Esperanto Prepositions, Prefixes And Suffixes Explained

avatarMille Larsen
6 mins read

Saluton esperantistoj!

Today I will outline the concepts of prepositions, prefixes, and suffixes — essential concepts in the language of Esperanto.

Because Esperanto was designed to be easy to learn and remember, we find that many words are formed by simply attaching affixes to existing word stems. In my opinion, this falls short of the brilliance I find reflected in the construction of Russian words, but it's still much better than having to learn 5-10x the vocabulary.

Also a note about Esperanto's special characters. The additional characters required by the Esperanto alphabet required me to switch my Input Source from U.S. to U.S. Extended. This is relatively easy on a Macintosh, and doesn't appear to have any negative consequences for me. I'm curious to know if that's different for Windows or Linux users. (Leave a comment!)

If you are unable to switch your keyboard, there is a well-known standard of following the base character with an x (eg: ĝ is gx) to represent the special character. It is preferred to use the x method, rather than just leave the special characters off and expect people to understand.

And one last note: The sample sentences are all my own constructions. If any experienced Esperantists finds any errors, please let me know!

*Updated Wednesday, May 31, with the corrections in the comments.

Esperanto prepositions

Here are the prepositions in Esperanto with examples:

al - toward. to.

Mi iras al mia laborejo.

I am going to work.

apud - beside.

La rozoj estas apud la fenestro.

The roses are beside the window.

de - from. of.

Mi aĉetis botelon da akvo.

I bought a bottle of water.

dum - during.

Mi ekdormis dum leciono hieraû.

I fell asleep during class yesterday.

ekde - since.

Mi estas ĉi tie ekde tagmezo.

I have been here since noon.

en - in. into.

Miaj gepatroj vivis en Florido.

My parents lived in Florida.

inter - among.

Li studias la batalon inter bono kaj malbono.

He studies the battle between good and evil.

kontraû - against.

La ŝipa estas videbla kontraû la horizonto.

The ship is visible against the horizon.

kun - with.

Ŝi piediras kun me.

She is walking with me.

por - for.

Mi ne havas tempon por konversacio.

I don't have time for a conversation.

sen - without.

Mi ne volas vivi sen vi.

I don't want to live without you.

super - above.

Mi havas du najbarinojn kiuj loĝas super mi.

I have two (female) neighbors who live above me.

sur - at. on.

La tasoj estas sur la tablo.

The cups are on the table.

Prepositions can also function as prefixes in the role of altering the meaning of a word. For instance:

Mi vekiĝis dumnokta.

I woke up during the night.

Ni kunlaboris.

We worked together.

Sennoma viro donacis monon.

An anonymous man donated money.

In addition to using prepositions to modify words you can also use prefixes and suffixes. The prefixes and suffixes below are compile from two sources: Esperanto Panorama and Wikipedia.

Esperanto prefixes

While the list of prefixes already isn't very long, this is also a somewhat shortened list. There were a few additional prefixes listed at the Wikipedia page, but there's no need to waste a lot of attention on prefixes that only affect a handful of words.

bo- - relation by marriage. in-law.

Li estas mia bofrato.

He is my brother in law.

ĉef- - head. chief.

Ĉu vi loĝas en la ĉefurbo?

Do you live in the capital city?

dis- - separation, scattering.

La instruisto disdonas librojn al la studentoj.

The teacher distributes books to the students.

ek- - beginning, onset.

La knabo kaj la knabino ekamis unu kun ilian.

The boy and the girl fell in love.

ge- - mixed gender.

Miaj gepatroj ne loĝas kune.

My parents do not live together.

mal- - antonym.

Vi devas manĝi se vi estas malsata.

You should eat if you are hungry

mis- - incorrectly.

Mi miskomprenis tion, kion diris la instruisto.

I misunderstood what the teacher said.

re- - over again, back again.

Mia najbaro rekonstruas lian domon.

My neighbor is rebuilding his house.

Esperanto suffixes

Once again, this is a basic list. The Wikipedia page lists more suffixes, including affectionate forms and pejoratives, but for an accelerated track to fluency, I'm just looking for what I really need to know.

-ad- - frequent, repeated, or continual action. imperfective. an action or process.

Ŝia fratino povas paroladi por horoj!

Her sister can talk on and on for hours!

-aĵo - a manifestation. a product.

Ĉu vi aŭdis la novaĵon?

Have you heard the news?

-ano - a member, inhabitant, or participant.

Mi estas Usonano.

I am an American.

-aro - a collective group without specific number.

Mi ne povas trovi Esperantan vortaron.

I can not find an Esperanto dictionary.

-ebla - possible.

Ĉe mia domo, la konstruaĵo Sears Tower estas videbla.

From my house the Sears Tower is visible.

-eco - an abstract quality.

Via amikeco estas kara al mi.

Your friendship is valuable to me.

-eg- - augmentative.

Mi estas malsatega.

I am extremely hungry.

-ejo - a place.

Mi trovis interesan libron ĉe la librejo.

I found an interesting book at the library.

-ema - a tendency.

Lia patrino estas parolema.

His mother is talkative.

-estro - leader, boss.

Laborestro diras al oni kion fari.

A foreman tells you what to do.

-et- - diminutive.

Antaŭ al mia domo estas arbetoj.

There are bushes in front of my house.

-ido - offspring, descendent.

Hundidoj plaĉas al knabinoj.

Girls like puppies.

-igi - to make, to cause.

La viro mortigis lian edzinon.

The man killed his wife.

-iĝi - to become.

La viro kaj la virino geedziĝis.

The man and the woman got married.

-ilo - instrument.

Mi tranĉis min kun tranĉilo.

I cut myself with a knife.

-inda - worthy of.

Li estas viro koninda.

He is a man worth knowing.

-ino - female.

Saluton, sinjoroj kaj sinjorinoj!

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

-isto - profession or occupation.

Ateistoj ne kredas je dio.

Atheists do not believe in a god.

-ujo - container, country, source.

Mi havas monon en mia monujo.

I have money in my purse.

-ulo - one characterized by the root.

Junuloj devas studi.

Young people should study.


I have seen the suggestion from several different sources that once armed with this understanding of word modifers, a person could turn a modest vocabulary of a few hundred word stems into a comprehension of between 80-90% of what people say, hear, read, and write in Esperanto. Whether that's accurate or not, I can't say. But even if it falls a bit short, it still bodes well for my one-week challenge!

In addition to learning these modifiers, I continue to study word stems, but I have also had to learn numbers, as well as question words, and correllatives which is what we'll look at tomorrow.