Esperanto-Novial flag

The Esperanto flag (left) and the Novial flag (right).

This article is intended to create an overview of the significant differences between Esperanto and Novial, two international auxiliary languages, as well as similarities.

Alphabet and pronunciationEdit

Both Esperanto and Novial use the Latin alphabet in written forms. The Esperanto alphabet contains 28 letters: 22 of which have no diacritics, with the remaining 6 having diacritics unique to Esperanto: ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ and ŭ. Novial, on the other hand, uses the standard 26 letters of the Latin alphabet without diacritics.

Esperanto IPA Novial
A, a [a] A, a
B, b [b] B, b
C, c [ts] Ts, ts; S, s
Ĉ, ĉ [] Ch, ch; Sh, sh
D, d [d] D, d
E, e [e] or [ɛ] E, e
F, f [f] F, f
G, g [ɡ] G, g
Ĝ, ĝ [] J, j
H, h [h] H, h
Ĥ, ĥ [x]K, k
I, i [i] I, i
J, j [j] Y, y
Ĵ, ĵ [ʒ] J, j
K, k [k] K, k
L, l [l] L, l
M, m [m] M, m
N, n [n] N, n
O, o [o] or [ɔ] O, o
P, p [p] P, p
Kv kv [kv]Qu, qu
R, r [r] R, r
S, s [s] S, s; Z, z
Ŝ, ŝ [ʃ] Sh, sh; Ch, ch
T, t [t] T, t
U, u [u] U, u
Ŭ, ŭ [u̯] U, u (after a vowel)
V, v [v] V, v; W, w
Ks, ks; kz [ks], [ɡz] X, x
Z, z [z] Z, z; S, s

In Esperanto, one letter corresponds to one phoneme and one phoneme to one letter; no diagraphs exist. Novial includes 3 diagraphs: ch, sh, and qu. The c and q in the diagraphs are unique (except in foreign proper nouns) and allow no ambiguity. When the s and h are different phenomes, this is indicated by separation with a hyphen: s-h. Novial allows some 2-vowel combinations to be pronounced as 2 separate vowels or as diphthongs. For example, au, eu, and oi may be pronounced as aw, ew, and oy, respectively, and ie, io, and ia as ye, yo, and ya, respectively.

In handwriting, neither Esperanto nor Novial shows a problem. However, the diacritics of Esperanto require special typing and printing methods. The original method used was a set of diagraphs currently known as the "h-system", but with rise of computer word processing, a so-called "x-system", has become as popular. These systems are described here. However, with the arrival of Unicode, the need for these work-arounds has lessened.

Personal pronounsEdit

Wikipedia-logo This page or section incorporates Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

The personal pronouns in Esperanto all end in i, and some may be difficult to identify in a noisy location (especially mi and ni). On the other hand, the personal pronouns of Novial use different vowels, making them more distinct, though some only differ because of the initial consonant (e.g. nus, vus, and lus). A later form of nus, nos, more distinct from vus, has sometimes been used. In Novial, familiar and polite forms of "you" (e.g. French tu or vous) are not distinguished. The inventor of Novial, Otto Jespersen argued that such a distinction does not belong in a language intended only for international use. The distinction can be used in Esperanto, but is barely used in practice.

singular plural indef.
1st 2nd 3rd 1st 2nd 3rd
familiar formal m. f. n. pan-gender m. f. n. pan-gender
English I thou¹ you¹ he she it he/it we you       they one
Esperanto mi ci¹ vi¹ li ŝi ĝi ĝi² ni vi       ili oni
Novial me vu vu lo la lu le nus vus los las lus les on

¹ ci and thou, while technically the familiar form of the word "you" in Esperanto and English, respectively, are almost never used. Results on Google have shown that ci is used less than half of one percent of the amount vi is in Esperanto. Zamenhof himself did not include the pronoun in the first book on Esperanto and only later reluctantly; later he recommended against using ci on the grounds that different cultures have conflicting traditions regarding the use of the familiar and formal forms of "you", and that a universal language should avoid the problem by simply using the formal form in all situations. Novial uses only vu as the singular "you".

² tiu, "that person", is usually used in this circumstance, because many people find it unnatural to use "it" referring to humans.

The system used in Novial shows a systematic correspondence between the singular and corresponding plural forms (i.e. vu, vus; lo, los; la, las; lu, lus; le, les). Strictly speaking, "we" is not the plural of "I" in Novial, because "many I's" is nonsense. Jespersen suggested that nu, the singular form of nus, could be used as a "royal we". The optional marking of sex in Novial, especially the third person plural form, permits greater diversity than in Esperanto. The exact same system also applies to other pronouns and nouns with natural sex differences.

Marking genderEdit

The system of marking sex for Esperanto nouns is often criticized for being asymmetric and being based on male markings. In contrast, Novial has one symmetric, unbiased system for both nouns and pronouns, which marks things as either male, female, epicene, or inanimate.

Verbal systemsEdit

Wikipedia-logo This page or section incorporates Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

The grammatical systems of Novial and Esperanto differ from each other greatly in the expression of various tenses, moods, and voices of verbs. Both use a combination of auxiliary verbs and verb endings. However, Novial uses several auxiliary verbs and very few verb endings, while Esperanto uses only one auxiliary verb and a wide variety of verb endings.

In Novial, all verb forms are independent of person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) and number (singular or plural). In Esperanto, the verb forms are independent of the person but compound tenses, with participles, require the participal, an adjective, to agree with the subject of the verb in number (singular or plural).

In both Novial and Esperanto, the continuous tenses are less commonly used than in English.

In the following table endings are separated from stems by hyphens. Alternative forms with the same meaning are in brackets. In the Esperanto forms (j) indicates agreement when the subject of the verb is plural.

Active voiceEdit

Active Voice
English Esperanto Novial
Infinitive (to) love am-iama
Simple present love(s) am-as ama
Future will (shall) love am-os sal ama
Simple past loved am-is did ama (ama-d)
Past perfect have (has) loved est-as am-int-a(j) ha ama
Pluperfect had loved est-is am-int-a(j) ha-d ama
Future perfect will (shall) have loved est-os am-int-a(j) sal ha ama
Future in the past was going to (would, should) love est-is am-ont-a(j) sal-ed ama
Conditional would (should) love am-us vud ama
Conditional perfect would (should) have loved est-us am-int-a(j) vud ha ama
First imperative let us love!ni am-u! let nus ama!
Second imperative love! am-u! ama!
Third imperative let him love! li am-u! let lo ama!
Present continuous is (am, are) loving est-as am-ant-a(j) es ama-nt
Future continuous shall (will) be loving est-os am-ant-a(j) sal es ama-nt
Past continuous was (were) loving est-is am-ant-a(j) did es (es-ed) ama-nt

Passive voiceEdit

The difference between the passive of coming and passive of being is not always obvious at once to speakers of English because their forms can sometimes be the same. However, in the English language, the passive of becoming is usually expressed with get in the sense of become as well as with the word be.

Passive voice of becomingEdit

Esperanto uses an appropriate form of the auxiliary verb esti (to be), followed by a passive participle (present, past, or future). With many verbs Esperanto may, instead of using a passive voice, use the suffix -iĝ to create an intransitive verb of becoming, which is joined with the active voice (see the table below for examples).

Novial, on the other hand, uses the auxiliary verb bli (to get, become, be from the equivalent word bli in some Scandinavian languages) followed by the root form. The several tenses and moods are expressed regularly using other auxiliary verbs: ha, had, sal, saled, and vud; the word order corresponds to English.

Passive Voice of Becoming
English Esperanto Novial
Infinitive (to) get absorbed est-i absorb-at-a(j) (absorb-iĝ-i)bli absorba
Simple present get(s) absorbed est-as absorb-at-a(j)
bli absorba
Future will (shall) get absorbed est-os absorb-at-a(j)
sal bli absorba
Simple past got absorbed est-is absorb-at-a(j)
bli-d absorba
Past perfect have (has) got absorbed est-as absorb-it-a(j)
(est-as absorb-iĝ-ant-a(j))
ha bli absorba
Pluperfect had got absorbed est-is absorb-it-a(j)
(est-is absorb-iĝ-ant-a(j))
ha-d bli absorba
Future perfect will (shall) have got absorbed est-os absorb-it-a(j)
(est-os absorb-iĝ-ant-a(j))
sal ha bli absorba
Future in the past was going to (would, should) get absorbed est-is absorb-ot-a(j)
(est-is absorb-iĝ-ont-a(j))
sal-ed bli absorba
Conditional would (should) get absorbed est-us absorb-at-a(j)
vud bli absorba
Conditional perfect would (should) have got absorbed est-us absorb-it-a(j)
(est-us absorb-iĝ-ant-a(j))
vud ha bli absorba
First imperative let us get absorbed!ni est-u absorb-ataj!
(ni absorb-iĝ-u!)
let nus bli absorba!
Second imperative get absorbed! est-u absorb-at-a(j)!
bli absorba!
Third imperative let him get absorbed! li est-u absorb-at-a!
(li absorb-iĝ-u)
let lo bli absorba!
Present continuous is (am, are) getting absorbed est-as absorb-at-a(j)
(est-as absorb-iĝ-ant-a(j))
es bli-nt absorba
Future continuous shall (will) be getting absorbed est-os absorb-at-a(j)
(est-os absorb-iĝ-ant-a(j))
sal es bli-nt absorba
Past continuous was (were) getting absorbed est-is absorb-at-a(j)
(est-is absorb-iĝ-ant-a(j))
did es (es-ed) bli-nt absorba

Passive voice of beingEdit

In English, the passive voice of being is often expressed with an appropriate form of to be followed by the past participle, as it is with Esperanto and Novial. Note that in difference to the passive of becoming, in the passive of being for Novial the auxiliary verb is followed by the past participle, which ends in -t.

Passive Voice of Being
English Esperanto Novial
Infinitive (to) be absorbed est-i absorb-at-a(j) es absorba-t
Simple present is (am, are) absorbed est-as absorb-at-a(j) es absorba-t
Future will (shall) be absorbed est-os absorb-at-a(j) sal es absorba-t
Simple past was absorbed est-is absorb-at-a(j) did es (es-ed) absorba-t
Past perfect have (has) been absorbed est-as absorb-it-a(j) ha es absorba-t
Pluperfect had been absorbed est-is absorb-it-a(j) ha-d es absorba-t
Future perfect will (shall) have been absorbed est-os absorb-it-a(j) sal ha es absorba-t
Future in the past was going to (would, should) be absorbed est-is absorb-ot-a(j) sal-ed es absorba-t
Conditional would (should) be absorbed est-us absorb-at-a(j) vud es absorba-t
Conditional perfect would (should) have been
est-us absorb-it-a(j) vud ha es absorba-t
First imperative let us be absorbed!ni est-u absorb-ataj! let nus es absorba-t!
Second imperative be absorbed! est-u absorb-at-a(j)! es absorba-t!
Third imperative let him be absorbed! li est-u absorb-at-a! let lo es absorba-t!

Word formationEdit

Esperanto is dependent on the prefix mal- to create the opposite of an adjective or verb. The equivalent prefix in Novial, des-, is used, but to a much less common extent.

Language samplesEdit

Wikipedia-logo This page or section incorporates Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

This is the Lord's Prayer in both languages:

Patro nia, kiu estas en la ĉielo,
Via nomo estu sanktigita.
Venu Via regno,
plenumiĝu Via volo,
kiel en la ĉielo, tiel ankaŭ sur la tero.
Nian panon ĉiutagan donu al ni hodiaŭ.
Kaj pardonu al ni niajn ŝuldojn,
kiel ankaŭ ni pardonas al niaj ŝuldantoj.
Kaj ne konduku nin en tenton,
sed liberigu nin de la malbono.
Nusen Patre, kel es in siele,
mey vun nome bli sanktifika,
mey vun regno veni;
mey on fa vun volio
kom in siele anke sur tere.
Dona a nus disidi li omnidiali pane,
e pardona a nus nusen ofensos,
kom anke nus pardona a nusen ofensantes,
e non dukte nus en tentatione,
ma liberisa nus fro malu.

See alsoEdit



Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.