Very often I see the ek- being used as a complete synonym of "start doing something". But it feels wrong. PIV defines this prefix as

Pref. signifanta, ke la procezo komenciĝas subite, je preciza momento

and proceeds to give examples like ekdormi (fall asleep), ekvidi (to catch sight), ekbruligi (set fire), eksidi (sit down) etc. These are different – instantaneous – actions as opposed to just "start sleeping", "start seeing", "cause to start burning", "start sitting".

Certainly, in other examples this may be indistinguishable or almost so, like ekparoli, but this is no justification to pushing the "start -ing" sense everywhere.

A particular example I have in mind is Mi eklernis Esperanton pasintjare. This feels like a misuse because eklerni refers, according to the above definition, to the "preciza momento" the speaker first opened the book, while this is hardly what they want to say. If the intended meaning is the whole set of processes of making the decision to learn, choosing suitable resources, finishing the first lesson, is this still a ĝusta formulation? Shouldn't it be rather replaced by Mi komencis lerni?

6 Answers 6


For better or worse, eklerni is a well-established expression. Personally, I've never had a problem with the logic of it. Ek- doesn't always imply suddenness - as with the examples you gave.

One reason to prefer eklerni over komenci lerni is to save syllables. There's also the fact that when you eklernas Esperanton you are still very much a komencanto (and not a komencinto) for a period. That is, you are seen to be starting to learn Esperanto, and not as having started.

For a person who starts learning, then takes a hiatus, then returns, komenci lerni seems a more apt expression. Conversely, if you find out what Esperanto is, then fall into learning it and continue to be involved, eklerni seems apt.


As often occurs in PIV, the definition is a bit narrower than actual usage. Certainly ek- can connote abruptness, but such abruptness isn't necessarily part of the meaning. It's worth noting the that Plena Vortaro (PV), which predates PIV, has as its first definition simply "komenciĝanta ago", and among the usage examples is a quote from Zamenhof, Ekbruligu kandelon ĉar estas jam mallume.

Keep in mind that even PIV includes the idea that we may be talking about actions kun plua daŭro. So I'd say eklerni is a fair translation for "start learning"; it contains the idea that the learning began at some moment during the last year. The only way that wouldn't apply, I imagine, is if you somehow began learning through a really gradual, osmotic process. Subliminal Esperanto lessons, maybe. :-)


From PMEG:

EK = “komenco de ago, subita ago”.

Plej ofte EK montras, ke ago komenciĝas. Ĝi montras la plej unuan momenton de la ago, ofte kun nuanco de subiteco aŭ neatenditeco.

The prefix has to do with beginnings of actions, often sudden, but not always. Hence, there is nothing wrong with Mi eklernis Esperanton pasintjare.

SIDENOTE: PMEG compares eksidi and sidigxi saying that the former is more sudden and quick than the latter.


From the tekstaro:

  • ...do kiam li eklernis Esperanton...
  • En infanaĝo li eklernis la germanan kaj francan...
  • ...ili eklernos la internacian lingvon...

The prefix ek- emphasizes the onset of the action of the verb... http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/eo/colloq/colloq130.html#sec13-1

  • Keep in mind that the question grants that eklerni is in common use and asks whether its use conflicts with other usages of the prefix ek-. Citations from the Tekstaro do nothing to answer the question - but only show that an expression is in use. Care must also be taken to verify that the meaning is correctly understood before using it to make a point. Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 13:44

I think some people do misuse ek- by creating ek-verbs that really don't mean anything tangible. ekflugi meaning to take off in a plane makes perfect sense to me or ekdormi to begin to sleep, but using ek- in front of something like lerni is just unnecessary, as I don't see the importance of specifying "to begin to learn", assuming that's what their going for & it's not just an issue of not really understanding what ek- means. If you wanted to say "I started learning" you could say " mi komencis lerni", so I can't think of a situation where eklerni ever makes sense. An example like ekbruligi is at least unnecessary because the -igi already means "to cause", in this case to "cause to be on fire", so ek is unneeded. Glosbe does list ekvidi as "to spot" or "to notice". I could see using that because to does kind of imply to begin to see something.

  • While certainly some people misuse ek-, eklerni isn't such case as others have explained. Another thing the suffix -igi means "to make", i.e. bruli : to burn, bruligi : to set fire to, set ablaze. Thus ekbruligi would be something like "to suddenly set fire to", anyway way too tightly packed and therefore something to avoid. Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 15:49
  • First of all the suffix -igi can mean to make or to cause. Tio signifas, ke ili estis tro malfortaj por igi pli da problemoj. This meant, they were to weak to cause more trouble. igi can mean either, just as bruligi means "to make something burn" or "to cause something to burn".
    – jastako
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 21:30
  • I would not use eklerni for the same reason I wouldn't use Ĉinujo for China. I have seen that used it just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. "A container for Chinese people" which is effectively what that means in a literal sense sounds funny to me. I would use ujo in a word like akvujo as a way of saying "a container for water" if I didn't know a proper word.
    – jastako
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 21:46
  • jastako, as Tomaso said, eklerni is pretty established expression. And as Hoss said you use the prefix with verbs of plua daŭro or imperfect verbs as I explained in my answer. Learning is such am imperfect verb. The -ujo in country names is a completely different issue. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 16:20

At least in Polish and Russian, but perhaps in many others (all?) Slavic languages, there is a profound classification to perfect (completed action) and imperfect (incompleted action) verbs. These are called aspects (of verb). To model those two aspects Z invented ek- and -adi.

Let's take two verbs: fari and bezoni, the first has a completed action character (either something is done or not), while the second has an incompleted action character (you can't say, when a need is done).

How these are related to verb tenses? Because nothing is completed while still in progress, you have only forms without pre- or postsuffix, but for other tenses and aspects you have the following in theory:

perfect aspect

  • present: —
  • preterite (past): faris / ekbezonis
  • future: faros / ekbezonos

imperfect aspect

  • present: faras / bezonas
  • preterite (past): faradis / bezonis
  • future: farados / bezonos

Was it, that this was never emphasized or pushed enough? Was it lost, when KaBe simplified the verb usage? I don't know, but surely nobody adds ek- or -adi in every second verb.

Esperanto nowdays is (and has been so for a good time) considered aspect-less language. This may well explain, why many view ek- as a synonym for "to begin".

  • Aspects still show up in the passive voice (ita/ata), don't they? For example, faris → estis farita compared with bezonis → estis bezonata (or faradis → estis farata, where the ad suffix is not needed anymore).
    – marcus
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 18:58
  • Yes, a long time ago there was so called Ata-ita -diskuto, whether ata or ita forms should be used. AdE decided in the 1960's, that we should follow itismon. Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 7:58

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