In Esperanto courses for English speakers, one is taught somewhat early on that one should prefer to use simple tenses and avoid going overboard in trying to express aspect with active participles. For example, one would be taught to say "li kuras" instead of "li estas kuranta", because...

  • ...Esperanto does not express or need to express aspect like English does,
  • ...and the latter is more so an expression of state rather than action.

To me, this should be pretty common knowledge by now early on in the learning process, as it seems to be one of the most often corrected things in the beginner phase. However, from what I could tell in my journey learning Esperanton, there seems to have been somewhat of a "stigma", in some circles (though probably plejparte la lernigaj), against the use of active participles with "esti". I understand it to be a sort of "training" to prevent students from developing English-stinted Esperantan speaking, but it seems to be infecting my own speech, too, in that I have a habit of avoiding such use of participles, even where it would actually be taŭga or beneficial in adding meaning. For example, there are times where I really do mean to express state of being as opposed to an action.

Li estas kuranta.

If I were to say something like that, then I mean to say that he is one of the running ones, as opposed to, for example, the sitting ones over there. I would emphasize his state of running as opposed to his action of running. However, without this clarification, the phrase alone may come across to some as an Englishism. This is partly why I end up saying the following instead, just to avoid seeming a little English-stinted.

Li estas unu el la kurantaj.

I specifically used this example, because "estas X-anta" seems to be the least used and least useful in practice, apart from niche uses like the above. Of all the possible combinations of active participles, I have practical uses for only a few, which are namely...

  • ...expressing state as opposed to action, as mentioned above,
  • ...expressing daŭrecon (e.g. in "li estis mortanta" where "li mortis" would be ambiguous),
  • ...and for expressing relativity (see the accepted answer to Tempo de verbo post "kiam", "dum", "post/antaŭ ol", ktp for an example).

I admit that I have never actually spoken Esperanton outside of academic and otherwise lernigaj circles, and this "stigma" is just my perception as a learner myself and as an aspiring teacher. I am pretty sure that these uses are indeed legitimate and acceptable in the maloftaj okazoj where they're actually useful, and that the "stigma" is just for students, but I am nonetheless still curious about how such use of participles is perceived in real world Esperanta parolado. Would it still seem excessive even if "sounding English-stinted" were not a concern?

3 Answers 3


Would it still seem excessive even if "sounding English-stinted" were not a concern?

In the situation you describe, no, that wouldn't be excessive. (Whether it seems excessive might depend on to whom.)

And I wouldn't worry about "sounding English-stinted". Be aware (as you apparently already are) that those coming to Esperanto from English tend to overuse what they may believe Esperanto's equivalent to the continuous tenses they know from English. And do try to avoid that. (Overusing it, that is.) But where you're nonetheless sure that esti + participle is the best way to express what you want to convey, by all means use it.

[...] This is partly why I end up saying the following instead, just to avoid seeming a little English-stinted.

Li estas unu el la kurantaj.

Well, that's only an option if there are several people running and you're OK with also implicitly conveying that information. Also, the main reason to avoid the esti + participle forms where they aren't needed is simplicity. But your alternative is considerably less simple than

Li estas kuranta.

so I'd prefer that, when it conveys what you want to express but the yet simpler

Li kuras.


  • In another comment the OP writes that the question is "about when it[the estas + anta form] is intentionally used for expressing state as opposed to action" Do you think the estas +anta form could convey that in Esperanto when the -as form does not? Commented May 2, 2021 at 0:11
  • Well, yes @EduardoTrápani. I may be be mistaken, but I think "actions viewed as state" is what participles are all about. That perspective (Is that why it's called "aspect" in English?) is seldom really needed in Esperanto, especially in present tenses, as Esperanto's simple present don't have the "always or in general" implication of English's simple tenses, unless indicated by context. But in the rare cases when that perspective is needed or wanted, participles are there to be used, I think.
    – das-g
    Commented May 2, 2021 at 11:24
  • 1
    Thanks for the answer @das-g. While the -ant participles might not be all about that in Esperanto I agree with you that they are there for a reason. I hope the OP keeps in mind your "in the rare cases" though, because the question looked like an effort to destigmatize (considering the question's title) the general use of that form, which we all seem to agree it is seldom needed. Commented May 2, 2021 at 15:19
  • 1
    I am tempted to mark this answer as accepted, as this one seems to most directly answer the intended question (i.e. in taking into account the nicheness), and not necessarily because it's the least disapproving, as the other two add good information, too, especially Juha's hint that, even if I did want to express state instead of action, there are still alternative ways to express it. I've lived my Esperantan life so far without a real need for such usage of participles, but thinking of legitimate non-English-influenced edge cases for every language feature tends to get the better of me. Commented May 3, 2021 at 21:15

but I am nonetheless still curious about how such use of participles is perceived in real world Esperanta parolado.

The -as form in Esperanto already means "this happens right now" (unless the context implies a routine action).

So, if you use -as + -anta, you are overemphasizing the right now. If that is not needed, then it feels utterly redundant.

A: Kion vi faras? (kriante el alia ĉambro)
B: Mi legas!

Oni ne respondus normale:

B: Mi estas leganta!

Another take at it is to look at the question. While in English you'd ask what are you doing? in Esperanto you ask kion vi faras?. The answer should match the question.

Would it still seem excessive even if "sounding English-stinted" were not a concern?

In my experience, in dialogs between fluent speakers the -as + -anta form is never used. If it is absolutely needed, I noticed that some speakers will use "nun", for example, to emphasize the action is taking place now.

A: Ĉu vi finfine faris la hejmtaskojn?
B: Mi faras ilin nun!!

Note that this is a general answer in the specific context of Esperanta parolado. In some cases, if the aspect of the verb makes it ambiguous (it could be just a perception based on their native language), the speaker might resort to -as + -anta, or feel the need to rephrase the sentence to get the right meaning across:

estas mortanta (pretas morti)
estas vivanta (ankoraŭ vivas)
  • In the "estas X-anta" case, my question was not really about this use of the active participle, but more so about when it's intentionally for expressing state as opposed to action. That is, not "I am running" in the English sense of the phrase (which emphasizes action), but just an expression of state in the same way "I am happy" expresses state. Commented May 1, 2021 at 23:21
  • Ok, in that case, I think it is never used like that. The type of root defines if it is about action (kur/manĝ/rev) or state (feliĉ) or even both (koler). It does not relate the conugation at all. Commented May 1, 2021 at 23:53

Since the esti + -anta construct consists of the verb "to be" and an adjective, it is indeed more an expression of state rather than action.

  • Li estas kuranta : (lit.) He is currently in a state where he runs.

Now you have to remember that Zamenhof used Esperanto in a quite grandiloquent way and used these kinds of participle constructs more than what is customary today. One of the early Esperantists, Kazimierz Bein, made a great contribution to the style by simplifying how things are expressed, and one of his findings was the simple verb forms almost always are enough.

As others have pointed out, it all comes down to what you want to say.

You go to meet your friend. He is not at the house, but

  • Li ĝuste nun kuras en la parko.
  • Li estas kuranta en la parko.

You see some children playing in a yard, a boy runs:

  • Li kuras.

You are following the start of a charity run and explain to someone that your SO/relative/colleague participates in the run:

  • Li estas unu el tiuj, kiuj kuras.
  • Li estas unu el la kurantoj.

As already those simple examples show the need to use the construct is far less than in English, the same information can be transmitted by other means. You are right in that overuse of esti + -anta quickly reveals an English-speaker, so it might require some learning away from using verb-based to other constructs to transmit the same information.

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