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-el vs -a correlatives: When to use which?

This feels like a simple question, but I've had a very difficult time figuring it out. I've tried reading about it in the PMEG, but my Esperanto just isn't strong enough to really be certain about what I'm looking at. To give you some examples:

She is such a good actor. I think of him like a brother. This is so delicious. I sleep like a rock.

Which correlative should I use in these examples? I understand that the -el correlatives modify verbs, and the -a correlatives modify nouns; but I still struggle to understand which one I should use in which situations. Looking at the sentences I provided:

Sxi estas kia bona aktorino. Sxi estas kiel bona aktorino.

Mi pensas pri li kia frato. Mi pensas pri li kiel frato.

Cxi tiu estas tia bongusta. Cxi tiu estas tiel bongusta.

Mi dormas kia sxtono. Mi dormas kel sxtono.

Surely I can't be alone in this challenge? I used to think that I had this figured out, but the more I progress in the course the more I'm getting it mixed up. Can anybody please explain this or help me find a resource - in English - that I can use as a reference to really figure this out?

July 14, 2015



My take (I could be wrong):

  • Sxi estas kiel bona aktorino. => because it modifies an adjective (bona)
  • Mi pensas pri li kiel frato. => because it describes a phrase (the thinking), not the kind of brother; you could expand it to: mi pensas pri li tiel, kvazau kiel li estus frato
  • Cxi tiu estas tiel bongusta. => because it modifies an adjective (bongusta)
  • Mi dormas kiel sxtono. => as it modifies a verb (dormas): mi dormas, kiel sxtono dormus

Actually the second may be ambiguous; it could mean: I think of him like a brother would think of him, or: I think of him like I would think of a brother.


"Kia" means "what kind". It is an adjective that asks for a description of the noun it modifies. ex. "Kian kafon vi deziras" means "What kind of coffee do you want?"

"Kiel" means "how". It is an adverb, so it applies to adjectives and verbs.

"Tia" means "that kind, such".

"Tiel" means "so".

<pre> Sxi estas kia bona aktorino. Sxi estas kiel bona aktorino. </pre>

I'm not sure what exactly you're trying to say here, actually. I'm assuming you mean to say "She is such a good actress". In that case, you could use either "tiel" or "tia", as both may serve a very similar function. "Sxi estas tia bona aktorino" means that she is "that kind" of good actress, implying something positive about the kind of actress that she is. "Sxi estas tiel bona aktorino" means that she is "that good" of an actress, with "tiel" applying to the adjective "bona". "Tiel bona" can be translated as "so good".

<pre> Mi pensas pri li kia frato. Mi pensas pri li kiel frato. </pre>

I would use "kiel". The intended meaning is "I think of him, as I would think of a brother", so "kiel" should be used used because the "as" (or "like", however you prefer to translate it) in "as a brother" applies to the verb "pensas" because it is describing "how" you think of him.

I'm not certain about this, but "kiel frato" might actually be supposed to be "kiel pri frato", because the current way you worded it might mean "I think of him like a brother would think of him".

<pre> Cxi tiu estas tia bongusta. Cxi tiu estas tiel bongusta. </pre>

Here you would use "tiel". In the phrase "so delicious", "so" is an adverb describing how delicious "this one" is. "Tia" may be appropriate as well, but the meaning would be slightly different: "This one is such a delicious one," with "such" or "tia" being an adjective that describes "this one".

<pre> Mi dormas kia sxtono. Mi dormas kiel sxtono. </pre>

This one is actually very clear; "like a rock" is describing "how" I slept, and thus should be "kiel".

For more resources, a table of correlatives with English equivalents is very helpful.


Thanks for the reply. Yes, I have a table of of all the correlatives and their English equivalent, but what I'm looking for is examples showing them in context. But still, thanks for the reply. I guess it's time to start reading more literature in Esperanto? Either that or get my Esperanto strong enough to really know that I can make sense out of the PMEG.


Yes, if you do a bit of reading, either literature or just forum posts and chat rooms, you'll learn a lot about actual usage and expressions like that. PMEG should be fairly easy to understand once you get a stronger grasp on word building, because so much can be inferred once you know how to break apart words into the roots that make them up.

Have you taken the Esperanto courses at Lernu? (http://lernu.net/) They are very helpful and cover more about usage than Duolingo, whereas Duolingo focuses more on vocabulary and translation it seems. There are many great reading materials you can use to practice, an active forum to practice on and ask questions, and detailed grammar explanation resources with all but the most advance pages being translated into English, some of which answer your question about correlative usage.


Lernu is really great. I've actually worked through Ana Pana, most of Ana Renkontas, some of Jen Nia IJK, and some of the other materials. The material is good, but I found that it was difficult to keep myself motivated. I do plan to go back for their intermediate and advanced level material.


Here's another example of what I mean, this time taken directly from the course:

"He chose the economy as the subject of his lecture."

"Li elektis la ekonomion kiel la temon de sia prelego."


Why does "temo" take the accusative after "kiel?" Why are we even using "kiel" here at all, and why not "kia?" And why are correlatives even necessary in this sentence when you could just as easily write,

"Li elektis la ekonomion por la temo de sia prelego."

Team Duolingo really needs to add some more notes about the proper use of the correlatives, because it's NOT CLEAR from the content that's been presented.


Give the team feedback then! :P Seriously, the course is in Beta right now. It is in no way going to teach you EVERYTHING there is to know about the language.

I don't think I could easily explain why "temo" takes the accusative after "kiel". I really do suggest that you sign up for lernu.net and take the courses there, as they are far more detailed and answer that question well.


Saluton JamesBulls. "He chose the economy as the subject....." is a complete sentence in itself, I think that's why you get the -n.

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