Mi trovis vin manĝi

The most likely way to interpret this is I found you eating, meaning that it is you whom I found, it is you who was eating, and you were eating when I found you. Here, manĝi is a "descriptor" of vin.

Another (albeit slightly contrived) interpretation takes advantage of Esperanto word order: Vin is not the object of trovis but manĝi.

I-verbo povas havi objekton, komplementojn k.t.p., same kiel ĉefverbo. Tial I-verbo tamen estas verbo. [...]
- manĝi pomon – objekto
- ion manĝi – objekto

(Source: http://bertilow.com/pmeg/gramatiko/i-verboj/bazaj_reguloj.html.)

An example is the following one.

Mi ĝojas vin vidi! (Mi ĝojas, ke mi vin vidas!)

This interpretation goes something like I found you eating or I found [something] eating you, to the effect of I found the eating of you.

Perhaps there was a group of cannibals I encountered upon, witnessing your ravaged skeletal corpse lying in the dust after the gatherers had dispersed. Maybe you decided to grab a snack. I think it would be nice to be able to distinguish between these two expressions.

  • In fact you have two issues here: 1.Question: Is it ambiguous? (Yes) 2. Demand: There should be a distinction (I don't think so). Maybe you could edit your last sentence so that there is only one topic to address. – Cyril Robert Brosch Sep 13 at 9:09
  • Not exactly. While it's true that usage comes into play here, I'm more interested in being able to understand phrases where I see this – Thomas Kagan Sep 15 at 5:33
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I don’t think it’s very common to use trovi with an infinitive so I think the meaning here is mostly theoretical. There are no hits for this usage in the Tekstaro. I’m not totally convinced that your phrase would have the meaning you suggest. Instead I think it may be more along the lines of mi trovis vin por manĝi (I found you to eat). I suppose it would also be possible to interpret that along the lines of mi trovis ke [io] manĝas vin as you suggest. However I think that is quite a convoluted interpretation.

I think the eating in your phrase is more likely to be the present participle rather than the infinitive. In that case you could phrase it in Esperanto in a similar way with something like:

Mi trovis vin manĝanta.

There are 7 hits for this formation in the Tekstaro, for example in Zamenhof’s translation of the old testament:

[…] li ekrajdis sur ĝi, kaj sekvis la homon de Dio kaj trovis lin sidanta sub kverko […]

If you want to express the other meaning you could of course just say it more explicitly:

Mi trovis ke io manĝas vin

In general, I wouldn’t be too surprised to find sentences in Esperanto that have ambiguous meanings because there are a lot. It is not meant to be a 100% logical language but rather a practical language that us non-logical humans are capable of using. Just take a look at Lojban to see why a truly unambiguous language is not really ideal in practice.

  • 3
    And also Mi trovis vin manĝante = While I was eating I found you. Esperanto might be less ambiguous, but certainly not altogether. Mi vidis vin manĝi = Mi vids, ke vi manĝis` is also rather unambiguous; just slightly more ambiguous in English. – Joop Eggen Sep 13 at 12:14
  • I'd say this is a sufficient answer, but could you explain these usages from the PMEG link in my OP: "Mi ĝojas vin vidi!" "Mi vidis la knabon kuri." How can I tell that i am not seeing the boy being cooked? – Thomas Kagan Sep 15 at 5:27
  • @Thomas Kagan: That's kuri, not kuiri. But even then, we have: Mi vidis la knabon kuiriI saw the boy cooking; Mi vidis la knabon kuiriĝiI saw the boy being cooked. Logic makes the 1st sentence clear, but context can change its meaning. Esperanto infinitives can be more or less ambiguous. Take a look at this question. – Vidamuzo Sep 16 at 11:25

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