I know that tense in Esperanto is relative, such that the Esperanto equivalent of something like "He said that he was doing it" would really be "Li diris, ke li faras (aŭ eble farantas) ĝin" or something, if the subject was doing something at the time that he said he was doing it. This is actually something that sounds more logical to me in a language. However, in the case of something like "He ate pizza yesterday" or "Yesterday, he ate pizza", where there is no subordinate verb, would one say "Hieraŭ, li manĝis picon", or "Hieraŭ, li manĝas picon"?

  • A side note: I would avoid using verb forms "-antas" and like, because they are not commonly understood and in many cases don't mean, what the speaker thinks they mean. Oct 22, 2019 at 7:37
  • Would "estas faranta" be less uncommonly understood? Either way, do explain. Oct 22, 2019 at 13:35
  • Languages have different tense systems. Some don't have (Chinese) tenses at all, but uses other ways to express time. English has a complex system with five tenses (future, present, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect) and two aspects (non-continous and continous). In contemporary Esperanto the simple forms (-as, -is and -os) are almost always enough. The complex participle forms (e.g. estas faranta) should be understood more as descriptions of states and not as tenses in other languages. For more info read about verbs in PMEG. Oct 22, 2019 at 17:17
  • So one should interpret something like "estas faranta" or "farantas" to express being in a state of doing something as opposed to a present progressive tense, correct? Oct 22, 2019 at 17:40
  • Yes, the esti + participo forms express state. While -a(n)tas, -i(n)tas, -o(n)tas forms are theoretically possible, they are rarely used and often create among the listeners a what?-reaction. Aim for understandability and avoid those. Oct 22, 2019 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


You would use the past tense, in that case. The rule you describe is correct, but it works only for verb tenses relative to other verb tenses, typically (always?) in subordinate phrases.

"Hieraŭ, li manĝis picon."


To answer your question:

Hieraŭ li manĝis picon

I'm not too sure about your translation though:

He said that he was doing it (when the phone rang)
Li diris ke li tion faris(estis faranta) kiam la telefono son(or)is.
  • I think that translation at the end of your answer seems wrong. The second verb should be in present tense, in Esperanto. Otherwise, the English translation would be something like, "He said that he had been doing it (when the phone rang)". Oct 21, 2019 at 16:44

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