I am reading through the participle-section of the course "La teorio Nakamura" at lernu.net. One of the examples surprized me.

Oni preskaŭ kaptis lin, sed li forkuris. → Kaptote, li forkuris. = He was almost caught, but he ran away. → About to be caught he ran away. When the escape occurred the capture was imminent.

Earlier, I assumed -ont and -ot participles describe something that is certainly going to happen. It is impossible to predict the future, so I did accept cases where one is convinced something is going to happen but in the end it never does. That is not what happens in the example above though. The sentence itself says he wasn't caught and there is also "kaptote".

I'd like to write this differently, with some kind of conditional element. Kiam li estus kaptota, li forkuris. However, in my opinion, that isn't any better than the original Oni preskaŭ kaptis lin, sed li forkuris.

Looking at this example by lernu.net, I realize my limits to the two participles were probably wrong. Are they? Can one use -ot- and -ont knowing that the expected never happened?

  • How about preskaû kaptote?
    – La Vo-o
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 13:27
  • @LaVo-o Good idea! Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 18:45

3 Answers 3


Yes, you can one use -ot- and -ont- knowing that the expected event never happened. PMEG illustrates this on the following example :

Li estis skribonta la leteron, sed devis subite foriri. La skribado estis intencita, sed tamen ne okazis.


The specific instance that you are referring to is due to a general problem faced by any language, namely that, because complex situations must be communicated rapidly, a great deal of reliance is made on conventions and shared understandings. For example, do you see any problem with the sentence, “The bus stopped to pick up a passenger.” ??? The problem is, it is impossible for the bus to pick up a passenger, because a passenger is, by definition, already on the bus. Of course, you could use a much longer sentence that would avoid this problem, but in ordinary life there would be no point in doing so, since, by convention and shared understanding, everyone knows exactly what you mean. The same goes for the example you ask about: sure, you could reword it to avoid the problem you cite, but ordinarily one would simply rely on context to disambiguate.


Good question. I don't really know, but I think it is okay. In English we have something called relative time and I assume that Esperanto is the same.

  • Mi estas kuronto = I am someone who will be a runner.

  • Mi estas laboronto = I am someone who will be a worker.

In these two examples, I don't know the future but I am assuming that it is going to happen. Your example is a bit different because it is an adverb in the same sentence but I think it is okay.

I couldn't find anything in the tekstaro for this search \w+ote\, [mnvlŝĝ]i \w+is

  • I understood relative time to be a completely different thing than what you're talking about. Relative time is like he will leave when he's finished. "He's finished" is past tense, but it's past of the future "he will leave" not past as in already happened.
    – Airvian
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 23:11

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