I want to write something in the line of

The colors show which heads wear hats.

where the object of show is which heads wear hats. Naively, I would go

La koloroj montras kiujn kapojn portas ĉapelojn.

but it seems wrong, because I can no longer identify the subject and object of portas. What should I do?

  • In English, when would you ever say "The colors show which heads wear hats?" It sounds very weird and the meaning isn't very clear.
    – Lumo5
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 6:49
  • @Lumo5 it sounds ok to me. Maybe the phrase is decribing a diagram of that logic puzzle where a bunch of people are buried up to their necks in the sand in a line and they have to guess how many of them are wearing hats.
    – Neil Roberts
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 8:01

2 Answers 2


If the object is a sentence, the accusative ending is often not needed. Generally, you can tell what is the subject and what is the object, because the subject noun doesn't have the accusative ending; if it were the object, it would have the -n ending. There are a couple different kinds of sentence as object constructions:

You can use kiu and other question words to form an indirect question, usually with a comma before the question word:

"Mi scias, kiu vi estas." (Kiu vi estas? Mi scias tion.)
"Horloĝo montras, kioma horo estas." (Kioma horo estas? Horloĝo montras tion.)
"Mi neniam eltrovis, ĉu li eskapis." (Ĉu li eskapis? Mi neniam eltrovis tion)
"Ĉu vi vidis, kien li iris?" (Kien li iris? Ĉu vi vidis tion?")
"La koloroj montras, kiuj kapoj portas ĉapelojn." (Kiuj kapoj portas ĉapelojn? La koloroj montras tion.)

But, if there is any danger of confusion, or you just want to be more precise, you can put "tion" before the comma (this is less common, in my experience):

"La koloroj montras tion, kiuj kapoj portas ĉapelojn."

To use a statement as an object, use "ke":

"La koloroj montras, ke nur sep kapoj portas ĉapelojn." (Nur sep kapoj portas ĉapelojn. La koloroj montras tion.)


Another thing that often happens with T and K correlatives, is that if the T correlative is the same case and type as the K one, it sometimes gets elided:

"Mi iris (tien,) kien li iris."
"Prenu (tiom,) kiom vi volas."
"Mi renkontis (tiun,) kiun vi renkontas."

In some cases this could be confused with an indirect question, in which case the T word should be left in, to clarify.

  • 1
    I’m not sure that it’s correct to use “kiu” to reference “tio”. Usually I think the matching correlatives have to be the same type. I wanted to suggest “la koloroj montras tiujn kapojn kiuj havas ĉapelojn”, but I wasn’t confident that I could explain the grammar. However, I’m happy to be corrected. If you believe your answer is correct it would be nice to back it up with some quotes or references.
    – Neil Roberts
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 6:36
  • 2
    @NeilRoberts "Kiu" doesn't reference "tio"; "tion" references "kiuj kapoj havas cxapelojn". I do want to add references, but trying to find them is turning out to be more of a hassle than I expected :-/. I looked in PMEG but can't find a section on indirect questions specifically.
    – kristan
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 6:53
  • I have seen the structure "La koloroj montras tion, kiuj kapoj portas ĉapelojn." before and wondered about it. Now, I understand:)
    – svendvn
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 20:27

Translating from one language does not always go 'word for word'. Because English does not have accusative markers (except with the use of pronouns) it is not always obvious what is going on in its sentence structure. Thus, the word show does not necessarily have the same structure as the word montri. The above phrase La koloroj montras, ke nur sep kapoj portas ĉapelojn. seems to be a very good translation for the English phrase. It is a natural flow of words meaning the same as the original, and clearly shows that montri can much better govern the subordinate clause ke + SVO in such examples.

  • 1
    Downvoted beacuse I can't see how to use this answer to express the meaning of The colors show which heads wear hats
    – svendvn
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 17:44

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