"Ili ne povas telefoni al ni."
Translation:They cannot call us.
Why is telefoni infinitive? Why is the sentence not "Ili ne povas telefonas al ni" Sorry, might be a silly question, I'm a slow learner.
The ending -i indicates the infinitive, for example ami (to love). This is the neutral form found in a dictionary. It is most often used to complement the verbs povas (can), volas (want), devas (must), and ŝatas (like). For example:<pre>
Mi volas danci. = I want to dance. Mi ŝatas manĝi. = I like to eat. Ĉu vi povas fari tion? = Can you do that?</pre>
In English we use the bare infinitive (infinitive without "to" in front of it) in situations like this: I cannot be there (not "am"). She cannot know that (not "knows"). In other languages, they use the full infinitive.
Because this sentence more directly translates to "They were not able [to call] us."
"To call" is in the infinitive, so "telefoni" is too.
In general, accusatives don't come after prepositions, because prepositions usually modify indirect objects.
The verb's action happens in relation to the indirect object, while it acts directly on the direct object.
(There are some exceptions, which you'll see later.)
Because "ni" is the indirect object, not the direct object. In English, it's "say to him", not "say him". That would imply that the word said was "him".
If we're talking about the verb "to say", then the direct object would be what is said. The indirect object is who it's said to.
"I said 'No, thank you' to the waiter."
No, thank you is the direct object
the waiter is the indirect object
Yeah, I understand how to differentiate between indirect and direct objects because of my time with Spanish, I am just having a hard time thinking of why it should be direct with this specific verb. Could you give me an example of the same verb (telefoni) but with both a direct and an indirect object? Are you saying that it works like "to say" but in the context of a telephone call?
I'm looking at my comment from 9 months ago and wondering what was going through my mind. I'm not sure how I got from "telefoni" to "diri".
That said, I honestly don't know if it's grammatical in Esperanto to treat "telefoni" like a regular transitive verb or if it requires a prepositional phrase. Assuming it can go either way, it would just be a matter of:
Ili telefonas nin.
Ili telefonas al ni.
"telefoni" is a transitive verb and comes from a Romance Language (it helps you know that it's got a very close relation with the French verb "telephoner" or "telefon(e)ar" in Spanish.
"Ili ne povas telefoni al ni" sounds very strange, but Esperanto is an universal language, so you can express the same idea with a very "Germanic" syntax. So, **Ili ne povas telefoni nin" sounds a great deal better than ".. al ni".
Is "telefoni" only limited to call by telephone, or can you use it like "I'm gonna call him out on it"?
"Telefoni" is strictly "to call by telephone".
Zamenhof did not speak English, and even if he did, he developed Esperanto long before the idiom "to call someone out" existed. And even then, I'm pretty sure the whole point of Esperanto is for broad communication. Why would he include a highly idiomatic expression that's unique to English?
Well, the next word after "ili" is "ne". It's natural for words to flow together like that.