"The cafe is beautiful."
Translation:La kafejo estas bela.
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Great question! Even though it is a constructed language, there is still a language community, where the norms of the language change over time. Saying 'belas' rather than 'estas bela' is something which became more common over time.
Also, as a separate point, there are some Esperanto native speakers, e.g. George Soros, although they are very rare!
It's the same in other agglutinative or highly-compounding languages, and often in all languages in general. "Shorter and faster is better and more natural in the end". Think of how Japanese takes an English word and only says the first syllable, or chops it in half or something. Think of how we say "net" instead of "internet". Swedes even turn abbreviations into verbs to make them shorter, ex. "....Vård Av (sjukt) Barn - Care Of (sick) Child", referring to staying home from work in order to take care of your sick kid, turned into "att vabba (verb) - to stay home work due to having to care for a sick child". Yeah, it's all the same, humans are just lazy.
Otherwise, it is actually the same in some other languages. Japanese for example, has what are called "i-verbs", (ex. しろい if you know any Japanese) which are both verbs and adjectives at the same time. So they can say "The interesting book" and "The book (is) interesting" with the same word and wordform. Likewise in Esperanto, "The red dog" and "the dog reds; the dog is red"... it all means the same thing.
EDIT: For clarity, yes, "belas" functions as a verb in Esperanto, meaning essentially "is beautiful." But that sentiment is more clearly expressed to others as a descriptive phrase; "estas bela" translates more fluidly to more languages (at least those I speak, and that my wife speaks) than forcing a typically adjectival word to function as a verb.
Sure. In Esperanto, all words adhere to strict and regular endings. That tells you what type of word (and/or what tense it is in). For example, the ending "-as" indicates a present-tense verb. "Est/as" is "is/am/are." So "belas" doesn't really mean anything--it would translate roughly to "beauties." Try using that in a sentence, and you'll see what I mean. It's not a real verb.
On the flip side, "bela" is marked out by it's "-a" ending; the "-a" makes it an adjective. So "Estas bela" is "am/is/are beautiful."
"Mi estas bela" (I am beautiful) "Vi estas bela" (You are beautiful) "Ĝi estas bela" (It is beautiful)
I hope that helps!
Any word can be morphed into a verb in Esperanto; which I explained. But my point is, it's not a verb in English when directly translated, which is what the asker seemed to be asking. Of the languages I speak, it's almost always clearer to use an adjective as an adjective, than to force an adjective to become a verb--Esperanto included.
You said: "So "belas" doesn't really mean anything--it would translate roughly to "beauties.""
= wrong on two counts.
Firstly, it does mean something, it means "is beautiful"
Secondly, "beauties" is plural, and the letter "s" at the end of a word (eg "belas") denotes a plural for many words in ENGLISH. The letter "j" is used for this purpose in Esperanto.
Without responding ad nauseum, I want to point out that "s" does not always denote plural in English... just look at the third-person present singular verb tense: knows, dances, writes, denotes, poops. So, not wrong on that count, at least.
Whether it functions as a plural with a "j" is irrelevant, because the question was about the verb form. The false English verb "to beauty" (what "beli" would translate to, if you went 1:1, which most beginners tend to do, and my explanation tried to countermand) is not a good translation, so it's simpler to use "estas bela" because of the benefit of clarity to all levels of Esperantist, especially beginners. That was my point. Make sense?
I agree that of course an "s" ending does not always denote plural in English, which is why I said "for many words". But, your choice was "beauties" - one of the words where the "ies" DOES mean plural. So saying "belas" roughly translates to that, is saying "belas" is plural, but because it is "j" which means this in Esperanto, "belas" cannot possibly be plural in Esperanto - that is my point.
You've lost me on your second paragraph here - once beginners learn that the "-as verb ending" means "estas + verb", in a shortened but perfectly valid form, & it seems to even be preferred this way by many fluent Esperantists... how is this not useful to present to learners as an option?
Yeah; it's probably further down the tree (I haven't gotten that low), but a participle is a verb used as an adjective. They're very common in English, and in Esperanto as well. In English, an easy example would be "The shouting child," where "shouting," the active tense of "to shout" is used to describe the subject (the child), such that the verb functions as an adjective.
Esperanto has a variety of participle cases, some of which play nice with English, some of which don't. Most commonly you'll run into constructions like, "Mi estas skribanta," which means, "I am writing," (-anta) or "Mi estis skribanta" (I was writing, but have stopped), or "La libro estas skribata" (The book is written, and is complete). The future tense of the participle exists, but you can probably surmise how it functions is by the other examples.
Esperantists tend to stay away from participles unless we want to make a specific point; "Mi skribas" is more immediately clear "Mi estas skribanta," and essentially mean the same thing (literally, the former means, "I write," but in English we tend to use the participle "I am writing, so maybe for us English natives, the participle is more clear... but I've been warned off using them by other Esperantists when communicating with non-English natives because of the relativlely lower frequency in other languages.
It's a powerful tool, and it's one of the reasons "esti" is so important as a verb; with the participle (anta/inta/onta/ata/ita/ota(?)), tells us a ton about the subject or process in question. Just don't overuse them! They can exhaust other people less familiar with the participle form.