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Tiu/Tio review.

Hello everyone! Been a little while since I've asked a question to the forums. My learning has been coming along pretty well and I'm writing sentences to communicate with others. A common problem I ran into in my writing is knowing when to use Tiu vs Tio for "that". A very basic question but I could use someone knowledgeable giving me their insight on the subject. Dankon!

December 31, 2015



Short version:

  • use "tiu" if there is a noun after it ("tiu libro estas bona")
  • use "tio" is there is no noun after it ("tio estas bona")

Also, use "tiu" when referring to humans ("tiu estas mia amiko").

Longer version:

"tio" means "that" as a pronoun. It stands by itself.

"tiu" means "that" as a determiner; it usually stands in front of a noun, like an adjective.

However, like adjectives, it can also be used by itself. In English, you usually have to use the dummy noun "one" in such a case: "La blua estas granda = The blue one is big". Similarly with "tiu" in that case: "Tiu estas granda = That one is big".

In such a case, there is still some sort of noun implied. You are picking out one object from a group of similar objects -- for example, there might be a blue book, a yellow one, and a pink one and you want to say that "the blue one is big" -- then you know that you are talking about the blue book. Similarly, you might say that "that one" is big -- you know that you are picking out one book from a group of books. Then you could say "tiu estas granda", as shorthand for "tiu libro estas granda".

But if you are just pointing at something, without saying that it is a particular one out of a group of similar objects (e.g. one book out of many), then "tio" is appropriate. "That's a book!" - "Tio estas libro!"

Also, "tiu" has a plural version "tiuj" - both in front of noun ("tiuj libroj estas grandaj") and when used with a noun that's not mentioned ("tiuj estas grandaj" -- those (ones) are big).

But "tio" does not have a plural -- because you are not referring to specific objects (out of a group of similar objects), but are talking about something new and unspecific, so you don't even know whether it's one thing or many.

So you might say "Tio estas libroj" - "Those are books". You can't say "Tioj estas libroj."


Thank you, as always I'm amazed at the generosity of people on here donating their time to each other. I am grateful and I hope your day is blessed.


The corresponding question words Kiu and Kio are easier to tell apart in English.

Kiu - which / who Kio - what

so one way to tell whether to use Tiu or Tio is to imagine a question where the sentence you are looking at is the answer.


Though as "what" is sometimes used in the meaning of "which" this is not always helpful?

("What time is it?" "What new book should you read this fall?" ....)


Very true - one of the pleasures of Esperanto is realizing how much of English functions using familiarity rather than structure!


So, can 'tiu' and 'tio' also function to mean "this"? I know there are many contexts where, in English, you could interchangeably say "what is that/this" or "I like this/that one". Or should you always (formally) say "tiu cxi [libro estas mia]" and "tio cxi [estas mia libro]"?

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