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Esperanto has a series of words that can be arranged in a table according to how they start and end. These are usually called correlatives. The column of words that begin with ki- can be used to ask questions that cannot be answered by yes or no. These correspond to wh-questions in English. These words are:

kiu - who or which
kio - what
kia - what kind of
kie - where
kiam - when
kies - whose
kiel - how
kial - why
kiom - how much or how many

These words are inflected according to the role they play in the clause (for the words that take an inflection), and moved to the beginning of the clause. For example, Kion vi faras? - What are you doing? Kiu has the usual dual function of adjectives: standing alone as proform, or modifying a noun, as in "Kiu tago?" (which day?). Tio is exclusively used standing alone. As with yes–no questions, there is no inversion of subject and verb.


The "correlatives" are a paradigm of pro-forms, used to ask and answer the questions what, where, when, why, who, whose, how, how much, and what kind. They are constructed from set elements so that correlatives with similar meanings have similar forms: There are nine endings corresponding to the nine wh- questions, and five initial elements that perform the functions of asking, answering, denying, being inclusive, and being indefinite about these nine questions. For example, the words kiam (when) and kiu (who, which), with the initial ki- of questions, ask about time and individuals, whereas the words tiam (then) and tiu (this/that one), with the same endings but the initial ti- of demonstratives, answer those questions, and the words neniam (never) and neniu (no-one) deny those questions. Thus by learning these 14 elements the speaker acquires a paradigm of 45 adverbs and pronouns.

The correlatives beginning with ti- correspond to the English demonstratives in th- (this, thus, then, there etc.), whereas ĉi- corresponds to every- and i- to some-. The correlatives beginning with ki- have a double function, as interrogative and relative pronouns and adverbs, just as the wh- words do in English: Kiu ĉevalo? (Which horse?), la ĉevalo, kiu forkuris (the horse which ran away).

The adjectival determiners ending in -u have the usual dual function of adjectives: standing alone as proforms, as in ĉiu (everyone); and modifying a noun, as in ĉiu tago (every day). Those ending in -io are exclusively used standing alone: ĉio (everything).

The correlatives have a genitive case ending in -es. Therefore, the adjectival correlatives, ending in -ia and -iu, do not play that role, as adjectival personal pronouns such as mia "my" do. However, adjectival correlatives do agree in number and case with the nouns they modify, as any other adjectives: La ĉevaloj, kiujn mi vidis (The horses which I saw). They, as well as the independent determiners ending in -io, also take the accusative case when standing in for the object of a clause. The accusative of motion is used with the place correlatives in -ie, forming -ien (hither, whither, thither, etc.).

Table of correlatives


("What") ki-
("This/that") ti-
("Some") i-
("Each, every") ĉi-
("No") neni-

Quality –a

(what a) kia
(such a) tia
(some kind/sort/type of) ia
(every kind/sort/type of) ĉia
(no kind/sort/type of) nenia

Reason –al

(why) kial
(for that reason,therefore) tial
(for some reason) ial
(for all reasons) ĉial
(for no reason) nenial

Time –am

(when) kiam
(then) tiam
(sometime) iam
(always) ĉiam
(never) nenima

Place –e

(where) kie
(there) tie
(somewhere) ie
(everywhere) ĉie
(nowhere) nenie

Manner –el

(how, as) kiel
(thus, as) tiel
(somehow) iel
(in every way) ĉiel
(no-how, in no way) neniel

Association –es

(whose) kies
(this/that one's) ties
(someone's) ies
(everyone's) ĉies
(no one's) nenies

Thing –o

(what) kio
(this/that) tio
(something) io
(everything) ĉio
(nothing) nenio

Amount –om

(how much) kiom
(that much) tiom
(some, a bit) iom
(all of it) ĉiom
(none) neniom

Individual –u

(who, which one; which [horse]) kiu
(that one; that [horse]) tiu
(someone; some [horse]) iu
(everyone; each [horse], all [horses]) ĉiu ĉevalo
(no one; no [horse]) neniu ĉevalo

Correlative particles

Several adverbial particles are used primarily with the correlatives: ajn indicates generality, ĉi proximity, and for distance. (Without these particles, demonstratives such as tiu and tio are not specific about distance, though they are usually translated as "that".)

kio ajn (whatever)
io ajn (anything)
tio (that [general]) [cannot modify a noun]
tiu (that one) [can modify a noun: tiu knabo (that boy)]
tiuj (those)
tiu ĉi (this one)
tiu for (that one yonder)
tien ĉi (hither [to here])
ĉiu hundo (each/every dog)
ĉiuj hundoj (all dogs)

Interrogative vs relative pronouns

Examples of the interrogative versus relative uses of the ki- words:

Kiu ŝtelis mian ringon? (Who stole my ring?)
La polico ne kaptis la ŝtelistojn, kiuj ŝtelis mian ringon. (The police haven't caught the thieves who [plural] stole my ring.)
Kiel vi faris tion? (How did you do that[accusative]?)
Mi ne scias, kiel fari tion. (I don't know how to do that.)


Kia viro li estas? (What kind of man is he?)
Kia viro! (What a man!)

Note that standard Esperanto punctuation puts a comma before the relative word (a correlative in ki- or the conjunction ke, "that"), a feature common to many Slavic languages.


Various parts of speech may be derived from the correlatives, just as from any other roots: ĉiama (eternal), ĉiea (ubiquitous), tiama (contemporary), kialo (a reason), iomete (a little bit), kioma etaĝo? (which floor?) [This last requests a quantified answer of how many floors up, like la dek-sesa (the 16th), rather than asking someone to simply point out which floor, which would be asked with kiu etaĝo?. The same form is used for asking time: Kioma horo estas?, literally "How-manyeth hour is it?"]

Although the initial and final elements of the correlatives are not roots or affixes, in that they cannot normally be independently combined with other words (for instance, there is no genitive case in -es for nouns), the initial element of the neni- correlatives is an exception, as seen in neniulo (a nobody), from neni- plus -ulo, or neniigi, to nullify or destroy, from neni- plus the causative -ig.