Languages > Esperanto > Lesson 11: More or Less Than the Least Most

Lesson 11: More or Less Than the Least Most
Comparative Particles

This lesson will teach you how to use the concepts of “more”, “less”, “most”, and “least” in Esperanto.

In English, we use the word “more” to signify either a greater degree, quantity, or duration. We also use “less” to signify a lesser degree, quantity, or duration.

In Esperanto, degree and quantity are specified by “pli”, which is distinct from duration which is specified by “plu”. Both of these words mean “more” in English.

Let’s look at each of these new words by themselves to understand the difference.

Using pli kaj malpli

In Esperanto, “pli” is used to signify a greater degree or quantity, and “malpli” to signify a lesser degree or quantity.

It can be used alone, with context, to simply specify “more” or “less” of whatever that context is describing.

Esperanto English
Mi volas malpli I want less
Vi scias pli nun You know more now

It can be used with the preposition “da” to specify more of a particular noun. Remember that nouns following a preposition do not take the acusative (‘-n’) case. To do this, follow this pattern:

(mal)pli da <noun phrase>

Esperanto English
Mi volas pli da akvo I will obtain more information before I decide
Malpli da mono signifas pli da problemoj Less money means more problems

It can also be used with an adjective to modify that adjective into a comparative one. The preposition “ol” can than be used to specify what is being compared against. Here is the pattern:

(mal)pli <adjective/adverb> ol <noun phrase>

Esperanto English
Mia biciklo estas pli bona ol via biciklo My bike is better than your bike
Vi nun scias pli ol vi antauxe sciis You now know more than you knew before
Ŝi dancas pli bone ol vi She dances better than you

The other sense of “more”

Esperanto has the word “plu” that also means “more”, but is used for duration rather than quantity or degree. The difference between “pli” and “plu” are often a point of confusion for even mid-level esperantists, so try to compare the following examples with the ones above until you understand the difference.

Note: The “mal-” prefix cannot be applied to “plu”. Instead, we must use “plu” in a negative sentence (ne plu). In English, “ne plu” can be equivalent to “not anymore” or “no longer”.

Esperanto English
Mi povus paroli plu, sed mi havas nenion diri I could talk more, but I have nothing to say
Ŝi ne plu venas, kaj mi ne scias kial She doesn’t come anymore, and I don’t know why

The Most/Least

Esperanto uses the word “plej” in addition to an adjective or adverb to polarize it. It is usually preceded by the determiner “la” if using a noun phrase, because we’re referring to a particular noun.

Adjective Comparative (pli) Polarized (plej)
good better the best
bona pli bona la plej bona
beautiful more beautiful the most beautiful
bela pli bela la plej bela

The patterns for using plej / malplej are:

  1. (mal)plej (<adverb>)
  2. (la) (mal)plej <adjective>
  3. la (mal)plej <adjective> <noun phrase>

Here are some full-sentence examples that demonstrate this.

Pattern Esperanto English
1 Mi malplej parolas el ĉiuj I talk the least out of everyone
2 La plej sperta homo gajnos The most experienced person will win
1 Mi laboras malplej efektive kiam mi lacas I work least efficiently when I am tired
3 Mi havas le plej parolema papago I have the most talkative parrot

The Most Useful Lesson

You can now go compare objects, or living things to each other. Be careful comparing people to each other though - you might find yourself in an awkward social situation.

As always, be sure to study the vocabulary from this lesson, then take the quiz when you feel comfortable.

Happy studying!

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