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  5. "Don't try to impress me!"

"Don't try to impress me!"

Translation:Ne provu impresi min!

October 30, 2019



What word should we use for "try" here?

JenMLee asked the question here and in the reverse thread. The discussion got a little convoluted, so I thought I would try to organize my responses for the benefit of anybody reading along.

JenMLee (in the two threads) provided a definition of provi - apparently based on her reading of vortaro.net. There was also some mix up in her two posts about whether it's about "worth" or "worthiness" - but her presentation of the definitions were not correct. It's actually pretty simple.

There are three common words for "to try":

  • provi - to test out (the most general word for "try")
  • peni - to make an effort to get something done
  • klopodi - to take steps to get something done

As a side note, transitive and intransitive doesn't factor in here. The way peni and provi is used in a sentence is exactly the same.

  • Mi provis levi la sxtonon - I tried to lift the stone.
  • Mi penis levi la sxtonon - I made an effort to lift the stone.

Can we say provigi to emphasize that the verb is transitive?

No. It's less important to focus on whether a verb is "tr" or "ntr" - and to focus instead on what the verb means and how it's used in sentences. Adding -ig- to a verb makes the verb mean "to cause someone to do the action of the verb."

What -ig- does is different. It changes who is doing what.

  • provi - to try
  • provigi - to cause someone to try.

When describing English verbs, people will say that some verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively such as:

  • I am drowning.
  • I am drowning the cat.


  • I am eating.
  • I am eating my shoe.

However, notice that these are actually two different things. In the first example, the action changes from going under the water to causing something to go under the water. In the second example, the person is putting something in his mouth in both cases. For this reason, I think it's possible to be mislead by words like "transitive" and "intransitive" when learning Esperanto.

The Tips and Notes (light bulb icon) say this:

"Many verbs in English can be both transitive and intransitive, but this is not possible in Esperanto, in which verbs are normally either transitive or intransitive, but not both."

Please note that the intention here is for the first kind of verb above (I am drowning ... the cat), not the second. Some people do say that the second kind is a case where a verb can be both. For example, Word Reference Forums says this about the English verb "to eat".

Eat is mainly a transitive verb, while it can be intransitive in case of describing a habitual action. For example, He is eating at 6 o'clock.

The verb manĝi is the exact same way. Li manĝas je la sesa vespere.

So... the way Word Reference Forums puts it, the verb manĝi can be both transitive and intransitive. Clearly, this is not what the authors of the tips and notes mean by "transitive."

Also note that verbs that can take an object (e.g mangxi, klarig) don't necessarily have to.

  • Mi provis klarigi, sed vi ne komprenas.

But back to peni. Should I report this?

I would be surprised if the course took peni. The meaning is different.

  • Ne provu impresi min! - The person is testing out to see if they can impress you.
  • Ne penu impresi min! - This carries the notion of effort... the person would be exerting himself to impress you.

If you use peni in this sentence, your meaning will be something like:

  • "Don't strain to impress me."
  • "Don't sweat to impress me"
  • "Don't push it to impress me."

If you're interested in this thread, be sure to check out the reverse thread.



Reading through this thread, especially the posts by JenMLee, I see a couple of troubling things.

One is an assumption that "PIV is always correct". Experienced Esperanto speakers know that is not the case. There are a number of incomplete or inaccurate definitions, as well as a large number of words that don't appear in the dictionary at all.

PIV was a project of a group called Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda (SAT). They also sponsored the earlier (and now outmoded) "Plena Vortaro" (1934). Both dictionaries had expert editors and expert teams, but no guarantee of infallibility. PIV is probably our "most authoritative source" in Esperanto today, but by no means is it the final word about anything.

(And for what it's worth, "PIV" usually refers to the original 1970 dictionary, which was reissued in 1987 with "Suplemento". There was a new edition in 2002, quickly followed by the now current edition in 2005. This is usually referred to as PIV2005 or NPIV).

The other thing I note is a resistance to accepting information or guidance from an experienced speaker. We do in fact have experts in the Esperanto speaker community, and Salivanto is one of them. I don't always agree with everything he says, but I always pay attention to everything he says. And on this question he is exactly on target. Most of our Esperanto experts, including myself, are busy with other projects, and I particularly appreciate people like Salivanto who give their time and energy here.

I also note a comment "I will wait to see what the PIV team has to say". I'm not sure who people think that is. There is no PIV team that's going to respond to anything here.

It's possible to get so tied up in fine distinctions between words and concepts that you miss the language entirely. The meanings of "provi" and "peni" depend on how they're used in the speaker community, not on how they're defined in one particular dictionary.

In modern Esperanto as it's actually used in the speaker community "provi" has taken on the general meaning of English "to try" in most cases. The verb "peni" does in fact imply using effort, energy, or other force to accomplish something. And "peni" is relatively infrequent in normal prose and conversation.

Lee Miller (membro de la Akademio de Esperanto . . . )


I appreciate the second opinion. The PIV team I reached out to are those working on/supporting http://vortaro.net/#, which is listed in Duo as a good resource. I reached out for two reasons - to get a second opinion and to alert them to a possible update to the site. If peni has come to imply effort (and is no longer in common use), and if provi has come to cover the basic definition of "to try," the PIV (printed or online) would need to be updated to reflect that to avoid learner confusion.

I have been paying attention to salivanto, but have been having trouble pairing what he's said with what I see in PIV. If PIV is updated, then that will solve a lot.


The team that worked on vortaro.net simply had the task of making the content of NPIV available on line. There's not an active team at that location revising content or definitions.

There is a new edition of the dictionary in the works. It has been expected since 2017, and still hasn't appeared. It's unlikely that you'll see any significant changes in the definitions of "provi" and "peni".

"peni" has not "come to imply effort". The basic definition of the word indicates effort:

"Streĉi la korpajn aŭ mensajn fortojn, por atingi rezulton"


Well, that's too bad. Not having an updated dictionary creates a challenge for learners (or at least for me). When I come across a new word, I check an appropriate dictionary first.

Regarding peni - I always understood this to mean "to make an effort" (when I said above that it's "come to imply effort," I should have said "great effort"). In any case, if peni is not used as much any more, I do hope the next version of PIV calls that out clearly.

So, I consider this settled, and I thank you both for your combined input.


In any case, if peni is not used as much any more,

Peni is used all the time. It's just not a word I would use in the specific context -- i.e. "to try to impress."


I commented on another iteration of this question that "provi" is transitive and means to prove or test something to determine its worth, while "peni" is intransitive and means to make an effort. I believe the Esperanto should be "Ne penu impresi min!"


Doesn't that just mean you could say provigi to make it clear that it's transitive?


No. This is why I say that it's less important to focus on whether a verb is "tr" or "ntr" - and to focus instead on what the verb means and how it's used in sentences.

"To dine" is intransitive. You can never "dine something". However, in some contexts, to dine and to eat are very similar.

  • We dine at 6.
  • We eat at 6.

If we want to specify WHAT we eat, we can.

  • We eat dinner at 6.

Adding "dinner" doesn't change the meaning of eat. That is - with or without "dinner", the "we" is still putting food in their mouths at 6.

What -ig- does is different. It changes who is doing what.

  • provi - to try
  • provigi - to cause someone to try.


If that's the case, Duolingo would have so many wrong sentences. E.g.:

Sofia provas kuiri tomatan supon kun viando.

Ili provas kuiri viandon.

Mi provas manĝi rapide.

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