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When am I supposed to say tion, kion versus just kion?

Mi ŝatas tion, kion vi aĉetis.

Mi ŝatas kion vi aĉetis.

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I've come upon a number of hard and fast answers to questions like this over the years and I think most of them are wrong. The sentences you give are essentially the same in meaning. If you think it's better without "tion" you can drop it.

I can't find the answer that I just wrote (within the last week or two) on this same question, but in short, you can generally drop the ti-correlative in sentences like this, unless there is a preposition or other function word involved.

See PMEG for additional detail.

  • It may also be worth mentioning, if I read the PMEG correctly, that you shouldn’t drop the ti-word if one is accusative and the other isn’t. e.g. Mi aĉetas tion, kio plaĉas al mi. – Robert Fisher Nov 9 '17 at 14:38
  • 3
    This "rule" is actually one of the ones I hinted at when I said I've heard many of them. If fact, the same PMEG article says that this rule is not hard and fast. Ne ekzistas absolutaj reguloj, kiam oni povas forlasi TI-vorton. Plej grava estas la klareco: Se la frazo fariĝas tro malklara, oni ne forlasu la TI-vorton. I think the examples he uses to make the point about "malsamaj rolmontriloj" is better covered by "if the sense is not clear, don't drop it." – Tomaso Alexander Nov 9 '17 at 18:16
  • Yes. Sentences such as "Mi ne scias kio estas tio" are common (and correct) even though you could technically argue it should be "Mi ne scias tion kio estas tio". – miestasmia Dec 29 '17 at 3:50
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From the direct English translation (which is of course not always a reliable guide):

  1. I like what you bought
  2. I like that, what you bought

In the second case it's a non-obligatory relative clause, providing further information about what the speaker likes. The first case is a comment about someone's shopping.

Possible contexts:

  1. Speaker B comes back from a shopping trip, and speaker A comments on it.
  2. Speaker A points to something which in the past was bought by speaker B, eg as a present.

Note: I still see myself as a komencanto, so this explanation is mainly based on a linguistic analysis. If this is counter to common Esperanto usage, please correct me!

  • Everything I’ve every read on the subject has said that omission of the ti-word in no way changes the sense of the sentence. It is simply a convenience to omit it when doing so doesn’t obscure the meaning. – Robert Fisher Nov 9 '17 at 18:06
  • "when doing so doesn’t obscure the meaning" - this may be affected by the linguistic background of the speaker and listener. – ThrawnCA Dec 20 '17 at 1:24
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There is a lot of research going on on Information Density and Linguistic Encoding, therefore a final answer is not (yet) possible. The first encoding tion, kion is less dense than the second one kion; therefore it is preferable in cases when misunderstandings can happen easily (noisy environment, the rest of the sentence is complex and/or surprising). In all other cases, we prefer the more dense encoding: it allows us to get the message across more quickly.

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