When to use the -n ending

Thanks to a very helpful member of the Duolingo Esperanto Learners Group on Facebook, we are pleased to present the following useful summary:

When to use -n:

1.When the noun is the direct object: “Mi amas vin”, I love you.

2.When an adjective is describing the direct object: “Li ŝatas manĝi verdajn pomojn”, He likes to eat green apples.

3.When there is motion towards the noun: “La infano saltas sur la liton”, The child jumps onto the bed (compare “La infano saltas sur la lito”, the child was already on the bed and is jumping on it).

4.When expressing a duration of time: “La kapo doloris min la tutan tagon”, My head hurt the whole day.

5.When expressing length, quantities, price, distance and measures: “La ŝtofo estas 2 metrojn longa”, The fabric is 2 metres long; “La domo kostas multan monon”, The house costs a lot of money; “Ili marŝis dudek kilometrojn”, They walked twenty kilometres.

6.For greetings, thanks, wishes, apologies, and other similar expressions: “Saluton”, “bonan tagon”, “pardonon”, “bonan apetiton”, "gratulon", “dankon”, etc. These are shortened forms of a longer phrase: “Mi donas al vi dankon", “Mi deziras al vi bonan tagon”.

When NOT to use -n:

1.When the noun is the subject

2.Directly after “esti” or “fariĝi”

3.On “la”: “Ŝi verŝas teon en la tason” (NOT “Ŝi verŝas teon en lan tason”)

4.On numbers that are not nouns: “Ili havas du hundojn” (NOT “Ili havas dun hundojn)

5.When saying the name of the person you are talking to: “Mi amas vin, paĉjo” (NOT “Mi amas vin, paĉjon”)

NEVER use -n after: al, ĉe, da, de, dum, el, ĝis, kun, laŭ, per, por, pro, pri.

July 21, 2015


I feel like the -n ending is the one aspect of Esperanto that somewhat mimics how confusing every aspect of natural languages is.

July 21, 2015

The reason why many "natural languages" are confusing, isn't because they contain a couple of grammatical features which are not present in you native tongue, but because they contain tons of irregularities.

July 21, 2015

Yah, it's the irregularities, but it's also concepts like this more specifically that I was referring to where it's difficult to fully grasp and remember all the rules for when something is supposed to be used in a certain way until you get to a higher level in the language and you just start to instinctively understand when it should be used and when it shouldn't.

July 21, 2015

The point is taken, but the difference is whereas one can list the uses of -n on a single page, the irregularities of almost any natural language will fill a large, dense book (I had such a book in my highschool "rhetoric" class). Compare a few weeks of initial difficulty to a lifetime of uncertainty. This is a mountain-molehill situation.

There is also the problem of perspective: The -n is much less confusing if you are a speaker from a number of languages that are declined/inflected similarly (unlike English). The -n is absolutely natural and, indeed, a vast simplification compared to their native languages' case systems. Different things are confusing for different learners. That's the rub of an international language.

The -n system is a useful, if imperfect, compromise with both costs and benefits.

July 24, 2015

...I was just making a simple comparison, I don't know why people seem to want to argue me on it.

July 26, 2015

If there were no accusative case, you would have distinguish subjects from objects with word order, as English does, and then there'd be someone from another background explaining how confusing that can be too.

August 5, 2015

Eh, the use cases of "je" though are like natural language, subjective and based on usage ratehr than rules.

August 25, 2015

For some people it's the article „la“.

April 11, 2016

Exactly. Knowing when and when not to use the article "la" comes natural to speakers of most European languages, but it can be a huge stumbling block for the speakers of many Asian/African/etc. languages. Because the difference between "la domo" and just "domo" is very nuanced. Most people can't even explain why one is correct and the other isn't. It just is.

April 26, 2016

"La ŝtofo estas 2 metrojn longa”"

Why doesn't "longa" have the accusative N?

July 21, 2015

It describes ŝtofo, not metrojn. Notice that it's singular as well.

July 21, 2015

Ah yes. Good point.

July 21, 2015

Another way of describing how the -n is used for measurement of time and distance is that it stands in for the place of a preposition. That's why Ruth listed all (did she miss any?) of the prepositions at the end.

In the sentence: La ŝtofo estas 2 metrojn longa. You can think of the sentence more simply structured as: La ŝtofo estas longa je 2 metroj. But, because that preposition is for adding additional information about a measurement, the preposition may be dropped and the accusitive (-n) added to the unit of measurement. This works the same for time: Mi kuris dum 3 minutoj. The preposition dum can be dropped and the unit of measurement of time can take the -n. Mi kuris 3 minutojn.

It works the same way when indicating direction with "al". Mi iras al Parizo. Drop the preposition al and add -n to the destination. Mi iras Parizon.

I dispute that: "La domo kostas multan monon" is a good example of this. Kosti is a transitive verb. Therefore, multan monon is the direct object of that verb. One cannot say, La domo kostas je multa mono.

Whenever I hear some people argue that Esperanto should get rid of the accusitive (-n), I shudder. Yes, it can be a bit confusing at first for English speakers, but when you get it you'll see that it is extremely important. It carries loads of meaning and is fundamental to how the language works.

July 28, 2015

La listo 100 bazaj verboj de Esperanto povas esti utila, bv. vidi ĉe lernu!-forumo:

August 15, 2015

Notu en la listo:

  • tr = transitiva [verbo] — Transitiva verbo estas verbo, kiu povas havi rektan objekton (-n). Ekz. havi, aĉeti, ami, legi, ….
  • ntr = netransitiva [verbo] — Netransitiva verbo estas verbo, kiu ne povas havi rektan objekton. Ekz. esti, fali, kuri, …
August 19, 2015

is this a special problem for english speakers? i am a native spanish speaker and i don't have many problems with the -n.

July 21, 2015

But you guys use the preposition "a" before animate objects, so you have something kind of similar.

Also, in English speaking countries, our education when it comes to grammar is mostly terrible. (Most English speakers seem to think "grammar" means "correct spelling".) Also, we're not really forced to learn a foreign language. Sure, we have to learn a foreign language in school, but mostly, we hardly learn anything at all in these classes. Most of my friends back in Australia are monolingual native speakers of English and they don't know what a subject or an object is and a good percentage of them aren't even clear on what a noun, verb or adjective is. I'm a huge nerd who loves languages, so I know these things, but most don't. I've also worked a lot as an ESL teacher and I know that in most countries where my students came from, people actually learn about the grammar of their own languages in school. We learn correct spelling and punctuation and read some important books and discuss the themes in them, but we have very little metalanguage to talk about language with.

I think it's got less to do with the structure of our own language and more to do with our level of education regarding language.

August 5, 2015

I never could learn in school what all the non , pronoun, adjective, participle, .... and the list goes on, all were. I learned to just ignore all that stuff and work with trying to make a decent sentence. And it worked well for me..... until I decided to learn Esperanto. Now I am trying to learn all that language part stuff. I do find it all interesting and wish I could keep it in my head. I keep forgetting what a noun is, and without looking it up again, I would have to guess, in this moment I would guess.."a word that is acted upon by a verb and perhaps other language parts?". Now I know you linguists are having a chuckle (or pitying this american) for my 'knowledge' of nouns, and that is ok I have to chuckle as well. I am dedicated to learning Esperanto and with Esperanto one HAS to know language parts to know when to use the -n, there is not getting around it for me. And I need that. And I will continue to fight to remember them. It will just take a lot of time for me to learn them this late in life.

This is the reason I believe Esperanto should be taught in schools when Usono children are just learning language. For me would have been fun and confidence building for me if I could have learned a second language. I always loved codes, ciphers, and liked pig latin and cheap oriental. EO would really have played into my desire to learning another language, and I would have learned the ultimate code to language learning as well.

Look out... One day I may be writing a wall of Esperanto like this rather than Anglan. ;)

August 19, 2015

I understand that people who don't know more than one language, and who were never particularly fond of learning about their own language, probably don't know the technical terms for parts of a sentence. My wife also has a hard time with knowing the difference between, say, an adjective and an adverb.

But, just to clear things up. These things are not that hard.

A "noun" is a "name." That's it!

That's all you have to remember about what a noun is. It's a name. "I went for a run." In this context "run" is being used as a noun. It's the name of the thing I did. So is "I" also a noun. It's the name of the person doing the run. Both are special kinds of nouns, but ultimately they are both just different types of nouns, because noun literally means name. Some names are formal, some names are abstract, some names are names of things and some names are names of actions. But, if it names something, it's a noun. Boom. Easy.


August 19, 2015

I don't think it is a grammar or a language problem, it seems to me that is due to the level of your practice, like when you naturally say "her" or "him" in English when the pronoun is an object. You just have to keep practicing until it comes naturally for you.

August 5, 2015

Yes, and I should add that eventually it does start to feel natural. English does not mark the direct object other than by the word's position in the sentence (and with the exception of a few pronouns), but I remember when I first noticed that it felt natural to add the -n. In a sentence in which the direct object was distantly removed from the subject and verb by an intervening subphrase I remember feeling like the object should have an -n but doubting myself. Then working through the structure of the sentence and concluding by logical application of the rules that my intuition was correct!

That confirmed to me that eventually it does become natural. Somehow, in that instance, my brain was aware that this word was a direct object, and hence ought to have an -n ending, even though the sentence it was embedded in was quite complex.

August 5, 2015

"Her" or *"him" ;-)

In English, however, there are a couple of important differences. We use the objective form after prepositions, which only happens in Esperanto when a locative preposition is used to indicate direction. We also use the objective form of pronouns when they stand on their own and after the verb "to be". Basically, the objective forms of pronouns seem to be our default and we only use the subject form directly before a verb.

Who's there? Me. / It's me. / I am.

Who's coming? Me! / I am.

Who stole your phone? Her! / It was her! / She did!

In Esperanto, there would be no -n in these examples (except for on "your phone").

August 6, 2015

My example was merely ilustrative, just to say there are similar kinds of mechanisms in the two languages and most people doesn't even notice absorbing it naturally.

Thanks for the correction. ;)

August 6, 2015

Ah yes. There's definitely at least something we can point to and say "English has, in a very limited way, something similar to this." Languages like Chinese and Vietnamese don't have any trace of case at all and I can imagine it being a bit of a further stretch to see how it works.

August 6, 2015

No, I am brazilian and I have the same problem.

August 1, 2015

Yes, English has virtually no declension/inflection, so I think this is mostly an English problem.

July 24, 2015

Copying and pasting this into a document in my Esperanto folder. Thank you, Ruth!

July 23, 2015

Very helpful, thank you. Can this post be made a "Sticky" so we can find it when we need to?

July 25, 2015

Yes, it is a link in the "mega post"

July 26, 2015

Okay, that'll work. Thanks!

July 26, 2015

I just wish it had it what a noun is included. This american did not learn that language part stuff in school and I am now fighting to learn it. case in point:

  1. When the noun is the direct object: “Mi amas vin”, I love you.

I have stop and think every time. Now, I do have memory problems so that does play a part in the following dilemma.

I do not think it is the word amas play a part in this question so: Is the noun the word 'I' or 'you'? Then again perhaps amas is language part in question here. In the example "Mi amas vin" I still do not know what the noun or direct object is. Who is the object 'mi' or 'vin'. Is the object the one being declared love to or the one declaring love to 'vin'. I alway get confused or get is backwards.

This is not to get a language lesson in this thread, it would do me no good buried way down here for reference. But I just used it as an example of what I have to go through to decide who gets the -n. I really wish I could have learn it when I was young in school.

<pre>I may just make a copy of this and research the definitions of what parts are considered a noun, object, direct object and such and make my own more detailed version of the document. As it is it is not a functional aid yet. There go with another wall again, It just irks me I cant keep this in my head that is basic to others. -end wall- </pre>
August 19, 2015

I don't mind giving language lessons in the forum, if it helps others, and it may help give the course creators content ideas and ways of teaching something.

You're a bit confused on what a noun is still. But that's okay. In the sentence "I love you." (Mi amas vin.) Both I and you are types of nouns. They are both names, they name people in this case, so they're both types of nouns.

However, there is a difference between the noun performing the action and the noun the action is performed on. The one doing the act is the "subject". It's still a noun, but it's the subject or subjective noun. The one being acted on is the "object". It too is a noun, but it's the object or objective noun.

In english it is the order of the words in the sentence that determines which noun is the subject and which noun is the object. In Esperanto the word order is more free, but to compensate for that freedom it is always the "object" which is marked by adding a final -n. So, it is always the noun (the name) of the thing acted upon, which is marked with the -n. (Other things are marked with -n in more complicated sentences too of course.)

"I love you." Can be translated properly into Esperanto in any of the following ways:

Mi amas vin. Mi vin amas. Vin mi amas. Vin amas mi. Amas mi vin. Amas vin mi.

Did I miss any? However, in practice, some of these possible word orders are very rare. In fact I'd say they become progressively less common in the order I put them in.

August 19, 2015

@Pa11en. Look at and see if it helps you understand the different parts of grammar (noun, verb, etc.). I was a good grammar student, but I do refer to that website from time to time. Bonan ŝancon!

October 27, 2015

Useful Artilce, THanks! I must admit that the acusative (-n) endings are something that I still make a lot of mistakes with and find confusing, but with time and practice I am hoping will become easier and more natural for me. Is this exclusive only to native english speakers, or do speakers of other languages also find thi a big challenge?

August 20, 2015

Thanks for this. I was struggling with it and the study text didn't help. Woman is already virino, so it's not like you're adding an O. We called the object "knabon," but when a man is the subject, we don't call him "viron" or say "vio" for you. It was all very confusing.

October 27, 2015

Yes, accusative involves adding an "n" where appropriate for correct grammar and clarification. In Esperanto, nouns end with "O", regardless of whether or not a particular noun is used as a direct object. Think of the "O" as simply just always correct spelling for any noun. An "n" is just for occasional grammar usage.

October 27, 2015

Thanks! I was really lost on this!

January 21, 2016

Just seen this, very helpful

May 21, 2016

Ruth/Margo - it was brought to my attention that this summary doesn't include when to add -n to adverbs. Do you think this should be added - perhaps as item 3b?

Amike, Tomaso/Salivanto

July 13, 2016

Would an accusative -n ever be used directly after "jen"?

July 25, 2015

I think this depends on how you're using "jen." Jen is a bit different, it introduces something by indicating that "here it is!" Ekz. Jen, mi havas du dolarojn. Is like saying, Check it out, I have two dollars!. I think it could make sense to say something like: Mi donas al vi jen du dolarojn. Which is like saying, I am giving you, here it is, two dollars. However, the jen is really just shoved in the middle for emphasis, but not as though "du dolarojn" is the object of jen.

I actually don't think jen is a preposition.

July 28, 2015

Thank you for the reply! It's much appreciated. I was also wondering, does anyone know which language "jen" is pulled from?

July 28, 2015

No problem! I've never thought to check what the etymology of jen is. But a quick search of the web revealed this:

It appears to be taken directly from Latin. The above page links further to this:

July 28, 2015

Question on using -n with showing direction. I've come across two different sentence with different applications of -n:

In the Verbs:-Ig-ig lesson, there is "Sidiĝu sur ĉi tiu seĝon!"
In the Travel lesson, there is "Turnu en ĉi tiun direkton."

Which is right?

From the notes in the Accusative lesson:

Note that an adjective modifying a direct object would also receive the -n ending.

From the notes in the Prepositions lesson:

In addition to its use for the direct object, the -n ending is also used to show direction

Now, there's noting in the notes in the Prepositions lesson to address adding the -n to other terms after the preposition; the examples shown are:
- Ŝi saltas sur la tablo. = She jumps (up and down) on the table.
- Ŝi saltas sur la tablon. = She jumps onto the table (from another location).

As an aside; perhaps better examples would be:
- Ŝi saltas sur la blua tablo. = She jumps (up and down) on the blue table.
- Ŝi saltas sur la blua[n] tablon. = She jumps onto the blue table (from another location).
With the [n] added or removed as appropriate.

August 14, 2015

Should be "tiun" in the first sentence. I will check on that sentence and fix it if there is an error.

August 14, 2015

Just one minor point of clarification. Salti means to jump one time. That is to thrust your body up so your feet leave the ground and then to fall back down to approximately the same place or a nearby place.

If you want to say jump as in to repeatedly jump up and down over and over several times, you want the verb "saltadi".

Therefore, "Ŝi saltis sur la lito", and "Ŝi saltis sur la liton" both make sense. She jumped once while on the bed and she jumped once to get up onto the bed. However, while "Ŝi saltadis sur la lito" makes perfect sense, it's what my kid loves to do, "Ŝi saltadis sur la liton" does not really make sense. She jumps repeatedly onto the bed. I guess it makes sense, but I'd probably assume the speaker had made a grammatical mistake before trying to take it at face value. The reason it doesn't make sense is that once you jump onto the bed once you're then already on the bed. So you'd have to get off the bed in order to do it again, I think that's why it sounds weird to me.

August 20, 2015

In the sentence "katidoj iĝas katoj" the katoj didn't get the -n. So i guess that "iĝi" should get into the list too. Do all subjects after "iĝ" verbs don't get the -n?

August 24, 2015

That's right, you wouldn't put an -n on katoj in that sentence. "Iĝi" is really another word for "fariĝi", both mean (more or less) "become."

The original post lists words after which to not use -n. It lists "esti" and "fariĝi". There are actually several (maybe even many) words that mean something similar to these. I always say you shouldn't try to memorize the list, you should try to understand why they don't have direct objects as a result of the meaning of the words themselves.

For example: aperi, aspekti, ŝajni, resti. And there are probably others. Every now and then I encounter another one.

Li aperis mensoganto. He appeared to be a liar. Ili restis Germanoj. They remained German. Li ŝajnis gasto en la hotelo. He seemed to be a guest in the hotel. Ŝi aspektas kolera. She looks angry.

In each case, the verb is not expressing a change that the subject is causing in the object. Instead some other relationship is being expressed with the verb.

As bajanisto said, these verbs are not transitive. Only transitive verbs can have direct objects. Although, this is a technical explanation.

You can read about it (in Esperanto) here:

August 24, 2015

Every time i think i completely understand the -n thing, i discover something new. But i think i get it now. thanks @bajanisto and @gregnacu.

August 25, 2015

Jes, nur transitivaj verboj povas havi rektan objekton (-n). Ĉiuj -iĝi-verboj estas netransitivaj verboj, kiuj ne povas havi rektan objekton. (Bonvolu vidi mian antaŭan mesaĝon en ĉi tiu fadeno.)

August 24, 2015

Note that fariĝi is in the list and iĝi and fariĝi are synonyms. For whatever reason "iĝi" seems to be preferred in this course, but in wider Esperantujo (including, apparently, for the "very helpful member" mentioned in the OP) "fariĝi" is more colloquial.

The answer to your question (do all nouns after "iĝ" verbs go without an -n) is "it depends." There are sentences in Duo like "aliiĝi la klubon" which is an alternative form of "aliĝi al la klubo."

May 18, 2016

iĝi and fariĝi are both used frequently in the course, and we do not prefer "igxi". "aliĝi la klubon" did appear at one point in the course, but it was removed as it was deemed incorrect by our expert advisor.

May 18, 2016

Interesting. Thanks.

To clarify - I'm not sure off hand how frequently "fariĝi" is used -- only that "iĝi" is used in at least a few cases where many would say that "fariĝi" would be the better choice.

I stand corrected on "aliĝi la klubon". I went back and checked. Turns out I did not see it in the course. It was in a question from a learner. Nevertheless, Duo sentences notwithstanding, it is not uncommon to see an -n after a verb with iĝi in it. Sometimes it's a measurement, such as:

  • la stacio troviĝas ioman distancon ekster la urbo.

Sometimes it's taking the place of a preposition:

  • li humile alproksimiĝis sinjoron de Prelongo
May 18, 2016

Is this a possible rule: "Use the accusative for nouns which follow a verb (except "esti")"?

October 1, 2015

@kolego, I used to think that was a rule. I even thought I had read that somewhere. The "possible rule" you mention seems to work, but I've found that it's not the best way to look at it. Seems best to think in terms of using the -n to show who/what is being acted upon. This works for most general uses I've seen so far. (note: "-n" usually is added to the Noun and also the related Adjectives following verbs)

Notice the placement of the "-N" in the following examples: More fun with Accusatives ( "accusatives put the -n in fun" ):

What are you eating? (Literally: “You are eating what?”) = kioN vi manĝas? What is eating you? = kio viN manĝas?

We are eating that. = ni manĝas tioN. That is eating us. = niN manĝas tio.

(yes, -n is also used for indicating direction and change of location and for quantity, etc. But, I would think that for beginners and intermediates, for now, just concentrate on adding -n to who/what is being acted upon)

ALSO, read this detailed explanation relating to accusative -N (from @flootzavut):$comment_id=10752480

October 2, 2015

Mi parolo la anglan,min Skype ciropolyglotskype

July 21, 2015
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