In this sentence,

Ŝi dancas en sia ĉambro.

I know that a woman is dancing in her own room.

But if in this sentence,

Ŝi dancas en ŝia ĉambro.

Does this 'necessarily' mean that one woman is dancing in 'another' woman's room? Otherwise, can it be interpreted in both ways? (in her own room / another woman's room)

2 Answers 2


Ŝi dancas en ŝia ĉambro.

Does this 'necessarily' mean that one woman is dancing in 'another' woman's room?

Yes, absolutely. (But if you'll allow me to split hairs, the "ŝia" refers to a female, and not necessarily a fully-grown woman. That is, the "ĉambro" could hypothetically refer to the subject's four-year-old daughter.)

Otherwise, can it be interpreted in both ways?

No. The words "lia", "ŝia", and "ilia" never refer back to the subject, hence the reason for the existence of the word "sia". That is, the use of the word "sia(j)(n)" makes it clear that it's referring back to the subject. So if "ŝia" is used, it necessarily refers to someone different than the subject.

(Note that this does not apply to the words "mia", "via", and "nia". With those words, there is no confusion as to whose room we're talking about in the sentence "Mi dancas en mia ĉambro.")

There is one exception to what I stated above when I said that "lia/ŝia/ilia" never refers to the subject. It has to do with the fact that "si" and "sia" can never be used in/as a subject. So if you want to talk about someone and (for example) her brother, you would say:

  • Ŝi kaj ŝia frato promenis hieraŭ. (She and her brother went for a walk yesterday.)

You might be tempted to say "Ŝi kaj sia frato promenis hieraŭ" as the use of "sia" makes it clear that you're talking about the subject's brother. However, this is wrong because "sia" is not supposed to be used as a subject, and that is why "ŝia" is used instead.

So that is the only time that "ŝia" can be interpreted both ways -- that is, as both her own brother and some other female's brother.

However, using "ŝi kaj ŝia frato" to refer to someone else's brother (and not the subject's brother) can be considered poor form, as it confuses who the "ŝi/she" words are referring to. It would be just as confusing as this sentence in English:

  • She and her brother went for a walk.

if you meant "she" and "her" to refer to different female persons. If you really did intend for "she" and "her" to refer to different females, it's best just to specify who you mean instead of using "her/ŝia", in both English and Esperanto:

  • She and Maria's brother went for a walk.
  • Ŝi kaj la frato de Maria promenis.

Using two female pronouns ("she/ŝi" and "her/ŝia") so close together to refer to two different people is confusing in many languages -- and not just in English and Esperanto.

  • Well, that is not an exception, since si always referring to the subject implies that it cannot itself be part of a subject. A related topic is when to use si and mem together. Here I would like to refer to two blog posts by Thomas "Tomaso" Alexander: blogs.transparent.com/esperanto/himself-mem-or-si and blogs.transparent.com/esperanto/… Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 7:52
  • @JuhaMetsäkallas: You're correct in saying that it is not an exception if you mean regarding Esperanto rules. But I wasn't talking about an exception to Esperanto rules -- I was talking about an "exception to what I stated above when I said that 'lia/ŝia/ilia' never refers to the subject." (I had thought about mentioning that it wasn't a real exception regarding Esperanto rules, but I felt that that wouldn't have really contributed anything useful to the post.)
    – J-L
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 14:54
  • I wonder if the more advanced rules for 'si' are even usable/practical in casual speech. On the one hand you have to say «Ŝi kaj ŝia frato (...)» because both are part of the subject and you have to live with the ambiguity; on the other hand you have to say «Ŝi kun sia frato (...)» because the thing after kun technically is not part of the subject... I think most listeners would just rely on context whether the speaker gets it right or not (that doesn't mean that anything goes, there are many simpler sentences where si is easy to use and understand)
    – marcus
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 13:30

Yes, it necessarily means that she is dancing in the room of someone else. For the other meaning, you must use "sia".

  • A logician may frown upon this logic, but yes, sia and ŝia exclude eachother. si is overriding. The same for de si, por si and such.
    – Joop Eggen
    Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 20:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.