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There are some cases where I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say the word por before an infinitive. What are the rules for this?

Here is an example of a situation where I'm not exactly sure what to do:

English: I want more books to read.

1) Mi volas pli da libroj por legi.

2) Mi volas pli da libroj legi.

Are both correct? If yes, then which one is the best option?

I understand I can rearrange the sentence: Mi volas legi pli da libroj. But, what if I don't want to rearrange?

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To quote from Lesson 4 of the EAB's "Elementary,..!" textbook:

But if the English texts means "in order to do something", as in Mi iris por saluti lin, meaning "I went (in order) to greet him", or Mi revenis por esti kun vi, meaning "I came back (in order) to be with you", the Esperanto inserts the word por to indicate this intention or purpose (porpose!)

Always check to see whether "in order" can be placed in front of the English "to do something", because if it can you must use por in Esperanto.

So, in your example, if you need more books so that you can read, then you need por, but if "to read" is describing the purpose the book are to be put to, you don't.

However, although the "in order to" test quoted above is a good rule of thumb, but it is not definitive. For example, in mi havas multon por fari the por is needed, but it fails the "in order to" test. Conversely, the must is inaccurate; There are many situations where "to" could be replaced with "in order to", but por can be omitted:

Kiu rabi eliras, ofte nuda revenas - He who goes out in order to rob, will often return naked.

Ŝi tuj kuris bati ŝin. - Straight away she ran over in order to hit her.

...veninta el Kievo, kien li iris preĝi... - ...coming from Kiev, where he had gone in order to pray ...

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  • This is the rule in general. However, the bare infinitive is very commonly used after "iri", such that "iri" before an infinite is generally understood as "to go (in order) to", and the "por" seldom alters the meaning. See PMEG, under I-verbo kiel por-komplemento aŭ al-komplemento. – kristan Sep 21 '16 at 22:14
  • Thanks - I did not know that; do you want to edit my answer so as to keep all the information together? – conor Sep 21 '16 at 22:18
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    Generally, for purpose of an object without "por," you can use "inda" or "enda," e.g. "Estas multo videnda." (There is much to see). – Clayton Ramsey Sep 22 '16 at 2:39
  • I am reluctant to downvote as you are quoting in good faith from a textbook, but the "must" is wrong and it is easy to show that it is wrong. – Andrew Woods Sep 22 '16 at 2:52
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    The "in order to" test is a good rule of thumb, but it is not definitive. For example, in mi havas multon por fari the por is needed, but it fails the "in order to" test. In some cases, por is possible but not required. I'm curious about Andrew Woods's comment. What is an example where it passes the "in order to" test, but where "por" is not needed? – Tomaso Alexander Sep 22 '16 at 12:22
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The expressions volas librojn legi and volas legi librojn are simple rearrangements of each other. So, your two sentences mean slightly different things; the por version implies that you want to own more books as well as read more books.

In general, I believe that you can use the bare infinitive after verbs which imply observation, movement, or the giving of an order or some sort of instruction. The infinitive then refers to an action carried out by the one observed, in motion, or receiving the instruction. This trick works for verbs which don't normally expect infinitives.

  • Mi aŭdis lin tusi. I heard him cough.

  • Ŝi venis kontroli. She came to check.

  • Mi vokis ilin manĝi. I called them to come and eat.

  • Mi donis al mia filo ion legi. I gave my son something to read.

You can find more examples in Plena Analiza Gramatiko §186.

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"Por" is sometimes necessary when the infinitive verb following it is an extended description, and not the main point. In your example it is necessary since leaving it out gives the sentence a different meaning. Rearranging makes this clear.

Only the first option expresses the same thing as the English sentence you wrote.

I want more books to read.

Mi volas pli da libroj por legi.

The other one has a slightly different meaning.

Mi volas pli da libroj legi.

Mi volas legi pli da libroj.

I want to read more books.

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