I'm currently going through the Lernu course. In lesson 10 there are two sentences on the same page:

Mi parolis kun li tiam, kiam li venis al ni.

Mi tre ŝatas, kiam vi ridetas al mi.

Why tiam, kiam in the first sentence and not in the second? How do I know when to include tiam?

I guess the same thing could be asked about tio(n), kio(n), etc...

2 Answers 2


I believe the phrase basically has the same meaning regardless of whether you put the tiam. When you have a ki- word which introduces a sub-phrase, it always refers back to a corresponding ti- word in the main phrase. However, it is common to leave this word out, but if it is left out then it is still implied as if it was still there.

PMEG says you would normally leave out the the tiam when it is used with kiam, but you can leave it in either for emphasis or if the sentence would otherwise be unclear.

  • That same concept is true of a number of other expressions in Esperanto. Much of the time, you don't need compound tenses: mi dormis instead of mi estis dormanta. I agree that it's just as well to not make fine distinctions you don't need to make. Sep 19, 2016 at 1:11

The first example refers to a specific occasion. The second is a general statement. I know that doesn't completely clarify it. Try this. The second sentence is an Esperanto translation of the English sentence "I really like it when you smile at me." Change it slightly, by referring to a specific instance: "I really liked it when you smiled at me." I'd translate that into Esperanto as "Mi tre ŝatis tiam, kiam vi ridetis al mi.". It distinguishes it from "Mi tre ŝatis kiam vi ridetis al mi." which could be translated into English as "I really liked it when you used to smile at me."

The exact choice of words is an issue of translating between English and Esperanto, but it's an illustration of the larger point that the default wording in most languages implies things that have to be clarified if you want to be explicit about subtle differences.

  • 1
    I'm not sure if you if you can interpret it in this way. I think that the phrase is basically the same with or without the "tiam" except that one has slightly more emphasis. There are counter examples in Tekstaro.com, for example: "mi estas homarano; nur tiam, kiam oni demandas min speciale pri mia regno". That is clearly not talking about a specific occasion.
    – Neil Roberts
    Sep 18, 2016 at 22:26

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