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I've been learning Esperanto on my own, and recently found the -aĵ- suffix. As far as my understanding goes, this is used to get the concrete/physical/real version of a concept. For example, havaĵo, which is the concrete form of having, and would mean a possession.

The -o ending already does pretty much this. What's -aĵ- for then? If I used havo instead, would it mean something completely different?

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Short answer

Sometimes it is necessary to separate two different ideas, when -o is something more abstract and -aĵo something more concrete.

  • manĝo = meal
  • manĝaĵo = food

  • intereso = the feeling of being interested

  • interesaĵo = something interesting

La libro vekis mian intereson.

Mi aĉetis kelkajn interesaĵojn.

In other cases it makes no difference. According to PIV (vortaro.net), for example, one of the definitions of havo is havaĵo.

Long answer

The roots themselves have a word class. Knowing this helps in order to understand the pattern. Hav- is a verbroot, while nov- is an adjective root. After a while you will get a feeling for this but you can always check it in PIV (vortaro.net). When you search for any word the first word on the page will include the major root and the ending which corresponds to its inherent word class.

As previously covered by others, when -aĵ is added to noun roots it can mean ”made of”:

  • pasto = paste/dough
  • pastaĵo = pasta

I have also encountered it in slang meaning a piece or concrete thing of something more abstract.

Mi ne komprenas tiujn matematikaĵojn en la raporto. I don’t understand that math stuff in the report.

Verbroots usually follow: - havo = the act of having - vido = the act of seeing - aŭdo = the act of hearing

You are probably more used to see that type of words ending in -ado. Note that -ado suggests a long-lasting or repeated action. It is left out for single or short actions.

Unu vido tauĝas pli ol dek aŭdoj.

Je la unua vido la tasko ŝajnis facila.

Now, adding aĵo to the verbroots we get: - havaĵo = something possesed; a possesion - vidaĵo = something seen; an image and so on

For some of the roots either -o or -aĵo can be added to communicate the same thing. As mentioned above that is the case with hav-.

For many roots that does not work. I recommend always distinguishing between the act and the object to avoid confusion.

Aĵo combined with adjective roots makes things with those qualities, similar to how -ul is used to refer to people with certain qualities.

  • novaĵo = something new; a piece of news, novelty
  • malfacilaĵo = something difficult; a difficulty

Novo and malfacilo are not used much in my experience, and they might as well refer to the quality or state the adjective is describing. I recommend using -ec and -aĵ, again, to avoid confusion.

Another reason to watch out are quantity words such as lenght, weight, speed and so on. They are roots (usually adjective) combined with -o.

  • alto - height
  • alteco - highness
  • altaĵo - something high

If you want to say for example ”a weight”, ”large stuff” or ”something long” you need to use -aĵ.

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The -o suffix is used to get the noun form of a root. The -aĵ suffix is used to create a new word which indicates something made from the root in some unspecified way. The individual words created with it usually have some accepted concrete meaning by convention.

The difference is most obvious with root words that are already noun-based. For example porko is a pig and porkaĵo is something made from a pig. By convention this specifically means the meat of a pig. There’s nothing stopping you using these words with other endings, for example porka homo could be a person who acts like a pig and porkaĵa sandviĉo could be a ham sandwich.

For verb-based roots the distinction is a bit more blurry. In theory a verb-root with a -o ending would mean the act of doing the action whereas -aĵo is something produced from the action. So manĝo could be the act of eating, not the food itself, eg:

Dum la manĝo estis multe da manĝaĵo.

However in practice people tend to use them interchangably and manĝo is taking on the meaning of manĝaĵo as well. To make the distinction more explicit you can say manĝado and manĝaĵo instead.

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-o makes the root a noun, while -aĵ- generally changes the meaning of a word to something concrete thing made from, or possessing the quality of the root.

  • bovido (a calf), bovidaĵo (veal)
  • frukto (fruit), frukaĵo (something made of fruit)
  • konstrui (to build), konstruaĵo (a building)
  • lano (wool), lanaĵoj (woolens)
  • manĝi (to eat), manĝaĵo (food)
  • majstro (maestro), majstaĵo (masterpiece)
  • muziko (musik), musikaĵo (a piece of music)
  • nova (new), novaĵo (something new, novelty), novaĵoj (news)
  • paki (to pack), pakaĵo (package, piece of luggage)
  • porko (a pig), porkaĵo (pork, the food made from the flesh of a pig)
  • ŝafo (a sheep), ŝafaĵo (mutton)
  • volapuko (Volapük, the language), volapukaĵo (something incomprehensible, something that makes no sense; gibberish)

(I took most of the examples from Esperanto, a complete course for beginners, J. Cresswell and J.H. Sullivan, ISBN 0-8442-3763-9.)

The examples serve to show that words containing -aĵ- are also used to indicate the food made from the flesh of an animal, or to give the idea of a piece of.

-o and -aĵ- aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, words with the infix -aĵ- are normally used as nouns.

As for the differences between havo and havaĵo, they can both be used to mean possession, but only havaĵo also means property.

  • Your example with frukto and fruktaĵo clarifies how -aĵ- changes something that's already a noun, but for something which isn't originally a noun, like havi or nova, I'm still not sure where the difference is. If I said novo instead of novaĵo, would it make a difference? – EPICI Sep 5 '18 at 4:39
  • It’s not true that -aĵ is always followed by -o. -aĵ means something made from the root, so -aĵa just means something related to something made from the root. There are many examples in the Tekstaro, eg: “lia propra vivo pro tio finiĝos en rubaĵa barelo” – Neil Roberts Sep 5 '18 at 6:56
  • @NeilRoberts Never was not correct, but it still correct that -aĵ- and -o aren't mutually exclusive. – kiamlaluno Sep 5 '18 at 7:35
  • @kiamlaluno. Yes, “not mutually exclusive” and “never ends in -o” contradicted themselves I guess. Note, it’s also not true that you will never find novaĵa, that would just mean something related to the news. For example: esperanto.cri.cn/581/2012/10/31/1s142182.htm – Neil Roberts Sep 5 '18 at 7:39
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    For "adjective" roots: novo could mean noveco, compare alto vs, altaĵo. For "verbal" roots: kuiro could mean kuirado vs. kuir(it)aĵo. – Joop Eggen Sep 5 '18 at 11:55

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