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Esperanto, Eo, La Lingvo Internacia, is the most widely spoken constructed (or artificial) international language. A constructed language is one whose phonology, grammar and vocabulary are artificially designed rather than having evolved naturally over time. Constructed languages tend to be very regular because they did not undergo historical changes that normally occur in natural languages.

The name Esperanto derives from Doktoro Esperanto, the pseudonym of a Polish linguist, Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof who created Esperanto in the late 1870s and early 1880s. His goal was to devise a universal second language that would help combat nationalism and promote internationalism. The first Esperanto grammar was published in 1887 in Warsaw, Poland. The first world congress of Esperanto speakers was held in France in 1905. Since then well-attended world congresses have been held every year, interrupted only by the two World Wars.

The phonology, grammar, and vocabulary of Esperanto are based on Indo-European languages. In a way, Esperanto is not a truly an international language, but more like an Indo-European language with no national affiliation. Speakers of non-Indo-European languages will probably find Esperanto as easy or difficult to learn as any naturally evolved Romance language.


Esperanto has been in continuous use since its creation, even though it is not recognized as an official language by any country. According to Ethnologue, Esperanto is spoken by some 2 million people as a second language in 115 countries, most of them in Central and Eastern Europe, East Asia, and South America.

There are over 25,000 original and translated books in Esperanto and over a hundred Esperanto magazines. Many Esperanto speakers use the language for travel throughout the world using the Pasporta Servo, a hospitality service for speakers of Esperanto. Others have pen pals in many countries around the world using services such as Esperanto Mondo. Every year, several thousand Esperanto speakers meet to attend the World Congress of Esperanto (Universala Kongreso de Esperanto).


Esperanto does not have dialectal variation.


Sound system

Since Esperanto is spoken only as a second language, its pronunciation varies somewhat depending on the first language of its speakers.

Like many European languages, Esperanto has five vowels.



Esperanto has the following consonants, all of which are typical of European languages.  It allows up to three-consonant clusters in initial position, e.g., stranga ‘strange’.

Stops voiceless
Fricatives voiceless
Affricates voiceless
Lateral approximant
Trill or flap
  • /ʃ/ = sh in shop
  • /ʒ/ =- s in measure
  • // = ch in chop
  • /dʒ/ = j in job
  • /x/ has no equivalent in English
  • /j/ = y in yet


Stress always falls on the next-to-last (penultimate) syllable, just like in Polish, Zamenhof’s native language.


Esperanto grammar is thoroughly European in that it is an inflective language, i.e., one in which words are formed by adding prefixes and suffixes to roots to mark grammatical functions.

Nouns, adjectives, and pronouns

  • All nouns end in -o.
  • All adjectives end in -a.
  • Nouns and adjectives have two cases: nominative and accusative. The accusative is formed by adding -n to the nominative.
  • Demonstrative and personal pronouns also have a genitive case.
  • All other relationships are expressed by prepositions. All prepositions take the nominative case, e.g., de mia patrino ‘my mother’s’.
  • There are two numbers: singular and plural. The plural is formed by adding -j to the singular.
  • Adjectives generally agree with nouns in case and number.
  • There is a single definite article la which is similar to the English definite article ‘the’. It always has the same form.



  • All verbs are regular.
  • Verbs are not marked for person or number.
  • Verbs have the following endings:


  • The passive is expressed by the appropriate form of esti ‘to be’ + past passive participle of the verb.
  • Esperanto has a conditional and a jussive moods.
  • Aspect in Esperanto bears some resemblance to Slavic lexical aspect (Aktionsart).
  • Compound tenses are formed with the adjectival participles plus esti ‘to be’. The participle carries aspect and voice, while the verb carries the tense.


Word order
The word order of Esperanto is typically Subject – Verb – Object. Adjectives can either precede or follow nouns.


The vocabulary of Esperanto comes mainly from Latin by way of Greek, as well as Romance and Germanic languages. As a result, most of its words look familiar to speakers of Western European languages or to anyone who knows a Romance language.

Hello Saluton
Good morning Bonan matenon
Goodbye Ĝis poste, Ĝis (la) revido, Ĝis la, Ĝis, Adiaŭ
How are you? Kiel vi fartas?
Thank you Dankon
Please Bonvolu
Excuse me Pardonu!
Yes Jes
No Ne
Man Homo, viro
Woman Virino


Below are Esperanto numerals 1-10.



The Esperanto alphabet has 28 letters. 22 of them are the same as in English. There are no letters Q, W, X, and Y. There are six letters that do not exist in English: Ĉ, Ĝ, Ĥ, Ĵ, Ŝ, Ŭ.

A a
B b
C c
Ĉ ĉ
D d
E e
F f
G g
Ĝ ĝ
H h
Ĥ ĥ
I i
J j
Ĵ ĵ
K k
L l
M m
N n
O o
P p
R r
S s
Ŝ ŝ
T t
U u
Ŭ ŭ
V v
Z z
  • c = ts
  • ĉ = ch in chop
  • ĝ = j in job
  • ĥ = /x/ which has no equivalent in English
  • ĵ = s in measure
  • ŝ = sh in shop
  • ŭ w in cow


Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Esperanto.

Universala Deklaracio de Homaj Rajtoj
Artikolo 1
Ĉiuj homoj estas denaske liberaj kaj egalaj laû digno kaj rajtoj. Ili posedas racion kaj konsciencon, kaj devus konduti unu al alia en spirito de frateco.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Esperanto?
There are no data on the difficulty of Esperanto for speakers of English.

13 Responses to Esperanto

  1. inga johansson

    True – Esperanto does not have different dialects
    But Esperanto can be colored by the first language the esperantist speaks.
    Listen to an esperantist from USA and compare to an esperantist from France.
    However many speakers of esperanto learn very well the 28 sounds of the alphabet and then speak in a neutral way.

  2. Iu

    “Speakers of non-Indo-European languages will probably find Esperanto as easy or difficult to learn as any naturally evolved Romance language.”

    In my experience this is not true. I have heard native speakers of Hungarian and Hebrew speaking Esperanto without discernible difficulties.

    • Irene Thompson

      Your argument does not refute my statement that speakers of Hungarian and Hebrew will probably find Esperanto as difficult or easy to learn as other Romance language. What’s your point?

      • Vincent Broman

        Recognition of Esperanto words that are similar to words in a language you already know helps language learning, but I wouldn’t call it critical. The simplicity and regularity of the Esperanto grammar and spelling make a big difference in my experience. I would predict a Hebrew learns Esperanto _much_ faster than a Spaniard learns French.

        • Irene Thompson

          You will need to test out your assumption and design a study to prove it.

      • Nicole

        “Speakers of non-Indo-European languages will probably find Esperanto as easy or difficult to learn as any naturally evolved Romance language.” That’s certainly not true. French grammar is very difficult, most romance languages have lots of irregular verbs. Even though many words in Esperanto come from Latin and romance languages, the systematic use of prefixes and suffixes reduces the number of words to learn. This and the easy grammar, the phonetic spelling makes Esperanto much easier to learn for Chinese, Japanese people than any romance language. It is true that a Chinese person will need a bit longer to learn Esperanto than a French or English person, but it will be much faster than learning a national romance language.

        • Irene Thompson

          How do you know that it is easier for an English speaker to learn Esperanto than, let’s say, Italian? Do you have any evidence to support it?

  3. Lucas F. Andersen

    In the first section of the article several references for the term “Esperanto” appear, e.g. “Eo”. You have also listed “La Linvgo [sic] Internacia”. This is incorrect, and should be “La [Lingvo] Internacia.”

    Feedback on website:
    In my opinion this website gathers the most essential parts of different languages, such as grammar, phonology, etc.; good job!

  4. Esperantist

    “Woman” in Esperanto is “virino”, not “virina”.

    “Bonvolu” is also another (probably more common) word for “please”.

  5. Cyril Brosch

    Two corrections:

    1. The native languages of Zamenhof were Russian and Yiddish, not Polish. He also never claimed to be a Pole.

    2. “Esperanto grammar is thoroughly European in that it is an inflective language, i.e., one in which words are formed by adding prefixes and suffixes to roots to mark grammatical functions.”

    This is not the linguistic definition of an inflective language, but of an agglutinative. In fact E-o doesn’t show typical inflective features like morphological fusion. E-o should rather be classified as isolating-agglutinative, as the morphemes are unchangable and can be used as roots, a typical feature of isolating languages. Grammaticaly E-o is only superficially similar to Indo-European languages.

    • Irene Thompson

      (1) You are right. Zamenhoff was a Russian Jew.
      (2) We are both right. Esperanto can be classifed as both synthetic and agglutinative. There are many publications debating these points.


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