I'm learning Esperanto with Duolingo, Lernu and with books but the biggest problem for me is to learn the correlatives.

So do you have any suggestions to learn the correlatives? Many people suggest to learn only with a memorize process but there are other way more simple?

Update: As recap of all the suggestions and tips:

  • Learn few phrase examples
  • Learn the most used to simplify
  • Associate in your mind gesture for the correlatives like for ĉi- a gesture that create a circle that mean all

10 Answers 10


The formation of the correlatives is based on a logical table of combinations of two pieces, so in a sense if you can learn all of the pieces you can effectively learn all of the words without having to memorise them. When I was learning them the course book I was using had them represented as a table in the appendix at the back which really helped me to make sense of it. Here is what the table looks like:

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However of course you can't really spend the time to think of how the word combines in the middle of a conversation so eventually you will have to remember them instinctively, but it is at least a helpful tool to start with.

Once during an Esperanto event I saw someone teaching the correlatives using a system of pairs of gestures. So there would be a gesture for ki, i, ti etc and that would be paired with another gesture for u, o, e etc. That way you can make a sort of dance to remember them. I think for some people this can help make the formation seem more visual and concrete. There is an old YouTube video explaining the concept here.

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    The gesture way it's very interesting and helpful, i have to convert that way in something written to remember better!
    – Mte90
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 12:49

In much the same way I treat active and passive participles, as I practice and read new things, I try to use the exhaustive definition of each correlative so that it sticks into my brain in a more rounded way. This is especially useful for the ti-, i-, ĉi-, neni- correlatives:

I read tial as "(for) that reason", ial as "(for) some reason", etc.

It also greatly helps (and this is a trick I learned from the Esperanto Duolingo Facebook group) to simply memorize a few key phrases that have easy meaning (this is especially useful for me when dealing with kial and kiel). Or just memorize one phrase between similar words (again, like kial and kiel).

My descriptive phrases:

"Kiel vi fartas?" (ok, so I know kiel is how, not why... kial is why.)

"Kia aŭto?" (what type of car?)

"Kies aŭto?" (whose car?)

Those, honestly, are the hard ones. -u and -o correlatives are very simple:

Use -u when referring to a person or one out of a list (most of the times, there is a noun attached to the correlative unless referring to a person).

Use -o when there is no way to attach a noun to the correlative.

Example: "Kio tablo?" is incorrect. Use "Kiu tablo?"


The best way to learn grammar is to read a good book about the subject. The best book about Esperanto is probably Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko and it is free. But this approach is not simple and suitable for beginners. Use it when you feel ready.

I suggest you do not start studying the entire table. Some correlative are very rare. See the frequencies presented here:

kiu  17.72%          tia   2.38%          neniam 1.19%          kiom   0.53%          nenie  0.06%
tiu  11.36%          tiam  2.34%          nenio  1.17%          ties   0.35%          neniom 0.05%
tio   9.41%          ĉio   2.13%          kial   1.13%          nenia  0.32%          ies    0.04%
kiel  8.54%          iu    1.98%          tial   1.13%          ĉia    0.26%          ĉiel   0.03%
ĉiu   6.64%          kie   1.97%          kia    1.08%          neniel 0.22%          ĉies   0.03%
kiam  5.42%          iom   1.82%          kies   0.89%          iel    0.21%          nenies 0.01%
kio   4.65%          ĉiam  1.59%          ia     0.82%          ĉie    0.21%          ĉiom   0.003%
tiel  4.13%          neniu 1.56%          tiom   0.74%          ie     0.18%          nenial 0.002%
tie   3.45%          io    1.51%          iam    0.68%          ial    0.06%          ĉial   0.0004%

You do not need to understand all the correlative of a row or column in the beginning. First try to understand the most common. The trick pointed by Eduardo is good. To see translated phrases on Tatoeba can help you.

  • Start also with the most used simplify so much, thank for that table!
    – Mte90
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 12:55

Don't try to memorize them at once. Just try to concentrate on some specific topic and talk about this specific topic. Use as little of them as possible.

But the most important thing is: learn only in context

Example. Try to talk about the weather. Build sentences like this:

  • Kia estas la vetero? - La vetero estas varma
  • Kiam la vetero denove iĝas malvarma?" - Verŝajne post unu tago"

Context is the key.

  • There is no single "best" way to learn the correlatives, but this is the method I recommend - in part because I've found that it helps puts people who are struggling at ease. Those people who do well by memorizing charts and juggling word bits around in their head will ignore this advice anyway and do what works for them. Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 12:46

1) Know alternatives. It helps understanding. When you are confident enough, use the corresponding correlative. This will help you for the second part of the correlative.

  • Tio -> Tiu aĵo/afero
  • Tie -> En tiu ejo/loko
  • Tiam -> En tiu momento
  • Tiom -> En tiu kvanto
  • Tia -> En tiu tipo
  • Tiel -> En tiu maniero
  • Ties -> De tiu persono

2) Memorize by rote some examples sentences. They are really useful and they will help you remember the meaning of the first part of the correlative. Don't hesitate to use a spaced repetition software such as Anki or Memrise for this. Exemples of sentences you could memorize:

  • Kio estas tio? What (thing) is that (thing)?
  • Kiu diris "Neniam diru neniam"? Who said "Never say never"?
  • Iam, mi manĝos ĉiujn ĉokoladojn. One day, I will eat all chocolates.

The key is to learn the correlatives one by one, starting with the most common ones.

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    Mi sugestas: Tio -> Tiu aĵo/afero (o-finaĵa vortoj); Tiam -> En tiu momento (atm, ptm = am, pm); Tiom -> En tiu kvanto, en tiu nombro; Tia -> De tiu speco (a-finaĵa vortoj). "Tipo" ne signifas "speco" (PMEG, Komputeko)
    – Marco
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 23:02
  • Memorize some examples is one of the way that i am trying and this examples will be very helpful!
    – Mte90
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 12:53

I had a lot of trouble learning the correlatives until I broke them down and learned each part individually. So, I rote memorized ki-, i-, neni-, etc and -am, -om, -el, etc.

Then I started working on parsing the words in texts: ki-am, ki-el, ki-o, etc.

Then eventually they turned into their own words: kiam, kiel, kio.

That was what worked best for me.


Its very difficult to simply memorise them. So, study a little and let them soak into your brain over time through reading and listening.

This is a very good book: Mastering the Correlatives in Esperanto: Learning from Examples


Memorizing them is the best way, I think. I used the Memrise course. But an essential part of learning the correlatives is using them as jokes. Conversation like these make so much more fun in Esperanto:

  • Why?

  • Because.

  • Kial?

  • Tial.



I have silly tricks for remembering, these are mine but everyone should come up with their own.

kiel - is an anagram of like and the question "how did it happen" is answered by "it happened like this"

kiam - this is easy since "am" is used for time, as in 9am.

kial - I remember the phrase "why do I Always Laugh?"

kiu - the "u" is a bit like the end of "who".

kie - the "e" is a bit like the end of "where"

kia - I remember the phrase "IKEA is a kind of store"

kio - the "o" is like the "o" in object.


Being at home in the matrix of correlatives with their meaning is the most important.

ki- question or subphrase, -u selected (adj, person).

Then search the difference between kio and kiom, by inventing examples. So one can feel certain on their correctness when using.

The memorizing is the easiest part, because of the cross-wise repetition of those frequent words. And then there is the simularity of`ki~ with other languages wh~ and qu~.

Some words like nenial or neniom are rare so they need no memorizing and will appear if you want to be especially expressive.

The problem is that a language course certainly treat all digits at the same time, might just offer all pronouns at the same time, but all correlatives is unlikely.

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