjective like fina in your example, you can't simple verbalise it to finiĝi 'to be ending' ([[[fin]a]iĝ]i), as this position is already taken by the direct derivation finiĝi 'to come to an end' ([[fin]iĝ]i).

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