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I have seen example sentences, but they didn't use a (the indefinite article). Does the equivalent of a exist?

6 Answers 6

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Esperanto doesn't have the indefinite article, but only the definite article la. If you want to say (for example) a book, you just say libro, while la libro means the book.

See also The Sixteen Rules of Esperanto Grammar, Articles for more details.

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  • And of course English has no indefinite article in plural (just "books"), like "des" in French.
    – Joop Eggen
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 13:04
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While it’s true that there’s no true indefinite article (A or An) in Esperanto, sometimes the word iu can come handy:

I’m asking that because a friend of mine…

Mi demandas tion ĉar iu amiko mia… (Vera ekzemplo el la reto! :-) )

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  • 1
    Useful extra tip! Although I think "unu el miaj amikoj" or "amiko de mi" is more common. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 15:24
  • I don’t know which is most common; you may be right… Sometimes I do see iu used this way, which I think is quite nice. :-)
    – Bjørn
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 8:43
  • Like "some friend of mine."
    – Joop Eggen
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 13:02
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The word "a" is the indefinite article in English. However, an indefinite article doesn't exist at all in Esperanto. http://lernu.net/en/gramatiko

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You have to figure out what sort of meaning are you trying to convey with the article. Either it is unimportant and so you leave it out, or you have to convey that meaning differently. Often an indefinite article just marks the absence of a definite article. For the cases where the indefinite article has some extra meaning you could use iu (when by a cat you really mean some cat) or perhaps unu (when by a cat you really mean one cat, emphasizing the number), or sometimes even a different word completely.

Note that in some languages like French the indefinite article is in fact the same word for one anyway. In Czech and other slavic languages we have a "worse" problem: We have no articles whatsoever, so when a meaning normally conveyed by an article is required you have to resort to these extra words. But, I'd bet vast majority of cases when articles are used, they are really extraneous as far as meaning/understanding and are required purely by grammar and/or style (so of course you shouldn't leave them out).

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  • nonlinearity = nelineareco; a nonlinearity = nelinearaĵo; inequality = neegaleco; an inequality = neegalaĵo
    – Mike Jones
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 15:08
  • Precisely, sometimes an indefinite article conveys meaning, in which case you have to convey that meaning differently in esperanto (and even more so in a language without articles at all like slavic languages). I should edit the answer to be a bit clearer.
    – Jiri Lebl
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 3:23
  • Speaking natively a language without any articles I find them hard to use, since as such they do not mean anything to me. It is indeed a better idea to convey the idea more explicitly as Mike illustrated in a comment above. Worl atlas of language structures is a good site to get a grasp how common a certain feature is, and they have statistics of indefinite articles, which shows that indefinite article is not that common. Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 6:49
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Browse https://eo.wiktionary.org/wiki/Aldono:Vortaro_angla-Esperanto_a (top entry, helpfully) for a range of examples.

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What about 'malla'? I knew once authors who used it in fiction, to create special effects.

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  • "mal-" makes something its opposite. While the opposite of definite might be indefinite, the opposite of a definite article isn't an indefinite article, much like the opposite of a big house isn't a small house. Thus using "mal-" like that seems kontraŭfundamenta (incompatible with the Fundamento de Esperanto) to me.
    – das-g
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 23:21
  • Can you give any examples of works that use "malla"?
    – das-g
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 23:22
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    @das-g Certainly, if you are a fundamentalist :-). I am not, and I do not mean it that seriously. I cannot present any live examples of 'malla' in 2022, but in the 1990's we did use it, and not very seldom, in some mock poetry and in correspondence within a certain special circle (that included a - future - president of Ea Akademio). Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 11:22
  • Thanks for upvoting, BTW, whoever did it. Now I can upvote myself. Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 11:24

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