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When multiple objects could be the direct one, may I choose none and use prepositions for all?

Esperanto Language Asked on August 23, 2021

With some transitive Esperanto verbs, one can choose between two or more object roles to take the position of the direct object (accusative object). (A Q&A of the Konsultejo mentions demandi and peti.) E.g., with demandi the question can be the direct object:

Sophia demandas tiun demandon al Adamo.

but just as well, the person being asked can be the direct object:

Sofia demandas Adamon pri tio.

The respective other objects are used with prepositions. Because either object can be the direct object (with these verbs — that isn’t the case for all transitive verbs), and because there can only be one direct object, there’s always a preposition the direct object could get to indicate its role if it weren’t the direct object.

With such transitive verbs, is it allowed to use prepositions for all objects (and thus have no direct object), even if one of them could be a direct object? I.e., can the second example from above be rephrased like this?

Sofia demandas al Adamo pri tio.

2 Answers

While the quoted Respondoj de la Konsultejo gives much leeway

…la prepozicioj uzataj por verba regado ne estas rigide (kaj ofte arbitre) fiksitaj. La esperantaj prepozicioj havas multe pli klaran bazan signifon, tiel ke la elekto de sintaksa formo atribuas certan semantikan interpreton al la esprimo.

it is clear that some forms are more widely used as others and thus more automatically understood. Compare this to a situation where you must perform a semantic interpretation to decipher the meaning. Therefore I prefer the case governance given for instance in PIV: to make it easier for the listener/reader to understand by using a known form.

In this particular case PIV gives

so not even demandi al iu.

Answered by Juha Metsäkallas on August 23, 2021

Judging by my Tekstaro search results, this two-preposition form dates back to at least the 1916 “Nova Testamento”. We can also see, that the form has become popular in the 2000s and 2010s, although that might just be a bias of source texts.

My personal opinion is that the two-preposition form is the clearest, so I tend to use it instead of choosing the “correct” direct object.

Answered by Ainar-G on August 23, 2021

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