Infinitives do not have case markers. "Mi ŝatas lerni" is the typical order, and so is "egzameni asisti la detektivon".

But could "lerni ŝatas mi" work, noting that "mi" is not in accusative and is thus the subject? If so, then "la detektivon asisti egzameni" should work, as well as any other SVO order of these words.

This also raises the question: what about a sentence with just infinitives as nouns: "legi asistas skribi" ("reading helps writing"). Is it not possible to move those words around? I would expect that it isn't.

Dankon al ĉiuj

  • “reading helps writing” would be “legi asistas / helpas skribi”, so only two infinitives. And yes, I think it would not be possible to move these words around unless the meaning is dead obvious and/or you want to sound poetic.
    – marcus
    Aug 30, 2018 at 14:16

3 Answers 3


In general I think there isn’t a strict rule about what is a valid order or not. Instead it’s more along the lines that if the phrase is understandable then it is fine. If both the subject and the object can take the accusative then the order is pretty flexible because there is no ambiguity. Otherwise the usual thing to do is to rely on the default subject-verb-object order to get the meaning across.

With that in mind, I would say your example of ŝatas lerni mi is fine because it is understandable without ambiguity, although I wouldn’t recommend it unless there is some particular reason to do it for emphasis or to make a rhyme.

With legi asistas skribi, there are no accusative markers so if the order is changed it is very likely to be misunderstood and thus it wouldn’t be recommended.

Some minor corrections to your question:

  • It’s ekzameni not egzameni.
  • In ekzameni asisti la detektivon I assume you meant ekzameni asistas la detektivon, otherwise there is no main verb in the phrase.
  • Although asisti is a word, I think in this context it would be better to use helpi which is much more common.

You can avoid all of these ambiguities if you express the verb as a noun instead. I would even argue this would be the more normal way to express it. For example:

  • Ekzamenado helpas la detektivonHelpas la detektivon ekzamenado.
  • Legado helpas skribadonHelpas skribadon legado.

I would say "ŝatas lerni mi" is fine, but that you can not inverse the two verbs nor intercalate the subject between them. In this sentence, it seeems to me that ŝatas lerni is a single gramatical group.

Moreover ŝati lerni seems as gramatically correct as lerni ŝati, both without explicit subject. But juxtaposition of indicative after an infinitive doesn't seem fine to my mind. It seems you can also make an indicative verb after an infinitive one: "kritiki estas facile, fari malfacile".

Note that I say all that more based on a praxeologic experience, I didn't check any source known as authoritative on Esperanto grammar for this answer.


Since there is no rule about word order in Esperanto, word order can not be used to clarify meaning. To do so would contrast sharply with the idea of Esperanto as Internacia Lingvo. There are languages without strict word order and others with word orders different from Indo-European languages.

So while native speakers of languages with subject-verb-object order might usually understand each other and guess the meaning from taking word order into account, it shouldn't be considered a way to clarify meaning in general.

Since there is no way to misinterpret the phrase "lerni ŝatas mi" other than in the meaning "mi ŝatas lerni" - what might be the same even if intendedly wanting to be philosophical about - sensitive plants might be irritated but there is nothing to argue against it.

However the phrase "legi asistas skribi" or "legi helpas skribi" is just not clear. As you say yourself:

a sentence with just infinitives as nouns

legi and skribi are used as (if) nouns here and need to be used like Neil Roberts suggests in his answer to form a valid sentence in Internacia Lingvo.

Legado helpas skribadon aŭ Helpas skribadon legado.

  • I think it’s bit misleading to say there is no rule about the order of words. Like it or lump it, in practice Esperanto is an SVO language. It’s true that the word order is much more flexible, but a different order is not exactly the same and it changes the emphasis. PMEG mentions this default word order bertilow.com/pmeg/gramatiko/vortordo/frazpartoj.html
    – Neil Roberts
    Feb 14, 2019 at 9:55
  • It's not misleading. It's a fact that Zamenhof never gave a rule even when asked about it. PMEG seems to have a problem, making up rules that don't exist. Yes, SVO seems to be the natural order that most speakers choose. But that's not the question here. Can word order replace the existing rules for object marking? No.
    – Olafant
    Feb 14, 2019 at 14:04
  • It is misleading. For instance you can say Tigro estas besto but not Besto estas tigro since not all animals are tigers. So you have to narrow down in the latter case and say Tiu besto estas tigro. Apr 5, 2023 at 4:26

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