In the book A Complete Grammar of Esperanto by Ivy Kellerman, in Lesson 59, it is said that an unemphatic pronoun very frequently precedes the verb of which it is the object. Some given examples are:

Mi volas lin vidi. - I wish to see him.

Li povos tion fari. - He will be able to do that.

Vi devus ion manĝi. - You ought to eat something.

Se li min vidus, li min savus. - If he should see me, he would save me.

They compare this with German, when they say "Ich will ihn sehen", or with French "Je veux le voir". However, throughout the book I never saw such an order in the examples of the lessons, nor in the texts. If we have:

Mi volas vidi lin. (The order that I always saw in the book)

Mi volas lin vidi. (The order explained in lesson 59)

Are both correct? If yes, which one would be regarded as standard?


Both are correct. Mi volas vidi lin is the most neutral word order. None of the examples you give strike me as all that shocking or unusual -- or even that emphatic. Of them, I find the following most compelling.

  • Se li min vidus, li min savus

By putting the verb at the end of the clauses, it draws attention to the two different verbs.

  • If he were to see me, he would save me.
  • And in that case, is the sentence "Se li vidus min, li savus min" acceptable? Oct 14 '17 at 22:45
  • In linguistics there is the concept of given vs new information. Given information is usually at the beginning, new information at the end. So the "...li savus min" ordering emphasises that he would save me (but perhaps not someone else), while "lin mi savus" stresses the saving, as 'he' is viewed as given information. Of course it's more subtle than that. Oct 16 '17 at 8:06
  • 2
    I think it's a lot more subtle than that. To me, li savus min is standard word order and so has no particular emphasis. It's the deviation from this standard order that creates emphasis. The exact emphasis is created by the context. In my original answer above, I noted that it's the final word (not the initial word) which is emphasized. This is because it's the final word that is varied in the pattern. The variation and deviation from standard word order creates emphasis. In the case of lin mi savus, my sense is that lin is emphasized. Of course, context matters. Oct 16 '17 at 11:13

It is quite common for so-called "light" elements like pronouns to slip into a less stressed position, so it is no wonder that this occurs also in Esperanto, although the language has a heavy preference for SVO (about 90% of all sentences).

Even if other such examples don't show up in Kellerman, you will certainly find them in real text (spoken/written), and there is no difference in style or meaning between cases like "Panjo volis lin kisi" and "Panjo volis kisi lin".

You can read about such phenomena in Esperanto here: Jansen, Wim. 2008. Naturaj vortordoj en Esperanto. Rotterdam: UEA. (40 p., a short presentation of the findings he published in Dutch).


The stressing gives but the subtlest semantic difference.

li savus min           neutral
/min/ li savus         /I/ was saved by him (- others maybe not)
li /min/ savus         HE saved /me/
li volus savi min      neutral
li volus /min/ savi    he wanted to save ME
li //min// volus savi  me, he wanted to save
/min/ li volus savi    ME he wanted to save

All forms seem quite usable, which makes for difficult linguistics. (I kept the subject-verb order.)

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